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Friday, May 31, 2013

u04a1 Cell Phone Interview

This week's task was to interview an educator who has used mobiles in the classroom about using them with students.   I really had no idea if I would find many teachers who do use them.   My strategy was to ask my colleagues and friends for help.  So I put out an email to all of the teachers, the administrator and the technology teacher at my elementary school, to our district technology coordinator and to a friend who teaches English at a high school in another district.  My plea was for them to lead me to any educator they might know who uses cell phones in the classroom.  I thought I could possibly get a lot of people referred to me.  However, that was not the case at all.  There were two elementary teachers referred who use their own cell phones for class work such as maintaining a blog or a behavior system, but generally the students do not use them. Fortunately, my friend, the high school English teacher, came through.
She has her students use cell phones to enhance student learning activities they do with her in the classroom. She did not have a particular project to share with me but she described the ways she has students use cell phones.  She said that she allows her students to use their cell phones in place of a computer when they are not on a computer and need information.  She and her class use cell phones to look up “impromptu information” that the students want to find out such as, “How did Shakespeare die?”.  Another activity is to use the cell phone to look up the proper way to pronounce a given word or to find the definition of a word.  She also asks them questions related to the literary text they are studying, to find answers on the cell phone.  An example is, “Who can tell me where Port Elizabeth is?”  In addition to using it to look up information, she also has her students check homework emails that she has sent to them or to look for their grades on a program her school uses called “Power School”.
She described her school’s policy regarding cell phone use by students and teachers in the classroom.  She said that at the high school level, it is impossible to tell students not to bring their phones to school.  With that said, their policy is that phones are to be left in their backpacks but may be used during a morning break (9:45 - 10:00) and lunch, unless the teacher permits their use in the classroom.   If students are using them at times not permissible, then teachers have the ability to confiscate the phones.
As far as parent involvement with the use of cell phones in the classroom, she said they are not too involved.  There are no requirements placed on parents.  I asked her if parents were asked to provide cell phones for students and she said they were not.  She has many students who do not have a cell phone and the parents are not obliged to buy them one.  The most notable way parents are connected for her to cell phone use is when she needs to contact them via their cell phones.
I asked her if parents are typically agreeable with cell phone use in the classroom and what feedback she has gotten from parents about using them in school.  She explained that most parents are fine with the policy and they like that their child is able to have the phone in school because it makes after school contacting and planning easier.  It is especially helpful with athletic schedules.  She said they are also accepting of the times policy and they understand if the phone is confiscated.  Typically, they will place the responsibility on the student.  So whether a teacher confiscates a phone for the class block or all day (to be picked up in the office at the end of the day), parents are “okay” with it.
She described some of the challenges cell phone use has caused in her school.  She said that originally they had a “No cell phone” policy but it became too difficult to monitor and enforce.  So this is how they turned to the  “Acceptable during certain times” policy.  This too is proving to be difficult to enforce.  For example when a student signs out to go to the bathroom he/she will often bring the phone and text down the hall or in the bathroom.  Students have been sneaky by wearing a hoodie sweatshirt and texting during class from the front pocket of the hoodie.  Teachers have had to change testing policies so that students are not texting during a test to get answers from someone outside the classroom.  The majority of issues are with texting more than calling on the phone.  Also when phones are used as ipods, listening to music with an earbud has been a challenge.  The policy stays the same, not allowed unless given permission, but it is tough to catch them.
