Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Measuring if Competencies Are Met

      Teachers are always challenged with providing authentic, rigorous lessons, with various types of assessments. These lessons are required to align with the common core, meet 21st century learning objectives, and align with other state or local initiatives. Measuring how well these lessons align with these standards, could be based off individual student assessment data, that illustrates mastery of the appropriate concepts. However, it is difficult to ensure that all these standards are being met throughout the course of the curriculum. 
     The written curriculum would reflect when, where and how these competencies are completed, however there still needs to be some checks and balance system to ensure that the teacher really is aligning their teaching to the written curriculum. Administrators are challenged with the task to monitor teachers to ensure that they are indeed, matching the curriculum and providing the appropriate authentic, rigorous content with appropriate integration of technology to provide real world circumstances to enhance critical thinking and problem solving skills. 
     This all sounds great on paper, but the logistics of actually doing this, are a nightmare. Administrators are burdened with many other responsibilities throughout the day, and allotting appropriate time to monitor teachers is difficult, unless the administration has a large team. In most schools there tends to be one principal, and maybe an assistant principal. Ensuring that all competencies are met is difficult to accomplish, so administrators capture a snapshot of teaching through brief observations. Typically, these observations provide a skewed perspective into the teachers everyday interactions. Students tend to act much different when eh Principal is in the room, so lessons tend to run much more smooth, and objectives are easily met. Ideally, observations should occur through a variety of lenses, including the physical observation, some video of lessons, and or audio of selected lessons. These different perspectives may provide a different view to determine if competencies are met. But still, how do you measure that the competency is in fact met and how can you ensure that the technology competencies are actually met? 
     To be able to measure whether these competencies are met, there has to be some type of tangible artifact to be used as evidence. The student will need to create some artifact that can be presented individually or as a larger part of a portfolio to prove if they have met the appropriate common core standards, as well as the appropriate NETS standards. 

     For example, the English department is working toward the NETS-T standard Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity by asking the students to create an original fictional digital story using a tool like PowToon. The lesson provides a current tool where students have the opportunity to be creative and innovative to present their material in a unique way. However, the focus of the lesson is based on meeting this common core standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3. Ideally the teachers will have some type of assessment tool that will be appropriate aligned to the common core standard to measure students progress with writing effective narratives with enough detail to provide context and sequence. Using the animation tool may not necessarily align directly to the written language, so how could the teacher incorporate this tool into this standard to ensure that the common core is being met and a NETS-T standard is being met and be able to provide a tangible piece of evidence to an administrator to prove that the student met both the common core and the NETS-T standard? 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sample Virtual Learning Course and Policies

After reviewing both VHS and VLACS, two similar virtual education schools, I've discovered that they are not equal for all students. VLACS offers free tuition to any individual student who resides in the state, which is fantastic. However, the cost to enroll into a class if you are not a resident is a bit shocking. Paying for these courses could pose a challenge for some students. One reason a student may seek out virtual learning may be from a result of not passing traditional classes, or other life issues created some barrier to traditional public education. On the other hand, some students may be seeking a course that is not offered at their school. If a student were not a resident, enrolling into a VLACS course would be a difficult financial decision. Who would pay for the course? Would the students public school help cover the cost or would the student be expected to pay? Similarly, VHS offers courses to all students, and the cost is pretty low. If the school is part of the "collaborative" there may be funding available to help the student cover the tuition. 

Both virtual schools advertise as a flexible learning environment with the ability to house full-time and part-time students. I would envision VLACS offering more opportunities for students who are seeking alternative courses because the public education or other school doesn't quite offer what they desire, or they have some other scheduling conflicts that hinders them from obtaining the course they need at their school. I envision a typical VLACS student as one who has high intrinsic motivation, and is seeking alternate routes to gain credits and courses to help carve out their future. While, VHS offers some challenging courses up to the AP level, I would envision this program being popular with public schools who have students that are struggling to achieve the appropriate graduation credits, or have gaps in their education, for various reasons. 
Within a public school system, the ideal virtual learning arrangement should be one where there is little to no cost. Whatever tuition cost might exist, the sending school should help the student acquire appropriate funding. The goal for a partnership school would be to offer enrichment courses that are not available in the school where the student can access alternate curriculum. For example, many high schools lack some AP programs, or some elective courses. On the other hand, public schools should also be able to use the Virtual Learning partnership as an alternative option for struggling students, or students who have barriers to the typical education and require a flexible schedule. This could be a result from medical issues, to life altering events, or even disciplinary circumstances. Again, students should be able to access education with the aide of the the sending school acquiring appropriate funding for tuition. 

Based off the two schools reviewed, I would argue that VHS offers a more global program where schools can become collaborators or partners to take advantage of low tuition, and potential grant funding opportunities. If a school is in New Hampshire, then they should absolutely form a partnership with VLACS, because it is FREE for all resident students. IF a school is outside of the state, VLACS may not be the best option for various virtual learning scenarios. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Virtual Learning

Virtual learning can be advantageous, depending on the type of learner taking advantage of the service. Many of these programs require that the student has intrinsict motivation to access the course, stay organized, and stay current with the content. Not every student has acquired the appropriate skills to manage this. However, there are occasions where the local school just does not work for the student and the virtual setting is the best option to obtain an educaiton.  There are a variety of reasons where a students would benefit from the flexibility of virtual education and be able to gain knowledge without the barriers in the traditioinal educational setting (Layton and Brown, 2011). 

Virtual learning experiences, do not have to be through a specific schools like VLACS or VHS, it could be your own personal interest that is satisfied through the flexibility of virtual learning. For example, if you have an interest in learning about dinosaurs, then this tour might be enough to fill your needs. Or, if you are curious about the universe and the size of things that make up the universe, the information provided in this virtual lesson may also be satisfying. But, how does the individual find these resources? It takes a lot of work and luck to find these tools on your own, often times a real person can help point you in the right direction. This is where having an actual person to interact with becomes important. Ideally, the mentor is a kind individual who has the knowledge and passion to provide the appropriate tools, and open the right doors for the student to be able to explore the unknown, individually.

