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Monday, November 28, 2011

My Final Blog Post for TPTE 486

This is my final blog post for the semester, and I must say, I am sad to say goodbye. This semester has flown by so quickly! It's amazing how life can do that to you. I really appreciated all that I learned in this class, and there is so much I have to say about it and the projects that there's probably not enough room to include everything here.

Looking back on my initial post, I outlined several expectations, such as feedback, collaboration, and challenging myself. As far as feedback goes, Ginny does a really good job giving us the feedback we need and ask for in class. Even though it may seem a bit harder to receive students' feedback, I feel that, as a class, we have done an okay job. There really wasn't enough opportunity to get proper feedback from students on the class (besides evaluations). Overall though, I think that teacher-student communication fared well. In terms of collaboration, I don't think we had any big concerns working with one another. There were a few misunderstandings/miscommunications, but nothing major that jeopardized the quality of the work our groups put in. As far as challenging myself, I'm glad I did. I made a promise to myself that I would not only learn how to use technology, but to really expand my comfort zones. There were definitely projects I wasn't as comfortable with, but that was part of the learning curve.

In terms of the projects we completed, I enjoyed learning about and creating the wikis, my web 2.0 tool Delicious, and the Inspiration and Excel projects. Even though I had some difficulties with Excel, I liked how the function of the spreadsheet was so multifaceted in the classroom. The part I enjoyed about the wiki creations was the collaboration. I thought it was cool to see everyone post on the same page at different times. That aspect of the wiki makes it modern, live, and accessible. I really loved Delicious. My partner and I worked well together, and I loved the fact that there was a social website dedicated to bookmarking.

In terms of difficulty, I would say that I struggled the most with the iMovie. I found the fact that I struggled with this project unfortunate, because once I got the hang of it I really enjoyed creating my movie. The problem was that I didn't give myself enough time to do a good job on it and also the fact that iMovie kept giving me so much grief. The iMovie project definitely taught me to plan ahead, even if I think I'm prepared. I found most of the projects enjoyable, but learning how to meet state standards was hard. Integrating state standards into our projects was actually very good practice, but in the first few projects I felt like I was grappling with content. I was still trying to find the right area of concentration I wanted to focus on for my projects, so finding the right stand standards for my level and area was difficult. However, I did learn from various projects I've completed is that I really love reading and language arts. That said, I should probably look into becoming a reading specialist in the future.

I feel that I am much more prepared to use technology now. I feel like I've had enough practice to where I could self-guide if I needed to work on future projects because certain facets and tools have overlapped in our projects. For instance, embedding seems to be a function that comes up time and time again, as well as the proper use of hyperlinks. Another thing I have learned that proves useful is copyright law. I will admit I didn't really know much about teacher copyright law, but now that I understand how it works I try to be more respectful of using others' works.

Even if you've reached a point to where you feel comfortable enough with technology, you must continue to lose it. Like with everything else, if you don't use it, you lose it. Therefore, in order to keep up my knowledge of technology and web tools, I need to keep using them and share that wealth of information with others who might be beginners. Overall though, I think this class has and will continue to prepare pre-service teachers for technology use in the classroom. I do feel that I am more prepared to use technology with students. Still, I would like to continue learning about even more technological tools. I would say that we have learned the tools to effectively use technology, and that this class has given us those tools to succeed. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Creating an eportfolio

In chapter four of the textbook, we read about portfolios, both paper and electronic formats. We didn't discuss portfolios a great length in class, but reading about the information regarding portfolios was very helpful, and I think it's important to know how to use them.

I don't really feel like I have created a portfolio, electronic or otherwise. However, I probably have most of the resources need to complete one. For example, I have storyboarded ideas for many of my projects, and I have them saved on my computer and flash drive, so retrieving them shouldn't be a problem. Also, I have copies of examples of my worked saved in multiple locations. Looking back, I think that a lot of my projects serve as a kind of tool to help prepare me for any portfolio I would create in the future. For instance, the scavenger hunt that's saved in Google, Picasa, and Smilebox are already in presentation format. All I have to do is include that in my work. Also, the IBA activity is another completed assignment that I could add to my portfolio, as well as bigger projects, such as the excel spreadsheet, inspiration project, and iMovie. Not to mention, I do have that website I'll be turning in that doubles as my artifact.

At this point, if I were to create a portfolio, I would need to gather all of my images and other media and organize them. I'm glad I saved my images in separate folders for my projects; it saved a lot of time and helped me a ton with organization and stress relief. Also, I would have to go through my projects and showcase my best examples from the class. I think it could be a fun endeavor, if done creatively and correctly.

