Monday, May 26, 2014

ED 7724 Week 9 Prompt 1: MindTwister Math

For this week's initial prompt for ED 7724, we were asked to read a chapter on integrating assistive technology into the normal education classroom.  The authors, Bryant and Bryant's, primary focus throughout the chapter is the student.  They stress the importance for teachers to keep the students' academic abilities in mind when implementing ATs into the classroom.  I was very impressed with the number of resources that were listed and described in the chapter.  We were asked to pick one and investigate it a little more to provide a description, pros and cons of the system and anything else that would allow my fellow classmates to have a better understanding of the product.

Since I am a math teacher, I wanted to look into one of the math resources that were listed in the chapter.  I chose the math program designed to assist students with computation.  The program's name is MindTwister Math and it is created by Edmark, Inc.  The program is intended to be used by students in elementary grade.  Through my research, I found different reviews stating the projected age range of the participants.  The lowest grade that was recommended was 1st, while the highest grade was 4th grade.  Although most of the reviews have found that even 5th grade students enjoy using the software.

Photo courtesy of:

The software itself tests students math computation abilities.  It offers assistance to those students who struggle with math skills, but also challenges though who are proficient.  In addition to single player use, the program is designed to allow users to cooperatively play with their peers all while taking part in a competitive academic program.

The following are reviews that I have read through and found both pros and cons of the program:
Discovery Education Review
The Journal Review
SuperKids Review
AllGame Review

Instead of asking you to read through each of the reviews, I have compiled the pros and cons into bullet form to detail how others view the product and its success as an AT device.

-  User-friendly from both the students and teacher/parent standpoint
-  Age-appropriate
-  Problems reflect real world math examples
-  Multiple kids can participate at once
-  4 skill levels are available for participants
-  Students do not need to use a mouse with the program.  A keyboard will suffice with completing the tasks that are presented.
-  Can be used both at home and at school.
-  Price point is very good: $69.95 for two disks used for a school or a lab pack for 6 devices is $179.95.
-  School program offers teachers reproducible items to use in the classroom.
-  In addition to teaching and reinforcing math skills, it also teaches test taking strategies such as eliminating answers and using reasoning to find the correct solution.

-  There is one portion of the program that requires fast-twitch muscle reaction.  Some students with disabilities may find it difficult to complete this program due to the requirements of the user.
-  Student data is not available for teachers to analyze.
-  Competitive nature of the game can be difficult for young students to understand.
-  Students who cannot respond quickly may become frustrated with the fast response requirements of the program.
-  Can be used on desktops or laptops, but could not find anywhere that it states that it could be used on tablets or personal devices.

Overall I was impressed with what I saw from the program.  We are looking at different Tier 2 and Tier 3 intervention strategies and programs to use at our school for math.  MindTwister Math seems to be a good resource that could be implemented into an elementary classroom.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

EDUC 7726 Formative Assessment Middle School Math Class

This week we took a deeper look at formative assessments in my EDUC 7726 course.  Formative assessments are widely used throughout education to determine where our students are with a particular topic or content strand.  Teachers use these assessments to modify their lessons to help the students better understand information.

For this week's assignment, we were asked to select 3 different types of formative assessments that teachers could use technology with in their classrooms.  I have used technology in my classroom often, but not as often as I would like with formative assessments.  Since I was on a class field trip this past week as well, I decided to ask my students what type of technology they would be interested using with formative assessments.  They gave me a lot of ideas of things they used in classes before and also some that they have heard about from friends at other schools.  The 3 different types of formative assessments that I have chosen to discuss this week cannot all be applied into my own personal classroom, since my school district does not allow bring your own device (BYOD), but I wanted to investigate some of the ideas that my students have heard about that they would like to eventually use for formative assessments.

For a formative pre assessment, the teacher will create a presentation using PowerPoint that utilizes the TurningPoint system that allows students to use clicker devices to submit answers to questions on the screen.  The teacher will receive immediate feedback of each student's answers.  In addition, the students will see the results after the polling is complete.  The teacher will have the chance to address each question and explain the correct solution.  Once the pre assessment is complete, the teacher can use the data to determine what content areas need to be covered and what prior knowledge the students have and what they might need more background information in prior to the unit.

Throughout the unit, students will use the InteractMath website to complete lesson checks at the end of each lesson.  In addition to being able to print out their results, the students can also check their answers as they go through each lesson and the site provides feedback if the answer is incorrect.  This is great tool for students because of the feedback portion and for teachers since it is already created and aligns with the content material.  There are a variety of courses that are available on the website, which allows for teachers to differentiate if needed when providing instruction.  Although this site is run by Pearson publishing, the interactive lesson checks can be used with any middle school or high school math class.  The chapters might not align perfectly with other textbooks, but the content is the same across math courses.  A teacher might need to do a little front work finding the lesson that correlates with the lesson they want the students to complete.

