ED554 Podcast: Storywebs

This podcast was made using iRecorder on my IPad. It is an audio-only Podcast, but students would be expected to read along with their own hard copy of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” This could be also be done digitally with a story that the children could download, such as one from Common Sense Media: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/best-book-apps-for-kids.

iRecorder is an app for iPads and IPhones. The cost is $2.99. It’s simple to use, you just press a button and record your voice. The app includes an edit button, so you can make changes.

I spent most of my time planning what I was going to say in addition to reading the story and narrowing the content down so it was only about a 10 minute podcast – I went about 30 seconds over because I didn’t stop the recording soon enough, and iRecorder picked up my shuffling of papers at the end which I wouldn’t do if I used Adobe Voice again.

It was key to include only the most essential details. The easier the instructions were for students to understand, the better, so that they would be able to do what I wanted them to for homework. I liked that making the podcast meant that students would have more time to do their writing assignment in school with one-on-one assistance from the teacher.

I had to transfer the iRecorder podcast into Soundcloud to share it with Mr. Knight by email and to post it to my class blog, but that was easy and only took seconds after I opened a Soundcloud account. I had spent a while fiddling with iRecorder trying to share it, and finally just asked our teacher for help – what an epiphany for an educator, lol! 😉


Reaction/reflection: TED Talk, Sugata Mitra — “Build a School in the Cloud”

Sugata Mirta has interesting ideas about the future of learning and talks about self-organized learning environments as a way to move learning forward. A key point he makes is about the importance of encouragement for learning, and that we need to shift from the survival under threat mode of performance necessary in the age of empires to promotion of creativity and pleasure. Letting go of the old ways of punishment and examinations, which the brain sees as threats, to a positive experience that “supports children” and “taps into their ability to work together” would benefit all students. So much of the old style of learning discourages cooperation because it depends on rote memorization and individual testing for assessment rather than a creative project made by a group in a mode of discovery.
Mitra wants educators on every continent to help him with his research into building a school in the cloud by creating learning environments in which children go on intellectual adventures driven by big questions put in by mediators (the teachers) and then sharing the data with him. He would also like to put a computer in the hands of every child.
The idea that knowing may be obsolete because with search engines it only takes a minute or two to find an answer must be considered seriously. This is a good thing because it frees up learners to solve problems and become immersed in a “curriculum of big questions.” Examples given of big questions were what to do if a meteorite was on a path to hit the earth using the target of an angle, questions about the world beginning and ending, and a discussion about air.
I think this model for a school in the cloud is already beginning to be implemented in education. It will be successful if children are taught cooperative learning skills and rewarded for their contributions to group learning without the best or most responsible students feeling pressured to take on most of the work to complete a project. There is also still a need for talented, caring educators who directly teach and guide students. I don’t think it’s enough to have just a room monitor or “granny” in the classroom to keep order and settle disputes. Children can learn a lot from a computer but there’s not a good substitute for human interaction in education. Christ the teacher is the best model for educators. He communicated His wisdom in person, in parables to the crowds and in more detail in private with His disciples, adapting His lessons for His listeners  according to their need. What is great about Mitra’s vision is that poor children who don’t attend a traditional school can access information with computers and make progress in that way. What a miracle it would be if in the process of exploring cyberspace they came upon an online bible and found the only true wisdom. The school in the cloud seems to be a step in the right direction for equity in learning.