I liked the tips and advice outlined in the chapter. I definitely believe that creating a hierarchy and separate folders is vital to managing an effective portfolio. Also, I absolutely agree with the comment that you should save your work in multiple places. A lot of people take that last bit of information for granted sometimes, but you have to protect your files. I feel bad for teachers who are having to merge all their paper projects and examples into electronic files. For me, there might be some images or other media tools that I would also have to converge, and that would take up a lot of time. In addition, I agree with how teachers need to be mindful of the different platforms they are using and how accessible it is for students. For instance, I own a mac at home and I enjoy the different features that a mac has to offer. However, if I had a student who had only used pc's, the learning curve might be a bit of a struggle. Thus, I would have to make sure that I was using a program that was compatible for both macs and pcs, like Firefox which is compatible for both as opposed to Safari which is mac-only compatible.

When I become a teacher, I would, first of all, hopefully have my portfolio completed before I start teaching, and would also make it accessible to my students. I could present my portfolio in a digital-friendly  format, such as a fun presentation or making it available through a website or word processor program. Plus, having a portfolio would assure parents that their children are being educator by a capable person, so I would make it available to them as well, along with any administrator or potential employer. I thought the "Voices from the Classroom" segment regarding portfolios was really cool. Anissa Vega's endeavor was inspiring, and I admire her initiative; she wasn't afraid to take a risk/challenge in what she was creating, and her efforts paid off! I definitely hope that future teachers will become comfortable enough with learning the technology and being able to set future examples such as hers. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

An artifact for years to come

This is my final project, creating a website. My website will serve as a teacher's website and it will also be my artifact for TPTE 486. I'm excited about this project. I've been working on it immensely this past week, and that was a bit draining, but I got a lot of stuff done.

For my website, I need at least 4 pages- a teacher's bio, tech projects page, resource page, and teacher's choice. On Wednesday, I added my projects onto the tech projects page, added some resources, and included my pictures (I need at least five). One aspect of this project that I enjoy is being able to customize my website-everything from page layout to colors to pictures. It's great! Another aspect I like is how user-friendly google is. The textbook states that you don't have to be a techie to become web-skilled savvy, and I definitely believe that. Every year, there are so many new web tools that are being updated and developed, there's no way one single person can keep up with all of them all the time. Plus, because these web tools are open to the public, anyone can learn how to use them. Further, I really appreciate the assistance we're receiving with this project, like all the step-by-step instructions with the sidebar; that's helpful for sure.

As is the case with technology, there are bound to be a few mishaps. One of the them, like I've previously mentioned, is the fact that spending too much time working on a website can be draining. I would recommend to anyone working on this type of project to storyboard! I have storyboarded my website, and I find that it's tremendously helpful. My experience so far has taught me that planning/storyboarding helps me focus my ideas by putting it down on paper or mapping out a diagram in Inspiration. Another problem I've encountered is with the actual sidebar. The sidebar can be iffy at times. For instance, I would create a new page and try to add it onto my sidebar. However, when I went to add my new page, I had trouble finding it on the navigation tool, and it wasn't until a few tries that I realized you have to click on the add page button on the bottom of the navigation tool.

Although I still have time to add color to my website, I'm afraid it might be a little "bland" right now. For me, I like the design. It's a notes design layout, so the layout looks like it's on scrap sheets of notebook paper. Still, I might need to spice it up for the younger grades. Further, I was a little annoyed at how I had to keep crediting websites that published the pictures I used. I understand that I have to respect copyright and that the photographers and artists need their credit due. Still, in the future I might invest in taking my own pictures and uploading them.

I think that when I have my own classroom, I would definitely use my website as a means of communication between students and parents. I have seen previous examples of websites where a student's schedule or supply list was listed, so I think I would use my website for those two things as well. Also, we are creating a parent blog and posting that information on our website, which would be another helpful tool in the classroom, so definitely referring back to that in the future. Now that I'm thinking about it, I think that a teacher website is a great way to showcase some of your work and credentials, so I could use my own website to establish credibility to future employers and/or parents.

If I had to do this project again, it wouldn't hurt to storyboard even earlier than I did. I got a headstart on this project before Thanksgiving, but I'm just a nerd and I enjoyed creating and customizing my website. I would probably play around more just so I'm comfortable with how everything works. Like I said, I may take my own pictures in the future and upload them onto my website. Feedback never hurts either. If you're unsure about something, ask. Your instructor is probably willing to help you out, especially if you're still new to technology. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Excelling in the classroom

This week we created a practice worksheet/quiz on excel. Wow, let me say it was a challenge. For this assignment, I did a practice worksheet identifying prefixes and suffixes. I focused this worksheet on fourth grade. We were given an example to work through, which was tedious and long, but helpful. I believed that after I completed the example with compound words in class, I was ready to do my own. However, I did have some technical issues. First off, I felt that I was rushing to complete my project in class today. Because I spent most of the class time working through the example on Monday, I was a little bit behind on Wednesday. Consequently, my attempt to rush and be efficient was not so successful. I ended up uploading the wrong file onto blackboard and I also forgot to turn in my rubric and answer sheet.

