The Basic Suite of Software

There are three tools that are part of the basic suite of programs used by both teachers and students.  They are word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software.  These programs offer several benefits including improved productivity, appearance, accuracy, and increased interaction and collaboration (Roblyer, 2016).

Word Processing

Word processing software allows the user to create typed documents with text and graphics.  According to Roblyer (2016), this type of software has become one of the most commonly used in the educational setting.  Because I teach computers, I repeatedly use this tool with all of my students in kindergarten through eighth grade.  Word processing software offers the relative advantages of time, a more polished appearance, materials sharing, collaboration, and the support of student writing and language learning (Roblyer, 2016).  As a teacher, I often use Microsoft Word or Google Docs to create handouts, forms, and documents used in my lessons.  I save anything I create in Word to Dropbox and my Google Docs can be accessed anywhere.  This saves time because I do not have to reinvent the wheel and can alter the documents from year to year as needed.  By using word processing tools, the documents my students and I create are neater and more polished which creates a professional appearance and makes it easier for everyone to read.   More and more, I am creating my documents on Google Docs because of its abilities to easily share my work with my colleagues.  I also use it with my junior high students so that they can share documents with me and each other.  I like the idea of being paperless and the instantaneous ability for us to collaborate and edit documents together.    Word processing tools allow my students to enhance their writing and communication skills as they type papers and reports.  I also like how they use the text translation tools found in the word processing tools when they complete assignments for their Spanish class.

Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are used to organize, manipulate, and display data (Roblyer, 2016).   There are many relative advantages to using spreadsheets in education including saving time, organizing information, and increasing motivation when working with math computations (Roblyer, 2016).  In my school, we use Google Sheets to keep track of progress monitoring for students in reading and math.  We are able to share and edit this information in real-time with the colleagues in our PLC’s and with our resource teachers in order to determine our students’ educational needs and groupings for RTI. Through the use of formulas, it  is easy to color code who might need additional help, who is understanding the information, and who needs enrichment.  I use spreadsheets in my computer class to keep track of students’ typing test scores and in the library to keep track of students rotation in centers.  Projects that I have completed with my students in the computer lab have covered creating formulas, organizing information into a table, sorting data, creating a budget, and creating bar, line, and pie graphs. I would have to say that they enjoy creating the graphs especially when they can customize the look of the graphs.  My students use this tool the most during science fair time to display the data from their experiments.   

Presentation Software

Presentation software displays text, images, audio, and video in a slide show format (Roblyer, 2016).  It is routinely used in the educational setting.  Presentation software allows the presenter to organize information, break it into smaller parts, and present it in sequential order.  A well designed presentation supplements the speaker’s explanation. Those working on a presentation can collaborate in a variety of ways to the final presentation product (Roblyer, 2016).  Many of the teachers in my school use PowerPoint to help guide their students while taking notes in class.  I usually use it to project information to my students and occasionally for lessons.  I have to admit that I avoid PowerPoint as much as possible because typically the students eyes glaze over as soon as a large presentation is projected on the screen.  The main reason I use presentation software with my students in the computer lab is to increase their ability to create a proper presentation and gain practice in public speaking.  My students in grades 4-6 love creating presentations.  It is often a challenge to get them to condense the amount of information on each slide and limit the amount of transitions and animations.  They love movement on the slide and adding graphics.  I work very hard with them to ensure that their presentation is not too over the top.  They also struggle with being able to present their information rather than read off the slide, and many of the students are more focused on what is on the screen rather than listening to the information their classmate is presenting.  My junior high students are a lot better at presenting their information, but I often try to find something a little more interesting than using Google Slides or PowerPoint because they find it old and boring.  When they are doing presentations, I often have them choose an online tool such as Prezi or VoiceThread  to make it more interesting.

I feel that teachers use the three software tools described above on a daily basis.  It is important for students to work and obtain proficiency with these tools too.  They are widely used in our society and students will need to be familiar with them as they move throughout their educational experiences and into the workforce.  

