Monday, December 2, 2013

Tech Training

This Wednesday (actually, the first Wednesday of every month!) we have a two-our early out for technology training. I'm really looking forward to this month's session, as our tech team has a fun activity planned.  We drummed up 20 teachers from our staff of about 45 to do a super-brief demo of a web tool they're using in the classroom.  We're calling it "20 Tools in 60 Minutes." (I'm a big fan of Mark Garrison's "50 Sites in 60 Minutes" presentations at TIES, but we're not as crazy as he is -- but he provides good inspiration!)  We will do a rapid-fire sharing session where we will each have 2.5 minutes to present our tool -- if we go over time, we will be gonged (yes, gonged!).  After the presentation, we will break off into strands related to our tools and have EdCamp style PD for the remaining hour.  I put together a site for the staff of all of the tools we're using:

Saturday, November 30, 2013


For my final project, I moved my Senior Focus CCR class to Schoology.  As I've mentioned in prior posts, my co-teachers and I believe that moving toward a blended learning environment in this class would better prepare our seniors for the kind of teaching and learning they will encounter in college.

I learned about Schoology through my TIES Technology Integrationists Cohort.  For the cohort, we use Schoology as our CMS, so I am a registered student in that course.  For my IM 554 project, I changed roles and created a course as a teacher. I just used the free version, as we are just piloting this CMS to see if it meets our needs.

So far, I like it.  But then again, I haven't actually used it with students yet.  But from the admin side, it seems functional.  I also signed up as a student in my own class so I can see what the interface looks like from the student end.

I used the "Pages" function to create the daily lessons.  It works just like a web-page editor, allowing me to embed media, link to online sources, and attach files as needed.

 In each lesson, I can embed the presentations we give in class, as well as any commentary or resources we want to share.

 The calendar feature allows students to see the plan for the day as well as any upcoming due dates.

 The "Update" function works like a blog, where I can create any announcements.  It also allows for students to reply.

 Schoology also has a built in online discussion feature; I am really looking forward to using this after my Interview Project regarding online discussion.

Schoology also offers a built in gradebook.  Students can submit assignments to Schoology which I can then grade right in Schoology.

I'm looking forward to using this with my students!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

YouTube/Video in Education

Last week in class we discussed the benefits and risks of using YouTube in the education or work setting.  While there are both, I'd like to focus more on the benefits in this blog entry, and give you a little glimpse into how I use YouTube at school.

One of the things that I think YouTube is great for in the educational setting is creating tutorial videos.  When you pair YouTube with a screencasting software such as Screencast-O-Matic, wonderful things can happen.  Here is an example of a video I created for my staff that I made available for them to view in YouTube:

I also subscribe to several YouTube channels.  Some of my favorite educational channels include CrashCourse, TED-Ed, and Google Gooru.  Here is one from CrashCourse:

Sometimes we use videos for inspiration, and Kid President is one of my favorites:

Another great video tool for use in school is  What I love about it is that you can search for movie clips by theme.  So if you're looking for a video clip about, say, leadership, you can find any number of well-known funny, inspirational, or sad movie clips to help introduce or drive a point home.  In fact, here is one on "teamwork" that get me every time:

Apollo 13 —

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blended Learning at the High School Level

Image credit:
Right now I co-teach a class called Senior Focus.  It's a required quarter-long class for all seniors which focuses on college/career readiness and financial management.  This is our second year of teaching it, so we're still making adjustments and will likely make more.  In light of many of the things we've discussed in in IM 554, one of the changes I'm suggesting is to use the blended learning model beginning next year.  I think that in order to prepare our students for the nuances of online learning that they will most likely be exposed to in college, we should practice it now.  We will more than likely meet face-to-face M/W/F and have online components for T/Th.

I think it's important that we model the expectations that they will be met with in college.  They need to practice being self-regulated learners and a bit more independent.  It will be a learning experience not only for the students, but also for us as teachers, as we do not currently teach any online classes.  Sadly, I anticipate that there will be some kickback from other faculty members, who may not understand just how work intensive teaching an online class can be.  They will just see that we have "time off."  Pffft.  I wonder how it the union will see things, as we haven't dealt with this before.

