From Print to Pixel

After reading “From Print to Pixel: The role of videos, games, animations, and simulations within K-12 education” and especially after taking this technology course, I am much more aware of how technology can be used in the classroom and how many benefits it provides in education. As teachers and future teachers, we need to learned how to work WITH technology and not fight it. We need to ask ourselves, “How can we incorporate the Internet’s plethora of information and the many technological advances and devices in today’s society to enrich our students’ education?” We also need to open our minds to the many opportunities available to us through the use of technology. It has simplified our lives in so many ways, whether for good or bad. For example, online shopping, online ordering, Smartphones, iPads, watching YouTube videos, and apps, to name a very few.

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This article discussed the emergence of pixel-based digital tools (videos, games, animations, simulations) as legitimate vehicles for learning in the classroom. The article also discussed some benefits of using more digital content in school. The benefits that were mentioned are as follows: increases student engagement, extends learning, personalizes instruction, increases relevancy and quality of instructional materials, and improves teachers’ tech skills. The article also talked a lot about the use of online videos in the classroom, something that I will definitely use in my future classroom. There are also many benefits for students when teachers use online videos in their classrooms. These benefits include: being able to watch the video over and over again, simplifying difficult concepts, connecting learning to the real world, fitting certain learning styles, engaging, and ease of accessibility.

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In my future classroom I would love to incorporate as much technology as I can. For example, I plan on using a lot of online videos to explain concepts or further emphasize a point. These videos will be especially important in my classroom because ESOL students highly benefit from having visuals. I would also like to incorporate a lot of game-based learning, like the use of ABCya! or Starfall because I will be teaching younger children. Since I have created my first flipped classroom I would also like to try to incorporate that into my teaching somehow or at least have some sort of blended learning experience for my students. These are just some of the ideas I have for incorporating technology and interactivity into my future classroom. Yet, there are also still so many resources for me to discover and try out with my future classroom. I like how incorporating the use of technology helps students to become more self-directed and independent. Students need to demonstrate what they have learned and take charge of their own learning. Technology also enhances creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication in our students. I have already learned so much about the uses of technology in the classroom, and I plan on using a lot of what I have learned in my future classroom. It would definitely be interesting to learn more about it and how each school uses it or incorporates it.

Equity in the Classroom

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According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, “equity” can be defined as fairness or justice in the way people are treated. Equity in education can refer to many things. In this particular blog post, I will be discussing equity in terms of The Digital Divide. So, what exactly is The Digital Divide? It is the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet, and those who do not. In most discussions of The Digital Divide, those who do not have ready access to computers and the Internet are low-income students. In such a digital age that we live in today, it is extremely important for all students to have ready access to computers and the Internet. A majority of teachers are incorporating the use of technology in their classrooms, regardless of whether their students are low-income or not. According to speaker Michael Mills in his ISTE Ignite 2013 discussion, “BYOD to Bridge the Digital Divide,” access to the Internet is access to empowerment. It is a basic right. Therefore, as teachers, we need to figure out a way to bridge The Digital Divide in our classrooms.

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To begin with, before bridging any gap, we need to stop grouping our students into categories. We need to see our students all as capable human beings who have so much potential and who also have the ability to teach us so many things. The students are not the only ones learning things throughout the school year. Teachers and students can learn from each other. We also need to teach our students about treating others equally. If the family and environment are to “blame” for the gaps between low-income families and higher-income families, as according to the article by Gregory Ferenstein, then we, as teachers, need to set a good example in the classroom and be the role models for our students. We need to figure out how to motivate our students to be the best people they can be and to want to work hard in school.

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Some of the ways teachers can help bridge this Digital Divide are giving students the opportunity to use the Internet. For example, letting students know ahead of time when they will need to use the Internet so they can plan ahead and find a location with Internet. I thought it was interesting to read that a lot of students were going to McDonald’s or Starbucks or even libraries to acquire Internet access. I think those are great ideas. As a future teacher, I might even have the opportunity for a “study session” at either the library or for a fun treat at McDonald’s where students could have the opportunity to come and use the Internet and ask me questions, and at the end I could get them something off the Dollar Menu if they were working hard and staying on task with the homework or project I had assigned.