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (Seventh ed., pp. 109-136). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

                         

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Relative Advantage of Instructional Software in the Classroom

Instructional software is used to deliver instruction or assist with the delivery of instruction on a topic.  Five specific types of instructional software include drill and practice, tutorial, simulations, instructional games, and problem solving.   

Drill and Practice

Drill and Practice software provides exercises where students work examples and receive immediate feedback for their answers.  It includes flash card activities, chart fill-in activities, branching drills, and extensive feedback activities.  Drill and practice is often looked down upon, but it does have its benefits.  Roblyer (2016) states that drill activities provides effective rehearsal for students and allows them to transfer newly learned information into long term memory.  Once students master lower order skills, they can use these skills for higher order thinking activities.   Drill and practice software provides immediate feedback to the students, can increase motivation, and save teacher time. Even though drill and practice software is sometimes criticized for being outdated, teachers should seek the use of this software to meet specific needs for their students (Roblyer, 2016, p. 81).  Quizlet is an example of a drill and practice software that I use in my fourth grade library class.  Quizlet is a website that allows teachers and students to create and share flashcards.  While studying literary genres, students can read and listen to the literary genre terms and definitions. They can use the program as flashcards, take a fill in the blank quiz, practice spelling the terms, and play games that involve the terms and definitions.   Through drill and practice, games, and quizzes, the students will be able to spell the literary genre words and identify the meaning of each genre.

Tutorial

Tutorial software provides instruction on a topic much like a teacher instructing in a classroom.  With tutorial software, students should be able to learn the material without any additional help or materials. There are two types of tutorials, linear and branching. Linear tutorials provide the same instructional sequence regardless of student performance.  Branching tutorials are more sophisticated and lead students along different path based on how they respond to questions and how they show mastery of the material (Roblyer, 2016, p. 83-84). Tutorials are generally used with older students who are able to read and are more popular in military and industrial training.  It can serve the needs of the classroom that use the flipped classroom or screencasting strategies.  Tutorial programs provide a more self paced review for students who need further instruction in a topic area.  They also allow more advanced students to move on to additional learning activities at their own pace when a teacher is not available to present the material (Roblyer, 2016, p. 84-85).  In my fourth grade library class, I use screencast-o-matic to record tutorials for all my research lessons and post them on my classroom website. When researching and completing projects, students work at all kinds of speeds. The screencasts help the slower students go back and review information I already presented and they help the more advanced students work ahead at a faster pace.

Simulations

Simulations are a computerized model of a real or imagined system that is designed to teach how the system works.  There are two main types of simulations. The first type teaches about something.  The second teaches how to do something. Simulations are predominantly used in science. Simulations are best used when a real situation is too time consuming, dangerous, expensive, or unrealistic for a classroom setting (Roblyer, 2016, p. 92).   In the past, I have not used simulation software in my fourth grade library classes, but this year I am working on having centers set up when the students come to class.  I was able to obtain some laptops and iPads for my centers and found PhET to be good quality simulation software. PhET is an interactive simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder.  It provides free and interactive math and science simulations at all grade levels. Using these simulations in the library would allow my students the ability to further explore and process topics that they have learned in class.   

Instructional Games

Instructional games software adds game-like rules and/or competition to learning activities.  They are often used in the same way as drill and practice games and simulations, but they are considered separately due to their different instructional elements.  Instructional games have rules, an element of competition, and are entertaining for the students.  Schools have been slow to adopt instructional games due to the cost, inadequate hardware to run the games, and good quality software has been hard to find.  Instructional games are beneficial because they provide the element of play and enjoyment for the students.  Teachers can capitalize on this enjoyment and spend more time on a curriculum topic with their students. Educators do have concerns with instructional games.  Some educators worry that students will get caught up in having fun and this will draw attention away from what is to be learned (Roblyer, 2016, p. 92-96).  In my fourth grade library class, I have used Jeopardy games to review library concepts.  It is a fun way to review topics at the end of a unit and circle back on old topics covered throughout the year.  We don’t play the game all the time so the novelty makes it more exciting for the students.  The students work together in teams to answer questions and the game is more engaging than providing review worksheets because we can discuss answers together and clear up any misunderstandings with the material.  