The biggest problem for me though, was typing in the formula. When I typed the first formula in the cell titled "Right?" the words that were supposed to appear, either "good" or "uh-oh" didn't show up. I spent at least the next ten minutes figuring out what I was doing wrong, even employed a friend to help me. However, once I changed the viewing properties, everything worked out the way it was supposed to do. Other than that, I didn't really have a hard time with the assignment. So, I guess you could say that it was human error rather than technological error.

When I become a teacher, I would use an excel worksheet/spreadsheet for many different occasions. First off, I could use a spreadsheet to create an attendance book/log. Even if I had a paper copy of an attendance book, I could always create a digital file for safe keeping. It would also be a quick and easy way to show parents their child's attendance. Also, I could create budgets for school supplies or parties. In terms of parties, I could use excel spreadsheets for food list or a guest list. When it comes to uses in the classroom, I would definitely create similar projects to the one I made. I would use these worksheets for practice as a class activity, or create one for a struggling student in a particular area. Quizzes would be another use I could rely on with excel spreadsheets.

I really liked the creative aspect of this spreadsheet assignment. I like how the spreadsheet is multipurpose, and teachers can use them for many different reasons both inside and outside the classroom, among students, and among teachers and parents. I also liked how you could hide the gridlines and everything else so that it didn't look like a spreadsheet! :) The shadowing aspect of excel was pretty cool too. If I were to have a do-over, I would make sure that I was very comfortable using the technology. To further ensure my comfort levels, I would probably have to a few practice runs with the practice sheet or quiz I was creating.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Becoming inspired by Inspiration

I just turned in my Inspiration project for class. Needless to say, it was a challenge. I really like how we delved into diagramming software to help us with planning in the classroom and creating new ways that help your students learn in the classroom. I like how Inspiration has several different programs, such as Kidspiration and the Beta version. I would say that Inspiration 9 is probably the best version to use. Kidspiration seems to be much more different and might not have all the same tools as Inspiration.

For my Inspiration Project, I did a character map and analysis of The Chronicles of Narnia. I did a type of doubles-Aslan and the White Witch and Edmund and Lucy. I focused on Aslan's relationship with the three characters. While working on my project, I appreciated the variety of tools found in Inspiration. For instance, I found tons of font sizes, as well as graphics and clip art. I also liked the different types of colors I was able to use. I found that I could use green, but I might use three different shades of green.

Unfortunately, I found some frustrations when working with Inspiration. When creating my project, I would have liked to create a document in outline form. However, when I tried to create an outline the topics and subtopics didn't appear in the levels that I wanted them to be at. I don't know if that was my own doing or if Inspiration was really being problematic. I also found that this project was quite tedious and time-consuming. Then again, I might have become a bit of a "perfectionist" in that the circles had to be perfectly aligned, I had to have just the right shade of colors. I don't know, that might have been just me. But still, if you want to do well on a project, you have to be willing to put in the time and effort. As a teacher, the quality of your work will reflect the amount of work you put into it.

For the classroom, I would use inspiration software for planning and review. For instance, if I were to assign my students a project, I would spend some time getting them comfortable with the program and then allow them to plan the topics and details of their projects. For review, I would use inspiration to remember facts, dates, events, or characters to help them study for a quiz or test. On the fun side, I could also use inspiration the way Ginny's example was set up, to plan for lunch. With my students, I could probably use inspiration for ideas about a party or where to go for a field trip. There are just so many uses for inspiration, and several different types of software that come with it. I would probably start off using Kidspiration in the beginning years of teaching since I'll be teaching younger grades. If and when I wanted to move up to some older grades, I would switch to Inspiration.

If I had to complete this project again, I would probably ask for more assistance. Technology seems simple enough to use, but sometimes it can be a pain and not work for us. Still, I'm excited to see the different upgrades that Inspiration will implement in the future when I use it again, in the classroom. Also, I would probably play around more with colors, more specifically, colors with text and background fill. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Regulating productivity and managing efficiency

This week, I am like a duck-calm on the surface but busy busy underneath. I have add so much to do in class this week! Of course, there is the Resource Wiki that must absolutely be done by tomorrow. I've checked and double-checked my project against the rubric and it looks like everything's in good shape so far. I've edited my writing, made sure all the links worked, and checked that the font and format are consistent. The resource wiki has definitely been one of the longer projects we've had to work on, just because of the collaboration across all the different sections in the class. It was a lot of work, but the effort has been worth it. It helps to see an example of the project's end result, so that helped a lot too.

