Eeny Meeny Miny Moe – and these tools are it!

Deciding which tools to use for interactive purposes in our blended prototype felt a bit like a game of eeny meeny miny moe. With so many tools to choose from how can one possibly decide which tools are the best for what you are trying to accomplish. Fortunately my team and I were able to decide which tools we want to use without much debate. We are going to be using Canvas as our LMS so we will be using some features of that site as well as twitter and blogs. I will go into more detail as to why we selected these methods but I want to start with the quote from Shaping the Metaphor of Community in Online Learning Environments: 

For a community to emerge, a learning environment must allow learners to engage each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge.

This quote really stood out to me and validated the tools we have selected as our community building tools. Nancy, Andrew and I have had a lot of discussions around Twitter and how much we have grown to love it over the past few semesters. I have said this before and I’ll said it again for anyone who hasn’t heard me say it before – I used to think Twitter was pointless and really served little purpose. I didn’t fully understand the value in it. Looking back I now realize that I felt that way because I wasn’t using it to it’s full potential. I didn’t follow a lot of meaningful people, I didn’t understand how to use hashtags to my advantage and didn’t feel it was possible to share something meaningful in 140 characters. Twitter has become one of the most beneficial tool for me as a teacher. It has provided me with great resources, professional development and connections with other amazing teachers – all for free! I have really developed my PLN (personal learning network) and I can’t imagine my teaching career without twitter. I the teacher in this video has done an excellent job of discussing PLN’s and the role twitter plays in developing your PLN.

It is possible for students to build a PLN and we plan to encourage our students to build their PLN through using a course hashtag (which is yet to be decided) as well as hootsuite or tweetdeck. Students will be asked to interact on twitter by sharing articles, retweeting and quoting tweets from classmates within the class as well as people from outside of the class. By using hashtags students will be able to reach out and connect with others far beyond the four walls of our classrooms which will in turn help them improve the community within our classroom by sharing resources and information.

Another way we feel that an online learning community can be established is through blogs. George Couros shares 5 reasons why students should be blogging including developing a positive digital footprint, giving students a voice and allowing for student reflection. It is a great way for students to document their learning and share what they have been doing in class. Through comments on each others blogs the online community can further be established. Like Liz pointed out, it is important to consider digital citizenship and be sure that students are commenting respectfully and mindfully. Being that we are doing a digital citizenship course prototype we will be focusing on this early on in the semester. Students will be expected to follow classmates blogs through an RSS platform such as Feedly. Feedly is a user friendly way to follow blogs without having to go back to the individual blog and check to see if a new post has been written. We felt that this would be easier to use than creating a blog hub.

The last way that we thought we can try to establish a community is through the discussion feature on Canvas. An edutopia article lists many benefits to using a discussion board in an online course including critical thinking, improved reading & writing skills and reflection. The article also suggests having students come up with the guidelines for using the discussion board and just like Sarah I feel like this would be a really great idea. The chart discussing Bloom’s Taxonomy in relation to activities for discussion boards really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities for activities through a discussion board. Although I see the discussion board being used primary for students to connect with one another to ask questions or get help with information related to the course I can see it be useful to have an activity thrown in there every once in a while too.

I feel like there are so many other tools we could have selected but I feel like these are the tools that will help our students build a community online, much like I have experienced in all of my EC&I classes with Alec and Katia.

Are there any other great tools we have overlooked for our course prototype in terms of building community online?

The new tools of our trade?

I want to start by saying hats off to my peers, Amy, Krista, Luke, Elizabeth and Rochelle who presented on the topic of educational software and media. I have to admit that although I am familiar with a lot of different great software and media tools I don’t often integrate them into my classes (insert red embarrassed face here). I can’t say for sure why I haven’t integrated the tools in my classes yet, but a big part of it is the fact that I was out the classroom on mat leave all of last year, so having just been back to work for a month and a half I still feel as thought I’m adjusting to the new routine. When I’m talking about not using the tools, I guess I’m talking about tools like Kahoot, Socrative, Quizlet or Explain Everything. I do use other media in the classroom so I will talk about the tools I do use as well as touch on some of the tools I have spent some time exploring in hopes to integrate the into my classes in the future.