Another problem has been parents texting their child throughout the day.  She has had to email parents asking them not to text their child during class because of the distraction it causes.  Students feel they need to answer a parent right away, and the parent expects the child to do so.  She presents them with the times to text or call and explains that the in-class text or call causes a distraction. She adds that she finds that the students don’t like the constant contact with parents.  They want school to be their time with friends and to be in the classroom, not a time to have parents check up on them.  
The final challenge she described was consistency in enforcing the policy.  Some teachers at her school are stricter than others with it.  Some teachers themselves text during class, so it is hard for them to come down on a student about texting.  The policy has become too tough to enforce.   Generally she feels that many teachers are "turning a blind eye" if the phone usage is not interfering with the learning going on in the classroom.
To finish up the interview I asked her what she has learned from her experience of using cell phones in her classroom.  She explained that what she has learned most is to embrace cell phone usage on different levels.  Depending on her class activity she has students put their phones on the corner of their desks.  This way she knows where they are and her students know that she knows.  She has learned to allow students to listen to music via their phones if they are doing a writing task because for many, it helps block out any distractions in the room.  She also learned to let the cell phones engage her students in the content she is delivering.  For instance, if a question comes up in class, she will yell out, “Who can find the answer the fastest?”  Her students love this and it becomes a fun contest.  After they talk about the various answers they find and see if one or two students need to dig deeper to find more information.  She has learned to use it for pronunciation and vocabulary.  When a word looks odd to a student they may ask to use the phone to get a pronunciation of the word.  She supports their use of the cell phone to build their vocabulary.  She has learned to let them use it to find out information about an unfamiliar person or event in their reading.  The images especially help students make connections with concepts.  
She has also learned to let the students use their cell phones to be more efficient and organized.  As mentioned, her high school is connected with Power School, an online grading system.  During their academic lab (study hall), she has students check their grades to see what assignments are missing or what work they could be doing.  Students also ask to check this during her class when she is talking about grades.  She has learned to have fun with her students and cell phones.  In her advisory, she often plays “What’s the Word” off of students’ phones.  They all work together to figure out a word someone is stuck on.  She says the game leads to great conversations such as discussing how images work together, considering the colors or perspectives in the image, and figuring out how the final word relates to the pictures and then looking up the definition.  
Her final thoughts on the use of cell phones in school is that, ultimately, students are learning through the use of this technology.  Therefore, as teachers, who want to keep students engaged in the learning process, we need to use their tools.
After interviewing my friend about how she uses cell phones with her students, I have an understanding of how their use can be managed.  She has explained that they do not need to be banned, but they can be used in a positive way to help students be better learners.  She describes a system that is efficient and useful and she has set up an environment where cell phones are not distracting but they are aiding her teaching and her students’ learning.  The same philosophy can be used with any new technology we bring into our classrooms.  This interview has taught me that tools students use need to have a clear, documented purposes with rules and expectations for their proper use.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

