Sunday, April 24, 2011

I love Stumbling!!!

I just set up a Stumbleupon account this semester after hearing so many of my friends talk about it. They talked about how fun and addicting it is. I'll admit that it is definitely addicting, but I was surprised at how much I have been able to use this for educational purposes. 

The way it works is you check mark a bunch of interests of yours and then click "Stumble." It takes you to sites that are associated with your interests. You can choose to give it a "thumbs up" and it will keep track of that site kind of like a bookmarking site, such as Delicious, would. It's like being zoomed across a city by a cab driver who knows what types of new places that you'd enjoy. I chose a few personal and fun interests but mostly stuck to educational ones just to see if I could use it for that purpose. It worked! It took me to sites that I could potentially use with my students such as Maps of Wars, Her Stories in History, Have Fun with History, and Breathing Earth. As you can tell, I picked a lot of history related interests... should have been a social studies major, haha. And if you've never been to Breathing Earth, I highly recommend it. It's a great tool to show your students and give them some perspective on life. Of course, whenever I come across a great site, I put it in the bookmarking site I use, Diigo.

Response Story Reflection

I made my second technology lesson plan for 8th grade language arts since I will be with 8th grade next year for student teaching and Language Arts is my subject area. 

I think Lan. Arts can be a difficult subject to incorporate technology into because so much of it is writing, grammar, etc. ….unless you count typing on the computer as using technology, which technically it is, but for the purpose of this class I think we usually think of something more advanced than Word. 

Actually, blogging and even microblogging such as twitter and facebook are forms of writing and maybe they can even be supported by the GLCE’s. For this lesson, I chose to use a combination of different online tools: Penzu, Google Docs, and a graphic organizer site called Read Write Think

Now, I almost regret doing my lesson on writing because I did not have enough time to actually write out an example story of high enough quality to post. Although I admit that attempting to write it helped  me write the rubric because I realized that the original page requirements were too long and that the Resolution Map is essentially unnecessary. Experiencing what the students experience while doing assignments is good for keeping the directions and rubric clear and reasonable.

I was disappointed that the graphic organizers I used limits the amount of writing. Being concise is good for some circumstances but not when I’m trying to encourage students to write with a lot of detail!

I was also pleasantly surprised at how much the organizers helped me write my story… and I’m in college! Hopefully my students will find it useful as well.

Peeps R Emotionless Online

This is my first online class and I have really enjoyed it. I love the freedom of choosing what I want to explore and when I’m going to work on it. 

The major downside I have noticed with communicating with people online is that it is much less personable. I don’t know how much this affects other people, but it made a huge difference on me.  When someone is merely words on a page, it is easy for me to be harsher and more critical than I would if I was talking to their face. This is why I really enjoyed listening to my House members’ Highlight Showcases. I’ve read their written words and seen pictures of them all semester, but it wasn’t until I heard their voices that I felt they were humans with feelings. 

I did this with one of my best friends as well. I became very upset with her and was determined to give her a piece of my mind, but she called me on the phone and as soon as I heard her voice I wasn't sure if I could talk to her about it even meekly. I also immediately felt remorse for even being mad at her. 

I am not a very confrontational person and maybe it’s because I struggle with addressing issues when I can hear the emotion in their voice and see it in their eyes. 

I want to conclude that I think the internet is great, but we need to be aware of the negatives it poses. It is easy to say things that you normally wouldn’t when you are anonymous or you don’t have to deal with the consequences. 

What are ways to prevent this?
-Use real pictures of yourself? Some might not feel comfortable with that and want to keep their identity private for good reasons.
-pretend you’re saying it to someone you know?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Historical News

Quick Lesson Plan Idea:
I was watching the news this evening while eating dinner and wondering what the news would have been like hundreds or thousands of years ago. Then, I thought that would be an awesome project for students to do and it could apply to a wide range of ages. It could be an entire class project, smaller group projects, and/or an option on a list of projects students can pick from. Students could pick a time period or just do it on the time period you're currently studying. Then, they would research the daily lives of those living during that time as well as major events of the area. Students could make a video of their 'broadcast.' They could even cover sports of that time! They could try to dress up similar to the way they would at that time or even just create a comic strip of the news instead of doing it live.

