Saturday, December 3, 2011


Final Reflection: What are your "key learnings" from this course and how will you apply them in your work? What could we do to improve the course going forward?

I have mostly learned to be a little tiny bit less afraid of technology. I often (most of the time, actually) feel inept with technology, but I am willing to try, and I am learning and improving all the time. So, now I've created my first podcast, had a face to face conversation via my computer and used Excel. I have often used Word and Powerpoint, but rarely ever included any bells and whistles in the Powerpoint, so that was fairly revolutionary for me, too. I feel blessed to have been in this class because I learned so much.

And of course I will use this knowledge to benefit my students. I have already established Edmodo sites for my classes and we are using them to keep everyone up to date and on track. I have posted many handouts so that students can download the second, third or fourth copy after losing the first (and I don't have to make more!) As I learn more, I know that our website will be more and more useful for everyone.

Suggestions for making the class better....I have greatly enjoyed it as is--a good mix of projects, discussion, reflections, and the lovely times we were all able to be together in the same place. The only thing I can think of to add would perhaps be for us to Skype each other after we had our "conversation" with the professor. I also think that maybe trying out the flip cameras in some way would be fun. Who knows, maybe we could create a "movie" in which each of us creates a five minute portion of the whole. Planning it an putting it together could be a blast.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Technology for Professional Development

Professional Development/Networking: What are the latest trends and opportunities for using educational technology to improve professional development and networking in education? How can you use Ed Tech to improve your professional development and networking?

How is educational technology improving professional development and networking? One thing that I keep seeing happen is webcasts. Wonderful speakers, experts in various areas of education, become available to all of us as they broadcast over the internet. Often the webcasts are interactive, so that participants can converse with the speaker and among each other, thus amplifying the learning. Through this, I can learn from people that I may never have the opportunity to see in person.

Technology also brings me electronic samples of books that I am interested in using in my course. I can read and listen to the ancilliary materials before I commit myself to a purchase.

Skype is another valuable tool for face-to-face teaching, learning, and networking. I can connect with teachers all over the world, sharing ideas and seeing what they are doing in their classrooms.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Assistive Technology--Helping My Kids

Assistive Technology: What are the major issues and opportunities in your area for improving access to assistive technology?

Well, of course, as in everything in education, one of the major issues is money. Does the budget even permit us to purchase the technologies that would help our students? Still, there does seem to be a great deal of free technology available and I intend to explore it all. (well, maybe not all...)

Until this year, when half the students in one of my classes are identified as special ed, I have probably only taught 10 sped students in 10 years. My career has been mostly directed toward GT students and I have worked extensively with them. (They may need assistive technology to meet their needs as well, but that is not the main topic of this post). Therefore, I have not really given much thought to the ways that technology might help students who have learning difficulties and disabilities. However, after reading the chapters on using technology in English Language Arts and technology in special education, I have several ideas for specific students and some thoughts on what might help everyone.

I have a few students who struggle greatly in writing. Their oral communication skills are good, but they cannot seem to write down much of anything. This is a tremendous problem in an English class. To help them, I would like to find dictation software that would allow them to talk into a microphone and then it would "translate" their spoken words into written sentences and paragraphs.

I also have many students who speak English as a second language. More use of visuals would be good for them, but sometimes I struggle to find the time to download appropriate images and put them into a useful presentation. I need to find more ways to incorporate visuals, but they need to be ways that don't take immense amounts of time.

I am working on a class website, and I know that this technology will benefit all of my students. In fact, to help those who struggle with writing, we may do some podcast assignments, so that they can demonstrate their knowledge in a non-written form. We will also post visual presentations, such as powerpoint or Animoto creations.

Our website will also include blogs. All of my students will benefit from this, but especially the AP Language students who are studying rhetoric and argumentation. I am going to have them respond weekly to a political column (preferably one that creates controversy) and analyze the rhetorical strategies used by the author.

My reluctant writers might also benefit from electronic penpals--with a regular assignment to write, and someone interesting to correspond with, they might become more enthusiastic writers.

In addition to everything else, I want to encourage our ELA department to establish a creative writing journal. It would have to be online at a free hosting location (budget constraints again), but I would love for us to have a place to publish the best original writing (and perhaps art and music) created by students in our school. Once established, this could become something of pride and interest for years into the future.

The more I learn about technology and all that it has to offer my students, the more enthusiastic I am about incorporating it into my classroom as a way to truly benefit my students.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Research and Trends: Using Technology in the Classroom

An article in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy has made me re-evaluate how I use technology in the classroom. In this study, a teacher in an urban, mostly minority, mostly low-socio-economic school (very much like mine), moved her English instruction from a teacher-led, book-based curriculum, to a constructivist, project-based, digital learning environment. Students continued to learn and master the curricular requirements for English Language Arts, but in a whole new way.