One of the tools I use is Edmodo. I enjoy using Edmodo for a variety of reasons. The first is because the interface is similar to Facebook and students so it’s easy to navigate and students feel the same way. One of the biggest benefits is the increased level of communication between students, parents and the teacher. I’ve made a screen cast of my Edmodo page that takes you through some of the features as well as discusses some of the pros and cons of using Edmodo.

I have some EAL students in my class and they spend time working with a language app called Duolingo. I was introduced to this last year when I used it to try and learn some Italian. It has a gaming feel to it and makes learning fun, but the quality of the learning isn’t the best. I used it a lot, but I wasn’t able to actually remember or recall much of the language when I wasn’t using the app or website. To get a feel for how the program works check out my screencast from when I did my post-assessment. During the video you will hear the chime when I respond correctly and a green banner appears. Duolingo is very stimulus-response based lending itself nicely to the behaviourism theory. When I played it was really motivating and the game like features kept making you come back. You can earn badges, points and your progress is tracked making it rewarding to play and learn. The downside to the app is that although there is a lot of repetition it doesn’t allow for deeper connections and learning. To truly learn a language I believe you must converse with people using the language and Duolingo doesn’t provide these types of interactions. Users may chat with others on a forum, but there is no opportunity to speak with others and practice.

Duolingo is a great tool for EAL learners to get additional practice as it is engaging and fun. In order for students to practice outside of the classroom, students need to have access to the website or app. This makes it difficult for students who don’t have access to technology to practice when they are not at school. As a mentioned above, the app itself is not enough for students to master a language, but it is helpful. Language Surfer provides a great list of ways to get the most out of Duolingo and most of them go beyond just playing “the game”. Students who use this need to go beyond the app by writing down new word they learn on paper, writing sentences that they struggle with, reading the hints given by the program and working with others to practice speaking the language they are learning.

Other tools that I have explored for past classes with Alec are Socrative and Explain Everything. Socrative allows you to create quizzes and use exit slips to assess student understanding. I don’t think I would use this tool for summative assessment purposes but I see it as a great tool to get some feedback of learning throughout the unit. Students need to have access to computers, tablets or phones in order to participate so it is difficult to use in a classroom like mine where some students don’t have a phone. I feel like getting computers for everyone would be a lot of hassle to complete a short exit slip or a quiz that will give me some feedback. It is much easier to do a paper exit slip and have students complete it…however not as fun. Explain Everything is an interactive whiteboard app and I have thought about using it in my math classes. I see students using it to walk me through a question while they explain the steps they are using to solve the problem. I see it as an excellent tool to evaluate deeper understanding however it takes time for students to learn how to use the tool so that is something that would need to be considered before it is used in the classroom. You can check out my youtube channel to find the video tutorials I have created for both Socrative and Explain Everything. The videos will give you a better idea of how they work if you are wanting to learn more about them. A few classmates have included great reviews of Plickers and Seesaw; both tools seem beneficial in their own ways. Be sure to check out Plickers as reviewed by Liz and Seesaw as reviewed by Erin (great job guys!).

As I stated earlier, I tend to stay away from many of these question-response type tools because I don’t see a whole lot of value in them for the amount of time it takes to implement them. I do see it as a fun way to review and see the value in using these tools to differentiate the teaching methods. How often do you use these tools? Can you sell me on the value of these tools? I’m not saying I will never use them, but I don’t see myself using them on a regular basis…but maybe I should? Are these the new tools of our educational trade?

Does social media need a time out?

This week we looked at whether or not social media is ruining childhood. The debate was really well done by both sides and although I agreed with the statement that it is ruining childhood, after reading some of the blogs this week I don’t know if I truly feel that way. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being really indecisive and sitting on the fence ha ha. Thanks to Jeremy and Amy for making it hard for me to stick to my original stance on the agree side.

