Saturday, November 17, 2012

Diigo: Week 10

This week I added a few new articles to my public Diigo library. Each article is about a different topic but all are meant to get you thinking about the future of education in your schools and in regards to professional development. Check them out!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Avatar: Voki Part III

I challenged myself to create an 85 word speech for my avatar to introduce itself/myself with. To manage my word count, I opened a Word document and watched my word count increase at the bottom of my screen as I typed.

However, there is another way to check your word count as well as other statistics related to your text; it is done by enabling readability statistics.

I enabled readability statistics in Word many years ago because this function allows users to access the readability level (suggested reading/grade level) of text as well. Therefore, if I am bringing books into the classroom, I can copy a selection of the text into Word to determine how complex the language is and whether it would be more appropriate for more advanced or struggling readers.

By enabling readability statistics, one is able to check the following:
  • Number of words
  • Number of characters
  • Number of paragraphs
  • Number of sentences
  • Sentences per paragraph
  • Words per sentence
  • Characters per word
  • Ease of reading
  • Flesch-Kincaid readability level
To enable readability statistics, one must do the following:
  1. Click on Word
  2. Click on options
  3. Check the box for readability statistics
To access statistics, one must do the following:
  1. Click on the review tab in Word
  2. Click on spell check
  3. fix or ignore spelling and and grammatical errors
Once these steps have been done, a pop-up window with the statistics will appear.

Avatar: Voki Part II

So much of incorporating technology in the classroom is the use of visual tools. However, with some avatars, such as the Voki avatar, instruction with technology becomes auditory. Avatars are virtual objects that represent the user. In an online, virtual environment, an avatar portrays its creator to other users who often stand behind their own unique avatars. In some instances users can even control their avatars to interact with one another. Of course, not everything you see online is true which is especially the case when talking about people’s portrayals of themselves. A blond haired, blue eyed, female may create an avatar that is a brunette, brown eyed, male. However, this is not always a case of deception. There is beauty to this. For instance, someone is shy in real-life may be able to present a more outgoing version of themselves in a virtual environment, potentially enabling them to experience new things they would not have otherwise or in ways that they would not have otherwise.
How I Would Use It
            Many students, particularly elementary students and ELL students, are assisted in their writing when they can hear it read aloud to them. They are likely to make mistakes that they will not be able or likely to find by rereading their work for themselves due to weaknesses in their reading ability. These students are generally better at identifying mistakes in spoken language, therefore, when a teacher reads their work, they are better able to catch a mistake, find it in their work, and make a correction. Students may improve their writing and their editing skills when they are given the opportunity to plug in their writing into a Voki avatar word box and listen to their Voki “read.”

What I Did
To use Voki’s basic features, all I had to do was access their website (for more advanced features, users must register and pay for Voki Classroom). By clicking on the, “create,” tab at the top of the page, I was able to create a randomized Voki or to choose a character based on my preferences. There are several options to chose from that will ensure that your Voki is unique to you. By clicking on the head icon I was able to customize my character. From there, I  chose, “classic,” for a human-looking face although I could have chosen from categories including toons, anime, animals, politics, etc. Although every avatar can be experimented with, some are only available for saving through Voki Classroom. Next, I changed my avatar’s hair, mouth, and clothes. I was even able to change its hair color, eye color, skin color, lip color, make-up, nose width, height, and weight.

When I finished my character, I got to chose from an assortment of backgrounds and player colors before adding my text. I typed up a paragraph to introduce myself in Word and pasted it into the text box. The player suggested that I might have to spell some words phonetically to ensure that my avatar said pronounced everything correctly. I had to change my name, for example, from Lorri to Lo-rie. Finally, I was able to change the voice of my avatar. This might have been my favorite thing to play around with as I got to listen to my introduction speech in a British, Australian, southern accent, and more.
I posted my avatar in an earlier blog post. Click here to see it.  

What I Learned
I don’t have very much knowledge about avatars. But, after reading this article, I better understand that avatars can come in my different shapes and sizes, can be used for multiple purpose, and can be created through multiple programs. 

