Sunday, February 28, 2016

Summary of Learning

I have finally arrived at my last assignment and this has been a whirlwind of a course to say the least! This was my first fully-online course and my first 6-week course (other than summer classes in undergrad). It has definitely taught me a lot about time management since I am teaching full-time and also taking another class this semester.

My biggest take-aways from the topics of this class were:

  • The importance of incorporating technology into the classroom.
  • Social media in the classroom, more specifically, the power of blogging in the classroom.
  • The benefits of having students create eBooks to create texts of any genre.

My biggest take-aways from #UAtnpcl were:
  • The ability to connect with others from all over.
  • The ability to connect with classmates and share ideas and resources.
  • The ability to post assignments and share them with not only the professor, but with classmates and other followers.
  • The benefits of using hashtags.

During this course, I already started using transliterate practices in my classroom and hope to do so more and more as I become more comfortable with this skill and learn more resources to use. I have already started having my students blog and connect with each other through their blogs. I plan to have students learn how to research topics using the Internet and create technology presentations on their learning, rather than always creating reports. I am also working on getting the correct cords to be able to connect my iPad to my projector to teach students how to use Book Creator. I only have a personal iPad, so it may take a while for every student to get a turn, but I am looking forward to having students create eBooks. I may start with a class book where every student gets an opportunity to create at least page  independently or with a partner. However, I'd like to get to the place where they also have the opportunity to create their own texts.

This course has truly opened me up to a whole new world of teaching that I know can only improve my teaching abilities and increase student learning. I look forward to continue learning more about TPACK, educational technology, and transliterate practices. I also look forward to continue connecting with other educators through Twitter and Blogger.

Finally, for my Summary of Learning digital artifact, I really wanted the chance to try-out a new tool that I was not already exposed to during this course. When looking at the cool tool options, I came across Visme in the infographic section, which was also a category I had not yet worked with for the Cool Tool Reviews. During this course I loved finding infographics that went along with our weekly topics to include in my blog posts. The reason I chose Visme over the other infographic tools listed was because Visme offered a presentation option that the other tools did not, which really appealed to me for the purpose of this last assignment. You can read about my thoughts on Visme in my Visme creation below!

One thing worth noting that I did not mention in my Visme presentation is that the only negative experience I had while using this tool was that even though I have music selected to play, the music won't play. I played around with the music function for more than a half an hour and also tried to find information from the help page and Google. Every time I would finally get the background music to play, I would publish it and the music would be gone again. Therefore, if you don't hear music, that is why! (Super frustrating!) Any feedback/help would be greatly appreciated!

Below you will find the presentation I created using Visme to display my Summary of Learning. The presentation works best in full-screen mode and you can use the arrows to move through the slides at your own pace!

Here is also the link due to the large file size if your computer is slow to load the presentation above!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Cool Tool 4: Book Creator

As promised in my "Cool Tool 3: Explain Everything" post, I have finally finished creating an eBook using Book Creator. After our week 3 videos on eBooks, I was very intrigued and wanted to find out more about having students create eBooks in the classroom. I had a chance to connect with Jon Smith via email and asked him a few questions. One of my questions was if he recommended using iBooks Author over Book Creator or vice versa. His response was:

"I like book creator because it is so simple to use. I also like it because you could make a very good book only using the iPad. Anything that can be put into the camera roll can be added to book creator. I'm a huge fan of app smashing. 
iBooks Author is a little harder to use (slightly). It also offers up a more robust experience. However, book creator can make some really good books and it's much easier for young kids to use. I work with a KDG teacher and her kids have gotten to a pint where they will make their own books without help from the teacher."

With that, I decided to try out Book Creator, but was wondering, "What is app smashing?" So I checked it out and decided that I do that all the time and it would make sense that students would do that, too, when creating projects to help them make the best book possible. One example I was already thinking of was from the main video when Explain Everything was discussed to incorporate videos showing students thinking. Therefore, I included my Explain Everything creation on the water cycle in the eBook I created.

Anyways, back to Book Creator! I decided to download the $4.99 version of the app instead of the free version because I know this is something that I want to use with my students. I decided to create a book about water and the water cycle so that I could incorporate my Explain Everything video, as mentioned above.

The Book Creator app can create landscape, portrait, and square eBooks. With the app you can include text, photos, sound, and videos. The app has functions to change the font, font color, font size, background color, picture size, and video size. You can also make the background color on the left and right side of the book different. The app has a feature that you can turn on guides and snap items to the guides which makes aligning items on a page very easy, however, this function can be turned off if you do not want the app to automatically align items for you. Another feature that is noteworthy is the pen tool. The pen allows you to draw and annotate your book. The app also has comic book templates you can use when creating eBooks. Finally, when books are finished, you can upload them as PDFs, videos, or ePubs. They can also be shared to a variety of apps.

Below are three screen shots of most of the options you will come across when creating a book.

This tool could be used in the classroom in so many different ways. Students could collaborate to make eBooks or create them independently. Students could use the app to create informative eBooks on topics they have researched or learned about or they could create fiction and nonfiction narratives, among other things. I also like the idea of app smashing discussed above and having students use other apps, like Explain Everything, to add to their book. I would use this in my classroom because it is a way to incorporate technology into the classroom that teaches students 21st century skills. The app also engages students more than if they were to just write or type a research report, biography, story, etc. It gives them more options when creating them and gives them more room to be creative. I also really like Jon Smith's idea of having students publish their eBooks on iTunes. Publishing these books gives students a greater purpose for creating them and they will most likely put more effort into them since they know they will have a huge audience instead of just the teacher, class, or their family. I also loved how by adding them to iTunes students can incorporate math and geography skills by tracking where the downloads are, graphing how many downloads they get, and analyzing the data.

Students of all ages could definitely use this app to create eBooks because it is very user-friendly. Jon Smith's website also has eBooks created by students of all ages that are a testament that students can definitely use the app. Younger students would definitely need support while learning the app, but I'm sure they would pick it up fast. Older students, however, would not require much support at all if they already are pretty tech-savvy. I did not come across an aspects of the app that I thought would be challenging for students.

