Social Learning Project: Goodreads — July 22, 2015

Social Learning Project: Goodreads

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 6.08.04 PM

My group — Charlotte, Rachel and I — chose to introduce the class to the goodreads social learning tool.  This site provides a community for book lovers and also a great classroom resource.  Among other features, the site allows users to review books and read others’ reviews, join book clubs and discussion groups, take trivia quizzes, discover new books, keep quote books, and read exclusive content.

Before this project, I only knew of goodreads through my daughter, who is an avid reader and enjoys using the site. I now appreciate that this site Kates-Blog-3-good-reads-for-parents-and-teachers-alikeis an excellent resource for teachers, to use as an information source, e.g.,  for book recommendations and quizzes, and also a classroom tool, e.g., for class book clubs and discussion groups.

Here is our group’s presentation:

ED 554 Social Learning Presentation

Library of Congress: Supporting Inquiry with Primary Sources —

Library of Congress: Supporting Inquiry with Primary Sources

I completed the Library of Congress’s professional development module on how primary sources can be used to support inquiry learning.  The module included a video about a project done in a New York classroom, where studennieuw-amsterdam-the-dutch-settlement-in-the-new-world-that-became-new-york-following-the-plan-sent-october-6-1660-by-governor-peter-stuyvesant-to-the-wests use objects like maps and letters to piece together facts about a historic event. This video demonstrated how such artifacts can generate inquiry and it made the case for exposing students to primary sources (as opposed to relying on textbooks, for example).GodwinJournal

My certificate of completion appears below:

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 6.23.37 PM

Common Sense Media Certificate —

Common Sense Media Certificate

Common Sense Media provides an extensive curriculum for students, grades K-12, on digital literacy and citizenship.  The site provides detailed lesson plans that include features like videos, assessments, and parent resources.  I completed the training session and obtained the certificate (below).  I am now an advocate of this organization’s programs and its mission!

ED554 Common Sense Media Certificate

The link for this certificate follows:

Brain Power! — July 10, 2015

Brain Power!

This is a great interview with Dr. John Medina on how the brain works:

Dr. Medina has boiled down his research on how the brain works into 12 rules, represented by the icons below.  None of his findings are surprising, but they’re a great reminder of the benefits of healthy living, not just for our bodies but also for our brains.  More information can be found on his Brain Rules site,

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 3.51.26 PM

Similar to Medina’s assertions about what our brains need are those by Dr. John Ratey, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School.  I saw him present research — done in an elementary school setting — on the benefits of exercise on the brain.  His research and similar findings are detailed in his book, SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. (He’s also the author of a well-known book on ADHD, Delivered From Distraction).  On his website, he features a video/rap song about his work.  Check it out:

Flipped Classroom —

Flipped Classroom

Attached below is my first attempt at “flipping a classroom,” where I provide a video lesson for students to watch at home.  In class the next day, I would work with students on solving problems related to the video.

I used an iPad application called “Show Me” to make my video.  First I made a series of slides in Google Docs, then I imported them into Show Me so I could annotate and narrate them.  I also made an assessment for the students to take after watching the video.  That assessment link follows my lesson link below.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 2.13.03 PM
Lesson on using Pythagorean’s theorem to solve real world problems.


Assessment to be taken after watching video.
Assessment to be taken after watching video.


Comments on Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up 2014 Student Survey — July 7, 2015

Comments on Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up 2014 Student Survey

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 12.31.50 AM
See report at

(Just a warning – I’m reading/reviewing this report on a nine-hour, traffic-laden car ride back from South Carolina, with my two kids in the back seat of the car. So I might be a little more picky than I would be in another environment! )

I found this Speak Up report to be biased, and I felt that the authors were misleading in some of the conclusions they drew from the data (at least, the data they shared in the report). Importantly, I don’t disagree with some of their suggestions for incorporating technology in the classroom; it’s just that they used unconvincing data to draw conclusions, and they called for policy changes that would benefit the sponsors of their study, which include online learning organizations like Rosetta Stone, BrainPop and Dreambox.

Let me give you some examples of the (unimpressive) data that the authors chose to highlight in bold face:

  • …one third of Grade 6-8 online learners (35 percent [sic]) strongly agree that technology enhances their engagement in learning compared to 30 percent of students in traditional learning environments.” This small percentage difference is supposed to prove that “students in virtual learning environments express stronger agreement with [the] premise” that technology increases their interest in what they are learning.
  • High school students in virtual schools are taking significantly more online tests (72 percent vs. 58 percent)… .” Really? Is that surprising? The sentence goes on to say virtual students are “creating less [sic] PowerPoint presentations as a school assignment (43 percent vs. 70 percent) than other students.” This data is meant to shed light on the “quality of the students’ learning experience in a fully online or virtual environment.” How does that show anything?
  • Similarly, they found, “The online students are watching more videos created by their teachers.” No surprise there.
  • “…24 percent of the high school students…declared that they wish they could take all of their classes online.” According to the chart below this statement, the percent is actually 19, not 24. (24 percent would like to take World Languages online.) They didn’t address something I found interesting in the data, that is, that far more middle schoolers responded that they would like to take individual (not all) classes online than high schoolers. For example, 44 percent of middle schoolers said they would like to take math online, versus 25 percent of high schoolers. A similar difference held for every other class mentioned, though only 16 percent of middle schoolers “wished” for all of their classes to be offered online, which is less than the 19 percent of high schoolers.