Problem Solving Software

Problem solving software is used to teach problem solving skills.  There are two main approaches used in problem solving software.  They are content-area problem solving skills and content-free problem solving skills.     Content- area problem solving software focuses on teaching skills mainly in math and science.  Content-free problem solving software focuses on teaching general problem-solving abilities.  Effective problem solving software must be clearly linked to cultivating a specific problem solving ability in students.  Problem solving software can be interesting and motivating for students; however, it is important to test the software for its effectiveness in teaching problem solving skills before adopting it with the students.  There is also concern that students will not be able to transfer knowledge they learned using the software to other areas (Roblyer, 2016, p. 97-100).  One example of problem solving software to use in my fourth grade library class would be Kidspiration.  The students at this age are still very new to looking up information, synthesizing and outlining the essential information they need, and using that information to write a well constructed report.  Inspiration provides the logical steps a student would take to perform these functions at their level.  Students can begin with a graphic organizer, then create an outline from the graphic organizer, and finally use the outline to create their report..  Students could work individually or with others.    Using this software might be more time consuming with the students, but the information created might be more coherent for the students to read rather than using paper and pencil.        

There are numerous amounts of instructional software available to deliver instruction in a variety of ways. It is important that educators are careful in selecting these programs to ensure that they provide the best possible educational experience for their students.   All programs have their benefits and limitations, yet can be integrated in a meaningful way.   

References:
Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed., pp. 81-100). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Course Reflection for Social Network Learning

When I signed up to take the course Social Network Learning this summer, my initial thoughts were, “How much can one possibly learn from social networks?”  The answer is–more than you can imagine.  Social media is a powerful tool that allows us to connect and develop a network with access to resources and people that we may not otherwise be able to associate with.

Using social media has improved my professional development.  Before this class, I had a Twitter account set up, but I barely accessed it.  Now I have learned how to find hashtags that suit my interests, and I have found a way to organize those hashtags through the use of TweetDeck.  This has been a valuable experience for me.  I have been able to follow prominent people in professional areas that interest me and I have gained a wealth of knowledge and resources.  Through participating in Twitter chats, I have become more comfortable with putting myself out there and sharing my own ideas and knowledge.  I like how Twitter has allowed me to customize my professional development and I plan on sharing  what I have learned and helping my colleagues set up their own accounts during one of our first faculty meetings of our new school year.

Our work on developing a positive digital footprint and managing our online reputation will be beneficial as I guide my students to use social media.  I have always been careful to watch what I post on social media, but these activities have helped me develop ideas on how to convey that knowledge to my students as they begin using social media on their own.

I have never really done much with content curation, but by completing these projects, I learned how to use PearlTrees.  Rather than just clicking on and bookmarking sites, curation allows one to pause and think about whether the information is relevant, credible, and useful for the topic to be curated.  For this project, I curated content on middle school book recommendations.  I have added it to my class website and plan on updating it for my students frequently.  I have never worked on curation with my students, but now I plan on teaching it to my middle schoolers.  I think it will help them as they work on their research projects.  One disappointment I had was that many of the curation tools are free only to a certain extent.  I ended up purchasing a subscription to PearlTrees just so that I could use all the features.  For schools that are cash-strapped, the idea of purchasing subscriptions is not usually met with enthusiasm.

In our study of social media and social media policies, I have learned that is possible to use social media safely and responsibly even with students in the elementary school.  Today’s students have grown up with technology and I think that when they enter a classroom they wish that they would have access to the same level of technology that they encounter in their own world.  They no longer seem interested to sit in rows of desks listening and reading from textbooks.  They want to participate in their learning.  Education is more than just memorization and today’s student demands to be provided with the tools to expand their mind.  Using social media is one of these tools.  If we teach our students how to use social media properly, it will enhance their learning by expanding their access to resources beyond the classroom walls.