In the end, virtual learning can be advantageous, depending on the type of student, and the circumstances for learning. Some virtual learning programs may provide the rigid linear content that is desired, or provide a more flexible, open learning environment for the student to explore on their own. In either scenario, virtual learning is an important way to continue learning and growing as a person, for "learning is a treasure and will follow us everywhere." (学习-是永远跟随主人的宝物 - Chinese Proverb)

Layton, L., & Brown, E. (2011). Virtual schools are multiplying, but some question their educational value. The Washington Post. Retrieved from 2013.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Libraries; Virtual or Physical?

The availability of technology is making it easier for people to access reading content, virtually. Should the physical brick and mortar library transform to a more digital or virtual library without physical books?

I would argue that both, the traditional library, and a virtual library have benefits in education. Each entity fills it's own educational niche and provides various opportunities for learning. This small digital story better explains my opinion on this issue.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Technology Usage Statistics

The following timetoast timeline compares statistics of technology use over various generations.  As you might expect, the Generation @  regularly use technology more so than the Silent Generation. However, some data has shown that there is an increase in use by the silent generation, and the baby boomer generation. As the complexity of society merges with technology, people will have no choice but to embrace the tools and become connected. Especially when familiar things like pay phones, or even Blockbuster are becoming obsolete.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Technology Configurations

The following whiteboard outlines some common technology configurations in schools, and some common activities in various classrooms. Each scenario addresses some potential challenges and ways to overcome those challenges.

Realtime Board is a fun way to create an interactive presentation. Here is a direct link to the presentation if the embedded board fails to load.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Building Relationships

I have only been an educator for six years. In that amount of time I have had various interactions with different groups of teachers to achieve a range of goals. Building professional relationships is important to do with any colleague as well as any student. In the realm of teaching technology, many users who feel they already are competent develop an attitude that conveys a message that they are not that interested in it, because they think they can already use do, whatever it is you are about to teach. I have to admit, I have had that type of attitude before. But, with some reflection and realization, often times you will understand that any interaction is an opportunity to learn tips and tricks you didn't' know before, even if you think there is not much left to learn. So how do you develop that trusting relationship with colleagues to be able to share ideas and methodologies in such a way where your voice is heard and respected?

One strategy I have used to gain the trust and respect of a group member who is already competent has been to ask them to share their expertise on the topic. If it is using a technology tool, I've asked them to share their experiences and describe any benefits or challenges using the tool. If the group member is willing to participate this gives them some ownership and allows them to realize that their knowledge is valued and respected.  Another strategy that could be useful would be to identify those individuals before hand, and ask them to play more of a leadership role in planning, organizing and teaching the content for the group collaboration.

 It is always a challenge trying to convince anyone to change their routine to incorporate new ideas. Developing that professional relationship through asking a lot of questions, actively listening to their responses,  getting to know more about their own work ethics, philosophy, and priorities can help build trust and respect. If you already have this relationship established, introducing a new idea is better received and colleagues may be more willing to try out the suggestion. Respect, listening, and understanding go a long way, especially when implementing change. An effective leader has the ability to grasp the attention of the group, establish that trusting relationship, and finally lead them through change. Establishing this relationship requires time and effort. It is not something that just happens, it has to be established over time. Whenever the leader is going to suggest change, they also need to model that change prior to the suggestion. In order for the group  to keep that trust, and be willing to change, they have to see that their leader has already embraced the change and is practicing what they preach.

Implementing change is always a challenge, and a convincing stick can only drive that nail in so far. If you are the leader implementing change, find your team members who are already experts and convert them to leaders. Model that change, and develop respect and understanding. If you do encounter a bad apple in a group, develop some good "fogging" techniques to avoid those interactions. All these techniques do, is mask the complaint and flip it into something good. For example, your are the leader in a classroom and a student starts to complain "we've done this a million times, I think we get it already." Instead of defending yourself, you could calmly and compassionately say, "I understand your frustration, but not all of us have mastered this yet. If you're confident with your knowledge, maybe you can help me help the others?" In so many words you're saying..."here's a box of tissues for your issue." ( ~_~,) When all you did was to flip the complaint to a  compliment  to get them to become a leader. These fogging techniques work well to engage those who think they already know what your teaching.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mock Scenarios For Integrating Technology

• Scenario One: Upon walking into the classroom of a new eighth grade English language arts (ELA) teacher, the teacher informs you that she will be teaching a lesson on fate versus free will the following week. She plans on using excerpts from Oedipus Rex and Dante’s Inferno. She has not put the lesson plan together yet but intends to have the students present examples from the readings to support their case through a persuasive essay.

Having not read these two books since high school, I don't really remember the content and purpose of these books, but I would suggest that the teacher organize the class into groups. Each group would get an excerpt from one of the books and be asked to use PowToon to create an animation based off the quote. The idea would be to illustrate the quote in such a way that it depicts the struggle between free will and fate. I would also ask each group to embed their animation into a Google Plus class "community page" or a Diigo Group page. Each member of the class would be asked to log into that page to have a virtual discussion about how the animation depicts fate, and free will.

• Scenario Two: A high school science teacher is presenting a unit on astronomy, specifically on how Polaris is no longer the central point of the northern sky. The teacher is confident that he can teach it out of a book but is anxious to give the students a better experience from the lesson. He is hoping that the technology integration specialist will be able to help make a more authentic study for the students.

Being an Astronomy teacher, the main concept that is being manipulated is Earth's "precession", and motion through space. Milutin Milankovitch developed a theory of Earth's Cycles based off Kepler's mathematical models of planetary motion, which attempts to describe the pattern and shift in the sky above us, ultimately leading to patterns of ice age. I would use a tool like Stellarium or SkyGazer to have students manipulate a virtual planetarium. Each of these programs contain simulations that illustrate Earth's wobble or precesion. I would ask students to manipulate the simulation to learn how and why this phenomena occurs. I would also have students respond to a discussion prompt in their class "notebook" on a tool like penzu or google docs. I would also ask the students to create some type of animation of their own to illustrate the same process. Students could use some type of animated .gif program like fotodanz, or create a movie and upload it to youtube.

