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.