Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Journal 9: First graders with iPads?

Getting, S., & Swainey, K. (2012). First graders with iPads?. Learning and Leading with Technology,40(1), 24-27. Retrieved from

First graders with iPads? This article, by Sara Getting and Karin Swainey, discusses the use of iPads in the classrooms of young students to improve success in "youngest at-risk readers." Getting and Swainey wanted to determine if iPads would aid in the reading achievement of their two lowest reading groups. Much to their surprise, facilitating the use of iPads in a first-grade classroom was relatively easy. Teachers sat the students down and gave them the iPads; any student who did not comply had their iPad taken away immediately. For those that did comply, many apps were used on the iPads to facilitate reading success. "Sight Words, Fluency, Comprehension, Vocabulary, and Literacy" were some of the areas of focus and concern for the teachers. The students were comfortable using the iPads and their attention and focus improved greatly. The students also began to collaborate with one another in groups.

Q1: What, if any, problems arose during the experiment?

A1: The teachers found some technical problems where the iPads would not sync properly in mass quantities. Some apps were also missing from some of the devices. Subject matter was limited on the devices as well and some of the apps were noisy and distracting. To solve the noisy apps problem, they purchased headphones for the group activities.

Q2: What was the outcome?

A2: One outcome was that the TOT "time on task" statistics for students improved, in some cases as much as 20%. Students learned about global awareness using Google Earth. The data gathered by the teachers confirmed that students who routinely used the iPad saw elevated average gains and/or higher scores at the end of the year.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Journal 8: Tools for Communication and Accessibility

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is the term used to describe the methods of communication available to those who are impaired from normal speech. These methods include tools that help people with speech impairments form words and sentences.

One low tech tool I decided to research for communication is called the GoTalk 9+ and is available from this link. This message-type board is considered to be low tech and allows the recording of up to 9 messages with a total maximum recording time of 45 minutes. You can put custom pictures of the actions/word buttons that are located on the device. This allows people with speech impairments to quickly communicate with others in a clear way. The buttons can be set for very common words such as "hello" or "all done" and can therefore allow communication to be available at the push of a button. In the classroom I can easily see this being used as a go-to tool for quick communications like questions, requests, and statements.

Interestingly enough, sign language is considered a low tech form of AAC according to

One high tech tool I decided to research is called the Boardmaker® with Speaking Dynamically Pro v.6 and is available from this link. I chose this tool because it is the most expensive on the site's best seller list. The Boardmaker® is software for Windows and Mac that gives students the ability to learn and communicate with many notable features like word prediction, abbreviation and expansion, and the ability to store frequently used phrases. In the classroom this is actually used as a learning tool for students to develop their writing and speech abilities. First they compose messages using the software's word prediction technology and then they listen to their messages to practice their speech.

For students with special needs where accessibility is an issue, an Input Device provides an easy way for students to reach out and communicate. These Input Devices are used mainly with students who have physical or mental disabilities and cannot use normal devices like keyboards. These students can use touch-sensitive pads, selection switches, or pointing devices.

Here is a link to a great pdf article that explains everything about these input devices:
Use of Computer Technology to Help Students with Special Needs

One hardware option I researched is called the Roller Joystick Plus and is available through this link. This joystick is a fully functioning replacement of a standard mouse and works with both Windows and Mac. Features include removable finger covers and recessed function buttons. Students can use this joystick to left-click, right-click, scroll, and double-click just like any ordinary mouse. You can also change the speed of the cursor. In the classroom and at home this tool is used as a replacement for a standard computer mouse for students with special needs. Now accessibility isn't as much of a problem; students can move their hands around this joystick instead of fidgeting with a mouse.

