Saturday, January 25, 2014

Deeper Learning and Magnet Schools

During my first week in the DLMOOC, I had the opportunity to view resources and readings based on deeper learning.  As I was completing the readings and viewing different panel discussions and videos I began thinking about my current position as a teacher at a magnet school in New Haven, CT.  I see the potential of many deeper learning opportunities that exists and could exist everyday in my school.

In my opinion, my school district provides a variety of deeper learning opportunities through the magnet schools in the district that offer a variety of themes.  Each of the magnet schools have a focus which is supposed to be integrated within all content and grade levels.  The following is a link to my school district's magnet website: New Haven Magnet Schools.

Many times I have been asked why are magnet schools important.  I used to give a long drawn out answer about how the students are introduced to so many opportunities that a normal public school might not have the ability to provide them.  I would go into detail about projects they take part in at my school and experiences they have taken part in from Pre K-8.  After I finish my response, I am then about other magnet schools in my district.  I then give examples from other schools and the discussion simply gets longer and longer because they want to hear about all the possibilities.

After this week's material from DLMOOC, I will now answer the question of why magnet schools with a simple two word answer, deeper learning.  Deeper learning is happening at magnet schools.  Students are provided opportunities to put into practice the academic lessons and skills that they learn in a typical classroom into real world situations.  They are being prepared for their futures by examining issues and topics that they find interesting to them.  Our school district provides students with the ability to apply to any of the magnet schools in the district.  Since there are a variety of schools and themes, students can select the school that has a theme that interests them.  When students are interested in a topic they are more likely to be engaged in lessons and motivated to learn.

Part of this week's DLMOOC lesson was for us to watch the following presentation:  DLMOOC Week 1 - What is the Purpose of Education?  I decided to watch this with a group of my own 8th grade students at lunch.  I wanted to get their take on the content and figure out if my perception of what goes on at my school is the same view that they have with their own education.  I asked them to be honest and not to worry about hurting my feelings.  Trust me they did not hold back!

Overall the students feel like they are doing work worth doing, but most of that work is taking place in their enrichment courses where the magnet themes are the primary focus.  They feel as if the core classes (math, science, social studies, and language arts) have a primary focus on assessments and not on implementing skills they will need for their futures even though the teachers constantly say they are teaching them skills for their futures.  They do feel that the performance tasks that the core teachers have them complete are interesting and work worth doing, but the day to day lessons are boring.  (As a side note, the performance tasks are given at the end of unit as a form of assessment to tie the content to real world examples.)

The conversation with my students made me want to share this presentation with my staff.  I hope we can find time to discuss the opportunities we have as teachers at a magnet school to implement deeper learning in our lessons and in all classrooms on a daily basis.  Even though we have enrichment courses that focus on our magnet themes, we are given a countless number of partnerships with local communities that can provide us with the ability to engage our students at another level that will motivate them to learn and become more engaged in all classes.  Yes I want my students to learn Algebra and understand the concepts, but more importantly I want them to leave class each day feeling that they are learning something that is worth learning.

This is a link to a Storify I created on Deeper Learning and Magnet Schools:   While creating this Storify I wanted to find examples of magnet schools that were succeeding with deeper learning.  I want my school and my colleagues to challenge ourselves to take the learning that we have going on in our building to the next level.  Hopefully the examples in my Storify will motivate and encourage others to implement more deeper learning strategies into their classrooms.  I know I am motivated and determined to take my classroom to the next level.

Some of the highlights from the Storify: Deeper Learning and Magnet Schools Storify
- Arts Integration Video: The teacher had students dance to demonstrate rotation and revolution.  What a great way to have them learn the topic and remember the concept!

-  Time for Deeper Learning - Lessons from five schools is just one of many resources found on the following link: Time and Learning.  For any school, whether magnet or not, teachers could use these examples to get ideas on how to integrate deeper learning lessons into their classrooms.

- Deeper Learning as a Turnaround Strategy:  Although no school wants to be known as a turnaround school, this blog entry describes how deeper learning is used to help schools perform better.  There are some great ideas that non-turnaround schools could use to help them continue to perform well.

- Deeper Learning at Impact Academy: The Hewlett Foundation provides opportunities for schools to take part in deeper learning.  This video highlights a lesson used at Impact Academy to encourage deeper learning.

- Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet:  All I can say is WOW!

- @GettingSmart Tweet: Great link to the Deeper Learning Schools

- Finally I had to include my school district's magnet website since I believe we are on the cutting edge of deeper learning with our magnet schools.

Friday, January 24, 2014

MOOCs - An Obsession for this Lifelong Learner!

If you are reading this post, it is likely that you are like me.  You are looking to improve your education because you are a lifelong learner.  You search the Internet for the next best thing to educate yourself on a certain topic.  I could almost bet that you stumbled upon a MOOC or two in your time.  You might have even asked yourself what a MOOC is and what it could do for you.  Let me start by saying MOOCs are my new obsession as a lifelong learner!

As I continue on with my progress through the IT&DML course, I have been asked to take a closer look at massive open online courses or MOOCs as they are better known as in the online education world.  An article authored by Richard Ferdig titled, What Massive Open Online Courses Have to Offer K-12 Teachers and Students, provides an overview of MOOCs and their potential role in K-12 education.  Before reading the article, I thought that there was only one type of MOOC and one definition that could be used to describe the system.  After reading the article, I have a better understanding of the complexity of MOOCs and the possibilities that exist with MOOCs and their future in K-12 education.

I would like to highlight the key points in Ferdig's article about what a MOOC is and how it relates to the process I have been taking part in through the IT&DML course that I am completing through the University of New Haven.

It is important to understand what each letter in MOOC stands for and what it represents in the learning environment.  Ferdig used the following picture created by Mathieu Plourde, which provides multiple meanings for each letter in MOOC:  
By Mathieu Plourde {(Mathplourde on Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Mathieu Plourde's representation helped me understand and consider what a MOOC really is and how it relates to K-12 education.  When defining a MOOC, you must first determine what type of MOOC it is.  According to Ferdig, there is not only one type of MOOC, instead there are two.  There is the xMOOC and the cMOOC.  The small letter in front the MOOCs defines the type of course that is being offered.  The xMOOC is used to describe the MOOC that is designed around traditional learning theories and course materials.  There are usually one or two experts providing the instruction and the outcome of the course is more academic than anything else.  The second type, the cMOOC, is based more a community approach where the participants are both the learners and the experts.  Information is disseminated and shared among participants in an open forum where everyone can contribute and learn from each other.  Some MOOCs can be a combination of both cMOOC and xMOOC.  The important point is that no two MOOCs are the same.

When understanding the meaning of the four letters in MOOC, one needs to look at each specific course that is offered to determine what is meant by each letter.  Again I will refer to Plourde's representation and the simple questions that he asks with each letter.  For example, the M for massive could represent anywhere from 100 to 100,000 participants.  This number can vary depending on the MOOC.  Currently, I am taking part in a deeper learning MOOC titiled DLMOOC.  This MOOC has over 1,400 participants.  When I first saw this number I was astonished that there were this many people in the world who also wanted to become more educated about deeper learning in education.  The best part though was that these 1,400 individuals were there because they wanted to continue their education, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.   I cannot even begin to explain what it feels like to be part of something with 1,400 other participants who want to be there.  It is exhilarating, informative, and truthfully overwhelming at times because of the amount of information that is being discussed.

The first O in MOOC stands for open.  Open can be used to describe the availability of the course whether from a financial standpoint or a resource standpoint.  You can see in Plourde's diagram that he asks the questions about what open stands for and this again is where each MOOC is different.  As someone who has limited funds available to spend on furthering my education, the financial component is an area that I usually focus on when determining which MOOC is best for me.

The second O in MOOC is for online.  MOOCs can be used as an interactive platform where participants communicate in real-time with one another whether through Hangouts, chat rooms, or other forms of social media instant communication.  Then there are those MOOCs that consists of  groups of individuals who have a common interest in a topic.  These groups communicate through posts, blog entries and other areas where people can view entries when they have the time available to reflect and respond.

The C in MOOC is for course.  This is where each specific MOOC will determine the end goal for the course.  Some MOOCs have extrinsic values, such as class credits, certificates, or online badges.  Other MOOCs are designed for an individual's intrinsic value, where they know that they are better informed and educated on a topic.