u03a2 My Reviews of WeVideo, Screencast-0-matic and Creaza

This week I chose to view Kathy Schrock’s Web Tools page because I just took her course and I know that she has some great resources.  http://www.schrockguide.net/online-tools.html

This was a chance to dig deeper into her recommendations.  So I started by watching her video that she made of her presentation of Web Tools.  It was great and I immediately shared it with others.  This is worth saving to go to again when you need a tool but are not sure which one to choose.  

The first tool I chose to explore was WeVideo.  I had once signed up for this tool on the recommendation of our tech teacher, but never had a chance to use it.  I also explored the information on flipping the classroom because I like the idea of first creating tutorial lessons for students to view independently, then having them practice the content in class with their teacher.  So I was wondering if WeVideo would be a good tool to use to make a tutorial video.  I reviewed clips showing how to create videos and realized that to make the tutorial I would need to have a supply of images to match the content that I wanted to teach.  I thought that I could use our document camera at school to take pictures of content to display or make screen shots.   Was this the best tool to make good tutorials? I wasn’t quite sure, so I continued to play with it by using pictures I had stored on my phone, just to get a feel for the process of making a video with this tool.  

I played with WeVideo for a long time, maybe two hours and I was not very happy with my experience with it.  Although it was easy to upload and drag pictures and video in (although the uploading was very slow), my video project kept stopping in the middle of previewing and building it.  The frames kept freezing in place making no forward movement.  Once the images had ended, but the music would not turn off.  I was also not sure how the images that I had uploaded were getting dropped from the uploading page to the storyboard page either.  It seemed very random as to when they would appear as if there was an unpredictable lag between the time they finished uploading and when they appeared on the page.  I  reloaded the page many times, and that may have been helping, but I am not certain if that was doing it or not.  There was an option to record my voice over onto a frame, so I could see the potential was there to create a tutorial lesson.  Eventually I created a finished product that I was happy enough with as a practice piece.  The quality of the pictures I had was not great so the final product wasn’t the best, but it gave me a chance to experience how to use this tool.  I managed to record my voice over some of the frames too and published my project. To my dismay, the video would not display.  The audio played against a black  background.  Next I downloaded it and tried to play it that way.  No go again.  Then I checked the player and made sure I had the latest Flash player, and again no success.  Yikes...this was really not good.

I  sent a message to the help board and  searched through their FAQ to try to solve this problem.  At least four hours was spent on this by this time.  Then suddenly I received an email stating I had successfully exported the video to Google Drive.  I tried again and finally it played properly.  Success at last!   After this, my first reaction is that it is not set up for my second graders to use.  It was not user friendly, and it took too much time and patience.  Perhaps I was missing something that would make it easier.  Until I find those magic steps, I would not choose to use this in class.  It has potential for me to use to create things for my class but not as a tool for my students to use.  This is what I finally created:  


The next tool that I explored was Screencast-o-matic.  I think this was exactly what I was looking for to create demonstration videos.  This week in school, the teachers are giving presentations to upcoming parents of students coming to our grade.  I would like to make a screencast of some of the teaching techniques and second grade experiences their students will have with me next year.  I would like to make a screencast of how I use the Smart Board to teach phonics, spelling, language and math skills.  

First, I registered to start an account.  Then I watched the demonstration video.  The process looked pretty easy.  I hoped it was less complex than the WeVideo was for me.  I looked at the three examples they gave of teachers, students and a tech person’s screencasts.  I discovered that Screencast-o-matic could do exactly what I wanted it to do to make my tutorials and demonstrations for students and parents.  I was  very excited!

It was such an easy site to use that I would recommend it for student and teacher use..  I was able to create two screencasts where I was demonstrating my daily schedule and Smartboard use and also how we use the interactive digital issue of Scholastic News . The basic, free format was fine, but I would like to upgrade so I can edit my screencasts.  There are editing tools that will trim the images and sound and will add features to your screencast.  I watched the tutorial for using the editorial tools but wasn’t able to edit with the free version.  There is a fee of fifteen dollars per year for professional hosting, where you have more saving power and can store in HD.  There is a ten dollar monthly fee for premium hosting options which eliminates ads, gives you a logo and up to 2 hours per recording.  You have 15 minutes per recording with the other options.  Here is on of my screencasts:  http://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cIhOVZVUhX

The final tool I explored was Creaza.  I  opened up it for the first time and registered for a free trial.  Immediately I was given this URL:   creazaeducation.com/members/asullivan . Next, I looked at the first newsletter page and a YouTube video made with Creaza to get an understanding of what this tool could do.  I  saw that it made videos, but I need more information so I searched for a tutorial to learn how to use it.  I found tutorials under the Help tab.  I learned that it has various options.  The tutorial videos showed how to make mind maps with Mindomo, make cartoons, with Cartoonist, make movies with MovieEditor, and to create audio tracks with AudioEditor.  These are all part of the Creaza web tool.  

As I  watched these tutorials all I could think of was how much my second graders would love using this site.  By watching the tutorials, they would be able to jump right in and start creating.  I could see them retelling stories to show their comprehension of text they have read or of historical events they are learning about.  They could also illustrate science procedures, experiments and results.  It would be a good way to create a public service announcement to show their learning to culminate a unit.  Another obvious use would be to depict stories or reports that they have written.  

