Tapped In

May 1, 2007

Throughout the semester our Technology Enhanced Learning course has centered upon learning how to use a variety of educational technology tools and resources.  Using and creating wikis, pod-casts, videos, blogs, and websites, our class belly-flopped into the technology ocean and learned to swim.  Beyond creating our own technology tools, the class has allowed us to learn more about how other educators use technology.

Every Monday, our class met virtually via Elluminate or Skype from 3pm to 4pm.  These classes involved guest lecturers from around the globe demonstrating and sharing stories of how they use technology in their schools.  This experience allowed me to see that a college classroom does not have to be face to face, especially with the help of on-line tools.  I loved being able to listen and participate in the class atop my yoga ball in my dorm room, without worrying about how I may appear to my classmates and instructor.  It was amazing that we were exposed to so many different ideas during the course of the semester, and I am extremely grateful to all of the instructors that have served as mentors to our class.  

However, with the freedom of virtual classes, comes a couple of factors that I had to work past.  One was that my roommate always tried to talk to me while I was in class.  Whenever I would talk over the microphone/headset for class my roommate would assume I had been trying to communicate with her.  I also had to learn how to ignore her random comments while I was in class.  Don’t get me wrong, I was not rude to her in any way, but it was almost as though she had a greater desire to talk to me in person while I was in class then when I was not.  Another thing that I had to work past was resisting temptations to access my email or facebook, or communicate via aim while I was supposed to be focused on the class.  I feel like these issues would pose a problem for students at any age.  It is so easy to become distracted by other people in our environment, and it is also extremely difficult to stay on task with all the other information and activities on the Internet.  As a third year college student I have learned how to sit in a classroom for fifty minutes listening to and taking notes on lectures, but I am still in the process of learning how to stay on task while on my computer.

Beyond using virtual classrooms every Monday to develop relationships with other educators, our class also used Tapped In.  Tapped In is an online site for educators and students.  One of the main features that our class used was the discussion forum.  Tapped in allowed us to pose questions, share resources, and bounce ideas off of one another.  Throughout the semester we learned more about our fellow classmates, as could be done with the typical Discussion Boards provided in Blackboard, but additionally we were able to learn more about other educators.

With Tapped In, pre-service teachers were exposed to professionals and given freedom to voice opinions, ask questions, and reflect on experiences in schools.  It was nice to be able to access links to specific technology tools and resources that were shared by individuals already in classrooms.  It was also great being able to have dialogues with people outside of our School of Education.  Tapped In created a virtual community for our class and allowed us to develop lessons and activities with the help of other more experienced educators.  It also allowed us to compare and contrast school policies.  I found using Tapped In to be a rewarding activity.  I have learned a lot more about my classmates’ background and goals through the discussion boards.  I have also learned about educators around the world.

One amazing thing about Tapped In is that it can be used with K-12 students.  Although I am not sure where I will be teaching or if I will be able to use Tapped In with classroom lessons, I know that I look forward to using Tapped In myself.  The collaboration that is evident with our first semester as education students is exciting.  I can not wait to keep in touch with my fellow classmates and our mentors in the future.  I know that even if my students may not be able to use discussion boards to talk about their questions, projects, and opinions about lessons, I will still be able to use the resource to learn more from other educators.

Words can not express my graditude…but THANK YOU to everyone that has helped us throughout the semester!

Divided…they fall.

May 1, 2007

 I recently read an entry by a fellow classmate that mentioned the division of academic topics in primary and secondary education.  Chris Michaels went into a detailed discussion over this issue on his blog found here.

I wanted to mention his post because I too am perplexed as to why classroom schedules are divided by topic.  Students are given designated time periods for reading, math, science, social studies, and resource activities including art, music, pe, and computer lab.  I find it disconcerting that their time in school is sectioned by topic.  Rather than incorporating activities in the classroom that cross the disciplines, it often seems as though instructors shift from subject to subject with minimum connectivity.  Although we live in a world where math, social studies, science, and language arts are all intermingled, the structure of the school curriculums continue to divide the topics.

