Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Final Reflections

Last semester I began to fertilize and plant my own social network. Over the course of this semester, I feel that I have watered my social network and it is finally ready to bloom. I am more connected now than I have been in the past two years. I also feel that expanding my social network has helped me develop relationships with colleagues, both face to face and online. I am now up to date on current trends in education and am far more willing to share my own knowledge with others. In fact, I feel more confident in myself as a teacher and as a professional. The tools that I have learned about in this class have helped me to pull many various websites, etc., together in a meaningful, purposeful fashion.

I think that I have changed my views on how and what to teach my students. I have always valued the need to teach them things - states, capitals,plant structure, etc. Now I realize I need to focus more of my attention on encouraging them to learn how to analyze, comprehend, share, and find information. They need to be able to not only use today's tools, but be able to use future tools. Information is going to be coming at them from many different sources, and they will need to be able to critically evaluate sources, content and usage. They need to be willing to connect to others and feel confident in sharing their ideas.

I have always felt that part of my job was to help create positive, contributing members of society. Now I realize that my students are moving in two worlds - the "real" world and the digital world. I want them to be positive, contributing members of both worlds. I want them to use the tools available to them responsibly.

The task before me is heavy. How can I sort through the tools out there and use appropriate ones to help my students develop into learners and connected citizens? I think that modeling the appropriate use of these tools is a good place to start, but I need to get my students using these tools in my classroom more often. I need to be more open to helping them use new tools, rather than fear what might go wrong. I need to encourage them to be flexible thinkers and use problem solving strategies when technology isn't quite working right.

The most important thing I have carried away from this class is that I need to develop learners who are confident enough to connect with the world and have the skills to do so in a meaningful way.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Voicethread Presentation

Here is a two part presentation on voicethread.

Part One: 2008-12-08_1320

Part Two: 2008-12-08_1327

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Response Blog # 4 - Planning and Implementation

Throughout this course I have explored many aspects of technology and how it can be used in the classroom. Edutopia describes four key elements for positive technology integration in schools - active engagement in learning, collaboration in groups, multiple opportunities for interaction and feedback , and connections to the real world. Using these guidelines, I feel that I can effectively add web 2.0 technologies into my classroom. The original project that I completed using voicethread has encouraged me to explore using this tool and other web tools in my classroom. I am currently working with my fourth graders on designing puppets that will be used to record a reader's theater production. After we have designed and recorded this production, we are planning on using voicethread to share it with classrooms around the school. My reluctant and passive readers are completely engaged in reading and acting out this play. They are bringing in props from home, thinking about story details and how to express them via a puppet show. They do not even realize that they are building fluency and comprehension skills along the way. I cannot even imagine their excitement once they are able to receive feedback from their peers on the production. I think our next project will also involve reader's theater, but perhaps we will use a tool such as Scratch or Kerpoof to retell the stories in our own words.

For students right now, this is the way the world is working. They need technology skills to function as future adults. One of our classmates shared this video from edutopia earlier in the semester. As I watched this video it again hit home about how using technology is not something that is just fun and motivational. It describes how video games are no longer "games," but are tools for learning everything from extreme sports to technical surgery skills. I want my students to be able to pursue knowledge in this fashion, and I want to give them the tools to do it safely.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Response Blog # 3: Safe Practices with Web 2.0

Warning! This is a long, but thoughtful post!

Web 2.0 has opened many doors for educators who wish to use technology to enhance learning opportunities. When considering using these technologies, however, educators must keep student safety in mind. The internet is open to the world and there are some things that the world doesn't need to know about our students. So how can educators keep students safe in school and to what extent are they responsible for students out of school on-line behavior?

Teachers need to encourage students to examine, realistically, the consequences of improper use of the web. In my district we utilize a program called NetSmartzKids. This tool encourages elementary students, in a non-threatening way, to evaluate the web and also discusses the importance of privacy and other threats. Since it uses games and songs, it is very elementary friendly, but I do worry sometimes that the some kids miss the message behind the game. When we first started using this, we actually had an FBI agent come and share the tool with the kids. This immediately got their attention and he discussed all the risks as he went through the activities with the children. I also came upon a compilation of on-line resources for teaching kids internet safety at Teacher's First. I thought these would be a great way to have kids explore safety and provide teachers with excellent resources to share with parents. The most important activity for keeping kids safe on the internet is to open discussions between teachers, parents and students. The more students know about internet safety, the more likely they are to apply these skills independently. Educators and parents need to model and discuss proper internet use with students. This includes research skills, copyright information, and appropriate use of personal information.