Another idea is integrating this into the morning announcements for the entire school especially if they are done by video.

OR, instead of assigning this as a project to students, the teacher could prepare this type of thing as a creative way of presenting history. Yeah, I know it would be a lot of work, but a possibility would be to assign it to students one year and then use their base work to expand upon it and show it to future grades. I had a high school history teacher who presented time periods in a similar way. He created slide shows of scenes from that time and place as well as inserting figures with student faces pasted on the heads. The figures had speech bubbles commenting on events happening at that time.

They could also do it in written form such as a newspaper which could be another option on a list of possible projects to pick from.

Thinking from the students' perspective, I think the key to making this worthwhile and fun is to provide valuable and engaging resources for the students to use for research. And they could try dressing up for it.

You could have them start out with questions. Questions are good to drive the motivation for research and to guide the research as opposed to students feeling like they're looking stuff up but aren't sure what they're looking up.

Question: Do you have the students cover world events in their news as if it's similar to the way we do news now? OR do you have them do it more authentically which means they would only do regional news since various cultures of the world were not in communication especially in any efficient or speedy sort of way.

Now that I think about it, this is probably not that original of an idea but why haven't I seen it done more often?

Something else that could go on the list of optional projects is a digital storyboard about the a time period similar to this lesson plan which involves researching the history surrounding a particular piece of art. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The biggest downside I have come across with wikis is turning in assignments by posting them on a wiki page. We end up erasing each others’ contributions because people edit at the same time and it only saves the last person who saved it. It’s not like Google Docs where multiple users can edit at the same time. You think you’ve posted your assignment to find out later that you didn’t get the points for it because it ended up erased when someone else saved at the same time as you. It’s highly frustrating but can be easily solved by designating times when each person or group can edit. 

One of my major fears of wikis was that if someone deleted something, even accidentally, it would be gone forever. So, I was relieved to find out that you can simply go to the revision history. That solves that problem!
I have had experience with both PBworks and wikispaces. At first, I chose PBworks because I have never actually created my own wiki using it whereas I have with wikispaces. My main memory of working with PBworks is from a class I took at MSU. I was very confused on the organization and had trouble finding the files and information I needed unless my instructor sent me a direct link. I’m usually pretty good at figuring things out, but I’ll admit that I can be impatient as well. After trying it out, I understand the layout a little bit more but still do not like the way they choose to organize everything. It just looks like one giant mess to my brain. I need something straightforward and simple. So, I switched to wikispaces. 

Actually, I also started out trying to create a wiki which was to attempt to be an ultimate time line resource. I don’t believe that memorizing dates is the way to learn about history, but I realized that time lines really help me see how history connects. So, maybe it could help others as well. Sadly, I ended up dropping this idea for now because I just couldn’t figure out a feasible way to use the current wiki technology available to to the common person to create the vision in my mind. I think I might end up needing the help of a web designer if my idea has a chance of ever coming to fruition.

So, I decided to do a simple alternative and create a wiki which I could use for student teaching next year. Since my CT co-teaches as well as teaching her own classes, the wiki will pull all of her students classes together. Almost everything up there right now is fabricated to show a sampling of what it will look like. It is difficult creating a wiki for classes which I know nothing about as of right now. However, I know I want a page for each class that any of the students are in to help both the teachers and the students keep track of everything. I know I want to include a class list and perhaps contact information that students are willing to share voluntarily to help each other out with homework. I want a calendar for each class to provide a visual of when assignments are due. I’ll also have links to the class syllabus as well as notes if possible, assignment directions and rubrics, and any other information that could benefit students related to each class respectively.
For this type of use, using a wiki instead of a website provides some advantages. Students would be able to edit which is beneficial for adding their own names and contact information and contributing other resources. Perhaps I might end up also using it for turning in projects or sharing in-class work, but it will all depend on what is happening in the school. 

