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.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Diigo: Week 9: Educational Technology Edition

This week I read a few articles that have to do with topics relating to education technology that I have recently discussed.

ASCD published an article regarding the BYOD (bring your own device) trend in technologically driven schools, a phenomena discussed in the webinar discussing Carpe Diem and St. Mary's.

The New York Times published yet another article regarding the ever expanding and developing web-services for free, online college level courses like Corsera, Udacity, and edX, now known as massive open online courses (MOOCs).

The New York Times also published an article regarding how technology (for entertainment and research) may affect not only student’s attention spans, but the ways teachers must teacher in order to reach students and keep them engaged. Some teachers are unwilling make their lessons more entertaining for the sake of reaching students who are driven by the (instant) gratification of virtual realities and search engine research. However, these teachers are finding themselves offering more one-on-one instruction to address students’ declining communication skills. Other teachers see that they must change their lessons simply in order to adapt to a new generation of students.

Learn more about these topics by accessing these articles and others through my Public Diigo Library.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Technology Driven Curriculum: Carpe Diem vs. St. Mary's

            I recently watched a webinar concerning wireless devices in the classroom. The webinar lecture was broken into two main parts. The first part was a discussion of the dropping price and ever expanding use of technologies, including wireless technologies. The second part was a discussion regarding technology driven curricula; two schools, each driven to use technologies in a different way, were used as examples.

What I Learned
Part I 
From the early part of the webinar, I learned that only a few years ago, internet use on PCs exceeded the use of application on wireless devices. But today, the opposite is true. I wasn’t sure whether to be surprised by this.
Personally, I have a computer (a laptop) in front of my face for the majority of each day and when I’m on the computer, I’m on the internet. I own a cheap phone that is able to connect me to the internet, but I don’t feel comfortable paying for the data package required.
My fiancé, for another example, uses his computers (a laptop and a desktop) for important tasks both important and frivolous throughout the day. He uses his laptop in each of his classes in law school and comes home to play games with the use of the internet on his desktop. We both have significant projects that require the use of a keyboard and large screen and his leisure time hobby of gaming requires a mouse, sometimes the use of a keyboard, and in his opinion, a very large screen. While he has a blackberry, he usually only uses it to send emails and get directions.
Technology in our professional lives and at home plays a large and essential role and therefore, we require large, sturdy technological equipment to do the job. It is very difficult for me to imagine a life away from the computers, a life where my phone or an ipad is my new best friend. However, all I have to do is look around me to see how much people have come to rely on the convenience of devices such as smartphones, ipads, and kindles.

Part II

In the latter half of the webinar, I learned about two schools, one called Carpe Diem and another called St. Mary’s. Both schools practice implementing a technology based curriculum, Carpe Diem more so than St. Mary’s. At Carpe Diem, students work on computers in cubicles for half of the school day, each day. The speaker of the webinar, while biased, (he works with St. Mary’s to implement a strong technological curriculum), dislikes the approach of Capre Deim and I’d have to agree. The speaker explained that this use of technology supports drill and kill as opposed to learning. He suggests that wireless devices along with teacher instruction, papers, and pencils be equal components of a technology focused curriculum. This would allow students to learn by doing, key word, “learn.”
At the end of the webinar however, the speaker noted that regardless of how technology becomes integrated into the curriculum, it will be integrated nonetheless and very soon, educators must be prepared to use such technology as wireless devices within the classroom for instruction.

Questions & Answers
Below, I have answered several questions inspired by the webinar.

1.      How prepared are you for engaging in each type of learning (Carpe Diem vs. St. Mary’s)?

I do not feel at all prepared and very little of my training in curriculum and instruction was geared toward technology use. I feel comfortable and confident in my ability to turn some lessons into technological experiences but I am not fluent with the variety of technological devices, especially wireless devices, that would allow me to implement integrated (technology based) units using best practices. For instance, I have used an ipad only a few times, I have never operated a smartphone, and I have never created an online lesson module (something I’m assuming would be necessary).

2.      What would you suggest teachers in your field adopt based on current knowledge of mobile/wireless devices?

Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea how to answer this question. In fact, this question is part of the reason why I signed up for an educational technology course. I do not use or am familiar with more than a couple wireless devices and I would not know how to implement them in the classroom. This is a topic that I intend to investigate.

3.      What would you recommend in terms of a school-wide initiative to improve teaching and learning at this point if you were in a position to do so?

I would know how to answer this question if I were familiar enough with an array of technologies to provide an answer to previous question, sadly I am not.

4.      A mixture of the two models is probably in everyone’s future. How do you see executing your version of the blend in your field?