I was speaking with a graduate student from UND about online classes, and he told me something I found very interesting.  He said that professors at UND who teach online classes do it above and beyond their regular workload -- that online classes do not count toward their full-time status. I'm interested to hear if this is the case at SCSU also. It's hard to believe this is true in this day and age, with so many students demanding online education.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Livin' the Dream

It seems to me that I spend so much time online and using technology that I take it for granted.  In this blog, I have the opportunity to discuss my online learning experiences, yet it feels difficult to chose something worthy of writing about.  I guess that's a good thing, though.  The fact that I am so immersed in technology that it doesn't feel special anymore.  It means that I am fortunate to work in a district that values how teaching and learning can be enhanced through technology.  It means that I am fortunate enough to work in a district that still values media specialists; while so many districts are letting theirs go in favor of cheaper media paras manning the library, my district still employs three full-time media specialists, each with a full-time media para.  It means that I am fortunate enough to work in a district that not only provides our teachers with the tools we need to prepare our students for their futures, but also the time we need to learn how to use them.  And, most recently, it means I am fortunate enough to work in a district that took a risk and put devices in the hands of each and every K-12 student.

I'm pretty immersed in technology in our district.  I love, love, love it!  It keeps me busy every day with something that I enjoy and with people whom I enjoy.  Here are my roles:

  • I chair the District Staff Development Committee and also serve on the District Technology Committee.  This year our district is hosting a regional technology PD day in January (logo at right); we are expecting about 500 educators.  In addition to helping plan the event, I will also teach 3 different sessions:  Harness the Power of YouTube for Your Classroom, Google Chrome: Make the Internet Work for You, and Go Paperless with Google Drive.
  • I also serve on my school's Technology Team.  We plan our monthly technology early out sessions.  For these first two months, we offered four potential breakout sessions four our staff to choose from, all taught by members of our teaching staff.  I taught Google Forms with my principal.  
  • I also serve as one of two super administrators for our Google Apps domain, adding students and staff members as they enter our school and putting them in appropriate groups. I have done a ton of PD for our school and district staff on Google Apps -- from Sites to Calendar, and Drive to Docs. 
  • I also have administrative rights to our district webpage through RSchool Today, helping our Technology Coordinator keep the webpage up to date, as well as my school's.  
  • I helped develop our student user guides for both the Macbook Airs and the iPads.  
  • On a day-to-day basis, I help teachers integrate media and technology into their classrooms, and help students with any media and technology needs as well.

Friday, October 25, 2013

eBooks and eReaders

Photo credit:
DOES one have to win?  Probably not.  But I'm sure eBooks are putting a chink in the armor of the traditional book publishers.

I, for one, still buy and read both. Admittedly, I have purchased far more eBooks in the past two years since owning my Kindle than I had in probably the prior five years combined with traditional books.  And I work in a library!

As far as textbooks go, I would love to see textbook publishers play nicely with schools so that our students can reap the benefits.  What I would really like to see is interactive textbooks become the norm -- complete with videos, animations, links to additional resources, self assessments, and the like.  What a great way to learn!  I made an ePub with video embedded in Pages and was able to put it on my iPad without much trouble,so it can't be too hard.  Eventually I see interactive texts being almost like a choose your own adventure: If it poses a question and you answer incorrectly, you'll be given additional help via a video or some other remedial form of help.  Sounds divine; it's individualized, more engaging than traditional text, and, as a result, probably more effective.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Image credit:
Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs) have burst onto the scene with much popularity.  While I find the idea intriguing, I haven't participated in any of the myriad offerings.  I think, though, that it's because I'm already enrolled in classes (that I pay for) that are leading to an advanced degree here at SCSU. At this point in my life, I do not have the time or the need to enroll in anything else.  I do see myself using MOOCs to learn in the future, though.  I like to learn new things, and to be able to learn in this way is a great opportunity.  I will looks into it more after I finish my degree.

My concerns about MOOCs is that they're not quite as popular as they seem.  I've often wondered how well the number who register for a class correlates to the number who actually complete it.  People's intentions are always good, but following through (when there is no carrot except for learning for one's own good) on something that takes so much time and effort can't be great.  In an article entitled "MOOCs keep getting bigger.  But do they work?" by John Marcus (2013), he confirms my thoughts.  From his article:

  • about 90percent of people who register for MOOCs fail to complete them
  • two-thirds of those students said they would be more likely to complete a MMOC if they could get credit or a certificate of completion for doing it, something that is still not widely available
The good news is that more and more of the institutions who deliver these courses are investigating how to meet these requests.  If they don't, I would predict the MOOC boom will bust.  But if they succeed, MOOCs will change higher education as we know it.