I like how simple wikispaces looks. It has the navigation on the left and tabs at the top. I also like the ease of adding widgets and other media. I do not like the tabs at the top because every time any of my classes have tried to utilize the “discussion” tab, it becomes confusing. I think the main hang-up is that there is a set of tabs for each page as opposed to one discussion forum for the entire site. So, when someone wants to create a discussion they have to specify the page it’s on. I also do not like the fact that I cannot change the alignment of text, at least I have not figured out how to do it if it’s possible. Everything automatically aligns to the left.

Has anyone had good experiences with wikis other than PBworks or wikispaces?

I just want to point out the importance of having a discussion with your students before unleashing onto a class wiki. I think some ground rules need to be laid down about respect and how using the wiki is privilege. If they misuse it, even once, they will be removed from the member list. Otherwise, you could end up with jokesters putting inappropriate words, images, etc. on something endorsed by the school.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Don't Create Frustrating Surveys!

I hate taking personality tests or polls or surveys or anything like that. Actually, it’s more like a love-hate relationships because I enjoy coming up with my answers since they are usually easy questions. It’s like taking a test that you know all the answers to because it’s about you!* The part I don’t like is trying to figure out how MY answers fit into the options that are provided. Sometimes it could make me feel like an outcast when my answer doesn’t fit in or I feel like I'm being untrue to myself by choosing an option that doesn’t truly reflect my response.

The following are tips I have accumulated to avoid causing frustration for the users.

-optional comment box for explanations behind WHY they answered the way they did after each question

-optional general comment box at the end- there’s always something that a user has to say that the creator did not think about whether it’s a question or pointing out a problem with the survey or something else.

-include  a "not applicable" option- Forcing users to choose an option when the question doesn't even apply to them can screw up your data

-include a "neutral" option-Forcing users to lean one way or the other when they really don't care about that particular question can also screw with your results. Or you could just put a comment box after each question as bullet 1 suggests. Then the user has a chance to say, "Hey, I don't care either way." However, I guess some might want the users to be forced to pick a side to discern their "true" feelings or something like that.

-always offer an “other” option and a space to fill in the blank unless it is just completely inappropriate given the question and options.

-provide an estimated time for completion next to the survey link- This is not entirely necessary and sometimes difficult to estimate especially since we all spend different amounts of time completing a task. However, saying it takes 5 minutes verses 30 minutes at least gives the user an idea of whether it’s a short quick and easy thing or something they are going to need to sit down and do when they have a good amount of time free.

-being able to save and come back later or retake it because it stinks when you are filling out a survey and the internet disconnects and you can’t get back into it because it only lets you take it once. Or something comes up and you’ve already done most of it but you have to leave and you don't want to lose your work and start all over again.

*”It’s like taking a test that you know all the answers to because it’s about you.” That’s something to remember as a positive for giving students a beginning of the year assignment about themselves worth points for completion.

Please add other tips to these because I’m sure I did not cover everything.

Hyperlinks on Steroids

There are many times in which I want to insert two links on a word or phrase as opposed to just one, but I haven’t figured out a good way to do this. 

I thought about splitting the word and putting one link on the first half and another link on the second half like this: voicethread, but then most might not even notice that there are two links and become confused when they experience that clicking the word does not lead them to the same place every time. 

It's still confusing even when there are multiple words such as: Digital Native because then it looks like the link on Digital is supposed to explain only the word Digital.

There are also times in which I want to add some explanations to my links like I tried in my post called Digitally Native with Pictures. I wanted to specify that I was specifically referring to the 4th paragraph of the article I referenced, but I wasn't quite sure about how I should format that either.

I also considered doing it this way: voicethread (also try this voicethread), but I feel like this would start making the text as a whole look cluttered.