For the past semester I have worked with a classroom of first grade students observing and teaching a variety of math and science activities.  Because even in the School of Education, the idea of single academic topics dominates the course requirements.  Although we are encouraged to find connections with other subjects in our our lesson plans and activities, the courses remain separate.  We are required to complete twenty hours of practicum hours for each academic subject and although math and science often have similar components, overlapping time logs are discouraged.  I understand the rationale that math and science each have instructional strategies and techniques, but is it realistic to educate future teachers in only one subject matter at a time?  Even in practicum settings, School of Education students encounter classroom lessons focused on language arts and social studies when they are only taking science and math.  Perhaps a change should be made to allow college students to begin learning about all of the topics during the same semester, even if this means they will have to complete two semesters embodying the topics.

I agree with Chris that elementary school instructors should attempt to create links and connections in their lessons, but I do not know whether it is truly feasible.  Yes, science involves history, math, technology, and language arts, but are the educators and the educational structure ready to teach children in this manner.  With all of the curriculum guidelines, I do not know if it is even possible to get rid of the daily scheduled periods for each subject.  One major suggestion that Chris made and that I support is to create connections whenever, however, and wherever it is possible.  Allow students to do activities that involve more than one academic subject and create units of activities that reach beyond the typical divisions.  One example of a way that elementary school educators can incorporate language arts with math and science would be to have students read and write stories based on math/science lessons.

I highly doubt that schools will discontinue the use of daily schedules for classrooms, but I do know that as an educator I will definitely work to create interdisciplinary lessons.

Technology Lesson

April 23, 2007


On Thursday April 19th I had the opportunity to work with my students on a math activity involving technology.  I chose to do a lesson that involved the use of virtual manipulatives.  Often the students are exposed to practice worksheets and fake coins when learning about money.  This lesson involved the students using virtual manipulatives to practice counting money.  One benefit of the site was that it allowed students to check their sums.  It also allowed students to use virtual coins that looked more realistic than many of the plastic and paper coin cutouts available in classrooms.  Also, the students can use the virtual manipulatives on computers at home to continue to practice their mathematical skills outside of the classroom.

I initially taught a lesson during the end of March that focused on making a sum of money using different combinations of coins.  During this lesson I demonstrated how to use a virtual manipulatives website to practice counting money.  The students used plastic coin manipulatives and created booklets to show ways that they can combine coins to make fifty cents.  This lesson involved me guiding the students through virtual manipulatives as a web review of the class’s coin combinations, and I knew that it was not enough to count toward my lesson with technology.  Instead I talked with my cooperating teacher and set up a review of the concepts with my students.  In this way I did not have to create a brand new lesson for technology and I was able to assess how much the students truly understood and remembered from my lesson.  A copy of the initial technology incorporated plan for the lesson can be found at http://katho3.wikispaces.com

The class was split into Math Centers on Thursday, so during the center time I had the students do a money review with me on the three classroom desktops.  When the first group of students sat down at the computers they immediately put on headphones.  Many of the games and activities that they do on the computers involve audio directions from the computer, but in this case I had to ask them to take the headphones off.  I found it a bit strange that they were automatically conditioned to use headphones at the computer.  Once they all had their headphones off, I asked the students to access the coin manipulatives at http://www.eduplace.com/kids/mw/manip/mn_k.html.  This was a huge task for the first grade students because they were not used to having to type in web addresses.  I helped them type in the address.  In the future I might create a hyperlink for them to click on in a word document on the y drive at their school, rather than having them struggle to type in an address.  Next I had them click the “go” button.  Once they got to the site, I asked them to click on “coins and bills” link to the manipulatives.  A couple of the students during this step became a bit frustrated because they did not know where they were supposed to click on the link.  I noticed that sometimes the students that knew what they were doing would help the other students catch up.  I found this reassuring because I knew that at least some of the first graders had previous experience with using the internet.  A few of the students even told me that they send emails to their family and friends.  Working with small groups of students during this activity worked well.  It would have been a bigger challenge to keep 23 first graders focused on the task with laptops.  Perhaps in a lesson next year I will try to expose the students to a laptop activity in which they can work in small groups of three.  However, for this lesson I think that using the desktops available in the classroom provided smooth transitions through the center activities and allowed for more review time.

