Thursday, June 20, 2013

You’ve Come a Long Way!

It really is true; I have come a long way in my proficiency with technology in this short and speedy tour of the latest technology to use in the classroom.  The end of my course “Power Tools for Educators” has come and gone and I’m left amazed at all of the web 2.0 tools that I not only have been exposed to but have mastered.  Okay well mastered might not be the word that I should use here, but I have become more than just familiar with tools such as VoiceThread, blogs, infographics, interactive white boards, iMovie, Skype, RSS feeds and more.  I’m not a techno geek yet, but I now know that I will feel comfortable using technology in the classroom.  And I also feel I have come to a jumping off point from which my technology knowledge learned in this course will help me connect what I have learned to new and future technologies unforeseen. 

So here’s the technology journey I’ve been on these past six weeks.  At all of these stops along the journey I picked up something for my technology in the classroom took box. 

Meeting Mr. Bonk

The first night of this course began my “head swim” in consuming all kinds of information about technology.  Mr. Bonk discussed the amazing ways that technology is changing the world, and particularly the world of education.  My mind has been wide opened from the start of this class with Bonk’s book, “The World is Wide Open” to an array of uses of technology in education.  I am particularly fascinated by all of the “free” learning available on the web from MIT courses to portals such as Curriki mentioned in his book.

The Blog

Writing and publishing this blog for the first time was exciting and nerve wracking.  This tool has definitely fed my need for writing my thoughts out and enabled me to experience the thrill of being published for the world to see.  Speaking of the world…..who’s
reading my blog in Russia?  According to my blog stats I have quite a lot of readers from Russia?  Anyways, I’d like to continue blogging in the future. Who knows I might even share more of my technology adventures in this blog after this course is over.  It was so much easier than I could have imagined from setting the whole blog up to this final post.  I also enjoyed reading my classmate's blogs as part of our weekly assignment to comment on peer's blogs each week.  My classmate’s blogs are awesome and very inspiring!  I hope one day to be as proficient in using all of the cool BlogSpot design features as some of them.


I know I'll use VoiceThread in the future! This tool I actually had had some experience using in my “Literacy Instruction for Upper Elementary Grades” course before starting this class.   It’s simple to use and provides a very intimate way to connect with other people.  It can even be a little like a narrated slide show, as you can add images and pictures to your VoiceThread.  I was really excited to come across so many cool ways to use VoiceThread in the classroom such as using VoiceThread to tell a story or read a play or even present math story problems.  Students that might not like speaking in front of the class may enjoy using VoiceThread to share their thoughts.  This tool because it’s so easy to use, and because I’ve used it now more than once, I know I will incorporate into a learning activity (if this site is permissible to use in the school). 

My RSS Feed

Okay so I now I know what that little orange icon is on web pages.  Just click, and it’s added to your RSS Feed.  This is an extremely useful tool to manage all of the information on the internet, but I found even managing my little RSS feed with just 5 feeds was overwhelming to keep up with during this course.  I did read about plenty of great stuff to think about incorporating in the class from a design your own solar race car game on a site designed to teach kids

about careers in engineering to a Google Maps feature that allowed me to tour Mark Twain's house.   I probably could spend hours reading all of the articles that I have carefully discriminated from the other zillions of things on the web with my RSS feed. So, I’m not sure if my RSS feed actually saves me time.  I think it instead forces what I’m reading into a very narrow channel, from what before was a wide open plain of information.  I guess that can be good thing to be reading lots of articles pertaining to education and education technology. But maybe what I really need to do is add more sites to my RSS feed and just plan on reading less of what I’m feed.  One other note: it took me awhile to find a reader I really liked.  I finally settled on Feedly.

This is a screen shot from Google Maps virtual tour of Mark Twain's house.  A little creepy, but cool.

Solar Race Car Game from

 Nifty Infographics

I love infographics and the many tools on the web to make them.  There was a little learning curve for me to get the hang of some of the infographic tools in designing one and what exactly the point of an infographic is, but once I got the hang of it I wanted to make up an infographic for everything.  Could I make an infographic to tell about what I learned in this course?  Could I make an infographic to tell about why I love summer (and all of my favorite things I usually love to do in the summer but haven’t had time for due to this course)?  Could I make an infographic to explain rock classification, or how to identify a mineral? Or to share best practices for a classroom field trip?  Would I design a bus for the infographic on classroom field trips?  Would I put information in each of the bus windows?  Hmmm?  I wonder?  I’m going to have to make an infographic now and then so I don’t have to relearn how to work with the infographic site tools.

