Compiling Tech. Resources

In ECMP 355 we have learned about many tools to facilitate 21st century education! From Blackboard to Pensieve to My Fitness Pal – it feels like we have covered it all. For my own benefit (and anyone else who is interested), here is an overview of what we have explored and some of my own favorites:

1. MOOCs

2. Blog/Writing/Classroom Places for Resources

  1. RSS Feeds/Bookmarking
  1. Communication/Assessment
  1. Social


Photo Credit Globovisión via Compfightcc

6. Productivity/Plan

  1. Presentation/Assess
  1. Creative
  1. Media
  1. Coding
  1. Misc.

12. Autism Apps

13. Sign Language Apps/Sites

Today I also want to compile the resources from two articles: Snapshots Of Understanding? 10 Smart Tools For Digital Exit Slips and Apps That Rise to the Top: Tested and Approved By Teachers. Note: some resources repeat.

The first article discusses exit slips (an important element of assessment as… or assessment for if they are entrance slips). The article outlines these following technological options:

The second article outlines teacher-approved apps for:

1. Digital Storytelling/Presenting

2. Video Tools

3. Photo Editing

4. Augmented Reality

5. Reading/ELA/Library

*more ELA resources at kgorhamblog ELA Resources 

6. Commenting Tools

7. Coding

8. Note Taking/Organization

9. Digital Citizenship

10. Social Media

.11. Misc.

What other tools are out there? What is your favorite tool? What is a technology that you and your classroom couldn’t survive without!?

Twitter, Networking, and ASL Learning Project

Over the last couple days I have really being feeling the benefits of online learning. I think these photos from my Twitter account show the possibilities that are present when we learn online; collaboration, connection, and networking are just some of the benefits that these photos display. Ironically, technology is often blamed for causing a lack of connection but I am feeling quite the opposite – people who don’t even know me are willing to help, offer resources, and encourage me on my learning passion. Glass is definitely half full today! 🙂

Sign Language ASL Twitter Collaboration

ASL Reasons

To Use Technology or Not to Use Technology: It’s Not Even a Question

Computer Hard Drive Half-Full

Today I will be reflecting on Wendy Donawa’s and Leah C. Fowler’s “The YA Reader in the Digital Age” from their book Reading Canada. This chapter focuses on using technology in ELA classrooms. Donawa and Fowler (2013) state that “technology ought to be a seamless, integral part of what [teachers use] in the classrooms, especially in literature classes. Students and teachers want and need a connected classroom” (p. 188). This quote fits perfectly with my reason for becoming a teacher: my purpose is to help students realize their potential, uncover their unknown and known interests, and gain the confidence needed to share their knowledge and perspectives with others (both face-to-face and online). In my opinion, the purpose of learning is connection; we learn to share, we share to learn. Technology is a tool that teachers can and should utilize to get students engaged with collaborative learning. Furthermore, the use of technology improves “students’ interest, engagement, learning and success with Canadian [and other] literature” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 190). This is how I view technology in my classroom. I believe all methods of instruction need to be utilized and would suggest that the only wrong strategy is an over-used strategy. Technology – although I will have to step back and explicitly teach certain programs – is not the lesson but the tool. Donawa and Fowler (2013) suggest that “mastering digital tools and technology is not the goal of instruction, but if they are well integrated for reading, research, and analysis of literature, they motivate, engage, and support learners” (p. 179). Appropriate use of technology is vital, as our directive is to implement the Saskatchewan Curriculum. Therefore, technology is a tool in accomplishing that goal. Donawa and Fowler (2013) note that “technology needs to be relevant to the objectives, topics, and assignments; it should be high quality, fast, accessible, glitch-free, focused, and specific. Classroom sites or web-based instruction platforms can be marvelous resources for teachers’ tailor-made assignments and activities that enhance learning key principles. Teachers and students support success when they co-create relevant resources and links that connect for learning” (p. 188). Some of the platforms – albeit, not always glitch-free or accessible to all – that can be used are:

Teacher Resources Student Resources Both
Teachers Pay Teachers

Twitter (ex. #edtech; #edchat)

Youtube Youtube
Teaching Channel Prezi EBooks
Edutopia Blackboard
Facebook (ex. Sask. Teachers’ pages) WebCT


TedTalks (Ed)

Class Wiki or Blog (ex.; kidblog)
 Google Docs Moodle

I believe that adding technology into our repertoire does not discredit or ignore previous methods or disrupt a sound ELA curriculum. Through the use of technology in the classroom, students can develop “inquiry strategies… receptive and expressive literary skills, and form meaningful online relationships and participate in reading communities” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 179) and still work “on classic literary strategies: phonemic awareness, oral language development, spelling, vocabulary, writing, comprehension, and fluency” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 193) through online exploration. We are not replacing the old with the new but shifting from individual classroom studies to global knowledge sharing communities; “the impact of the digital world and on readers and reading, and on literature production, has been profound” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 179). Donawa and Fowler (2013) note that “we have come to expect an unlimited choice of information and communication as a norm and a right” (p. 180); technology is not going away and it is time to embrace it in our ELA classrooms.

Computer Hard Drive Half Empty

With the positives always comes the negative. Although I do believe technology is something we must incorporate, there are definitely some cons. One of my biggest issues with technology is the overload! I often feel bogged down; I can never keep up to all the information that comes my way and I am sure students feel the same. As an educator with endless amounts of great resources and new information each day, it is hard to pick what to study. We need to help students – who are coming of age and figuring themselves out – navigate through a vast amount of sources and engage with positive choices.  Donawa and Folwer (2013) note that this can be done through instructional scaffolding (p. 191). But this is harder than it sounds, especially when you can find anything to back up your opinion. I often wonder how we can determine if anything is credible? Are we not more incline to believe that an article that supports our preexisting belief is more credible than something that challenges our ideas? Technology is a great example of this: take for instance the many pro. technology articles on edutopia or #edtech on Twitter versus John Lornic’s work or Fusion New’s “This is what it’s like to be one of the 75 million Americans living without Internet access:”

(Note: John Lornic (2007) suggested that “multi-tasking, although inseparable from pervasive electronic distraction, is a phrase initially used to describe the capabilities of a the computer, not the human brain” and that “the sheer glut of data itself has supplanted the kind of focused reflective attention that might make this information useful in the first place (p. 50; 59)).  Even Donawa and Fowler, who are promoting the use of technology in ELA classrooms, suggest that “the generous support of information technology and competency-based learning may well be the prudent fostering of a future workforce, but it is generally accompanied by diminished support for art, music, literature, and liberal education” and furthermore, “ceaseless electronic demands… replace human interaction or inner contemplative and cognitive activity” (2013, p. 180). How do we pick what to focus our attention on and what to believe? And how do we teach this to students when we are figure it out ourselves?

Another issue I have with technology is the lack of access. Donawa and Fowler note that “Canadian students have a media-textual world at their fingertips through home, school, or public library computers” (2013, p. 189) and although this is true for most, over 75 million Americans are without technology access (see above video). This creates a socio-economic divide and also disproves the misconception (see page 191 in Reading Canada) that students are “digitally competent and able.” Many students need explicit instruction and just as learners are ready to learn at different paces, their ability to access technology is diverse. I want to flip my classroom one day but what if I had students who did not have access to technology? Could I do it? What could I do to assist those students and even the playing field?

