Tech-rific Semester

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Will you join me on my journey through my Educational Technology class? If you accept this mission, I hope you will comment and tell me your experience with #edtech.

Entering the Vortex

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It was a late evening in the dead of winter as I walked through the door of my ED tech class, “great” I thought to myself, I already know all of this so why do I have to take this class. Wow was I in for a MindShift, even though I thought I knew everything that was going to be taught, in reality, I know very little.

Every educator at some point in time will come to this fork in the road; one path leads to stagnation, while the other leads to fulfillment. What do I mean by that exactly? Well its simple, if I would have stayed in this mindset, I would have lost the chance to learn vital information. Whereas, by taking the open mindset path, I gained the opportunity to expand my knowledge and become and even greater instructor.

Luckily, I decided to take the open road; this involved me humbling myself and admitting that I didn’t know everything and that others could expand my knowledge of technology and its various implementations. After this first week passed and I attempted to amend my shortcomings, I tried to push myself beyond my comfort zones.

The SMARTest Way

Through my interaction with SMART Notebook software, I was able to see my shortcomings. I found that I was very competent in the software on my own, but my perfectionism came out during the creation of my lesson. I quickly lost myself in the details; I spent so much time trying to make everything perfect that I missed the flow of my work a little. I found that there has to be a nice mix of flow and interactivity; creating intricate lessons can quickly waste an instructors time.

SMART Notebook and quickly take a lesson that had partial student engagement to one that has 100% engagement if you incorporate it with interactive websites such as Socrative, or Poll Everywhere. With its ability to easily integrate videos, links, and assignments I can now create lessons that just flow. Not to mention incorporating QR codes that can be scanned from students Bring Your Own Device’s (BYOD). I have always been an advocate for living in a sustainable way; not only am I helping my students achieve their greatest potential, but I am also helping save our environment.

Your PLN Has Your Back

imgres.jpgThis takes me into the Personal Learning Network (PLN) section of this class, which I believe to be the key to any teachers existence. On your own, it is impossible to achieve flow, but if you have built an incredible network of fellow educators, it is achievable. There are many great SMART Notebook lessons that others have created that, you can shift to align with your teaching experience. Twitter provides a vast network detect individuals that can help you through new tech implementations or even provide links great resources that you could add to your lessons.

I have always been an indented individual, but I can now see that my job would be a whole lot harder if I don’t connect with what other educators that are flowing with knowledge and experience. Through my extensive PLN, I have the possibility to expand my impact. I want to be an educator that is known for positive change and my blog/vlog, Twitter, and Pinterest, allow me to grow and share the positivity that I gain from others.

Google What?

Education used to be about what you as an educator could bestow upon your students, but the internet has taught us that teaching and knowledge go beyond our classroom walls. Here is where Google G-Suite for education takes the stage, it allows an educator to bring the outside world in and provides the tools for students to consume and create. Through these tools, students can interact with their projects individuals or in group environments.

The greatest thing that Google G-Suite has been able to achieve is a new system of connectedness. A connection is a key to a great workflow, and the teacher can use other sites that incorporate this connection and be able to keep all of their assessments centralized. Instead of having to create multiple logins for your class one login provides access to various student resources and evaluation tools. I can see this playing a critical role in classroom scaffolding; here an instructor can create specialized quizzes and assignments that are leveled to the different learning levels within the class.

Not only does Google classroom simplify an instructor’s use of technology, but it also allows them to receive detailed analyses of students progress. Therein the educator can create lessons and projects that can be customized to individual students or groups of students.

Interactive World

Now we come to the part of the class that placed me outside my comfort zone, up till this point I had never actually experienced interactive websites in my K-12 education. Therefore how could I integrate them into my teaching experience? Well, I feel now, that the mountain looks more like a molehill, especially once I got to experience such a wide variety of sites for both a student perspective and a future educators perspective. Sites such as Socrative, Poll Everywhere, Quizizz, etc. vary in their classroom use and student experience. Each website has its set of pros and cons, but they all have the ability push your students beyond mere consumption.

