Friday, March 31, 2017

Mobiles in the Classroom Interview

I conducted the interview with an educator name Chrissy Carfagno, who teaches Health Ed and Physical Fitness at CCA (Commonwealth Charter Academy); since Chrissy and I are close friends, I decided to call her to ask her questions about using mobile devices during her LiveLessons. During our conversations, Chrissy disclosed to me how she uses mobile device in our virtual setting, taking into account the difficulties it arises since she can’t technically see students using their devices; it’s all optional…for now she claims. Generally speaking, Chrissy claims she uses mobiles devices mainly to record videos of herself working out. Now, she does show physical fitness moves during her LiveLessons, and they are recorded, but our workspace is limited. We literally work in a cubicle. So, sometimes when she goes to the gym (she’s an avid gym goer), she likes to record herself doing a yoga pose or workout move involving the biceps, and share them with her students; even completing tutorials on full on workout routines. Chrissy also encourage her students to take videos of themselves working out to share during LiveLesson. She advise students, if they have smartphones, to use their StopWatch and/or Timer application when tracking their workout sessions, since they have to be documented for some assignments. Chrissy also recommends downloading Workout trackers (from Google Play Store for example) to keep track of progress, both educationally and personally, throughout the year; she shares a couple of free app ideas with her students. Lastly, Chrissy uses her mobile device to stay in contact with students. She, like most teachers at CCA, have a Google Voice number, and students call her or send her text messages when they need assistance. 
Chrissy is well aware of our school’s policy concerning the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, and remains in compliance with this Acceptable Use Policy at all times. She also knows too that CCA relinquishes the duties of all web based monitoring, including the use of cellular devices, to the Caretakers and designated Learning Coaches as outlined in our school policy. When it comes to parental involvement, Chrissy says she hopes parents remain aware of the activities she encourages with the use of mobile devices, such as the tracking applications, because they too can encourage students to take Heath Ed and Physical Fitness seriously. Parents are also sent the same webmails students are, and on the classroom website, they have their own Parent Corner where they too can review her workout tutorials.  Her main challenge is coming up with new ideas to use with mobile devices, that could include all students, even those without access to a phone. “There are many students at CCA who, because of their beliefs or values, either don’t have smartphones or cell phones altogether,” she says. Chrissy claims, “luckily the policies in place at CCA gives teachers so much freedom to use and advocate for many tools/applications out there in the cyber world.” I agree! 

From this interview, I learned to be more open minded in terms of mobile devices in my learning environment. As a virtual teacher, it’s so easy to get comfortable with our laptops and use them for access to everything technological; that’s also because we know all the students too have the same laptops, all of them, with the same programs and hardware as all the educators. I’m now curious about the different and free educational applications students can access through a source like Google Play Store on their phones, to use for our course; I’m sure there are many tools, even games that can relate to the many topics and concepts explored in American Literature from the 14th century to the 21st century. Chrissy’s feedback was to listen to our students on their opinions and recommendations when it comes to using mobile devices in the learning environment. After all, cell phones are their life, and they know more about technological advancements and the latest tools/applications more than we do! She herself has learned to be patience and have fun. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Discovering Something New

Directory List:Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything...
Online Tools  

1. Mindmaps
I chose Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything directory. Kathy Schrock instructed my last course, EDIM 510, so I'm familiar with this directory, however, I never took the time to really explore everything. I'm actually impressed with how detailed and effective this directory is arranged; I can easily see how helpful this list could be for me both personally and educationally. The first tool I selected was the Mindmaps. Personally, whether I'm planning a trip, outlining steps for a task,or completing homework, I always map out a plan. Instead of using paper all of the time, I wanted to use other tools, other than Google Docs, to map out my work. For starters, once I went to the Mindmaps website, I was immediately prompted to start working; the tools were all available to use, and did not require registration or sign up. While exploring the tool, I decided to start a mindmap on an upcoming trip to New York. I was amazed with how easy it was to create my map. With my mindmap, I changed the color, font, and direction of thoughts. I was able to save my work and export it from the working page.
I did not have any challenges using this tools, but I would recommend adding text boxes to the mindmap. For example, when I created the Food pathway, I would have liked to add a text box near or under the word Food that would have allowed me to provide a small description before branching out onto another pathway. Also, I would have loved the option to create a picture or drawing as well. I'm a very visual person, so pictures or at least having the option of importing images into my maps, would have been nice. Nonetheless, from an educational standpoint, this tool absolutely has the potential to be viable for teachers and students. Both educators and children can benefit from the idea of using Mindmaps for brainstorming. Teachers brainstorm while lesson planning, and students brainstorm prior to formulating an outline for their papers. Mindmaps is very user friendly, so I think most people would enjoy the tool.