As far as our Inspiration project, I am still in the beginning phases. At first, I wanted to use Kidspiration and do a character map with James and The Giant Peach, but I have to use Inspiration, so I'm looking at the state standards for 6th or 7th grade to generate ideas for my project. At this point, I'm torn between doing a character map or an idea or concept map. I think after reading the state standards more carefully I will have a better idea of what I want to do.

I'm really learning a lot with these projects. It seems that they require a lot of my time, effort, and energy. Indeed, the tasks can become a bit tedious at times, but the overall goal is that you are equipping your students with numerous technological tools that will facilitate the learning experience. Plus, the fact that you're using technology in the classroom gives you all these different outlets, gives you more creativity. It also makes learning fun, which is a great helper in the classroom.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mastering Digital Tools in the Classroom

This week has been a tremendous learning experience! Our class was split into groups of three to four people and we went on a scavenger hunt! My group was all elementary preservice teachers, and we were assigned opposites. Of the items we were assigned, we found objects for clean, dirty, hot, cold, wet, dry, short, tall, fat, and thin. I must say though, there really aren't enough interesting things on campus to make the scavenger hunt, well, even more interesting!

The post-scavenging process required us to make at least two different presentations of our scavenger hunt. We had to make one presentation using Picasa Web Albums and then either Google Presentation, Glogster, or Smilebox. I actually ended up doing three: Picasa, Google, and Smilebox. I will say that the most frustrating part of this whole process was editing and re-sizing all of my images. I found that the work I did in Picasa was the most tedious and time consuming out of all three presentations. However, the embedding part was relatively simple.

As far as Google and Smilebox go, they were both much easier and quicker to set up. Google was probably the more plain of the two. When I say plain, I mean that I wanted more variety in font and background. At the same time though, google is not as sophisticated as powerpoint. Still, it's pretty cool to know that google has so many tools and resources for anyone to use. Smilebox was pretty cool to use too. The thing I didn't like about Smilebox is that you have to subscribe to a membership plan. I can understand that though, because they offer so much variety, whether it be music, background, format, styles, anything! It's really incredible.

As teacher, introducing various digital tools to my students will be fun and vital to their learning experience with technology. With tools such as Google Presentations, I would help my students create slideshows or presentations for class projects, or even just with presenting in front of the class. With tools such as Picasa and Smilebox, I think it would be fun to create "All About Me" projects with my students where they could share some fun parts of their life or family. Plus, I could use all of these tools to create my own presentations for my classes.

With this project, I think that my take home lesson is that I have learned how to make various digital presentations. I think it'll be a great tool in the classroom whenever I want to present various slideshows in my lessons. Plus, it will be of great use for scavenger hunts! I think that the next time I set up a similar presentation/slideshow, I will probably re-size all of my images first. Then, I would organize them. When I'm actually setting up a presentation, I would, for the sake of my sanity, choose the easiest presentation set-up first before tackling the more challenging ones. This project was definitely stressful at times, but overall, I'm glad I did it. I learned something new and useful, and I got to play around with images.

Opposites Scavenger Hunt-Smilebox

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
A picture slideshow by Smilebox

Opposites Scavenger Hunt-Google Presentation

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Resume activity

Last week, we created a resume and turned it in class on Monday. I have prior experience with resume writing, so this activity was not difficult. However, it was refreshing to see a different format used for resume writing. I liked how the header was one line instead of having all the information in a blocked structure. In my resume writing, I usually type my heading information line by line as opposed to having it all on the same line. Also, I liked how the bullet points were more diamond-shaped than regular bullets. Again, regular bullets are something I am used to having in my resumes.

One of the things that posed a problem for me was the information under the qualifications section. I found myself wanting to add more bullet points to my resume, but the way the bullets were set made it difficult for me to change the formatting. In the end, I just left the formatting alone and inserted the best qualifications I thought should belong in that section with allotted number of bullet points. Another thing I found interesting about this resume template was that the resume was two pages instead of one. I do not necessarily find the two-page format a problem. However, I have been told that if you are starting out in your professional career that you should keep your resume to one page. I have been told that it is usually better for more experienced professionals to use a two-page resume.

Even though a resume activity seems to cater more to the professional side of teaching, it can also have its uses in the classroom. As a teacher, I would definitely require my students to create a resume, even if it doesn't contain a lot of information. When I was in ninth grade, I took a computer applications class and we were required to create a type of resume. This was just basically filling out references. I think that even at ninth grade, I would expose my students to resume writing, even if it was as simple as gathering a group of references. Unfortunately, my anticipated grade levels are towards elementary, so I would have to use my resume as a form to send to potential employers. With resumes, you can pretty much customize a certain resume for a certain job position. Therefore, depending on what position I was applying to (whatever school system I would be working for) I would customize my resume based on the job requirements. I could also use it as an example to share with co-workers or other colleagues who may not be confident in preparing a good resume.

