Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Exploring Virtual Worlds

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

I am on the fence about virtual worlds. On the one hand, I recognize their value as an educational tool (especially in the year 2013) and I know most students would enjoy participating in a virtual world; but on the other hand, I find virtual worlds to be strange (creepy, almost) and part of The Problem rather than the solution. By the “The Problem,” I mean disconnection. Our 21st century world is taking us further and further away from real life– real interaction– and closer towards diluted versions of ourselves and human interaction. However, these virtual worlds do provide a means of collaboration and communication, which, I suppose, is better than nothing.

I very much relate to Elizabeth Knittle’s initial reaction to the virtual world in the article “A ‘Second Life’ For Educators”: “I looked around and I thought, this is crazy […]I just couldn’t see the value of it, so I left” (2009). I couldn’t have said it better myself. But as she explored virtual worlds more, as I did with Second Life and NASA @ Home and City, I started to warm up to the idea of the virtual world as a collaborative space. To me, the virtual world is a highly visual, complex and life-like Google Doc. You sign on, contribute freely, and others do the same. For the record, I still prefer just a good ol’ fashioned Google Doc, but for more visual learners (and Digital Natives) I can really see the value of communicating via the virtual world.

John Lester (2009) makes another solid point in that same article about the value of virtual worlds as a space for professional development:

“With teachers, you have this built-in culture of collaboration,” he says. “It’s in their DNA; they succeed by working with other people on projects and learning from them and leveraging each other’s work. It’s not surprising that Second Life is proving to be such a useful platform for their own professional development.”

And admittedly, that was not a use of the virtual world that I had thought about previously. I was thinking of these virtual worlds for student use only, not for teachers to collaborate with each other. We all know how difficult it can be to coordinate schedules with other teachers, nay just other adults in general, and Second Life provides a space for teachers from everywhere to meet and collaborate. Much cheaper and more convenient than a conference, I’d say.

Although I recognize the benefits of virtual worlds, I still can’t help feeling that they contradict themselves. They are a space for collaboration, but they also require users to hind behind their respective computer screens– an isolating act. The Horizon-K12 article, “What Are Virtual Worlds,” makes a valid point saying that, “it has become evident that people generally return to virtual spaces because of the experiences they find there, not because of the spaces themselves” (2011). Those “experiences” are interacting with other human beings. Meeting new people is an experience (and a worth while one). I am of the opinion that the best way to meet someone is in real life, not virtual life. Perhaps this is an exaggeration, but sometimes I feel like real life will cease to exist. That instead of leaving our homes and our computer screens, we will live and interact entirely online. As an educator, I would rather provide as many real life experiences for my students as possible, and use the internet as a tool rather than as an experience.

Resources

Waters, J.K. (2009). A ‘second life’ for educators. The Journal. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/Articles/2009/01/01/A-Second-Life-For-Educators.aspx?Page=6

“What are virtual worlds?” (2011). The Horizon Project: K-12. Retrieved from http://k12-2011.wiki.nmc.org/Virtual+Worlds

Mini Projects, Part 2

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

With these mini projects, being related themselves, I chose to stick to a related theme; that theme, of course, being Walt Whitman. My idea is to incorporate both a TimeToast timeline and a Google Trek as part of one larger learning project / experience.

Our journey would begin the the classroom. We would start our Walt Whitman unit with his poem Song of Myself– reading, analyzing, and having students write their own Songs of Self– and then we would find out who this Walt Whitman person was. I would show my students My Walt Whitman Timeline, and then show them how to use TimeToast (it’s pretty simple) to create their own. This allows them to concisely consolidate their research in one place and chronologically. Of course, I wouldn’t send my students into the Wild Blue Yonder of the internet to do research, so I would provide for them a Custom Walt Whitman Search Engine, made by yours truly.

Once the students had gotten to know Walt a little better, I would introduce them to his Civil War poems, many of which are written about his experiences right here in Fredericksburg, VA! Assuming the students were getting interested and involved with Whitman’s poetry (how could you not?), I would plan a field trip to historical Fredericksburg.


View Walt Whitman Fredericksburg Tour in a larger map

There are a few things on this Google Trek that I would amend for a field trip, though. First and most importantly, we all know that it’s not safe to walk over the bridge, so this is not truly a “walking tour” of Fredericksburg. Also, with children in tow, I would skip the visit to Colonial Tavern for a Walt Whit beer. But I think you get the general idea.

