Diigo – expanding your PLN

Throughout this course, we were exposed to many different technologies.  The one that stuck out as a game changer for me was Diigo.  The concept of social bookmarking is not new to me, however, using a social bookmarking site is new.  It allows me the ability to collate my resources in a manner that enables me to easily recall things, even if I do not remember the actual site.  This is because I can tag the sites and can essentially search my bookmarks.  Conventional bookmarking does not allow me to do this, and while I thought I was quite organized with bookmarks, there were occasionally times where a bookmark would end up in a folder where it didn’t belong.  The ability to tag sites would solve this issue, because I could search the tags and find all the resources with that tag.

I am also an avid Google Chrome user, and manage many profiles.  This is beneficial with Diigo because of the Chrome extension.  I can easily save a resource to Diigo, put it in a folder, share it with a group, and create tags, without actually opening the Diigo site.  Also, it recognizes when a PDF is opened, and actually prompts the save and annotation features.  Annotating is also a great benefit.  Whether I annotate the whole resource as I read it, or just a single note about why I saved it, I can easily get the gist of why it was saved long after the actual save itself.  I believe that the most challenging part for me would be creating the tags.  I see having many in the beginning as I learn my style, but having a few go to tags (that I actual remember) would prove beneficial.  Diigo helps with this by bringing up tags that have previously been used.

In the future, I want to expand this and have a group created for use with my colleagues so that we can begin to share ideas on the topics at hand, such as close reading.  It would help us stay on top of research because we would all be contributing to the sources, making it a great addition to our PLN as a group, and individually.  It would take some training for two members of the team, but as we use it more I think it would become second nature for us.  I really do look forward to using this tool more in my professional career.

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Collaboration Tool Review – Scribblar

Collaboration is a skill that has become very important to the workforce.  Finding digital ways to collaborate is equally important as businesses expand their horizons to different areas of the country and world.  In the classroom, using digital collaboration tools allows teachers to begin exposing students to the concept.  I do believe that it is important to establish these skills in the school so that students are ready for what they may experience in the work field upon graduation.  Therefore, as long as students receive the soft skills involved with digital collaboration, it may not matter what tool they use to do it.

Keeping this in mind, I decided to take a look at one such collaboration tool that might have some use in the classroom.  Scribblar is a virtual whiteboard that would allow teachers to create rooms where students could join and experience many things.  Scribblar allows for the upload of things like images, Power Points, PDFs, and Word documents.  This gives the teacher some flexibility when thinking about how they may use the site.  Concepts could be reviewed, which would allow some students another opportunity to experience the material.  It could be an extension activity for students who are ahead in material, or for a concept that could not be fully explored in the classroom.  It could be a method of blending, or flipping, a classroom.  It is rather easy to create a room, and then invite students to that room by email or sharing a link.  A quick search on YouTube revealed users who have a deep understanding of the program and are able to really capitalize on all of the available features.  This search may also prove beneficial for a quick rundown of the many icons this site implements.  As a user becomes more comfortable, they would not be a problem, however, it could be confusing to a beginner with the site.

However, the site is not free.  They do offer a 14 day trial, however, this would not allow me to really determine if it will work because I would not be able to get an entire class into the room (it limits it to three users in the trial).  The most expensive plan, which I would need, carries a cost of $69 per month.  This does include things like an API for integration, and does allow for unlimited users and rooms.  If a district, or even a building, were able to really use this, the cost may be worth the purchase.  One other note, I could not definitively determine whether the site was compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  The site also did not show up on the Student Privacy Pledge website (while not definitive, it is a site that is beneficial to check out).

To summarize, the tool has great potential and would work for many teachers.  However, it may be cost prohibitive for districts and teachers.  If this is not a hurdle that a district is facing, and they are satisfied with the language in the privacy policy, then I would suggest it’s use in the classroom.

This review of this site was conducted using a rubric from Blue Valley Educational Technology Services.

What can you do with code?

Next time you are hear that famous line about a snowman, say yes!  I recently tried my hands in the realm of coding.  What I found out is interesting, at least to me.  While it took me a while to create the snowman pictured, it was not all that difficult.  I believe that it really comes down to what program you choose to learn coding with.  Code.org is a fantastic site, and lead me to the Hour of Code with Khan Academy.  It was very easy to learn, and they are good at really helping you uncover your mistakes.  There is definitely a learning curve, and I liken that curve to learning the nuances of a foreign language (which it really is).  From pictures to games and websites, learning to code can really take you places!

ISTE White Paper Thoughts

I recently read a paper written by a group from ISTE titled “Technology, Coaching, and Community”.  As I read through the white paper, I found myself affirming many of my beliefs about why I am doing what I am, and more importantly, affirming the most recent position change from classroom teacher to instructional coach.  This affirmation comes from the following quote:

“When teachers do not effectively integrate all aspects of technology in the educational process, today’s students are not fully engaged and miss out on authentic learning experiences emphasizing collaboration, creativity, and innovation.  This leads to students who are unprepared to be productive digital-age citizens and participants in the highly competitive, global, digital workplace” (Beglau et al., 2011, p. 1).

This struck a chord with me – if our challenge is to prepare students for the world in which they will enter post high school, we really do need to embrace technology.  I have witnessed many teachers using practices that are very teacher-centered, and technology is absent.  While this will change as new teachers enter the field, it is still important to ensure that technology is not only planned for in instruction, but does so in a manner where the technology complements and enhances the lessons, and learning.  This can begin to happen with professional development.