If I had to do this activity again, I would probably ask for some help with the formatting issues to customize my resume. Also, I think I would probably experiment with the different heading styles and bullet points. In general, I am glad we were able to complete this activity. I feel that even though I have already completed previous resumes, I can still learn more about writing them. For me, this is just another learning experience, and it has helped me to reach out of my comfort zone and not be afraid to experiment with different headings, styles, and writing/formatting.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Resource Wiki

This week, my technological skills are being pushed even further with the creation of a resource wiki. For this activity, I am placed into my licensure group, so elementary ed. For our wiki, we have to create at least five different pages, but we have six. So far, the activity has not been that difficult. I will say that the biggest challenge with this activity has been that the new room configuration makes it hard to work with the other people in my group. While I'm working on the resource wiki, I'll just have to regularly check against the rubic to make sure I'm not missing any steps. Thankfully, one of our group members has posted a reminder on the criteria needed for the wiki on each separate page.

I was editing some pages on our wiki earlier this week and I just kind of perused the other pages. I thought it was really cool to see so many different subjects that an elementary teacher has to teach. I'm sure that sometimes the thought of having to everything-math, science, social studies, and reading, can be quite overwhelming. Still, if you're invested in your students and you have that passion for them to learn and succeed, you'll find it rewarding. Also, in this exercise you're not doing everything on your own. I really like how group work is very advantageous to us in this activity. Sure, I might be able to create fifteen resources for five separate pages, but it's so much easier when there are five or six other people working with you.

In terms of classroom use, wikis are very multifaceted, but a big wiki project like this one could be even more so. With group wikis. I could see myself using them for a number of different things. One use could be if I had to assign a vocabulary worksheet assignment that were paired in groups. Each group could create their own wiki. Within each group, each group member would have to contribute to their wiki by writing in so many vocabulary words and providing definitions. For math, I could use wikis to post math problems and then allow access to my class so they could fill in the answers to the questions. Also, any type of planning my students might be doing would be good with a wiki. For instance, if my students were planning a party, they could post the needed items on a wiki. The same goes for planning a field trip. I would say that most projects that require collaboration I would use with a wiki.

One thing I'm learning is preparing your information ahead of time. I definitely agree with Ginny's comment on creating your sources in a word document and then uploading them later. I think it saves time and you're better organized. Plus, you don't run the risk of hogging up the page while you're editing. I should probably do that with the rest of my resources that I need to add. If I were to repeat this activity, I would be better organized. That is, identify the sources I have and want to include, the pages where I want to add my resources, and typing up my information ahead of time to reduce stress.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Delicious! Presentation & My Inquiry Based Activity

Last week, my partner, Caroline, and I did our presentation on the web tool, Delicious. To recap, Delicious is a social bookmarking site where you can practically find anything you want to use in your classroom. It's really cool and simple because Delicious organizes your bookmarks for you. Practically, all you add to do was save and share. A few things I learned from my web 2.0 experience is that in order to create a good, solid wiki page, you must be willing to put in quite a bit of time and effort. I don't want to say I'm a perfectionist, because I don't feel like I am, but I like to do things thoroughly. So, I spent a lot of time editing and re-editing our page to make sure we met the rubric and also to check that the steps we posted were clear and concise. Furthermore, the process of doing the presentation gave me a bit of practice with public speaking and in-class presentations. Overall though, the web tool activity was a good experience. I didn't really have any problems with this activity. I guess just finding the bookmarks and tags I wanted was the most problematic. Still, I felt like my partner and I worked well, and it also gave me a bit of practice with various skills that will be useful, not only in the classroom but just later on in my career.

If I had to do it again, I might practice rehearsing a little bit, even though it's a short presentation. I don't really like speaking in front of a large group of people, but I must learn how to do it well because I'm going to be a teacher and I need to learn how to speak to a group of students. Also, as a teacher, I would assign a type of web-tool presentation to my students so I could expose them to the various types of web tools out there and how they are being used. I would also use this project as an exercise in group work. I think that collaboration is a skill that we all need to develop, and the younger students can learn to effectively work well together, the better.

Now to move onto the inquiry based activity. Last night, I was up late working on my IBA activity. Granted, I probably spent more time than I should have on the technical, nitpicky aspects of it, but it's done and I am proud of it. One of the struggles I had with this project was that the subject I had initially started out with I couldn't really execute in my work. When I started the beginning phases of the IBA activity, I wanted to do a literacy worksheet for struggling readers. Unfortunately, I couldn't really find any games or lesson plans that I could model for my worksheet. Also, I think that for a preservice student, trying to create a worksheet for struggling readers is really challenging. As I went through the state curriculum standards, I kept going back to middle school reading. It's good that I decided to go with 6th reading, because I felt like it was easier to complete than literacy.