Here is my eBook creation that I saved and uploaded as a video.

I'm interested in knowing if anyone has used this app with their students. What have you done with it? Have there been any challenges? Even if you haven't used this app yet, what are some ideas you have for using it? I highly recommend trying out Book Creator if you haven't yet. I can't wait to start using it with my class!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Week 5 PLN: Blended Learning

My Philosophy on Blended Learning

To be completely honest with you, before this week I have previously heard of blended learning, but I probably wouldn't have been able to give someone an accurate definition of what blended learning is. I probably would have given a very basic response saying it's when you incorporate online learning, but in all actually I don't even know if I would have been able to give that response. At this point, I don't really know what I thought it was before. However, now that I have been watching video discussions and reading articles about it all week, I can definitely say I am interested.

Throughout this past 5 weeks I have truly began to see the positives of using technology to support classroom instruction. Blended learning takes the technology aspect a step farther by not only using technology to support instruction and learning, but by allowing students to take their own responsibility for their learning. It allows them to take control over the time, place, path, and pace of their learning to meet their learning needs best. I really like the idea of the blended learning models that give students time for face-to-face instruction. I do not think that I truly support a completely online program because I believe that students benefit from in-person interactions with teachers and students for a variety of reasons, one of them being to learn social skills and learn how to work in person with other people. Many jobs require that employees can collaborate online and can collaborate in-person in the work place. However, I do see many benefits of blended learning for both teachers and students.

Below is an infographic I found from Gogh Van Go showing benefits of blended learning for teachers and students that I agree with. Check out the site to read a more detailed statement about each benefit.
"Collaborative learning is enhanced by allowing students to exchange and contribute resources in the online environment" (the fourth benefit on the list) really stood out to me because not all students feel comfortable exchanging and contributing in class. By providing different forums for students to do this, such as online discussion boards, it gives every student a voice that may not realize they have or feel comfortable using in face-to-face discussions. This was one of the discussion points that Stacy Hawthorne spoke about in one of our weekly readings, When Does Blended Learning Work Best?, when discussing how her own daughter did not participate in class because she did not have enough confidence, even though she did well in school. However, she contributed in her discussion forums for her online class and even felt comfortable asking questions. I feel that this is a huge benefit for many students as there are many factors why students do not like to participate in class, such as confidence issues or being shy. In my own class, I have recently started using Kidblog and have already began getting so much more information and participation from my students in a few short weeks from their blogs than I do in class discussions.

Another benefit of blended learning that I took from this week's readings and videos was how blended learning helps prepare students for college and career-readiness because it exposes students to technological tools and skills that they will be required to use in the future.

One of the greatest benefits I think blended learning offers is the ability for students to receive such differentiated and personalized instruction that also allows them to work at their pace. This is something that I truly struggle with in my classroom due to things outside of my control, such as lack of resources and technology. Also, in typical face-to-face classrooms, there is a pace you typically have to follow because there are so many standards that you need to address. Many times teachers move on before everyone is truly ready to move on or students sit through lessons that they already know. One of the big reasons teachers move on is because they need to make sure they cover all the standards before high-stakes testing. Blended learning offers opportunities for students to work on the skills that they need to work on at a pace that works for them while still receiving teacher support and feedback and while learning 21st century skills. Students can work quickly through topics they do not need much support with and take extra time to explore, practice, and learn topics that are more challenging for them. Finally, by incorporating the technology aspect, students can be assessed using technology resources and websites that can track and grade students' work. The teacher now has to spend less time on grading and has more time on intervention, feedback, and lesson planning for each student.

Ready to Blend shared the following infographic displaying three key elements to blended learning.

Mugan's Biology Page posted another infographic displaying benefits of blended learning.
I recommend checking out his page on blended learning. Make sure to navigate through his 4 stages at the top that offer:

  • videos about blended learning
  • benefits
  • advantages
  • his own journey with blended learning
  • how to start your own blended learning platform. He also addresses TPACK!
  • resources

To end this blog post, I wanted to share that iNACOL's Blended Learning Teacher Competency, or the qualities that make a person a good blended learning teacher, was one of the most striking things I took from Stacy's presentation. When she was addressing most of the qualities, I really felt that I met the majority of the qualities needed, which hit home with me because until now I never really thought of teaching online or semi-online classes. I also never have really had a great impression of online schooling, but it is important to note that my only impressions of online learning were based off of stereotypes and hear-say so they were probably not very accurate impressions. This week my eyes have really been opened up to blended learning. Also, when I was listening to this presentation I really did not know if I had the capabilities of teaching to a blended learning model. However, when she discussed the qualities of a good blended learning teacher I feel that I could make one. I still don't know if I would actually be able to do this successfully, but I have more confidence that I could, and feel that eventually, with much practice and research, I probably could do it.

Below is a great infographic from iNACOL that shows the competencies that make a good blended learning teacher.

I'm interested to hear any information about how you use blended learning in your classroom. Does anyone have any ideas or resources to help me move to a more blended learning approach in my second grade classroom with limited technology (computer lab two days a week and four classroom computers)?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Week 4 PLN: Assessment

My Philosophy on Assessment

At this point in education, assessment seems to be one of the current buzzwords, more specifically formative and summative assessment. Everyone is talking about it. In my eyes there are positives and negatives to assessment. I believe that when used correctly, assessments are a great tool for teachers and give teachers very valuable information about their students. However, they can be used incorrectly and due to this it tends to give assessments a negative stigma by teachers, parents, and students. I also think that there are too-many high stakes tests taking place, which puts unnecessary pressure on students and teachers. This pressure can cause poor results because of teachers and students being stressed about the tests.

However, in regards to my own use of assessments for true instructional purposes, I personally believe in using assessments, especially formative assessments, in my teaching to help ensure that my students are learning and that they're learning the material correctly. In a way, assessments keep me on the right track and inform me what my next steps need to be.

In my classroom I use formative assessments daily. Many times they are quick checks like having the students give me a thumbs up or thumbs down. I also have students write answers/thoughts on their whiteboards, especially in math, although I do use them for all subjects. Other formative assessments are pencil/paper. I really like the idea of using technology for formative assessments; however, I have not used it much due to a lack of technology resources in my school. I could create some to be done while students are in the computer lab, but we do not have iPads or clickers students could use to complete them during lessons.