Searching for Files

In the end, I will utilize technology in my classroom because the pros outweigh the cons and it is not an option. It is here to stay and it is a mode of teaching that works. Not only that, but it is ingrained in our lives; it seemed like I was helpless on my trip to Minot when I had to shut off my data and couldn’t consult Google Maps or Goolge whenever I wished. Technology is part of us and the theoretical framework of an ELA classroom can be met through the use of technology. For instance, technology fosters inquiry-based learning (answering self-directed, real questions), and constructivism (“learning is a socially mediated process, where learners are actively and relationally involved in a process of meaning-making and knowledge production” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 191). By utilizing technology students get “choice, pace, and control over their work” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 193). Technology fosters motivation, responsibility, independence, interaction, engagement, critical thinking, exploration, and reflection. Our learners may be all over the map with technology but as teachers it is our job to start with the zone of proximal development and expand their horizons, albeit at their own pace. Furthermore and most importantly, technology = digital citizenship = citizenship.

Hunger Games to Spark Interdisciplinary Studies

Response based off of: “What the Hunger Games Can Teach Us about Disciplinary Literacy” by Saunders.

The article discusses the issues of introducing literacy in the standardized testing age. In the United States “state standards and high-stakes tests have pushed creativity out of many schools altogether” (Saunders, 2014, p. 42). Saunders proposes that one way to get around this issue is to have an interdisciplinary unit of study that is flexible, focuses on literacy and uses a novel as the binding agent. I believe that this would be very engaging and would show students their purpose for learning about a topic and the connections that can be made. Also, learning different subjects with the same topic means students get more time to understand and work with the text. Planning interdisciplinary units would be challenging and requires intense collaboration but gone are the days where we can shut our doors to the world and just teach a lesson plan. As we have learned in many classes, curriculum is more than just the formal documents but rather it is everything that happens, or does not happen, inside and outside of our classroom doors.

Here in Saskatchewan with the Continuous Improvement and Achievement Framework, literacy is one of the four main initiatives that all schools are required to work on. This means that it is not only the English teachers’ responsibility to teach literary skills. (Can you say, “Sigh of relief”)? We are all accountable for students’ literacy achievement. Furthermore, the new workplace math it is full of word problems. At the end of the day, if our students are not reading close to grade level they will have trouble succeeding in any of their classes, not just English. I agree with Saunders that a team approach would work best because then the English teacher can provide some reading strategies to their colleagues and all professionals could share data and teaching strategies.

If the interdisciplinary units stem from a book, students may start to see themselves as readers and literacy experts (Saunders, 2014, p. 42). Saunders suggests using Susan Collin’s Hunger Games because it can help “teach about dystopia, tyranny, social justice, hegemony” (2014, p. 43). I also see a connection with this book to Residential schools, as the children were taken away from their parents and many did not come back from the abuse. Also, in both instances the affluent society just stood by. Furthermore, the people in the Capital had fancy technology and the people in the districts were more primitive. Teaching treaties and First Nations history, perspectives and worldviews is mandated in the province of Saskatchewan. This text could be one way to introduce said topic. You could also look at film making, critiques, movie reviews, problem-solving in the arena, benefits or consequences of our choices, probability of being selected, the geographical setup of Panem and the arena, distribution of wealth and resources, categorization of people, environmental issues, the dimensions of the arena, othering, race, oppression, reality television, body image, celebrity obsession, trafficking, drug use, the use of power and manipulation, rights and obligations, revolution, taking action, inaction, war and so much more! I bet as Val read this article she got excited for the various literary lenses that could be applied (Marxist, reader response, class, gender, post-colonialism, deconstruction) and I must admit that I was excited to see the connections, too.

You could teach this text using literature circles, various reading strategies, webs, comic strips, movie clips, character sketches and other strategies from math and science (that I do not know, thus I would collaborate). This text is rich with possibilities and very high interest. It is something that I have thought about teaching. However, Carmen suggested that schools might not have this resource. Hopefully the schools I go to do because I would love nothing more than try to uncover a third of what this text has to offer all while checking off curriculum outcomes and trying on different lenses! I wrote a ten page essay on the connection between reality television and The Hunger Games in a university class and loved it! I think students would love studying something that is popular culture and teachers would enjoy teaching something that is so rich with many themes and possibilities.