ED Reach Podcast/ Podcasts for Professional Learning

The podcast I viewed was “Flipped Learning 120: Chrome Apps and Scripts with Alice Keeler,” recorded on 3/20/15. As a former classroom teacher myself, I can really relate to Alice’s work in trying to help teachers integrate tech in the classroom and encourage them to change their attitude to being student centered so that they can help students be more productive. She is also good at explaining how Chrome Apps can be integrated into the curriculum. I am following her on Twitter so that I can reference her recommended Chrome extensions for teachers: @ Alice Keeler. She also has a blog that describes over 75 extensions from the Chrome Webstore: alicekeeler.com.
Her work with Bing in the Classroom’s lesson of the day, writing essential questions about an image that can be assigned to students as a web assignment that requires more than just a Google search to answer is a resource I would recommend to teachers to use. Keeler’s idea that we should teach students to be independent seekers of information is right on target. Giving them challenging assignments and the right choice of tools to do them is what today’s learners need.
A lot of the podcast was spent on descriptions of Chrome extensions like Move It, Snag It and Shorten Me. For instance, Snag It allows a teacher to embed tech training into the instructions for the task that students are doing so that the teacher doesn’t have to give a tech lesson before the students can do the assignment. I think that would be a really useful extension, and a time saver. If teachers can see that using these tools make their job easier and enable students to better complete work they will be more likely to try them.
The rest of the podcast was about Google app script and the advantages of teaching kids coding in school – in as early as 3rd grade. Google app script allows you to manipulate Google docs. The key point Keeler made about teaching this to kids is that you are able to give them a task where they see a product. Being able to make Google docs do something with two lines of code is cool, and students like it!
Podcasts are definitely something I would consider for professional learning in the future. I like how they involve real people taking about tech tools they’re actually using. It seems more doable and accessible to incorporate these tools into teaching when they’re described outside of a textbook or article.

Extracurricular Empowerment

I agree with Scott McLeod’s take-away comments from his Ted talk at TedxDesMoines. If we don’t provide our students with meaningful assignments, with freedom to do them and the proper tech tools, so much of their creativity is stifled. When I taught 4th grade my students had book clubs, and they chose their books from several that I gave short book talks on, from the school’s Battle of the Books book closet. They loved meeting with their groups and bugged me to have more meeting times when we got too busy with other class projects. I let them design their own summative assessment project that they submitted to me for approval — their formative assessments were my observations of their group discussions. Sometimes I gave them a question or topic to discuss. At first I helped them with project ideas, but as time went by I got out of the way as McLeod suggested, with wonderful results. Some groups made detailed dioramas with figurines and art supplies they found at Michael’s. Others liked to make short videos that they wrote scripts for. Their parents helped them with the technical side. We didn’t have the tools available at the private school I worked at in 2010 to make the movies in school, although I was able to screen them on my Smartboard for the class, and they were hilarious.

If we made the technology for these types of projects accessible to all students in school, with time and training provided to do them, children would find themselves on a more even playing field and more empowered to complete projects without depending so much on their parents or other adults to bring their vision to completion.

Being accepting of teens’ positive use of technology is so important because they enjoy using these tools and not everything they do with them is bad or inappropriate. Coming up with projects that help the poor or improve the kind of food served to kids in school has to be a good thing.

Involving educators in guiding students on safe practices for using tech for their creative ideas and projects and helping them select the best tools to do this will be easier to do as the stories of amazing achievements by teens on their own at home grab their attention. Who wouldn’t want to get involved and assist students when they see that so much good is being done?

John White’s “Visitors and Residents: Credibility”

How students are getting their information and learning, often through non-traditional means like Wikipedia and YouTube, impacts classroom instruction because even if we require them to use traditional primary resources like library books and periodicals, they are probably going to make use of the “learning black market” of the web anyway. The more we understand the types of resources that are out there and why students choose to use them, the more likely that educators will be able to create assignments that are realistic and useful for our students. Students will then also be less wary of sharing with us how they are doing their research, as they attempt to, according to John White in “Visitors and Residents: Credibility,” video 2, think less and find more with search engines.

Becoming more “resident” in the digital world, opening Twitter accounts, blogging, and making YouTube videos to share our teaching insights and ideas with a wider audience does help to bridge the gap between the digital world that students reside in for much of their personal lives and the time they spend learning in educational institutions. Assignments that ask them to use a combination of traditional and digital resources could also help to narrow this divide.