Throughout the article some very common themes emerged for good professional development.  It should be technology rich – incorporate some of the technology that is available.  More important, it should be delivered through a coaching model, and embrace the community and social learning environments that exist in today’s world.  This community and social support is vastly important as teachers begin to embrace technology, an area where most teacher’s will inevitably face some sort of failure in their quest to learn the tech, and discover how it can help their students.  Teachers will need support from that community as this discovery and learning happens.  Without this support system, a school will only experience a 15% implementation rate for new strategies of instruction.  This figure jumps to 85% with the addition of a coach for support (Beglau et al., 2011, p. 5).

The white paper provides three methods of coaching, however, I am going focus on the instructional coaching model, as that is what is practiced with my employment.  Beglau et al. (2011) state that instructional coaches help by identifying practices that could effect positive changes for teaching and learning.  Instructional coaches can work with teachers, one-on-one or in small groups, to help them plan instruction, model instruction, integrate technology, and providing feedback on these various areas for teachers.  This helps to build that community, and allow teachers to begin growing and learning how to more effectively reach students.

My recent move to instructional coach will allow me to help my colleagues grow and adapt their practice to the students that they are, and will, encounter in their classrooms.  It is also an opportunity to begin to model effective practices using technology to achieve student learning.

As a final side note, the other two coaching models mentioned in the article were cognitive coaching and peer coaching, both of which have their place.  You can read the article to learn more about them.

Beglau, M., Hare, J., Foltos, L., Gann, K., James, J., Jobe, H., Smith, B. (2011). Technology, coaching, and community:  Power partners for improved professional development in primary and secondary education.  ISTE.

Mobile Learning

In an article for Education World, Cara Bafile (2009), highlights the endeavor of 5th grade teacher Matt Cook as he brings cell phones into the hands of his students to study the effect on learning.  Cook stated in the article that it is worth investigating, as he thinks the use of cell phones “will become the cheapest way to do one-to -one computing” (Bafile, 2009).  Cook also stated that he saw an increase in communication after hours between himself and students.  Why is Cook’s idea worth mention?  “It is imperative that instructors learn about and adapt to the changing environments,” (Corbeil & Valdes-Corbeil, (2007).

Whether or not your students are using cell phones for academics, they are surely using them, or some other technology throughout their day.  How can we leverage what they are using, or are provided with if one-to one to increase student achievement?  We must have the support from various parties:  students, parents, and administrators.  I am fortunate that my current district is 1:1 with MacBooks.  It eliminates some problems that may be encountered in a bring your own device (BYOD) district.  The biggest challenge that I see is supporting all the various devices that may be encountered. Second is ensuring that each device has the ability to access the network to be able to complete whatever they need to do so that they are not relying on data plans, or a signal that could be non-existent for many reasons. However, it is worth getting the technology into the classroom however you can.

Mobile learning can bring the world to the students.  Literally.  Using Google Earth, students can explore the moon through the viewpoint of previous lunar missions.  This is just one example of virtual field trips.  Students in Matt Cook’s class documented work as they completed science activities.  There are many apps available that can help students learn, like Quizlet (great for vocabulary, main concepts, etc.) and Quizizz (allows continued tries at home and a game feature for in class).  It can also begin to break down some barriers that occur when trying to communicate with home.

The technology can be helpful in providing feedback – to the student and the teacher.  Student response systems were very helpful in providing such feedback to the teacher.  Teachers reported students were more engaged when they were used, but that there was a steep learning curve to the program (Kaleeta & Joosten, 2007).  However, new programs and apps like Kahoot! bring a new edge to student response systems.  The program itself is more engaging, and provides instantaneous feedback.  Lipp (2015) states, “teachers and students saw immediate feedback between questions, students hardly notice they are evaluating their own knowledge and being evaluated”.  Students need devices to participate in this activity.  Other uses for the devices:

  • Reviews/Studying
  • Information disbursement (podcasts, videos, materials)
  • Demonstration of learning (by students – provides many options)
  • Increased/enhanced communication

Planning for the use of these devices, or any technology, must be done carefully.  If not, it may not have the desired effect on student learning.  “Only when computing devices – desktops to smartphones – are used as essential tools for teaching and learning doest hat lead to increased student achievement” (Norris & Soloway, 2013). Norris and Soloway (2013) suggest that to be of value and benefit, the technology needs to be planned into the curriculum.  Technology must enhance the topic, and not just be used for the sake of using technology.

References:

Bafile, C. (2009). “Mobile technology goes to school.” Retrieved June 1, 2017 from: http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech248.shtml

Corbeil, J., & Valdes-Corbeil, M. (2007, January 1). Are You Ready for Mobile Learning? Retrieved June 01, 2017, from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2007/1/are-you-ready-for-mobile-learning

Kaleta, R., & Joosten, T. (2007). Student response systems: A university of Wisconsin system study of clickers. Educause Center for Applied Research, 2007(10). Retrieved June 1, 2017.

Lipp, G. (2015, July 2).  Kahoot! as formative assessment [Blog Post].  Retrieved from:  https://cit.duke.edu/blog/2015/07/kahoot-as-formative-assessment/

Norris, C., & Soloway, E. (2013, april 17). To see increases in student achievement in 1:!/BYOD classrooms teachers must be given curriculum with technology activities baked in [Blog Post].  Retrieved from:  https://thejournal.com/articles/2013/04/17/curriculum.aspx