Reflections Standards
Using advatars in the classroom, teachers meet standard 4, components, “c,” and, “d,” of the  ISTE-NETS-T’s standards. These components require student communication and collaboration through digital communication formats in order to gain global and cultural awareness, using proper internet etiquette.

Word Cloud: Wordle

            Getting the gist of a selection of text has never been easier. With Wordle users can plug in a body of text or a website URL to create a cloud of associated words. What makes word clouds effective is the way in which individual words are displayed. Instead of having a smattering of words that cannot easily be differentiated and read, Wordle displays words according to how often they occur in text. Words that were used the most appear largest and words that were used least appear smallest. Some words may appear to be the same size but if a large body of text is used, it is likely that words will appear in a large array of font sizes. Words are randomly placed but some adjustments can be made for style. For instance, users can choose to have words arranged horizontally or vertically, arranged in a rounded or straight edged cloud, in a particular font, or in certain colors. The background color on which the words are displayed can also be adjusted. Therefore, Wordle word clouds can be used for both informational and artistic purposes.

What I Learned
            I have used Wordle and seen Wordle used in the past. However, as I investigated it once more, I learned a new trick that I had not known previously. Once a word cloud is created, individual words can be removed. Often, when pasting in a large body of text, filler words will be used throughout the word cloud which can distract from the meaning of the word cloud overall.

How I Would Use It
            In the elementary school, Wordle could be used within the first days of school to create a classroom mission statement, list of rules, or classroom expectations poster by having each student make a list of student, teacher, and class expectations and/or goals. This could be done anonymously. The teacher would have to collect the suggestions and place them into the Wordle creator. Then, the students could see what ideas were shared among the class. The teacher and students could work together to incorporate the five words that appear the largest and most often (Wordle does not differentiate words by capitalization or word endings; you may see both, “student,” and, “Students,” in the same cloud.) into their class mission statement or document. Doing so would allow students to take more responsibility and ownership in the classroom. In addition, the teacher could work with the students to remove the filler words from the Word Cloud in order to use the product as a wall hanging in the classroom.
What I Did
            In my most recent investigation of the Wordle tool, I compared the word clouds of two documents. Fist, I copy and pasted the NETS-T standards from 2000 into the word cloud creator. I played with my creation so that the words would be horizontal for easy reading and that the colors would match the original document. I also rearranged the layout of the words until I found one that was aesthetically pleasing to me. I adjusted the design features and layout by clicking on the drop down lists available at the top of my word cloud and choosing options like, “mostly horizontal,” “straighter edges,” “custom palette,” “lots of variation,” and “re-layout with current settings.” There are so many options! Every time I found a style I liked, I would make a small adjustment and found that I liked that look even better!

            Next, I copy and pasted the NETS-T standards from 2008. I made very little adjustments to the style of the word cloud as the random generator chose I style I already liked. The point of making two word clouds from document that had been adjusted over time was so that I could compare and contrast them to determine how ideas have changed. Since these documents deal with the technology standards in education, I was bound to see differences. Not only has technology (tools and use) changed dramatically over that eight-year span, but the field of education has changed.

            By comparing the word clouds, I noticed two things. There was one word stood out above the rest in each cloud however, the word was different for each. The 2000 cloud emphasized, “technology,” while the 2008 cloud emphasized, “learning.” In addition, there was a greater range in text size for the 200 cloud; some words were very large and many were very small. In contrast, there was less of a range in text size for the 2008 cloud, almost all of the words were of a readable size with few being very large. These things suggest to me that the NETS-T standards have changed from emphasizing teaching about technology through limited means and themes to emphasizing teaching with technology in a multitude of ways.

