Friday, October 21, 2011

New Tech Standards & Requirements

After reading through the Oregon Educational Technology Standards (OETS) , it appears the objective, or big picture, is to produce students who are not only comfortable using the technology (which most of them are anyway), but more importantly able to effectively use the tools they have at their disposal, to research, communicate, collaborate, create in a responsible manner. I was reminded of Bloom's Taxonomy in that the tech standards are asking students to engage in higher level thinking skills such as analyzing, evaluating and creating. I believe the Oregon Diploma sums it up well when it states the objective to "use technology to learn, live, and work." 

The OETS that I identified as being the most significant to me are:

  1. Creativity and Innovation
  2. Communication and Collaboration
  3. Digital Citizenship
Creativity and Innovation
I really like the idea of using some of the tools we learned about in this classroom to create projects featuring blogs, podcasts, and reports. One of the most creative things I've seen is the website created by Mrs. Childers at Echo Shaw Elementary in Forest Grove. I attended her presentation at the Oregon Technology in Education Network (OTEN) conference and was thoroughly impressed. Her website gives some excellent examples of meaningful and fun activities using technology. Not only does she teach technology standards, but she also teaches literacy, math, writing, and science with these creative projects. Imagine how cool it must be for those kids to go home and show their families what they made at school? Those students are fortunate to have a teacher who is willing and able to use technology at school. My personal goal is to be one of those teachers who is willing and able. 

Communication and Collaboration
There are many interesting ways we can use the technology available to communicate and collaborate with others in the classroom or anywhere on Earth. One way students can collaborate on a project is to use Google Docs. The cloud based application lets students work on a project simultaneously no matter their physical location. Teachers and students can have blogs to post assignments on and post comments back and forth to each other. I also would like to use technology to facilitate collaboration between local students and international students. Instead of working with traditional pen pals, which can be a slow and sometimes expensive undertaking, you can simply email back and forth, use blogs, Skype, Google Docs, and podcasts to communicate and share information. I plan on doing some cultural exchanges with my future students using these methods. I see a lot of exciting opportunities for students to learn about other cultures directly from the source - the people - rather than just text books. 

Digital Citizenship
Just as we try and model responsible behavior to students in the "real world", we also need to do this in the Digital world, which is now basically one in the same as the "real world". Bullying, for example, can easily spill over to Cyberspace and needs to be one of the problems educators address. Also, internet security needs to be taught. Just as you would protect your locker combination or ATM PIN, students need to understand the importance of protecting their information online. Identity theft is a huge problem and can be avoided in many cases if students are aware of scams and techniques that thieves use to try and steal information. Teachers will need to model this for students and make them aware of the dangers of dealing with strangers on the Internet, giving out personal information, and treating others with respect online. Here is the Digital Citizenship continuum which addresses many of these problems. 

Based on my own experiences in this class, as well as what I've heard and seen from my classmates, I am already very comfortable with the technology - I use it every day - but I was not familiar with a lot of the basic tools that are available that allow us to engage in some of those higher level skills using technology. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies in that we are simply unaware of the technology that is available to us. Tools such as Google Docs allow for easy collaboration on projects yet I had never even used the program before in any meaningful way. I suspect I was not alone in being the first. I also suspect that many students in our schools will be the same. The tools are out there waiting to be utilized, we just need that first introduction to get with the program. I think there will still be some resistance in schools as we try to gain support from administration and colleagues to effectively use technology is the classroom as well. As new teachers one of our jobs will be to introduce and demonstrate technology to other teachers who may not be familiar or interested in technology. Hopefully they will also "get with the program" after seeing what can be done with these tools. 
Another major obstacle may be funding and outdated computers in the schools. There are many activities that can be done using one classroom computer and a cell phone as we have seen in our EdTech course. Also, grants are available from a variety of sources. At the OTEN conference, Mrs. Childers said that she wrote two, $2000 grants to buy iPods, computers, headphones, and everything else needed to complete her projects. She also recommended that we approach stores and corporations such as Fred Meyer or Wal-Mart for funding. She said it is possible to get smaller grants in the range of $200 from these sources. It all adds up. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Analyzing Student Data in a Spreadsheet

My experience with spreadsheets in the last 10 years has been virtually nil. I wouldn't say the process of using Google Sheets was "painless" - there were definitely some growing pains - but it feels like once you learn how to use it, it's a fairly simple tool to use but one with potentially huge benefits.

As I worked on the spreadsheet data analysis, I thought of one of my mentor teachers as they sifted through test scores at school. One of my tasks at the school was to grade the tests and record them on a score sheet. I think the data could be more effectively analyzed if it were done on Google Sheets. It would be great to be able to isolate certain students or scores, for example. The visual aid of charts is also powerful. Also, that data could then be more easily (and more professionally) presented to parents, if you so desired. You could create a chart, with numbers rather than names, and show the parent where the student is in relation to classmates and even the entire school if there was a system of data sharing in place. Last but not least is the ability to use the data to modify your teaching to reach those students who need the extra help or differentiation in the lessons to reach their goals.