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If they are well placed within a lesson, used as an exit slip, or even homework, and educator such as myself would have the ability to push students out of their comfort zones and better prepare them for a world filled with technology. That added with better student engagement, specifically positive engagement; wherein students would be more likely to retain and share the information that they have learned.

Lights, Camera, Action!

With the advent of YouTube and a world, where everything can be learned by watching someone else, it is key to teach students how to interact and share their knowledge with others. As I was able to experience multiple times throughout the semester; moviemaking can play a critical role in student expression and group learning environments. I was able to learn how to implement visual storytelling as a component of my lessons; I also experienced how video can be used as a medium to expand your PLN through vlogging.

2439081304_40d7d88c12.jpgI have come to realize just how important storytelling or reflection is to a student’s conception of course materials. Just as blogging can revolutionize the paper journal, vlogging has transformed the ordinary blog website. For those students that just don’t find a connection with writing their thoughts, vlogging provide a new pathway for the same end results. I decided to take a leap into this new world of expression, and after reading George Couros’s latest blog, maybe we need to be Providing students with the means to a whole new career.

The Round Up

Education is all about preparing our students to excel and find jobs in the world after school; Technology is at the core of every major job. I plan on finding ways to incorporate the tools that I have learned this semester in a way that will allow my classroom environment to flow smoothly. More importantly, I now have an open mindset, desiring to push my students beyond the core curriculum, to provide them with a great tech base. For instance, finding ways of incorporating Hour-of-Code and 3D printing into my core classes.

I am glad to say that spring is on its way, gone are the cold, dreary days of winter when I first entered this class, I am now armed with new teaching tools ready to prepare my students to become great digital citizens that are ready for what the future holds.

 

A Profound Narative

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This last month and a bit have been so crazy busy, not only have I been writing papers but I decided to mix up my final assignment. If you haven’t watched my vlog about coding and tech in the classroom, then you would probably not know about my venture into videography and vlogging. Because of this passion, I decided to take on two large final projects entered around this medium.

I had the opportunity to meet a successful Canadian poet, Shane Book; wherein I was able to witness his venture into videography, as a means to tell a story. I discussed with him my passion for videography and the techniques he uses to convey his message. He said that a story should be able to be understood through the visual arts without any words.

With this knowledge I approached my ENGL 301 partners: Stefanie Connor and Hawa Kamara, with an idea of using mini videos as a way of conceptualizing Athol Fugard’s play, “”Master Harold”…and the boys”. They both saw my passion and added their own to the project. Through the filming process, we were able to see Medicine Hat College’s student population as progressive and caring individuals. Not only did the process allow us to create a profound learning experience for our fellow peers, but it pushed us out of or own comfort zones and changed our perspective of or school and peers.

At the same time, I was also filming another video project in my GNED 234 class with Shae Fedorak. This production had a substantially different composition than the ENGL 301 project. Instead of focusing on profound mini video stories, we decided to create the story of community through a combination of interviews. Through these interviews, we were able to interview key movers and shakers in our community of Medicine Hat. By snipping and editing, we were able to create a unifying and profound narrative of our community.

Who knew an investment in tech could have lead to such diversely different, yet profoundly the same learning breakthroughs? Instead of just completing these projects, I found myself morphing through the production process. If you are an educator questioning taking the dive into moviemaking assignments with your students, I would tell you it is well worth every dollar you spend. Education becomes a game changer when it has the power to create a world full of creators than just consumers.

I spent a substantial amount of money on a professional video camera and professional editing software, but in the end, I cannot put a price on the knowledge that I have gained through these experiences.

Being a 3D Educator

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Since I am one of those educators that’s always wanting to try new things and learn as much as I possibly can; why not take the one hour 3D printing course at the college. So that’s what I did.

Up to this point, I have had little to no experience with 3D printing or design for that matter, so this was a new experience for me. But being an educator that loves innovative tech that works well, how could I not take the opportunity. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the products that it could produce, along with the almost nonexistent learning curve (for the printing part at least). The class left me yearning to print every great idea that has been sitting in the dark corners of my mind.

