I’d like to consider myself an expert, BUT…

Even though I work in a blended learning program, am completing my GAFE training, and lead workshops on integrating technology, there is so much more I need to learn. I sought out and had to receive permission to take a class at Michigan State called CEP 810 as an elective. I’m so glad I did!

As my experience in this class draws to a close, I was tasked this week with reflecting on how this course has changed my professional practice and also what lies next with regards to teaching with technologies.

First, my reflection of my coursework & application to my practice

1. Blogging! I have always tried to do blogging as a classroom teacher and also attempted to start a couple for personal use. However I never really attempted to intertwine the two and write about MY thoughts and feelings ON education. I always tried to keep these two parts of my identity separate & distinct. However, I realized through the course of this class that my blog has the best chance of success if I reflect on my practice and share my thoughts on education to a wider audience. In week two we learned that “Moving forward, teachers must become comfortable being co-learners with their students and colleagues around the world.” ISTE.org, 2013. I learned within this course to become comfortable with my reflections and ideas being disseminated to a wider audience. I am proud to say that this was evident with my first national blog post about teacher leadership being published by National Board & the US Department of Ed.

Check it out!

2. Networking & Twitter!

Both of these were goals of mine this year as I was awarded a Michigan Educator Voices fellowship, but having this course gave me the time and space to see why these two tools are so important for teachers. The access to PLNs using Twitter cannot be understated. Each week I set a goal for myself of participating in Twitter chats and I have seen my professional networks and learning expand dramatically each week. Everyone I have “met” have shown me incredible opportunities and learning to take back to my students that I might not have been aware of if it wasn’t for these digital tools. One of the essays we read from Will Richardson (2012) concurred with this idea saying, “educators have to reexamine their own learning practice and move toward becoming more networked and connected themselves.” Thanks to CEP 810, I have had the time and space to do exactly that.

What lies next?

In my role as curriculum coordinator and instructional advisor at my school program I definitely have ideas, due in part to this course.

Goal 0 is for my student learning with technologies to look something like the woman with the sledgehammer in the clip below:

This is Apple’s 1984 commercial – I tend to think of my philosophy as such – pushing on the systems limitations particularly with how students should learn with technologies.

But also….

1. My staff and I were rather clueless about how to concisely explain Creative Commons and Fair Use . Although we have had professional development and most of my staff felt fairly comfortable with what NOT to use, they have shied away from some really great resources simply because they were afraid. This last week of CEP gave me quick excellent ideas to give to staff to help them conquer their fears and have materials prepared for staff new to curriculum design to better familiarize themselves with the process.

2. I LOVED the ideas of Dr. Mishra and the framework of TPACK. I plan on using this framework within our school’s mission and vision regarding blended learning. I had a hard time explaining conceptually about using technology in education and his viewpoint crystallized my thoughts and feelings. I also liked his ideas about pushing on the system to integrate content, pedagoy, and technology with instruction at the center point. This week I am appealing to Michigan State to allow me to continue to take CEP 811 & 812 as my other two electives for my Master’s in Education Administration. I plan on using the TPACK framework in my argument because I don’t believe that teaching and learning with technology should be separated from the role of an administrator. I will share on my blog the results of my appeal.

Thank you for listening to my thoughts & feelings regarding CEP 810. Thank you to my instructors for giving me a platform in which to think about technologies and learning and finally thank you to my PLN. I plan on sticking with this blog this time and I look forward to sharing my journey with you!

~Sarah

Educators ARE Everyday MacGyvers

When I taught psychology, there was a concept I taught students called functional fixedness. Functional fixedness is when a person can only see and view an object one way. A pencil could only be a pencil, a book could only be a book. However, as educators and in particular technologically-literate educators we have to and should be the opposite of this concept. Dr. Mishra, preeminent Spartan scholar, is the co-author of the TPACK educational theory. This theory of how technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge all intersect with educators argues we cannot afford to be technocentric, especially in the classroom.

 

It’s a foregone conclusion that an educator can no longer be a “sage on the stage”. We are no longer spigots that dispense trickles of knowledge in a linear limited fashion. Instead, Mishra argues our students already have access to an ocean of knowledge through the internet. They don’t need us for that role. However, they do need us to show them how to sift through this information, repurpose, and use that information particularly to create new tools and find creative new uses for tools we already had. That’s where we can show them how to be Everyday MacGyvers.

To demonstrate this idea that as educators we have to do our best to provide opportunities to build, change, and transform with whatever tools we have,  I made a short Youtube demonstration:

 

In this video, you can see I am acutely aware that I have limitations with regards to my resources, but as Dr. Mishra argues that should not stop us especially now when we have technology to integrate inout practice and help us break through those limitations… or an elongated spoon!

And when my students go out in the world, I hope they can construct their own knowledge with technology and someday do this:

Comment & tell me how YOU were an Everyday MacGyver in your teaching practice.