The Interactive White Board

This tool was the most intimidating of anything we were to work with in this course.  I knew nothing about how to use a white board before starting this class.  The white board looks so complicated, and I really was concerned that I would break it.  But it probably was the easiest tool to use.  It’s very similar to PowerPoint to prepare a lesson and interacting with a whiteboard is as fun as it probably looks to
students. I’m still a little unsure how to look and touch the board while at the same time talking to a class of students.  It’s a little awkward having your back to the class when you’re at the white board.  I tried to avoid doing that while teaching my lesson but sometimes it's unavoidable.  It would be great to have a computer on a podium facing the class that you could interact with instead of actually touching the board to avoid this situation.  But overall the interactive white boards can be a nice tool for teaching to add to my technology tool box.   I know now that I’ll at least have the confidence to be able to try to use an interactive white board in the classroom. 


Video Editing

Using iMovie and Extras4iMovie was a lot of fun!  Although relatively easy to use, there are little nuances about the app that did drive me crazy at times, but the final project was amazing.  I have to say again that the Extras4iMovie app added a lot to what I could do with iMovie.  I am sure I will use iMovie again and again.  I have it on my phone and I’ve already been fiddling with some more videos I’ve taken on my phone since completing my project for my class.   The
results with iMovie look so professional it gets you hooked into using the app to make more movies.  I’m also going to try to be more proficient at using MovieMaker that I have loaded on my PC.  I’ve used it before to take movies with my computer, but I’ve never tried to edit movies with MovieMaker.  I’ll have to see whether it’s as easy to use as iMovie and whether the results are just as good.  Putting my first video on YouTube was exciting for me, and I won’t stop there, I just added another video last night. 

My technology journey has zoomed me into the 21st century!  I don’t know why I had been so slow in using some of these tools.  I guess I thought they would take a long time to learn.  Well there wasn’t any time in this full speed-ahead course on technology in the classroom to go slow.  I think I’ve arrived as a “techno” user.  I’m a little out of breath, my hair is all wind-blown, and I’m a little startled looking, but my experience with these tools has made me a 21st century web 2.o user.  I'm here to stay!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Putting It All Together

I've seen Smart boards, or interactive white boards in the classroom for years, but up until this year I had never used one before, not to mention even touched one.  This year in my M.A.T. program I finally got to touch a Smart Board, and more...  My first experience was touching my name imprinted on a pink balloon on the white board.  It was as an attendance tracking activity - when you touched the balloon, it popped on screen.  I was amazed.  Not so much for the on screen balloon "popping", but amazed at how in the world the teacher did it.  How did she get the balloons with our names on them on the white board to go "pop"?  I couldn't imagine the complicated algorithms she had to learn to achieve this feat.

Well after a week or so immersed in the software and use of interactive white boards, I'm realizing that they are really not that difficult to work with and at they same time very difficult to work with.  They are so much easier to use than I had previously thought.  And they are so much harder to use in a much different way than I imagined.  

My assignment to "plan, implement, video record, & edit a lesson in which an interactive whiteboard is used" has allowed me to go from touching the board to manipulating, writing and editing a SMART Notebook lesson.  First I became familiar with the software for the board, designed a lesson, and then had the opportunity to teach the lesson using the IWB to my peers.  I'd love to say this went smoothly, but of course technology never plays by your rules, and the experience was trying and exhausting.  

Not only was the interactive white board a challenge to manipulate, but video recording the lesson and my peer's lessons was a giant hurdle to climb with lots of starts and stops.  I recorded my lesson on an iPad using the iMovie app.  Some of my peers used a video camera, others recorded using Movie Maker on their PC.  Even with the best intentions we had to re-shoot some of our presentations.  Having never used iMovie and having had limited experience with an iPad, I failed to record a peer's lesson.  This set our group back considerably.  I decided I was going to try to learn how to use iMovie and not let this happen again.

I found iMovie hard to work with at first.  Unfortunately I'm usually not intimated enough by technology and have "button mashed" myself, often unbeknownst to me, into deleting major projects!  So I approached the iMovie on the iPad with sweaty palms! (I had no time to retape my lesson.) "Oh, please," I thought, "don't delete your video!'  So my usual method of learning technology, by trial and error was considerably halted.  Every button I pressed, every "pinch" on screen I tried, I worried I would delete my project.  Fortunately I found a class peer who was kind enough, using her Mac Book to copy the video from my iPad to a "stick".  Did I mention that I don't have a Mac Book?  This was another problem.  I'm only familiar with the Apple interface from my iPhone.  So I decided to purchase the iMovie app on my phone and fiddle around with it on a "junk" video using my phone.  This gave me lots of confidence and although not everything I was learning transferred from the iPhone app to the iPad app, I was able to begin using the iMovie app on the iPad with a little more confidence.

