The main purpose of this blog is to fill my Educ 504 Teaching with Technology requirement. However, I have been interested in the idea of blogging ever since my Dad told me I should start one about two years ago. This class has finally "jump-started" my blogging career. (Sorry Dad!)

Friday, October 5, 2012

My 1st Webinar

They're = "They are"
Their = plural possessive
There = a place

As in, "They're going there to get their grammar book!"  As a future English Teacher, I consider grammar to be a very important component of English/ELA.  This is one of the main reasons I made the decision to watch Jeff Scheur's webinar entitled "Got Good Grammar? - Using to help students improve their grammar/writing skills while saving red ink!"

 -->Since this was my first webinar experience I was pretty excited to see what all the commotion was about.  At first, I didn't realize how many cool "tools" webinars use to teach their lessons.  I also thought it was pretty cool how Jeff spent some time to get to know about the people participating in the webinar (how long they've been teaching, where they are from, what position they hold ex. administrator).  And the attendees communicated to Jeff's prompts in so many ways!  Through typing text in the chat box, clicking on certain icons indicating different answer selections (with a corresponding bell chime), and by actually writing on Jeff's presentation slides using the text option.  Very cool.  The entire webinar experience is so interactive!  There are so many components that Jeff must be constantly aware of and responsive too (especially if he expects attendees to continue participating in that fashion).  Overall, I think Jeff is a fantastic webinar leader since he successfully engaged with the webinar attendees, addressing their questions while providing a comfortable experience and environment for them to feel safe enough to share personal information.

Overall, I had mixed feelings in terms of the actual content of Jeff's webinar.  On the one hand, I can  definitely see the merit in Jeff's ideas about grammar correction in the classroom.  It makes sense that students who receive poor "red marks" over and over again will eventually become discouraged and will ultimately give up any future attempts at using grammar correctly.  (And who can blame them! There are SO many rules...)  Jeff provided an incentive based method of grading student papers as a way to reignite the pursuit of correct grammar usage within our students.  Instead of explaining the same grammar issue to one or more students, over and over again, teachers can utilize writing manuals - teacher-created packet numbering a list of common grammar mistakes and explicit reasons for its "incorrectness", including ways to correct the grammar mistake (where the writing manual would be thoroughly explained to students during their first writing assignment).  This would allow teachers to be more efficient and attentive graders, but Jeff even admitted in the webinar that this still may not be a great time-saver.  Jeff explained how there is currently more emphasis on teachers doing the majority of the work in revising papers, and that we need to give students a reason to read our feedback, yet both options are still very time consuming efforts on the part of the teachers.  The incentive based method I indicated to earlier in this paragraph is to provide students opportunities to do revisions on their papers for credit.  This allows students to increase their grade while simultaneously establishing an expectation that improvement can be attained.  Students create document that includes the number corresponding to their grammar mistake, the grammar rule itself in the student's own words, and the grammar correction from their paper.

In theory, Jeff's suggestion makes sense.  Teachers should employ the use of a system, and a possible time-saver in terms of the constant battle for work/life balance, where students have an entire list of grammar rules at their disposal.  But, really?  From my personal experience as a student I hated when teachers used writing manuals - I wanted their comments and thrived for their personal feedback on my papers, even the "bad" comments.  In addition, what kind of teacher believes they have the authority to create the end-all list of grammar rules?  A pompous one.  At least, that is how it came off to me when I was a young student.  Metacognitively though, I was a decent writer throughout my younger years as a student and this may not have been the teaching strategy tailored for me, but for those who needed a lower level of ZPD with highly scaffolded and explicit instruction of grammar rules.  I look forward to my future years in the field of teaching English/ELA and possibly researching which method is/is not "worth" it - to me and my students.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My Last Posting (for now!)

Graduating in the onset of Michigan's economic disaster, I knew finding a job would be tough.  Throughout my adolescent years I was under the impression that everyone was guaranteed a secure nine-to-five job, with health benefits.  I even remember an in-class discussion in my first amendment rights course on whether or not a person had a right to a job in America.  After an entire hour and a half, we had anonymously concluded that no, jobs were not guaranteed (by legal mandates, anyway).