I was ready to create something myself to see how friendly it really was.  The tutorials made it look easy, so I was confident and hopeful with this one.  I chose to make a cartoon using “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” theme that was offered.  It was easy to drag the background, characters and props into the page.  I quickly figured out how to add thought-clouds and text boxes and how to edit the text color, size and font.  It also had the feature to add any sound clips you have on file.   When I had one page done I saved it.  Saving took quite awhile.  Well it was taking took a very long time, so when I ran out of patience I refreshed my page.  In doing so, I lost it and it did not save.  So I started over again and made another cartoon.  I waited it out this time until I was given this address for the project:


The only drawback to the Creaza site was the time it took to save.  A suggestion I would have for them to make it more useful for students would be to have some audio files on the page they could click on and choose.  Other than that, I think it is very user friendly and would be a great tool for students and teachers to use.

Friday, May 24, 2013

u03a1 URL Shorteners, QR Codes and Bookmarklets


This week I created short links for my classroom website and for my blog that I am using for this Wilkes EDIM 514 course.  To make these short links, I used the Goo.gl URL shortener.  It could not have been any easier than it was!  It was as simple as copying and pasting the long website addresses onto the shortener page.  With one click, a shortened address was created.  It may be apparent, from my excitement, that I haven’t been using shorteners.  As a relatively new Smart Phone user, I can see that using these shortened addresses would be much easier than using full addresses on a handheld device. With them you do not need to type in so many symbols.  It can be frustrating to type long addresses, with one hand, on these small devices.   My shortened URL addresses can be kept on my note taking app so they will be easy to access. They will be available with a single click.  The shortened address will allow more room on the small screen of my note page too.  Now in school, shorteners can be used for all of the web sites that my students use.  I can make a list of the site names and create shorteners for each site.  Then I can share this list with my students so they have it on their Google Drive page.  They can also open these with a single click.  They could be given individual shortened URL codes also, to better handle the task of typing in web site addresses.  My students can create their own shortened addresses for their presentation files, documents, or projects that they want to share with others.   Another way to use them would be for me to post shortened addresses of favorite web pages or student projects on my class web page for students and parents to access.  Here are two shortened addresses that I created this week:

My Second Grade Website shortened address:
My EDIM 514 Blog shortened address:

Next, I went on to creating a QR code.  At first I really was not sure how to use these in the classroom. However, as I started looking around my classroom, I started thinking of so many ideas, I had to narrow them down and try to focus on something very useful.  Since we are currently studying North America, I chose to put a QR code above our world map that links to a website called ducksters.com.  This website has a page for the continent of North America, with maps and information about the continent.  Using delivr.com I copied and pasted the ducksters.com address in to the delivr.com page to create the QR code. Then I printed and attached it to the poster.  I tested it out on my phone by downloading an app called Bakado.  This morning, I had my students try it out and they thought it was pretty cool!  To use these in my classroom, I will need to download a bar code app onto the classroom net book computers so they can scan QR codes.  I see potential for putting bar codes on other posters to link to websites with more information about the poster's content.  They could also be used to access digital materials that the students or parents need, such as my book report form, spelling lists, homework papers, blank concept maps and math facts.  There are so many items that could be coded, I can imagine having a bulletin board filled with classroom information, that has a bar code on each item that is displayed.  Here a link to a photo of it in my classroom:

QR Code in my classroom


Last I added some bookmarklets onto my browser bar.  The first one is Quiet Tube.  I chose this one because the extra list of videos on the side of the YouTube video and the comments below it often have pictures that are very inappropriate for the classroom.  There can be bad language in the comments too.  Quiet Tube will allow the video to be shown without having to see anything else on the page.  Another problem with watching YouTube videos, without Quiet Tube, is that when the video is over, it displays a variety of videos to choose from that sometimes have images and words you do not want displayed in your classroom.  I would also like to use Quiet Tube for sending videos to others or for linking videos in a project, so the viewers only see the video and do not have to view the rest of the page’s content.  It is cleaner and more appealing to just view the video alone.