• Scenario Three: In a fourth grade social studies class, the class is discussing the role of landscape and surroundings on early natives—what type of food they ate, the type of dwellings they built, and of course defensive systems or escape routes. Many of the students have never traveled out of their own state and are not familiar with alternate surroundings. The social studies teacher has requested that the technology integrator help her create a new lesson.

My first thought was to take the students on a virtual tour of the area either using Google Earth, Google Maps . Another option would be to arrange a Google Hangout or skype conference with an expert from the local historical society. Students could form questions they would want to ask through this conference to gain answers. They could present their findings in a Glogster poster. Another option, depending on the classroom, the teacher and the amount of time for the lesson, they could divide into groups where each group becomes the expert on the topics. For example a group could research food, another could be dwellings...etc. Each group could still participate in the initial Google hangout to gain info, but create a collaborative presentation with Glogster, or Prezi, or google apps to share with the class and teach them about their topic.

• Scenario Four: According to the math teacher, math is everywhere. The teacher is concentrating on a geometry unit discussing area and volume. The teacher is hoping to have the students design a home consisting of 1500 square feet of living space with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a family room, and a kitchen. A playroom or dining room are nice to have but are not needed. In the past, the teacher has asked the students to draw it out with paper and pencil; however, this proved to be a poor choice for reasons he has not given. The teacher is currently thinking of using craft sticks and glue to have the students build models, but this does not fall within the budget. The teacher is turning to the technology integrator for help.

I would suggest using a tool like Sketchup, FreeCAD, or floorplanner to create digital models of the home. Sketchup is an easy tool to learn how to use and make nice models, it is a bit tedious to make them exactly to scale, it requires a local installation and only runs in windows or mac. FreeCad is a great tool, but also requires some patience and attention to detail to be able to manipulate easily. Being opensource it runs on most platforms and also requires local installation. Floorplanner is a free WEB2.0 tool and requires users to make accounts, however it is very easy to use to create blueprints. The choice of tool would depend on how much the teacher would plan to use the drawing programs and what skills they would want to obtain from the use of them.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Strategies for Motivating Teachers

Motivating teachers to use technology is not an easy task. Teachers who have been teaching for some time, have already developed a routine in the classroom. They've experimented and changed things up and have landed on some solid techniques that work well for them and seem to work well for the students. Trying to convince a teacher like this to experiment and change again can be a challenge. Teachers are usually open to the idea of new ways to enrich learning. However, when push comes to shove, often times they hesitate and reject change. Most teachers will recognize and agree that technology is a major player in the 21st century learning initiatives, the common core, STEM, NGSS, NCLB (Beetham, H. Sharpe, R., 2013).

(Missing APY for the IEP subgroup, changed the PLC's focus to rTi, because NCLB requires SES.---Sorry, I couldn't resist a little acronym humor. Oddly enough, to those teachers out there, this makes sense.) 

The problems with technology arise when teachers are asked to start using technolgy. There are wide ranges in abilities and attitudes towards the tools. The most common complaint is lack of time for appropriate training. The second common complaint is usually around the computers that are available to run the tool. Whatever the excuse, teachers need some convincing to use technology. One good way to make technology training more efficient would be to provide some pre-training surveys to create a technology training that was differentiated to suit the needs of most. People are naturally motivated when they are invested in the content. If teachers are given the choice of technology to learn, they will most likely be more invested to learn a tool they want to learn than to spend time pretending to learn something because it is mandated. 

Another way to increase motivation is to prove that WEB2.0 tools and other digital tools enhance learning opportunities, and students are actually more engaged with the content when they have some control over the lesson (Sadaf, A. 2012). How do you prove that digital tools enhance learning? One way would be to use actual student work from that school to show that students can use the tool in question, and can produce high quality work. On another note, many of these decisions to enhance education seem to trickle into education from the top down. Students are rarely ever asked what they want and how they learn best. Some people might be rolling their eyes right now thinking "come on, like a kid really knows how they learn best. They just want to avoid work." In some instances, that may be true. But, if you never ask them, you'll never get a real answer. Students should be included in some of these decisions and training to show how they can learn these tools, and show what they can produce, when given the opportunity. 

I think the technology integrator has to be the cheerleader, the expert, the motivator, and the ice breaker for using these tools. They need to be the "go-to" person to reassure the teachers that it's not so bad, and these tools can actually make your teaching life easier. Instead of taking the time to plan out a lecture, why not take less time to plan out a Blendspace lecture, followed up by a class discussion? There are ways to make the content more engaging, and ways to incorporate the tools without teachers feeling as though they were sent to the wolves. The technology integrator needs to have a strong presence and needs to be a patient person willing to work with all types of people. 

Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (Eds.). (2013). Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing for 21st Century Learning. routledge.

Sadaf, A., Newby, T. J., & Ertmer, P. A. (2012). Exploring pre-service teachers' beliefs about using Web 2.0 technologies in K-12 classroom.Computers & Education59(3), 937-945.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Conrad Wolfram's Talk

Wolfram's talk about using math describes the use in math in real world situations through various career paths. The general message is that math is not strictly this subject where you learn how to "calculate." He suggests that math helps people to use technology to help with daily automated tasks. Understanding the foundation of a calculation helps people with critical thinking skills when using computers to be able to apply math to create models, design structures, and analyze large amounts data to draw conclusions. The traditional ways of teaching math through drill and practice may not be the best way for students to apply their knowledge. This idea is true among all content areas. While some drill and practice may be necessary for aiding in the foundations, it should not be the only way to learn the content. The structure of drill and practice also needs to evolve with time. Traditional pen and paper activities may help build some skill, but applying the same skills with the aid of technology can enhance learning and provide rich opportunities to delve into understanding the concepts in more detail. These ideas apply to all aspects of learning. Technology has enhanced the professional careers and should enhance learning.