Although I do not have answer to these questions, this particular question would be a great jumping off point, I believe, that would allow me to investigate how other educators have envisioned employing technologies in the curriculum and the possibilities for such tools to improve practice in my field. I intend to use this research to inform and develop my own opinions and ideas.

Monday, October 29, 2012

T-Test: Excel

T-tests can be extremely helpful in the world of educational research. There are two types of t-tests, independent t-tests and dependent t-tests. The former is used when comparing a difference between two groups given two continuous and categorical variables. The latter is used when comparing the same group on two separate occasions; it is used to determine whether a change has occurred or there is a difference for the group from the one occasion to the next. For example, I took the same data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) that I used previously (2011 reading scores for boys and girls in the fourth grade) and conducted an independent t-test. The categorical independent variable was gender and the continuous dependent variable is the fourth grade. When conducting a t-test, one will either conclude that there is no significant statistical difference (the p value is less than .05), in other words, the null hypothesis is accepted or one will conclude that there is a statistically significant difference (the p value is greater than .05), in other words, the null hypothesis is rejected. By looking through this site I was better able to understand both types of t-tests.

What I Did
            I had previously exported the data I wanted from the NCES into Excel and accessed the Analysis ToolPak add-in. Below are the steps I took to conduct the t-test analysis.

1.      Chose Data from toolbar

2.      Scrolled down to choose T-test: Two Sample Assuming Equal Variances

3.      Filled in Variable 1 Range by clicking and dragging the cursor to select all scores earned by males (same for Variable 2 Range for females)

4.      Titled the new sheet by filling in New Worksheet Ply section

The t-test analysis opened in a new sheet.

If you don’t have Excel, you can still analyze your data in a t-test by using this free online t-test calculator.

What I Learned

Research Question: Does student’s gender impact 4th grade reading performance?

·         Null Hypothesis- There is no statistical difference between the fourth grade readings scores earned by males and females. Gender does not impact fourth grade reading performance.
·         There is a statistical difference between the fourth grade reading scores earned by males and females. Gender does impact fourth grade reading performance.

Critical P-level (alpha): P=0.05
Decision rule: Reject null hypothesis since 1-tail p value > 0.05
Summary Statement: Reject null hypothesis, 1.611E-07 (tail p value) <= 0.05
Statement of Results: There is a statistically significant difference between the 2011 fourth grade reading scores earned by males and females. Gender does impact fourth grade reading performance.

Research Topic for Students Using a T-Test
            Gathering data and analyzing data for a t-test is a fairly straight forward and simple process. However, I do not believe that I would have elementary or middle school students engage in research using a t-test as the concept behind such statistical analysis is complex for children at the elementary and middle school mathematical achievement levels. However, I believe this type of research could be fun and informative for students at the high school level. For a fun, science experiment using a t-test, I might give students the following research topic.

Research Question: Does preservation method (to be determined by students) impact the life span of a carved pumpkin?

Suggested Design: Each student is given a pumpkin (granted that there is an even number of students). Each pumpkin must be similar in weight, shape, and size. Students will carve their pumpkins, creating two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Half of the students, randomly selected, will use a particular preservation method (ex. acrylic spray) and the other students will use an alternative method (ex. pumpkin fresh spray). Students will observe their own pumpkin every day. Once the pumpkin matches this description the, profuse mold and rot (more than one student will confirm), the pumpkin will be considered deceased and the student will plug into a classroom Excel document, how many days the pumpkin lasted since its carving. The Excel document will have two columns labeled by preservation method. The students will each practice using the t-test function in Excel and the class will discuss the findings. Throughout the process, each student will maintain notes and complete a lab report.

Dependent, Continuous Variable: Life Span of Carved Pumpkins
Independent, Categorical Variable: Preservation Method
·         Null Hypothesis- There is no statistically significant difference between the numbers of days the pumpkins lasted before being confirmed deceased due to profuse mold and rot. Preservation method does not impact the life span of a carved pumpkin.  
·         There is a statistically significant difference between the numbers of days the pumpkins lasted before being confirmed deceased due to profuse mold and rot. Preservation method does impact the life span of a carved pumpkin.
Ideas for preservation methods can be found on this site.

Standards Reflection
Conducting educational research using digital age tools towards a goal of evaluating and reflecting upon teaching practices in order to better support student learning meets standard Five "c" of the ISTE-NETS-T’s standards.

Adapting educational experiences by incorporating student use of digital applications such as Excel meets standard two of the ISTE-NETS-T’s standards and its components.