Teachers also need to be cognizant of the types of internet tools they are using. For instance, many tools have a "private" or "public" sharing feature. Teachers need to discuss specific projects with students and make good judgement calls on when to make student work public or private. Older students need to be encouraged and guided to think carefully about the work they are about to publish and decide whether it should be public or private.

So where then does the school's responsibility end? Cyberbullying is a new phenomenon that surpasses the school's control. In most incidences this bullying is taking place via home computer usage. In the case of Megan Meier the act of cyberbullying is believed to have led to suicide. So what can schools do? Vicki Davis's entry Techlearning blogs focuses on the need for schools to educate students on the fact that virtual worlds have an impact on real life and vice versa. These aspects of their lives are interwoven and students are responsible for their own behavior in both places. Students who are able to make this connection are able to use the web responsibly and develop critical skills necessary for making informed decisions. Student need to think critically before they act, and meta-cognitively evaluate their online behavior before they press "post". For more information about cyberbullying, I came across the book, Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard, written by Hinduja and Patchin. I have not read it, but would be interested in hearing from anyone who has read it!

Friday, November 14, 2008


Here is a brief summary of how to sign up for a Ning account! Click here for the Valley Forge School Reading Ning!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Response Blog # 2 - Research and the Reflective Practitioner

Last week I did a lot of research on different types of web 2.0 technologies. As I explored each one, I found that I really had to view the tool with a critical eye. This is important because there are so many resources out there, but teachers must decide on which tools can appropriately be used in their classroom. For instance, I found many tools that were really cool - I was astounded by what they could do, however, realistically, they would not be appropriate for my elementary learners. Again, it comes back to using technology to just say it was used, or using technology for the purpose of enhancing the educational experience.

As I reflected on the topic of this blog, I decided to do a little more research into the area of reflective practice and teaching. I found several interesting sites that described the benefits reflective teaching practices can have on positive educational change, however, I wondered how this could be tied into using web 2.0 technology. I came across a blog written by Michele Martin, a Philadelphia local consultant who works with individuals and companies to construct learning and development systems. She has written a series of blogs about reflective practice. This specific blog entry discusses several important elements for reflection, but the three that stuck out most for me were time, structure, and practice. Taking the time to think about experiences and what has been learned and can be done differently is most important. Michele describes how blogs can be important tools for reflection because they provide structure for reflection. I have definitely found that this blog allows me to pull my ideas together. She references the blog of Joe McCarthy who plays on the book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and writes about the Eight Blogging Habits of Highly Effective People. Finally, she states that people simply have to try it out and start blogging! It is interesting to think of the amount of people who currently have blogs and use them to reflect each day or week. I wonder if one day people will be expecting a presidential blog (written by the president - not an office clerk) for a daily update of our country?

I also found myself wondering how I can use reflective thinking more in my teaching. I came across a website that summarizes how teachers can facilitate reflective thinking in the classroom. As I develop my own reflective practice, I would like to see my students develop these skills as well.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Learning Experience for Students - My Plan

For the purpose of my student's learning experience, I am planning on using Voicethread. This tool is one piece of my overall plan for their learning experience. I have created this graphic organizer using bubbl.us to share the learning experience I have created for my students.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Response Blog # 1 - My Own Social Network

As I read the title of this response blog, I began to ponder the term "Social Network." The more I thought about it, the more confused I became. Not because I do not understand the term, but because it is hard to describe one's own online social network. I recently read a comment on Megan Fritz's blog about the number of social networking tools available and which one's to encourage students to use. I admit that I find myself in a similar situation. I feel like I use many different tools and use different tools for each aspect of my life. I use specific tools for pure socialization, be it myspace or blogging. These social networks have become such an important aspect of my life that I use them everyday.

I also use professional social networking, but that has been slower to develop. I think that I was resistant to the thought of using these because I was almost afraid that using these tools might make work more important than family, etc. Instead, I am amazed at how they have made my job easier. For instance, I recently created a ning for teachers at my school. The purpose of this tool is to bring teachers together to share tools and instructional strategies since the face-to-face meeting time is so limited. I would like to see this grow into a place where creative thinking can be developed and shared problem solving can occur. Similarly, I use my google reader to keep track of educational blogs and new related to my profession. I use this network to stay on top of new professional practices and communicate with my fellow teachers. This has also been helpful when searching for lesson ideas because I have certain blogs that I know have links to specific topics or lesson plans. I have recently begun to explore using blogs to communicate with parents and students. My new science fair blog has only one official "follower" but several parents and students have mentioned it, so I know that more have viewed it. I think that resources such as these are going to become even more valuable in the realm of parent/teacher communication because of our fast paced, busy society. Instead of staying late, I can post a quick update, etc. Parents can quickly email me a question, instead of calling and leaving the message on a voicemail that I may or may not get anytime soon.