This talk is very inspirational to the use of technology in education. Wolfram's search engine is a great example of how computers can bring content to life. It is a powerful engine that provides significant data about any topic, and potentially offers 3-D models of concepts. This talk could help teachers understand that traditional methods of teacher may have some value, but the behavior of the world is changing, and therefore we should prepare our students for the technical world they face with their careers. The world is much more automated and digitized now, than ever before. If the trends continue, technology will just keep getting better and more accessible. This video could be used as a tool to deliver that message to teachers, that technology should be taught within the content to learn how a professional, in that particular field, might use technology. 

When working with teachers and attempting to instill the value of technology, the process can be enhanced through the use of technology to allow teachers to collaborate. Many people don't recall that the internet was initially a giant collaboration experiment to allow scientists to quickly share information. Now, the internet is a powerful tool that connects the world. Collaboration is all around us. It is now much easier to "meet" with a group of professionals to accomplish a task than it was years ago. Prior to technology many collaboration projects required each person to physically be present for meetings. With the aid of technology, collaboration is much easier, and fits into any individuals agenda. When teachers start to work together or with a tech integrator they need to understand that collaboration is a give and take partnership where each role does what they can to participate in a respectful manor to arrive at the same goals. Teachers often worry when they need to work with each other, because they always feel as though they might be the person to carry the group. Collaboration is an important aspect of learning. It teaches the individual how to work with others and learn from others to arrive at a common goal. In the way of the digital, automated world, individuals need to collaborate frequently to develop new products, and brainstorm cutting edge ideas. Finally, a collaboration partnership is one that is relies on trust. The individuals collaborating must understand that there is a certain level of trust where each team member has a responsibility to participate, be respectful, offer appropriate constructive feedback and not destructive feedback, and needs to be flexible to "go with the flow." Collaboration efforts are almost always impacted with unexpected changes. If the appropriate trust is gained, group member's will understand and adapt when changes occur.


Wolfram, C. 2010. Teaching kids real math with computers. retrieved from


     Penzu may not be a great tool for a PE teacher, but might be a great tool for English teachers. The trick is to find tools that appeal to just about everyone in the audience. With the millions of tools available to educators, it is difficult to find the one tool that will spark motivation. The tech integrator needs to learn how to model appropriate classroom use of a tool, and demonstrate how it can enhance the curriculum (Cofino, 2010). During technology training or presentations, the tech integrator needs to share, model, and have teachers use appropriate tools for the audience.

The push for using more technology in the classroom, and using it efficiently has increased over the last few years. Some teachers were able to make that adjustment and were successful taking on the challenge of finding tools that fit into their teaching style and meshed with the curriculum. However, the expectation is that all teachers use technology in their class, they use it well, and the evolution to include more should be seamless. There are varying abilities and comfort levels when using technology in education. Some teachers require more assistance and training than others. When a teacher can have a concrete connection to the tool, and really find the value in how the tool can enhance their curriculum, they will be more motivated to learn how to use and implement the tools.

     Another way that would be appropriate to spark motivation would be for the technology integrator to truly embrace differentiated instruction to provide opportunities for all abilities, interests, and be able to draw upon experience and knowledge. To be able to provide to all teachers, the technology integrator would need appropriate pre and post assessments of training opportunities. Knowing where teachers are with technology before might help to choose and provide opportunities to use tools that are easy to learn and can enhance the curriculum. Gaining the post data would help inform the tech integrator about the quality of training and discover what worked well and what did not. Many teachers balk at the idea of technology training. This hesitation can manifest from a variety reasons, the important thing is to know what teachers want to do, and use their time efficiently and effectively so they are motivated to use the tools they've learned and provide students the chance to discover how technology can help them engage in the content.

Cofino, K. 2012 Creating a Culture of Collaboration Through Technology Integration. Retrieved from

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Challenges of Serving all Communities

      Technology in education has various levels of implementation, and degrees of ease of use. For example, students are the easiest to teach how to use any given piece of technology, mostly because their culture is embedded with technology. Most students in  a classroom have various online accounts, such as Facebook, Google plus, Twitter, Instagram, tumblr, or Grooveshark. They know how to navigate the internet, they are willing to try new programs and can learn them quickly. Working with members of the educational community presents degrees of challenges. While most of the education community would agree that teaching and using technology has value, there are mixed emotions on the level and the type of technology tools that should be integration. New teachers are receiving some training about what tools to use in the classroom and how to incorporate technology (Cohen, 2007). This training provides some basic level of understanding and use of technology with students. Teachers who have gone through training programs prior to this change sometimes show a bit more resistance to change. Many feel as though they have discovered what works well, and the way they teach is working and have a difficult time accepting and implementing technology (Morehead, 2005).  School administration pushes the use of technology because of 21st century initiatives and pressure. They may have the attitude that technology in the classroom is an important tool, but may lack the understanding of how to best incorporate technology. Administrators should walk the walk, meaning they should model good use of technology. An administrator who is lacking skills and is attempting to promote technology may not have the impact they desire. The school board, and the general public are often somewhat removed from the daily education environment. They may feel as though they understand and use technology, but may have misconceptions about how it should be used in education. These misconceptions lead to the lack of acceptance of the use of technology to enhance education. In my experience many of the hesitations around technology result from the fear of cyber-bullying, poor awareness of digital citizenship and digital footprint.

     When working with reluctant teachers, hesitant school board members, and parents. It is important to have data and realistic comparisons to illustrate how technology can enhance education. Similarly, it is important to be able to model good use of technology to enhance a presentation, or training session. Parents and school board members are the key players in any public school. They require appropriate training and understanding of the technology tools to be able to make unbiased decisions about approving technology integration into schools. For example, many schools block the use of social networking. The assumption is that these tools are used for gossiping and bullying. While that may occur in a "private" session, the same type of bullying and harassing occurs in the hallways, on the school bus, in the locker rooms, and in the classroom. The difficulty with cyber-bullying is tracking, reporting, and keeping tabs on students in these
networking sites where they have free reign. In a controlled setting, like the use of Google plus in a monitored school Google domain, the students know that teachers are a part of the community, and are monitoring behavior. Similarly this opens doors for other teaching moments where students can learn how to be appropriate digital citizens. Parents and school board members have to be taught how these tools work, how they are monitored and controlled. They should also be included in the network deployment. For example, a school with a Google domain should create accounts for each of the school board members. If feasible, parents should also be given the opportunity to obtain an account within the domain. This inclusion may help to relieve some of the reluctance to using some tools. This article helps to describe the benefits of school community inclusion.