It wasn't until my junior and senior year of college that that panic attacks began and the anxiety associated with graduation about life after I received my diploma.  Add on top of that the rise of unemployment rates the summer I began applying for jobs.  I didn't even receive invitations for interviews and opportunities seemed sparse.  I ended up taking a job in retail, where I was promised prompt success and promotion to corporate within a short period of time.  Three years later, I truly re-evaluated my life and where I saw myself in five years.  I didn't see much of a change in my current "career" path, so I reverted back to my high school dream of becoming a teacher like Ms. Why, my English AC teacher, who opened my eyes to the world of literature.  (That, and my mother's intense interest for reading, and books in general, later led to one of my undergraduate majors: English Literature.)

I bring up this story because as one of our guest speakers described her journey from finding that nine-to-five job to going back to U of M to become a teacher, I saw a reflection of myself.  Even though she had found a job right after college, in a career field associated with her major, she still wasn't happy.  I wonder if this would have happened to me if conditions had been different when I graduated... I'm not a fan of the "what if"s but nevertheless I was somewhat jarred as I sat in class, listening to this woman's story.  Another aspect of her journey I found reassuring was when she told us all about how she ended up where she is in life today.  I believe she graduated the SMAC program around the same time I graduated from undergraduate school, but the terms were the same for her as they were for me.  She recalled being one of the top two candidates for fifteen different interviews, and she wasn't chosen.  Even as she was telling us this, she had  smile on her face.  She told us it was okay because she would never have found the program she is currently working for, and she loves where she is in life today!

I have always been a firm believer that "everything happens for a reason", whether it is through your doing or not.  Not to put a religious spin on this post but I don't really buy into the idea that everyone has a plan laid out for them to follow; manifest destiny, if you will.  On the other side of the same coin; however, I am not as critically pessimistic to not believe that we are here for a reason and that there are occurrences that are necessary for future opportunities to arise.  Basically, I believe that I am supposed to teach, and that most of the experiences I have had, so far, lead me to getting certified and to be a teacher!

And back to last Friday...

There was an uncomfortable moment shared among our guest speakers when Jeff asked how they use technology in their classrooms.  They became somewhat hesitant and bashful, and some even looked ashamed that they didn't use technology as much as they (or Jeff) would have liked.  It was like our class was watching five protegees letting their master down!  I felt for them.  Especially after our in-class argument (I would say discussion, but no) over accepting increased amounts of technology in schools.  There is a reform occurring in school systems across the nation - but it's taking time and varies among different schools and their classrooms.  It's not going to occur overnight and suddenly every single chalkboard is going to be replaced by a smartboard.  No.  It is a slow process - another theme I have found in the world of education (the first being time).  BUT, as educators, I believe it is very important, as well as essential, to be knowledgeable in the forms of technology that may, or may not, randomly show up in our classrooms one day.  We will be expected to perform because it will be our responsibility, our job, as educators to teach others through the use of technology.


Thursday, August 2, 2012


Looking through the lists of possible edubloggers and their websites, I had a hard time deciding which one seemed interesting.  (Isn't it sad - an aspiring English teacher still judging books by their covers!)  Then I came across the blog on the very bottom of the first page of Jeff's edublogger recommendations:  Brian Crosby's "Learning is Messy".  Yup!

 In those instantaneous seconds from clicking on the link to arriving at the home page of Crosby's blog, I had already thought up varying ideas on what the blog would look like ("messy"), what the layout would be (pictures/images of colored pencils and crayons), and the content (arts & crafts and DIY projects, duh.  Hello Pinterest!)  At first I thought his website was going to be more of this:

(Probably the coolest thing I've ever seen on Pinterest!)

NOPE!  (But, I was right about the design and layout with images of "messy" school supplies though!)