Let me start with discussing the agree side which was the side that I was originally leaning towards. There were a few reasons I was leaning more towards this side than the other. The first is the issue with different mental health issues that can be brought on by technology.  Stress, sleep deprivation, cyberbullying and depression are all issues that children deal with when using technology and social media. I know what you’re thinking – “these issues existed before technology and social media were around.”  And you would be right in saying that. Stress, bullying, sleep deprivation and depression have been around since the beginning of time I’m sure. However, I do believe that technology and social media have played a big role in the intensity of these issues in adolescents. Technology adds to stress because we are constantly comparing ourselves to others through social media.

Stress might come from maintaining a large network of Facebook friends, feeling jealous of their well-documented and well-appointed lives, the demands of replying to text messages, the addictive allure of photos of fantastic crafts on Pinterest, having to keep up with status updates on Twitter, and the “fear of missing out” on activities in the lives of friends and family – Pew Research Center

Bullying has always existed, but recent bullying statistics show that there are more ways to bully someone using technology compared to times when technology didn’t exist. Technology makes bullying a lot harder to escape because it can follow the victim long after they have left. Sleep deprivation caused by increased use of technology and having devices in our rooms can lead to decreased attention span, drowsiness, depression and decreased grades. Social Media Depression may be something that we need to have more open conversations with our children (and even ourselves) about.

I also agree that social media is hurting the development of face to face communication skills in our youth and even adults. It is also difficult to communicate through text because we can easily misinterpret the tone of the message being sent. Take a look at this short video and see if it looks familiar. I’m sure most of us have been in a situation where we have misinterpreted a text or email and have had to clarify what we meant over the phone or face to face. When it comes to communicating face to face 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken. Body language and tone of voice play a huge role in this and when we communicate using technology those aspects are removed. It can be difficult to communicate face to face if we don’t develop the right skills to do it. In order to better communicate face to face we need time to practice.

The last thing that I have to say about it affecting childhood in a bad way is the false sense of ‘friendship’ they are receiving. Although this study has shown that 52% of students feel social media has helped make their friendships stronger I have to question that. I have to question whether having over 1000+ friends on social media makes students feel like they have a truly strong group of friends or gives them a sense of belongingness and popularity. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have on social media, studies have shown that out of all the friends you only have 4 close friends from that list.  Now when I think about that and think back to my days in high school, I would say that I had a friends list of 30-40 people that I would have considered ‘friends’ but out of those people there were only 3 other girls that I would have considered my best friends. So has social media changed the fact that although we know a lot of people and may call them friends, we really only have a handful of people we can go to to talk about real life or look to for support? I don’t think it has which might be interesting to think about.

I do agree that social media and technology can connect us. It allows us to keep in touch with family and friends (especially the ones who don’t live near us). We can reach out to family and friends and share information with them. I have to admit that although it connects us, I have found that I personally will pick up the phone less and less to call people to catch up. Instead I sift through Facebook waiting for them to update something about their life. Which is completely silly. If I want to know what’s up with them, I should call. But most of the time I don’t. So although it can provide great opportunities to connect us, if you are like me, it has potential to create some distance that doesn’t need to be there.

I really like this article that gives 5 reasons social media might actually be helping your kids.  I think discovering new interests and helping with creativity are definitely big pluses. I also agree with this article stating that it gives a sense of belonging and helps them express themselves. It is great that it provides a channel for them to express themselves, but we must teach them to do it in an appropriate way. Just because you can post something publicly and reach a large number of people doesn’t mean you have to throw out common sense or proper manners. We need to be teaching students that social media is a great tool for promoting issues and shedding light on them.