Another strategy that I would use in my classroom that I also found interesting in one of the videos I watched is BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). This is a fairly new concept for me since cell phones were always banned during school hours. Giving students the opportunity to use their devices in school gives them ownership and responsibility and trust. This way students may feel less helpless in the hands of education and more motivated to come to class and work on their school work. Michael Mills, who I mentioned before in this blog post, in his video on YouTube, gives three steps to narrowing The Digital Divide: 1) providing access to students 2) allowing students to bring their own access and 3) redefining what academic productivity really means. Michael Mills explains that with BYOD, students can make more of a connection to learning because you are bringing the formal (education) in with the informal (the use of a device). Students will also be able to decide their projects and insert their own creativity.

Some important thoughts in closing are: give your students ownership of their education, you can always learn something from your students, teach your students about being safe on the Internet, be your students guide and mentor, stop categorizing your students and placing them into certain groups, find ways to motivate each and every student, and give them opportunities to express their creativity in class. You never know when you’re going to inspire the next greatest computer engineer or app creator.

My Experience in Panama Part 2

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On our first day at el Instituto Prepatorio Pedagógico, I immediately fell in love with the children. They were all so adorable! I had been assigned to work with the Kindergarteners with one of the professors and two other students. I was extremely excited to be working with these students because I really love this particular age group and have experience working with students around this age as well. When we arrived at the school, we broke into our groups and observed the students and teachers. We were trying to figure out which students we could test using the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) to assess their literacy skills. We were also observing students that we could test using the DASH, a developmental assessment for individuals with severe disabilities. Both of these tests were new to me, and I really liked learning about each of them. I was one of the students to administer the DIBELS test to certain students over the next few days, but I will talk more about that a little later. So basically our first day at the school involved us observing and playing with the students and getting a feel for the classroom. After the students left to go home, we had a Professional Development meeting with the teachers at the school. Our first meeting involved us getting to know each other, and we played an ice breaker game. After leaving the school, our group went to walk around Panama City and take pictures at the Panama sign close to our hotel.

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The next few days at the school involved us testing the students using the DIBELS and DASH exams. The teachers had come up with a long list of students for us to test. The DIBELS exam seemed easy enough to administer. I worked with another student who had experience using the DIBELS and was able to help me. There were different sections of the exam in which the students had to say which letter was represented, use a certain word in a sentence, read nonsense words, and then try to sound out the syllables in words. Most of the students did not get past the letters section of the test. There were a couple students who could speak English and who could also read very well in Spanish. I did not get as much experience working with the DASH exam. I was able to observe it and take notes, but it is a very extensive test, and we did not administer the whole thing. What I observed of it though, it seemed like the Marymount students were trying to see what each student could do and their behaviors. For example, the Marymount students would give one of the students from the school a certain toy to play with and see how they would play with it. They would give them specific instructions to see if they would follow them, etc. It was extremely interesting to watch each of the different students.

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At the end of each school day, we would have Professional Development meetings with the teachers at the school. It mostly revolved around us helping them to create individual schedules for their students, behavior management, and answering any questions they had. We also taught them how to use sign language with their students. We brought a lot of school supplies for the teachers to use in their classrooms which we used as prizes during our Professional Developments. We also taught the teachers five basic signs (more, help, food, all done, and bathroom) to use with their students, as well as ways to grab the students’ attention like using phrases such as “1, 2, 3; eyes on me”, etc. It was awesome to see that the teachers would actually use what we taught them in the Professional Development meetings back to their classrooms with great success! I witnessed many students who were non-verbal signing the word “bathroom” and “more” or using their individual schedules to request things they wanted.

