Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Love at First MOOC - My Case Study for ED 722

The title of my post describes my overall feeling of the work I completed the past few months through my ED 722 course and the DLMOOC.  I believe that I am much better equipped now than before to explore the possibilities of becoming an online or blended educator.  Prior to this course I never thought I could use an online learning environment for my class, but I am positive now I could structure an effective course.

Initially I was hesitant to even think about the possibility of online learning for my students.  I admit I am a bit of control freak and I could not have imagined not having control of the pace of a course or the constant monitoring of my students’ progress.  As I read through Richard Ferdig’s article:  What Massive Online Open Courses Have to Offer K-12 Teachers and Students I soon learned that there were different types of MOOCs that could be used for different courses. The following is a link to my blog post about this topic which I go into further detail with what I learned: MOOCs - An Obsession for This Lifelong Learner!. In my opinion, the week I wrote the blog post about MOOCs was when I began daydreaming constantly about the different MOOCs I could use in my classroom for my students. Literally I would daydream about the possibilities of how I could incorporate MOOCs into the 8th grade curriculum. It was kind of scary.

Then I was introduced to Tony Gates’ article:  A New Pedagogy is Emerging...And Online Learning is a Key Contributing Factor and I realized that is not so much about the control of the course as it is the design of the course that teachers need to be aware of when creating online learning opportunities.  Student mindsets also play into this equation of creating an online learning course that will engage students, but also challenge them to succeed.  The design of the course and the focus on student mindset were two areas that I paid particular attention to when I worked with Amy Paskov on our high school math transition course.  We did not want to strictly provide the students with lecture after lecture to learn the material, but instead we dispersed games and online assessments throughout the modules which students would use to reinforce the material covered.  The following link will take you to the unit and allow you to see how we designed the modules to allow for learning and entertainment at the same time:  High School Math Transition Course.

There were other online tools that I was asked to use throughout ED 722 and DLMOOC.  Twitter and Storify were the two major resources that I used on a weekly basis to document and curate my learning process through the course.  At the start of the course, I followed 22 individuals and 18 followed me on Twitter.  As of today, 3/24/14, I am following 38 individuals and I have 32 who follow me.  As for Storify, I had 1 Storify follower when the course began and now I have 9 followers.  While I was working with both of these tools I would often talk to my own students about what they had to offer and how I could incorporate them into our classroom.  The majority of students felt that Storify could be interesting to use in class, but they did not really see the use of Twitter, especially if you could pull tweets to use in the Storify.  To quote one of my students, “Twitter is so old and boring.”  After I heard my student state the comment, I realized that Twitter may not be the best tool to incorporate in my middle school classroom due to students’ perception of the resource.  Storify on the other hand is something that my students really want me to use and they asked me to convince the social studies and science teachers to use it with their classes as well.  Both they and I love the ability to compile information from a variety of sources into a single page that is easy to view.

The following are links to my Storifies for each week of the course:

Storify Week 4 - Deeper Learning and Magnet Schools
Storify Week 5 - 21st Century Learning
Storify Week 6 - Cloud Computing
Storify Week 7 - Internships: Real Learning for Real Life
Storify Week 7 - Creative Teachers Engage Their Students
Storify Week 8 - Differentiating Instruction - Technology Focused
Storify Week 9 - Mindsets in Education
Storify Week 10 - Assessing Deeper Learning with Badges and Reflection
Storify Week 11 - Creative Ways to Display Student Work In and Outside the Classroom

On a personal note, I absolutely loved taking part in the DLMOOC.  I cannot wait to have more time to get involved with other MOOCs in the future.  With time constraints in my personal schedule, it was difficult for me to spend as much time as I would have liked with the DLMOOC.  I learned so much from the readings, activities, tweets, and Hangouts that were part of the course, but I am almost positive there were so many other things I could have learned if I had more time.