The other bookmarklet that I chose was Delivr because it creates shortened URLs and QR codes and this is something that I would like to start using in my classroom as I mentioned above.  I like the convenience of opening web pages with a short address or by scanning.  For me, I hardly ever type in whole web address, because of the inconvenience.  I usually use Google to search for a topic, click a provided link, or choose an address from my bookmarks.  I am teaching the students to do the same but sometimes they have a web address that they want to try and they type in the very long address with some difficulty.  These two tools are going to be helpful to the students.  They will be able to use them with my help at first, but then independently they will be able to make their own shortened addresses and QR codes.  

I also bookmarked Printliminator because I love being able to clean up a page before printing it so only the part I want will be printed.  For students, the extra text and image around the edges of the content is distracting.  Using Printliminator also saves ink, as the extra unwanted information usually has background color and images that require much more ink than the plain text does.  

Printliminator:

Quietube


Delivr

I learned so much from this week's assignment.  These are all really great tools that I am now very excited to use.  Until I explored what each could do I did not think I really needed such tools.  Now, I think differently.  I can see that they are going to make learning more fun and make accessing information easier and clearer for my students.  All of these tools are about eliminating extras that are distracting and making easy, short, clear paths to digital resources.





Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sullivan_u02a2 Review of Edmodo, Voice Thread and Scoop It!


My purpose here is to review three types of web sites, a social site, a creative site and a curation site.  The first is the social site called Edmodo.

To give you an overview of the Edmodo site I would describe it as a place for teachers and students to go to that can help them organize their school work and to communicate with each other.  Students and teachers can post questions and comments to one another.  Teachers can connect with other teachers, exchanging ideas in different content areas.  A digital content list is available with user comments and descriptions.  It also features a planner, set up in calendar format.  Users add content to the days or weeks and share it with other users to appear on their planner. It has a “Library” feature for teachers and a “Backpack” feature for students that are places to store documents and save links.  They allow users to access their work from any device via the cloud.   It has a quiz builder, an assignment maker, and an award system of badges.

Edmodo is a site that can enhance student learning in a few ways Teachers can easily create quizzes and assignments for students to use and it is all organized in one place for student and teacher use.  It also connects to Google Docs so student projects can all be put into the student “Backpacks” or teacher “Library”.  Students can collaborate with each other by sharing their work.  The planner allows students to see their schedule to always know what is coming up to do.  

Looking over the site further, I found that teachers use this site personally and with students.  Reading through the blog and the comments it was evident they they use it to organize their work and any projects they have, to find resources they need for teaching content, and to create assignments and communicate with their students.  Some specific comments referred to their being able to go paperless by using  Edmodo, to stay in touch with students outside of class by receiving and answering student questions after school, saving time by creating and saving quizzes and by using it to co-teach by sharing all content online.

In a short time I was able to create a group for my second graders and add three of them to the group.  I shared events on their planner for every day of the week and I awarded each of them a badge.  In school, I will have the rest of the students join the group and we will play with this site more.  I think they may come up with more useful ways for us to use this site to enhance our classroom learning experiences.

The next site I evaluated was the creative site called Voice Thread.  This site allows users to create presentations that can embed video, images, documents and text with the additional feature of collaboration.  The collaboration happens when the viewers comment on items in the presentation by typing text,  using voice with webcams, audio files or recorded audio.  This is a very useful presentation site to share reactions to the viewers and the creator.  It is also used to conduct online courses in higher education.  

Voice Thread enhances student learning because of its collaborative nature.  The creator and presenter get feedback from the audience and can answer questions and elaborate their thoughts to the viewers.  The interactive nature of this presentation tool allows higher level thinking and a richer learning experience for all involved.  It enhances learning for online students because they can participate using voice to explain their thoughts and ask questions.  A newer feature is video commenting that was added to include comments by sign language users.