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During our time at the school we also got to present a group lesson on colors. We broke up into pairs and took over each room from Kindergarten through 3rd grade. In the room I was in, we had the students go on a scavenger hunt to find the different colors in the room. The other rooms had the students listening to a color song, doing an obstacle course, and coloring. In the final room, we had all the students come together and sing a song called “Mi cuerpo hace música” (My body makes music). The kids loved it! At the end they all even signed the word for “more” because they wanted to play the song again! It made everyone cry! On the last day at the school we got to play some more with the kids and had a little party with them. We ordered them KFC and then all gathered in one room to watch Zootopia in Spanish. It was so sad and hard to leave the kids. I would like to say that we made a big impact in both their lives and the teachers’ lives. I am so grateful and happy that I was able to be a part of this trip. I will never forget those students. The trip also further confirmed why I decided to be a teacher and how much I love being able to help others.

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My Experience in Panama Part 1

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On July 17, I returned from a 10-day trip to Panama City, Panama with Marymount University. I had first heard about this trip in an e-mail that was sent to me. Since I love traveling I took advantage of the opportunity and went to the interest meeting. I am also always looking for opportunities to practice my Spanish. I majored in Spanish in my undergrad and was able to study abroad in Spain for a semester as well. I was also interested in helping out and working with children and experiencing a different school setting. After going to the interest meeting, I was hooked. We would be working with students in need of special education services from grades Kindergarten through 3rd grade. We would also be getting the opportunity to do a little sightseeing, including the Panama Canal. Luckily, I was able to receive credit for the trip. Otherwise, I do not think I would have been able to go. As the days progressed, it seemed like I was waiting for this trip for forever, but when the trip was over, it felt like I had barely spent any time there.

On July 8, the day I was leaving for Panama, I was shocked that the trip was finally here! It seemed like I had been planning and anticipating this trip for ages. When the day finally arrived I was definitely nervous about what to expect and the group. I did not really know anyone going on the trip, and I had only briefly met them during our group meetings before our departure. Luckily, my flight was with the two professors going and another student going on the trip. It was nice to have company going to a different country. I was also fortunate enough to have a direct flight. As we landed in Panama, the first thing I noticed was the humidity. It felt like a blanket covering my skin! I pretty much started sweating upon stepping outside. After we arrived at the hotel and met up with the rest of the group, we had a welcome dinner together and then went to sleep to prepare ourselves for the upcoming days.

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The next day, we went to the Panama Canal, which was an interesting experience. We had to wake up pretty early, but it was worth it. We took a ride on a smaller boat where we had a tour guide who explained everything we needed to know and more about the Panama Canal. The boat provided us with breakfast and lunch and we rode through the Panama Canal for a few hours. After the excursion was finished, we were dropped off and took a bus back, as it would have taken us a lot longer to return by boat. After the Canal, our group went to the Bio Museum built by architect Frank Gehry. That night, we attended a dinner show where we saw traditional Panamanian dances and clothing. It was a really cool experience. The dresses that the dancers wore were beautiful but so expensive! (Literally thousands of dollars).

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One of the students in our group actually lives in Panama so her family invited us all to their beach house on that Sunday. Let me tell you it was so gorgeous there! We were able to relax at her pool, and they fed us an incredible meal. While we were there we also discussed what we would be doing the next day at the school (Instituto Prepatorio Pedagógico) with the children and our assignments for the course, etc. Throughout the rest of the trip we mostly worked at the school, but we also visited some other places such as Casco Viejo, which was a beautiful old city. We did a little shopping there and walked around the city. We also visited an island called Portobello and swam in the bluest of oceans.

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I will continue with my experience at the school and the closing of the trip on the next blog post…

My Flipped Classroom: Life Cycle of a Butterfly

Click here to see my flipped classroom!

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The idea of a flipped classroom is very intriguing to me. I think it is a great way to make presentations more interactive and appealing for students. Flipped classrooms also create more working time in class the next day for the students to apply the knowledge they have learned. The teacher becomes more of a guide than the center of the lesson. However, there are also some factors that need to be considered when using a flipped classroom. For example, some children may not have Internet access or access to a computer at home, or they may not even watch it at all. The teacher would have to play the whole video during class the next day when it could have been used for the activity planned for that class. Considering all these factors, I have attempted to create my own flipped classroom about the life cycle of a butterfly. I would be interested to use it in my future classroom and see if my students were receptive to it or not. The flipped classroom is for a Kindergarten English as a Second Language classroom. I tried to make the lesson as simple and colorful as possible to try to engage a Kindergartener’s attention. I included a practice activity for the students to complete after the instructional portion of the lesson. I also included a handout for them to print at home and work on in the next class. I based this lesson around The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle thinking I would use it as my unit theme for my technology unit plan.