The Basics

To truly utilize the printer, you have to have 3D .STL files, there are two ways to get these. The first being pre-made designs From sites such as Thingiverse, the second is through your own creations. When it came to this second option I wanted to find some great applications that would be easy for an elementary student to create on; Tinkercad and Morphi app fit the bill.

Tinkercad is an online app, which is accessible from tablets and computers, it also works across platforms such as Apple, Windows, and Chrome. When it comes to classroom integration, students can log in using an email and password; now this could be different in the educational copy (which is free for educators and students). Once a student has logged in for the first time, they are directed to complete a series of exercises that teach them the basics for the program. This app does the basic instruction for the educator, and it has the minimalism that is essential for a smooth classroom implementation.

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On the other hand, Morphi is paid app that has a steeper learning curve. The app only runs on an iPad, and I recommend that you have devices with at least a 9.7-inch screen, the large the screens provide students with a large design surface. From a financial standpoint, this app has a price point of about $13 (but this is a one-time purchase). Its design process does not include a basic tutorial but has similar functions to Tinkercad. If you have some students that are needing a higher level of difficulty and find Tinkercad to be too simplistic, this app fills the spot nicely.

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Future Classroom Implementation

Overall after trying numerous apps, I can confidently say that 3D printing will be an investment I plan to follow through with in my own classroom. After seeing how easy it was to design and print a simple keychain using simple initials, I am looking forward to purchasing my own 3D printer over the summer and refining a lesson that can include the technology.

Education is no longer simply about imparting knowledge, but now involves students expanding their abilities through exploration and experimentation. 3D printing provides a new technological channel that will prepare our students for future job opportunities. The creator mindset has to be cultivated to push our society beyond the consumption rut we are now finding ourselves.

The Flow Creators in a Sea of Apps

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So when I started this assignment, I had a hard time finding an app that interested me and sparked my creativity. I like an app that works smoothly, without bumps along the way. The flow and function of an app should be simple to understand, without any prior training or understanding. Creativity thrives in an environment free from distractions and hurdles, for this very. The reason I picked Seedling Comic Studio app to spread my wings of creativity.

I immediately fell in love with the app Seedling had designed, it was straightforward and simple to use. Specifically with areas labeled add and edit. Your creative tools were at your fingertips, metaphorically and literally. There was absolutely no lag in the app performance, and as each page changed with it numerous editing features, the buttons stayed either at the bottom or top bars, with an occasional call to action pop up. Such simplistic design made for an easy learning curve, instead of running up a hill to take off, Seedling made it feel like I already had the momentum, with an easy downhill traverse.

The ability to shift and lengthen your story line by quickly changing the layout opens up the doors of possibility, whether it be a single page comic for a billboard, or a several page comic book masterpiece. If we look specifically at the later, it is easy to see how a simple classroom journaling assignment can get a twist of pizzaz. Or you could do a graphic novel study and then ask your students to create their individual or even in groups.

Where this app takes off is in its ability to import classic comic book style with modern image importation. Here I was able to take pictures of myself against a blank backdrop and seamlessly import myself into the comic using the handy cutout tool. I even went beyond its said capabilities and imported a picture of a keychain, by using the cutout tool to manually import the image that I wanted, using the touch screen selection tool within. This is where the program loses a bit of its flow and simplicity, instead of just incorporating a quick cut out tool for humans and faces, it should have the same simplicity for items that have been taken with a neutral background.

Depending on your student level of creativity, this app poses even deeper layers. Such as the ability to chance the filters on backgrounds and cutouts. By using locations around your school or classroom and then adding a filter to give it a comic book vibe, the students would be able to merge reality with imagination, it an entirely new way.

Apps like, Seedling Comic Studio have an essential place in the classroom; something that would take hours for a teacher to create can now be implemented in minutes. The visual outcome alone produces a finished product that many students would love to display and share with others. The group learning potential is fabulous. Seedling defiantly hit a home run here; education is no longer simply about the teaching providing capsules of information for students consumption. In the day and age where coding and apps rule the world, educators such as myself have to provide systems and devices that work smoothly together driving our students beyond the box into the unknown.