Chapter 7 and 8 Response

Using Assessment to Guide Instruction

What I gathered from this chapter is that it is important to include students in classroom assessment, like daily routines, to foster better learning opportunities. Davies gives the example of constructing a list of good reading tips as a class. When I taught Grade Five we made a list of what it means to be a good oral presenter. Then this criteria guided their speeches. I like that Davies mentions that teachers should add what students miss. I also like the idea of taking the criteria and using it to assess areas of improvement and strengths.

A quote that stuck out for me was: “Isn’t it time your students worked harder than you?” It is true that whoever is working hardest in the classroom is learning the most so a balance would be ideal. Now, that is easier said than done!

Guiding Your Own Learning

1. I find that students are most engaged in their learning when they are interacting with each other and have a clear direction. In this particular instance, students were in a circle sharing insights about a specific teacher-guided question. The strategy used was a jigsaw so that students could focus on one thing and get a chance to be the teachers. I was circling the room during the initial jigsaw group work and making sure everyone was understanding their task. Then I sat with the students in the circle but did not have to facilitate too often because of the talking stick used. Students knew the purpose because we just had read a book that related to the topic. However, they did not know the curriculum outcome. They were able to self-monitor and their discussion was more in-depth than I had expected. To make it even better, I would let students know the outcome they are working on.

Collecting, Organizing, and Presenting Evidence

I like the idea of getting students to be accountable by making them collect and evaluate their own work, with some teacher support. I think students are more likely to redo their work and take pride in it if they know it will be collected in the end. Davies also mentions that these packages are great data sources and foster communication with parents (2011, p. 74).

The steps:

1. Keep it simple and give students direction, purpose, audience and reasoning.

2. Involve students so they know more about what they learned and what they need to learn.

3. Get students and parents to value the work. One idea is a student led conference (Davies, 2011, p. 78).

4. Share the evidence! This can include showing works in progress, reflections on the course/learning and best works! There are many types of portfolios (process, reporting, best-work, and learning goals). Whatever one is selected, make sure there is a straightforward and consistent system in place.

I personally want to do blogging with my students or an online portfolio of work. This is easily shared and is relevant to our technological world. I did many creative portfolios in English, career and physical education and thoroughly enjoyed them. I could easily tie this into the English curriculum and it fits nicely with the writing process. I would get students to put information under each ‘I Can’ curriculum statement to show their mastery. I think students, parents and teachers should add work to a portfolio. I think it would be cool to build a blog from an early age across all subjects. This would be a great way to monitor growth throughout the years. Also, many people could provide feedback throughout the years/studies.

I wonder if a mark at the end (with feedback throughout) would be more beneficial than marking each piece. I also wonder if this would motivate students more? Parents would need to be made aware of this change.

Chapter 11 Response

Chapter 11 focuses on keeping ourselves learning. It is important that education does not stop for us, as we do not want it to stop for our students. One way to learn and get support is through a professional learning community. This reminds me a lot of co-teaching, as things like respect, support, safe environments, plans, facilitators, simple goals, etc. are needed for both. These requirements are also needed in classrooms. As a university student I feel that I have a strong support system of inclusive educators and English majors and minors. I also have many discussions with people from other disciplines (mostly social studies). We all are becoming teachers for different reasons but we share a similar passion – children and learning. Therefore, talking for hours about the latest teaching strategy, governmental choice or assessment tool is just a day in the life. I hope to continue these positive relations as I move on throughout my career. It is nice to have support and two minds are always better than one!

Collaboration is at the core of my teaching philosophy. I have heard of schools that review and create lessons together. I am a firm believer of sharing work and developing work together. As educators, we can make a larger impact on our students’ learning if we work together. We are not being paid to compete with each other!

Finally, this quote at the end of the chapter really encapsulates the idea of breaking away from the common sense (another part of my teaching philosophy): “At first they said it couldn’t be done but some were doing it. Then they said it could only be done by a few under special conditions, but more were doing it. Then they said, ‘Why would you do it any other way?’” (Davies, 2011, p.110). We can accomplish the things that people tell us are impossible only if we work as a team.