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).

Nov 27, 2011


Are you a good cyber citizen?  Are any of us?

picture courtesy of
My instructional technology class has been exploring ways of teaching others to be ethical online community members.  We were tasked with creating a learning unit for a topic from the Common Sense Media website,  I chose to explore the topic of "Connected Culture."  Middle school students learn how interconnected real worlds and virtual worlds are.  Being a good citizen of one's community is similar whether or not the community is in the face to face world or the digital world. 

Please visit my cyber learning unit by clicking here
                                                                           Thanks, in advance, for all feedback!

Oct 23, 2011

ITEC 2011

Wow!  What an event - I learned sooo much, saw many things, ate great food.  The people who produced this event did an incredibly wonderful job!  Kudos, my friends.

A workshop I attended gave participants several samples of software.  The software I used for this feature was created by MIT (yes, Mass. Inst of Tech!).  From Scratch's website comes the following quote, "Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the web." 

I made a little animation (only took about 15 hours - remember, I'm an English major - not a programmer,and I was watching TV at the same time) that captures a couple of highlights.  Please watch it, and let me know what you think.

ITEC conference - Scratch presentation

Could you use Scratch in your world?

Oct 17, 2011

Amping it Up!

        I am attending the ITEC (Iowa Technology Education Connection) conference in Des Moines this week. Click here to learn more about ITEC.  Lots of great information available regarding instructional technology. 
        Speaking about technology in Iowa, I present five experiences that I encountered during the last twelve months of substitute teaching.  These experiences occurred in more than one school district, and, although they likely accomplished the desired outcomes, after describing the experiences I will show where the classes rank on the Technology Integration Matrix
         Next, three of the lucky experiences will be chosen for the Ultimate Makeover.  This means these class will be taken to the next level, and that experience described here.  Are You Ready?

Experience 1
The class in ninth grade English did a critical reading of The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs. Students read and discussed the story; they examined foreshadowing, predicted, and talked about themes, author intent, etc.  The objective of this activity is to introduce the structure, and model the creation, of the “5-paragraph essay.”    This fits into the Active-Entry cell. The teacher uses technology to present her lecture, but does not incorporate technology into what the students are doing. This fits into my future classroom because Critical Reading skills are important in every endeavor; workers often read the same material and informally share their opinions.  Also, all educated people need to be able to write well.

Experience 2
A class of special needs students in a Social Studies class is creating an invention timeline using cut-outs from assorted magazines. They glue the inventions to poster board; they are also required to draw and color little hand-drawn images of the inventions.  The objective of this activity is to introduce the concept of timelines and to explore the history of the Industrial Revolution.   A video is shown that teaches about the Industrial Revolution, and the teacher uses a Smart Board to present lesson material.  This belongs in the Active Entry cell of the T.I.M. because the teacher is passively using technology; there is no student engagement with the technology.  I chose this example because often corporate trainers want students to get a hands-on feel for the particular subject being taught, but they teach the material only with teacher demonstrations.

Experience 3
A high school business class is learning PowerPoint. They follow a scripted process to create slides. Each student does exactly the same thing, following a workbook. Some students do provide peer coaching.             Applicable TIM cell – Active Entry.  This cell on the TIM states that the students are paced through the activity and everyone does the same thing.  This relates to me/my interests because of my consideration of corporate training as a career.  Too often, corporate training uses this same process to teach software to employees 

Experience 4
An eighth grade science class views a Discovery Education video on genetics as review for a test. Applicable T.I.M. cell – Adoptive Entry because students are not engaged in using technology. This fits into my future endeavors because video-training is often used in industry.  Video-training is a passive way of teaching. Only extremely motivated learners get much out of this style. 

Experience 5
A 10th grade girl’s chorus class meets to prepare for an upcoming school-wide performance. Each ensemble steps up randomly and performs their number.  Students use technology to play accompaniments and microphones for vocals.  This goes into the Collaborative Entry cell of the T.I.M.  This fits into my world because workers often need to learn how to use microphones and select music for presentations.

Take It Up a Notch

Experience 1
Students read the same short story.  The discussion takes place on VoiceThread.  The teacher guides the discussion by participating.  Points discussed include those mentioned in the original experience and expand to have students point out specific examples of the structural components of the essay.  Students benefit from peer opinions, can contribute to the discussion at home or during school.  This is moved to the Collaborative Adoption Cell on the T.I.M.  Using VoiceThread allows students to learn from their peers.  Reflection is increased as students think about ideas before posting – VT can be used both synchronously and asynchronously, which gives opportunity for thinking before talking.

Experience 3
Students will learn PowerPoint.  This class will use differentiated learning.  Students with prior experience using PowerPoint will serve as mentors and will learn more advanced ppt skills.  Students are paired (and will share a computer).  They will choose a topic that applies to any subject for which they need to prepare a presentation.  If a student has no assignment to prepare, a list of possible topics will be available; student choice of topic will also be accepted.  Teacher models use of Master Slides, basic ppt functions, and designing aesthetically pleasing slides.   Guided instruction is provided by the teacher while students work on their projects.  This moves the class to the Collaborative Adoption cell on the T.I.M. because students help each other with particular aspects of the program.  Students are able to progress at their own speeds (learning just what they need for their particular situation), explore what the software can do, and create an artifact that can be used in another situation. 

Experience 5
Students preparing vocal presentations for the concert will be recorded and will post their performances on a version on You Tube designed for schools (less open). Students will search for music on the Internet and research copyright issues. The ensembles will self-evaluate and offer constructive criticism on other performances. This moves the learning activity into the Collaborative Adoption Cell on the T.I.M. Seeing one’s performance allows for self-evaluation and revision that is intrinsically motivated. The peer evaluations are important because often new ideas are generated and then expanded upon by peers.

Oct 3, 2011

September 30, 2011 - Gradual Release of Responsibility

UPDATE: I never included a link to the lesson!
Here it is:

I have just learned that something I always thought was intrinsic to teaching is a NEW theory, of sorts.  It's called "Gradual Release of Responsibility" or GRR.  The purpose is to help students take control of their own learning.  Hooray!

I have a GRR lesson plan for learning about Columbus about which I would love your comments.  Please let me know your true thoughts.


Aug 26, 2011

Introduction for Fall of 2011


    I am excited about the new term.  My name is Linda Engel, and I live in Waverly, IA.  I have 3 children, the youngest of whom begins college this fall at Wartburg College in Waverly.  He lives on campus, much to his chagrin.  I also have a 14 month old grandson - absolutely adorable little guy.  My older son is a videogame designer in Florida; he designs games that teach the military how to fire 50-caliber tank weapons.

   I earned my bachelor's in English, May 2009, which makes me a non-traditional student.   I like to cook and sew.  I just moved into a new house that replaced the one lost in the 2008 flood.  I still need to unpack. 

   I am really interested in the possible benefits of videogames to increase motivation in students. (Dr. Z, I worked hard to change this sentence so it doesn't use "use" - LOL).  This blog is one I started when I first began my master's program.  Perhaps, I'll use it more now.