For my IBA project, I used Edgar Allan Poe's poem, "The Raven." Although the worksheet appeared challenging, I tried to make it engaging and productive for students using various methods and technology. Some of the standards I wanted to target in the worksheet was reading strategies via reading aloud and paired reading. I also wanted to introduce literary texts (e.g. "The Raven") and use literary mapping as an interactive tool that would help students improve their analyzation and comprehension skills. One of take-aways from this project is the process of using various technological tools in the classroom. For me, I think that technology is becoming so vital in the classroom because it brings what you're teaching to life. In short, technology is just another medium that connects difficult subjects to your students' lives.

As a teacher, I think that this IBA activity will change the mold of worksheet format for my students. When I was in school, we had to use worksheets for countless activities, especially for classes such as english and french. In applying the IBA activity with my students, I would allow them to complete the worksheet in a digital format. That way, if they couldn't afford to print the worksheet out, they could just email it to me. Also, I think that because the IBA activity is digital, it would be a good way to collaborate between me and my students. If my students needed help on a certain question, they could ask me via email and show me where in the worksheet they were struggling. I think that as far as professional application is concerned, I would use future IBA activities for my students in the classroom, but at the same time save them as examples to share with colleagues.

Despite the tedious hours of researching lesson plans, modeling certain games and activities, and making sure I met both the state and net standards, I felt like this worksheet project was greatly rewarding. It's nice to see a cumulation of all your hard work and know that it can potentially help and entertain your students. I really appreciate the examples that were posted online. It really helped to me generate ideas for my own project and see the different tools people used. I'm saying this with a grain of salt, but I'm really looking forward to completing similar projects in the future. I just think that in the future I would spend even more time preparing by being thorough with lesson plans and pouring over state standards. Plus, I would probably form a more concrete idea or concept ahead of time to save myself some headaches. It definitely helps to be prepared. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Check In

I think I am feeling just fine with this class. I still have moments of apprehension when I am being introduced to a new concept or web tool. However, once I start working more on my projects I feel more comfortable completing my activities. I like how everything is starting to come together, like with the projects that use different web tools simultaneously. In term of outside work, I feel like it is easy for me to not read the chapters. Still, I try my best to keep up with the readings, especially since it's not so demanding. In any case, I should probably review more of what I'm reading for the class, especially now that book questions are being posted on facebook. I know I'm not required to answer all of the questions or any posted, but I think that the more questions I answer the more I am able to retain what I have learned. Overall, I have a good feeling about the class. It's not difficult, and I'm learning quite a bit with every class period.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rocking the rock star trading card activity

This week one of our in-class projects was something called the Rockstar Trading Card Activity. The name sounds deceptive, because we weren't trading any cards about rockstars. Instead, we ended up choosing a gemstone or rock. We then had to answer so many questions and create a google document for our activity.

Ginny was right. This activity required much more processing. That is, the process of completing the task was probably the hardest part about it. With the web quest activity, all of the information was already there for us to use. However, it did take a long time to compose those web quests, even though I wasn't creating them. Anyways, it took me a bit longer than I would have liked to get started on my activity. I felt a little brain scattered at the beginning because I was trying to find the example on the course website while looking up information about my rock while creating the google document. However, once I managed to sort things out, the activity wasn't that bad. Granted, I'm not too much inclined towards the sciences, but I am a fan of learning, so the information I found on my rock was pretty cool.

For this activity, I chose peridot as my rock. I feel like I learned quite a bit about my rock. For instance, peridot is commonly mispronounced by many people. It's derived from a french word, peritot, which means unclear. This is what shapes the peridot's physical characteristics. Many people pronounce peridot as pear-e-dot. It's actually pronounced pair-a-do. Interesting, isn't it? Also, production of the peridot is highest in Colorado, but that's the more common peridot. In places such as Myanmar, Egypt, and Pakistan, the peridot production is a lot less frequent, so it makes the value of their peridot much higher. All in all, the information I learned about my rock was the aspect I enjoyed the most about this activity.

If I were to complete this activity again, I would make sure that I was organized before starting my task. Organization would have helped a lot with this activity, and organization is also key when working in the classroom. You can never be too prepared because you don't know what's going to happen. Another consideration I would keep in mind the next time is being able to have an open mind and be flexible. I chose peridot because it interested me and it didn't seem as common as some of the other rocks, but I could have chosen another rock. With the activities we're doing in class, we only have so much control on what we're doing. Sometimes we might not even have that much say in the matter because our activities are already chosen for us. It's kind of the same in the classroom. When you're the teacher, even if you're the one planning the activities, you can't always control every more, every step of the activity. Yes, you an set it up to where it's easier to complete the task step-by-step, but you never know what's going to come up with your kids. Overall, it's been another good learning experience. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Learning about Webquests

I think that the activity we did with webquests was helpful in a lot of ways. First off, I learned what a webquest was, what it looked like, and how we use it. One aspect of the activity that I thought went well was the collaboration between my group. We were pretty open-minded and efficient about delegating roles. When working in groups, I think it's very important to be open-minded about the different possibilities that can take place, as well as the different kinds of people you'll have in your group. I think that as a group we communicated pretty well. Furthermore, I think that sharing our information and feedback and being able to see things through another person's perspective was insightful. As a teacher, being able to see different activities through multiple perspectives will help me plan things better by not being "stuck" in my fixed perspective.