And what fun!  Once I got the hang of it, I loved it, adding music, splicing and editing the video, creating fades.  My video was coming together.  And then I read the project directions.  I needed to have a title page, credit page and reference screen.  My iPad app for iMovie didn't have the features to add pages and text screens, (like the app for the computer).  So I decided to make a title page on my PC by taking a picture of it using the iPad camera.  My idea I thought would be to transfer the picture I took of my PC screen of my "title page" and use it in iMovie.  I knew how to do that.  Well it looked pretty bad, like a picture of a PC from a few feet away, all fuzzy and kind of blurry and crooked.  SO as we all know today, if you don't know how to do something you YouTube it.  Turns out there is an app called Extras4iMovie that allows you to pick out videos from their library and anywhere on the internet to use pictures or screens that you can add text, scroll text on, or use as title pages, transitions or concluding screens, etc..  It's really a great little app to use with the iPad iMovie app for $1.99.  That was the only way I found to add a title screen and transition screens (pictures) to iMovie.  It worked really very well and made my whole video look more professional.

Here is a YouTube video explaining Extras4iMovie:

Of course that wasn't the end of my adventure with technology and all kinds of learning.  I had to try to find a way to transfer my project once it was completed from the iPad to my non-Apple PC to my instructor.  The DropBox app I just got yesterday proved handy.  I'm not sure how I would have done without it.  First I had to transfer my video from iMovie to my camera roll.  Then I had to transfer my video from the camera roll to Drop Box.  Then I had to transfer my video from Drop Box to my pictures folder on my PC.  Then I had to download my video from my PC to Google Drive, from which I emailed my video to my instructor.  This took a considerably lot of time each time I transferred my video which was just shy of 15 minutes.  But I did it!  (At least I hope so.)

I definitely don't feel like an expert on any of the technology I used this week, but I went from never even hearing of such apps as Drop Box and Extras4iMovie to actually being able to use these technology tools to make a decent first video.  I'm hoping someday to have some time to use all of these tools just for fun.  I think it's going to be important to continue working with these tools to retain my just learned knowledge of how to effectively use these apps. If only I had the time.......

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Interactive White Boards

This week I explored working with an interactive white board (IWB). I downloaded the software for Smart Notebook

and began my venture into the world of IWBs. After playing around with the software to 2am for many nights, I'm beginning to feel a little more comfortable with this amazing software.

What are IWB's? The web explains them as "a large interactive display that connects to a computer and projector". (from Wikipedia) I've been working specifically with Smart Board (from Smart Technologies out of Calgary, Alberta) that although not originally designed to be used in academic settings, is now sold to elementary schools throughout the country. In Datacloud: Toward a New Theory of Online Work, Johndan Johnson-Eilola claims the functions of this technology as "1) allows users to work with large amounts of information 2) offers an information space that invites active collaboration and 3) the work produced is often 'dynamic and contingent'".

This sounds great, and some of what I've seen Smart Boards do has been really "dynamic" as students are engaged and actively involved in learning. The Smart Boards provide bright, colorful and big images for visual learners as well as opportunities to touch the board (which often produces some kind of action, such as balloons "popping") or the opportunity to draw on the board for kinesthetic learners. Multi-media visuals such as Youtube videos can be embeded into presentations. Graphs, charts and math manipulatives are easily and more effectively used to teach abstract concepts with concrete models. Games and classroom management tools such as Class Dojo I've seen keep students engaged and motivated.