Admittedly, I felt pretty uninspired about creating a timeline, but I do think it a useful tool for historical and/or biographical information. The Google Trek, on the other hand, I found to be really engaging and fun to make! I especially enjoyed making it for an area that I am so familiar with already. Assuming the Google Trek is used for its intended purpose (a field trip), then it becomes part of the very definition of experiential learning– and I like that! Not only do students get the benefit of fresh air and getting out of the classroom, but also something that seemed unreal, merely words on pages, becomes real. Fredericksburg is a real place, Walt Whitman was really here, the catalpa trees he wrote about in The Wound Dresser are still alive and standing outside of Chatham House. When things become real, they become more meaningful.  And even if a student hates poetry and hates Walt Whitman, there is bound to be something along the way that interests him/her. That’s the beauty of having a shared experience, each person derives their own personal meaning from it.

Mini Projects, Part 1

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

I have been home sick this week, so the mini projects that involved my voice (currently scratchy, phelgmy, and frequently coughing) were out of the question. This considered, I poured myself into the comic book project and designing a lesson using Wordle.

For my comic book, I created an alternate ending to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. If you are unfamiliar, the book ends with Jack chasing Ralph (antagonist & protagonist) with the intent to kill him. Before anything deadly can happen, however, the boys are rescued by a British Naval Officer. In my alternative ending, Ralph hides and throws a rock at Jack, knocking him unconscious. Suddenly, he feels regret and shame, and hurries over to Jack to try to save him. The boys make nice with each other, and this is when they both see the Naval Officer who saves them. In changing the ending, I changed the entire meaning of the book; Lord of the Flies is about the animalistic, base instincts within all of us, but by showing Ralph’s sympathy and regret, I chose to illustrate the “brighter” side of humanity. Although I don’t intend on making comics as a hobby now, I do think this would be a great project for my students. Students would love to make alternate endings to books, especially the ones that they hate the ending. It’s a great way to inspire students to reflect on the narrative as a whole, and have them discover how changing the ending can change the theme of the entire novel.

I designed my Wordle lesson around Elie Wiesel’s Night. (Sorry I’m so dark this week, maybe it’s the sickness). My lesson involves a “Before and After” usage of Wordle, which is to say that we will create a word cloud before we start the activity, and then another once we have completed our analysis of Night.

The lesson begins with a reading of the children’s book Goodnight Moon. Goodnightmoon

Afterwards, I’ll ask the students to reflect on what nighttime meant to them when they were 11 years old, which is Elie Wiesel’s age at the start of the Holocaust. We will create a Wordle word cloud of these little-kid-nighttime-words: “pillow,” “cuddle,” “comfortable,” “quiet,” etc. I expect this cloud to be of mostly pleasant words.

Then we will launch into our Night activity. Reminding the students that Elie Wiesel was just a child when all of this started happening. I will have students break up into small groups to discuss sections of the book with a reading guide. The reading guide leads students to locate and think about passages that involve sleep and nighttime, and then to put together some keywords that describe those passages.

Once the students have finished, we will come together as a group and create another word cloud to contrast our first one. This word cloud, undoubtedly, will include much darker words– “fear,” “fire,” “screaming,” “restlessness”– and I will pull the previous word cloud so that the students can clearly see the contrast. My hopes is that this will lead to a discussion of how the Holocaust destroyed Elie Wiesel’s (and every other child’s) childhood innocence. If nothing else, I hope the students enjoy the use of Wordle, and at least mildly grasp the magnitude of The Holocaust.

I really enjoyed creating these little mini projects, I love creative challenges! Once I no longer sound like an old woman that chain-smokes, I will tackle the others!

References

Goodnight Moon. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2013 from wikipedia.org: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/51/Goodnightmoon.jpg

Sticky Notes

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Charts have always confused and alienated me– I really struggle with creating them. Charts in English, especially, never made any sense to me; visually structuring words that way into bubbles and columns really bamboozled me. To be honest, it still does. In my writing process, I have never benefited from structural charts, so I never made them. However, now that I will teaching others, who really would/could benefit from such structural aids, I realized that I really need to start trying to understand and build them. Here’s my attempt to create a diagram of writing an essay. Although there is room for improvement, I must say I feel accomplished in wrapping my brain around creating one without the aid of found-examples (I resisted that urge!). This was a good experience because it made me aware that my weaknesses are not everyone’s weaknesses, which is to say: I will not be teaching myself.