One software option I researched is called iCommunicator and is available from this link. This software provides a variety of different tools to help students with special needs communicate and is designed mainly for students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. This tool is ideal for students with accessibility issues because it only requires the students to speak to the computer instead of having to type. Students can talk through a microphone and the iCommunicator software will turn everything they say into typed words and sentences. The software offers speech to text, speech or text to video sign language, and speech or text to computer voice. This seems like an amazing tool and can be used on a variety of students whose accessibility needs differ. In the classroom this can be used for everything from everyday communication to writing essays and reports. This software allows students to go to the next level and communicate through technology simply by talking to the computer. As a dual-use, teachers can also use this program to generate sign language videos for students and generate computer voice outputs of text.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Journal 7 PLN - Personal Learning Network


PLN stands for Personal Learning Network. A PLN is one's version of social networking for educational purposes. A PLN can network you with other educators who then may share with you valuable resources and information. Professionals often come together to expand their PLN's through online tools like Twitter. Twitter allows these educators to participate in regularly scheduled "chats" which are moderated and have new topics each time. The chats are a fantastic way to ask questions, share information, give opinions, and discuss the real problems that are facing education today. As a teacher, this can help tremendously; there are virtually thousands of resources shared on Twitter everyday. You can sort through the information to your specific subject and find the answers to many your questions. I plan to use Twitter to network with fellow Math teachers and become friends with them. When problems arise and I need help, I plan to look to them for advice and suggestions. Also in my PLN is a social booking website called Diigo. With Diigo you can bookmark websites that you find particularly interesting and share them with other educators. You can also use Diigo to network with other educators and get access to all of their bookmarks. This is an incredibly powerful tool by which you can search for websites with the specific content and materials that you seek. Last, I decided to join Classroom 2.0, which is a digital discussion forum; it is essentially a place where educators from around the globe come to share information in the form of forum posts. There are thousands of threads in the discussion forums that contain all sorts of information for educators. Also on Classroom 2.0 are labs, articles, recordings, and events.


I decided to participate in #edchat on Tuesday, July 31 at 9:00 a.m. I kept a look out for people who were educators so that I could follow them on Twitter. The topic of the chat was the future of the classroom.

I plan to use Twitter to further develop and maintain my PLN. Twitter is a great tool for meeting new people and sharing ideas about education. I'm impressed with the amount of weekly chats that are available specifically for those interested in education. The chats are a great way to spend a Tuesday morning and I will probably attend one at least once a month. After participating in the chat, I chose to follow a few educators who shared ideas similar to mine. Some of these educators have thousands upon thousands of followers! I view following them as a great way to receive trustworthy information, links, and ideas.


The chat is definitely fast. There are constantly new posts coming but what I like is that you can basically pause the chat by choosing not to view the new Tweets right away. This gives me time to actually read and follow links that people have posted to the chat.

One person whose account name is "Eye on Education" posted a link to a .pdf file containing "31 Days Worth of Online Activities: The Connected Educator Start Kit." I downloaded it and it seems really useful in explaining all the new online tools for education including Twitter and Web 2.0. Here is the link to the pdf: Tools

One person started a long discussion with the question, "How do you envision the learning places of the future?" Many teachers posted that they wanted to start transitioning their classrooms into laid back, cafe style atmospheres to inspire student collaboration. Some educators suggested that the classroom may change aesthetically over time, but it will always be a necessity in our society. As one person Tweeted: "Tech advancements are changing the definition of a 'classroom' but not doing away with it." Online and virtual environments including online schools are also changing the face of the classroom. But from what I gathered from this chat, most people agree that the traditional classroom is here to stay.


I'm using Diigo to maintain my PLN by bookmarking pages that interest me and tagging them with "PLN". The helpful links I get through Twitter chats and other pages are all send to Diigo to permanently store them for easy future retreival. Also on Diigo are many groups to follow. One group I joined, "Math Links", posts daily updates on new links and information. These updates are sent directly to my email account.

I'm currently following 2 math teachers, 1 person who is a department head of educational technology, 1 person who in interested in expanding his own PLN, and 1 person who is a regional technology coordinator with over 18,000 public bookmarks!

I tagged a few sites I gathered from the regional technology coordinator with "PLN". I chose these sites because they all have to do with mathematics in education. One site gives lesson plans and activities for grades Pre-K to 12. Another site gives tips on how to teach mathematics in a visual way that is easy to understand for students. The last site is a forum-type site that gives resources for teachers in a well-organized fashion.