In regards to Pear Deck and eduCanon (the two formative assessment technologies shared by Scott Kinkopht in our weekly video), I would love to use these with my students. I think they are great because they are engaging, quick, and easy formative assessments for both the teacher and the student. One benefit of using these tools is that it cuts down time wasted on grading since it does it for you, unless it is an answer that students had to write a response to in which case the teacher needs to view those. I like that a teacher can create an assignment for the students and the students can login and answer the questions while they are working on the assignment. I also like that it can be used during a lesson the teacher is giving and the teacher can give immediate feedback. These types of assessments are also more engaging and interactive for students to use.

In regards to grading formative assessments or not, I have mixed feelings about it. Many of my formative assessments are unable to be graded because students are not turning in work. For example, the quick checks I have students complete on white boards are unable to be turned in. However, many times the pencil/paper formative assessments end up being graded. This is due to the fact that my district is transitioning to standards-based grading and currently K-5 has implemented standards-based grading/report cards. We were advised to have at least three "dips" or assignments per standard. Therefore, if I only graded summative assignments, I wouldn't have enough data to give grades on report cards. However, I'm okay with grading my formative assessments for the following reason: The grades are not averaged together to get a final grade. At the end of each quarter I have to manually give each student a grade for each standard. When I do this, the formative assessments help me see the progress students have made, where they started, and where they ended for each standard. I also do not put as much weight into the formative assessments when deciding their final grade because I know they occurred when students were still learning.

Therefore, I do not agree with using formative assessments as grades if they are being averaged into their final grade. I do agree with using them for grades, if they are used the way I use them, to show student progress through out the quarter on a certain standard or skill.

I believe that students should get a chance to revise and edit formative assessments because they are the assessments directing student learning and teacher feedback. The purpose of formative assessments is to show what the students know and what the student still needs work on. Much of a students learning will occur when they are given the opportunity to see what their mistakes were and go through the process of fixing them. Before students are given the opportunity to fix a formative assessment or take a similar one, teachers need to make sure they give the student feedback and instruction on the areas they are struggling with. If there isn't feedback, there is no instructional value in formative assessments. These assessments should be used to guide students in their learning. If there isn't meaningful feedback, students won't understand the areas they are still struggling with. I believe that feedback is one of the most important parts of formative assessments. When watching the Rick Wormeli video where he discusses formative and summative assessments, many things stood out to me and were points that I agree with in regards to formative assessment.

Rick stated that formative assessment, not summative, is the most important aspect of the two. He went on to talk about formative assessments saying, "It has the greatest impact on student achievement, on feedback to the teacher. The whole enterprise of teaching and learning really boils down to that formative assessment. Can kids learn without grades? Yeah. Can they learn without formative assessment and the feedback that comes with it? Not at all." He then suggested that teachers should spend at least the same amount of time, if not more, designing formative assessments instead of summative assessments. Lastly, he stated that the best formative assessments include descriptive feedback. He noted that there are many people that talk about the following three aspects of descriptive feedback:

You helped the kid discover or you pointed out yourself...
1. What is the goal (objective)?
2. Where are you in relation to it?
3. What are we going to do to close that gap?

Also in the Rick Wormeli video, he noted that summative assessments can turn into formative assessments if need be. I agree with this because our job as teachers is to ensure that students learn and master the material. If students have not mastered it on the summative assessment, more teaching and learning needs to happen. A teacher can't just say, "Too bad!" and move on. Instead, they need to figure out what went wrong on the summative assessment, reteach, and give a new summative assessment.

I think it's important to note that there is no set number of formative assessments that need to occur before a summative assessment. A teacher may need to add more formative assessments than planned based on student progress. Finally, formative assessments should be short. According to Scott Kinkopht, they should only check one or two learning goals and each learning goal should have no more than 3 questions.

Cool Tool 3: Emaze

For this week's cool tool review, I was planning on finishing my eBook I started making last week with Book Creator, but I decided to take a break from that and try out a new tool! This week I created an Emaze presentation on synonyms and antonyms, a topic my second graders are currently learning.

Emaze is a tool that enables you to create presentations. It can be used on iPads, laptops, computers, tablets, and phones that are connected to Wi-Fi. The presentations can also be easily shared on many different social media sites. This tool has many different presentation themes you can use, and many more if you decide to buy one of the paid versions. Also, if you buy a paid version, you can collaborate on presentations. However, I decided to try out the free version for the time being and used the chalkboard theme. I really liked using this tool and thought it was very simple to use. I like the flow of the presentation and the transition between the slides. There are many options when creating your presentation. You can include text, numbers, images, media, shapes, and charts into your presentations. Another cool feature is that you can important PowerPoint projects that you have already created into Emaze.

When working with slides you can duplicate them or change the settings, such as: auto play, duration, and page scroll. When working with text, there are many features such as: style, size, alignment, bold, text color, background color, effect, opacity, list, indent, text direction, hyperlink, target, audio, arrange, lock, rotate, 3D, line spacing, letter spacing, and font.

Below you will find a screenshot of what you will see when you are creating a presentation.

This would be a great tool to use in the classroom for instruction because, while there are many presentation apps to use, I really like the layout of this one and think it is very engaging for students. Teachers can teach the content with the presentation that incorporates technology and keeps students interested. I can see this being more appealing than a PowerPoint presentation for students of all ages. I love how the slides flow into each other and give the effect that they are all on the same background.

This would also fit even greater with TPACK if it were incorporated into an assignment for the students. For example, students could research a famous person and then show what they learned by creating an Emaze presentation. Emaze does not have so many options that it would overwhelm the students when trying to learn how to use the program, especially younger students. Part of me thinks that Emaze would even be easier for primary-aged students to use than PowerPoint.