I think there are a lot of things that we can be worrying about when it comes to social media and technology. We do need to be mindful for their mental and physical health. We need to also be aware of the sexualization of young girls through the media as Shannon talked about. But we can’t blame technology for everything. I don’t think that technology is the problem even though my blog leans more towards the agree side. I do believe all the points I discussed but I know that we can use technology in positive ways to prevent those negative issues from becoming big problems. We as parents and teachers need to work with our children to harness the positive aspect of technology. We need to teach our children common sense, morals and manners. I feel like we blame technology because it’s easier to blame technology than to blame ourselves for not speaking up or having discussions with our children. As times change, our parenting needs to change. It’s not technology that needs a time out, we are the ones we need a time out. We need a time out to think about how we can create balance and healthy technology habits for our children so that social media and technology have a positive impact on our lives rather than negative one.

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From Pexels.com

Why blog when I can use Edmodo?

Last year I decided I wanted to start a class blog in order to keep students and parents updated with the daily happenings in my classroom. After spending a few days setting up a blog and organizing my classes I realized I didn’t really have a plan for my blog and it’s purpose. I didn’t know how to get started and wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with it once I got it all set up. I think the idea of having a blog seemed ideal and like something a 21st century teacher should be doing. I had good intentions, but I wasn’t sure how to accomplish what I wanted to. I had also decided to use Edmodo and thought that between using Edmodo and a classroom blog that students would have too many places to check in on. I didn’t know how to manage both Edmodo and the blog so I decided to forgo the blog and focus on using Edmodo (which I LOVE by the way!).

For anyone unfamiliar with Edmodo is its a website/app that looks almost identical to Facebook. You create a homepage for each class and invite students to join you by giving them access to your page through an access code. Once students join your page they can see any status update you make. It creates an ongoing timeline (just like Facebook) of anything you post to that class. You can update statuses that include files, videos, links and photos. You can also set a time and date for a status to appear which is convenient in planning ahed. I like to use it to update daily homework, provide test reminders, attach any handouts from the lessons or update video resources. I have also had students submit assignments using Edmodo as well. Students who are away from school can stay updated with what happened and can even catch up on readings or worksheets by downloading the. Students may post to the timeline as well which allows you or other students to answer or comment on their post. Private messages may be sent from the student to you also. It makes communication super easy and convenient especially if you use the app. Using the app allows you to communicate with students anytime anywhere. It also allows you to update information if you are away from school. After using Edmodo for the last year, I really don’t know what I would do without it and will continue to use it moving forward. Here is a short video showing you Edmodo at a glance.

Having listed all the different ways I have used Edmodo I realize that there are a lot of other ways to use it that I will have to explore soon. I would highly recommend Edmodo to any English teacher as there are a lot of writing applications. I haven’t had much luck finding ways to integrate more math into Edmodo other than uploading videos as additional resources to a lesson. Maybe I could update a different math riddle each day? If you have used Edmodo in your math class I would love to hear from you. I also came across this list of ways to use Edmodo in different classes that might be worth checking out if you teach high school courses.

Now that I’ve talked up Edmodo enough, I need to get back to the purpose of this post. Why blog when I can use Edmodo? Last year I decided to give up the hopes of having a class blog and decided to go solely with Edmodo because it is a quicker way to update information and I really like the ease of communication between students and myself. I understand that if I wanted to provide more detailed information about something that a blog might be a better place to do that. I never really thought more about why I should have a class blog after I started working with Edmodo, but having started a blog for my graduate class I feel like I might be able to make it work in my classroom.

I have spent some time looking at different blogs on this edubloggers list and I have a better idea of the purpose a blog might have in my class. I do like that blogs can be public so they reach out to people beyond your classroom. Edublogs has created a list of ten ways to use your edublog as a teacher that provides some great ideas for using a blog to go beyond creating simple updates about your classroom. I like that students can be involved in the blogging process and can even have blogs of their own.

All that being said, I am still struggling to see the point of using a blog when I can use Edmodo to do the same thing only quicker. Maybe I am wrong and maybe you can help convince me otherwise. Do I stick with Edmodo and continue to forget about the blogging? Do I implement a blog for each of my classes (as a side note I teach high school math and business classes)? What is your experience with a teacher/class blog? How do you use it? I would love to hear from anyone with a blog and would love a link to your blog so I can check it out and see how you use it.