But for all of the wonderful things I've seen IWBs do, I've never seem them work without a hitch. One of the biggest problems seems to be the need to "recalibrate" this tool repeatedly. For some reason the Smart Boards are extremely sensitive! I don't think I've ever seen them used for more than an hour before the need arises for the instructor to stop teaching and "mess" with the technology of the Smart Board. They are often cumbersome to use, especially writing on them. They will make anyone's handwriting look like a preschoolers, even with a lot of practice using them. They really seem to have a mind of their own and will often "lock you out" of connecting to the internet (to show a YouTube video for example, or a link to a website) at random times. In the elementary classroom, students seem use to the finicky nature of Smart Boards, ("there it goes again", "silly 'ole Smart Board") and seem to enjoy providing solutions to fix the problem themselves, (which provides for additional challenges to the teacher).
So I entered into the world of IWBs very cautiously and concerned.  My first assignment, to teach a elementary school lesson using an  IWB  to my peers, had me searching through resources on Smart Notebook.  Smart Notebook is full of lessons prepared by other teachers, IWB tools (such as interactive graphics) and pre-made lessons from Smart Notebook.  I wasn't thrilled with the lessons that I found on Smart Notebook, so I decided to adapt a lesson from LearnNC (a lesson plan resource for teachers).  That meant I had to start from scratch and really figure out the software so I could design my own lesson/presentation.  It was all trial and error and often very frustrating, (especially trying to attach a sound from a MP3 file onto an object from Smart Notebook).  But nothing beats trial and error, sometimes, for learning something new.  After putting together my Smart Notebook lesson I feel more confident about using this software and hopefully the long hours I spent beginning to learn this software will save me time as a new teacher.  

Screen shots from my IWB lesson done on Smart Notebook.

Tap the image of the alarm clock and it "rings" on the Smart Board.

Pictures can be added from Smart Notebook library or from the web.

Analog and Digital Clock are synched together on screen

Overall I enjoyed learning this new tool.  It's really not any harder to use than PowerPoint to put together a lesson, and actually might be even easier.  Putting in the fun graphics and animations can be very addictive and I can see how you really have to stop and think if the interactive you are adding is really going to add to students' learning or distract.
I'm excited to present my lesson on the IWB to my peers.  I'm sure there's going to be some glitches, I know to expect them when working with Smart Board. I just hope I know how to handle them or Smart Board has ironed them out before I'm in the classroom.  Or better yet I hope there are even better tools for involving students in interactive learning.  I'm wondering what the new Surface computers from Microsoft may be able to add to interactive learning in the elementary classroom. (?)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Infographics - Instant Graphic Designing

 templates from

For this weeks assignment, for my Power Tools for Educators class, I was to design my first inforgraphic.  I had never heard of an infographic before, but I always fancied myself as an armchair graphic designer.  So when I surfed through some different infographic sites on the web, I was fascinated.  Who knew that the tools were so simple to make one's own professional graphic?  Some of the sites were easier to use than others, and some sites definitely had better templates to choose from, but overall infographic sites make creating professional infographics easy.  Infographics bring graphic design to the masses.  All you need is a computer and something to say. 

That being said, as easy as infographics are to make, with such sites as and, they still take time.  And time is in short supply for me these days, as my M.A.T. courses this summer are moving swiftly along and are jammed packed with lots of things to learn.  I didn't have enough time to spend on creating my infographic as I would have liked.  Some of the features of the programs I used were a little difficult for me, such as the text boxes.  I wanted to put lots of information in them, which I discovered defeats the whole purpose of an infographic - "a quick visual to represent an idea".  But once I learned to chose just the big ideas, I started to get the hang of using the infographic programs.  And then I was hooked.  I wanted to make more and more....

 My first attempt at an infographic.

Now where would I use infographics as a teacher?  The following are some ways that come to mind to use in the classroom: to create a visual for summarizing a procedure, outlining a method, listing a like set of information, comparing or contrasting ideas, visualizing data, charting or graphing science observations, recap of learning, illustrating timelines, or stating classroom rules. 

I can think of lots of great ways to use infographics, but because I'm still such a newbie at this tool, I'm not sure how often I'd be able to take the time to design a infographic for some of the ways I mentioned in the classroom.  With all of these new technology tools that we have be learning and testing in this course, from voicethreads to infographics, I realize my proficiency in these tools may inhibit my ability to use them as often and as effectively in the classroom as I would like.  My head is swimming with all of the ways that technology can be used in the classroom.  It's all very exciting and frankly, often lots of fun, but the basics of making sure you are planning, teaching, and assessing each child has to come first, and as a new teacher the basics will probably be overwhelming.  Will I be able to weave in the latest technology tools as a new teacher?

 I found this infographic example from thought provoking.  I'm very interested in how children do in school in relation to how old they are when they begin school (in years and months).

Another example from of an infographic on MOOC, a topic we discussed from Curtis Bonk's book, The World is Open,  in our M.A.T. class, Power Tools for Educators.
An example from that teachers may use on writing in the classroom.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

VoiceThread in the Classroom

My first experience in using Voicethread was to provide a book review of a young adult book selection for my M.A.T. course, Teaching Literacy in the Upper Elementary Grades.  (I reviewed The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.)  I had never used this kind of technology before, so I was a little unsure at first of exactly what I was doing or why.  But once I was signed in and had recorded my Voicethread I was hooked!  I loved it.  There's something kind of exhilarating about listening to your voice knowing that other people will be able to hear you too!  Okay, I admit it, I listened to my Voicethread about 5 times in a row after I made my first recording.  My little "inner ham" had come out, I felt like a star, so important.  I had made a Voicethread!