I would definitely use this in the classroom to present material on a variety of topics from the weather cycle to character traits to arrays. As I mentioned above I would use this to present material because it presents material in an engaging way and you can also incorporate media and audio. Also, I was able to make it interactive by adding questions to the presentation. I would have students use this because it enables them to create presentations showing what they learned being as creative as they want. It is also easy to use and would not require much teacher support and instruction on how to use the tool. Students could also incorporate media, audio, and links in their presentation. Students can create presentations quickly using Automaze and "Smart" templates. Lastly, there is a template that looks like a newspaper. This would be a fun template for students to use for an assignment where they could create a newspaper to contain articles on a variety of topics. I could see students collaborating easily with the newspaper template, where each student is a journalist reporting on a different topic and they each put their information into the template. Students could also play the role of editor and edit each other's work. There are a variety of templates that I'm sure could open themselves up to many more different engaging and thought-provoking assignment ideas.

Below is an example Emaze that uses the newspaper template.
Powered by emaze

The one challenge I had with this tool was that I could not edit images, other than resizing objects, with this tool so I had to edit them in Microsoft Word and copy/paste them into my Emaze presentation. For example, I found a picture and wanted to crop it, but I was unable to find a way to crop it in the Emaze presentation.

Overall, I think this is an excellent tool for teachers to create engaging presentations and for students to create presentations that showcase their learning in an interactive, creative, engaging way instead of always using reports and tests. I highly recommend trying out this app for yourself and with your students!

Here's my finished Emaze presentation on synonyms and antonyms!

Powered by emaze

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Week 3 PLN: Global Publishing through Ebooks

This week was all about eBooks. I have not given much thought about eBook use in the classroom before because, as you may have read in some of my previous posts, I do not have a great resource of technology for my students to use. We have 4 computers in our room and twice a week we get to use the computer lab. However, I am seriously trying to figure out how I can incorporate them more into my classroom after watching the weekly topic video.

I can see eBooks impacting the writing process in a huge way. Some students love to write and you don't need fun, engaging ways to get them motivated. For others, however, that's just not the case. Most times when technology is integrated, students motivation level automatically increases by at least a little bit. They begin to get curious. Students love using the computers to find information, play videos, and play games. Students also like to write for an audience. Anytime I mention anything about who will see the work, students' performance always goes up. Incorporate the writing into the technology so that anyone can see and you've got something big. We recently started blogging in my classroom, and student motivation has already gone up. They love that the other students can see what they wrote, they love that they can comment on others posts, and they love typing on the computer. When I tell students we are going to create a book on the computer or iPad and we can put it on iTunes so that people from all over the world can download it, I can only imagine the motivation and effort that they will put into the book(s) they create. The more students write, the more their writing improves. When students write on paper, I'm lucky if I can get 3 or 4 sentences out of some students. As soon as I had students start blogging, the length of students writing has increased. I think that eBooks will have the same effect because they will be engaged in the process and they will want to write more.

It was interesting when Jon Smith was discussing the three reasons why students don't want to write.

1. The teacher (1 person) is not a big enough audience for these students. They put so much time and effort into their work for only YOU to see it and that's not enough for them anymore.
2. There is no sense of contribution or purpose for what they are doing.
3. They are not leaving behind anything (a legacy).

By having students create eBooks, it addresses all three of those reasons. It gives them a bigger audience, the purpose for writing is to persuade, entertain, or inform their audience, and they are leaving something behind (a book) to represent what they did during their time in school. They can also contribute to each others work and give feedback to help each other write great books.

This will effect student's during the writing process in a couple key ways. They will want to write better material with more substance because people from all over will be viewing it, and they will pay more attention to the mechanics of their writing because, again, people from all over will be viewing it. 

Another point I found interesting from Jon's presentation was that many students are not very motivated to write because of the writing prompts. This will affect my teaching because I am going to need to step back and reanalyze the prompts I am giving to students. If I give a prompt, I need to make sure it is one students want to write about, or I need to give them several to choose from that meets their interests. Another thing is that I should give them time to write without prompts. Let them write about and create stories on topics they want to write about! It will also effect my teaching because instead of writing on paper and pencil all the time, I will now need to work with students and spend time on teaching them how to create eBooks. I will also need to find some resources that will enable them to create these eBooks.

The main benefits to using student created eBooks in the classroom are:
I would like to start using student-created eBooks in my classroom for students to create books of all genres connecting to what we are learning in all subject areas. For example, students can create a how-to book explaining how to solve math problems using a variety of strategies that we learn about in class. They can create an expository text about weather and the water cycle. Students could create a fiction story incorporating problem and solution or sequencing. Students could create a narrative nonfiction or biography on someone's life they researched, on their own life, a family members life, or on an event that happened in their life. Students could also collaborate with partners, small groups, or the entire class to create a book that each member contributes to every step of the way from pre-writing to drafting to editing and revising to publishing.

The main considerations to keep in mind in order to use them effectively:
  • What is the purpose of the eBook?
  • Why are students creating this eBook?
  • Does this eBook help them meet the learning standards?
  • How much support will students need to create the eBook?
  • Will they need other resources when creating the eBook?
  • How much time will students need to spend on them?
  • Since I only have one iPad, how will I ensure everyone gets a chance to work on an eBook in a timely manner. 
The most striking thing I took away from Jon's presentation was the fact that so many people are actually downloading these books and reading them. When he was first talking about it I was thinking who would download these student-created books? However, people did. In fact, many people did. The fact that people downloaded them enabled them to incorporate math skills (graphing) and social studies skills (mapping) into the lessons, and it gave the students even more motivation to write. This impacted my learning about eBooks because it got me thinking about a couple things. There really is a bigger audience and purpose for students when creating these books. Not only can students create their own eBooks, but they can also download other students books from around the state, country, and even world. These will be great examples to show students what other kids are working on and learning around the world. It will show them different ideas and techniques that they could possibly incorporate into their eBooks or topics they may want to explore and write about. It would also be fun for students to learn about new topics from student authors versus adult authors, teachers, and textbooks. One other thing that was really striking to me was that these students who were completely against writing were now so motivated to write and were seriously involved in the process every step of the way. That has also impacted my learning because it was a true, concrete example of how the topic I am learning about, eBooks, truly helps students grow.