And what I found was even better!  After scrolling down on his blog I noticed one post that grabbed my attention, mostly because of the images with computers and kids!  Crosby had collaborated (via technology) with teachers from other classrooms in other states using Skype!  He also had his students write blogs almost every day as well as create a wiki page after a trip to the local animal park!  The wiki includes student researched information about animals in a lesson and a video on how to "design" your own animal!  Another cool way the students used technology in the classroom was when they had a guest speaker: Grace Corrigan (the mother of Christa McAuliffe aka the "Teacher in Space" who tragically died when the Challenger space shuttle exploded during launch).  Crosby set up Skype to include classrooms in Virginia and New York so the students there could take part and ask questions!  Very neat!

Even though it may not be a feat as "tremendous" as the ones listed above, Crosby used Skype in a way that I know I will implement in my classroom one day.  Crosby set up Skype to include a sick classmate. *tear!*  It may not seem very "technological" or advanced, but that's not the point here, the point is that sometimes kids can't come to school, be it sickness, or suspension, or some other reason.  And it's not their fault they miss out on education from the classroom.  There's already enough pressure from administrators, parents, and state standards, on teachers today.  So why not?  Why wouldn't you want to include an "absent" student through the use of Skype?

Link to Brian Crosby's "Learning is Messy" Blog

Monday, July 30, 2012

North Quad Tech Squad!

I really enjoyed class this past Friday!  (That is, until I deleted my awesome, amazing, perfectly edited version of me giving a lesson to my focus student from Scarlett... but that's another story for another day!)  I appreciated how the usual classroom management plan was changed to incorporate group teaching this time, especially since we got the opportunity to share our prior knowledge with each other.  I feel that it was very beneficial to have several inputs from each member of the group about their personal experiences with the technology applications we were individually assigned: Skype, Dropbox, Evernote, and Diigo. I believe that everyone/anyone has something they can positively share with other students/teachers on any topic, that can be discussed by the group at large.  This is mainly based on my belief that class/group discussions in a classroom should be utilized more than lecture-based teaching strategies.

Another interesting finding I had was that creating a handout for an online app is hard.  You have to take so many varying factors into consideration regarding your audience/readers, such as prior knowledge, background experiences, possible attitudes towards technology in general, and yes, I even thought about age.  And then there's the process of "getting to know" the application you were assigned!  I was assigned Dropbox.  I had heard of MBox but had yet to explore my umich perks, and there was the Dropbox on the CTools website, but besides that I hadn't a clue what Dropbox was.  After my many attempts of acquiring simply the basics of Dropbox, and bypass the process of actually downloading the application, I came to the realization that maybe it was better to take part in the learning process from "start to finish".  By downloading and actually using Dropbox would allow me to be able to truly know how to navigate through and utilize the various applications of Dropbox.  This would in turn make me more knowledgeable about Dropbox, and the more I knew about the application, the more I could teach or answer (most) questions.  And isn't that what teaching is supposed to be anyway?  A teacher is supposed to be knowledgeable in his/her content area in order to teach aspects of that particular content to other people.  Right?

The entire process, from conceding to the demands of the task, to making the decision to actively take part in my own learning to further the learning of others, took about two hours.  I kid you not.  Then it took another hour just to get comfortable with Dropbox and all of its varying dimensions and applications.  After that all I had to do was write up a step-by-step instructional handout on how to download and use Dropbox.  Easy! (NOT.)  It was very NOT easy.  I had to retrace my steps and rethink my transition from one question to the next, to ensure possible issues and enhance reader comprehension.  Then there was the audience demographics I was catering to, and the overall applications this particular piece of innovative technology had on the implications in the classroom.  In other words, it took me a long time to create my handout!

I guess the take away from this blog posting is that I didn't realize how much thought and care is necessary to take into consideration when creating an instructional handout/guide (and on technology no less)!  It also opened my eyes to how much time (an emerging theme in my blog) a teaching task can take, and how much we as teachers, don't have.  But, I must point out that due to the large amount of time and active effort I put into this assignment, the more information, and overall content about Dropbox, I was able to share with the other members in my small teaching group.

My Dropbox Instructional Guide Handout
(compliments of Dropbox's amazing application - applying URLs to documents in your "folder")

Monday, July 23, 2012

You Can Trust Me - I'm a Professional

Well, at least I will be a certified professional as of August 2013!  As for right now, I'm still in teacher prep school and "learning the ropes" of this collaborative new world of technology and teaching.  Unbeknownst to these "Rope Masters" I am a quick study!