Digital Discussion Forum:

I chose to join the Classroom 2.0 website and put the badge on my blog. I researched the article entitled "Kindelizaton: Are Books Obsolete?" In this article the author, Stephen Krashen questions whether physical books and textbooks will become obsolete in the future. He presents percentages that show huge increases in the number of adults who own e-readers and e-books. In addition, 62% of high school libraries use e-books and experts estimates that in 5 years, 84% will use e-books. I agree with Krashen's opinion that "kindelization" is far away even though more and more people are starting to use e-readers. As of now, cost is the most limiting factor for families who do not own e-readers and I think that many families would rather spend their hard-earned money elsewhere. It both excites and scares me to think that complete "kindelization" could one day become a reality.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Journal 6: Ten Reasons to Get Rid of Homework

Spencer, J. (2011, September 19). Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives). Retrieved from

Ten Reasons to Get Rid of Homework: This article, by John Spencer, puts forth reasons for teachers not to assign homework to students. His reasons cover multiple areas of schooling and argue for the abolishing of homework altogether. The most prospective reason in his article, in my opinion, is the "Inequitable Situation" reason presented by Spencer. According to him, many students have a disadvantage in that their parents do not provide the support needed for them to complete their homework at home. Many students have parents who are either too busy, too tired, or unwilling to assist their children in their work. The students with parental support gain the advantage in this case.

The least prospective reason, in my opinion, is that "Most Homework is Bad". Spencer argues that most homework recreates the school environment at home. What he fails to realize is that homework is the reality of schooling and always will be. Students must be prepared for intense homework if they plan to succeed in college and for a teacher not to assign homework implies that the teacher isn't looking out for his/her students' future and best interests. What a shame.

Five Reasons To Keep Homework: I've chosen to defend the use of homework by giving five reasons on why it should stay within our schools.
1. Homework promotes discipline and growth - Without homework, students can lose their sense of discipline and slow their academic growth. Do I believe that kids should have time to be kids? Of course, but there are many hours in a day and kids should devote some of their time to doing assignments. 

2. Many assignments address the problems facing our world today - If large assignments like essays and reports were done away with, then there would be two major problems as a result. First, what's to keep the students from doing any work at all? When I was in school, it was very easy to coast by and let other students participate while I sat back and listened. If a teacher called on me, I would say something similar to what another student said. If I had done all my assignments, I would be more motivated and more ready to participate in class. Second, without dedicated time at home to perform research, read, and write reports, students will lose out on examining many issues that are facing the world today. I know that if I was in school, I would rather watch television than read the news and find information about important topics. If there are no assignments, why should students care to engage in such information?

3. Homework provides additional feedback - Homework can be used to gauge student knowledge and understanding. Without homework, the teacher must perform additional steps and allocate additional time to figuring out whether his/her students are grasping the material. With homework, the teacher can spend time outside class grading and seeing common mistakes and subsequently plan to address the mistakes in later classes.

4. Homework is a great way for students to practice what they've learned - Students need time to digest what they have learned in class each and every day. Once they get home, students can play for awhile and relax and then begin to work on their homework. By doing homework, students can practice what they have learned and become better at what they do. After all, practice makes perfect and one hour periods each day do not provide enough time for students to practice the material. 

5. Group assignments promote collaboration - Some assignments can given as group assignments, where students get together and collaborate to form ideas. These assignments are fantastic ways for students to build relationships with their peers both in and out of the classroom. Let the students build things and perform experiments outside the classroom to solidify their understanding of the material and engage in collaboration. These assignments can show students the real world benefits of education, which often may not be present in the curriculum.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Journal 4: Join the Flock/Enhance Your Twitter Experience

            Ferguson, H. (2010). Join the flock. Learning & Leading with Technology, 37(8), 12-14. Retrieved from

Miller, S. (2010). Enhance your twitter experience. Learning & Leading with Technology, 37(8), 12-14. Retrieved from

Join the Flock: In the first article entitled "Join the Flock," Hadley Ferguson describes how she created and developed her own PLN (Personal Learning Network) using Twitter. She gives many suggestions and instructions on the uses of Twitter, including how to setup an account, how to follow someone, how to retweet and make friends, and how to expose yourself on Twitter. She also describes how hashtags can be very useful in exposure to streams of educators who use similar hashtags.

Q1: How do hashtags play a role in who sees what and what are some good hashtags?