Standards Reflection
            Using Wordle in the classroom best associates with standard 1 and its components within the ISTE-NETS-T’s standards. Standard 1 requires teachers to create incorporate technology that will facilitate and inspire students in ways that will enhance student learning, creativity and innovation. Wordle, allowing the teacher and/or students to present information in a unique, fun, and engaging ways, enables students to think about information in new ways that may advance critical thinking, creative thinking, and innovative thinking.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Curricular Resource Blog

     I am currently taking a course at Shenandoah University in which I was required to collect and present to my colleagues, resources relating to one standard of the Virginia Standards of Learning. The trick was that it needed to be done digitally. After all, teachers' filing cabinets are becoming a thing of the past. Collecting classroom resources digitally allows them to easily be shared throughout one or more teaching communities.

     The resources I collected were for standard 5.6 which requires fifth grade students to learn about the ocean environment as a component of the science curriculum. To view the resources, check out my 5th grade oceanography resource file blog.

     After creating and managing this blog, I realized that the most effective way for me to present my efforts was through a blog. I figured that I would personally be more likely to make use of this type of product because done well, blogs allow users to make information visually appealing, easily navigable, and organized. Creating a blog allowed me to organize my resources  by SOL sub-topics as well as by resource type. In addition, all of the resources I found were digital, requiring hot links for access. I decided it would be most efficient to include streamlined links for each resource through a larger, online source. Finally, I wanted to make sure that my resources would not be stuck on my hard drive; by organizing them in blog posts, myself and others will be able to access them anytime from any computer and the information is less likely to get lost.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Millennial Profile: Millennial Survey

            For several years, the Pew Research Center has collected and analyzed data regarding technology use by generation. Based on trends they have detected throughout the years, they have developed a quiz, called the Millennial quiz, that allows you to determine how up to speed you are in relation to the newest Millennial generation. After taking the quiz, you are given a score which places you on a generational continuum from Silent to Millennial. There are points along the continuum that inform quiz takers about the typical member each generation scores. The higher the score received, the closer one compares to the Millennial Generation.
            What is the Millennial Generation? Individuals born after 1980 are members of the Millennial Generation. These individuals were the first to come of age in the new millennium. This generation is an example of one identified and named for a major turn in the calendar. Other generations identify individuals living through a historic event or rapid social or demographic change. Individuals born between 1965 and 1980 are members of Generation X who are known classified as savvy, entrepreneurial loners. Individuals born between 1946 and 1964 are members of the Baby Boomer generation. This time period marks the end of World War II and placement of birth control on the market. The birth rate was very high during this time. Lastly, the Pew Research Center talks about the Silent generation. Individuals born between 1928 and 1925 were children of the Great Depression and are members of the Silent Generation.
What I Did
            I took the online quiz and received a score of 66. Although I am a member of the Millennial Generation, I am seven points away from identifying with the typical member of the Millennial Generation, according to the quiz. With a score of 66, the quiz suggests that I have more in common with some members of Generation X. After taking the quiz I checked out a page that showed me how my answers affected my score. I found that by simply changing my answer to the question, “Is being successful in a high-paying career or profession important to you?” from, “no,” to, “somewhat,” I went from identifying with Generation X individuals to identifying significantly with individuals of the Millennial generation. The opposite was true when I changed my answer to the question, “Thinking about you telephone use, do you only have a landline, only a cell phone, or both?” from, “only a cell phone,” to “both.” Then, I had my mother take the survey. Although she is one of the latest members of the Baby Boomer Generation, she received a score of 45, suggesting that she identifies well with some members of Generation X.