For this particular assignment, we looked at students who were falling below the average in their final 6 test scores. The trend shows an increase in test scores as they went from test 6 to test 10. I chose to make two charts, one line and one bar to represent the data. I feel the bar chart is more effective in showing the trends individually and as a group of students, but that could very well be a personal preference. As a teacher I would be pleased that most of the students are showing steady improvement and nearing or surpassing the average of 192 by the 10th test. However some students, such as but concerned with students such as Queen, Walter, and Renee are not yet close to the average and in the case of Queen regressing. This would indicate to me that those students were at risk and would require some kind of intervention.

Once again I think Google Sheets is a powerful tool once the initial shock of getting used to it wears off. A personal goal of mine is to start a small project for my mentor teacher using Sheets. For example I could enter the spelling test scores in Sheets and analyze the data. It would be a relatively simple and quick task that can provide the teacher another way to assess the students and her teaching.

Here is the direct link to the spreadsheets on Google Docs.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Multi-Media Project: Screenr

I did my multi-media project using the program Screenr. The program allows you to capture all of the movements you make on the computer (including keystrokes and mouse movement) and record your audio commentary/directions at the same time. 

Screenr is a great tool for making tutorials. With this tool you can not only tell someone how to accomplish a task on their computer, but show them. I have watched several videos where people have used this program but never just knew how easy it was to use. You simply go to to get started. I had never used this tool before and found it quite easy to work with. Within no time, you'll be able to make your own "Screencast". The Screencast is the final, recorded product.

I can think of a couple of ways to use this program in the classroom. For example, it could be used to explain complicated computing procedures to students. This will save the teacher a great deal of time - they simply need to explain it once and students can follow the steps by watching the Screencast as many times as they need. With Screenr, it's like having the teacher right there to walk you through the task, step by step. Another application is to have the student use it to teach something to others - just like what we're doing now. As we know, the best way to really learn something is to do it yourself and then teach it to others. 

The Screencast I created is about embedding videos into your blog. Sometimes people just give a link to the video, which works but takes you off of the blog. It is much more effective if you can actually have the video in your blog already so the user doesn't have to leave the blog. I found this to be a very simple and effective tool. 
IMPORTANT: Be sure to have your editing tab set to EDIT HTML, not COMPOSE, when pasting the EMBED code. 

Embedding Videos in Your Blog

Here is a great video on social media. Check it out!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Web 2.0 and Dropbox

Web 2.0 seems to be the future (or "now" if you're slightly behind the times like I am) of storage, collaboration, and sending files to others online. 

I recently had the choice between purchasing a MacBook Air which is firmly in the Web 2.0 realm, and a MacBook Pro, which is still closer to the older paradigm of disk drives and so on. I chose the MacBook Pro due to the fact that the Air didn't have a CD/DVD drive. Considering I still have a lot of music CDs and movie DVDs, I felt it would be useful to keep the option of having a CD/DVD drive. I also liked the idea of having a "bigger" harddrive - which of course may be rendered a moot point with the idea of Web 2.0! Specifically, a service like Dropbox allows you to free up a lot of storage off of your personal computer so you can access it anywhere. Consequently the need for local storage is reduced. But for now I am happy with the more traditional MacBook Pro purchase.

For more ideas on Web 2.0 and Dropbox, please see this document. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Google Presentations

When you need to make a slide show, Google Presentations is a nice alternative to PowerPoint.

First, Google Presentations is free, which is always a plus. Second, it's easier to use than PowerPoint, but the trade off is that it lacks some of the features. However, you can collaborate with others on a presentation much easier than you can with PowerPoint. I used PowerPoint the last couple of years in Korea and it took me a while to fully grasp all of the functions (the fact that the program was in Korean, might have played a small part!). But with Google Presentations it really doesn't take long at all. The final product isn't quite as slick, but it's just as effective and much easier to work on group projects with. 

Here is a demo of Google Presentations.

My role in the presentation was the "owner" of the doc and I did the first slide and contributed elements of many of the other slides. I found it very intuitive to use, however I experienced difficulties in using bullets effectively. I still need to research how to present a one bullet at a time. 

Oregon Technology Education Network (OTEN) Reflections

Well, after a long battle with Yodio (I lost), I have managed to upload my comments using Voicethread. Below I have embedded my Voicethread commentary.

The presentations I attended were by Barry Jahn and Machelle Childers. Mr. Jahn's presentation was entitled "Easy, Efficient, & Essential Tech Tools to Improve Teaching and Learning" and Mrs. Childers presentation was on "Podcasting in the Elementary Classroom: Ideas for Creative Projects with your Students". Both were quite useful!