    The best way to eliminate misconceptions, and assumptions is to provide appropriate education to all communities members to truly understand how the tools work, why they are being used, and how they can enhance education. The school community also needs appropriate time to allot for training and collaboration about the best use or best practice of technology integration.


Cohen, M. T., Pelligrino, J. W., Schmidt, D. A., & Schultz, S. (2007). Sustaining technology integration in teacher education. Action in Teacher Education29(3), 75-87. Retrieved from

Morehead, P., & LaBeau, B. (2005). The continuing challenges of technology integration for teachers. Essays in Education15, 120-127. Retrieved from

Monday, September 23, 2013


This tool has saved my organizational life! I'm one of those people whose desk looks like this. I usually get strange looks when I defend myself by saying "it's an organized mess. I know where everything I need is...just give me a second."

WorkFlowy has helped to reduce some of my desk clutter. It is so easy to use to take notes, and keep a to-do-list. The chrome desktop app is also a great feature. it allows me to access my notes very quickly. I've been using this as my daily classroom planer, note taking tool for the various meetings at school, and to help keep my personal to-do-list up to date.  The zooming, hierarchy feature is very helpful, and the search option is great to quickly find a thought.

Give it a try. It will help transfer the physical desk clutter to the cloud.


Haven, C. 2013 The Book Haven: Cynthia Haven's Blog for the Written Word. It's easier to think outside the box when you can't find the box. Retrieved from

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Project Your Android in The Classroom!

With the increasing availability of technology in the classroom, students are more likely to be using hand held devices for educational purposes. Here is a brief tutorial about how to project your android in your classroom. I've only tested and used this with Windows 7.

  1. Follow the directions provided here
    Image retrieved from
  2. Set your android to allow for USB Debugging. On older androids go to settings-applications-development. On newer androids it is hidden. To find it go to settings-about phone -build number. Than tap build number 7 times really fast. A popup should appear telling you "congratulations you've unlocked the hidden menus," or something like that. 
Once it is running, you should see your android screen on your computer, which you can project for your students. It is similar to how you might project a TI graphing calculator in a math class. It comes in handy when teaching students how to use their phones for more than gossiping to friends. 


Riboe, J. 2013. Droid@Screen Installation. Retrieved from

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Global Connections

Teachers today are faced with the task of teaching 21st century skills. These learning skills require students to collaborate, create, and communicate information.  There are a variety of technology tools that allow for students to easily achieve these skills and interact on a global scale. Students have a significant opportunity to connect to other students from anywhere around the world. As Thomas Friedman claims “technology has made the world flat.” Which means that technology has made it incredibly easy to connect with people around the world and complete simple tasks without leaving the comfort of your home.

Many students have rarely have the opportunity to travel out of their home state, or country. The opportunity to experience world cultures and global attitudes is a great educational value. It helps provide perspective on your own life. Technology tools have the ability to connect students globally, and provide that opportunity to learn and discuss cultural differences, global issues, and gain a better world perspective without having the physical means to directly go to these exoctic places. There are a variety of tools where the teacher can provide this experience, however it can seem like a daunting task. Integrating these tools and a global experience into a classroom can be more successful if the teacher takes small steps.

A good first step may be to include some social networking tools like Edmodo or Google Plus to encourage students to collaborate online with their own class. These tools are safe ways for students to interact online and begin to understand how they can collaborate in a virtual setting  The next step would be to extend the classroom collaboration to work with another teacher in the building through the same social networking tool. Again, this can provide that virtual experience, but there is also the familiarity that these students are just down the hall. Once students are used to the online collaboration other tools might be used to bring that global connection. Tools like ePals, or Taking It Global are similar social networking sites, but they are better organized to connect educators and classrooms from around the world. The teacher can make an account for the students in the class and find projects that pertain to their lesson. Then students have the opportunity to interact and collaborate with other another classroom around the world to explore the same concepts. Other tools like wikis and blogs can allow students to collaborate globally, but there are more indirect. There is a chance that students and individuals from around the world will collaborate with those tools, but it is not a guarantee. If the teacher is committed to provide a global connectedness ePals and Taking it Global provide a safer, and more organized way to connect to other classrooms, globally.

When starting out with this type of collaboration, taking small steps to get started has potential to provide more success and offer a better experience.

Friedman, T,L. 2005. The World is Flat: A Brief History of The 21st Century. Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Embedding Digital Texts

"Education is the most fundamental public resource."(Bonk, 2009). The availability of information has significantly increased. There are so many ways to access content through the use of technology, and many of this access is free. Open course-ware, digital text, and other e-learning opportunities are a very useful tools for educators and provide resources at minimal costs. Similarly, these resources are easy to share with students.

With the increasing availability of materials online, the fees and costs for materials are decreasing  A single textbook for a typical math class may hit the budget for around $100. With the availability of digital texts, that price could be zero. All that is required is some creativity from the teacher and some some online searching through online courses, digital texts, and other open source learning environments . 

There are other resources available to help teachers create a virtual learning environment. Some of these resources will allow the teacher to create and manage a virtual classroom. These tools provide opportunities for learning without being in the traditional setting (Lakhan, 2008)  These virtual classrooms can be built using open source tools  like Moodle, Claroline, .LRN (dotlearn), Dokeos. Another realm of creating a virtual classroom is through the use of some Web 2.0 tools. A free tool like Edmodo will allow a teacher to create a virtual learning environment, be able to manage assignments, grades, and participation. 

