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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.