Once I complete my 6th year certification program, I plan to make it a goal of mine to participate in at least one or two MOOCs a year.  I am a lifelong learner and it excites me to know that there are many opportunities available and they are mostly free!  In addition, if I truly want to incorporate MOOCs into my classroom I should use my own participation as research for how to provide the best online learning experience for my students.  If I get a chance to participate in a variety of MOOCs, I can use my experiences to tailor what best fits the needs of my particular group of students.  I can honestly say that there has never been a course which has prepared me more for what I want to be doing with my future than this course.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Final Reflection Collaborative Unit Plan - ED 722

One of the best parts of going through a graduate program is the opportunity to work with other teachers.  A fellow math teacher, Amy Paskov, and I worked together to create an online math course for students to complete prior to coming to entering high school.  Since I am an eighth grade math teacher and Amy is a ninth grade teacher, we thought working together would be a great partnership.  We both had the interest of our students in mind when we created our unit.   Too many times incoming freshman struggle with basic math skills that they need in order to complete high level math courses in high school.

Prior to completing our unit we wanted to make sure we chose topics that students needed to master prior to attending high school.  The first two modules of our unit covers fractions, decimals, and percents.  These are areas that are vital to higher level math in high school.  Since we know that students have covered these topics numerous times before completing our unit, we wanted to find entertaining and engaging ways to get the students to become proficient in the topics.

One of the readings in the ED 722 course was by Tony Gates.  His article A New Pedagogy is Emerging... and Online Learning is a Key Contributing Factor, identifies using online resources to create a course.  I referenced this article frequently when determining how to construct and create our unit.  With a combination of multimedia, open education resources and education games our unit is designed to help students better understand the topics of fractions, decimals and percents.  The layout of each module takes into consideration that students might not want to listen to lecture after lecture of a topic.  Instead we designed the module to allow students to learn the material, practice it using either a game or online quiz, then watch a few more tutorials and then interact with more games or quizzes.  This will help with keeping the students engaged with the material and not get bored too quickly with the modules.

After the students complete a module, they are asked to complete an assessment using a Google Form.  The results of the Google Form will be sent to both Amy and I or whichever math teachers use the course.  They will use the data to determine what information their students are proficient in prior to coming to high school.  It will also help high school teachers to plan out the first few weeks of classes that are usually set aside for basic math review.

In addition to the Google Form assessment, students will be asked to contribute a blog post for each module about what resource they found most helpful.  This will give the students the ability to discuss their learning process with one another.  It might also provide additional resources that we could use in the unit to help students learn better.  This unit is designed to be used for years and it will constantly be refined and updated to provide the best online learning course for incoming high school freshman.

Amy and I have already discussed how we would like to present this unit to our school district department heads.  Although before we roll it out to be used by two large school districts, I think we need to add a few more modules to the unit to really encompass all of the pertinent information that students need to succeed with high school math.

The following link will take you to the homepage of our unit:  High School Math Transition Course
Feel free to explore the first two modules.  We hope you like what we have created and possibly see a place for it within your school district.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Student Work Curation and Global Learning - ED 722

The buzz around my school lately has been accreditation.  We are currently finishing our packet and getting ready to send it to the committee that will be visiting our school in May.  Part of the process is compiling evidence that demonstrates what are students are doing in our classes.  In addition we are making sure that our student work is displayed inside and outside our classrooms.

As a math teacher I have been thinking long and hard about how to display my student work.  I have used Pinterest to find ideas of what other math teachers are doing so that the work just doesn't look like paper stapled to a wall.  My students enjoy it when I use decorations or even simply just borders or labels to display their work.  It is obvious to me that the quality of work that they produced is much better when they know someone besides myself will see it.

Since there is an evidence room for the accreditation visit, I asked my principal if we could have more than just stacks of paper and bins of work to show off our students' work.  I told her that we should have a laptop with scrolling pictures of our hallways throughout the year to show the different bulletin boards.  We could also have links to videos and other digital projects that our students have created.  As a technology school our students have a digital portfolio of all work that they created since kindergarten.  In my opinion, these portfolios would be the best evidence we could use to display our students' work.