Diigo: Week 8: Technology Edition

This week, the materials added to my public Diigo library are related to technology. It has been customary for me to add news articles from sources such as The New York Times and CNN. While I did add a couple articles this week, I also wanted to share news related to a new technological feature and resource; I added a blog post from Google's official blog and a website.

As an undergraduate I studied earth science and oceanography. I'm crossing my fingers that I get to teach fifth grade earth and space systems which focuses on concepts regarding the ocean environment. I have tested and investigated many resources for a fifth grade oceanography unit and by far, my favorite has been Google Earth's underwater feature. I love the idea of taking students on a virtual tour of the seafloor!

Last year I learned about a project, known as the Catlin Seaview Survey, being conducted that would provide panoramic views of the Great Barrier Reef. These images were given to Google for use in Google Earth. In addition, by visiting the website for the Catlin Seavew Survey project, one has access to virtual tours of the Great Barrier Reef, information about the various locations were footage was taken, and more information about the project itself. For more information about Google's and the project's partnership and for a link to the website, visit my public Diigo library.

Next, I found an article written regarding the length of a high school education at one technologically based school. To find out why students are entering a lottery to attend this school for six years instead of four and visit my public Diigo library!

Finally, I found an article written regarding creating a fake identity for online safety. While this may not be something that I would encourage my students to do, the topic of internet safety is an essential part of the technology curriculum for every class at every grade. There are always new risks that shouldn't be taken and new ways to protect yourself; teachers should stay vigilant and share this information with their students. Since I have been required to create many accounts through this course, I figured it would be smart to investigate this internet safety tactic for myself. Visit my public Diigo library to stay informed!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Diigo: Week 7: Full Day Kindergarten Edition

This week, I'm working on a research project/presentation regarding the pros and cons of full day kindergarten. I was interested in finding articles that related to local schools' movement to full day kindergarten.

What I Learned
Elementary schools throughout Fairfax County, Virginia began instituting full day kindergarten for every kindergartener as of 2011. However, they have been offering some full day kindergarten programs for at-risk students since 1990.

Loudoun County, Virginia is interested in implementing full-day kindergarten but have found that a significant amount of construction will need to be done in preparation. They have drawn a construction proposal that compares the cost of modular construction to building additions. However, the school board found that there is simply no room in the FY13 budget for this development. Loudoun County currently offers 9 full-day kindergarden programs for current PreK and at-risk students.

Frederick County, Virginia is working to develop full day kindergarten begining in 2013. While they do not have the budget to institute programs county wide, they have been granted room in the school budget for additions to several elementary school. It is said that this money will enable the county to begin working towards offering full day kindergarten.

To read more about concerns over full day kindergarten read over my new article finds in my Public Diigo Library.

What is your opinion regarding half day and full day kindergarten?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Working With Data (Descriptive Stats): Excel

Summary & What I Learned
     Today I learned about the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The NCES website is a government run website through which collected and analyzed data is presented to the public. The NCES collects data on a national scale and therefore, is able to present data comparing state scores across the country.
     To keep the data organized, there is a simple selection process through which the essential data is targeted, minimizing what is presented. Statistics are available for fourth grade, eighth grade, and twelth grade for reading, mathematics, science, and writing. Comparisons can be made by gender, race/ethnicity, lunch eligibility, and percentiles. Data can be displayed from a single year or across years. The data available shows scores every other year from 2000 to 2011. Once the selections are made, a data table will be displayed which can also be exported into Microsoft Excel.
     In Excel, formulas can be applied to the data for a particular use. In a recent stats class, I learned to compute single columns of data one formula at a time. Today, I learned to gather descriptive statistics with just a few clicks using state comparison data from NCES using an Excel add-in. I chose to analyze grade 4 reading scores from 2011 by gender.
What I Did
     After exporting the data I wanted from the NCES website, I had to install an add-in for Excel in order to gather the descriptive statistics. Below, are the steps I took to get the add-in.
  1. Went to Office button
  2. Clicked on Excel options
  3. Clicked on Add-ins
  4. Chose the Analysis ToolPax
Below are the steps I took to get the stats.
  1. Chose Data from toolbar
  2. Clicked on new Data Analysis button
  3. Chose Descriptive Statistics
  4. Clicked an dragged cursor to select data in one column
  5. Checked box for Summary Statistics
The data and analysis opened in a new sheet. I double clicked on the new tab to rename the sheet.