Creating social media policies was an invaluable experience.  My school had no prior social media policies besides the few set up by our diocese.  I had to research and come up with social media policies to add to our school acceptable use policy.  I plan on sharing this document with my principal and I hope that we can work together with our technology committee and pastor to develop a more comprehensive policy for our school.

Finally, creating and evaluating another group’s social networked unit was an important learning experience.  It pulled together how a teacher can utilize all forms of social networking tools within a classroom unit, and I enjoyed the opportunity to evaluate my classmate’s unit using a screencast.  I have never evaluated my students using a screencast.  I think it is kind of a lengthy process, but I would definitely consider evaluating group projects in this manner. It makes the evaluation more personal and the evaluator can give more detailed and constructive feedback.

In finishing up this course, I would rate my blog performance as above average.  When composing my posts, I took an extensive amount of time to develop very personal and thoughtful reflections on what I have learned and I have worked to make meaningful connections.  If anyone were to read my posts, they would be able to see what I have learned and they might learn something from me as well. In addition, I carefully considered the tags and categories for each blog post so that it will be easier to revisit my work later on.   Through my blog, I have developed a voice and really worked to show what I am passionate about and what changes I might make as an educator in my classroom and within my school.   With each blog post, I made every effort to put forth my best work to show the knowledge that I have acquired through my participation in this course.  An area that I would improve upon would have been to comment more on my classmates blog posts in order to create more of a dialogue.  I would award myself with the full 75 points for my posts.

Being a member of this class has been an amazing journey and I look forward to sharing all that I have learned with my students and colleagues.

 

 

Social Media in Learning

Social media is a powerful tool and many teachers use it for personal reasons,  professional development, and communication with our school families, yet the thought of incorporating social media in our classroom seems to continue to be a touchy subject.  I think some worry that students will be distracted and spend more time communicating with each other rather than focusing on the assignment while others worry about cyber-bullying and student privacy and safety.  What I have found after curating website articles about schools using social media in the classroom is that all of these issues can be addressed and the use of social media engages students and extends their learning.  Social media is here to stay, the students are aware of it and use it at home so why not use it in the classroom.  At least then, we as teachers, can be involved in teaching our students the proper and safe way to interact with others on the internet.

I teach in a K-8 grade setting and I have often wondered how to safely incorporate social media in the classroom.  Many of my students are too young to set up accounts and those that are old enough may not be allowed to have them.  What I have found through my reading is that I can set up a classroom account with my younger students and we can work as a class to create posts.  It is also possible to set up individual accounts to blog, text, whiteboard, tag, post links, and create videos even for young students using educational sites like EduBlogs, Edmodo, and Fakebook.  Blogging and posting to social media helps students as young as kindergarten with their reading and writing skills and gives students the ability to share what is going on in the classroom through their eyes.    By using social media, students are able to connect and collaborate with other students in their school, district, state, country, and world.  Not only will students learn from others, but they will contribute to the learning of others and new cultures and knowledge will be brought into the classroom.

Using social media allows us to explore and educate our students on proper digital citizenship.  For example, students will learn the proper way to post and what types of information should be shared in a more controlled environment with teacher guidance.

Social media used in classrooms will not be a waste of time if managed effectively. Teaching students how to properly use social media will help prepare them for the future. After reading these articles, I have more confidence in how I can integrate the use of social medial in my classroom and I plan on incorporating it into my computer classroom in the next school year.

Click below to access my curated articles:

pearltrees for wordpress

Content Curation

Beth Kanter (2011) states that content curation is “the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme.” Content curation is more than just picking a bunch of links to information about a topic and posting them. It involves careful consideration of whether the information is relevant to the reader, comes from a credible source, is annotated with a reflection from the curator, and is organized in a meaningful way for the reader to better understand the topic. The curated content is also continuously updated and kept current by its author in order to provide the best content for the reader. Curating content has become an essential practice due to the large amount of information that is shared all over the internet.