According to my personal list of the characteristics of an effective Web 2.0 tool, I look for:
  1. Relevance to the concept/curriculum being taught
  2. Appropriateness for 11th grade students (16-17 years old)
  3. Credibility (Copyright date, About Page, domain, etc.)
  4. Ease of navigation and webpage layout (background and color, any pop-ups?)
  5. Availability of ­­free accounts
  6. ­­­­Opportunities available for students (can they create, collaborate, etc.)

Mindmaps is a universal tool that can apply to any topic for any organization. People can use Mindmaps at their business, school, or for personal use, therefore, I find it relevant to any concept/curriculum of any subject matter being taught. I teach 11th graders, and so I would highly recommend they use this tool to gather their thoughts while working on their Research Paper in Unit 7 during the spring semester every year; I would make a note of this on the Classroom Website and Message Board, while providing a hyperlink or shortlink; I truly believe students at the elementary, middle, and high school level could use Mindmaps. Looking at point three, though I believe the tool should be improved, I do find the tool credible. It appears the website has not been updated since 2011, and I could tell due to the limitations of the user. However, there was an About Page on the website and the domain ends in .org, which makes me feel a bit more comfortable using the tool and saving the material to my computer. Lastly, I find the website easy to navigate and I love the fact that it's free. Again, I wish the capabilities of the user was expanded so that could go beyond creating a map and actually collaborate with others, but I still find Mindmaps very useful.

2. ABCya! Paint

One of my close friends is a kindergarten teacher, and sometimes she gives me ideas on books to purchase or websites to visit because of my two little ones ages 7 and 2; she mentioned Abcya awhile ago, but I never got around to visiting the website. I explored Abcya!Paint and actually had some fun! At home, I would most definitely have use for this tool because of my two children. Both of them use the computer daily, and instead of watching Youtube videos all the time, I would love for them to take a break and do creative things using technology. So upon my exploration, I noticed Abcya  has so much to offer besides the paint tool. If one sign up for Abcya, they can explore over 200 lessons from grade 1 to high school, along with other activates for Pre-K and kindergarten; these lessons range in academic content. I decided to test the Abcya! Paint by making a picture of a sunny day. I used most of the tools available (pencil, pattern brush, spray paint, etc.) to create my image and enjoyed the experience honestly.


Often time, I grant my students presenter's rights in our virtual classroom, and there they have access to all the tools available; they can use their microphones to speak, upload items in the Share Pod (documents, photos, audio), and draw on the Whiteboard. The tools for the Whiteboard always made drawing so difficult, and thus students felt unmotivated to complete the assignment. I believe this website, though geared more towards a younger audience, has so much potential for educators and students. Educators can use this tool during instruction for illustration purposes, and students can use Abcya!Paint as an independent practice assignment or for homework. If I taught at the middle school level, I would have students use Abcya! Paint for homework or as a project, and then save the image to their computer once completed; students can send their PNG to me in a webmail. Overall, I find this tool very engaging.

While I think for my students, Abcya! Paint is a bit immature for 11th graders, it still measures up nicely to the other characteristics that I find important in a Web 2.0 tool. Drawing/illustrations are relevant to multiple content areas across grade level, and I've found that students at all ages enjoy drawing; it's relaxing. Abcya! Paint appears to be very credible. The site was revised this year, it has an About Page and mission statement, and it has been featured in: The New York Times, USA Today, and Parents. This tool was free to use, and the ease of navigation was incredible. The fonts were in different sizes, the colors were vibrant, there were no pop-ups, and the website was not cluttered or too busy. Abcya! Paint is an inviting website. What I enjoy most of all about this tool is that it provides students with a platform to be creative  and showcase their potential.

