My Tech. Plans as a Beginning Educator

My last post, Compiling Tech Resources, highlights that the world of technology is vast. There are more options than we can begin to count; my post just scratches the surface. This is the most overwhelming part of technology for me: the overflow of information/choices. Keeping this struggle in mind and also the “less is more” ideology, I wanted to come up with a “baby-steps” or “starting small” technology plan for my first few years of teaching.

What technology will I use for professional development (beyond professional journals/articles/books)?

What technology will I use to plan the Sask. Curriculum outcomes and indicators for my class?

What will I use in high school ELA? Elementary ELA?

What will I use for assessment for and as?

What programs am I considering but not 100% sure of yet?

(I want to use one of the above 4 and will make the decision based on learners/resources/class/subject).

If anyone has a case for or against any of the above, I would welcome it in the comments. I would also welcome more information about any of the above tools. Do you use them in the classroom? What are the positive and negatives of the specific tool?

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!?

Coding: It’s in Fact a Thing!

Check out my Scratch coding project called “Bad Luck Kitty Cat”:

As you can tell, this is pretty juvenile but if you try one out for yourself, you may find it is harder than it looks. I was a bit frustrated before I found the tutorial on the side. After finding that, I was able to follow the steps. After more practices and with more advanced examples, I am sure I could make a more complicated piece. However, without a tutorial or an example, I would be lost! To make this, I referenced the tutorial that is available on the side when you make a creation. I also used Scratch videos on Vimeo and ScratchEd. I also signed up for Code Academy and watched a tutorial (there are many resources on here)! For more information, check out (‘learn’ section and “An Hour of Code“).

How does this relate to education?

I just learned about it today but apparently people have made a living by coding (aka scripting/programming). So I guess I just found out about it today but it probably has had a big impact on my life, for instance, in regards to the apps I use. (I feel the fish in water analogy is applicable here). The article “this is why kids need to code” by Doug Belshaw promotes coding because it is learning another language; if you can code you can speak machine language and this offers a different understanding of the world. He notes that it allows learners to gain confidence and problem-solve. I can attest to the problem-solving. This is no simple task but I think kids would be motivated to fix their own problems because of the end result. I mean, how cool would it be to say you coded your own website? I think this highlights that learning is a difficult, yet worthwhile, process. Learning can be frustrating but working towards that ah-ha moment is a special moment!

I could also see coding being taught as an extracurricular activity. Maybe for those who are not a “sports” person or into band or an SLC-type leadership group. Or maybe for a kid who is a “sports” person but wants to broaden their knowledge and try new things.

Is scratch important to me?

As an unknown in my life, scratch meant nothing to me before today. I think I would have to get a lot more comfortable with it before using it in my classroom. However, I can see the benefits to it and how it could engage various multiple intelligences. I think this program reminds me that we are preparing students for jobs and an economy that aren’t even invented yet, or in this case, that we do not fully know about yet. Since it is our job to prepare them for this global and technological economy, it is our job to try to stay current and take risks. I’d be willing to try this however, I am not sure how it connects directly to the curriculum? Any thoughts?

Thought of the Day: Technology and ELA

In Reading Canada 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). Furthermore, the use of technology improves “students’ interest, engagement, learning and success with Canadian [and other] literature” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 190). 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).

Lets converse below: What purpose do you see technology having in your literature classes? How can we make our technology use seamless? How does technology help us meet the goal of a connected classroom? In what ways does technology improve engagement with the material? How do you integrate technology to support learners?

These are the questions we must ask ourselves as self-reflective educators. But remember… even cats are doing it.

As Bender and Waller (2011) suggest “important changes… will take place regardless of those who lag behind” (p. 171 in RTI and Differentiated Reading).

Photo Credit: Mrs eNil via Compfight cc

Time Signs ASL and Taking the “Time” to Reflect

Please feel free to leave some feedback in the comment section:

The camera is a bit further back this time; this was a correction I needed to make, as suggest by Nadene via email correspondence who noted that “ASL requires the whole upper body, not just the arms and face.”

Please view my model: Bill Vicar’s “100 Basic Signs” from 4:17 to 6:13.