I had fun fiddling around with Padlet. My wall is a silly, non-academic topic, but I can see how it could be used in the classroom. In my fake-classroom, I would use Padlet as a sounding-board for students to post their “personal opinions” of the books we read. Not only would this be a creative and non-graded outlet for students to express their (strong) opinions, but this could also serve a classroom management purpose; if a student yells out, “Ugh! This book sucks!” (which happens), then at least I could redirect him/her to the proper and appropriate avenue for them to express such a thought (but let’s find a better word for “sucks,” please.). I could also see myself using Padlet as a “democratic space” to make classroom decisions, this way students could think and express themselves in an individual space, but then see the collective feedback of their classmates. OR (I have one more) Padlet could also be used at the beginning of the school year; I think it’s a neat idea to have students find the kinds of projects they would like to do, and then you take those projects and apply them to your content. This way, the students have ownership over what is expected of them.

Needless to say, I liked the Padlet thing. The reason I like it so much is because it’s simple, easy to use, but gets the job done. These are also the reasons I like Twitter. I believe it a valuable skill to be able to get to the point, to fit more meaning into less space. Not only is this a critical thinking skill, it’s also just a practical one; in an interview, how successful would a rambling applicant be? Besides, this is how our Digital Natives are communicating already– short and sweet– we might as well meet them halfway. School is boring enough, and these are simple, fun things that would really make school a little more bearable for students.

To Flip or Not To Flip?

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Wow! I am seriously considering this Flipped-Classroom thing! This is exactly what John Dewey discusses in Experience and Education! The flipped classroom allows for the class time to be used for creating real experiences in which students are interacting, creating, and actually doing something. Lectures, which are boring but sometimes necessary, can be stopped, paused, rewound, and revisited at the students’ convenience and patience-level at home. Personally, I like to think of myself as a successful student, but I would love the opportunity to stop and start lectures at my will– I just need little breaks sometimes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In addition, think how this type of classroom experience would affect school relationships– teacher and students, student-to-student, and even teachers and other teachers– I feel like school would become a less stressful space, and transform into a place that everyone looks forward to going to. Instead of associating school with boredom, students would see the school building as a place of fun and connection and creativity energy.

I decided to pretend that I currently have a flipped classroom. This fake-class is an 11th grade English class, and we are currently working on college admissions essays. Our in-class activity was completing a brainstorming worksheet individually, which is just a series of personal questions that ask the students to reflect on their experiences, and then doing a pair-and-share. Following the pair-and-share, students will conduct mock interviews: one student as college admissions counselor and the other as a prospective student. The “counselor” will have a sheet of set questions to ask the student, and then after one interview round the students will switch positions.

The “homework” would be a 5 minute lecture from me (the teacher) about writing the introduction paragraph for an admissions essay. After viewing the lecture, students would be required to view sample essays and listen to my Vocaroo recording that goes along with it. Students would be asked to come to class the next day prepared with notes and observations on these sample essays, and we would launch into writing their introduction paragraphs and peer-workshopping them in class. It’s a cycle! See? I love this stuff.

Cyclical learning is a cornerstone of John Dewey’s philosophy of education; or, to use his words, ““experience lives on in further experience” (Dewey, 1938, p. 27). I couldn’t have said it better myself. I love this flipped classroom format because it allows for learning to happen in a circle, rather than in a linear fashion; there is no beginning or end, just a continuous experience. I hate to seem self-important, but I couldn’t help but think to of a blog post I wrote in my first education course (Foundations with our own Dr. Coffman). The post is entitled “My Teaching Philosophy,” and in it I describe how cyclical learning is important to me; I don’t want to teach the school year as “the beginning, the middle, the end,” but rather an ever-renewing opportunity for growth and creation– like recycling. Besides, when you’re always focused on the end, you never learn how to appreciate the right-now, and that is no way to live (inside or outside of school). My mind is really churning now, I appreciate the inspiration.

References

Dewey, John. (1938). Experience and Education. New York, NY: Touchstone.

Creating a Video

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

I am currently in the process of creating my Animoto curricular music video (just about halfway done), and here is my predominant thought while finding usable images, documenting them, and uploading them onto Animoto: I will never do this again. Right now I work part-time (about 25 hours a week), and I feel like I barely have time for this, so I can’t imagine that I’ll have time to fiddle around with Animoto when I’m working 40+ hours a week teaching full time. HOWEVER, I do think it has instructional merit, especially in terms of allowing students to express themselves creatively, so I would absolutely have my students use this program to make 30 sec videos (for free!).