Untangling the Web: Storyboard That
While I could not locate the Web 2.0 tool Storyboard That in Untangling the Web book, I was still determined to explore this tool because as an English teacher, I'm interested in anything related to telling a story. I'm glad I made that decision in the end. I had to make an account to use the website, but it was free. I watched the introduction tutorial video, and then started creating. Storyboard That blew me away. It takes digital storytelling to a whole new level. The user has so much control over the editing process. One could make a movie, comic bit, and of course a book. Storyboard That could be used for businesses or for personal ventures; there seems to be references to filmmakers using this tool displayed on their website. Since I do creative writing as a hobby, I would use Storyboard That just for entertainment purposes, but in the realm of education, the possibilities are extensive. I started my storyboard working on the setting, and from there I select my scene from a plethora of options, and then edit: the colors (of buildings); time of day; weather; degree of which the scene is angled. Almost everything can be edited! Awesome!

Picture 1

                                                                              Picture 2

After spending some time changing the scene around, I then moved on to the characters, and again, I was blown away with just how much control I had over my creation; the options seemed endless. The characters start off colorless, and the user can change just about everything about them for their story. There are even choices on what type of character one is looking for...a child, medieval warrior, or a ghost. The only challenge I faced was making a final decision due to the overwhelming selection.

                                                                             Picture 3
Storyboard That is most definitely a tool that could benefit the learning environment for both educators and students. For educators, they could use this tool to bring to life or recreate a poem or short story assigned in class. Students can do the same or create their own stories in groups or as a project. I would surmise that this tool would probably be best for middle and high school students due to the level of editing and detail that goes into creating a storyboard; I think elementary students would easily get overwhelmed and confused, thus requiring much assistance. Since the accounts are free, students could make one of their own, and once they were done with their work, they could download the images/presentation, embed their creation into a website, or export to PowerPoint or Google Slides.

I'm super excited about introducing this tool to my students. Storyboard That is completely relevant to a Language Arts curriculum, but I could also see Social Studies, Science, and even Math classes using this tool to create a story based on a particular topic; that could be a great challenge, having student create a comic bit based on a mathematical topic. Storyboard That appears very credible with their website revised this year, a well detailed About Page (Mission Statement, Background Info. on the company, etc.), and their accolades illustrated on their website for users to review. My account was free, gifting me two storyboards, and though I was overwhelmed with everything I could alter/edit, this tool  was easy to use. It looked engaging, the directions were clear, and the storyboard creative process was quite inviting.

The Mindmaps tool is the only website I would say is less desirable for educational purposes only because it's lack of updates. Mindmaps have a great concept, so I think with some additional features and options presented to the user, it could be better. At the bottom of the page, there is a feedback tab, and I clicked on it to offer my suggestions. I believe with the many tools similar to this one out there on the web, it's important to be competitive and have much to offer users. Setbacks aside, I find Mindmaps a great tool to use.




Works Cited
Abcya. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.abcya.com/abcya_paint.htm

Dembo, S., & Bellow, A. (2013). Untangling the Web: 20 tools to power up your teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, a SAGE Company.

Mindmaps. (2011). Retrieved from http://drichard.org/mindmaps/# 

Schrocks, K. (2017). Online tools. Kathy Schlock's Guide to Everything.  Retrieved from http://www.schrockguide.net/

StoryboardThat. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.storyboardthat.com/ 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Public Service Announcement Assignment: Part 1

Bianca Bradwell
Video #2
Teacher

1.     What was the main idea or point being made?
The main idea or point to be made about video #2 is quite honestly that clich├ęd phrase, “children are our future.” Aside from the commercial’s intent to persuade the audience to purchase a phone, this video was trying to illustrate the need to listen to children, let them have an outlet for their voices, because they’re imaginative and innovative-at any age. Another point to take away from this video is the impact of one’s idea; the historical change that can take place when someone stops to listen to our youth. Overall, children should not be ignored because they have something to contribute to this world.