The authors’ take a leap in forming implications from their data (at least, the data they present in the report).  They conclude, “A critical takeaway from this year’s Speak Up research is that the online learners so highly value their unique learning experience in virtual schools that they believe that other students should also benefit from online learning and that state, district, and/or school policies should be in place to support that transformative change.” [Emphasis added.]

The report did include data that I thought was interesting, but was not highlighted as a major finding: Boys were more likely to say they were very interested in a STEM career than girls were. That relationship held among both middle schoolers (32 percent vs. 20 percent) and high schoolers (34 percent vs. 23 percent) .

I like some of the suggestions made at the end of the report, if you can get through the awkward prose. (“Contrary to popular media reports or coffee shop gossip, today’s students are incredibly interested in learning.”) The report rightly concludes that “today’s school no longer has a monopoly on learning experiences.” We are left to wonder how to support a new “educational ecosystem that acknowledges learning as a 24/7 enterprise,” and how to enable “student-centric digital learning experiences for all students.”

Education in the Digital Age — July 6, 2015

Education in the Digital Age

In this video, Howard Gardner – a rock star of developmental psychology (think “multiple intelligences”) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education – speaks of ethical and educational challenges in the digital media age. He has lead a 15-year study, the “GoodPlay Project,” on how young people think about ethical issues in online spaces.

Young people routinely engage in the new digital media, but only rarely consider what it means to be an ethical citizen in their far-reaching digital community. Gardner describes a disturbing finding among American youth, in that they adopt the philosophy, “Someday when I get to be rich and famous and important, I’ll be ethical, but for now I’d like a pass. I’d like to be able to do what is most convenient.”

Gardner’s GoodPlay project examined five key areas that encompass the ethical challenges in digital media. Each area offers promising opportunities but can be fraught with perilous ones, too.

  1. Identity
  2. Privacy
  3. Ownership and authorship
  4. Trustworthiness and credibility
  5. Participation in a community

Gardner says, “No medium is benevolent or malevolent in itself. You can use a pencil to write sonnets, or poke people’s eyes out, and so the fact that we have the new digital media does not at all mean that they’re going to be used in benign ways.”

In the digital world, where vasts amounts of information are instantly accessible, teaching and learning will have to change. Teaching will be less about conveying content, but more about guiding, motivating and modeling. That is, teachers will guide students through the myriad information resources, helping them discern which are reliable; they will motivate them to pursue academic interests; and they will model ethical behavior on the Internet.

Math Class Needs a Makeover — June 23, 2015

Math Class Needs a Makeover

In this TEDxNYC talk, Dan Meyer calls for a radical change in the way math is taught in the United States. Students today might be able to perform math computations, as long as they’re given all the inputs and the formula, but they’re not being taught math reasoning, or the “application of math processes to the world around us.” The way our schools are teaching math, he says, and the textbooks that support that education, are producing kids who can plug and chug, but cannot solve problems if the inputs are not neatly laid out for them.  And he’s right!

Here’s my experiential evidence:  When I was doing classroom observations for my MEd, several teachers expressed to me their frustration with “impatient” students, who refused to ponder math questions that were not straightforward. One teacher, who had been teaching honors geometry for 18 years, told me that in the first decade of her teaching, she was able to teach at a higher level than she could now. She said her students in recent years didn’t want to think, but wanted answers fed to them. She even said that she had parents complain to her administrators that she was giving their kids problems that were vague.

My observations of this teacher’s students were consistent with her comments. Each day, the students did group assignments, and they were seated in clusters (instead of facing forward in rows), to encourage them to work through problems together. I did not observe much “working through problems together,” but rather saw students racing through problems, and as soon as one person in the group got the answer, the rest copied it. If a group got stuck, someone from the group would walk over to the ‘class genius’ and get the answer from him.

Dan Meyer put a lot of the blame for students’ impatience on today’s textbooks. He gave examples of perfectly interesting problems that had been stripped of any opportunity for math reasoning, because the textbook laid out exactly what information was needed (none that was extraneous) and the formulas to solve them. Meyer suggested introducing problems to students with a different approach: First, start with a visual, asking questions about it and starting a conversation among students, then have the students come up with a math structure to begin to solve the problem. In this way, he says, “math serves the conversation, the conversation doesn’t serve the math.”