In our last class meeting we created our own electronic professional profile!  Well, not quite since most of us haven't really completed anything "professional" as of yet, so we have really only began our e-portfolio's.  By learning how to navigate through, we laid down a concrete foundation and framework.  The work we complete throughout the year will continue to fill the open spaces, evolving and shifting the overall product that is our professional portfolio.  (At first I was going to say "resumé" but "portfolio" just sounds so much more... well, professional!)

I was surprised by Weebly!  The format was extremely user-friendly in design choices and overall layout, allowing more time to be spent on the actual content!  Or more time allocated to creating pages of multimedia additions such as a link to this blog and a sweet slideshow of my pictures!  Very cool.  The benefits of such an amazing online resource are pretty obvious, but in my opinion, I love the fact that I will be getting my name out in the professional world of teachers, as well as keeping my documents, and other such "records of practice," easily accessible to potential employers in the (hopefully near) future.

  Hire me!

And back to being serious...

I've noticed an emerging theme from courses, professors, and our mentors at Scarlett: time is precious, yet limited in the teaching profession.  Even our guest speaker last Friday mentioned how he had to weigh the pros and cons of his Angry Birds math project.  He mentioned that there was always a tradeoff in teaching.  For him, allocating more time towards playing the Angry Birds game in class, (since every student may not have had the resources), was more valuable than spending that time drawing graphs of polar equations.  Students who did not normally participate in class were more involved in the Angry Birds math project.

Another problem the guest speaker mentioned was finding the time to stay on top of his content knowledge.  As teachers we should always be improving our craft and become fluent in new technology, teaching strategies, and/or recent studies with illuminating results.  And then there's school responsibilities such as lunch meetings, parent conferences, study hours, etc.  One way our guest speaker was able to fulfill his responsibilities as a professional teacher was by using Twitter's recent innovation: Tweetdeck.  Tweetdeck is awesome.  It lets you organize your twitter feeds based on your preferences.  A useful tool for teachers looking for an efficient way to stay up-to-date on current subject content/knowledge, without sacrificing their time!  As a teacher time is limited.  Twitter/Tweetdeck can be used to help mitigate this problem of not having enough time and the need to find resources or interesting developments in the education field.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Game is Mario Kart (N64 version) What's Yours?

As you can see from the title of this post, I play video games.  But honestly,

These days, every little kid I see on the street has one of those Nintendo DS handheld gaming systems.  Hooking up the wires to the TV was probably the only downside of playing video games, back in the day...  And that's the surprising thing:  I am considered "old" in the virtual world.  I am somewhat uncomfortable classifying myself as a "gamer" due to my lack of participation in the sudden outburst of virtual worlds and their respective characters and corresponding rules.  When I played on my old school Nintendo 64, I didn't think I was actually the character Mario in a red go-kart throwing green shells with amazing accuracy and targeting skills.  I was just controlling the go-kart and moving the joystick in the direction I wanted to "drive".

Today, gamers immerse themselves in virtual worlds with characters they are able to personalize and make their own.  In Jane McGonigal's TED talk, she focuses on these virtual worlds, and provides several interesting facts about the role that these virtual worlds have on people today. I say "people" because it seems as if the range of "gamers" is consistently expanding.  It's not just kids anymore.

Speaking of kids, there was a section in the assigned reading on "Good Videogames and Good Learning" by James Gee, that resonated like a gong in my memory cavity (p. 4-5).  For Educ 606, Education Behavioral Psychology, we are reading Nutureshock by Bronson & Merryman, and in their eighth chapter entitled, "Can self control be taught?", the authors cite a Russian study from the 1950s: "Children were told to stand still as long as they could - they lasted only two minutes.  Then a second group of children were told to pretend they were soldiers on guard who had to stand still at their posts - they lasted eleven minutes" (p. 166).  This study shows that we, as humans, are more capable of "playing" a role and accomplishing a task, than if we were just being ourselves and attempting that same task.  Bronson & Merryman included this study in their book to emphasize the importance of "high order abstract thinking" through role playing game plans in the Tools of the Mind program (p.167, 160, respectively).  This goes hand in hand with one of the many reasons why people enjoy playing video games (for hours and hours, too!).