This week I worked with my PLN mini group to come up with a checklist for assessing the quality and value of a curated topic.  We used a Google Doc to create this checklist.  Using Google Docs is nice because each of us had editing rights to the document and could add information and comments at any time.  Because of some time constraints I had, I got started with the project by providing the group with a list of criteria or questions for evaluating our curated topics that I developed from reading our resources.  I also provided the links to the resources I used.    My next group member took the list I created and expanded upon it by providing explanations for some of the criteria, citing the resources, and developing our list of references. Finally, the other two group members finished the explanations and reviewed the references to be sure they were properly formatted using the APA style.  We worked well together as a group given our busy and varied schedules and I believe we developed a quality checklist.

Here is the link to the checklist our PLN created:

Content Curation Checklist

Kanter, B. (2011, October 4). Content curation primer. In Beth’s Blog. Retrieved from http://www.bethkanter.org/content-curation-101/.

#Professional Development

 

tweetdeck1

tweetdeck3I have set up some hashtags to follow within my TweetDeck.  They are #edtechchat, #educhat, #edchat, #ipadedu, #ipaded, #googlefored, #makerspace, #gbl, and  #elemchat.  It is probably too many, but these are all areas that I am interested in and would like to learn more about.  Most obviously I chose #edtechchat because I am the technology coordinator for my school and because I am in the Edtech Master’s program at Boise State University.  Because I teach all grade levels, K-8, in computers, collaborate with all the teachers in my school and technology teachers in our Diocese, and because someday I may go back to teaching in a regular classroom, I chose to follow #educhat, #edchat, and #elemchat.

Our school has a 1:1 iPad program for grades 6-8 and we have small sets of iPads for grades K-5.  As a result, I chose to follow #ipadedu and #ipaded.  I would like to learn ways to help my classroom teachers better integrate the iPads into their daily lessons and move beyond using them for games, calculators, and AR tests.  I am also following #googlefored because I am not convinced iPads are the way to go and I would also like to explore the idea of switching to Chromebooks.  I’d also like to become a Google Certified Educator.

Not only am I the technology coordinator at my school, but I am also the library media specialist.  I have been hearing more and more about Makerspaces and would like to pursue starting one in my school library.  As a result, I chose to follow #Makerspace.

The last hashtag I chose to follow is #gbl.  I took a class on game based learning last semester and loved it.  I am following this hashtag in order to keep the momentum going for what I learned last semester and begin developing a game based learning system for my computer classes next year.

After the initial set up in TweetDeck, I began exploring.  In my initial exploration I learned about 5 handy Chrome extensions to help students with their writing including Read and Write which allows students to hear words or passages, highlight, and learn word meanings as they conduct research.  There is also an extension called Office Editing for Docs, Sheets, and Slides which allows a user to edit Microsoft files without having Office installed on their computer.

I also read an article and learned that the older iPads we have at our school might become obsolete in the Fall after the IOS 10 update.  Now we may have to scramble to upgrade a large amount of iPads we have for our middle school students.  This will cause an unexpected financial strain on the school which will escalate the debate we are having regarding Chromebooks and iPads.

Finally, I found a tweet with a link to an article on 16 resources for creating Makerspaces. This provided some good reasoning and resources for implementing a Makerspace within my library.  From this Tweet, I started following other Library Media Specialists to learn more about Makerspaces and I also found book recommendations for my library which was an added bonus.

Having these hashtags set up in TweetDeck has been beneficial because it provides an organized method for studying different topics.  The topics I chose are related to my interests and provide tailored professional development for my specific needs.   The only drawback (which may not necessarily be a drawback) is that I am finding that I could spend hours at the computer reading and studying all the resources that people are sharing.   I can’t wait to share what I have learned with my colleagues when we get back to school in August.

