Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Drawing the Line in Social Media: Twitter

The world of Twitter sometimes seem foreign and confusing to me.  Everyone seems to have made up their own language with crazy symbols and abbreviated words.  With this said, I am still addicted. I go on about three to five times a day to tweet and read up with everything going on.  After four months of having an account, I am still a little lost as to what I should be tweeting but I still tweet away.  Often I try to tweet about interesting things I read about educational technology or share a link to a great website I found, but more times than none, I am tweeting about what I am making for dinner, if I had a good work out, and responding to the witty things my friends say.  As much as I try to make my Twitter account professional, I often find myself becoming too personal.  

I say this because I truly believe Twitter should be used in the classroom as a tool of learning, but as teachers how do we draw a line between personal and professional in the Twitter world and other social medias?  With Facebook it is can be can put your students on a limited profile or simply ignore their friend request.  Even with Twitter you can keep your tweets private but that makes your influence on Twitter very small.  There is also the dread of people (meaning parents or administration) reading a tweet and taking it the wrong way, which can lead to termination of your job. So what to do?  The best thing is to keep your personal information separate from your professional like.  Create separate social media accounts that can be used in the classroom.  It does not mean you need to be completely guarded and not share anything about your personal life, but creating a separate account allows students, teachers, and parents that with this account you will mostly discuss things about school.  

There is also the question of how do we keep things professional with students who you are following on Twitter?  Students in middle and high school sometimes do not have a filter and say whatever comes to mind either it is about themselves personally or about other students.  It can be innocent at times and then not so innocent. Do we take these opportunity to speak to students about what they write on Twitter and make into a learning experience or do we get administration and parents involved?  With every situations, there will be different ways to handle what happens.  The best policy is to teach proper netiquette and how things written can be interpreted differently.  Teaching students be alert and smart when on the internet will provide them with the proper skills to navigate through social media.

So what do you think?  How should teachers draw the line between professional and personal in social media, especially in Twitter?  

Friday, April 15, 2011

Incorporating Games Into Our Schools to Increase Retention Rates

As James Paul Gee mentioned in both his articles “Good Video Games and Good Learning” and “Welcome to our Virtual Worlds” students are learning much differently than the Baby Boomers and even the Generation Xers.  Twenty-First century students are learning best from digital literacy from how they communicate online to the games they play.  This is key to understanding how to educate today’s generation.  Gee states, “Digital media hold out the potential to hone the skills necessary for success in our globalized world.”  As educators, if we can learn how to incorporate gaming in our schools we will not only keep students interested, we will also be to keep students actively engaged becoming the masters of their education.   

Often times, video games get a bad rap. Parents complain that their children become obsessed with their favorite games and then do not put their energy towards their homework. And some teachers as well see games as a distraction from the classroom. This clearly shows the disconnect between today’s generation and past generations. Students learn by doing, by experiences, and by making mistakes and learning from it.  Video games provide those opportunities and also teaches students complex decision making, specific vocabulary, and to not be afraid of technology.  By allowing them to create an identity to build a relationship with the game, keeps students interested. And then when students are able to take risks in a safe environment, while still be pleasantly challenged motivates students to always come back for more.

Teachers dream of their students having that same motivation!  So why not incorporate games or at least the same principals that makes games great?  There are a lot of great games out there.  A couple months ago, I mentioned Civilization V.  I am not the type to sit and play video games.  However when I played Civilization V, I became hooked and started thinking of ways to incorporate the game in my classroom.  Civilization is a computer game that allows the player to make a civilization from the ground up while making important decisions that will affect the fate of your civilization.  As one of the articles said Civilization “force players to think on a large scale about history, development across time, and civilizations.” This is perfect for a global history class and I am sure students would love it! 

I think it will be hard to convince schools to incorporate gaming, but if you look at the potential it has to keep students in school, there will be more of a demand to have fun educational games in schools.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

SMART Board Lessons

For the most part, I am very familiar with different forms of educational technology.  However when it comes to interactive whiteboards, I have not had experience using it in a classroom.  Therefore I am not confident is my SMART Board skills.  This week's lesson definitely helped build my confidence, although I am sure I have still have a lot to learn.  Listening to Alan November showed the importance of using interactive whiteboards effectively in the classroom and there needs to be less emphasis on teacher-centered lessons, which some teachers tend to fall back on.  I think having a SMART Board in your classroom is a privilege and instead of using it as a projectors teachers must truly be trained and encourage to use the board's full potential.  

I can remember being first introduced to SMART Board in my 11th grade chemistry class, and my entire class was in awe how our teacher was able to take notes writing/typing them on the board.  Once the shock wore off after a couple weeks, we became bored.  All we were doing was taking notes on what she was putting on the SMART Board.  Sometimes she would put images up or movies embedded in the lesson and that would make class interesting, however there needed to be more student involvement.  