I think I need to explore a little more how these tools can be used with elementary schoolers. I have been exploring voicethread, which allows students to share their work with other students in my class, but sharing work with the world is a little scary to me. I checked out imbee, and was encouraged that creating an account is a little more challenging. Adults have to confirm their identity. Although I need to research more about what this means, it still made feel like the site was safe. I will need to look into it more to determine if it would be appropriate for my students. I do think it would be appropriate to teach them about these tools and perhaps, much like I have learned myself, which type of tool is best suited for professional vs. personal interactions.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Class Reflections

What is the culture of learning in this country? Are we the middle of the cookie? Are other historically less developed countries the crust of the cookie? That seems to be what Solomon's reading and Seeley-Brown were alluding to. It will be interesting to see how things evolve currently.

These are some thoughts that I had as a result of our conversation this afternoon. The conversation this evening was certainly heady. It is interesting to learn about new tools, but I agree that they have to be used appropriately, not just because they are there. I look forward to sharing this class with other teachers and business professionals as we learn about new tools and how they can be used effectively across environments. I think that web 2.0 teaching can certainly open the door for students to think, explore, and create knowledge.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Communities of Practice Ning Mindtool Reflection

The mindtool I created was an online community of practice at www.ning.com. This Community of Practice was created in order for teachers to share ideas about current reading practices and seek out new strategies to try in the classroom.

This software functions as a mindtool because it provides teachers with a way to share ideas, discuss current practices and develop new instructional strategies after critique and reflection. The ning allows teachers to have electronic conversations using discussion boards and join groups around topics of interest. Teachers can also create new groups, add online content, and upload work samples, etc.

Due to the nature of this mindtool, I am using a rubric to assess the quality of the website content. I feel that this will authentically tell me if the mindtool is being used and how it is being used effectively.

I am very excited about where this mindtool can go. As I developed some of the content, I tried to use examples of different kinds of content that teachers could add. One person had a very good suggestion for adding grade level groups as more and more content is added. I think this would be great and then teachers can not only search for general reading tools, they can share ideas specific for their grade. I think another way to look at this would be to add additional groups for people that may want to work on inter-grade projects.

I enjoyed learning about other people's mindtools as well. I learned a lot about voicethread and plan on adding it to my content. I think I will first have my students do a sample, embed it on the ning and then let teachers see real student work. Wouldn't it be great if a student went back and said, "You have to get on the reading ning so that I can share my writing project with the class." In this fashion, the link to the ning would be needed in order for the teacher to discover voicethread and look at the student's work.

I have nothing but high expectations for this mindtool. I cannot wait to see where it takes us...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Communities Of Practice Presentation

I have designed a very brief presentation that describes why online communities of practice are great tools for educators and how one can be developed. I have used the social networking website www.ning.com to develop a community of practice for staff members at my school to discuss strategies for differentiating reading instruction.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Using Technology to Differentiate Reading Instruction

This week I have given a lot of thought about the different mindtools we have explored in class. I still found myself wanting more information about tools that can be used for reading instruction and differentiating in the classroom. I decided to do a web search and see what tools I could find on my own that might be useful to share with my co-workers. At the beginning of my search, I came across a website that allows users to upload slide presentations. The slide show that I explored is titled "Addressing Reading Deficits with Technology." It's purpose is geared towards using technology for special education students, but I feel that the information is also useful for teachers looking for tools to differentiate instruction based on all student needs. The most valuable piece of this slide show was the list of online resources available to educators.

Some of the online resources were meant for reading text to students. Some of these were:


This website provided free online versions of the words, but did not read it to the students. I found that this site worked well in conjunction with another free tool, http://readthewords.com. In this manner I was able to take the story, Cinderella, and turn it into an audio story. Combining it with a simple word document allows teachers to combine print stories with read aloud enhancements.

The negative side of this link is that there are no pictures for younger readers. However, a great center activity would be to have the students listen to/read part of the story and then stop and add their own illustrations to the word document.


This website is not free, however, it does provide a comprehensive way of purchasing children's audio-books for students and families. I always encourage parents to also purchase the book and have students read along with audio books.


This site has a large compilation of children's books, complete with words and full color illustrations. It is free and books an be saved into the users bookshelf for easy access. This site does not read the stories to the children, however, could be very helpful for earlier grades when using pictures as a primary prediction tool. Also, I felt that this could be a nice visual for read-sloud stories. I noted that the library includes many of the math related pciture books that I read in my classroom. This site also links to amazon and barnes and nobles for anyone who wishes to purchase a hard copy of the book.