A1:  Hashtags play an important role in linking information to a network of people who may find the information useful. After all, what good would sharing lesson plans with just your family or friends be? More people will see posts with hashtags added and the educational hashtags can directly funnel information to other Twitter users' streams. Some good hashtags, according to Ferguson, are #teachers, #educators, #web20, and #pln.

Enhance Your Twitter Experience:

The second article, "Enhance Your Twitter Experience", describes how to enhance one's experiences on the social website Twitter through various tools. She also includes a section on Twitter terminology, which she dubs "Tweminology" at the end of her article. Miller encourages new Twitter users to become active in their areas of interest and parcipate in discussions after they feel comfortable. With the right exposure, new Twitter users can adapt and join groups that will help build PLN's.

Q2: Why is it recommended that we acquire tools to organize our Twitter accounts?

A2: Miller recommends that we manage and organize our tweets with a Twitter organizer tool such as TweetDeck or HootSuite. Both tools organize the streams of data acquired from Twitter into easily managed columns. Miller herself says that she often has multiple columns which house her favorite lists so that she can be up to date on all the information.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Journal 3: Upside Down and Inside Out

Fulton, K. (2012). Upside down and inside out: Flip your classroom to improve student learning. Learning & Leading with Technology, 39(8), 12-14. Retrieved from

Summary: "Upside down and inside out" is an article that discusses a recent fad in the world of education called "flipping".

When an educator "flips" his/her classroom, he/she let students learn the material at home and do homework in class. This is radically different than the traditional classroom. In the flipped classroom, students watch video lessons at home prepared by their teachers and then work on their homework during class. Students can choose to work individually, in groups, or even outside of the classroom. Lessons are available via iPods and other MP3 players so that students can refer to them while doing their homework. According to the article, this practice has been very successful and student feedback indicates that students enjoy the new system.

Q1: Is this approach reasonable for all levels of Math?

A1: I would have to say that "flipping" can be very difficult depending on the subject matter. The problem I see is that students cannot ask the teacher questions while they are watching or listening to the video lessons. My belief is that any questions a student may have about the material should be answered immediately to avoid having the student guess or adopt a wrong method. This is especially important in Math because many students struggle to grasp the concepts behind the problems. It can be dangerous if students don't understand the foundational material in the video but continue to watch and attempt problems toward the end.

Q2: How would teachers deal with parents who object to this type of teaching method?

A2: I think that this question is very important because I can see many parents objecting to the flipping method. They may object simply because they do not want to change or they are uneducated about the potential benefits of flipping. As a teacher I would make sure that all of my students' parents were on board before I made the change to the curriculum. Any parents who object to the method I would talk face-to-face and explain to them why flipping the classroom could be very beneficial.

Journal 2: School 2.0 Reflection Tool

NETS-T 3: Model Digital-Age Work and Learning - Teachers exhibit knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative professional in a global and digital society.

For this reflection, I chose the module involving digital-age work and learning.  I chose to examine a resource article entitled "Grow Your Personal Learning Network �New Technologies Can Keep You Connected and Help You Manage Information Overload." Within this resource are helpful hints on creating and maintaining what is known as a personal learning network (PLN). There are two key elements to this: an aggregator and the learner. The learner uses an aggregator (such as Google Reader) to bring information to the forefront and expand knowledge. These aggregators come in all shapes and forms and are almost always free to use. An example given by the article is the social bookmarking site known as Delicious. One may perform a search on Google for a specific subject and receive millions upon millions of results. Delicious can be a great tool to limit these results to websites of higher quality (since someone took the time to view and bookmark them).

The article uses a metaphor on how information on the internet used to be hunter-gatherer type but today has shifted into domestication. As soon as one finds a blog they are interested in, he/she can subscribe to the blog and forever be connected to a valuable resource without any additional hunting. The blog is only one example--people may build their learning network using mailing lists, Google Docs, Twitter, comment boards, and other social tools. It is easy to see how powerful a personal learning network may become. The uses for the network are endless; I can think of many examples of situations where I would turn to the network for valuable, unbiased information that comes directly from the source.

Finally, the article stresses the importance of examining the one weakness associated with personal learning networks. This weakness involves human tendency to "incline" with information that matches or agrees with our worldviews. According to the author, "...we must try to cultivate networks that challenge our thinking and frames of reference. That is how we all learn."