Once the students were finally on the site I had them play with some of the different tools and buttons available.  Since I wasn’t sure how much the students remembered from a couple weeks ago, I asked them to click on different buttons as I named functions.  Some of the students easily remembered the tools available while others required a bit of prompting.  The questions I used included “How do I know if my combination is correct?  Where should I click to check my answer?”  The answer would be that a student could click on the “123” button to check the sum of their coin combination.  “How can I rotate my coins to look at the other side of the coin?”  The answer in this case would be that the rounded arrow allows students to look at the tails side of the coin.  “Where can I find the different coins and bills?”  The students would click on the stamp available in the top of the tool menu and then choose the coin or bill that they wanted to use.  “How can I move the coins?”  The student would click on the hand tool and can move the coins around the screen.  “How can I clear a coin?”  The students click on the small pencil eraser and then click on the coin.  “How can I clear the entire screen?”  The students click on the broom and then verify that they want to wipe the screen clean.  I was surprised that after playing with the tools for a couple of minutes most of the students could easily answer all of these questions.  When I asked them to come up with a couple combintations of coins that total fifty cents, none of them struggled to use the manipulatives and many of them came up with three or more ways to combine their coins.  The students seemed to really enjoy being able to use the computer to do math practice activities.  Many of them mentioned wanting to practice on their computers at home.  One way that I made this activity a bit more collaborative amongst the students was by asking the students to look at eachothers combinations.  Rather than simply checking their own work with the “123” button they were also given the opportunity to count their classmate’s answer and see how other students created sums of fifty cents. 
Learning about the taskbar.
One problem that I encountered with the activity involved the use of the internet windows.  While working through the activity one of the students accidentally clicked out of the virtual manipulative site.  Rather than going to the taskbar at the bottom of the screen and clicking on the application, she immediately relaunched the “coins and bills” program.  By doing this she cleared all of her input and got a bit frustrated with the program.  In order to show her that in the future she did not have to reopen the program when she inadvertently clicks out of the box, I had her click out of it again.  Next I directed her to the taskbar and had her click on the “eManipulatives” tab.  Although she lost her coin combinations the first time by reloading the manipulatives when the screen was covered by another screen, I helped her figure out how to recover the screen in the future.  I think that the lesson may be more valuable for her in the end.

Another problem I encountered while doing this activity during centers was that the entire class was eager to do computer activities with me.  All of them have opportunities to do various reading and math activities on the computer throughout the week, but they can not get enough of computer time.  I loved that they were excited to work with me, but the computers also served as a distraction.  A few of them left their activities to come and ask me when they would get their turn.  Its hard sometimes to make the students wait, and this would be one instance where I can understand the rationale of wanting to use laptops with the entire class.  Perhaps having some of the students do math games on the computer while others do concept checks with virtual manipulatives would allow an instructor to work with all of the students at once.  It still remains a bit unclear to me of how exactly to use computers with an entire classroom at once.  I have not really witnessed examples in my practicum setting.  I know that my cooperating teacher mentioned using laptops for reading and writing activities, but she also mentioned that they do not do this a lot.  Overall, I think that the use of virtual manipulatives in the classroom worked really well.  The students easily and eagerly practiced skills on the website.  They also were eager to help me keep track of their work.  I took digital photos of some of their responses, and many of them wanted me to take a lot of photos of the activity.  Although I was a bit apprehensive about using internet technology with first graders, I am definitely learning that they are more skilled on computers than I thought.  It definitely shows that they are not digital immigrants and pushes me to incorporate more technological activities in my lessons in the future.spring-break-091.jpg

Educational Portfolio

April 11, 2007

Today rather than having a face to face class focused on creating our electronic portfolios we all were given a guide of how to set up the websites.  After our Science Instruction and Curriculum course ended a few of us went together to Swem Library to work on our websites.  Although the guidelines went through each step, it was nice to have other students to bounce ideas off of and discuss problems that arose.  Right now I am working on adding artifacts and creating my resume for the site, but I am glad to that I have the basic structure set up.  If you would like to see what I have done so far visit my site at http://katho3.people.wm.edu.  Let me know what you think of the site and please feel free to give suggestions for ways to improve the layouts.