Technology can be used to not only display student work in school, but it is also a great way to share with the world what our students do everyday.  The Internet provides teachers with a "giant bulletin board" that allows them to share what is going on inside their classrooms with other classrooms around the world.  I can only imagine the care and quality of work that my students would complete if they knew that the world was going to see it.

I also think it would be helpful for my students to use the Internet to see what other students around the world are doing in their classes.  Through the ED 726 Global Literacy course and the readings this week, I have learned about amazing programs that are available that can connect my students on a global level.  I was very impressed when reading the article: International Perspective of K-12 Online Learning.  The article highlighted many countries that encourage online learning.  I was not aware that many of the countries participated in particular programs.  In the future, I hope to use some of the programs mentioned to encourage global learning in my classroom.

I created the following Storify that explains creative ways to display student work:  Storify - Displaying Student Work.  The Storify contains links to different websites and blogs that give excellent and creative ideas on how to display student work.  In addition, there are links to articles that describes how to display student work online.  There is also an example of a website that shows art work created by K-12 students.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Revised Distance Learning Medium Review - Engrade ED 722

Have you ever thought that you were almost done with a project or assignment online and then realize that something has changed and you have to revamp something that you thought was almost complete?  Well that is exactly what happened to me when I went to make minor tweaks to my distance learning medium review. I went back to my distance learning site and found out that McGraw-Hill Education acquired Engrade.  The following is the link to the press release about the acquisition:  Engrade Press Release.

After reading the press release and looking into the site a little more, I realized that McGraw-Hill Education and Engrade merged to create an online platform similar to Powerschool and other resources available for not only teachers, but also entire school districts.  The site still offers the free gradebook resource for teachers where they can create classes, quizzes and other tools that can enhance their students' learning through online resources.  It also now provides schools an opportunity to combine curriculum, assessments, and other areas of instruction into one online platform.  This option is available using the Pro account, which school districts can purchase for a price depending on the number of users.

I decided to redo my tutorial on using Engrade, since the look of the site changed and the there is a new option for school districts to purchase a Pro account.  The recording of the tutorial was actually a lot easier this time around because I have used screencast-o-matic a few times since the initial tutorial recording.  My new tutorial only covers how to sign in to Engrade and create a new class.  The following is a link to the video tutorial:  

I have also added the tutorial to my learning hub at the following link: Mrs. Ferry's Tech to Teach - Engrade Tutorial

The tutorial can also be found on the Digital Text and Tools site at the following link:  Engrade - Tech Tutorial

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Micro-Talk Reflection - ED 726

I knew immediately that I wanted to complete my micro-talk on National Geographic Education.  What I did not realize though was how difficult it would be for me to choose a focus on the site that I could talk about for only five minutes.  It would take days to go through every piece of the National Geographic Education site and see all that it has to offer.  Since I am a math teacher and teach at a magnet school focused around STEM, I decided to select the site's STEM category and see what resources would be available.

The Plan It Green game provides teachers an opportunity to introduce the topic of STEM into the classroom in a fun and interactive way.  They are able to see what it takes to create a city that is energy efficient and within a budget.  In addition, they can play the game with their friends and problem solve together to find the best solutions to their city's problems.

Besides learning more about the National Geographic Education site, I really loved learning from the comments left by my classmates.  Initially, I thought the game could be used in a science or technology class.  After reading through the comments though, I realized that it could be an after school club that students are involved with and they could use that time to create their cities.  Also, there are many magnet schools that focus on not only STEM, but also have an environmental focus that could use the program in their magnet enrichment classes.  The emphasis on energy efficiency and environmental concerns provides students with background knowledge that they can use to become more aware of global issues.

As I was watching my classmates' micro-talks, I realized that I need to share them with my fellow teachers at my school.  As part of our teacher evaluation process we are asked to choose a professional goal for ourselves.  Micro-talks would be an excellent resource that teachers could use to share information or gain information about a particular topic or resource.  Although staff meetings are usually packed with tasks and presentations, a micro-talk takes less than five minutes to introduce a resource.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Assessing Student Learning Using Digital Badges

If you could hear the voices in my head, you might hear some of the following questions I ask myself about my job:

-  Are my students really taking part in deeper learning activities?