            I believe that my score suggests that while I have some more modern social views, and use newer technologies a fair amount, I treasure some aspects of the past. I believe that this will have a slight impact upon my classroom as I will be hesitant to adapt lessons for use with even newer technologies and I will have to work harder to appreciate some of the things my young students are interested in (ex. not T.V. shows but video games). Being able to motivate students to learn through their interest, whether they are scholarly or not, is very important. While I do not believe that my Millennial profile score suggests that my students learning will be impacted negatively, I do believe that my age and therefore, my practices and attitudes will influence what I do in the classroom to encourage learning. By comparing my score with my mom’s score, I would say that older individuals of one generation are very likely to adapt to, find enjoyment in, use, and associate with more modern elements and ideals of the 20th and 21st centuries. Your membership in an older generation does not mean that you do not have an interest or use for cell phones over landlines.
What I Learned
            After taking the quiz I read an article entitled, “The Information Age Midset:Changes in Students and Implications for Higher Education”  by Jason L. Frand. In this article, Frand gives insight to the ten values and behaviors he believes makes up the modern, “information-age mindset.” They are as follows:
  1. Computers Aren’t Technology
    • Technology is the stuff that has developed since your birth.
  2. Internet is Better than T.V.
    • People are spending more time on the internet than watching T.V. because the internet offers a variety of tools and information.
  3. Reality no Longer Real
    • Is what you read, see, and hear, reliable and credible information?
  4. Doing Rather than Knowing
    • Information is changing all the time, it is more important that you have particular skills in a field than for you to have knowledge about the field.
  5. Nintendo over Logic
    • Trial an error is chosen more often over using the experimental stage of the scientific method.
  6. Multitasking way of Life
    • Information (from T.V, web, videos, images) is a mile wide and an inch deep. We can access information quickly and effortlessly by jumping from one tool to the next (ex. surfing the internet).
  7. Typing rather than Handwritting
    • There are still occasions when handwritting is considered most appropriate, yet typing is what we do the majority of the time as it is the most efficient and effective.
  8. Staying Connected
    • The greater number of people involved, the more valuable the form of communication.
  9. Zero Tolerance for Delays
    • People expect everything to happen in real time.
  10. Consumer/creator blurring
    • The distinction between the owner, the creator, and the user of information is blurred.
Where I am in Terms of Frand’s Constructs
1.      I disagree. I believe technology encompasses many things and that it is not defined personally defined.
2.      By fiancĂ© would agree with this because he watches Netflix on his computer which is hooked up to his T.V. however, I would have to disagree at this time. Personally, my internet is slow and doesn’t always work and using it means that I must be active (using the mouse, clicking, scrolling, reading, etc.). Therefore, I like to watch T.V. because I can usually find something interesting to watch and it only requires pushing a few buttons; it is the ultimate form of laziness!
3.      I agree that it can be very difficult to know that information is reliable and credible these days. People using technology are easily able to steal and manipulate information or to make claims that are not true. It can be difficult to track information back to its original source in order to identify whether it is legitimate.
4.      I agree that it is becoming more pertinent for individuals to build their skill sets than to simply work to gain information. For instance, I have spent five years in college to learn about technologies and practices used in education. In that time, many of these things have become outdated. My experiences in the schools have better helped me to gain the skills I will need in my ever changing field.
5.      I agree with this because I generally choose to tackle new projects without reading manuals or directions. I have confidence in my ability to accomplish something using prior knowledge and critical thinking and will try to employ these before relying on something that will give the answer away.
6.      I agree that it is becoming difficult to accomplish a task without jumping between multiple sources.
7.      I agree that typing is more efficient and effective than handwriting but I am not opposed to handwriting something to add a personal touch.
8.      I agree with this. One person can only have so many friends however, those friends have friends and eventually, networking can occur. This is made more profound when communication technologies are involved.
9.      I agree with this to some extent. I feel more pressure than ever to make myself available through text, email, and social networks and to speak to people through these methods frequently and with urgency. However, I am not in the practice of doing so.
10.  I agree with this. A few years ago I would not have guessed that today, I would have published information to the internet. For example, I now not only read blogs, but I have created blogs and own intellectual property in blogs.
Can the lack of an information age mindset be spell doom for us?
            This is a heavy question and I think it depends. I believe that some aspects of the information age mindset are more vital than others to the functioning of business/the economy, professionals in the work force, and students in school. For instance I think the, “doing rather than knowing,” mindset can positively impact the face college education in coming years. Also, the, “zero tolerance for delays,” mindset is beginning to greatly influence business and the economy, if individuals and companies do not get on board, much of society may be negatively impacted. Therefore, in some cases, a lack of an information age mindset may mean that many institutions and individuals get dragged down. But, would it spell doom? I don’t think so, at least not yet.