The last site I found is published through wiki. Wiki Junior allows students to add and edit books online. I thought that this was an interesting way of teaching students writing skills, research skills, and editing skills. It could also be used a tool to teach kids how to use the internet appropriately, and how to determine if information found is accurate.

This was an interesting quest for me. I found many tools that I can use in my own classroom and many more that I can recommend to co-workers.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Reading Strategies

As I pondered the recent spreadsheet assignment and some of the readings, I thought about incorporating more math into my current position as a literacy intervention teacher. For some of my students computation is an area of strength. They struggle to understand word problems because of deeper issues with reading comprehension. Adding word problem activities to my current interventions would allow students to develop comprehension, problem solving and critical thinking skills that could be used as attack strategies in many different subject areas.

As I was searching for additional information about incorporating math problems into my class, I came across an interesting website , Into the Book, http://reading.ecb.org/teacher/strategies.html, that uses the catch phrase, "Strategies for Learning." This website discusses the reading strategies that I already use as part of my daily instruction, however, it puts them in the context of thinking strategies. This site references them as part of a tool for building literacy across the curriculum. An example of this would be visualizing. Many of my students do not automatically create mental pictures. We spend time in class modeling our "mental pictures" for each other. In a math problem, this could be a useful tool when deciding what operation to use or which information is not needed to solve the problem. In social studies, visualizing is important if you are imaging the conditions in another part of the country or an historical event. The website actually offers little videos that show other kids modeling these strategies when reading. My goal would be to extend what I am doing in reading and add one math problem. For instance, if we are working on visualizing, we could read a word problem and discuss what we see as we read the problem, or use pictures and models to represent what is happening.

In reflection, I have always seen a connection between these two areas, however, I have not made the connection explicit with my students. I think that being in a reading class and exploring a math problem would encourage them to make the connection and apply reading strategies to other areas. Just another tool for their toolbox! I came across this interesting book written by Arthur Hyde, titled Comprehending Math: Adapting Reading Strategies to Teach Mathematics, K-6. I may purchase it to share with the staff in regards to the topic. It seems to address the exact issues that I discussing. To purchase this book, visit : http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Comprehending-Math/Arthur-A-Hyde/e/9780325009490

On a related but separate topic, I also came across this Reading Rockets website. I have not explored the website too much, but I really liked this page, http://www.readingrockets.org/research/topic, because it was a quick reference guide for research. I thought this would especially be useful if you are being asked to give assessments and may be in need of information about exactly what the results are supposed to tell you. Also, around conference time I like to share tips with parents, but I want to make sure I know the research behind my suggestion! This seemed like a nice compilation of some studies, etc.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Revised Action Plan Outline

When I re-examined the outline of my action plan, I decided to add some key pieces of information that I think teachers, in this case the students, will need in order for them to have a positive interaction with this new learning community. First, by becoming a member of several groups myself, I realized that if I am making this group by invitation only, I will need the learners to email me so that I can email them an invitation to join. I also thought it would be helpful, since this will be a new experience for many, for them to search for and explore other communities available at www.ning.com. Finally I thought that it would be helpful if teachers have a format for entering their meaningful instructional practices. On the action plan I have stated the required pieces, however, I am unsure about how I will impart this information to the members of the team. When issued an invitation you get an email so I am thinking that sharing this information in that email may be the best possible way to share the requirements for entering lesson ideas.

This week I also touched base with the reading specialist at my school and she has agreed to work with me on this project. She has a wealth of knowledge about reading strategies and I think she is more than willing to share them, but also is under time constraints. As the first person with whom I have shared this idea, she was very positive and excited about this new adventure. She agreed that there is certainly a need for it and feels that is could be a positive experience for everyone.