So when I was looking for a lesson on the SMART Exchange, I wanted to find something that was truly interactive and student-centered.  I searched and found a lot of fun reviews games, but felt that most of the games would be hard to tie into social studies content areas besides reviewing for a test.  Then I searched for just social studies lessons, and found an interesting Susan B. Anthony lesson  that had images and two videos within the lesson, however, it was still teacher-centered since a teacher would have to lead the discussion.  Finally I found a great lesson for younger grades introducing European countries to students, where they can discover and learn what they are interested it, called Let's Explore Europe.  This lesson was great because it allowed students to pick which country they wanted to learn about and then could pick what they wanted to hear, view, and read.  It was very interactive and I feel it would motivate students to learn more about each country or their own country in depth.  

Take a look for yourself at SMART Exchange.

Friday, March 25, 2011

FREE SOFTWARE!!! Open Source Rocks!

There is nothing sweeter than the words "free" to a teacher.  Often times there is so much we want to do but we do not have the funds to do so.  That's why when first reading about Open Source, I was pretty excited to see the software it has to offer!  I quickly learned that Audacity is an open source software, which is an excellent tool when creating podcasts and song editing.  I have used Audacity before when I had students create podcasts and it was easy tool for high schoolers to use.  Even better some of my students were able to download the software on their Macs and finish their projects at home.  Audacity is just one of the hundreds of thousands programs out there that are free for teachers and students.

As I explored and looked for a program that I would use my classroom.  I was really in awe of the Gimpshop.  Since I took a multimedia class and used photoshop, I have been searching for a cheap version of photoshop instead of spending hundreds of dollars on the programs (and that's with student/teacher discount!).  So when I saw a very similar program for FREE with good reviews, I just had to have it.  A program like Gimpshop can be used in any classroom and provides students with creativity they can use to explain on their learning. They can create collages and fun images to enhance presentation or for projects.  If they are learning about a country, they can take multiple images and make a collage on Gimpshop.  On a side note there is nothing wrong with Adobe Photoshop, except for it's cost, since you have to buy individual software licenses for each computer that uses the program.  That can be very pricey! 

Unfortunetly, I am having a hard time downloading it onto my Mac.  Does anyone have any suggestions?  It keeps coming up as an error after downloading it and putting into my application folder.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Can Personal Learning Environments be the Future of Education?

This week we are learning about Personal Learning Environments (PLE).  As we learned in class it "is a web space that is designed by the user to assist in collecting, filtering, and organizing information." PLE are completely new to me and for most educators out there.  When I was watching the video of the 7th grade student showing her PLE and read through the example of a PLE social studies classroom, I had chills run down my body!  This is exactly what I dream my classroom will look like.  For every student to have their own personal computer, where there is not a dependence on textbooks, and students are creating their own learning.  It's beautiful!! But I am skeptical and I wonder can this really work?  Can every student have their own personal laptop? Will the school budget allow it? Will students remember to bring in their laptop?  Will all students benefit from this kind of learning?  Does this fall into NYS curriculum standards?

I have so many questions!  So I looked through all of Dr. Mohamed Amine Chatti's links for PLE ranging from 2006 to 2010. Most of the links were about explaining how PLE works and compare it to older models.  One blog that particularly stood out to me was Tom Haskin's blog Growing Changing Learning Creating.  He has many posts about PLEs and is very passionate about the subject.  In his post "If This is Your First PLE" he gave me great insight into starting a PLE using RSS. At one point when discussing about student feelings about their project, he states, "The thing you're learning has to be your baby, not somebody else's that you're babysitting."  That is an excellent point!  You often lose student's interest when they if they are just doing an assignment just complete it or get a grade.  However if students are actively engaged in a topic, that it is personal to them, then students are more likely going to care what they are learning.  

Haskin blog helped give me a better sense of how PLEs can easily work in the classroom and has inspired me to try something like that in my future classroom.  However, I still have my questions and some doubts since most of the posts addressed different topics.  I would love for this to work and I believe it will in the future, but there are a lot more hurdles in educational technology to jump over before this can happen.  What are your thoughts?  Can this happen in our near future...say the next couple of years?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Paperless Schools?! Is it Possible?

Hi everyone! This week I discovered  Now I have heard of Edutopia before, but now as an Edu Tech student I can relate more to the content and understand how important digital literacy is.  I am now obsessed with their blogs, teaching materials and strategies and video.  As I was scrolling through the blogs, I came across Ben Johnson’s post called “Paper and Pencil Curriculum: How Much Do You Rely on It?  He reminded how depended schools are on paper and revealed how much money could be saved if schools went paperless.  It is definitely a topic worth thinking about.  How much paper do you use in a day?  What are some paperless activities do you do with you students? Do you think is it possible to have a paperless school?  Read the blog post and let me know what you think!

You should all check out the website if have not before and create an account!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Skype for Educators!