Digtial texts, e-learning, and open course software are changing the face of education. There are so many resources available where teachers can enhance the curriculum with 21st century learning opportunities. To be able to include these materials requires the teacher to know where to look, or know how to search for the materials they want, and be able to share those materials with the classroom. These materials have the potential to change education and create a global community where resources are easily shared and accessed. Education is a free resource in many countries, and technology is allowing educators and students more opportunities to connect and share information. Using the tools and information available online will help education save money on software licenses, and other fees (Lakhan, 2008). In the end, this will allow for money to be better spent and provide quality 21st century education for students

 Here is a quick list of some popular places to obtain free resources for education. 

Free software for education

Free online classes and content materials

Free textbooks

Make your own course with these tools:  (the downside with this one is you need to have iOS tablet or laptop, it just doens't run well on a pc or linux)

Bonk, C.J. 2009. The World Is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education.                (Kindle Edition. ) Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA

Lankhan, S. JhunJhunwala, K. 2008. Open Source Sotfware in Education. Educause Quarterly.       Retrieved from

Friday, August 9, 2013

Building Media Literacy

Media literacy is an important skill to obtain through school, and will help students become lifelong learners. Media Literacy is providing the skills to learn how to be critical thinkers through inquiry, communication, and research. In the 21st century, this means that students need to be able to use technology tools safely, to gather information that is valid, cross reference information from a variety of formats  and be able to effectively communicate and collaborate through social media and other collaboration tools. I like this definition provided by NAMLE "The ability to ACCESS, ANALYZE, EVALUATE, and COMMUNICATE information in a variety of forms-is interdisciplinary by nature"

The goal for media literacy is to provide students with the skills they need to effectively gather information online, and be able to successfully communicate to share that information. These skills will help provide an understanding that not all information they can obtain is accurate. Information needs to be cross-referenced and verify among a variety of resources.  

Media literacy starts with inquiry, or curiosity to have the desire to answer some question or obtain some information. Knowing how to use search tools like Google to gather relevant resources is a necessary skill.  Basic research skills are needed to be able to validate credible resources, appropriately cite resources, and be confident that the information you are sharing is accurate. Students need to verify resources, use multiple locations, and use multiple types of media to verify information. Finally, the most important piece is learning how to cite resources, and provide credit to those who provided the information. Learning these skills will allow students to be an effective digital citizen to successfully collaborate online, and be able to accurately obtain and share valuable information.

National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). 2013. Retrieved from
Partnership for 21st century skills (P21). 2012.
EAVI EN - A Journey to Media Literacy. 2013. Retrieved from
Center For Media Literacy, 2002-2011. Retreived from
Image created from the text in this blog post on Tagxedo.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Web 2.0 Tools

In my own teaching I use a variety of Web 2.0 tools to enhance learning. My school has a Google Apps domain where all teachers and students are able to use most of the Google Apps. These tools are a great way for students to create authentic assessments  collaborate, and be creative to demonstrate understanding. The Web 2.0 tools I use the most with my students are Google apps (Google sites, documents, spreadsheets, forms, maps, presentations), Prezi, Edmodo, Diigo, Glogster, Flipboard, Edcanvas, livebinder, TED, and YouTube  I prefer to use tools that allow students to store information in the cloud. This helps to reduce the chances of a student losing their work. I also tend to try and use tools where the teacher can create accounts for the students to always keep track of student user names and passwords. Students often have so much other things on their mind that adding yet another username and password to their online life may be quickly lost. 

In the future I plan to use Evernote with my students to take notes digitally and make digital study guides. This tool is a bit easier to organize, navigate, and is available through a variety of platforms. The tool also allows students to clip webpages, images, video, and audio.Similarly, students and teachers can link the tool to their Google accounts to add easier opportunities for collaboration   It has more accessibility options for students who may struggle with writing or typing  They can record audio and transcribe it to text. The tool has a variety of opportunities  I use the tool for my own personal organization of class lesson plans, and reflections about lesson success and challenges. I have found this tool very useful for my own use, and believe that students could also benefit from using the tool. Many students have their own technology tools that they could use in a classroom setting, yet there are still some who do not. To overcome this obstacle, I plan to obtain a classroom set of Chromebooks  through the aid of DonorsChoose to be able to provide students access to online tools while they are in my classroom. 

Web 2.0 tools offer huge potential for learning. The free tools often have storage in the cloud and allow for students to access their work anywhere. It helps to provide a different approach to traditional assignments, and provide students with opportunities to be more creative and utilize their learning styles. The use of Web 2.0 tools combined with place-based, hands on learning, and realistic application of technology tools will create a student who is a well rounded learner. Students will gain an understanding of how to use a variety of tools to enhance their own learning, to become life long learners. 

Google Apps In Schools

Google Apps in schools is a phenomenal resource. I started using this with my students in 2009 as a pilot project for the school. Initially we were only given access to documents, sites, presentations, and spreadsheets. I quickly gravitated toward using the cloud and teaching my students how to create, organize, share, and collaborate through these tools. Now, Google has evolved to a much more powerful and versatile educational tool. My school now has a Google Apps domain where teachers are given access to all Google Apps except for Google Plus. As part of my work with the current technology integrator in my school district, we are collection data to make an argument to turn Google Plus on for teachers and students to start collaborating on a larger scale. Here are the results of two surveys I deployed through my own PLN to obtain data to use as evidence to integrate Google plus. 
  • This survey was used with this course to help gather more specific information related to technology tools in general, and eventually arrived at questions pertaining to the use of social networking. 
It appears as though I have enough data to show that there might be some value in using social media in schools, again my avenue would be to use Google Apps to allow students access to Google Plus. The debate around social media in schools is a large  undertaking, and is better saved for another discussion, however, I do think that Google Plus can provide a great addition to the Google Apps for education. 

Since Google has been continuously evolving, I have been using Google Apps more and more with my students. I no longer have students print out papers, or store any information on our school network. All of their work, for my class, is created with Google Apps, or is linked to Google Apps in some way. I have my students create web sites for digital portfolios. They create documents and use comments to peer-edit, collaborate, obtain feedback, and make group presentations. They have used forms to take mini quizes. The beauty of using forms as a quiz is that you can make them self grading, students gain instantaneous feedback. The simple survey and presentation we used in this course, barely skimmed the surface of the power of Google Apps. 