Which brings me to my second pondering: Is there such a thing as too many hyperlinks? Do they crowd and overwhelm or are they always a good choice? I think there is potential that there could be such a thing as having too many, but on the other hand, some Wikipedia pages glow with blue links to other pages and I don’t ever feel as though that is a hindrance. I actually like it because I know that if I don't understand what something is or want to learn more about it I can just click on it.... but then why do I still feel concerned about using too many links in my own blogs?

I’m also wondering about linking to people when mentioning them in a blog or site. What should you link their name to? Their site? Their blog? Something they have written? I guess it depends on what the options are. Should I ask for permission to link to them or at least notify them? 

Not that I want to create an internet version of the MLA/APA monster (a couple reasons described in Copyrights in Education), but an optional guideline or etiquette could be helpful. On the other hand, perhaps I should just try things out and see how it develops. I think I appreciate the method of informal trial and error as opposed to one person or group sitting down and deciding the right way for everyone.

Any ideas on any of this stuff?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

3 Technologies

I was supposed to focus on one technology but in my exploration for that technology I stumbled across a few interesting ones that I’d like to share.

At first I got really excited about this site because it uses primary sources. Anyone can use the site, but perhaps there are more perks if you have an account. The sources available seemed very limited. They mostly have artifacts from the past 100 years. It seems to be geared towards teachers especially those of late elementary to middle school. Like I said, perhaps it is a totally different experience if you actually have an account. It seems to be able to produce pretty sweet projects if students are focusing on the eras and subjects the site highlights. For example, this is a video created by students: I also wish there was a navigation on the side so I could get back to the other site pages without having to click the back arrow on my browser. 

It’s an online journal which looks quite similar to a real notebook and you can even insert images. If I used this in a classroom, I would incorporate it into their daily or weekly writing time. Students would have the choice of using Penzu or a real notebook but they would have to stick with that media for the whole year. Most of their entries would be private so that the teacher would not even see them. This works very well if the writing time is a free-write. I would have prompts each time but students are not required to stick to the prompt if they feel moved to write about something else such as if they are having a bad day or want to write about something exciting in their life. However, it would be required that they send a certain number of their entries to the teacher for credit, but they get to choose which ones to send. The site facilitates emailing an entry which makes it convenient. Also, they can choose entries to elaborate on for larger writing projects. This shows students that writing can be for themselves and that free writing can help generate ideas which can be used later and revised.

Pandora is an online radio in which you create your own stations based on songs, artists, or genres that you like. For instance, two of my 17 stations include: Classic Rock and Alicia Keys. Pandora plays music similar to the styles you like. You communicate to it by giving a song a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down." You can also skip over a song if you don't want to listen to it any longer. You have to create an account to use it but you don't have to pay unless you want the upgraded version. The downside of the free version is that you are limited to 40 hours a month and you still have periodic commercials. 

What does this have to do with education? Some teachers play music while students independently work. Some play the radio, but most put in CDs or hook up an ipod with set playlists to control what is being played. Pandora is another option. There is even a setting you can choose that ensures that no "adult content" will be played. Pandora could be used as an indirect way of teaching students about different music genres or important historical singers and groups. For example, you could play music by Astrud Gilberto and give a quick summary of his background in Brazil before they begin working or play a Billie Holiday station and say a few things about her importance to Black history. These would just be quick summaries before they begin working so it doesn't distract from their projects. 

That is another thing- it IS a legitimate argument that playing music during work time is a bad idea because some students find it distracting. This is something you could find out through taking formal or informal surveys of the class about what the conditions they need to work or study.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Google Docs

I have fallen in love with Google Docs! It’s partly the result of my loathing for group work. Google Docs has solved some of the issues such as:

-Cannot physically meet due to distance or scheduling issues. Also, my group knew we had to make a few minor changes to our project but didn’t want to set up a meeting just for 15 minutes of work.So, we used G Docs.
-can work on the project at the SAME TIME as well as communicate with others working on it.

However, everyone has to be on board. I was in a group in which one member, for whatever, reason, shot down my suggestions to use it every time. It was frustrating because I knew that Google Docs would solve our problem of only having one person being able to edit or project at a time. However, I recognize that each of us has our own preferences which need to be respected.