School Evaluation Summary

Our recent module on technology use planning could not have come at a better time. Our school is in the middle of going through an accreditation year which requires a technology committee that develops a detailed technology plan.  A formal technology committee has not be formed or met as a group on a regular basis at my school probably since our last accreditation year which was 2010.  After reading through version 3.5 of the Guidebook for Developing an Effective Technology Plan prepared by the Graduate Students at Mississippi State for the National Center for Technology Planning (NCTP) and the articles and guidelines provided by the NCTP on developing an effective technology plan, I feel that I have a wealth of information to share with the technology committee that we will be forming within our school.   I have also studied the technology plans of the districts that surround my school to help shape our plan so that we remain competitive and current on technology use and standards in our area.

     In addition to studying how to develop a comprehensive technology plan, I also completed a survey sheet analyzing the technological maturity of my school.  This survey sheet used the maturity model benchmarks from the Technology Use Plan Primer created by Peter H.R. Sibley and Chip Kimball.  After completing the survey and analyzing the results, I did not really find anything too surprising.  I knew that our main areas of weakness were budget development, communication, and professional development for our teachers.  These are areas that I hope will be addressed as we form a technology committee and develop a more current technology plan.  I had hoped we would have fallen more solidly in the Integrated stage, but I am proud of our school and pleased with the progress we have made with the resources we have.  Many of the teachers use technology on a daily basis and are willing to try integrating technology into their curriculum on a more frequent basis.  With the right planning, leadership, and funding, it will be possible for MQH to make it to the Intelligent level of maturity.  It may take some time, but it is achievable.  

Below you will find links to my survey spreadsheet and summary:

Survey Spreadsheet

Summary   

Annotated Bibliography

This week I created an annotated bibliography of research articles on the topic of using iPads to enhance early literacy instruction.  I found that going through the exercise of annotating my bibliography was very helpful.  I was able to collect my thoughts and evaluate the usefulness of each article.  Many of the articles I read were very helpful and worth sharing with my colleagues. The annotated bibliography will help me locate these articles quickly and I won’t have to try and remember the contents of the article by looking at just the citation.  Using APA formatting is very intricate and still very new to me.  I was thankful to have the tool Zotero to create a library of the articles and help me create the citation correctly.  While it isn’t perfect, it is a very helpful tool.  Please take a look at the annotated bibliography I created.

Digital Divide/Digital Inequality

For the past few weeks I have spent some time reading about the issues of digital divide and digital inequality. Digital divide and digital inequality are two separate factors that impact our society.  Digital divide refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology and those that do not or have restricted access.   The technology applies to landline telephones, cellular phones and services, television, computers, tablets, and the internet.  Digital inequality moves beyond an inequality in access to technology and encompasses inequality among people with access to technology.  Digital inequality includes people with lack of technical ability, lack of interest or computer literacy, and those who cannot afford it.

We rely on technology more and more each day. We cannot take for granted that everyone in society has the access to technology and knows the most effective way to use it. Even though a gap still exists between technology users, it is shrinking.  The next step is to provide users with the equipment and skills they need to use this technology.  Without this, the gap of digital inequality will widen.  With the knowledge I have gained from my readings, I will better be able to identify areas of digital inequality in my school  and address them according to the AECT Code of Professional Ethics.

After reading about these issues, I used the presentation tool Haiku Deck to explain the issues of digital divide and digital inequality and factors that create digital inequality at the school where I am the technology coordinator.  Please click on this link to view my presentation.  I have created many presentations in PowerPoint, but by using Haiku Deck, I learned new methods for making them more effective.  My takeaway from this project was to keep my slides simple, limit the number of images, use keywords, and break up information into multiple slides.  If I had more time to work on this artifact, I would have broken up my issues of digital inequality and my solutions for these problems even further into more slides.  In order to elicit a discussion from the audience, I  would have asked more questions of the viewer on the solutions slides. Finally, I might have also come up with some catchier titles on my slides and incorporated some of my own images rather than stock photos.  I plan on having my junior high students use Haiku Deck for a future project so that they can become accustomed to creating and giving a more effective presentation.