Teachers use Voice Thread with their students to create digital stories, and to participate in presentations with members who are in different locations.  One example of this was when three classes (kindergarten, second grade and fifth grade), in three different states, created a presentation together where one class wrote poems, another drew pictures to illustrate the poems and the third recorded music they played.  Teachers also use this site with students to make book reviews to share with students who are trying to find new books to read.  The site gives examples of new features for higher education such as, closed captions added to video files for hearing impaired users, instant notifications of comments being made and as a discussion board.  Personally it is used to write, illustrate and share any ideas with others; to turn photos into shared slideshows, and to share video with others.  It is used by many just to share and discuss topics when you can not be with someone live.  One teacher explained that she was making a presentation out of state and she had her first grade students help her with the presentation via Voice Thread.   There are many other examples on the site of how to use it.  In fact there are several webinars and examples of it in use.  It is for all grade levels and it is a valuable creation tool for in and out of the classroom.

The last site evaluated was a curation site called Scoop It.  This site is an enhanced bookmarking site and reader.  When you put in a topic of your choice, you are given a list of images, articles, or video on that topic to look at.  If you choose to, you can “Scoop” any of them by dragging them onto a page to display, edit, share and use again.  It is similar to creating a web page of your favorite resources on a given topic.  It is a useful tool.  It is easy to create a page.  I created two.  One of personal interest, wake boarding and one on a topic we are studying in school, North America.  Now I have two separate pages created with a list of media to look at..  One word of caution was when I opened up a few of the articles and images, there were advertisements inappropriate for classroom viewing.  Therefore, I would suggest using it to collect resources and to share with other teachers, or adults.  I would not have elementary students use it to bookmark materials on.  

There was a nice description included on the site of how to set up a page so it is appealing to the people you share it with.  The writer offers help to people to create pages that would be the most useful to the creator and the viewers of it.  She cautioned against using pictures from advertisements and from putting content on that was not truly of interest to you.  Other users I found were using it to collect materials of all types of content area to use with their students.  

This site would enhance student learning because it will help the classroom learning time be more valuable.  If a teacher has created a page on Scoop It!, the material has been previewed and carefully chosen to be shared with the students.  It also is at the teacher’s fingertips to share so precious teaching and learning time is spared from searching through bookmarks or doing web searches to find material.  With older students it would be useful to give them practice looking through materials and finding ones that are particular to their agenda.  It is also helpful for them to keep their resources organized when doing research projects.

Most educators are using this site to collect resources on topics that they are teaching their students, either to share with them or to present the materials to them.  Educators are also using them to create their own libraries of materials organized by topics to share with other educators.  In the same way it is used for personal use, to collect various web materials on personal topics of interest, to share with others, or to develop themselves professionally.

These are three very different, but very useful sites for teachers.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Teacher Interviews: Using New Web 2.0 Tools in the Classroom


This week I interviewed two educators who are using new technologies with elementary students.  The first is a third grade teacher.  She described a new Web 2.0 site she is using called lino.  She described it as a bulletin board with Post-It notes.  She wanted to post questions to students and then have the students answer them on this site.  She first used it just to practice by asking students their lunch choice to do the day’s lunch count.  She said it worked pretty well but when she projected it on the Smart Board, the students couldn’t move items around on the board.  It is a glitch she feels she has to work out by using it some more.  She tried again by asking a simple question, “How old are you?”  They were able to answer the question but again unable to move items around on the board.

Next, I asked her if she had any obstacles with having students use the site, needing any special permissions.  She said there were no obstacles at all.  There is no content on the site that warrants special permission or is inappropriate in any way for elementary students.  Next, I asked what advice she would offer another teacher considering using this site.  She replied that she would recommend it to other teachers to use because she found it to be useful.  She advised that teachers should make sure they have time to use it themselves first, with the Smart Board, to make sure it would do what you wanted it to do. (Namely, for her, to allow items to be moved around on the Smart Board.)  She feels she needs more time to figure that out and advises others to allow themselves that same time.   I looked over this site and it was similar to one I have used called Stixy.  Looking at lino myself , I think it may offer more capabilities than Stixy does, as it embeds video, can be used with email, and can also be added as an app on some phones and other devices.  It seems  that it would be useful to keep content organized as a student or a teacher.  