When Ferdig wrote his article, MOOCs were still primarily being used for continuing education for adults.  There has been interest and focus put on the possibilities that MOOCs could have in K-12 education.  In my opinion, if this is a trend that will continue, I firmly believe that K-12 education should invest in the process and find ways to introduce the youths of today to these educational opportunities.

Through the IT&DML courses, I have had the ability to study and investigate a variety of online and hybrid learning environments.  Using a Google Chromebook, our class has been able to become members of multiple Google+ Communities.  These communities have provided a platforms similar to a cMOOC, where we as students have used the forums to learn about topics, but also become experts in the field.  In addition, we took part in an Online Research and Media Skills (ORMS) MOOC.  Although we had the ability to post reflections and discuss the topics with our fellow classmates through this MOOC, we also received instruction and guidance from experts in the field.  This MOOC in my opinion was similar to the xMOOCs Ferdig discussed, except there was a little cMOOC style involved.

I will always be a lifelong learner.  Now that I have been introduced to MOOCs, I feel that thousands of opportunities have been presented to me and I just hope I have enough time to explore them all.  Look out MOOCs, here I come!

cc image by: Mathieu Plourde

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Learning Management Systems (LMS) - ED 722

The reading this week in my ED 722 course was about Learning Management Systems.  At first it had my head spinning a bit when I started going through the literature.  The information from the authors, Watson and Watson in their article: What are Learning Management Systems, What are They Not, and What Should They Become? helped me understand the difference between LMSs, Course Management Systems, and Learning Content Management Systems.  It also helped me realize how difficult of a decision it is for school administrators and business executives when deciding the best LMS for their organization.

With this thought in mind, I decided to create a Storify about how to choose the best LMS for an organization.  I did not focus specifically on education, rather I wanted to look at all areas that would use an LMS.  The following is a link to my storify:  LMS - Storify

There were many resources I found through Storify about LMSs and how to select the best one for an organization.  The majority of the resources said the same thing about how to select the best LMS.  Those in the position to make decisions need to look at what is best for their organization.  They must consider funding, what type of education they want to provide to those being educated, and the level of access they want to give the individuals who will work with the program on a daily basis.

One of the best resources I found was a white paper by Advanced Distributed Learning.  I admit it was a very lengthy white paper, but it was worth the read/skim.  I will be honest that I did not read through the entire paper, but I did get a chance to look over a majority of it and was impressed with the information that it contained.

I am not sure if I one day want to be in a position where I would need to decide what type of LMS would be best for my organization.  After this week's readings and my Storify creation, I feel as if I now have a better understanding of what I would look for when making that decision.  It is not an easy decision to make and it makes me realize the process that school administrators go through when they have to select an LMS.  I do not envy them at all!

Online Teaching Tool Tutorial: Engrade - ED 722

When I was trying to decide what online teaching tool I was going to learn and create a tutorial for I asked teachers in my school what they would want to learn.  Even though our school uses PowerSchool to submit grades for our students, a good number of teachers wanted to learn how to use Engrade to keep track of grades and create online quizzes for their students.  Since I wanted to learn something that I could help others with, I decided to create a tutorial for Engrade.

Engrade is a free resource for teachers that allows them to create classes, a gradebook, online quizzes, and other resources.  I enjoyed learning how to use the website and plan on implementing it into my classes by creating online quizzes for my students to use.  In addition, I would like to see if my 8th grade team partners would like to start using the site as well to have the students take online quizzes for them and create flashcards for upcoming assessments.

Please feel free to view my tutorial:

In addition I have added a new page to my digital learning hub for tutorials: Mrs. Ferry Tech to Teach - Tutorials Page  I plan on adding addition tutorials as I become more proficient with use of Screencast-O-Matic.  I ended up upgrading to the pro account because I do believe I will use it a good amount in the future.  Also, my husband wants to learn how to create tutorials for his football players as well.

Any comments and critiques are greatly appreciated and welcomed.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Global Literacy - Chapter 3 Summary

As part of my Global Literacy course, I chose to summarize Chapter 3 of Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World

Within Chapter 3, the authors focus on the processes that students would take when investigating issues and demonstrating global competences.  There are four steps identified that provide a framework for students to investigate world issues.  In addition to investigating the issues, students can continue to gain proficiency in Common Core standards.