Growing my skills – one Photoshop edit at a time

This week marks my evolution over the last few weeks with my Networked Learning Project. When I began this project, I had a hard time deciding what skill I was going to track my progress and growth in while only relying on the internet for resources and help. I finally decided to work on expanding my skillset with a hobby I have only made limited time for – editing my photos using Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop for me was the perfect Christmas present that I vowed to spend time with, but it isn’t a program that’s ready to go at the touch of a button.

When I began to consult my learning networks for help with Adobe Photoshop, I first went to my connections on Pinterest and made a board of all the resources I found. Then I turned to the resources I collected and detailed in my previous post. However, I still felt like there were other resources I needed.

This video clip highlights some of my goals with the Networked Learning Project as well as a new skill I am working on mastering with Photoshop – light! I started with one of my simple Photoshop resources, but added a free Adobe Elements action calledBoost It! from The Coffee Shop Blog.

I believe that for networked learning to provide the richest interactions, the learning needs to involve the use of communication technologies, online material and communities, along with the key role of human interaction.  The Popplet I created in my entry a couple weeks ago provides examples of how my own networks support this idea. I have and thrive with online-based networks, but my largest network consist of the education professionals I ask for advice and collaborate with mainly in-personal (although of course there are asynchronous communication exchanges) Although I almost exclusively consult the internet for resources for many of my problems, I still use my human networks to dream up those questions, verify the response I am seeing online and share that information face-to-face with dialogue and in-person collaboration.

I will continue to embrace the networked learning philosophy and continue to strive for the balance of online communications with face-to-face encounters. Almost every problem I have, I turn to my learning networks for answers whether it’s a question about a recipe (Pinterest), a philosophical education question (Twitter and Voxer), or a birthday gift idea (Facebook) along with talking to my husband, mom, or twin sister. The way that the digital universe has expanded it is no longer valid to rely on one singular source as the only reference point when literally hundreds of thousands of references exist on a multitude of topics.

With regards to my students, I definitely support building students’ capacity for networked learning. Giving the students the tools to find and be supported by legitimate and appropriate learning networks also should be coupled with a shift in the teaching role from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side”. The more I guide students towards developing essential networks for their own learning and how to facilitate their communication, the more I feel that they can develop into independent learners. In this age of interconnected knowledge, it is more important than ever that students are taught how to engage with legitimate networks for their learning and how to sift through the information they glean from these.

Even after I turn in this project, I look forward to continuing to chronicle my work mastering Photoshop, so stay tuned!

How do you prep students for the next century?

This week in CEP 810 I was asked to design a 21st Century lesson plan that I would use in my curriculum. I appreciated this assignment, because I tried hard not to just fall back on a technology tool or skill that I already knew how to use or have previously taught to my students. Instead I pushed myself to go outside my comfort zone and design a lesson for my civics students that embraced two digital technology tools. One that I have no experience with and one that I do. I chose Moovly and WordPress blogging. Both of these digital technology tools were means towards what Wagner (2013) describes in a New York Times interview, “skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration [which] are far more important than academic knowledge” (p. 1). By the end of the year especially, my students already have access to a multitude of academic knowledge, but they need to be able to make sense of and reflect upon what they have learned across content areas (Thomas & Brown, 2011). I have them creating animated representations of their course experiences in Moovly in order to learn, as Thomas & Brown (2011) share, “to generate content that represents their learning.” (p. 91).   You can check out my lesson plan HERE.

 

Renee Hobbs, in her book Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom (2011) declares there are five instructional practices that are fundamental to learning across all content areas – access, analyze, create, reflect, and act. My program emphasizes interdisciplinary connections as always being possible, so the idea that these competencies affect learning in all areas resonated in my lesson. Although my lesson centers around my civics course, it has technology and English Language arts learning targets embedded into it along with three key practices from Hobbs – analyze, create, and reflect.

 

In this lesson, I aimed for students to synthesize and reflect on their own learning as well as the learning of others. These students are designing, creating, and evaluating their learning in my civics course. This type of learning is very similar to what Wagner (2013) calls “Accountability 2.0” where students create “digital portfolios to show evidence of mastery skills like critical thinking and communication.” Asking students to select their own criteria of progress allows students to show that their answers matter (Hobbes, 2011, p. 15) and they will apply the knowledge they gained from the course as well as providing evidence for their reflective dialogue with each other.

 

Reflection is also embedded in the creation they are doing in this lesson. To quote Hobbs (2011), students get to “use image, language, sound, graphic design, performance, and interactivity to get their message across” (p. 16). They are creating Moovly pieces that contain their reflection about their growth as learners and the key concepts they mastered this year. They are learning to be creative about their process and progress as thinkers and that will echo in the pieces they produce. Finally in providing reflective dialogue and feedback with each other they are learning to share their feelings and build empathy (Hobbs, 2011, p. 17). I am excited to see the results of shaping my end-of-the-year work with these tools and empower my students to engage in 21st century learning.