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In beginning the process of creating my flipped classroom, I definitely knew I wanted to focus on a Kindergarten English as a Second Language lesson. I remembered our professor giving ideas for our flipped classrooms and one of them was life cycles. I figured that the life cycle of a butterfly was fairly straightforward. It also tied into The Very Hungry Caterpillar which is a popular book for the younger children and life cycles are also part of the VDOE Science SOLs for Kindergarten. I looked on the Internet and Pinterest for ideas on how to present the material of the life cycle of a butterfly. I narrowed the stages down to four basic stages, which I thought shouldn’t be too overwhelming for a Kindergartener learning English as a Second Language. As I started the process, I had in mind the principles that our professor taught us about presentations and filling each slide with a picture and putting no more than seven words on a slide. I tried to keep to those principles, however, I may have put more than seven words on a few slides. I tried to keep it simple and colorful and to the point. I actually had a lot of fun putting the slides together and creating the transitions and animations and things like that. I tried to be as creative as possible.

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I knew I wanted to create my flipped classroom using Microsoft PowerPoint because I have the most experience using it. I just wasn’t sure of how to create a video from a PowerPoint without using Photo Story 3 to which I do not have access. I actually started creating my flipped classroom using PowToon, but I had a specific vision in mind that PowToon was not allowing me to create. I would however definitely use PowToon for another project or lesson. I thought it was a very engaging resource and pretty easy to use, just not for this particular lesson. In this project, I thought that by using Microsoft PowerPoint I could easily create slides and animations to suit what my end product should look like. To manipulate the images in my presentation I used Pixlr, which I had used before in my digital story. Pixlr is an extremely useful site to be able to manipulate pictures like putting someone’s head on a different body, deleting white space from a picture, etc. I am sure there is a ton more you can do with the resource, but it was extremely helpful while creating my flipped classroom. Another resource I used was Office Mix, which was one of the resources posted on our class blog that we could use. This tool created my video for me and I really liked it! It was free to download and I was able to record my voice on the presentation. When I was finished, Office Mix created a video that I could share publicly or privately and created a web address that I could share for people to access as well.

Overall, I had a great time creating my flipped classroom. However, I did have to record what I wanted to say a few times. The microphone I was using seemed to pick up every single background noise, which was a little frustrating. I also stumbled over my words a few times or completely blanked out on what I had to say. For that reason, I do like the flipped classroom because you can record it however many times you like. Another thing that was a little frustrating about the sound recording was that it did not flow from slide to slide. There was an option to click next slide or next animation and when it was time to go to the next slide it would completely stop the recording. As a result, my flipped classroom has pauses of when my recording ends and then you can tell when my recording begins again. I did not like the abrupt stops and starts. There were also a few times when it would completely cut off what I said. Another glitch that I experienced was after I created my video and the animations on one of the slides never showed up. I must have forgotten to click “next animation” when recording my voice. I just re-recorded that slide and remembered to click “next animation” though. It was an easy fix.

As a perfectionist it would probably take me a billion times until I thought I had the flipped classroom just right, as well as with the presentation itself, which could take hours or even days (much more time than planning one lesson to teach in class). On the other hand, I definitely think I would use this flipped classroom presentation in my future teaching. I would also like to create similar lessons using this method or create more interactive presentations for my students. I would definitely use all of the resources I used for this flipped classroom and would definitely be open to trying out a few more. I really think my students would find this interesting and engaging. I would also like to try to incorporate more sounds or songs into my presentation as well, which I know is possible using Office Mix. This experience was extremely helpful, and I feel a lot more knowledgeable about flipped classrooms and definitely not quite as intimidated by them. I feel confident that I can use them in my future classroom.