The following four areas of investigation were discussed by the authors:

1.  Students will identify an issue, generate a question about the issue, and explain how the issue is related to local, regional, and global researchable questions.

2.  Students will use a variety of languages and sources, both domestic and international, to provide justification when addressing why and how the researchable question has a global significance.    

3.  By analyzing, integrating and synthesizing evidence, students will be able to create answers to the researchable questions that others can understand and comprehend.

4.  After completing the above three steps, students will able to develop an argument based on the evidence.  This argument would consider multiple viewpoints, including local, regional, and global perspectives while drawing conclusions that can be backed up by research.

Three separate lessons were used to describe examples of this process in classrooms around the world.  In all three examples, students completed the four areas of investigation.

The first example described a literature course where a 12th grade student was asked to look at the local, regional, and global significance of an author’s work.  The student selected a Cuban author. She used close reading to justify her argument that marginalization played a role in the author’s work.  

The second example lesson was a math lesson from a sixth grade classroom.  The lesson had students compare number systems from around the world and time periods.  They discussed why certain regions and individuals used a specific type of number system by researching how the different number systems suited the different needs of the citizens.

The third lesson example was from a Kenyan student’s 12th grade graduation project on the knowledge and beliefs about HIV/AIDS from three different religious groups.  The student conducted a survey and used the results to justify his hypothesis that different religious groups had different levels of knowledge and beliefs about HIV/AIDS.  Although his survey was only conducted between two schools, the issue he identified could easily be researched and investigated further.

In the conclusion of the chapter, the authors make it a point to mention that in addition to investigating global issues, students are also meeting the expectations of the Common Core State Standards.  By conducting the investigations about global issues, students are preparing themselves for college and possible careers while improving their global competence.  

As I reflect on this chapter, I realize that the four areas of investigation could be utilized by all subject areas.  I cannot stop thinking about different lessons and issues that I would like my math students to investigate.  I plan on looking at upcoming units and performance tasks to see if I can expand the focus to a more broader, global approach.  I would also like to share this information with my staff and encourage them to introduce this investigating process with their classrooms and improve the global competence levels of all grades in my school.

Global Literacy - Chapter 1 Questions

For my UNH Global Literacy course, I was asked to read Chapter 1 of Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World. At the end of the chapter, there were the following three questions that I wanted to address based on the readings and my own personal opinions.

I.  From your perspective, in what ways are the societal and environmental
transformations here described affecting your students’ lives today? How will they
be affected in the future?
One of the benefits of attending a magnet school in New Haven is that students have the opportunity to be introduced to specific topics and issues that are prevalent in today’s society.  My school’s magnet theme is based on technology and communication.  Through magnet funds and specialized programs, my students have learned about a variety of societal and environmental issues, which range from global warming, natural disasters, and the influence of technology on different societies.  Some of these issues are based in the United States, but students also have the opportunity to look at issues that focus on the countries they came from prior to coming to the United States.
One of the major transformations described in Chapter 1 that affects my students today is global migration.  Many of my students were not born in the United States, but rather moved to the U.S. at a very young age.  They still have a large contingency of extended family in their home countries.  In some cases, their parents or guardians work to provide not only for them, but also for their family back in their home country.  
When they speak of their futures they often mention the fact that they will be leaving the United States to return to their home country to work.  They want to get their education here and then move back to their home country to live and work.  This to me is a key reason why our students need global competency.  If they plan on being educated in the United States, but eventually working in their native country, they will need to understand global topics and issues that might impact other countries besides United States.  
In addition, our students need to be educated on the major statistic that was mentioned in Chapter 1 about the differences in salaries in between countries.  The chapter mentions an engineer in the U.S. having a starting salary around $45,000 a year while one in India having a starting salary of $7,500.  Our students may not understand the economical differences that exist and how that plays a role in the careers and education of the citizens of those countries.    
II. In your opinion, what are the key reasons for educating for global competence?
Chapter 1 discussed a lot great reason why there is a need for educating for global competence.  The flattening global economy and the global migration are primary reasons, but I do think that technology is the key reason there is a more pertinent need than ever to focus on the issue.  With today’s technology, individuals are able to gain access to almost anything, anywhere in the world, at anytime.  There are no boundaries or distances that can stop our students from being exposed to different cultures and global issues within an instant.
With that being said, we all know that you cannot always believe everything you read online.  Although students might have access to information, they may not know or understand what it means.  In addition they might not be able to immediately connect the global issues to their current and future lives.  Educators must be able to guide students with global competences and provide them with information to help them better understand the issues that impact not just citizens of one country, but every country in the world.  By doing so, educators will be giving the students a platform for them to critically think about the issues and begin problem solving to be elements of change in our continuously changing world.     