Once all the teachers are comfortable with the tools, Google Drive could help to streamline teacher meetings. For example, our school is going through the NEASC Accreditation renewal process. We have to generate a great deal of documents to create a report based off specific criteria. I have been slowly convincing more and more groups to collaborate through Google Docs to write reports, instead of sitting together, while one person types, and the rest argue about grammar. I have also been training folks on how to use Google Calendar. Schools have so many functions, events, different schedules for some days, field trips, meetings...etc. Google Calendar is an easy way to share schedules, and follow others. They don't' have to manually share the calendar with you, all you need to do is search for their email, and you can "follow" their schedule. This provides a great deal of ease if you have the need to meet with a special educator, or administrator. You can quickly see their schedule to find a time to meet, without having to ask them.

Google Apps is a valuable tool for education. It is so versatile, and can easily blend into all contents. It provides an simple way for students to collaborate, and an easy way for the teacher to share documents with students, other teachers and parents. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Evaluating Technological Tools

Before I go on to evaluate some tools that can enhance teaching, learning, and collaboration. This post describes the power of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and how you can start your own.

 This post will focus on the best ways to use three tools to create a local and global network

     Feedly is an amazing replacement for the Google Reader, and is a very simple RSS tool. If you are unfamiliar with these tools, the main goal is to gather relevant news, blogs, social media, and other digital content that interests you. For example, my own Feedly has a variety of breaking news feeds from sources like NBC, CNN, BBC, Huffington Post, and New York Times. It is a nice way to condense all the newspaper headlines into one place. Some of my other feeds are organized into categories for my own preference. I also have a variety of other categories that I use for professional development reasons. Here is a quick video of my Feedly page.

     This tool offers a great independent way to gather relevant information, and increase your own awareness. It provides an opportunity to increase your learning, which can ultimately enhance your own teaching. The news feeds you subscribe too, could be geared toward your own professional goals, interests, and content area. In the video I shared, you'll see there is a section all for science. I make a habit to check this every morning before school to be able to share any interesting recent stories that pertain to astronomy or earth science. There are a variety of ways to use this tool, depending on your comfort level, the easiest is to use it for personal learning goals.

Google Plus
     This tool is similar to other social media tools, however, it is very easy to join a "community" and collaborate globally, or create a "hangout" to collaborate locally. The tool is very versatile. It has the potential to allow for the typical social networking needs, such as sharing photos, status updates, sharing videos..etc. However, underneath that social piece there are powerful collaboration tools. Any user can quickly join a "community" of their interest and start gathering relevant information about that topic. Similarly, you can add your own information to that community and trigger your own conversation. Here is a quick video of my communities page (the video was cropped to protect much of my own identity) {here is that social media article I clicked on in the video}
    Google Plus also offers "hangouts." This acts as a virtual conference room. A hangout can be scheduled and collaborators will join either virtually via webcam, or participate without video and be able to communicate through typing. This is real-time collaboration and allows for immediate feedback. This could be a great place for students to interact virtually with other peers on a global scale. A Google hangout might be organized by teachers to host a debate, scientific conference, discussion, or even an interview. The potentials are limited to the creativity of the teacher and the technology integration specialist. This tool also has the potential to act like an RSS reader and allow the user to subscribe to news headlines to gather current information based on interests. The great thing about this feature is that a discussion on a current event could take place instantaneously. A student may discover a headline, and organize a hangout to have a real-time discussion about the topic.

    It took me a while to come around to this one. I was one of those people hung up on the 140 character limit, and not understanding how anyone could effectively collaborate through texting language. But, I have to admit, there is a ton of information available with this tool. It takes a bit of understanding the lingo to become comfortable, but it has huge potential for collaboration. Using hashtags allows you to quickly contribute, and follow the discussions relevant to that topic. Each user has the potential to create lists. These are groups that can be created to include specific people, with private collaboration. They can have private members with public collaboration, or can be completely public. Lists offer the potential for a wide range of collaboration. This could be an extension of at PLN to share and gather information, or could be more in depth as far as posting discussion questions, and answers.
    The tool can act like a powerful search engine to quickly find information form people discussing a particular topic. The potential with this tool for students is again, limited by the creativity of the teacher and technology integration specialist. Student could create their own lists for discussion forums, they could add content via tweets with hashtags, they could simply follow relevant people related to the topics.There is a range of collaboration options. 

Final Thoughts
   The three tools described have the potential to enhance learning for the educator and the student. There are great opportunities to create local collaboration groups, global groups, and incorporate these groups into a classroom. Students have the opportunity to expand their cultural horizons, and increase learning opportunities through collaboration. A student could use these tools to start their own learning network based off their interests. The important thing to remember is to be safe and collaborate appropriately. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Moral and Legal Issues

Technology has really become a staple tool in many places of residence around the world. You may not necessarily find a cordless drill, hammer, skill saw, lawn mower, screw driver,  or a shovel. But, you can almost guarantee that you will find some piece of technology that can connect the user to online collaboration. With this "power, comes great responsibility." - Uncle Ben Parker. (Well, to get technical about that quote, the appropriate citation would have to reference Stanley Lieber better known as Stan Lee)

On a serious note, technology connects users globally, and provides an opportunity to interact in a seemingly, real-time setting. The responsibility of the user appears as they share ideas, stories, media, and other information. There is an appropriate etiquette that most humans follow when interacting with one another in a public setting, this same type of etiquette should be used when interacting in an online setting . To put it simply "The internet is like a mall" (Ripp, 2010). When you go to the mall, you mind your own business  Normally, you're not going around handing out your personal information and talking to everyone you pass. This same attitude should be used when collaborating online. To stay safe you need to mind your business and share limited personal information. Public behavior at the mall also follows etiquette deemed acceptable by society. Meaning that there is an appropriate way to behave in public to treat others respectfully and carry yourself with dignity. The typical person is not running the hallways of the mall pushing and shoving other people, using profanity, bullying or harassing anyone else. If you do decide to behave that way there are legal ramifications for your actions. The same attitude should carry you through your online public and personal interactions. There can be legal ramifications for your actions online. When interacting online, there is a written archive of your behavior. That behavior is easily traceable to your online persona, especially if the authorities were alerted to cyber-bullying or harassment. Interactions online doesn't put a mask over who you are and how you want to be viewed. There seems to be false confidence with some users, who feel as their online persona is an alternate personality  allowing their version of  Mr. Hyde to appear  You should just behave the same way you would if you were at the mall or any other public setting. 