Still, the traditional sources of information should not be lost or discounted simply because they aren’t as open, agile or inexpensive as web sources. There is great value in learning from expert sources that have been quality controlled. The best and most trustworthy sources of learning I have found are stamped with an imprimatur but, if we’re going to be realistic, today’s students look to what’s current and easily accessible, and usually instantly accessible from a quick search. Because they are typically not reading primary texts even when assigned to do so, they often don’t have the knowledge background to do meaningful searches for content. If we can help students with this piece in our classroom instruction, a lot of value would be added to their leaning. Training them to be competent web consumers and digital researchers is worth our time and theirs. So much traditional content is available on the Web if you know what to look for and how to find it.

If we as educators can see the value of the new digital resident way of creating and sharing material while still retaining and teaching our students to respect traditional ways like publishing a PhD thesis, we move toward a more inclusive learning environment. Then our classrooms will be safer places for students of varying learning styles and talents to share their opinions and scholarly work.

Generation Like

Understanding how children use the social web prepares us for our instruction in the classroom because it helps us to know how they are being informed and motivated. It also reveals the value system they have adopted, which can be replicated in the classroom without the crass commercialism that comes with social media. This understanding can also teach us compassion for a generation of teens that in many cases measure their worth not by their true dignity as children of God but by how many likes they can accumulate from their peers on Instagram or Twitter.

The message that came from the teens on Frontline’s “Generation Like” was, “As long as you’re liked, you feel good.” The problem with depending on social media likes for affirmation is that it’s short-lived and the kids are mostly producing their content in isolation. Once they get the hit from the likes, they’re let down, and have to put something else up on their account or the attention they seek is gone. Knowing that kids are constantly experiencing this roller coaster of up and down emotions can be a reminder for teachers of how much our students crave positive feedback about themselves and what they do. We can try as much as possible to build them up and praise them for their achievements.

We can’t give them You Tube gold like expensive athletic gear and cash, but we can encourage them to earn good grades, which will give them lasting rewards long-term, and a future full of hope. Schools could also adopt their own version of the Kiip rewards network, based on good behavior, academic excellence, and extracurricular achievement to motivate all students and validate their efforts in a way that is meaningful to them.

If kids are willing to work for free, retweeting and posting marketing content for movie studios and even creating the content for TV shows with their Twitter feeds, we as educators must make an effort to redirect that energy by designing curriculum and lessons that students can get excited about. They could still use digital media but in a way that benefits them exclusively, not Taco Bell or a gum brand. I’ve used sites with elementary level students where they were able to share their original poetry with their peers. They loved that they were instantly published and that their friends could see what they had written online. There are also writing contests that give all kinds of prizes – the teacher just needs to find them for students and submit their work for them. There are many competitions for all subject areas. Let students be game makers since they enjoy that, but as educators let’s switch up the content they’re “selling” from consumer ads to Shakespeare and the Bill of Rights, or at least try. Because every child is precious in the sight of God, and worth our time and attention.


The second of the ISTE standards for administrators, digital age learning culture, is, I think, the best one for me to use as a target of focus this semester because I will be able to use the lessons I create to meet performance goals at my school and improve the learning culture there. Two of the 4 C’s, creativity and collaboration, are explicitly mentioned in section e. of the standard: Promote and participate in local, national and global learning communities that stimulate innovation, creativity, and digital age collaboration. By continuing to follow the Fractus Learning blog and the Apple for Educators resources I am confidert that I will be able to design suitable activities to meet this standard.

The standard also promotes the creation of a digital-age learning culture that provides a rigorous, relevant and engaging education for all students. I plan to link critical thinking to this aspect of the standard by creating activities that ask students to solve problems by questioning each other, doing targeted research, and producing projects together using tech tools.