I am a little nervous about putting this plan into action just because it will require more training on the teachers end and they have been a little overwhelmed this fall. I think that I will first ask the team that I have worked the most closely with in the past to pilot this program. Hopefully, they will find the experience to be a positive one and will then be able to get the word out. Then, later in the year, I will offer a voluntary training for anyone who would like to join. There are also several "tech savvy" teachers out there that I could email invitations to with a brief description of my overall goals for the site.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Reading Instructional Strategy Community of Practice

I have outlined in this concept web my plan to develop a community of practice in the area of reading instruction at www.ning.com. This free web tool should allow the teachers, who for the purpose of this concept web are referred to as students, share their knowledge and seek out new instructional strategies from their co-workers. I am hoping that this tool will allow the teachers to group instructional strategies according to different instructional areas, such as fluency, vocabulary, cause and effect, etc. If we are able to group our ideas in this way, this online database should be manageable and easy for the teachers to use when planning for a specific instructional need in their classroom. I also think that this will encourage teachers to share their wealth of experience and learn from each other. I am also hoping that by using this tool to share with individuals in our immediate community, teachers may be encouraged to travel the digital "world" and bring ideas back to share.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Using Communities of Practice to Create Conceptual Change in Teachers

Chapter one of David H. Jonassen's (2006) book, Modeling with Technology, encourages one to examine how conceptual change relates to meaningful learning. As an educator, I can apply this to many different situations such as my own personal lessons in learning, instructional design processes in the classroom, and staff development. For the purposes of this blog, I will address how teachers can use data as a catalyst for conceptual change and communities of practice as a means of achieving meaningful learning.

Jonassen (2008) states that the "Cognitive Conflict" theory of conceptual change begins when a learner becomes aware that the problem they face requires some change in their current conceptual view. When a learner then creates new goals to attack this problem they are ready to seek out knowledge needed to change their conceptual framework and embrace new concepts. I propose that one way that teachers can do this is by using communities of practice.

In this new age of data driven education, teachers are constantly being bombarded with test scores and assessment data. They are asked to do more than simply assign a grade. Teachers are required to demonstrate that students show growth, make meaningful connections, and do not "fall behind." Examining data, both classroom and standardized, can provide the context for the "awareness of contradiction" that Jonassen describes as necessary for meaningful learning to occur. When students are not demonstrating adequate progress, teachers are left to question, "What can I do?" thus providing an awareness that something needs to change. Obviously, the current instructional practices are not meeting the needs of this specific learner, but what can the teacher do? Most teachers teach because they want to help their students learn, however, under the pressure of high-stakes testing they are reluctant to ask for help when presented with a situation such as this.

A community of practice structured around the topic of evaluating data and designing instruction could provide teachers with a non-threatening, meaningful knowledge building activity. A community of practice is defined by Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder (2002) as "groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their understanding and knowledge of this area by interacting on an ongoing basis." Teachers share a passion for student learning, but they seldom have time to interact with one another because of their rigorous and varied teaching schedules. Would a virtual community of practice encourage them to interact with each other and share strategies for instructional design and meeting the needs of a diverse, dynamic set of learners? This structure could provide them with a non-threatening, meaningful way to change their current conceptions on instructional design and embrace new strategies for struggling learners.

Jonassen, David (2006) Modeling with Technology, Mindtools for Conceptual Change. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
Wenger, E., McDermott, R. & Snyder, W. (2002). Communities of practice and their structural elements and Seven principles for cultivating communities of practice in Cultivating Communities of Practice. Harvard Business School Press.

For an electronic resource on communities of practice: "International executive workshop lead by Etienne Wenger and George Pór at the London School of Economics"

Article worth a look if you are interested in this topic:
Little, Judith Warren. (2002) Locating learning in teachers’ communities of practice: opening
up problems of analysis in records of everyday work. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18(8), 917-946.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Goals for EDTEC 566

Last spring I was able to complete my Instructional Systems Design Apprenticeship within my school district. I focused on teachers using data to design and differentiate learning experiences. This summer I spent a lot of time analyzing the information I had collected and projects that I had completed. In reflection I felt that my project was very strong in the aspects of gathering and organizing data and making data easily available to teachers, however it lacked information in the area of how to use this information to inform instruction.

The National Educational Technology Standards state that teachers should be able to engage in professional growth and leadership. I would like to be able to use blogging and shared webspace as a means of encouraging teachers to discuss "best practices" for improving lessons to meet specific student needs, as identified through data analysis. Creating a tool for teachers to discuss data, with specific student information remaining anonymous, and share ideas will encourage differentiation and build a sense of community within the school. Teachers must see this community as a way to discuss their own strengths, as well as share classroom struggles in a non-threatening way. Teachers can then learn from one another and build on the wealth of experience they collectively possess.

Creating an electronic tool that can be accessed at the teacher's convenience would be helpful to my co-workers because they are already overwhelmed by the amount of meetings and lack of time. Perpaps the discussion tool could even be organized according to specific data needs (for instance...Strategies for Building Fluency in the primary grades) and I could also provide links to on-line resources that are free and easily accessble within the classroom as part of centers, etc.

Creating a tool such as this would be useful to my co-workers and help them to embrace the new data driven education movement and see how data can help them save time.