Technology Inventory

March 27, 2007

In order to understand the different levels of technology available in schools where William and Mary students are doing practicums and student teaching, one of our assignments is to complete an inventory.  The information provided below was given by the Instructional Technology Facilitator at Magruder Elementary School.

Technology Inventory Worksheet

1. What computers are available for you to use? Each classroom has 3 computers, the library has 10 computers, and there are two laptop carts in the library available for checkout in classroom.  Each teacher also is checked out a laptop to take home also.

2. What computers are available for your students to use?  3 computers in the classroom, 10 library computers and 2 carts of laptops are available if teacher checks them out

3. What procedures are required in order to use these computers?  For library computers communicate with media specialist.  For computer carts, sign up on network drive for MES.

4. Is there a shared space for saving files to the school network? Y drive for students and private spot for teachers

5. Does the school allow the students to use wikis or blogs?  Not yet, be we are seriously talking about it now.

6. Can you publish web pages on the school server? Yes, ITF trains teachers and posts the pages

7. Who is responsible for computer maintenance and how do you contact them?  Help Desk at 0311 or ycsd help desk email.

8. What is the protocol for getting a site unblocked if needed?  Email help desk with URL and reason for educational use.

9. Where is the AUP teachers and students sign?  Students upon registering for MES will receive the AUP form and sign it once.  It is kept on file at MES.

10. Do students have email accounts?  At high school level they do.  For middle and elementary teachers can request temporary accounts for short term projects.


Hardware Supplies Available, Location, and Procedure for Use:

  • Projection Device – All classrooms and library – open, except not to leave it turned on unnecessarily due to the expense of bulb

  • Printer – All classrooms, offices, and library – conserve on color ink printing and bring ink to office for replacement

  • Scanner – library and SPED room – none

  • Digital Camera – each grade level chair has one – share with team

  • Digital Video Camera – library has 3 for checkout – return as soon as taping is finished.  Stream into computer right after taping so camera is available for others to use.

  • Analog Video Camera – NONE

  • Video Conferencing – NONE

 Available software applications by type, location, procedure to access, student(S)/teacher (T) access:

  1. All of the software is on each of the machine
  • Word Processor – Microsoft Word – Login without password – T,S
  • Spreadsheet – Microsoft Excel – Login without password – T,S
  • Database – Access – Login without a password – T
  • Multimedia/Presentation – Hyperstudio & PowerPoint – Login without a password – T,S
  • Reference – WorldBook Online, United Streaming, Brainpop – Login without a password – T,S
  • Curriculum Related – Grammar Rock, Map Machine, Reading Mansion, Writing with Symbols, Accelerated Reader, Graph Club, Graph Master, Way Things Work, Edmark Math Software, Science Seekers, Science Court, Google Earth, 20th Century, Timeliner, Zip Zap Map USA – Login without a password – T,S
  • Email – Outlook local and web-based – Login WITH network password – T
  • FTP/Web Publishing – NVU – ITF can publish pages and a few selected teachers – T

Learning through practice…

March 27, 2007

In the past the use of programs like Garageband and iMovie was a bit daunting for me, but last week has remedied my reluctance to use the software.  With the help of our guest lecturer, Karen Richardson, our technology class was guided through the basics of both of the applications.  Not only was the class well delivered, but the activities were engaging.  During the first fifteen to twenty minutes of class Mrs. Richardson went over pertinent information for using the technology and then let us loose on the Media Center located in the basement of Swem Library. 

Working in pairs on Monday the class split up to complete a public service announcement about forest fires by using video clips, audio clips, and photos.  The iMovie program proved to be simple to use with the guide, and we cut, edited, added transitions, and completed a video in one class period.  I was amazed at how simple it was to create the video.  I would definitely consider using this technology in an elementary classroom.