Another new site she is using is called Teacher Gaming Network.  She said this was a good web site to use to review vocabulary because it was effective and fun.  You can put in your own vocabulary words.  Again, she had no obstacles about permission for this, as the content was all appropriate.  Her words of caution for this one were that it is free unless you upgrade. Once you upgrade there is a charge for it.  She also advised again, to give yourself the time needed to develop the program the way you want it, with your own particular vocabulary.  When I looked at this site, I saw that she chose to use it to practice vocabulary, but it actually allows you to make many types of games, with your desired content.  It develops different types of questions for you, when you input the content.  This would be worth trying to make quizzes or to allow practice for students in various content areas.  

The next educator I interviewed is a technology teacher who offers after school technology sessions and also goes into classrooms during the school day to teach technology classes with classroom teachers.  He is newly using IXL, Math is Fun, (math sites), and Turtle Diary (various content areas) which all offer games to its users.   When asked how he decided to use these sites with students, he said he first looked at them and evaluated them to see if they were educational.  Then he had his after school students test them to determine if they were interesting and fun.  Since they were, he decided to use them during school technology time.  He had no obstacles to overcome for any of these, as far as obtaining permission for the students to use them.  They are all educational and have no harmful or inappropriate content.  His advice for teachers who want to use them, is to have them all bookmarked or to set up shortcuts on the students’ computers, to get to the sites quickly and easily.  

I liked all of these Web 2.0 sites that were shared with me and to make it easy for my second grade students to access them, I will have them add them to the bookmarking tool we use called Symbaloo .  It has worked well for them and they love to add new sites to the Symbaloo grid.  They can add them easily and find them easily whenever they want to use them. Perhaps others who read this post will explore and enjoy these sites with their students. I appreciate the time and information shared with me from these educators.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

u02d1 Website Criteria for Students and Teachers


When I am looking at a web site to use with my second grade students, the main draw for me is if its content is going to enhance their learning in some way.  I want them to use web sites to help them discover new learning, to explore the site to find answers to questions they have, or to provide practice for them to become better in their skills.

Another aspect that is important for me is that the site is easy to navigate and has been set up so that it is user friendly for their grade level.  The font style and the size should be easy for them to read so they are understanding the content.  Also sites that have images, video, audio and a way to interact are best to sustain their interest and to teach them new information.  The more they can do or see the better.

For both teachers and students the information must be authentic and accurate.  The source of the information must be reliable.  I send along websites to my colleagues that I find interesting when they give information about a topic that I know other teachers are using or would find helpful in their teaching.   Teachers also seem to prefer video demonstrations of topic especially when they can see teachers or students in action demonstrating a topic in a real situation.   Essentially, if I value the web site then I try to share it with someone else who I think it would be useful to also.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Evaluation of My School's Appropriate Use/Internet Policy


In evaluating my school’s internet and technology use policy, termed “Student Acceptable Use Policy/Rules”  in terms of how well it abides by the main points of the CIPA laws, I feel it covers most of the points.  Our policy is set up with “I” statements that refer to actions the students and their parents, who use school net book computers, will take, both in school and at home.  The students and parents are required to sign and return this form to school.   One item I note is that this is not a policy that covers all student use of computers and internet because it excludes the PK-third grade students who do not take their netbooks home.