I created yet another sheet where I could place a scatter plot of the data for quick reading. This is what I did.
  1. Went back to original sheet
  2. Chose Insert from toolbar
  3. Clicked on Scatter (chose which look I liked)
  4. Clicked on Select Data
  5. Clicked and dragged to select data
  6. Changed axis titles
  7. Copy and pasted into new sheet
How I Would Use It
     The NCES website is a reliable source through which to gather data for research and papers. I inted to reference it the next time I am in need of statistics regarding local or national schools and students.
     Excel can be a great resource for collecting, organizing, and analyzing data for qantitative research. I intend to use it for these purposes while gathering data for my Teacher Work Sample and as I conduct action research in the class room.
     For my elementary students, I envision them using what they know about charts from mathematics to create charts of their own using Excel. This way, they will be able to manage their own data in order to create accurate and attractive graphs in a most efficient manner.
Standards Reflection
     Conducting  educational research using digital age tools towards a goal of evaluating and reflecting upon teaching practices in order to better support student learning meets standard Five "c" of the ISTE-NETS-T’s standards. 
     Adapting educational experiences by incorporating student use of digital applications such as Excel meets standard two of the ISTE-NETS-T’s standards and it's components. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Classroom Website: Google Sites

            Blogs are great, Google Docs are great, online quizzes are great, maps are great. But, what’s really great is being able to serve people all of these things in one place. By hosting a website, one is able to have a pages or embedded objects for all of the above. My students, my students’ parents, and my colleagues do not need to check their emails, get on Google Drive, plug-in the URL for my blog, and click a link to a Batchgo map just to access information I have shared. Effective communication is a standard that all teachers should strive to meet; with a Google Site, teachers are able to communicate with a large community of people in and organized and efficient manner.

What I Did and How I Would Use It
The classroom is a community, the school is a community, and each of my students comes from a community of their own. When communities work together bonds form, knowledge becomes synthesized, and developments occur. By creating a classroom website, teachers create a portal through which home and school become joined. Interested parents can address school experiences and learning at home and they are also given a medium through which to collaborate with teachers. Therefore, I created a sample classroom website through which to communicate with students and parents at home. I made sure to include an “About Me” page, an “About our Classroom,” page and pages to encourage collaborative communication (documents and forms, classroom blog, and contact me). To bring the classroom into the home environment, I also created pages that would hopefully inspire parents and students to explore classroom topics together. For instance, I have pages suggesting good books, family field trip locations, and interesting websites. I do not wish to isolate myself from parents as we all have similar hopes for the children in our lives but to bring together school and home in a way that best supports student learning, development, and experience.
Google Sites is a standard option along with Blogger, Google Drive, Google maps, etc. Anyone with Gmail can create a Google Site. Creating a website through Google is very much like creating a blog. To get started, I fiddled around with different templates, fonts, and colors. As with adding pages on a blog, pages can be added to a website. Then, I created several pages, each with a different purpose. To meet my purpose, I chose different layouts for each. I embedded gadgets such a calendar and a slideshow, I embedded pictures, and I created links to web sources as well as additional pages (pages that would not show up on my sidebar). My favorite thing was embedding pictures that could serve as links to new pages.

What I Learned
I’m pretty proud of my website. I love clicking through and looking at all of the pages. I love that I’ve found so many different ways to get information and resources out to students and parents. However, I can see others being more confused than excited by all the extras. With a blog, it may be clearer to parents and students what is new and most relevant. Also, with a blog, I can still organize and emphasize some content. With a website, I am requiring that parents and students either sign up for alerts when I add or change my site or I am requiring that they constantly check my site and sift through my pages for new stuff. To solve this issue, some people may include a link to a blog from their website but it is my personal feeling that a blog is redundant to a website and vice versa. When I have my own classroom, I hope to try to maintain both a blog and website and to assess after some time whether one is more effective than the other. After all, I hope to practice efficiency in the workplace and to maintain so many technological resources, I believe, will call too much attention away from other matters.

Standards Reflection
            Teachers who share a classroom website with parents and students are meeting ISTE-NETS-T’s standard thee “b and c.”  These components of standard three require teachers to communicate relevant ideas through various digital media and formats for the purpose of collaboration in support of student success.

Diigo: Week 6: Standardized Testing Edition

Standardized testing is always a hot topic in educational news. Usually I find articles o standardized testing to be from the same old, depressing point of view. But, this week, I read three articles, each focused on a unique issue and with a different perspective.