As a formative post assessment, the teacher will create an assessment using Socrative.  If a school offers BYOD, the students can use their own personal devices to complete the assessment.  The system also provides the teacher the opportunity to open an assessment after school hours and allows students to complete the assessment at home or outside of school not during school hours.  There is a tutorial that can be found on the Digital Texts and Tools website.  This tutorial will walk teachers through the process of setting up an account and creating assessments.

It was important for me to find formative assessments that would not only engage students, but that would also provide immediate feedback to the students and the teacher.  Since most classrooms may not be equipped with enough devices for all students to use at once, it is important for teachers to keep in mind access and availability to technology.  It was also important for me to find programs that offer immediate data that is collected and displayed for teachers to analyze and use for their instruction.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

EDUC 7726 Assessing Technology and Digital Competency

It is always a great opportunity to work with my fellow classmates on group projects.  This week for our EDUC 7726 course, I had the opportunity to work with Amy, Gail and Tim to create a Prezi on assessing technology and digital competencies.  Throughout our IT&DML courses, we have constantly read and researched the multitude of requirements and standards that our students will be asked to complete during their schooling.  These skills are not only necessary for our students, but also for the teachers to become proficient in, so that they can teach the students how to be successful digital citizens.

The first area that our group looked at was the definition of technology skills and digital competencies.  For this portion of our presentation we focused on two areas.  The first area focused on the ORMS Model which identifies that students should be successful in completing Online Reading Comprehension, Online Collaborative Inquiry, and Online Content Creation.  For the second focus of defining the terms we looked at the Common Core standards that were related to technology.  We looked at what our students would be asked in reference to technology in order to meet the standards of the Common Core.  I was especially interested in this portion of the research because everyday I am learning something new about the Common Core that I can implement into my classroom.

For the second part of our presentation, our group looked at describing and evaluating strategies that teachers would use to assess students' digital proficiencies.  It is one thing for us as teachers to instruct our students on technology skills and digital competencies, but in order to ensure they meet the standards that are set we need to make sure we are using adequate assessments to determine if they are meeting the objectives.  The following is a link to our Prezi: Assessment of Digital Literacy and Technology Skills.  You will see on the last few slides that there are a variety of items that teachers should look at when assessing their students' technology and digital competencies.  I found the checklist particularly interesting because students could use it when completing a project to make sure they are meeting all of the requirements for when they conduct online research.

One thing that I think we all have to keep in mind when we are addressing the issue of defining and assessing our students' technology skills, is that we will need to keep updated with changes and additional skills that our students will be required to know.  These changes will be a result of the continuous advancement of technology that our students, who are 21st century learners, will experience throughout their education.

I would like to thank my fellow classmates who worked with me on this presentation.  It is such a rewarding experience to work with different individuals on group projects.  The expertise and knowledge that they demonstrated assisted with the successful completion of the assignment.  Thank you again!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

EDUC 7726 Best Practice and Assessment

This week for EDUC 7726, we were asked to select a section from best practice in assessment and add ideas of how technology could support the assessment.  I decided to select section 1.A. Purposeful: Used to inform and guide teaching.  I feel as if this is crucial topic for any teacher to make sure that their assessments are purposeful and are used to guide the instruction in the class.

It seems as if our students in our school are always being assessed.  There are times in my class that I have to take a step back from my instruction to make sure that the data I am gathering from the assessments are used to help me determine what and how I am teaching a specific topic.  It is vital for teachers to use the assessments to gather data and provide instruction based on the data.

One of the resources that I found helpful and full of information and additional resource links was Edutopia's Ten Tips for Project Based Learning.  Tip #5 discussed how to gather feedback fast to assess your students’ understanding of a topic.  This reminded me of the daily check ins or Do Nows that we perform in our classrooms to identify where the students are with a topic and what additional information or instruction might need to be done in class that day to ensure the students are fully understanding the topic.  

My recommendation to other teachers is to continue the assessment strategy of collecting and gathering data fast by having their students complete quick check ins, do nows, or exit slips.  Once their students have completed the work though, the teachers need to use it to drive their instruction and ensure that the students are where they need to be in order to meet the desired outcome of the lesson/class.  Sometime there does not seem to be enough time in the day to look at all the papers and results from the quick assessments, but I truly believe they offer valuable data that could make a huge difference in a child’s education.

One way to use technology to assist with purposeful assessments is to have teachers have their students use a Google form or an online site that offers the students an opportunity to complete quick assessments such as Socrative or Engrade. These sites can provide immediate data for the teachers to use to drive their instruction. The teacher can use the immediate data then to provide feedback to the students on their understanding of the topic and can make changes to the upcoming lessons to address any issues that might exist.

There are other online resources that can be used for assessment. Scholastic - Read 180 is an online resource that provide purposeful assessment that allows students to take part in instruction that is based on their abilities and understanding. This program is designed for literacy. In addition there is Scholastic - Math 180 that is designed for math.

According to Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, it is important for teachers to provide timely feedback to their students. Technology can provide timely feedback to students on their assessment results. It can also provide teachers with information on what their students know and they then can select strategies that will address the weaknesses in a content area.