 But I also enjoyed listening to my classmate's Voicethreads as well.  It is such an intimate way to get to know what your classmates are thinking.  Everyone's voice came across so clear, like they were sitting right next to you.  (You could even hear a cat meow in one Voicethread.)  I also thought the assignment of providing a book review worked well as a Voicethread.  I immediately thought of ways I could use Voicethread...... 

My first thought was what a good idea VoiceThread would be to share pictures with my family (they live in other states) that I would provide narration, explaining what was happening in my life.  I thought it would be more fun than sending a Snapfish album or even making an Animoto clip.  I think this idea of making a "narrated photo album" would also work in the classroom.  Students could narrate pictures of a day in their class, pictures from their field trip to the zoo or art museum, directions on how to use a piece of classroom equipment or a narration of classroom procedures with pictures. 

I think using VoiceThread for a book review is perfect!  While you display an image of the cover of the book, a quote from the book or an illustration,  you can narrate a review of the book.  Having a library of Voicethread book reviews would be an interesting way to connect students to books.  Students that might not feel comfortable giving a book review in front of the class, might prefer making a VoiceThread book review.

I found some great ideas for uisng Voicethread in the classroom in a Slideshare presentation from Tom Barrett, (his blog is at  Here's the link:

Some of my favorite ideas
I'm not familiar with De Bono's 6 hat thinking technique, but I love using this idea for students to take different points of view and record their thoughts on Voicethread from different perspectives.

What a great idea to incorporate art in the classroom.  It would be great to actually have the artwork to display in the classroom in conjunction with a Voicethread where students could comment on the art.

This idea for setting up Voicethread in the classroom as described in this slide may get around the issue of having children under 13 use Voicethread without having to have them set up their own account.

This idea sound like a engaging way to read a play, or write a play.

Great way to bring poetry to life!

This may be a better way for students to provide their observations and explanation of their understanding of a science experiment, especially good for students that struggle with writing.

 I think Voicethread works perfectly for describing a process.  Students could even use the doodlepen in their explanation.

These last two slides show just two of the many ways to use Voicethread for math assignments.  Story problems can easily be used with Voicethread.

I'm hoping to be able to use some of these ideas to incorporate Voicethread in the classroom.  I'm still unsure about the privacy issues for working with students under 13 with Voicethread and how teachers get around this.  It's such a great tool, I do hope I will be able to use it! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013


NOTE TO TEACHERS: When today’s kids sit in yesterday’s classrooms we are the ones WHO ARE FAILING.
From Bill Ferriter’s Power point “Teaching the iGeneration”
Notes on NETS
ISTE developed the NETS National Educational Technology Standards.  The NETS are the "standards for learning, teaching, and leading in the digital age and widely recognized and adopted worldwide."

International Society for Technology in Education

NETS for Students

1. Creativity and Innovation

2. Communication and Collaboration

3. Research and Information Fluency

4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making

5. Digital citizenship

6. Technology Operations and Concepts


NETS for Teachers

1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

2. Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

3. Model Digital Age Work and Learning

4. Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

5. Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership



NETS - currently NETS is petitioning the Obama administration to invest in classroom broadband connectivity to ensure that all students are ready for college and 21st century careers.  Only 13 percent of U.S. schools have the broadband access they need to give them the same internet access as most Americans have at home, work or even in a coffee shop.  Network speed can vary in schools from building to building and classroom to classroom. NETS is encouraging everyone to sign the petition on their web site,  for classroom broadband access.  They are also asking educators to test their internet speed to demonstrate the need to invest in upgrading school networks.


Notes on TPACK

What it is.  Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) “a framework that identifies the knowledge teachers need to teach effectively with technology".  The TPACK framework extends Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge.


Three primary forms of knowledge:

               Content (CK)

               Pedagogy (PK)

               Technology (TK)

Integrated – new knowledge formed at intersection

               Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)

               Technological Content Knowledge (TCK)

               Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK)


Intersection of all knowledge types

               Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)


Side Note: From the author Punya Mishra’s website I was introduced to ambigrams (words that can be read upright and upside-down, like a mirror image) and a ambigram website -  The Ambigram Generator




From Bill Ferriter’s Power point “Teaching the iGeneration”