You will notice that one of the benefits and one of the considerations I listed were linked to an article. After I finished this post, I didn't feel quite done so I went to Twitter and Google to do a little more research on student-created eBooks. I found that article and I recommend anyone interested in using student-created eBooks to check it. It addresses many things you might come across, such as: the purpose for creating eBooks, ideas on what to write about, copyright considerations and more. If you didn't already check it out above, check it out here!

If you have any ideas for how I can have my 24 students (25 on Tuesday--I'm getting a new one!) create eBooks in my classroom using only one iPad, please share!

Cool Tool 2: Explain Everything

This week I was really intrigued by the our weekly topic video and wanted to try to create an eBook so that I could learn the program and explore it before using it with my students. Jon Smith recommended the following three apps when creating eBooks with students.

1. iBooks Author
2. Book Creator
3. Explain Everything

I started to work with Book Creator making an eBook for the water cycle, but after I made the cover page, I thought it'd be cool to incorporate a video of the water cycle in my eBook. So that took me to Explain Everything. I downloaded Explain Everything for $3.99. I bought the paid version versus the free version because I know I want to use this in my classroom. I spent so much time creating my video, probably too much because I'm a perfectionist and wanted it to be just right. I had so much fun using this and learning how to work this tool. It was frustrating at times, but as I got the hang of it it became much easier and started making more sense. I didn't read about how to do it before I used the app (which probably could have been useful), instead I just started exploring on my own. At this point, I thought "I have just spent so much time using Explain Everything and haven't even touched my Book Creator book. The requirement for our class is one Cool Tool a week and I was now doing two at once. I began to get overwhelmed, as I always do, and came to the conclusion that I would use my Explain Everything creation for my Cool Tool 2 and incorporate it into my Book Creator project for my Cool Tool 3. So check back next week to see my thoughts on Book Creator and see how I incorporated my Explain Everything animation into my eBook!

Anyways, back to Explain Everything. Here is my finished product! It's not perfect, but I'm sure my second graders will love it!

Explain Everything is an amazing screencasting and interactive whiteboard tool. With this tool you can create a variety of things by animating, narrating, annotating, designing, importing and exporting, draw in any color, and add text and shapes. You can also create slides and use a laser pointer, but these were two features that I have not yet explored. When you start a new project, you have the choice of selecting landscape or portrait and there are a few color color templates to choose, as well. Once you selected the two options you'd like, your screen will look like the one below:

I was about to explain everything you see, but then I found this useful cheat sheet from Flipping the Elementary Music Classroom!

The one tool I wasn't sure what it was for a while was the inspector tool, but once I did it made my life much easier! It allows you to duplicate, arrange, copy, paste, rotate, group, and lock items. Until I found this tool I was using my fingers to rotate and resize items and it was very frustrating trying to match the sizing and rotation of multiple items so they looked the same. However, when using the duplicate option it does it all for me.

I think students would use this tool after they have been taught about or done research on a subject. I think of it as a way for students to show what they have learned. This tool fits perfectly with the TPACK method of teaching for many reasons. The first reason is because it can fit with any content area that I can think of and students are taking what they have learned and using the technology to show it, whether it be in a group or independently. Students could illustrate many things, from the water cycle to how to regroup in addition and subtraction. I think they could also illustrate events that happened in a book they read or create how-to animations on various topics. I also like this way of having students show what they have learned and would use it because some students are not good test takers or they struggle putting what they know into words in their writing. This is another way for them to show their knowledge on a topic. It allows them to be creative and gives them many different ways to share their thinking. Lastly, using this technology where they are annotating and recording is very engaging. When creating projects, many students probably won't even feel like they are working because they will be having such a good time.

This tool is definitely a tool students could use to create their own digital media artifacts. At my grade level, students would definitely need support, instruction, and modeling to get started, but they pick up on things so fast I know they'd be able to do it. It might also be a good idea for them to work in small groups or partners for the first couple projects so that they can help each other as they are all figuring out the tool. I think the easiest features for my students would be using the drawing, shapes, and color tools. I also think that once I teach them how to save images and add them in that would be very easy for them as well. Lastly, I think they would have an easy time moving images and objects while they are recording.

Thinking about my current second graders again, it may be challenging at first for them to learn how to record and how to edit it/delete things when they aren't happy with their first try. This was a process that even took me a while to get the hang of. It's kind of like a trial and error thing. Another thing that caused issues for me was every time you press record or add or delete something it adds a box on the recording strip. Many times the boxes would start piling up on top of each other and it was hard to get the one that you wanted to delete.

It was frustrating when I wanted to go back to a previous point I already worked on and change things. I would delete something and rerecord, but then when I would watch it back the object I deleted would still be there. This happened many times and I'm not sure why. At one point I deleted everything until the end of the recording and just started over because it wasn't changing what I was telling it to. I'm not sure if it was something I was doing wrong or not, but it was very frustrating. I consider myself pretty tech savvy and pick up on new technological things quickly, so if it was challenging for me I'm assuming it would be challenging for students as well, especially my young second graders. One other thing that was challenging was that I would watch the video and it would be just how I wanted, but when I exported it there would be little errors that didn't show up when I watched it in the app, but were showing when I played the video in another app on the computer. Lastly, another thing that could cause problems for students is when they want to change something, they either have to click "mix" or "overwrite" when they go to record again. Mix leaves everything they have but changes the part they are working on. Overwrite deletes everything past the point you are overwriting and you can't get it back. When I was still learning the difference, I clicked overwrite and lost a lot. That would be one area that students would definitely need a lesson in, because its very frustrating when you spend so much time on your project and then lose it just like that.

When teaching students to use this tool, I think a tip I would need to give them to avoid the problems I mentioned above would be: Don't move on to the next part of your animation until you have what you are working on exactly how you want it. This will help them because they won't have to go back and change things and worry about the app not doing what you want it to do. Now I know that sometimes you think that you have it just right and you don't think of a better way until later on when working on another part so you can't always follow that tip, but I think if they try to do that it will help avoid a lot of issues.

All in all, I know students would love this tool. At my grade level, however, students would need a lot of instruction and practice to learn how to use the tool. I cannot wait to see some of the creations students will come up with. Unfortunately, I only have my personal iPad for students to use. Wishing I had a class set or even just a couple more!