ED 7724 - Discussion Director Reflection

I had the wonderful opportunity to lead the discussion in my ED 7724 Adaptive Technology course.  When we had the chance to sign up for the week we wanted to lead the discussion, I purposely selected this week because of the topic of adaptive technology to assist those with a mobility disability.  Both my father-in-law and grandmother-in-law both rely on a wheelchair for their mobility.  Recently my mother-in-law had an accident as well and had to rely on wheelchair for a few months until she was able to walk again.  With that being said, I felt as if I knew everything there was to know about mobility adaptive technology.  Boy was I wrong!

After I finished the assigned readings I immediately went to my in-law's house to investigate the type of wheelchairs that they use.  I never realized the variety of wheelchairs that were available and the different specifications of each wheelchair.  The technical portion of the readings this week was definitely a learning experience.

At first I was a little stumped on what I should have my fellow colleagues reflect on in regard to the readings.  I wanted the prompt to not be as technical as having them list different type of mobility devices.  My intention was for them to look at their own lives and the lives of students who have mobility disabilities.  Although we are all fortunate enough to not have mobility disabilities, we do never know what tomorrow may bring and should always be prepared for anything.  Semper Paratus!  (Coast Guard motto meaning always prepared)

For the first prompt I asked my colleagues to look at their daily lives and see what challenges they would face if they had a mobility disability and required the use of a wheelchair.  I cannot being to express how impressed I was with the responses.  The amount of reflection from each of my peers was amazing!  The details that they provided and the challenges that they addressed were fascinating.  What I particularly liked as well was the fact that when a challenge was discussed there was always a possible solution to address the challenge.  By them addressing the challenges, I could see that they understood the complexity of the issue and how it could impact their own lives.

For the second prompt I wanted them to take it a step further and put on their teacher hats by having them address challenges that they might see in their own classrooms or schools.  I knew that there are individuals without classrooms and I hoped that they would adopt a room for this assignment.  Again I was truly impressed by the extensive responses and the detail that went into their reflections.  Our cohort is a very smart group of educators, but it was after this week's reflections that I could clearly see that I work with some of the best teachers and educators.  The attention to detail that was addressed in each posts about the challenges that would exist and the recommendations and changes that would need to made provided me with the evidence to see that we are ready to address these issues if we were faced with them tomorrow in our classrooms.

I would like to thank my fellow classmates for sharing their personal insights and stories this week.  I agree with our professor when he stated that this week's discussion generated emotional introspection.  Although it was not my intention, I appreciate every one's willingness to address an issue that required us to answer a what if type of scenario and how it would change what we are all used to in our lives now.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

EDUC 7726 - Infograph Creation

Throughout the last two weeks, I was assigned the task to create an infograph.  Prior to completing the infograph I wanted to make sure I had a clear understanding of what an infograph was and the different online tools that were available to create one.  I quickly realized that an infograph was a visually appealing way to display information in a condensed form.  It is designed to be easy for a reader to understand and gather as much information on a topic that will fit on the infograph.

My first task was to figure out what topic I wanted to use for my infograph.  After trying to decide between two topics with a little help from my course instructor, I decided on looking how much time youth spend with media and what is actually recommended by specialist as to the "healthy" amount of time a child should spend.  This topic is very near and dear to my heart since my three year old has fallen in love with Disney Junior and wants to eat, sleep, and breathe Mickey Mouse Clubhouse if I would allow it.  Of course as a parent who has done a little research on the topic already, I know what is recommended for his age group.  It is the age group of my students that I was most interested in gathering data for since I already see them attached to their devices in school, I wondered what the research would say about the topic.

Finding the sources was pretty straight forward, since there was a good amount of data already collected on the issue.  The hardest part of the assignment was working with the sites to create the infograph.  Initially I did not want to use Glogster since I had used it in the past for other assignments and I wanted to learn something new.  I experimented with two sites at first, and piktochart.  Both sites offered free templates to use to create the infograph.  I actually found both sites a bit confusing to figure out the font sizes and positioning of the text.  In addition, I was not fond of the backgrounds and templates that they offered for my topic.  I decided to use my old reliable Glogster program to create my infograph.

The only downfall of using Glogster was that it limited the amount of information that I could display on the page.  Since I had to include at least 6 accurate facts, I wanted to incorporate facts that would provide a decent amount of information for the viewer.  In addition I wanted to make sure I was using at least 3 different sources for the information.  This part was actually a little more difficult because the CommonSenseMedia website had completed a good number of research on the topic and I tried hard not to use their source multiple times.  I also wanted to make sure the layout of the information was easy for readers to see and understand.  I felt that a video was a good addition to the infograph because it provided more information that an user could gather by viewing the video and not just looking at a graph or statistic.

I enjoyed working with Glogster and creating my infograph.  I hope to incorporate infographs into a lesson or two in the near future for my students.  The creating part of the process would not only allow students to express themselves creatively with their product, but they will also be able to complete research on a topic as well.

The following link will take you to my final infograph on Children's Media Use: Glogster: Children Media Use