-  How can I as a teacher ensure they are really learning what I want them to learn?

-  How will I ever be able to create an assessment that will assess deeper learning in my students?

-  What can I do differently to motivate students to learn that will not involve candy!  (Yes this one has actually crossed my mind since our school has done away with using food as a motivator.  Such a shame since the cinnamon sugar bagels I used to bring in were so good!)

In all seriousness though, I worry as a teacher that I will not be able to create activities and assess deeper learning opportunities for my students.  In addition, I have seen such a decrease in motivation in recent years with my students wanting to learn new material.  I want to find ways to provide meaningful deeper learning lessons and assess their learning in a way that will determine if they truly did take part in deeper learning with a specific subject.

This week's DLMOOC and ED 722 focused on the assessing deeper learning and the use of digital badges.  I have always been intrigued by badges since I took part in the ORMS MOOC earlier in our course study for IT&DML.  Coming from a military background, badges and rewards are a huge motivator for myself.  I like the ability to proudly demonstrate a skill by wearing a piece of ribbon or medal.  When I think about my students, although they are 8th graders they still LOVE to receive stickers.  This to them is a badge that they can wear around and proudly show that they accomplished something.  In my opinion, digital badges are even better than stickers because you can virtually keep them forever and they won't fall off and end up on the bottom of a shoe.

As well as badges, I love the use of reflection to identify deeper learning with students.  Thinking back to my undergraduate education, I cannot remember one time when I was asked to reflect on what I learned.  Honestly, I think that might be a reason why I don't remember much of my undergraduate course work. That and the fact that it was over fifteen years and two careers ago!  I wish I had to reflect more back then though, because I truly feel as if I have learned more with my graduate work both from University of Saint Joseph and now with University of New Haven simply because I had to reflect on what I learned.  In addition, the ability to read other's reflections on their learning process has provided me with more insight on topics and course work.

I created a Storify this week on assessing deeper learning: Storify - Assessing Deeper Learning with Reflection and Badges.  My focus was on the use of reflection and digital badges.  Once I complete my 6th year this summer, I plan on trying to implement a digital badge program at my school.  Depending on which classes I teach next year, I will either integrate it into my math class or design an after school program that involves the use of badges.  I think my students would love to take part in a learning process where they can earn badges that would demonstrate what they learned in a course.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Teachers' Impact on Student Mindset

I cannot begin to count the number of times I have asked myself why some students give up when work in class is difficult.  Or why they put their heads down and refuse to attempt a problem that I put on the board that is a bit challenging.  Was it the way the student was raised to just give up?   Or was the work really too difficult for their skill ability?  No matter what I thought the reason was at the time, I always felt like there was something I was doing wrong as a teacher.

After this week's DLMOOC's focus on mindset, I realized that although students can come into to my classroom with a fixed mindset, I have the ability and power to influence a growth mindset in each and every one of them.  It was not necessarily something I was initially doing in my class that made the students want to give up, but I was not doing enough to help them realize their potential.  This week's readings, videos and panel discussion had me engrossed in the topic and searching for as much additional information that I possibly could find.

As I was completing the assignments this week I found myself reflecting on my students.  In our school we split our students into groups based on their math abilities.  There are four groups and I wonder by doing this if we are feeding the growth mindset of the high group, but feeding into the fixed mindset of the other three groups that are not the high group by this simple splitting of groups.  As the teacher, it is my responsibility to ensure that all the groups' growth mindset is reached and although they are in groups based on ability, it does not demonstrate their potential.

My Storify this week focused on the mindset of students and educators.  The materials that I found extended the discussion that was provided from the DLMOOC and ED 722 resources.  In my opinion, this topic was one of the most meaningful to me as an educator.  I see many fixed mindsets in my classroom every year, especially because I teach math.  Although it is frustrating as a teacher to see this, my own growth mindset accepts the challenge and makes every attempt to tap into each and every student's academic potential.