This week, one individual told me that she keeps her children home during testing time. To this comment, a colleague remarked, "You can do that?" How radical right? Well it turns out that a significant number of families in New York school systems are keeping their children at home during field tests of  the new Common Core Curriculum test questions. As the standards have changed in this state, new tests need to be administered. Twice a year, students are required to take field tests to determine the quality of drafted test questions. These same families however, do not feel they can take the risk of keeping their children at home on the day the official test is administered as it would likely impact the chances of student promotion for the following school year. (New York Times)

But what happens when an administrator persuade high school students to stay home on testing day? The answer: they are arrested and fined. One superintendent in El Paso, Texas is being accused of removing low achieving students from the tenth grade--sending them home, holding them back, promoting them to eleventh grade--to avoid having them take a standardized test in order to show higher passing rates for monetary gain. Families and students accuse this man of influencing higher student drop out rates as well; if their not good enough to be in school on testing day, why should the go to school at all? (New York Times)

Standardized testing may cause more harm than good you may say; however, there are scholars that con look past student distress and see the benefits of analyzing student learning potential and progress. Some of these scholars say that the standardized tests administered in most states aren't enough, that we could be and should be testing students in kindergarten. Doing so would allow teachers and administrators to respond sooner with early intervention and to assess which students will need more extensive support throughout the school years. (Education News)

Who will win, the scholars, the administrators, or the parents/students?

Read these articles and others from the week in my Public Diigo Library.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rubric: Rubistar

            A rubric is a document that students receive before beginning a project that outlines what quality work will earn them the grade they are striving for. Rubrics are created in a chart format with anywhere from one to five columns and rows, generally. Columns are labeled with points or quality descriptors (excellent, acceptable, needs improvement, unsatisfactory, etc.) from lowest to highest or vice versa. Rows are labeled with the product characteristics the teacher will be looking for and grading on (organization, spelling, required elements, design, etc.). The grid is filled in with specific product descriptions that correspond with one quality descriptor and one product characteristic each. Students should be able to read the rubric to determine what work needs to be done to receive the mark. After a project is completed, the teacher highlights the product descriptions that match the level of work met by the student; this serves as feedback, giving the student an idea of their strengths and what they could do better next time.
            Rubrics do not need to be fancy, a title, a spot for the student’s name, and a small grid is all that is needed. There is a “fancy” website however, that allows teachers to choose a rubric type, based upon the type of assignment, create a rubric by simply filling in a grid, and sharing or saving the rubric. The website is called Rubistar and it makes it possible for teachers to create and store rubrics in minutes simply by registering. Once a rubric has been created, it can be downloaded as an Excel document, saved as an offline browser document, or printed.

What I Did
            I created a rubric for a fifth grade, end of unit brochure using Rubistar. I created my rubric for a specific project, but another teacher may find that the product descriptions I used are nondescript enough to be used for various other projects. Rubistar gives suggestions for product characteristics to look for in a project which gave me inspiration for my choices. I chose my quality descriptors based on an elementary grading system I am familiar with (O=Excellent, G=Good, S=Satisfactory, N=Needs Improvement). As the project would be an end of unit assessment, I decided to replace, “Needs Improvement” with “Unacceptable” as would expect my students to have the very basic tools necessary to meet expectations that would earn them a mark of “Satisfactory.” With Rubistar, I was given more grid boxes than I needed. I left them black and they were not included in my final product. Once I was finished, I downloaded my rubric, then uploaded it Google Drive so I could share it with you and embed it into my Google Site.

How I Would Use It
            I like to involve students in making their own decisions within the classroom when reasonable. I believe that including students in decision making regarding major projects and grades gives students added responsibility and motivates them set and strive to achieve educational goals. By creating rubrics with students, they are allowed to participate in this decision making role. Rubistar could be used with a projector or SmartBoard and would be a great resource to use in the classroom that will help guide student and teacher to create effective rubrics that all can agree upon and understand.

What I Learned
I am by no means an expert at creating rubrics. I am still in the learning process when it comes to developing assessment materials. I have taken courses in the past in which the Rubistar website was suggested for rubric creation. However, this is the first time that I have developed a rubric on my own and the first time I have used this resource. I have not been in a position where I needed to create my own rubric yet, as teachers often share rubrics online although, I do imagine that this resource will be a valuable resource in my student teaching placement and as a future teacher.

Standards Reflection
            Incorporating Rubistar in the classroom in the ways I’ve described, meets at least two components of the ISTE-NETS-T’s standards. Standard three “a” requires teachers to synthesize prior knowledge with knowledge (learning) of new technologies to demonstrate ability to use technological applications successfully. Every teacher should know how to create a rubric using paper and pencil. Some teachers will also know how to create rubrics in Excel or Word. Teachers who apply such knowledge to an unfamiliar, digital resource like Rubistar, meet this standard. Also, standard two “b” encourages teachers to bring technology into the classroom in ways that will motivate students to set their own educational goals and assess their progress. Students are able to accomplish both of these when they are provided with a rubric and/or opportunities to collaborate on the rubric creation process therefore, teachers who use Rubistar with their students met this standard as well.