2.     What audience was the video trying to reach?
This video clearly tried to reach adults. The child started in the classroom, but continued to share her ideas with her principal, medical staff, and one believed to be an inventor in the end of the video; it’s important to note that it’s the adults in the video that are taking the young girl around to share her ideas. Sometimes the power reside in the teachers, doctors, and other innovators to give children a much needed platform to be listened to and encouraged. We are our students’ role models, so it’s up to us to go the extra mile, like this young girl’s teacher in the video, and make them feel valued. We might see that spark in them that they can’t!

3.     Were the methods used to create the video effective? Why or why not?

The methods used to create this video was very effective. Based on the setting, characters, and other details (language, clothing, color, furniture, etc.), the time frame set for this video could be the early-mid 1900’s. The video forces the audience to contemplate on the historical impact of that little girl’s voice and idea. What if that child never shared her idea on the future of telephones? What if her teacher never took the intuitive to encourage her student to continue sharing her ideas with someone outside the classroom? Allowing just the child’s voice to play throughout the video makes it much more impactful as well. No one is telling the audience how to feel or what to take away from this commercial-it’s just the student’s essay and the encouraging expressions on the faces of the adults; even the tears of the mother adds to the tone of the message. This video does a great job in sending the message that children are not only our future, but can change the future, and it’s up to adults to listen.

Bianca Bradwell
Video #3
Teacher

1.     What was the main idea or point being made?
The main idea or point being made in video #3 is to inform the audience on the how the 21st century world is one of sharing ideas and being innovative within the online community. As the video pinpointed, the world has transitioned from “mass production” being the center of the 20th century, to “mass innovation” being at the heart of the 21st century. Through building communities and conversing online, ideas are shared and brought to life in a sense. People who are a part of these communities enjoy “leaving their piece within the bird’s nest,” and still getting recognized for their contribution.  Overall it’s about equality, freedom, and what’s best for the greater good of society.

2.     What audience was the video trying to reach?
Video #3 was created for multiple audiences. The message could be intended for millennials, educators, or even college students; individuals in all these categories take advantage of online resources, and use them continuously for personal, educational, or professional use. As an educator, video #3 inspired me to contribute to the world of online education. There are many educational platforms online where teachers can share lessons, ideas, and other creations (blogs, podcasts, videos, presentations) with others for free; I know I’ve personally taken advantage of those advantages in the past. Depending on who you are, this video could speak to you differently. 

3.     Were the methods used to create the video effective? Why or why not?
The methods used to create video #3 was quite effective. No one was lecturing the audience on the point(s) to be made, nor was the design confusing or hard to follow. The creator took the audience on an adventure, and used language, visuals, and movement to deliver the message. The language used involved the audience too, it asked everyone to reflect on certain questions in the video as it progressed; it was very engaging. The subtle music used in the background was great for creating the perfect mood. It was not distracting, but noticeable. As a viewer, I felt very much included. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Info-graphic Reflection

I believe the best way to use student-created inforgraphics would be as a formative assessment. Most of these infographics take research, designing, and special formatting, to be done properly; my students have access to online tools and many other programs, so I know they have the potential to so some amazing work. We need some more projects in our curriculum centered around research and student creativity. In an English class, to often the assessments center around writing and long papers. Infographics could be a great alternative to those mundane assignments.

I would weight an infographic project much higher than an Exit Ticket, homework assignment or quiz. Personally, I find the researching portion of formulating infographics to be the most appealing because it's a process that takes trail and error; the children will be learning as they're exploring. Again, I also find the visual/artistic aspect refreshing; it's not enough to simply read data, the power of an image or visual piece is phenomenal as it represents a strong message. Overall, infographics serves many purposes, and if I assign an inforgraphic assignment, I know my students would be utilizing multiple skills to achieve a successful project all at once.