A few of the most interesting points in McGonigal's TED talk was the way in which people interact with the virtual worlds, the amount of time people spend playing video games, and the possibilities these virtual games have in our future.  I totally understand that I like playing video games, but McGonigal sums it up the best, concisely stating why: "gamers are super-empowered hopeful individuals".  We have super power abilities that we may not have in the real world.  We are the main player of the game - our view point is of our individual character and what we do is important to "winning" in the game.  And we are hopeful because we know there is an attainable goal since there wouldn't be a point to creating a game if it wasn't beatable.  Because of this known fact, we are hopeful that this time is when we will beat the boss level and move on to the next level, and then the next boss, and on, and on.

This brings me to McGonigal's main point of her TED talk - we need to make real life more like virtual worlds.  Now this is when I began my internal debate on humanity and if this notion is at all possible in the "real world".  I understand McGonigal's point that people can achieve more in video games than in real life.  This is also a reason why gamers spend so much, if not more, time in the virtual worlds than participating in the world around them.  But, that is not real life... (as my parents remind me about once a month now).  We can only "win" in virtual worlds because the rules are the same for everyone, but that's not the case here, in reality.  You can't "beat" at life.  You usually get "beat-down" on by life.

McGonigal provides a possible historic example of how games were used in the past to combat the ills of real world problems from the past: Herodotus of Lydia, where the people survived 18 years of famine by eating one day and playing games the next.  McGonigal confidently states: "We can do that."  But can we?  I may be seen as the "Negative Nancy" in the audience; however, I know that people will take care of themselves before others.  In Educ 606, we were given a lecture that addressed Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and I'm pretty sure that the most basic of needs (Physiological - food, sleep, sex) are considered more important than our need of belonging (love, affection, being a part of groups).  I mean, I've seen post-apocalyptic movie, "The Road" with Viggo Mortensen.  Have you?


So who wants to play some MARIO KART??  Seriously, I have it. 

 (It'sssa me!  A Mario!)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Second Class, Second Task

When you were growing up, did your parents ever give you advice based on their past experiences? Of course you have! (Honestly, who hasn’t offered up some kind of advice where they get to talk about themselves?) And when your parents thought you were listening intently and taking their well-earned words to heart… you weren’t, were you? Of course not! They are older, and they don’t know about everything that’s going on in your life, at that very moment. So why should you care?

Well, surprise, surprise – they were right, weren’t they? (Even now I bet you can hear, “I told you so,” in your mother’s voice.) Hopefully by now you understand the reason I have included my general anecdote on advice…

For one reason or another, the role of the librarian has been highly overlooked in the past, even though they are highly knowledgeable in various areas of expertise. Specifically, resources. Julie was our librarian, and she was amazing. She gave us multiple “student friendly” websites and applications we were able to incorporate into our lesson plan. Without her input I highly doubt we would have been able to find these “funds of knowledge” (from the Moll & Gonzalez reading for Educ 402), or it would have taken a very long time to find them. Based on her past experiences, such as co-teaching with subject-specific educators and teaching for many years on her own, she successfully facilitated our cohesive lesson plan. We even made a wiki for anyone to view our amazingness.

Wiki Page

Maybe it’s because we are older, or maybe we are just that awesome, but we really enjoyed any and all input from our assigned librarian. Her advice on the process of creating effective lesson plans and the technological resources available, was much better than reading it in a book. Unlike our course readings/texts, we were actually able to “talk to the text” directly with the “author” of a singular personal example, affording us a better comprehension through the creation of a collaborative lesson.

I felt like I was in the Scarlett students’ shoes, being offered an “educational opportunity,” (from the Alexander article in Educ 695), where I wouldn’t have been able to find such an opportunity to interact with such a wealth of knowledge on my own.

(P.S. it was cool to make a podcast.)