Taking the Time to Reflect:

Thanks to networking on Twitter I was able to connect with Nadene who has signed for 25 years and is part of the deaf/hard of hearing community. Firstly, I would like to say how shocked I am that someone would be kind enough to take the time to watch my videos, give feedback, and send a very encouraging email. This connection is one that would not have been made without the internet/social networking and I am very grateful. Nadene was able to assure me that resources from ASL University are valuable learning tools. I feel very encouraged that someone who has spoken ASL for 25 years was able to tell me: “from the videos you posted, I think you are getting the gist of the alphabet and signs.” If you are reading this, Nadene, thank you very much for your time, honest feedback, and encouragement!

Although the benefits of technology have allowed me to connect and begin my ASL learning journey, Nadene made the point that I need to take my learning beyond a computer screen. She noted that learning a language is not something I can entirely do online as “ASL encompasses a culture that requires [people] to meet face-to-face in order to learn the social norms of that language.” The idea that I am not just learning a language, but also a culture is both exciting and frightening. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by this notion but I am just taking it day-by-day and I keep reminding myself that my goals are to prepare myself for a ASL class and work through the challenges and successes of self-directed, online learning. I am not expecting to learn an entire culture and language overnight. When I put it into perspective, I’ve been working on the English language for 21 years (four of them as an English major at the University of Regina) and I still have improvements to make.

Nadene’s comment that resonated with me the most is that “when it comes to expressive language, there’s really no substitute for face to face interaction — even if it is through Skype.” The quizzes and videos are a great way to improve my receptive fluency but I need to practice my expressive fluency face-to-face with someone else. That is the best way to “catch [my] errors and help [me] improve.” I also have noticed that at Camp Easter Seal I was able to pick up the basics of sign language easier because I was working with people who only spoke that language; being immersed in face-to-face interactions cannot be replaced by technology, although both have their positives. I am hoping to connect with another ECMP 355 student this semester and we can test out our receptive skills. It is on my bucket list to take an actual ASL course where I will work on expressive and receptive fluency with professionals. For instance, the Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services host ASL classes in Regina.

This experience has reminded me and reaffirmed for me that technology and face-to-face interactions need to be balanced in our classrooms. They both have their positive and negative aspects but used together, the best and most-rewarding learning can take place.

Balance is key:

 Photo Credit: Erin Costa via Compfight cc

Brain-Based Instruction and Accountability

Using multiple intelligences is something I always try to incorporate in my lessons as a teacher. And that made me think: what about with myself? Do I use multiple intelligences to help myself learn? The conclusion I came to is that I don’t use this research-based strategy enough for myself; I often rely on written and verbal intelligences to learn. Therefore, I decided to make a visual that is in my room by my door. So far this visual has motivated me; I am starting to see the progress that I have made and value my learning (this was a problem I was having at the start). Using visuals also has held me accountable – I can’t ignore my learning project because I walk by it multiple times a day. I now make myself sign a couple words on my way out of the door. It also acts as a visual reminder to take my daily fingerspelling quiz at ASL University Fingerspelling Quizzes. Moral of the story: the strategies we use with our students are strategies we can and should use for ourselves as lifelong learners!


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

ASL Places

My first take at ASL places signs:

My resources:

Bill Vicars “100 Basic Signs” (see: 2:17 to 4:11)

Paul Fugate‘s “Places in American Sign Language (ASL)”

ASL University – I have been using the quizzes to test myself. For instance, on February 20th I got 70% on fingerspelling test one and today (February 23rd) I got 100%. It is starting to feel good to see this success and I can feel it getting easier. It also allows me to practice interpreting (listening with my eyes) instead of just speaking with my hands, as true communication requires both parts. I try to complete one of these quizzes a day, as it is helping my retain what I have already learned and is allowing me to accurately self-assess if I am on the right track. For instance, I noticed that I need to spread my fingers more for “f” and that letters “e,” “a,” and “t” trick me sometimes when listening. I am so used to getting feedback and not having to self-assess/self-correct so I am thankful for this resource.

I am currently practicing time signs so stay tuned and feel free to leave some feedback in the comment sections!