Just as a financial portfolio manager will tell you how important a diversified portfolio is to maximize your interest earning potential; a diversified education resource and tool system is fundamental every student’s growth. With that in mind, I hope you don’t take a second look and add Seedling Comic Studio to your educational resource toolbox. Just as I had to push myself to find my creative framework, I urge each and ever educator that is reading my blog to reach for these gems lost in a sea of apps.IMG_0153.JPGIMG_0154.JPG

Live Tech Showdown

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So many times we talk about technology in the classroom, but an interactive classroom goes beyond just implementing great tech. Interactive tech has to be applied in a practical manner with a clean, simple implementation. In the past two weeks, I had the great opportunity to be able to test out multiple applications of interactive tech both from a student’s point of view and from a teacher’s perspective. To do this properly, I have to break them down to the basics. At the root of every category, I will seek to find the simplicity and minimalist structure forming each interactive system.

Teacher Usage
As I assessed my three main interactive websites from a teachers point of view, I found myself focusing once again on flow. For a site to be able to function intuitively in a classroom, it has to have an unobstructed flow to mace its implementation smooth and straight forward. With this in mind, Socrative stood out as a clear leader when it came to teacher implementation. Right from the login screen which had quick Google sign on and clean home screen perfect for smart board or Epson integration.

Now let me direct you to polleverywhere.com. This website holds so much potential, everything from taking a pole on a character in a novel, to hypothesizing on a science experiment, the possibilities in any class are so vast.. But its login window does not have a simple one Botton login like some of the others, and this could easily take away from your classroom flow if, you are logged out by accident. On the other hand, once you are on the page you can easily access everything from a clean and straightforward layout. You can tell right away that this system was designed for an interactive screen and a live presentation system. The booths on the side make it simple for a teacher to live to customize virtually every aspect.

Moving on to Padlet, I have mixed feelings about this site. First, it was ver easy and simple to sign on, because of the straightforward Google implementation. But here is where the flow seemed to begin to be disrupted, first it had an excellent organization, and design window on the left for each Padlet created. Since you had to scroll down and menus were hidden within menus, there was a disconnection when it came to pure creation. Then it completely lost significance in my teacher vision, when it would not save, even when switching programs and computers. This sent up red flags for its live implementation in the classroom.

Student Usage
Socrative once again does a fantastic job when it comes to implementation, from the separate login screen with simple code sign into clean integration with multiple devices. This can be made even easier if the teacher pays for a subscription plan, but even without it, the site shines as a clear leader from simplicity and flow standpoint. Being a student with multiple learning disabilities, I love how clean and organized it is, this create a distraction free implementation. Socrative speaks minimalist power from start to finish.

With cell phone classroom integration becoming an everyday occurrence, being able to engage your students in a positive way is key. Polleverywhere.com seems to have found a gold mine here with there text-based live interaction system. Though the flow at times might be hampered from infrastructure hitches, I believe the positive side outweighs this. Also, the ability for a student to be anonymous is impressive, especially if you have some student that are shy. They are now able to interact with the class as a whole, where else wise they might not.

Since I gave a bit of a scathing review of Padlet from the teacher perspective, they have a bit of a come back in the student integration arena. The ability to link pictures and ties in an interactive screen system that can be viewed live and commented on is amazing for multiple classroom implementations, On the student side, flow and simplicity shine brightly with minimal hiccups.

Flexibility, and Variety of Questions
If you haven’t already been able to envision my front runner now will defiantly make it clear. Socrative is a powerhouse of possibility. From quizzes, games and an exit ticket format, the options seem almost too much to handle. Not that there couldn’t be more but what they have already mage this site just phenomenal in any lesson. Now add the ability to have three question formats: Multiple Choice, True/false and Short Answer, and I say if you aren’t using this in your classroom now is the time to start.

Polleverywhere.com, on the other hand, is a little bit limited, in that it only takes a question and survey format. But then again what do you expect from a live polling app. The ability to ask questions and get an extended written response live is amazing in itself. Since it has designated itself to this realm of implementation, it has limited itself in a way, but in no way does this take away from its flow and relevance in any classroom.