Finally, sections a. Ensure instructional innovation focused on continuous improvement of digital aged learning, and b. Model and promote the frequent and effective use of technology for learning, will require much communication with staff and students to ensure implementation and understanding of shared goals. I want to start using tech tools during my College Prep Assemblies for high school students and increase my use of the JupiterGrades message system to communicate with students. I would also like to promote creative use of iPads in lesson planning for teachers, and in research and project work for students. I am committed to using multiple means of communication to meet the needs of and connect with people of varying ages and interests, teachers and students, in my school community.

About the blog I chose to read: Fractus Learning

Fractus Learning is full of helpful blogs designed to inform and keep teachers on the cutting edge of technology skills and tools for education. The first blog I read on the site was “The 5 Caring Qualities of a Mindful Teacher.” At the school where I am an administrator we have many international students who are living far away from their families and need teachers and staff to give them more care and attention than would normally be expected from an educator. I tried to focus on these five qualities: compassion, understanding, boundaries, attention, and authenticity, as I went about my work with students last week.

At the graduation rehearsal for the seniors I took the risk of sounding cheesy by telling them how proud I was of the hard work they did with me in applying to colleges, and that they should feel free to contact me if they needed anything in the future. I also told them that the teachers and staff loved them. I was surprised at how well they responded to the speech, but I realized that it was because I said it from the heart and it was authentic.

One sentence from the blog, “the message of mindfulness is that you are perfect exactly as you are” really stuck with me too. When I was supervising my school’s after school Academic Success program on Tuesday I paraphrased it for the kids and it really got their attention in a good way. One of the girls told me that I should be a motivational speaker 😀! I plan to continue to be more compassionate in my interactions with students — it really works!

Michael Fullan’s “6 Secrets of Change for School Leaders” was also very helpful to me. I evaluated teachers last week with the AdvancED ELEOT tool, and the next step is meeting with each teacher to share feedback that will improve student learning. The first secret, “love your employees” is crucial when communicating with staff, and can be a challenge when working with older baby boomers who have not embraced technology in the classroom. I have already had meetings wth our assistant administrator in how to enable teachers to use technology in creative ways by providing training and resources so that change can be introduced gradually and efficiently. Creating an environment where teachers are always learning and embracing practices that achieve student results is something I am passionate about, and this blog articulated what is necessary to make this happen very well. I am interested in reading Fullen’s book that the blog was based on too.

There a many other good blogs in Fractus Learning that describe new tech tools available in education. I will follow this blog as a resource for information about the latest in technology and how best to use it.

Digital Media New Learners of the 21st Century video: my reaction to the Smithsonian Institution’s play space learning program in relation to the 4 C’s

The Smithsonian’s use of mobile devices in their playspace learning program is a fantastic way for students to express their creativity through collaboration with peers. The initial examination of the three photographs at the beginning of designing the scavenger hunt requires students to use higher order thinking skills as they question themselves as to what theme they will choose and how the theme translates into an inquiry that will make an interesting and engaging game that other kids their age will enjoy. The nature of the activity makes ongoing and free communication absolutely necessary. Leaders emerge at this beginning stage of the workshop because of their strong communication skills. The group needs to brainstorm ideas within time constraints and the leader or leaders push the process forward by encouraging the group to agree on a theme and how it will be implemented.

I am excited by the potential of this style of learning for moving students away from being mainly consumers of content and toward participation, so that they can eventually become creators and producers. This is the next level of learning about art and observing objects closely. As an undergraduate I was required to observe a single painting at the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art and write a paper about it for an art history course. This was done individually, without any peer collaboration and no use of digital tools. The experience would have been richer if I had been able to share my observations with others beyond the paper being read to the class as an example of good work by my teacher (which I admit I was proud of). It also would have been easier to write if I had been able to take a picture of the painting on my iPad because I could have done part of my analysis at home instead of sitting on the floor of the gallery for two hours taking notes.

With the playspace learning scavenger hunt, students are making a form of performance art from art. They are in many cases using masterpieces as inspiration for a creative game that makes art from the past come alive again in a way that can capture the attention of today’s digital natives.