Similarly when interacting online, there are some  privacy and other legal rights that users should be aware of. True, it is legal to take public pictures of anyone and anything,  and then share those images. Yet, your own code of ethics should govern your decisions of what you do with those pictures and how you share them. Remember, as soon as you share a photo via any social media, that photo is no longer your property. The only way to gain ownership back is if you, or the original author closes their account down entirely.  Even if you shared an image with good intentions, someone else can take that photo and use it to harass or bully. You really need to be careful with what you share, how you share things, and who you share them with. 

There can be penalties for your actions online, and their can be unpredictable ramifications. The key thing to remember is that you should abide to the same moral code that conducts your daily social interaction while you interact online. Make sure your sharing media with people who you know and trust, and if you are going to interact on a larger community or global scale, be leery of what you write. View your online interactions like any other public interaction you may have in your daily life. You most likely wouldn't go up to someone on the street and share information about a party you went to a few days ago, so why would you share that to the entire digital public? The border between morality and legal actions while interacting online is a fine line. You have legal rights as defined in your First Amendment  but there is some grey areas where some people claim the  first amendment grants them the right to say and write anything.   Harassment  or bullying are the same thing whether it is in writing  or pictures. If it has the potential to harm someone, or degrade another person your are walking out of that first amendment protection. If you notice any behavior that offends you, it probably offends someone else and you should report that incident. The easy thing to do is report it through the social media site where it occurred  The next best thing to do would be to alert a person of authority. If you are under 18, alert a parent, teacher, school principal, or maybe even the police. If you feel as though something you are going to say may upset someone online, or may not read the way you want it to sound, maybe you should not post anything. It is hard to express sarcasm  or a joking tone through writing  Even the most famous writers have to provide tremendous character development before a reader understands that the character is joking. 

The moral of this post is to keep you online interactions positive  safe, and respectful. Report any incident of harassment  bullying, or anything that makes you uncomfortable. Make sure you understand your rights as a user on that social media (i.e Read the fine print before you click I agree!!), make sure you understand the difference and similarities between digital social interactions and typical social interactions  They are pretty much the same thing, and require the same level of mutual respect. 

Here is a quick guide I put together a while ago, about staying safe from Cyber-bullying.


Ripp, P. 2010. Why the Internet is like the mall. Retrieved from

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Blended Learning to Promote Global Education

As society evolves and the availability of technology increases, people are required to be familiar with technology tools and are required to be able to use them for productive purposes  Technology provides great leisure activities such as social networking, reading news, playing games, or  creating and publishing your own "two-cents," through tools like Blogger, Google Sites, Google Docs, Issuu..etc. Technology also provides a world of information available if you look in the right places. Blended learning is an education term that simply tries to combine the best of two worlds, meaning that education meshes the traditional face-to-face interaction with the use of technology tools to enhance learning opportunities (Chistensen, 2013). This type of education has the potential to provide learning opportunities that extend beyond the boundaries of the school. 

Just like many things in education, blended learning can occur on a variety of levels. A typical classroom teacher could create a blended learning environment that is specific to that courses content and combine the face to face learning with technology tools in that contained classroom. If students were willing to experience a different type of learning environment, blended learning can occur on a global scale. For example, a small school, like the one where I teach can only offer so many curriculum choices to the students. If a student wanted to learn something that was not offered in the building they could easily enroll into some online learning formats. As my school has started to discover, many true online learning formats really require the student to be very well organized, and self-motivated to do well and keep current with the courses requirements  There are not typical daily check-ins and interactions that a student would be accustomed to in the traditional learning environment  The Online course may not provide that direct instruction and immediate feedback that can be delivered in the face to face setting. However, many online type of courses are adopting a blended format, where there is a combination of individual learning, along with virtual face-to-face interaction. (Gawron , 2011). The blended environment mixes the online format with a more personal interaction with the teacher and even the class members  Video conferencing tools, and chat tools provide the availability to interact with the teacher through real-time connections. To gain a good blended experience a class should have a mix of independent work, scheduled real-time collaboration meeting times, and the availability of unscheduled face to face meeting times. This type of setting provides a better education experience for the student, and provides more opportunity for the students to participate in courses not offered locally, and feel as though they have access to the teacher to ask questions and obtain feedback. 

Blended learning environments have the potential to provide students with opportunities to expand their learning horizons and be able to collaborate with students and teachers beyond their own school. Depending on the course they wish to enroll, students may be able to collaborate on a global scale. An individual may be able to take foreign language courses for a language that is not offered at the school. A student who wishes to learn to speak Chinese could enroll in a course that might be a blended class based in China. This would provide an amazing learning experience. The student would be able to access the content which they desire, and would be able to collaborate globally with peers. This collaboration would help the students learn how to be appropriate digital citizens and become aware of cultural differences and be able to interact regardless of location, race, gender, culture, and political attitudes. The blended learning environment inst' just an opportunity to take a different class, but has the potential to provide a worldly experience to the student, without leaving the comfort of the school, or their home. I am willing to bet that within the next 5 to 10 years, most school will have a blended learning environment option and some will start to make a blended global course a requirement for graduation. Learning how to interact with technology on a global sense is an increasingly important skill. As the world becomes more connected, barriers need to be brought down and collaboration needs to occur. There is a great potential for the wold to become a "smaller" place where people are willing to work together for the greater good of humanity. 

Cristensen, C.M., Horn, M.B., Staker, H. 2013.  Is K-12 Blended Learning Disruptive? An introduction of the theroy of hybrids. Retrrieved from

Gawron, H.W. 2011. Blended Learning: Combining Face-to-Face and Online Education, retrieved from