What are the barriers such an education might confront?
An education focused on global competences will be different than the traditional education that we are used to experiencing in the United States.  With that being said, traditional educators might have a difficult time letting go of some of the responsibilities that they have as instructors.  Students will be asked to investigate and problem solve different global topics and while they are doing so, the educators will be facilitating this process.  If an educator is not used to such a role, it might be a learning process for both the student and teacher.  Also, some of the topics that students will be looking at are new and progressive topics that do not have definite answers or solutions.  There may not be experts in a field that students can rely on for answers, rather they will be working with their peers and instructors to create the answers to global questions and possibly working towards becoming the expert in that field.
III. In your current opinion, what distinguishes a high- from a low-quality education for global competence?
I believe the way a global topic is introduced into a classroom can distinguish a difference between a high- from a low-quality education.  A low-quality education would be if a topic is discussed in class only at the level of how it affects a student’s own personal self or community.  Although the topic could be related to multiple communities, countries or regions, if an educator does not provide that information to the student he or she may never understand the perspective of other individuals.
A high-quality education would be where a global topic is introduced to a student and not only is it related to that student’s personal life or community, but there are examples provided on how other countries and their citizens are affected by the topic.  The educator would then ask the student to discuss possible perspectives of other countries’ citizens and problem solve to create solutions for the issues.  Technology could be implemented to encourage communication between students from different countries to discuss the same topic and how the perspective of the topic changes based on the country that is problem solving.  Collaboration across borders, both states and countries, would allow students to identify the issues and create solutions that could impact multiple individuals, regions and countries.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Distance Learning = Endless Possibilities ED 722

As I continue to read more about distance/online learning, I get excited both as a student and as an educator.  As a student, I truly believe I will be a lifelong learner with the variety of online courses that are available to anyone.  With the increased popularity of online courses, there is more a of demand for them to reach different types of learners.  As a student that is wonderful news, because there is no longer a concern that online learning is only for one type of learner, rather instructors are becoming more aware of different learning styles that need to be incorporated into online courses.

As an educator, there is such a variety of resources available to help me design and implement an online course it almost seems foolproof.  The best practices of other educators provide insight for anyone who is looking to use online as a platform for their classroom.

At times I almost wonder why public schools aren't providing online courses available to their students more frequently.  Imagine a room full of high school sophomores taking a free online course from Stanford University!  Although they would not get college credit, but what a great way for their school to prepare them for college by giving them an opportunity to take online college courses from a prestigious university.

The following Storify that I put together has a few links that capture the best practices of online course development and how different schools of thoughts are used to created the courses and instruction.

Elizabeth Ferry - Storify Distance Learning Schools of Learning

Sunday, January 5, 2014

ED 722 - Week 1 Reflection and Storify Part II

After reading the article by Farhad Saba on Distance Learning: Distance Education in the US - Past, Present, Future, I began reflecting on what my thoughts were with distance learning and how it could and should be implemented into the K-12 public education arena.  I sort of jumped the gun on my first Storify, because I was very excited that our city's new mayor wants to increase the computer literacy of our students.  In my opinion, I think the article written by Farhad Saba brings up points that could be used in the discussion with educating students on digital literacy and STEM.

I created another Storify about distance learning in the K-12 public education setting.  Distance Learning for K-12 Public Education  I wanted to look at where distance learning is used in the public school setting today and read about findings from studies on the advantages and disadvantages of distance learning.  Storify helped me put together articles that could be used to further the discussion of distance learning in public school education.