Please feel free to review my lesson plan and comment on my rationale.

References

Friedman, Thomas L. (2013, March 30). Need a Job? Invent It. New York Times. SR11.

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Retrieved from: http://www.newcultureoflearning.com/newcultureoflearning.pdf

Learning how to edit myself!

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.”

Marc Riboud

The above quote highlights one reason why I love to take photographs. I love to capture the little moments. I felt that in learning how to edit my photographs I could properly participate in the art of photography even if I lack the proper discipline to take a correct photograph. My task for my Networked Learning Project – where I am learning a skill with only the internet as my resource – is learning how to use Adobe Photoshop. More specifically I want to learn how to use photoshop with subjects of people and portraits such as the raw untouched one below…!

IMG_5026

My progress has definitely been slower than I thought it would be. I’m pretty adept with edtech, but Adobe Photoshop is definitely a foreign land! Coupled with my perfectionist tendencies with editing and each photograph has taken me approximately one hour or more to work with….! I also found that it has gone slower because each time I find a different resource, they reveal something cool I could do to my photo so I’m constantly tinkering with them. I chose human subjects to be my focus for learning Photoshop because the valued people in my life are what comprise the majority of my photo subjects, but editing humans has a whole set of unique challenges!

I used several resources to aid me on my journey to progress in my use of Adobe Photoshop. The first of these was the Adobe Photoshop expert tutorials collection (http://goo.gl/IrA4k)  It’s an obvious place to start, but I feel as though it’s akin to men not reading the directions manual on an electronic device – some people just don’t consult the source! These tutorials were great for finding some basic information and making some simple photo edits, but didn’t really have all of what I was looking for. I also used tutorials from Youtube that were similar to Adobe’s resources, such as this one: https://www.youtube.com/user/photoshopelements, but nothing that stood out to help me. It was also difficult to consult Youtube videos while trying to edit the photos on my computer. Too much toggling back and forth!

Consequently, I decided to focus on one tool this particular week in order to have clear evidence of progress. I chose to play around with the selective coloring tool. I always love those pictures that are in black and white, but have one image that is brightly colored. Little did I know that particular editing trick is quite challenge! However, my first attempt with my maternity photos (photos I took over two years ago…) turned out rather okay. I identified what I wanted to focus on, what I felt was the focal point of the picture and followed the steps from this website – Photoshop Essentials: http://goo.gl/1ubbX . I really liked this particular resource, because it was easier to go back and forth with text when I was toggling between screens rather than back and forth on a video. Here was what my photo looked like pre-tutorial:

IMG_4986

Here’s what it looked like afterward!

IMG_4986_edited-2

I’ll leave you faithful readers with one little clip from Vine – it isn’t that interesting, but it does show how tedious editing can be. Click here and enjoy it! Next time I’ll have even more progress. Stay tuned!

Time to Get Things Done (GTD Methodology)

This week I reviewed and tried out different technologies to help organize my life as a teacher-leader, educator, and mom. To follow the ideas of the “Getting Things Done” methodology (Allen). Rather than adding another new tool to my plate, I decided to share the tweaks I made to one process tool I have in my toolbox that I am working on utilizing better – Google Apps for Education and more specifically Gmail.

Although I have used Gmail in the past, I didn’t realize how much I still needed to learn. Google really has developed intuitive ways to use email as a personal office – file cabinet included! Rather than just being a simple messaging system, it has encompassed all the tools I use and need for my life and job. Normally I would hesitate towards putting all of my eggs in one basket, such as I feel like I do sometimes with Google. However, one big point in its favor is that all of the apps I use are free, continue to evolve, and support my teaching, learning AND my life. There are not a lot of systems that can fulfill all of these functions so well. Full disclaimer: I have also been completing my Google tests for becoming a Google Certified Educator – 2 tests down, still Gmail to go! So testing out this tool this week serves two purposes: I can share the tips and tricks I am using and I can also help prepare for my next Google Apps exam.

The first small but really important thing I learned about Gmail was the ability to archive messages. I’m sure you have probably skipped over this feature in Gmail hundreds of times, but discovering it literally changed my whole way of processing correspondence and the work I do. Instead of deleting emails, I simply archive them and clear them out of my inbox. That cut down SIGNIFICANTLY on the amount of emails I see and freed me up to assign the rest to Tasks.

The Task Manager is another cool feature I like to use on Gmail. I also love the ability to sync emails and dates with the Task Manager. My next step tonight was to download a Task App – called TaskFree http://goo.gl/0s1lNR  and I’m hoping to take my Gmail organizing to the next level with it. I’m not  tied to a desk, so I hope to use it on the go to keep my priorities with my various teacher leadership roles.

I will be blogging regularly about what I do and use with Google Apps, so I hope you will stick around to see what I have to say! Feel free to comment with ways you use Gmail in the comment section.