Recently, I have been using Google Docs to work on my resume and link it to my portfolio. It has been a rather surprisingly frustrating experience. At first I tried uploading my existing resume and linking to it in my portfolio. The resume looked great on Google Docs, but when I followed the link, the formatting had changed so that my neat columns of information were slanted across the page as seen below.

I downloaded my resume from Google Docs as a PDF and uploaded it to my portfolio as a down-loadable file but even the PDF had strange little quirks. This time the changes were few and minor enough so that I could go to GD and change a few things to create the desired look in PDF form. I’m glad I could fix it but it’s still annoying that I had to do that. The reformatting seemed random as well. Sometimes it recognized my tabs and sometimes it would ignore the tabs and move my information left or right. I’m hoping that there is something in the settings that can be changed as an easy fix but so far I cannot figure it out. It is also frustrating that Google Docs is not divided into pages. So, when I viewed my resume in PDF form it ended up being 4 pages and had awkward breaks instead of the 2 pages that it was in Microsoft Word.

I figured out that using the URL at the top of my browser keeps the formatting correctly

but then future employers would be viewing my resume in GD which I'm not sure is desirable.

Before, I was using the URL given to me by GD when I clicked “share” and then “publish to web”

which makes a finished product look that I am going for, if only the formatting wasn't messed up.

I ended up just taking the embed code and modifying it so that it looks like this (my resume in my new portfolio)

Survey Form
I have also been playing around with GD’s survey form. I created a simple one just to see how it works and invited a few friends from my PLN to answer the questions. I made the first mistake of not filling it out myself to set the example. I also should have had a question asking for their name but I didn’t realize that it would present the responses in table form without any indication of who wrote it.

Under the tab titled “Form” you can click “Show summary of responses” and it shows the multiple choice answers in a pie graph which, I think, is pretty sweet.

You can also email the form or embed it:

I really like Gabrielle Gauthier’s idea of creating a Google Form for students’ parents to fill out at the beginning of the school year. So, I think I might do something similar in the future. In addition, mid-semester forms could be made to do a quick check-up on the parent-teacher-student relationships.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Growing Pains

I have been having a difficult time lately handling criticism and simply hearing very different opinions than my own as well as hearing my own opinions attacked. I usually consider myself as someone who welcomes opposing views as a way of growing, but sometimes, I’ll admit, there are growing pains, haha. It’s just so much easier to surround myself (both physically and digitally) by people who agree with me and are similar to me. In the end, I honestly DO like KNOWING other views, but I think the process of finding out about them can be difficult. 

One reason for this is that, quite often, those who have interesting views are those who believe very strongly in something. They* are so passionate that they can say things on waves of emotions in addition to their passion blinding themselves sometimes. Well, blinding is not a good word for it…. It’s more like- if you really believe you’re right about something ……. 

(which hopefully you DO think you’re right because if you think you are wrong then why would you think that? …..of course, I guess there’s always that middle ground where you believe one thing but you’re not quite sure so you’re still open and searching) 

…..anyway, if you really believe you’re right about something and you’ve already heard many of the main arguments against it, then you kind of start dismissing those arguments because you already know you disagree with them. The problem with this is 1) there might be more points that you HAVEN’T ever heard and, more importantly, 2) you shut down to those with opposing opinions. Shutting down to others is bad because, you can lose touch with the reasons WHY they still think differently than you. This is a first step in lack of understanding and lack of compassion and ends up in people just yelling at each other and hating each other as opposed to civilly discussing and compromising or at least admitting that there are legit reasons for believing differently. It also leads down the road of seeing people as the enemy and as “other” instead of as human because if you see them as so different from you that you can’t relate to them, then you don’t care about them even as fellow humans….  and that does not lead to good things.

So…. anyway… that’s my quick and confusing rant for today. I’m sure I’ll read it later and be like, “What?”

*I’m not using “they” to imply that this DOESN’T include me, because it definitely does.