On the other hand, Padlet has clearly set itself out as an instant classroom live blogging interface. By doing so it has limited its implementation to a write-up and a picture format, But I ask you is there any simpler way of getting your class into blogging than such a format? I know I haven’t fount one, and since its singular simplicity stands out from its counterparts, it holds its own in a field of giants.

Diagnostic Feedback
Here is where Socrative once again seals its place at the top, with only a free plan, a teacher has tremendous resources on hand. First, you have the ability to turn names on and off when you want to show the live class results. Then capacity to keep the data and return to it later is awesome, take that with the ability to print off reports in multiple formats and this site I would pay off any day to be able to use it to its full potential.

As we come to poll everywhere, well I can’t speak mush to this since I have not paid to be able to view reports and diagnostics. I found this to be a hindrance; mainly they are pushing you into a structured payment system to make it pay off in the classroom. The least they could have done is given a small print of a system with simple stats.

Once again we compare a system that seems not to be designed to fit the same box like the others. There is no real feedback section in Padlet since the posts themselves are comments in their right. You can print the page off if you need a hard copy and you can share it with your other resources and sites if needed. Ultimately just a great live feedback system that sticks around as long as you keep them.
Finally, after looking at all three in depth, I can say that they all play their parts ver well. The key is to know their positives and negatives well before implementation in the classroom. But in the end my number one pick is Socrative, second place is Padlet, even though it has shortcomings, and in third place is Polleverywhere.com, mainly because of the lack of results and reporting in the free version.

Technology and Education, The Key to Upstream and Downstream Flow-Part 2

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Lets now look at the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) framework which has been laid out by Alberta Education. First, of I I think that every student should have access to the latest and greatest tech, especially in a world that is driven by Software and Electrical engineers. But this poses a couple of significant problems, not every child will have access to the latest and greatest technology, and secondly, you are probably not going to be an expert on it. Therefore What do you do with the kids that are now at a significant disadvantage to the others and what do you do when your time is now being spent fixing or helping students through the hiccups on multiple operating systems and devices. If you talk to any large corporation, they will tell you how important it is to have a cohesive Technological system. Many of them require their employees to carry and use a dedicated work cell phone because they know the productivity benefits that follow a well-oiled machine. So I pose the question, where do we draw the line between an effective classroom and technological growth for our students?

Being a minimalist I love the latest and greatest technology, but if it is not productive and it creates undue issues I have to find that middle ground. Wherein though I am not as fluent on windows I see the need to use it and the school devices that are provided, to create the efficient machine that I so long for. Give and Take, herein lies the key to the rivers flow. #MininalistTechnology

Technology and Education, How to Make it Flow

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Technology and I have always gone hand in hand, I can remember back to my elementary school where the teacher was trying to use a typing program with my fellow students and myself. Most of the time it went great, but then there was always those occasions that something would go wacky and it seemed like the whole world turned upside down for her. On the other had I loved these times, I was always ready and willing to step in and help, problem-solving is a passion of mine. Now and then neither her nor I could figure it out. It is these moments that frighten me, what happens when I am teaching a class, and something goes wrong, and I can’t fix it and neither can the tech savvy kids in the class either. As an educator we are always looking for better ways to teach our students, but what happens when the better way turns itself into the worst way ever. This brings me to my point, Have made ourselves so dependent on technology that we can’t work without it. Here is where my minimalistic side kick in, maybe the key is to use just enough technology in uncomplicated ways that everything just flows. You see I love Smart NoteBook, but the key is simple lessons that flow. With that being said, always have a backup!

Now being a minimalist does not mean using the least amount of technology as possible, on the contrary, it means to make every piece useful. In other words, if you are doing a lesson on robotics make sure you are an expert with the technology first and implement it into the classroom in the most straightforward and simple way possible. There is no reason to complicate you job more than it already might be. In the end, if you find it is too difficult a task for you to accomplish on your own, well there is always someone who probably is an expert in it, therefore use every resource possible. By doing so, we will be able to meet our Teacher Quality Standards in straightforward and efficient manner.