Honestly, if I didn’t have to find copyright-friendly images and document them, which we all know can be monotonous and time-consuming, I would be having an absolute blast creating this video (being responsible can be such a bummer, right?). I would love to have students use this tool to respond to major themes in novels, I think the visual and textual connection lends itself well to a summation project like that. From the instructional perspective, I’m using Animoto to create a video to generate interest in a book that the students are about to read (in this case Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451). I figured if I was going to take the time to make this video, I would do something that I could actually re-use in the future, and Fahrenheit 451 is unquestionably part of my student reading list. So, frustrations aside, I really see the value of Animoto (perhaps a bit more so than Scratch).

I also took the opportunity to re-vamp my LinkedIn page this week. As silly as it sounds, fiddling around with LinkedIn really made me self-reflect; I already had a LinkedIn account, but I had previously used it when I was working full time as head trainer at a personal training studio. My picture was one of me in fitness clothes, and all my skills and experience were fitness training related. Going through and changing that picture and adding skills and experience made me feel good– certain and satisfied and mature. I’m still a little skeptical about the effectiveness of LinkedIn, but then again, I’m skeptical about most things.

Lastly, I love Twitter. I love Twitter because it requires skill to do it well. Sure, you can tweet “I love puppies,” but that’s not a very good tweet and not many people will follow you. However, if you really take the time to consider your tweets (question to yourself, “what is tweetable?”) and make your message clear and concise, then the people will follow. Some argue that tweeting encourages bad writing skills– using text-speak, emoticons, etc.– but I actually disagree. I think all writing practice is good writing practice, regardless of spelling, because the first (and most important) step in writing is thinking. Twitter lends itself well to responding to the process of something– long-term projects, road trips, even watching a movie. What if instead of having students fill out boring worksheets about in-class movies, we just allowed them to “live-tweet” the movie? Assuming the tweets are school-appropriate, I think the students would get a lot more out of it and maybe even pay attention! Trust me, I’m an expert on students watching movies in class… I’m a substitute. More than anything else we have experienced throughout this course so far, I am most certain that I will be using Twitter in my future classroom.

Technical Difficulties

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

It has certainly been an enlightening and humbling week for me. As a Digital Native, I enter into new technological situations with a lot of confidence; one of the main reasons I’m taking this online course is because I thought I would have “no problem” navigating the technical aspects of it. Well, I was wrong.

Let me start with the custom search engine. Creating the search engine was easy enough; I made mine Walt Whitman oriented, keeping in mind a project in which students would work in small groups to present different kinds of research about the same Whitman poem (historical context, biographical context, references within the poem, and literary theory). I entered in a bunch of reputable sites and created my search engine– this went smoothly. Once finished, I received this code to copy and paste to create my custom search bar:

<script>
(function() {
var cx = ‘017423852869033909725:nn_xy0-cvtu’;
var gcse = document.createElement(‘script’); gcse.type = ‘text/javascript’;
gcse.async = true;
gcse.src = (document.location.protocol == ‘https:’ ? ‘https:’ : ‘http:’) +
‘//www.google.com/cse/cse.js?cx=’ + cx;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0];
s.parentNode.insertBefore(gcse, s);
})();
</script>
<gcse:search></gcse:search>

As you can see, I have no idea how this works or if this code even works within a blog. I made a couple attempts using different browsers with no avail. After a few frustrating trials, I default to what I know how to do, which is create a link: My custom search engine, take 2.

And THEN I tried to put this link into my Google site professional portfolio. Again, there was much trial and error. At first, I tried to hyperlink one of the X’s in the standards matrix, and I didn’t have much luck with that. Instead I created a subpage at the bottom, which looks like this:

Standards Matrix - Allison Crerie_1360424667146

 

 

 

 

After feeling accomplished for a moment, when I clicked on this link to see my finished product I see this:

Custom Search Engine - Allison Crerie_1360424888271

Needless to say, I decided to walk away from my computer at this time. Although now that I’m revisiting it, I think I may see what went wrong. An important part of learning is making mistakes, after all.

Speaking of making mistakes, now let me tell you about my Scratch projects. Yes, plural. I made two because my first attempt was so absolutely terrible. Here, I’m not ashamed, I’ll show you: My terrible Scratch project.

I’m also not ashamed to admit that that project took me about an hour and a half to make. My first mistake was not watching the tutorial videos, because I’m a digitally-entitled 24 year-old who thinks she can excel at anything on a computer. So instead of stopping to ask for directions, I continued to be lost. Initially, I was just going to turn in that terrible project with a shrug of my shoulders and a “well, I tried” sentiment, but then it started to bother me. I kept thinking about Scratch, kept thinking that I could do better, that I should have watched the tutorial videos, and so I decided to give it another try: My slightly better Scratch Project.