                                                                  Example Infographic


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Online Presentation Reflection

This week by far has been my favorite. I had so much fun creating my Thinglink and Spark Video. I always wanted to use Thinglink since I learned about the tool this summer, but I never set time aside to actually create a project myself to see how this tool could work for my students. I decided to choose the Unit 2 Descriptive Writing assignment I assign my students during the Romantic period unit for this particular project, and it turned out great. I choose the beach as my initial image and picked the time I went to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic as my topic. I was able to tag a video of the resort, an image of Romantic writer Henry D. Thoreau, and even include a video on sensation and perception to show the connection between our senses and descriptive language. 

The Spark Video was quite enjoyable as well. I’ve done something similar with VoiceThread before, but I found Adobe Spark Video’s record and upload features so much easier to use; the simplicity was very nice. My greatest challenge was finding CC licensed and/or Discovery Education images that coincided with my topic, but I think I did pretty well. When I watched the final preview of my video, I was very happy. I’m looking forward to using this video as a introduction to my students upcoming research paper due in March. 

I would definitely use both tools in my virtual room for my students. For Thinglink, I wanted to choose a boring portfolio we have the English 11th graders do every year, and that was the Descriptive Essay. We always tell the students to choose a picture (preferably one they took), embed in into a Word Document, and then to use descriptive language to describe the image and the story behind the picture; it always turns out odd due to the image being out of place in the Word Document. To me, this portfolio could always be much more, and Thinglink would allow my students that needed freedom. They could tag other pictures from their trip or experience, include videos pertaining to the picture or topic of descriptive language, and even tag media that focuses on the Romantic period if they wanted to make that overall connection. As for the Spark Video, I don’t think our students have ever submitted a project where they create a video or do a voice recording; since my students aren’t obligated to speak during LiveLessons, I rarely hear their voices. Adobe Spark Video can provide those opportunities and much more in the areas of presentation. 

I always tell my students I envy their advantages surrounding online schooling since they have access to a computer, printer/scanner, and internet 24/7; our school also grants them free accounts to Discovery Education, EBSCO Host, and other programs for reading and arithmetic. Another advantage of CCA is the individualized learning experience put in place, so though each student have a daily planner and lessons to complete, it’s done at their own pace. Portfolio assignments, depending on the teacher, have its own deadlines/policies, but most teachers understand they take time to complete. These tools used in the form of a portfolio assignment would be treated just the same. As far as assessment practices, I can see both tools in the form of formative and summative assessments; both a Thinglink and Spark Video project could easily measure a student’s ongoing progress on a concept, or their overall level of achievement at the end of a semester. It all depends on the topic of choice and task. 





Sunday, February 5, 2017

Active Learning

Since my student teaching days, I've always been a strong advocate for active learning. Active learning encompasses a learning environment where students are critically thinking about their tasks as they're completing them in the classroom; students are vocal, often instructors themselves, and are engaged. Once I've seen active learners in the classroom for myself and how they orchestrated everything, I became convinced every environment should gift students a platform where they can take charge of their educational journey. Active learning is very student centered. The teacher-student relationship is a partnership requiring full participation from both parties in order to ensure success.

Nonetheless, I do face an enormous challenge. I'm a virtual teacher for Commonwealth Charter Academy, and there, students are not mandated to attend LiveLessons. This point makes planning for activities or assigning students with specific roles rather difficult because they're not dependable; every day is a surprise for me because I have no idea who will show up for class, even my students who attend regularly.
Now, I'm constantly open to new ideas to get around my situation, and thankfully I found Web 2.0 tools to be extremely rewarding. Tools and applications like Google Docs, NearPod, and Bubbl.us grant my students so much flexibility since they can access these tools/apps from anywhere. It allows them the opportunity to lead instruction, collaborate with others, and be vocal in their learning environment.

Works Cited

Coramax.(2013, December, 20). Active learning, universal design for learning (udl) in collaboration with technology [digital image]. Retrieved from http://www.vteducation.org/en/laboratories/active-learning-universal-design-learning-udl-collaboration-technology