Meyer’s students are becoming “patient problem solvers,” who are not averse to word problems. He credits the following strategies with his success: 1) Use multimedia to bring the real world into the classroom. 2) Encourage student intuition. 3) Ask short questions, and let the specific ones come out in conversation. 4) Let students build the problem. And 5) Be less helpful. The great news, he concludes, is that we all have access to the tools needed for  creating a high-quality curriculum, and it’s free, through the internet and social media. He himself provides free video series and lesson plans on his blog.

Digital Storytelling Project for ED554 Class —

Digital Storytelling Project for ED554 Class

So here’s an exciting retelling of the story, The Day the Crayons Quit, presented by my ED554 group, Betsy, Brandon, and Charlotte and me:

This video is the end-result of my group’s Digital Storytelling Project.  The assignment was to make a video (with audio) in which we were to retell a story using ‘new-to-you’ technology tools. In this project, I learned not only how to use new technology tools, but also a little bit about copyright infringement!  Here’s how our group accomplished our task:

First, we picked a children’s story book — Charlotte had a digital copy of The Day the Crayons Quit, conveniently in a Power Point presentation. We initially thought we would just add music, sound effects and maybe even digitally introduce our own pictures into the existing book.

As we learned, that would not go over well, copyright-wise.  We needed to make the story different in a meaningful way, and we needed to use our own pictures. So, we had to get creative. We’d scrap the official power-point version of the story and make our own version (using Power Point). We searched Google for images — considering only those that were “labeled for non-commercial reuse,” and, given the limited selection resulting from our search filter, we decided to get out crayons and draw our own pictures.

We also inserted ourselves into the story by taking pictures of each other making the emotions of our crayon characters, and then photoshopping them onto crayon images.  We reworked the original story, even the nice resolution at the end of it.  Our new ending was a color-free one, where the readers could ponder the best solution for the “crayons that quit.”

We created audio for the video, taking turns reading our crayon characters’ lines. Then we combined the audio and the new Power Point using iMovie to bring it all together. It was a fun project, where we truly adapted and created as we progressed through its completion, in a way that was completely different from how we initially anticipated doing it!

YouRock on YouTube: A Google Educast — June 18, 2015

YouRock on YouTube: A Google Educast

I listened to a podcast called “YouRock on YouTube,” which was episode #163 on Google Educast ( This series of podcasts is meant to keep educators up to date on Google education products and applications. It’s run as a panel of educators discussing the newest technology and their classroom experiences with it. A summary of this episode appears at the end of this blog post.

The question posed to our ED554 class is: Can podcasts be a useful medium for professional education? My answer is: Absolutely! I found tons of podcasts on BAM! Radio Network that I’ve added to my “must hear” list. And I have always enjoyed listening to talk radio and podcasts like TedTalks and NPR’s Fresh Air. I wonder, though, if some content is more suitable for podcasting than others. Broad topics can be easy to absorb by listening alone, but specific content can be difficult. For example, this particular Educast episode offered a wealth of new ideas, including interesting websites and apps, but I found myself pausing the podcast several times so I could write down these “nuggets.” Also, I was frequently pausing and rewinding when I couldn’t make out the names of the sites/apps they were discussing (one panelist had an accent and another spoke very fast). An “enhanced podcast” in this case, one that had a visual to go along with it, would have been useful.

Here’s a “visual” that I made, with highlights from Educast #163.  Feel free to add it on to your podcast, Google!

→ Google now offers an experts directory that includes all Google-certified teachers and trainers, by location. So if your school needs help implementing a new technology, they can find a contact here: Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.33.35 PM

→ A new guide is out called “Bringing Learning Online: A Guide to Activating Technology in Schools,” which can help walk schools through getting online and bringing them into the 21st century. The panelists do admit that the content is Google-centric.

→ Google hangout now offers a “status” option. The moderators were singing the praises of this feature. Among other things, it prevents students from seeing a teacher’s personal, Google-hangout messages coming through her projected screen. The teacher would just have to list her status as “teaching now,” for example.
→ For film-making in the classroom, YouTube offers a “Creator Academy” at Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.38.31 PM Here students can learn the art of capturing viewers, growing your audience and even making money.

→ You can take screenshots on a chrome book. You can also get a listing of al keyboard shortcuts by entering<?>. These and other fun facts are from

→ Android phones now allow for free screen casting, where pausing stopping and starting again are allowed, as is recording in HD and posting videos straight to YouTube.

→ CS First is a product that offers everything a teacher might need to know about teaching Unknowncoding (even if the teacher himself does not know how to code). The package includes 2 weeks of lesson plans that can be used in the classroom or in computer science clubs.

Even to writing up this summary of the Educast postcast required my going online to verify sites and fill in holes. Again, an enhanced podcast — which might include resource notes — for an information-rich presentation like this would have been helpful.