My frustrations this week illuminated an important point for me: education is a journey. I am still a student, after all, and this experience helped me realize the importance of failure. Coincidentally, I ran across an article in The Atlantic entitled, “Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail.” In it, the author (an experienced educator) discusses the importance of failure in education and in life; people need to face challenges in order to grow and mature, she says: “year after year, my “best” students — the ones who are happiest and successful in their lives — are the students who were allowed to fail, held responsible for missteps, and challenged to be the best people they could be in the face of their mistakes” (Lahey 2013). And this week, I experienced such challenges first-hand. It really bothered me that my first attempt at Scratch went so poorly, and even though I was busy this week, I made time to re-do my project to make it better. It reminded me that education isn’t supposed to be easy and it is also not supposed to be boring, but it should be challenging.

References

Lahey, Jessica. (Jan. 29, 2013). Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/01/why-parents-need-to-let-their-children-fail/272603/

Copyright Images

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Image courtesy of Fotopedia The White House

In order to locate this image of the White House that has a Creative Commons License, I used Advanced Google Image search. This license states that I am able to share the image, i.e. copy, distribute, or transmit it, assuming that I attribute the image to the licensor and do not take credit for the work myself (I do not). This particular photo was originally posted on Flickr by “LollyKnit,” however I located the image on Fotopedia.

Fotopedia is a photo-encyclopedia (as the title implies). What Fotopedia does is link out to dozens of different image-hosting sites (Flickr being chief among them), and because it supports Creative Commons licenses, these images are reusable and share-able through the site. Fotopedia also features an awesome travel app, which combines interactive Google maps with beautiful photos (if you’re interested).

I found it interesting to learn via The Creative Commons video that works are immediately copyrighted upon creation, so, for example, this blog post will be copyrighted as soon as I post it. The default, then, is complete ownership and re-useable and share-able works are the exception. Our students do not know this. I did not know this until just moments ago. This means that our students could easily fall into a legal situation of which they were completely unaware. Just like a driver’s ed teacher must help students understand traffic laws, we must teach our students how to properly and legally use the internet in order to prevent them getting into bad legal situations. They will likely moan and groan about the inconvenience of it, but sometimes we have to stop at a long red light even when we’re already running late.

And you know what, it is a pain and an inconvenience to find these public domain images and to reference every source, but also it is important to see the other side. Creative Commons gives the example of a random man taking the liberty to record a bass line to White Stripes songs– songs that had been written and produced by the White Stripes without this man present. Although Jack White gave him spoken approval later on, I think what this man did was both audacious and wrong. Writer and philosopher Ayn Rand often emphasizes the importance of those who can and do create– she calls them Prime Movers. These creative minds, these Prime Movers, Rand argues, are what moves society forward; they are the very foundation of capitalism (Rand, 1943). Certainly a kitten picture on Google images is no Mona Lisa, but my point  is that there are people who are passionate and serious about their work, and the internet makes every person anonymous. The picture that one nabs off the internet without thinking may very well be another person’s finest work. By protecting the rights of creators, we ensure that our society still values pure thought over mindless recitations, and that’s a good thing.

References

Creative Commons. Creative Commons- Get Creative. Video retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io3BrAQl3so

Rand, Ayn. (1943). The Fountainhead. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company.

The White House. [photo of the White House in Washington, D.C.]. Fotopedia.com. Retrieved from http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-517753698

21st Century Skills Vs. Core Knowledge

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Alan November just blew my mind. Often I debate with myself whether or not technology brings us (humanity) closer or whether it isolates us from reality; more and more, I think the latter is true. What resonated with me the most in watching Alan November’s piece is that we use the Internet to seek out our own versions of the truth. I am guilty of this, certainly. When I use the Internet, I visit the sites that pertain to me and my interests and my opinion of the world; in fact, most often, I just check my email and Facebook and then dilute my stress with funny videos. Does the Internet allow us to avoid reality?

Or has the Internet created an alternate reality? Follow me on this one. Consider the Digital Immigrants and the Digital Natives—here we have two sects of people that exist internationally and that are bound not by nationalism, but by the type of “reality” they exist in. In this way, although I do not speak Japanese and have never even visited Japan, I equally understand and “exist” in the same digital reality as a 24 year old that lives in Tokyo. Digital Immigrants feel like immigrants regardless of what country they’re in or where they originally from, so in this way they are related in a shared sense of isolation. However, I would argue that it is the Digital Natives who are actually isolated—those who do not confront reality.

