Jun 3, 2012


I now know the difference between podcasts (Talk Tech) and regular videos that reside in places like You Tube  Podcasts are video broadcasts to which one returns for additional episodes.  Regular videos that are uploaded to the internet are "one-time" things - independent entities, if you will.  My class this term had us looking for pod-casts in an educational area of personal interest.  I am interested in using videogames in classrooms, so I searched for pod-casts with search terms reflecting my interests (videogames, kinnect, elearning - to list a few).

However, I am not sure how impressed I am.  By far, the overwhelming majority of the multitudes of pod-casts (about 6) I found had not been added to in more than 3 years.  One of my fellow students mentioned this same problem during our last class.  In contrast, You Tube's education videos were varied and there were many series that were newly created.

One podcast I found that has regular, recent additions is the eLearning Academy.  The current podcast is about social media in education.  Very interesting.  

I look forward to finding more pod-casts.  I know that they are out there! Perhaps I need to make my own!  What is your experience with finding pod-casts?  Do you think they are more valuable that independent videos?  Let me know, please!

May 20, 2012

Latest Class Assignment

    In this, my (hopefully) last master's degree class, we are beginning by jumping into the blogoshpere.  I have been avidly reading blogs for the last two years (since beginning my master's program), and I have many favorites.  Originally, they were are educational, but since I developed a serious addiction to Pinterest my horizons have expanded; now I read lots of sewing and cooking blogs - even some fashion gurus

from the May 8 blog post
  Ok, let's talk seriously about some instructional technology blogs.  My absolute favorite is the Rapid eLearning Blog.  This blog is ostensibly designed to motivate people to buy from the Articulate community of software.  However, I love, love, love it for all the things this blog has taught me about using PowerPoint!  Plus, you get gobs of free templates - when you get to know me better, you'll understand my obsession for free things.  I once wasted over $1K to get a $50 mp3 player - sad story; another time.

Another blog I enjoy reading is Games 4 Change  I believe that video games are powerful tools.  They can reignite learning motivation, affect social change, actually change the brain's skills, and are just plain fun.  This blog is part of a consortium designed to promote games that can change society.  Have you ever heard of Urgent Evoke or Jane McGonigal?  Well, Games 4 Change supports the same premise - games can change the world.

   I am currently a substitute teacher, and one day I thought - maybe there might be a blog or two to help me with issues I face in those scary classrooms.  I found several.  This first one is one of my favorites.  The author has actual suggestions and her experiences make me feel less alone.  Most of the others have not been updated recently or are not really substitute teacher blogs(more like long commercials).  Another favorite, even though I can never find the home button easily, is Substitutes, FTW  I'm not sure if this lady is still a substitute teacher, but she offers great tips to use for regular teachers, too. It hasn't been updated in awhile, tho'  :(

   This summer I hope to get over my fear of blogging and contribute to the community. No longer just a reader be!  What are your biggest challenges in blogging?  Lack of time, desire, or writer's block?  How do you overcome your difficulties?  Let me know.

May 19, 2012

An "Other Things" type post

6' drawers in sewing room
     One of the things I love to do is sew.  I have a wonderful sewing machine and waay too much fabric!  I have been reading lots of sewing and cooking blogs during my semester break.  One of the blogs that I read, Sew, Mama, Sew!, has been talking about how important it is to RECYCLE.  The authors are giving away a very interesting book all about reinventing sewing with recycled stuff!  I want to win this book.

    To that end, I am sharing a picture (or two) of a sewing organizer I made from old blue jeans.  I had the greatest fun choosing pockets (off old pants) that would be used for storage, cutting up the legs to make the background. It's kinda heavy, but it's durable!  And, useful!
Fun to make!
Back side showing
   This is my sewing organizer - notice the spot along the side for a yardstick.  You can see that the back is just one large piece of blue fabric and there is a rod pocket.

 There is no pattern, just pick cool pockets, add a waistband to hold a yardstick, attach stuff to pieces of pant legs, and add a backing. Voila! you're organized

    Can you see the cool design right below the pinking shears? It was on a pant leg!  No you can't - here's a close-up.

So what would you fill these pockets with?  Let me know.

Feb 9, 2012

Waverly-Shell Rock's new Middle School/Junior High

         Waverly, Iowa built a brand new school after the flood of 2008.  Like my house, the school that formerly served fifth and sixth-graders was ruined; additionally, Waverly's Junior High (built 1926) once again lost the old gymnasium and almost lost the first floor (replaced after the 1998 flood).  I confess that I was not in favor of the new school;  I do not approve of the location (a very swampy area in an average spring).
 Today I attended an Open House at the school. Waverly's middle school serves about 550 students.  The community is your basic middle-sized, midwestern city.  There's a liberal arts college in the city, and parents are highly involved with their children.   An average sized crowd of educators and community members listened intently as Steve Kwikkel, jr. high principal, and Bridget Wagoner discussed the new school and its design. These educators stated that the school did not/does not have a technology initiative.  Rather, they say W-SR has a learning initiative.  The goal is not an increase in test scores; Waverly's scores are actually pretty high.  The goal is to change the face of learning so that students' needs in the 21st century are met and that students continue to be engaged in learning.

I saw several intriguing things during my visit.  The first few can be illustrated by pictures I took.  They have whiteboard tables - great for collaboration or visual learning, comfy furniture, and these bizarre, wobbly stools (called Hoki stools).  Mr. Kwikkel said the furniture for the new school was purchased with the following ratio in mind: 1/3 comfort, 1/3 collaboration,and 1/3 traditional school-type furniture.