If anyone has used this tool before and has any ideas for projects students could create or tips and hints to help the students, I'd love for you to share them! Comment below!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cool Tool 1:

For my first Cool Tools Review I decided to try out This tool caught my attention because it was also mentioned in an article I read this week in my ILA magazine. is a brainstorming tool that allows you to create mind maps (concept maps/graphic organizers). It offers endless opportunities and you can design it to have as many bubbles as you'd like. It is very simple to use which is great for younger students. Another cool feature is that the bubbles all have colors and you can change the bubble colors, font colors, and size. I searched "" in Google to get some more information and came across this short blog about It gives a basic overview of, but I really liked it because it gave some ideas for use with the tool, such as: family trees, plot lines, life cycles, and so much more. Check out the blog here:

TeachersFirst Review -

When trying out the tool, I decided to create a mind map on the pros and cons of homework because this week I am going to be sharing with my students a Newsela article discussing how some schools and parents are saying "no" to homework.

I also used the following two articles to help create my concept map.

After reading the Newsela article, students will be working in groups to come up with pros and cons of homework. After, the students will share their ideas and we'll create a class concept map. Finally, students are going to choose a side and write reasons to support their belief (we should or should not have homework). Their reasons can be reasons from the articles shared in class or from personal experience with homework. This lesson incorporates the following second grade writing standards from Ohio's New Learning Standards:

1. Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section 
7. Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations). 
8. Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

Below is the concept map I created as an example of what we will be creating as a class during this lesson.

If I had access to a class set of iPads or tablets or was able to do this lesson during our computer lab time, I would have students create their own for this lesson with their group. However, this lesson will be done in the classroom and will be used as an introductory to since my students have no prior experience using this tool. The goal will be that my students will use in small groups or independently in future lessons.

The following reasons show how this tool can be used in many ways, not limited to the ones I listed and linked above, and are also the ways I could use it in my classroom. I think that this tool will help students create organizers efficiently and organize material in an easy, effective way. The concept maps, compared to ones created by a teacher or downloaded and printed for students to fill in, can be more visually appealing and easy to follow due to the use of colors. Students can show different categories by giving each category a color. For example, on the concept map I created, I could have made all of the pros blue and all of the cons red. I also like how you can make each bubble a different size, i.e.: they aren't all limited to the same size. Students could show the most important information by using larger text than the others. can also be faster than writing if students have decent typing skills. This tool offers students more options than if a teacher passes out a generic organizer because it lets them be free and creative with the way they organize their information. The bubbles are easy to move around, change/edit, make new connections (versus writing--you have to erase or may run out of room).

Screenshot of the options you will see when you are creating a map in the tool.
Plus, what you will see if you place your mouse over a bubble. works with TPACK because students are using technology to meet the needs of the lesson content they are working on mastering. Using graphic organizers is a great teaching (pedagogy) technique to help students organize their thoughts or information from sources, wether they are writing a story/report or illustrating/describing a concept they read about in any subject area. This tool is also gives teacher a great way to differentiate. For example, if a graphic organizer is passed out in class, all students have the same boxes, outline, and format to use and they are probably all required to fill out the complete organizer. If a teacher used, he/she can give students different guidelines/directions to follow (ex: different number of categories/elements/bubbles to include). If a teacher wanted to do that with a paper concept map, it'd take much more planning time to make several different graphic organizers for the students to use. With students can create the map to illustrate the information in a way that makes sense to them.

Students could very easily use this tool to create their own media artifacts. I like that it does not have an overwhelming amount of features, which makes it easy to use for even my little second graders. Any thing students want to change about a bubble is editable right at that bubble. They don't have to use a tool bar or tabs at the top of the screen to find what they are looking for. When using this tool the only frustrating thing I found was when I went to change the layout of the bubble (colors, font, etc.) because you have to hold the mouse over the bubbles and wait for the options to pop up. My first instinct was to click the box, which makes the text box editable. However, as I worked with the tool it became easier and I'm sure kids would get the hang of it, too.

I love this tool and can't wait to use it with my second graders. I definitely recommend trying this tool out! I think it gives students endless ways to display their thoughts or learning about a topic and doesn't constrain them to the same map every other student is using. I can't wait to see the variety of mind maps my students come up with. It will truly let their creativity and uniqueness flourish!

I'm interested to know if anyone has used this tool before? If so, how have you used it? Can it do anything else that I didn't mention above? Even if you haven't used it, I'd love some other ideas for its use in the classroom!

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Last week I began my Transliteracy course for grad school and one of the topics was social media and how it can be used in the classroom. Since I teach second grade I wasn't sure how much social media I could truly use with my students, but I wanted to try something. I stumbled across Kidblog and decided to give it a try using the 1-month free trial.

Well, this week I started using it with kids and they are SUPER excited about it. I decided to start by showing it to them in the class on the BrightLink and had an introductory post waiting for them. The next day we went into the computer lab and I let them explore and taught them how to leave comments. Next, I had them create "All About Me" blogs to start and get used to the website.

At this point, I'm not quite sure what my next steps are going to be and we go back to the computer lab tomorrow. All my kids are talking about are their blogs and I'm over here like "uhhhhh?" I have some ideas about having them post about books we read, but other than that I feel a little uncertain and lacking creativity. Ironically, my first issue of "The Reading Teacher" came in the mail this week and I decided to open it up after class tonight. I just joined the ILA and subscribed to this journal so this is the first one I've received and I wasn't 100% sure what to expect from it. While flipping through, I found an article titled "Formative Assessment in the Digital Age: Blogging with Third Graders" in the index. Of course I immediately flipped to the page it started on and began reading. I was so excited when the blog it recommended for teachers to get started with was---wait for it---KIDBLOG! (I didn't mention this earlier, but when I was researching blogging for second graders I came across several options. I narrowed my search to three different blogging sites I thought looked good for my students and somehow picked one (I'm super indecisive so a huge part of me wanted all three sites!) I'm so ecstatic that the one I ended up picking was the only one mentioned in the article! It's gotta be good if an article mentions it, right?!) The next thing that made me feel better about my new journey with Kidblog was that the article said to first demonstrate the website and then engage the students with an initial blogging activity like---wait for it---an "All About Me" post! I did both of those things! I must be headed in the right direction.