November argues that modern Digital Natives have been robbed of the opportunity to contribute to the larger community, and he is right. Although I’m not suggesting we send 10 year olds out on oceanic ships, 18th century style, I am suggesting that our kids need more interaction with reality and real people. The Internet can be used to make real connections; we just need to make the choice to use it as such. I recall having an international pen-pal in the third grade, why not use email and Skype to allow students to connect internationally to other students? And I absolutely loved November’s idea of having students search for and create their own assignment for the content area. Why not? We have the tools at our fingertips.

The teacher is not “the boss,” this is an Industrial-period student-teacher relationship and, guess what, it’s not 1820 anymore. Perhaps the Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants need not to exist in different realms. By having students work collaboratively with each other and with adults, we can bridge that gap. When students learn how to effectively use technology to actually create something, then they can enter into adult society as a fruitful contributor; in this way, the adult “Immigrants” will view the “Natives” valuable assets. Learning how to use technology is easy, but using it to make real and meaningful connections is hard; I hope I learn how to do that in this course. (tall order).

And so, last but not least, I will finally answer the question posed to me: should our modern schools do some “21st century spring cleaning” and eliminate antiquated materials and instructional practices? Yes. Should we deprive our children of classic literature? Absolutely not. It is very possible to use 21st century skills to bring our students to a greater understanding of such texts. It is also possible for us to create a new, modernized “core curriculum;” we can create a curriculum that prepares our students for the global marketplace, for collaboration, and for advancement (of technology and society). I see no reason why “The Old” and “The New” cannot work together.

References

November, Alan. (producer). (2011). The Myths and Opportunities of Technology in the Classroom. The Learning Institute. Video retrieved from http://vimeo.com/12642950

The Technology Integration Matrix

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Cheesecake_Factory_MenuHave you ever been to the Cheesecake Factory? The Cheesecake Factory has this extensive menu that is literally pages and pages long, you have to flip through it like a novel. First you find something you might want to have for dinner, but then you keep flipping through the menu and find something else you might want—an appetizer, perhaps, or a completely different entrée—and then you feel overwhelmed and doubtful. Well, The Technology Integration Matrix is just like that Cheesecake Factory menu; the problem is too many delicious options.

I found myself most drawn to the Constructive approaches, especially having students create their own mini-movies and podcasts. These two projects in particular require not only creativity and critical thinking, but also technical aspects, not to mention the time management skills that such projects demand of students. Making a movie requires a HUGE amount of planning and is inherently differentiated: researching, script writing, costume designing, filming and staging, acting and directing, and editing (Solomon, 2010, p.115). Anyone who has ever edited film know that it’s a major project in itself, and one that a precise, detail orientated student would excel at. In this project, the artsy students and the technical students can contribute equally, and the apathetic ones can help crack a few jokes in the script or find items of clothing for costumes (and hopefully get more inspired while being involved in the process). Although this type of project would also require lots of instruction and step-by-step scaffolding, this is one of those big projects that is really worth the effort—finalized videos can be posted on YouTube or Vimeo, and you never know what can go viral.

The Technology Integration Matrix is filled with many other creative usages of technology besides making a movie, I found little ideas all over the place, but there were a few that I felt were uninspired. Although I think educational games are a wonderful tool, I did not need The Matrix to tell me about them. In several videos, students are playing a phonics game on StarFall.com; games like these serve as great rewards for students who have finished their work early and have ten extra minutes at the end of class, but I would never use them as an instructional tool. To me, games like these are purposed for review and positive reinforcement.

Unfortunately, as seen in my field experiences, these games are the most frequently used of all these technological tools. Especially at the middle school level and below, students fall comatose and silent at the sight of these games, which explains why they are implemented so often. At the high school level, technology allows boring instruction and assessment occur more quickly and paperlessly. Recently I subbed for two different marketing classes at two different schools, on each occasion students were taking online multiple choice tests. Once the students finished taking their tests, they would play games or find sneaky ways to check their Facebook online. So instead of using technology creatively and exploring its vast array of usages, it seems to me that it most often used as a convenience. It’s like going to the Cheesecake Factory, looking through that vast and exciting menu, and ordering a plain ol’ burger. How boring.

 

References

Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2010). Web 2.0: how-to for educators. Washington, D.C.:    International Society for Technology in Education.