There really wasn't anything that went badly in our activity. I guess my biggest complaint is that I was the Efficiency Expert. It was a little challenging in that I myself have trouble being efficient. At the same time though, being the Efficiency Expert helped me realize how I would use time efficiency and productivity in my classroom. Another drawback or con was that there were certain web quests that asked for so much effort and attention, such as Growing Garden Greens. I felt that even if the activity was used for older grades, it would still require a lot of attention. Maybe in the future there could be "better" examples of a webquest.

I love web quests in the fact that they can really be customized and tailored for any subject and for any specific event. As a teacher, I would create and use a webquest for different topics. For instance, I would create a webquest for reading in which a group of students would be assigned to work together, read texts, and then answer some critical thinking questions. I really liked the webquest on the Underground Railroad, and I think the set-up and method is very effective for a history or social studies activity. For younger grades, I could create a webquest for colors or any activity that required them to name things, places, or people. Like I said, you can use webquests for just about any grade level and task. It really just depends on what area you want to focus on and how you form your own webquest. 

If I were to complete this activity again, I would probably take on another role, not just because there might be one closer to my interest, but also to see things from a different perspective. Also, I would probably try to determine what grades corresponded the best to all the different webquests.  Furthermore, I would probably spend more time exploring the teacher pages rather than being so fixated on the actual webquests. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Expanding our use and knowledge of web tools

So this week, I was paired with a classmate to create a new wiki page. My partner, Caroline, and I will create a wiki page on pbworks based on our web tool, Delicious. Delicious is a web tool that really facilitates the use of bookmarks. The website is divided into three categories- bookmarks,
people, and tags, making it easier for users to find their desired content.

I rely on the use of bookmarks for everyday organization, so I'm excited about using Delicious. I forgot to mention that Caroline and I will be making an in-class presentation on our wiki page. Also, our wiki page must have four components- 1) an overview 2) instructions on how to use our web tool 3) its uses in the classroom and 4) an artifact.

I'm a little nervous because we are still in the "researching" phase of our project and our presentation is on the 21st. We decided on Wednesday that we wanted to create our wiki page in a way that integrated both American Sign Language and English, our areas of interest.

So far, I've found several bookmarks for american sign language, but not so much for english. I would say that one of the biggest and most integral parts to complete this project is collaboration. We discussed the project in class, but we really should communicate more outside of class, since there’s only so much we can discuss in class.

I've now seen how you can edit content on pbworks' homepage. Still, I'm a little nervous about the editing process because I’ve never edited a page that way before. All in all though, I think this project will be an enjoyable one that won't cause us too much stress. I'm willing to open my mind and expand my comfort zone, so that should make the experience easier for me. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Analyzing what's true, what's bogus

This week, I evaluated a website called Funbrain. It's a really cool website where kids can play games using skills such as math and reading. I never really knew about these types of websites. Growing up, I used to play the Jumpstart CD's, so I'm definitely excited to see online spaces that allow kids to be able to learn and play at the same time.

I think that evaluating a website really helped me sharpen my critical thinking skills, as well as just developing a healthy dose of skepticism. I don't think I've ever evaluated a website to this extent before. I remember in high school, our librarian would guide us in choosing credible web sources for our research papers and such. One thing I've taken away from this exercise is that you can never use enough of you good judgment on the web.

Consequently, as a teacher, I would make sure that my students developed these same skills in the classroom. I would want them to not only know how to choose for themselves what websites are good and what websites to look out for, but knowing how to evaluate websites can help them avoid being the subjects of plagiarism.

Another important thing I have learned from this exercise is that currency and accuracy are critical. As a teacher, it would be very important that the web sources I used met those two criteria. If I ever wanted to use a website like Funbrain, I would need websites that were both current and accurate. If I can't find a good website that reflects the material that my students are learning in school then that deters them from being able to use their knowledge outside the classroom. Similarly, if my kids can't relate to content found on a website, it's not a good learning experience for them, nor is it fun.