Wednesday proved to be another day of discovery in the Media Center.  Again we split into pairs and began to explore creating a Podcast with GarageBand.  This program was a bit more difficult to use.  Our microphone and speakers were not working with the initial attempts to record and it took my group awhile to resolve the problem.  After we had everything working (with the aid of our instructor) another issue arose.  We had no idea what we wanted to Podcast.  So for awhile we sat there with nothing to do.  I definitely sympathize with students who are given new technology to explore and don’t know what to do with it.  We had a step by step guide for the program, but we did not have any preplanned ideas.  After recording brief introductions, we ended up exploring all of the different Apple Loops and didn’t create a complete podcast.  GarageBand is simple to use and could definitely be used with elementary school students, but I would definitely want students to create written drafts of what they want to record to maximize time usage in the lab. 

Farming for Kids

February 23, 2007

On Wednesday in my Elementary Science Curriculum and Instruction course a presenter came from the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.  Tammy Maxey brought with her a car full of supplies to share with the class.  I was extremely impressed by the different activities that she used to demonstrate how agriculture, especially Virginia’s agriculture can be incorporated in classroom lessons.  During the 50 minute class session, Tammy went through at least five different activities that could be used in K-8 classrooms.  The activities are aligned with SOL curriculum and provided wonderful ideas .  Here are some of the ideas she brought to us:

  1. Seed Germination – have your class create “seed boys” and “seed girls” that they will take care of during the school day.  The activity involved cotton balls, soybean seeds, small plastic bags that seal, water, and yarn.  The colored yarn allows the student to pick if their seed will be a boy or girl.
  2. Using a map of Virginia, create a grided graph that will allow students to practice using the coordinates system while figuring out where crops are grown in the state.
  3. Name that Crop – Using clear name tag necklaces, the students each draw a necklace that has a picture of a crop in it.  They do not look at the object because it is covered by a post-it note.  Next the student must get three other students to each give an adjective about the agricultural product.  Finally the student tries to guess what they have based on the clues.
  4. Using your sense of touch – cover a variety of agricultural products with a picnic blanket or table cloth.  The students then try to guess what object that they have under the blanket based on their sense of touch.
  5. Teach a song about the Water Cycle and make bracelets using colored beads to show the different stages of the cycle (yellow-sun, clear – evaporation, white – condensation, blue – precipitation).  The Water Cycle Song that Tammy gave us is to the tune of “She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain”.  Here are the lyrics:

Water Travels in a cycle, yes it does!

Water Travels in a cycle, yes  it does!

It goes up as evaporation.

Forms clouds as condensation.

Then falls down as precipitation, yes it does!

Not only did Tammy give us a lot of hands on activities to work on during our session, she also sent us home with a lot of information.  A class set of Virginia Agriculture maps, activity booklets, a seed catalogue, a short story about a soybean, a CD with lesson plans, as well as information about the foundation.  I think that this presentation will definitely lead me to incorporate agriculture lessons into my classroom.  Tammy even mentioned having her come to our school once we start teaching to do in-service presentations for our colleagues.  If you are interested in the foundation, please visit this site for further information and for activities and lesson plans… www.agintheclass.org

Edutopia – Single Sex Schools

February 13, 2007

I recently read the article entitled Gender Matters by Amy Standen on the George Lucas website known as Edutopia.  You can access the article at this link: http://www.edutopia.org/magazine/ed1article.php?id=Art_1749&issue=feb_07.  The article focuses on the debate of single-sex schools in public education.  The article focuses on three different public single-sex schools in the United States.  Throughout the United States there are only “fifty-one completely single-sex public schools” according to the article.  Beyond that number there are a multitude of single-sex classrooms within coed schools throughout the United States. 

The article touches upon some of the differing views regarding single-sex classrooms and schools.  The idea that girls tend to shy away from academics in middle and high school, becoming more passive participants in the classroom with the unset of puberty seems to resonate in the article.  Underlying the debate of whether the segregation of schools by sex is legal and equal under the Title IX legislation is the concept of ensuring that everyone receives the same opportunities to learn and the same opportunities to succeed in future.  Concern exists over whether single-sex classrooms will reinforce stereotypical gender roles and actually hinder the advancement of women into new careers. 