The first CIPA category is about technology protection with the use of blocking and filtering of inappropriate or harmful material.  In our policy there is nothing in that states that such blocks or filters are in place.  On that topic these statements are included:
  • “When using the internet, I will only visit appropriate websites and engage in appropriate activities/communications.  Guiding Rule:  Anything you feel you need to hide from a parent or teacher should not be created, accessed or reproduced.”
  • “The school has taken precautions to eliminate controversial material from being viewed by users.  However, I [the parent/guardian] recognize it is impossible to restrict access to all controversial materials.  I will not hold the school/teachers responsible for materials acquired over the internet.”
These statements are to ensure students are not seeking out inappropriate or harmful material or behaviors that may get around the blocks or filters.  It shows that the school is using a system of filters and blocks to ensure safety as much as possible.


The second topic in CIPA refers to student behavior online specifically in social networking activity.  The above excerpts from our policy address this as well as:


  • “I will treat others with respect.  When communicating with others, I will use appropriate language and images...I will not reveal personal information about myself or others.”
  • “Screen names should be utilized for safety purposes; however, users should never set up false accounts in order to pretend to be someone they are not.”


The third topic is about monitoring online activity by minors.  School use and home use are referred to here.  
  • “Net books and printers should only be used in shared family spaces in the home.  Students should not take the computers/printers into a closed-door room.”
  • “I understand that my browsing history, software and e-mails are all subject to review.”


The next topic refers to interfering with or inappropriately using others’ information on the computer through hacking, copying, changing or sharing such information.  These statements address this:
  • “I will not read, alter or delete the files of other users.  I will  not reveal personal information about myself or others.”
  • “I will follow all federal and state laws.”
  • “I will credit sources I use.”
  • “I will only download and install legal and school-approved software, documents or games onto my net book...”
  • “I will only use appropriate and copyright-free music, video, photographs and illustrations in my projects and avoid downloading any illegal items.”


In reviewing this policy it is clear that teachers are responsible for applying several rules when introducing new technologies.  Here are some that come to mind:
  • Make sure, to the best of their ability, that all harmful or inappropriate material is filtered.  This means previewing the technology and exploring it thoroughly to  know all of its possible features that students might find and use.
  • Tell students what they can use and what they can not use with the technology.  
  • Instruct students, to report to a teacher, anything they find that is inappropriate, right away.  
  • Show the students how to give credit to others when they use something that someone else created.  
  • Give students access to resources that are allowed to be copied and used by them.
  • Model appropriate ways to communicate with others when using email or social networking sites.  A good strategy is to role play the consequences of “saying” things that they may not want published on the web.  


Our school policy does promote the use of technology in and out of the classroom.  It does this by imposing a series of responsibilities that students will do.  Its format is positive, with “I will” statements that hand the students the responsibility for appropriate use of technology.  This positive set up encourages students to be technology users.  The policy does not include any information about bypassing filters by teachers or adults, for particular, necessary circumstances and it also does not include all students (Pre-K-6) who use computers and the internet.  This document could be improved by revising it to be a more comprehensive schoolwide policy.  






Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Creative Commons License Choice

For this blog I chose the Creative Commons license that allows attribution to my work for non-commercial use.  I chose this because it allows anyone to use something that I have created, to change it, use pieces of it and to add to it so they can use it for the purpose they need.  I want to allow readers to do this because I think it is important for educators and contributors to share their resources and their work to benefit others.  All of the work that I do is to help students learn so my thoughts are that by sharing what I have worked on with other teachers, I can help many more students than just the ones that I have in my own classrooms.

Many of the projects that I have done have required me to use resources and materials that other people have created.  Other teachers' work have helped me and I certainly want to be able to help others have the same opportunity as I have had by using something I have created.  We all work very hard and we should let that hard work help as many people as possible.  Therefore I want teachers and students to have use of anything I create to help the learning process.

I chose a non-commercial license because the projects that I create are not meant to make money.  I have not earned money from any of them.  They are all done to help my students learn or to help me learn.  The point of my creating any work for students and teachers is just to help, not to make money from them.  Therefore, I do not want others to use my projects to sell them or profit from them either.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.