In addition, I think it would be beneficial to look at implementing distance learning with the traditional classroom setting.  Flipped classrooms are becoming popular in many schools.  When thinking about my school in particular though, a flipped classroom or distance learning might be difficult due to the lack of resources that students have outside of school.  That is where community resources such as libraries and after school programs could be used to assist with the lack of resources.

If our jobs as educators is to prepare our students for their futures, then we must be preparing them for everything that they will see in their future and that means distance learning.  Whether they will be taking college courses through distance learning or have a career where distance learning is used for training, prior knowledge of it will not only benefit them but also their future employers.

Farhad Saba brought up some very good points on the reluctance of some settings to use distance learning.  I often wonder if public education systems and unions are nervous if more distance learning is put into place would that mean less jobs would be available?  I believe though that the more important question we should be asking ourselves is whether or not distance learning will prepare our students for the future.  From what I have read so far, it seems as if it would be beneficial to help our students succeed.

ED 722 - 11 Random Facts IT&DML - Elizabeth Ferry

Here are my answers for the 11 random facts that will hopefully allow you to get to know me better.  As I was thinking about my answers to these questions, I realized that I usually tell my students a lot of random facts about me throughout the school year.  I even have other teachers ask me if things are true that the students tell them about me.  So I guess you can say that my students know me better than my fellow teachers know me.  Now you too can have a glimpse into my life.
1.  What is your favorite movie? - The Untouchables
2.  Where are you right now? - Sitting on my couch in my living room and trying to stop my son from deleting this post!
3.  What is the best vacation you've ever taken? -  Walt Disney World 2010 with my wonderful husband.  Disney for just adults is awesome!
4.  Can you play a musical instrument? - The recorder  (Like every other 3rd grader!)  Seriously though, no but I wish I could play the guitar, piano, or violin.
5.  What is on your bucket list? - To visit every MLB stadium.
6.  What is the best advice you can give to your children? - Never give up and never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something.
7.  What is your favorite quote? - "To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift." Steve Prefontaine
8.  What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done? - Become a parent.  Everyday I pray I can be half the parent my parents were for me.  They gave me the most amazing childhood and I hope to do the same for my son.
9.  What are 3 things that matter to you? - God, Family, Country
10.  When did you know what you wanted to do for a Career? How did you discover that?  - While serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, I had the opportunity to sit in meetings with college presidents from a variety of well respected colleges and universities.  I listened to them speak of the low number of inner city students who were graduating high school and who were barely able to meet the minimum academic requirements for their institutions.  They talked about the number of scholarships that are wasted each year because there are not enough qualified applicants to receive the funds.  I knew then at the age of 22 that I wanted to complete my military service and become a math teacher for city students.  After I completed my five year commitment, I completed the summer Alternate Route to Certification program through the Connecticut Department of Education and received my teaching certification for Middle School Mathematics.  It is my goal to provide the best education possible for my students and help them be eligible for all of the opportunities that exist for them.
11.  How do you want to be remembered? - For making a difference in someone's life.

ED 722 - Storify and the Future of STEM Education in New Haven

As part of the first week's assignment for my new IT&DML course, ED 722 - Distance Learning, Trends, Issues, and Practices, I was assigned to create a Storify.  Although I was not familiar with Storify before this assignment, it was pretty easy to complete the assignment after looking at a few examples and completing the tutorial.  I even shared the new tool with my husband and we brainstormed ideas where he could use it for his students, since he is a high school counselor.

When I realized what the basic concept of Storify was, I immediately knew the topic I wanted my Storify to focus on since it is a topic near and dear to my heart.  The primary reason for me completing the 6th year certification program in IT&DML was to equip myself with the knowledge that I can pass on to my students to prepare them for the evolving STEM focused society we live in today.  While teaching for New Haven public schools these past five years, I have seen a variety of technologies and initiatives come into and out of my school and classroom.  I was excited to watch a short clip of the city's new mayor, Toni Harp, and her inaugural address where she demonstrated the need to better educate our students in STEM areas.

Hopefully I will complete the IT&DML program and be able to help my school district develop and implement curriculum and instruction that will give our students the necessary skills to succeed.  In addition, I look forward to using Storify for future assignments.  I plan to share the resource with my fellow teachers at my school and encourage them to integrate this tool and other technology resources into their lessons.

STEM for K-12 Education in New Haven, CT on Storify