I agree with a point made in the article that by segregating the genders, you inflate the differences between the two groups and encourage the groups to focus on their differences.  I think the real task for public education is to combine everyone together and to work to find similarities among the entire group – facilitating discussion, learning, and future cooperation. 

Although I do not have a lot of experience with single-sex classrooms first hand, I would have to wonder whether separating the boys from the girls would really prepare each student for the future.  Job opportunities and positions in the business realm will most likely not involve gender segregation, so I think that in a way the single-sex classes are not preparing students to fit into the world they live in.  If students can not learn and work with other students from diverse backgrounds, whether it be ethnic, religious, or sexual, then they are in essence being blinded from reality.  Yes, working with a classroom of only females may allow some to thrive a bit more in a classroom, but what will happen when they start working with males in a job and can not relate to the differences in interactions, learning, or discourse abilities.  Sure scientific studies have found that there are gender differences in learning styles, but the true fact is that everyone learns differently.  One female may learn in a completely different way than another female, so the true challenge with public education is not to separate the genders from each other in order to target the major differences.  The better option would be to combine the sexes and allow them to learn from each other, highlighting differences but also working past the differences.

Another point made in the article that rings clear for me was the fact that many of the single-sex schools have smaller class sizes, specialized teachers, and a high public profile.  With all of these factors, is there really a way to gauge that the single-sex school is really the reason for success?  It could be that the small class sizes and better trained teachers are the reason that one sex is suddenly performing better than they did in the past.  A single-sex magnet school with a big reputation for churning out excellence can limit who it allows to attend with applications for entrance, so perhaps that filtering effect is why the students are succeeding.  They were already top notch and their abilities were only reinforced with smaller classrooms and experimental funding.  The fact is, education across the nation is in need of highly qualified teachers, smaller classrooms, and more per-capita funding.  The only way to truly gauge whether single-sex schools are actually better would be to compare that school with schools that have the same/equal resources.  But that may be nearly impossible.

Computer Unable

January 30, 2007

Although I have had experience with systems like myspace, xanga, and facebook I never thought that I would use a blog in elementary education.  I am not particularly well versed in computer technology.  If my computer freezes, I turn it off.  If a web site won’t load for me, I try a couple times to see if maybe my computer is just being fussy.  Honestly, I do not know a lot about computers and have no idea how they are programmed.  I would say that I probably have a fear of the computer.  I do the typical updates and virus scans but generally shy away from downloading new programs or setting up tons of webpages. 

I have friends that constantly use myspace, but I am slightly weary of it since it is so open to the world.  I worked in a day camp with teens who had myspace pages.  It was a little bit scary how much information they put out on the web.  It was also ridiculous how addicted they were to their profiles.  I do not want to be the person that becomes so obsessed with sites like myspace and facebook that they end up stalking people online rather than actually interacting with the people in real life. 

In my own experience going through public schools, I did not encounter situations that involved new technology like the smartboard.  I grew up with overhead projectors rather than power point slideshows.  Senior year of high school was probably the first time I had to create a power point show, but even that was done as a simple presentation.  Although the schools I attended focused on using the internet search engines for research, they never utilized programs like elluminate or skype to allow virtual classroom experiences or telecommunication.  I feel as though I do not have a lot of knowledge of technology opportunities that can be incorporated in the classroom, but I look forward to learning more about the different options that exist.  It was not until this winter break that I actually used a Smartboard.  I substituted for a kindergarten classroom that used the smartboard for morning announcements, for movie clips, and for online activities focused on learning letters through interactive tasks.  I was surprised at how comfortable the 5 and 6 year old were with the technology.  I was completely new to the Smartboard and they basically led me through how to use it.  It kind of makes you feel a bit inadequate in the classroom when you do not know how to utilize the technology that they use daily.  I am hoping that in the future I will be able to work through the technology gap by figuring things out before the students know that I am lost.  I also hope that once I am in a classroom I will be able to adapt to the ever-changing technology.