Groups of students worked together throughout a semester to create a documentary film about a subject of their own choice. They did all of the background research, all of the script writing, all of the acting, directing, camera-work, behind-the-scenes production work--everything that goes into making a real film. And, because it was a creation of their own choosing, they were totally invested and engaged in the work.

At the end of the semester, the students held a film festival, to which they invited their parents, family and friends, as well as the entire faculty. Bringing in a real audience gave the students an authentic experience and provided an opportunity to share their work with a much wider audience. Plus, knowing that the films would be seen by a large and diverse group played an important role in their mindsets while making the films.

I am very interested in adapting at least some of this idea for use in my AP English Language and Composition class. This course focuses on argumentation and the use of rhetoric in argument and persuasive writing. I plan to have my students create their own film as the culminating activity during the second semester of the course. It will not be a 20 minute, full-fledged documentary like those in this article, but rather a 5 to 10 minute film that uses satire to address a real problem. Students will work in groups, select their topic, create their films, and present them in a film festival similar to the one referenced in the article.

Dockter, J., Haug, D., & Lewis, C. (2010). Redefining Rigor: Critical Engagement, Digital Media, and the New English/Language Arts. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(5), 418-420. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Educational Technology

Ed Tech Needs: What are the greatest needs/issues or opportunities (in terms of improving student and/or teacher performance) regarding educational technology for your grade level (i.e., elementary, middle, high school or university) and why?

In English/Language Arts we need to use technology in both directed and constructed ways. I teach on-level seniors, many (probably most) of whom learned English as their second language. They struggle mightily with vocabulary. In English 4 we study British literature, beginning with Beowulf and working our way through hundreds of years and hundreds (if not thousands) of difficult and unfamiliar words. To teach vocabulary, I do a great deal of direct instruction in class, but I have also found a fun (and competitive) way to have them apply their growing knowledge to new words. From time to time, we all play with vocabulary on the Free Rice website. They compete with me to see how close they can get to my performance on the program. They all get to work together against me and we have a lot of fun. (Free Rice also donates rice to feed the poor--a certain amount for every correct answer. We feel good about doing philanthropic work while learning). Free Rice also has a grammar element, which we use as well.

These same programs are equally effective with my AP English students. Although they are better prepared for reading, in their course we read at an even higher level, with more difficult words. They, too, struggle, and we work continually on improving their vocabulary. Technology is a great tool to use in areas such as these where students need repeated, specific, directed practice.

Other tremendous opportunities in ELA involve creating visual presentations. These are more constructivist applications of the technology, where students play a large role in creating their own knowledge. We use powerpoint, animoto, Prezi, all different ways of transmitting information which encourage student creativity while learning and teaching others. This year I also want to work in a student-created film project. We watch films to evaluate their depictions of some works that we read, but I want students to create their own learning through a story of their own devising and a film that they produce from start to finish. In the past, my AP students have worked in groups to create a satiric film. This is the culminating activity in our unit on satire and we have read several satirical essays, including "A Modest Proposal," prior to working on the film. I will do that again this year, but I am also pondering what kind of film project my on-level seniors may create.

The area I would like to explore for much more use is that of smart phones. Many students have them and I know that we could use them in creative (and probably as yet unknown to me) ways to enhance learning. I want to study this area and find out what programs are available to exploit this as-yet almost untapped resource.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Music in My Heart

"I think I'll take Garrett's bike out for a ride," Mark called as he left the house. He revved up the motorcycle engine and headed toward Green Oaks. But there, not a mile from home, everything changed. A car screamed through a red light, crashing into Mark and the motorcycle, throwing him more than 20 feet to land on the unforgiving concrete. And Mark walks no more.

Now, three months later, Mark is finally home from the hospital, the house has been renovated to accommodate his wheelchair, and the family struggles to adjust to a new life. As friends and family have rallied around, Mark has brought music into all our lives.

One Sunday morning I talked with my husband about how we could help. Friends were selling rubber-band bracelets embossed with "Make Your Mark" to help fund the house renovations. We had $200 in cash left over from our family vacation, so we decided to spend it on five bracelets (actual cost $10). We felt the Lord's blessing upon that decision. When Maria, Mark's wife, received the money, she cried...she had been praying for help, and it came.

When Michael, my husband, learned that Mark would still have some use of his arms and hands, he decided to order a very fine harmonica for our friend. Mark has played harmonica for years and a really nice instrument might lift his spirits. Finally, after weeks of waiting, the harmonica arrived. We took it to Mark on Saturday. He immediately began playing "We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet," his eyes filled with tears. "It's the best present I've received," he said.

Serving others brings joy and music to the soul. Words are inadequate to express my feelings about our friend, but he has brought music to our hearts and I hope we have created a beautiful melody for him as well.