Waverly-Shell Rock has also invested in a formative and summative assessment program developed by Naiku.  The promotional flier describes the company as "founded by assessment and educational technology veterans to provide a formative and summative assessment solution that enables teachers to raise student academic achievement."  During my conversation with CEO, Corey Thompson, teachers receive rubric-based assessments in myriad ways (paper to cell phone), input the information, and receive information on standard's performance, class statistics, etc that can easily be shared.  Naiku works over cellular networks and with regular computers, ipads, phones, et al.

I really like this idea!  Theoretically, it simplifies management activities without being a learning management system.  It also helps the school focus on metacognition and mastery learning.

After the school day ended, I wandered the halls a bit.  There was an after-school cooking club and an after-school art club meeting - How fun!  Lastly, did I mention that there are virtually no school bells?!  They have a bell in the morning and at the end (there might be one at lunch, but my sources said it was largely irrelevant), but they have no bells signaling the end of class periods.  How curious!

All in all, I am quite impressed with the facility and the atmosphere at this school.  The staff puts into practice their professed belief in student-centered learning.  The environment is conducive to active engagement.  Real learners may result!

Dec 15, 2011

I Have Integrated My Technology!!!!

My Selection and Integration of Technology course winds to a close this evening.  I wish I could lament its sad passing, but I am truly tired of schoolwork for a few weeks!

Our task this time was to take all we learned over the semester and incorporate it into one giant document!

I'd like to believe a teacher has the time to do this for every lesson, but sadly I doubt that is true.  The good thing about this level of detail is that it can be left for substitutes with the above average chance that the substitute will be able to continue in one's stead.

I truly loathe going into a classroom and making students complete BORING worksheets because the teacher is afraid to let the substitute teach.  I understand the conundrum.  I also think it is counterproductive for subs and teachers not to communicate before the event, if possible.  Oh well, I digress - again.

I am attaching the Columbus lesson plan that I created.  I copied shamelessly from sites I found on the internet.  I tried to faithfully record each; if you find that I have omitted someone who needs recognition, please let me know.

Engel - Integrated Plan

Dec 8, 2011

Assessing Videogames

Videogames are ubiquitous.  I doubt you can find a child in the United States that has not played them.  Researchers are agog at their potential for motivating students to learn.  But can the learning be mapped to federal, state, and local standards?

Here is a Prezi I recently completed that introduces some of the issues surrounding this topic.  Please listen to the video in the presentation.  It's a small part of a talk by James Paul Gee on the importance of videogames and how easy it should be to assess the learning.

Dec 3, 2011

UDL is for everyone!

This week I have been investigating Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  I believe that is really for everyone.  Many of the changes for those labeled "disabled" make life easier for all of us.  Today's post investigates some of the iPad apps designed to aid us.

There are Apps for communicating, schedule making, tracking data, and education.  Most of the apps are low cost, and some of them are free - making them useful for schools with limited budgets.  Engaging students can require lots of patience, and special needs children require special skills - but having some cool tools may help! 

One app for iPads is called Special Words. It's an interactive game to help children learn to read.  I imagine its being brought into elementary schools and used with literacy programs.  Words can be added to suit a particular unit.   I also think younger students learning foreign languages or those learning English would find this useful.  It comes with 96 words (spoken and written), matching pictures, and eight languages.  Teachers and parents can easily add more words and sounds. There are 3 levels of difficulty, and it was designed with cooperation by teachers and special needs professionals. There are Zombies and cool music, too. Even non-challenged children will enjoy this!

Factor POP is a video game and more!  It is designed to help students master multiplication and division concepts like factors and multiples.  Harder levels can be unlocked by showing mastery of easier ones.  This program reaches those struggling with traditional methods by using kinesthetic responses.  As I visit schools, I am continually surprised by how many kids cannot figure out what goes into any particular number.  I've learned that children with non-verbal learning disorders struggle with these sorts of concepts. Often their condition is not diagnosed.  This game is fun enough and uses repetition enough to help those who struggle and even those with no problems! I think this would be useful in a classroom preparing for learning algebraic concepts - gotta know how to factor!

Another fun way to learn math is through Math Snacks.  I sat in my car in the cold rain playing this for quite awhile.  This site has short games and  animations that present math differently than most programs (how about 14/6ths!).  These are great for classes up through middle school, or even classes for struggling learners.  Those who say they don't like math will get caught up in the Pearl Diving game or empathize with the girl on the Bad Date. This can be used on a variety of platforms. 

An important concept of UDL is presenting information in multiple ways. As a student, I struggled to memorize the Periodic Table; kids with learning disabilities may not be able to do this at all.  An app for the iPad allows learners to see each element in stunning 3D.  This adds some concreteness to an abstract concept.  Many students with LDs are removed out of science and history classes so they miss vital background knowledge in these areas.  Incorporating technology like this can help bridge the gap.  However, this app has considerable overlap between being assistive and instructional.  It provides benefits to both groups, which helps to mainstream LD students.

Visual Dictionary Online helps students who are struggling to grasp a concept (i.e. how a gear works) can go to this site (or use the iPhone app) and type in the term to see it. When you know what something looks like, but not what it's called (or vice versa), you can quickly match the word to the image.  This would be great for any type of class from English to Science.  It's possible to browse the categories as well. 

Also helpful are graphic organizers.  There are several for the iPad: Popplet, IdeaSketch, MindNode, and iThought, to name a few.  Some are free and others cost a few dollars. They are easy to use and many allow users to import and export to a variety of programs - even a desktop word processor.  Below is a preview of iThoughts ($7.99).