At this point though, I'm still stuck with what to have them post about next, but the article gave some websites to check out about blogging in the classroom. So while I go check out those websites, I'd love some feedback from you!

  • Do you use blogs with your elementary students?
  • What topics and ideas do they blog about?
  • Any tips to make this process as successful as possible?
  • Any other feedback welcome!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Week 2 PLN: Reflection on TPACK

So week 2 is all about TPACK. This week I decided to watch the videos and read the articles before checking out our blog prompt. After watching and reading, the common denominator between them all was TPACK so I could only assume that our blog reflection would be about it, too. Well, I was right, however, when I read the assignment, I felt stuck! So the first thing I did was go to my new best friend, Twitter! I typed in both of the presenters, Punya Mishra and Matthew J. Koehler, from the "Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content, and Pedagogy" video we watched. Side note: This one was my favorite! If you have not watched it and are interested in learning more about TPACK, check out the presentation below! They present the material in a very entertaining way.


Anyways, when I went to Twitter, I found both presenters.

When I was looking at tweets from Matthew Koehler I came across this video he found that introduces TPACK in a fun way.

My next search on Twitter was #TPACK where I found another quick, useful video explaining TPACK.

At this point in my search, I felt like I was finally ready to respond to the assignment prompts.

When introducing new tools into the classroom, what questions should you consider before implementation (technical, administrative, pedagogical, other)?

When integrating new tools in the classroom, I think there are a variety of questions you need to ask yourself before you begin:
  • How will this help my students?
  • Is this enhancing students' learning or simply replacing my instruction in a fancy way?
  • What is the main goal of the lesson?
  • Is this tool meeting and supporting the main goal of the lesson?
  • Will students need modeling and support before using this tool?
  • Have students turned in a technology permission slip and acceptable use policy form?
  • Are students allowed to post pictures/audio of themselves (if needed)?

I recently joined the ILA (International Literacy Association) and received my first issue of "Literacy Today" this week. When flipping through, I found an article called "Digital Tools for Inclusivity." At the end of this article were the following questions for teachers to consider when choosing digital tools (the timing of receiving this article couldn't have been more perfect, right?!):
"How can I naturalize the use of digital tools?
 Is this tool necessary and beneficial?
 How does this tool help to develop fluency and analytical skills?
 How does this tool position my students as producers of knowledge?" (Price-Dennis &  Schlessinger, 2016, p. 31)
The article also ended with the following quote that I think is important for teachers to remember.
"...we want to stress that apps cannot do all of the work. Good teaching is always key." (Price-Dennis & Schlessinger, 2016, p. 31)
I like that quote because when we think of TPACK, technology is a huge part. However, I can see how teachers could easily become consumed with trying to incorporate the newest and greatest technology that they begin to lose focus of the CK and PK.

The above quotes came from the following source:
Price-Dennis, D., & Schlessinger, S. L. (2016, January/February). Digital Tools for Inclusivity. Literacy Today, 30-31.

What are some of the positive attributes as well as potential barriers regarding the introduction of tools in the classroom?

Positive Attributes
  • Engaging
  • Many ways to differentiate
  • Exponential amount of resources
  • Teaches 21st Century skills
  • Student-centered
  • Increased motivation
  • Students have more control over the information they choose to read
  • Enhancement of problem-solving and higher-order thinking due to students being able to search the Internet, evaluate their findings, and apply it to their problems
  • Word-processing programs and the Internet give immediate feedback and help to the mechanics of writing and word usage enabling students to have a more positive attitude towards writing
Potential Barriers
  • Lack of Teacher Training
  • Lack of Resources/Funding (Technology can be expensive, and once you have the technology many of the resources also cost money.)
  • There are so many options it can be hard to know which resource will work best for each lesson, student, levels, etc.

Many of the above attributes and barriers were found from our class reading "Integrating Technology in the Classroom" by Nada Salem Abisamra and the following Prezi found in my TPACK search.

How will you choose technologies that enhance the teaching approaches for a lesson when you are in your own classroom?
  • When choosing technology to incorporate into my lessons, I want to make sure that it is engaging for the students. However, I need to remember that just because it is engaging doesn't mean it is going to enhance and extend student learning. Therefore, I also need to make sure that the technology truly is meeting the goals of the lesson and continues to support and deepen students' knowledge on the lesson topic. I also want to look for technology to incorporate that I know will be useful to students in the "real world" (post-school and work force).

After learning about TPACK, what questions do you have and how do you think you can begin to answer them?
  • While searching about TPACK I saw many comments being made about pedagogy and content being more important than or being the driving factors for the technology. Do you think any of these are more important than the other or do you think they should all be viewed equally (one is not more important than the other)?
I feel like I can begin finding this out for myself by incorporating them in my classroom and make sure I am meeting all three knowledges (CK, PK, and TK) in a manner that is beneficial to the students. It seems to me that it will take some practice and research to find that sweet spot where all three are working in harmony together to bring the most success into the classroom.

  • Can there be too much technology embedded into a school day?
My first instinct is maybe not if it is being used correctly. I feel that you need to find the balance in your classroom where the students are not doing every technological aspect independently because they still need to learn how to collaborate and socialize with others.

  • In my 2nd grade classroom the technology is limited. Just this year we got an Epson BrightLink. I have 4 classroom computers and twice a week our class has access to the school computer lab for 40 minutes. I try to integrate technology as much as I can, but find it challenging due to the lack of resources. What are some ways I can utilize what I have to incorporate more of the TK aspect of TPACK into my classroom?
One way I have began to add more technology into my classroom is by incorporating Kidblogs, PowerPoints, and WebQuests into my classroom. The biggest issue I have had is finding enough time to enable students to work and finish their projects in a timely manner.  The other issue is money. Many resources I come across, like Kidblog (I am currently using a free trial), costs money.