Hi everyone, this week we had to respond to an "outside" edublog.  After looking through multiple blogs, I came across "The Innovative Educator" written by a teacher in NYC.  One of her posts that stood out was "Skype in the Classroom: Using Skype to Bring Education to Life - Sign Up Now!"  I am sure you are all familiar with Skype and all that it offers but now it has a specific application for teachers!!  Take a look at all it has to offer and what I wrote in response.  Let me know what you think about the topic!  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Facebook App Increasing Schools' Retention Rates?

While doing some work this week, I came across this article "Can Social Networking Keep Students in School" and was quickly interested in the topic.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is investing $2 million dollars to Inigral which is a company “trying to build virtual college communities by creating school-based Facebook sites” in order to help decrease college drop out rates.  It’s called the School App.  At first I thought this was similar to Facebook’s newly accepted student groups that are usually created by students and anyone could join it.  However, the School App only allows current and future students to join the page.  Their aim is to create a virtual community for new students before they step foot on campus. Students create a quick profile of their likes and interests and then search using interests to meet new friends. Groups and organizations can also use the School App to advertise their information and upcoming meetings and events.  The School App provides students with connections before the big move-in to ease the transition of going away to school. 

To me, they are not reinventing the wheel.  They are taking existing ideas from Facebook and making it better to meet students’ needs.  I personally love the idea because I remember joining those newly accepted student groups and felt so lost with all the students who joined.  And for most college students, Facebook is how a lot of students communicate with each other.  During my undergrad, I was constantly on Facebook.  It was where I connected with friends, posted pictures, shared news articles, or just went on to take a break from school.  For my Digital Media class, my professor used Facebook as if it was blackboard.   She posted the syllabus, zips files of the week’s work, and even messaged us our grades.  It was awesome!  And I really wish more teachers would incorporate Facebook in education. 

So what do you all think?  Check out Inigral’s website and see how it is being used on college campuses.  It will be hard to prove that it is improving schools’ retention rate because when students leave, they usually leave for multiple reason, not just for social reasons.  Do you think it has the potential to improve schools retention’s rates?  And also what do you think of incorporating Facebook in the classroom?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Digital Storytelling

For this week's free post I am going to discuss digital storytelling.  Currently I am a graduate assistant for a professor that teaches a social studies methods class.  Some of her research this semester consists of using student narratives as a powerful way to teach pre-service teachers.  One form of narratives that I am helping her research is digital storytelling.  This form of storytelling as the University of Houston defines it as, "The practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories. As with traditional storytelling, most digital stories focus on a specific topic and contain a particular point of view. However, as the name implies, digital stories usually contain some mixture of computer-based images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and/or music" (

Often times digital storytelling is used to tell a personal story of a student that is related to what is being taught in the classroom.  A great example of this is having students present their family history using pictures and videos while narrating their past as it relates to history.  A great website that shows digital storytelling is  This website contains an assortment of personal stories told through digital storytelling to motivate and inspire people.  Please check it our and maybe you can find something to use in your classroom.

When I was student teaching, I had my students create podcast interview of a famous abolitionists from the mid nineteenth century.  For the most part, my students created great and insightful podcasts.  A couple of my students, however, decided to go above and beyond and create a digital story.  They added images of their abolitionist, put in symbols, and even put in multi-media.  It was very engaging and fun to watch.  After seeing some of my students create a digital story, I realized the potential of using this kind of assessment in all classrooms.  When presenting a science project, students can introduce their topic with a quick digital story of work done outside the classroom.  There is a lot that can be done and I will let you all know the cool things I find out throughout my research this semester!  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Enriching Our Classrooms Through Blogging

We live in an interconnected world where we receive instant information from just about anywhere and anyone.  It is a type of world where we can voice our opinions about modern revolutions, like in Egypt, while sitting in the comfort of our home.  It’s absolutely incredible and blogging is part of this interconnected world.  As I write people are writing about everything from education to politics to what happened on the Jersey Shore this week!  Blogging helps give a voice to billions of people all over the globe making our world just a little bit smaller. 

Teachers across the country have been using blogs in their classroom from elementary to high school in numerous ways.  Some teachers use blogs to inform parents what is happening in their children’s classroom, where other teachers are making their students contributors to the blog to voice their opinions about what they are learning.  Blogging has the potential to change the traditional classroom into a classroom in the 21st century. Research has proven that students are more likely to engage in school when they feel they are actively contributing to the classroom and blogging provides that opportunity. Instead of having students who are normally too shy to speak in class, they can use blogs to share their opinions and reveal another side of themselves. 

When I was student teaching, I created a blog for my 11th grade United States History students.  At that point I was fairly new to the blogging world, therefore I solely created my blog to provide further information on the topics we were learning in the classroom.  Often times I would post interactive websites for my students to check out and extra credit opportunities. To see what I created, please take a look at my United States History and Government Blog!  In the future I would use a blog as an extension of the classroom, very similar to what Ms. Baker did in the Extreme Biology Blog.  In the blog, Ms. Baker and her students’ posted articles related to biology or something they are learning in class.  Blogging helps bring alive the material students are learning in class and in essence it should be an enriching tool in the classroom.