Furthermore, I've learned that reliability is also an important criteria. If a website is unreliable, there's a pretty good chance that I won't be using it and others will avoid it as well. When I am a teacher, I would make sure that the online information I'm using in my classroom was not only relevant to the classroom topic, but also that it was a credible source for me, my classroom, and any other individuals in the school who might want to access it. I think that some of the teacher's blogs that we've seen in class or just other websites or wikis would be a useful tool for me in my classroom. Thus, I could research the different blogs or wikis that maybe some other teachers or colleagues maintained and I could use their resources for additional exercises or fun activities.

Overall, there have been a lot that I've learned from this evaluation exercise, and I don't think I  have enough space to include everything I've learned here. However, it will be a really good skill for me to have and to use and I'll continue to use it not only in my educational career, but throughout the rest of my life.

Monday, August 29, 2011

My first wiki creation

Overall, the wiki assignment was relatively simple, nothing too complicated involved. I am very glad that I did not encounter any difficulties with adding my pictures to my wiki. I thought that my pictures looked a little odd formatting-wise, but the process of adjusting and cropping my pictures weren't that hard.

The things I found that went well with creating my wiki was the ease of adding pictures. However, I feel like there could be a better way to format them in the actual wikis. Another thing I found went well was the ease of being able to go back into my wiki and edit any further content I felt needed fixing.

I noticed that when I edited my wiki page, the paragraphs in my blank space looked different from the actual link posted on the homepage. However, I have seen this difference before so it doesn't bother me that much. Still, if I had monitored the discrepancy between the actual text amount I would have added some more information. In the future, I would probably add more text on my page. Also, I would add more pictures and also do a better job of editing my pictures.

As a teacher, I plan to use the wiki tool as a way of posting information about myself to my students. Like what was stated in class, I think the wiki would be a good way to learn who everyone in your classroom is, so I would probably use this tool for introductory purposes.

At the same time, I would like to use a wiki for more classroom assignments, such as posting study guides and listing vocabulary and reading assignments. Further, I would like to use wikis in a way that would promote collaboration between student groups. To that same effect, I would like to use wikis as a means of communication between colleagues for different assignments or school events that are being planned. Another cool option would be to use wikis for virtual field trips in the event that a live fieldtrip could not be done.

More about me

I am from Knoxville, Tennessee. For the first few years of my life, my family and I traveled around the country for my mom's work. When I was three, I moved to Knoxville and have grown up here since.

I went Gibbs High School in Corryton and partcipated in Link-Up, a mentoring program to help freshmen, and the National Honor Society. My first year of college, I attended Southern Adventist University before transferring to UT fall of 2009.

The best explanation I can give for wanting to teach is that I enjoy working with kids, and I would love to see them thrive both inside and outside the classroom. My minor is in elementary education, and I am scheduled to intern fall of 2014 in the Urban/Multicultural program. I have now decided that I absolutely love working with younger kids than I do with older ones, and what I would really love to do is work as an esl teacher in the elementary grades. If I can, I would really love to gain experience in the literacy field and use my experience in literacy to help esl learners.

In my spare time, I enjoy brisk walks and spending time with my family and dog. I'm an English nerd, so I love to write and love to write even more. I enjoy doing service projects, such as helping at the Salvation Army. I'm involved with my church and also with our collegiate ministry we have on campus, Advent House.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The beginning is always the hardest...until you get the hang of things

I'm quite excited about my first post on this blog. Truthfully, I've been trying to get into the habit of blogging again. I'm afraid the last time I blogged was during the summer on a separate account. When I entered TPTE 486, I was a little apprehensive about the technological challenges I might face. So far though, everything's been pretty accessible. I'm really looking forward to this class and expanding my technological capabilities. 

As far as class expectations go, I don't really have that many. One expectation I have for the class is communication between the students and the instructor, which doesn't seem to be a problem. I guess an obvious expectation would be to improve my use of technology. Really though, on a more detailed note, I don't want to just learn the basics to get by; I want to really immerse myself with technology.

At the same time, it would be nice if we, as a class, were to effectively collaborate on projects. In almost every subject, everyone has to participate in a group project. I've had my share of both pleasant and frustrating group project experiences. With this class, the bar seems to be set higher. Every person in the class is looking towards a career in education or an area similar to that. Consequently, it helps to know that your classmates are invested in their assignments and projects. If we can all learn to work together, that would be great.

Feedback is another expectation for this class, and that goes both ways. I think constructive feedback from the instructor can really show everyone where our weaknesses lie and how we can best enhance our strengths. In return, it's only fair that students voice their feedback regarding the instructor's teaching style, whether that be in the form of face-to-face conversations, emails, or surveys.

Overall, I think the most important expectation for this class is that I'm able to really challenge and push myself outside my comfort zone. If I say I want to learn something, I can't be afraid of the challenge that's given to me. Someone told me that everything worth anything in life requires a little hard work, and this class isn't an exception. It doesn't hurt that our instructor is willing to give us an extra push, so I think we're all in good hands.