Final Thoughts
All in all, I feel that the TPACK model really makes sense to me and is something that I have already been working towards without even knowing it. Our science and social studies curriculum/resources are becoming very outdated and tend to not match the current standards anymore. Also, the textbooks can be very boring for students. Therefore, not only have I been trying to find resources to teach the standards not covered in our curriculum, I have also been trying to make what I find more engaging for my students. One of the ways I have been doing this is through finding books at the library and technology resources. I have always used websites and videos (tend to be teacher-led), but this year I tried out WebQuest and PowerPoint activities (more student-centered) that also went along with classroom experiments. The level of engagement and motivation in my class went up like crazy. Weeks after these activities, students are still talking about the topics we learned about and making connections to them. I feel like those activities were part of TPACK and I'm on the right track in my teaching, but I know after reading and watching these videos there is so much more I can do in all subject areas.

Finally, I leave you with two things:

1. This cool graphic I found!

2. The TPACK image because I feel you can't discuss TPACK without referencing it.

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Week 1 PLN: Introduction and Response to "A Teenager's View on Social Media"

Hello Everyone!

My name is Megan and I'm 26 years old. I have wanted to be a second grade teacher since I was in the second grade when I had one of my favorite teachers. Ironically enough, I now teach second grade. After graduating, I was hired as a Title 1 Tutor and held this position for one year. The majority of my day was spent with kindergarten and first grade, but I also helped with third, fifth, and sixth grade. After that year I was hired as a second grade teacher in the school district I currently work in. While I always wanted to teach second, I panicked. I had very little experience with this grade level and could no longer see myself teaching this grade. I fell in love with the K-1 students I worked so much with as a Title 1 Tutor. However, as I got started, the panic slowly wore off with the help of my amazing team. I am now in my fourth year as a second grade teacher and cannot imagine teaching any other grade. In my eyes, second is the perfect grade!

I graduated from Miami University in 2011 with a degree in Early Childhood Education (PK-3). In the summer of 2012 I studied at Walsh University to receive my 4/5 endorsement. I am currently attending Akron University working to obtain my reading endorsement and my master's degree in Early Childhood Education with a literacy focus.

The past two years I have been actively trying to live a healthier lifestyle by changing my diet and exercise habits. This has proved to be a great change for me, but not always an easy one, especially since my favorite things are pizza and chocolate. Through this new journey, I have found new hobbies: yoga, running, hiking, and biking. I have also had fun learning to cook new, healthy recipes. These have been great ways to manage the stress that can come from work and everyday life and help me feel good about me! Other than that, I love to hang out with my family and friends. I love trying new things and have recently ran in the color run, a 5k in my community, a Tough Mudder in North Carolina, and went skiing for the first time! I also love going to concerts and sports events. My favorite is Ohio State football games, but I also enjoy going to Browns, Cavs, and Indians games. In the summer you can most likely find me at the pool during the day with a book in hand!

The social media I currently use is: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Vine, GroupMe, and YouTube.  However, the ones I visit on an everyday basis are Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. While I am on these sites daily, I do not post often. While I have LinkedIn, I have never really used it. Friends follow me and that's about the extent of that. I use Pinterest often mainly to find education resources, work outs, and recipes. I have been back and forth with Twitter over the past couple of years. I have never been one to tweet much, but follow friends, sports figures, and celebrities. This summer, however, after attending a technology conference, I began using it to follow educators, but have yet to fully get involved with this aspect of Twitter. GroupMe proved to be a very valuable outlet when I was coaching cheerleading the last three years. It helped me stay in contact with my cheerleaders and keep everyone informed. Other than videos posted on Facebook or for classes, I mainly only use YouTube for music purposes. I have not been on Vine in months and only posted a couple times, using it mainly just to watch other people's clips. Finally, I do not know much about Tumblr and only have an account because I found recipes on it that I wanted access to.

I cannot really agree or disagree with the social media applications he mentioned that I have not used before, however, in reference to the outlets I listed above, I mostly agreed with everything the author said in "A Teenager's View on Social Media." I view Twitter and Facebook as something that many people have access to and, regardless of my privacy settings, am careful what I post on these sites. This is a site that employers could easily see. I also agree that Facebook is the site that everyone has. Everyone from my little cousins to my grandparents have this website. People post many things all the time and every couple of posts ends up being an advertisement. In reference to Instagram, I enjoy this application over Facebook for the same reasons the author pointed out. There are no links, people do not post as much, and it is very easy to get caught up. Regarding the author's views on Snapchat, again, I agree. You can post whatever you want and there is no social pressure attached about how many likes and followers you have. However, the author did not mention how it is very easy for people to take a snapshot of your snaps and send them out to others. This is an issue that has been the reason for many high school students getting caught doing things they should not be doing. Lastly, I agree with his opening statement about Twitter. I do not always understand the purpose of Twitter and find it to be very random at times. Also, I have found that even though I have privacy settings, my tweets have shown up in Google searches with my name, which aligns with the author's statement that your tweets are easily searchable.

The way I represent myself to the world via social media has greatly changed over time. In college I didn't really think about what I posted and mainly only others my age had it. However, around the end of my undergrad social media became more popular with people of all ages. Since graduating, I have become very selective at what I post, initially because of my job search, but I choose to stay selective for the fact that many people have access to it, including employers, colleagues, and family members. At the end of the day, I don't want anything to come back and hurt my career or the way others view me due to a social media post. Therefore, when I post I always make sure that it is appropriate. While it may not always be for professional reasons (pictures and videos of pets, friends, family), I make sure that it is something I would not be embarrassed about if an employer, coworker, or student's parent saw it.

I have a hard time thinking about social media in the classroom due to the age of my students, but I can see how it can be very effective, especially in the older grades. This year I started using the Remind app for my classroom and it has been extremely useful for communication with parents. Another reason I am unsure of social media in the classroom is because other than a computer lab and SMART Board, I do not have other forms of technology available to use in my classroom so I do not have much experience with in this area. As mentioned earlier, I attended a technology conference this summer, but was disappointed that the majority of the presentations were geared toward older students. I am hoping that through this course I will be able to find more ways to use technology and social media with my younger students.