Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Professional Learning Plan

Over the past few months, I have gained a lot of knowledge on how to address problems and opportunities through the use of technology.  I have learned more about the TPACK framework and how to use it as a Spanish teacher.   I have learned about production value with the creation of  my first podcast.  I have learned to grow as a professional by collecting data from my classmates and colleagues using Google Forms.  I have used Google Hangouts to communicate with other professionals and created a Jing presentation on how to use Edmodo in a flipped classroom.  I have increased my PLN by joining MACUL through Facebook, continuing to use twitter, blogging, and joined discussions on Classroom 2.0.  I used Glogster for the first time to create a data visualization tool.  I learned about professional learning and why it is important to be a leader of technology in my workplace.  Last, but certainly not least, I made a plan and implemented it about a wicked problem that I have as Spanish teacher.  While implementing my plan, I learned about pen-pal emails, VoiceThread, and Skype.  Looking back, I realize that I have learned so many useful things throughout this course.  I have to admit, this was a difficult course for me because it challenged me to create things that I have never done before.  I really tried to push myself to use new technology and now that the course is almost over, I am proud that I pushed myself to learn so many new things that I can use in my classroom to enhance my students' learning.

Looking back at some old goals that I had made for myself, I realize that I have reached many of them.  I have become familiar with technology tools that have increased my knowledge strong enough that I can share it with my students and colleagues.  Over the past few months, I have attended monthly technology meetings held by the PLC technology support group at my school.  One thing I would like to still do is share some of the ideas I have learned during this course.  The first thing I would like to share with my PLC group is the Jing presentation I made on how to use Edmodo.  The group can really benefit from this tool and perhaps I can share it in a larger staff meeting in the future.  

Some goals I am still implementing because I have come to realize that they take time to put in to action.  One thing that I am still working on is increasing my students’ knowledge with technology so they can do things inside and outside of the classroom to become better language learners.  I still need to continue to encourage my students to use technology (for educational purposes) outside of the classroom.  I have give them some apps to help with Spanish, but I want to do more.  Also, I plan on growing individually by continuing to create my personal learning network (PLN) by staying connected with twitter, MACUL, Classroom 2.0 and educational blogs. 

Another goal is to use technology to help my students become global learners.   I want my students to use the Internet to be creative, connect & communicate with the Spanish speaking world, and to see traditions of other cultures.  I also want to become a global learner myself by using technology.  I want to connect & communicate with the Spanish speaking world so I can show my students the world without leaving the classroom.  I want to use the internet to connect with other teachers throughout the world and learn new ideas of how I can use technology in my classroom to make my students global learners and 21st century learners.  I have started to implement this with the research of online pen-pals.  This idea is going to help my students and myself to connect with the Spanish speaking world while increasing their confidence in using Spanish.  

Next year, I want to start off the year by applying for different grants.  This way I can try tools like VoiceThread in my classroom.  Along with VoiceThread, I would like to learn how to add video and audio on Google sites so my students can add these features to their online portfolios.  

My personal goal is to finish the MAET program by next spring!  I know that I want to continue to stay up to date as technology is being integrated into more classrooms.  I know that MSU and the MAET program will fully prepare me to be a great educator that is able to integrate technology into my curriculum.  Go green!

One aspect of being a teacher, is that you are always learning. Whether you are taking a class, going to a PD or PLC meeting, discussing things with colleagues, or sharing and learning ideas from your PLN.  I am excited to continue the program through MSU this summer and want to continue to integrate technology into my classroom next fall. 


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wicked Problem Findings and Implications

For the final part of my wicked problem, I will be reflecting and assessing the solutions that I have implemented over the past few weeks.  I have began to implement the use of pen-pal emails, VoiceThread, and Skype to help increase the confidence of communication in a world language classroom.  I will also be considering implications for future wicked problems that I may encounter in my years of teaching.  

I began looking into pen-pal emails to increasing the confidence in communication with writing and reading skills.  I thought that it was going to be really easy to find websites to interact with native Spanish speaking students.  I discovered that the websites provided by my textbook were not very resourceful and that I was going to have to find another website.  I ended up using ePals and it was very user friendly and safe for students.  I have found a reliable website, but I am still waiting to hear back from a few teachers that I have contacted.  It is hard being in this waiting zone and I feel stuck because I have to rely on another teacher communicating with me.  While I am waiting, it will allow my students time to practice their writing skills in class and hopefully make them really prepared so we can send emails as soon as we get in contact with another classroom.

I researched using VoiceThread to increase confidence in my students' speaking and listening skills.  VoiceThread ended up costing money, so I had to find out if we had an account at my school.  Unfortunately we did not, so this part of my implementation was not going as planned.  I don't want to invest the money in the program this year because there's only about a month a of school left.  In the future, I would like to seek out a possible grant from the technology department or the PTA in the beginning of the year so I can use the program all year long.

Lastly, I wanted to look into the benefits of Skype to increase the communication in students' speaking and listening skills.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to research the use of Skype, but I will look into in the upcoming weeks especially because VoiceThread is not going to work out this year.  If Skype doesn't work out, there are other tools I can use such as Google Voice, Google Hangout, Audiboo, CLEAR, and GarageBand.

Overall, I believe that these tools will work well to increase students' confidence in communication.  A few weeks is not much time to see a significant increase, but I did have students practice writing to a pen-pal.  As I was walking around, I asked students about their writing.  Many were very excited to be writing to an actual person!  I had students send me their emails because I wanted to check them before we send them off.  After looking at the students' emails, I could see that they were very well thought out and that students were writing more than they would have if I had given them a list of things to write.  Also, students seemed to be encouraged to look up new vocabulary to describe themselves whereas if they were writing it to me on a test, they would have just used the vocabulary that they know.  I am sure these good effects will carry over once we use VoiceThread and Skype.  I am excited to continue to see all the benefits that web tools have to offer.

In the future, I will continue to have a well thought out plan, but I will look into the programs/tools  before I commit to using them.  The reason why I will do this is because I didn't know VoiceThread was going to cost money.  I just decided to use that automatically because I heard great things about it, just not the cost part.  Also, I will seek ideas from other colleagues.  I didn't do this throughout this project, but realize in the future my colleagues are facing many of the same problems as I am.  It would be great to attack the problem as a team!  Another good idea would be giving students a survey at the beginning and end of the trimester.  It would be good to have students assess their growth and confidence in their communication skills. Plus it will help me know which areas are working out well and what areas still needs some help.  Lastly, I would begin to implement my strategies in the beginning of the year or the start of the a new trimester.  This would be more beneficial because students will start off the year using these tools and will learn how to use them throughout the year.  I can use scaffolding by starting at the beginning of the year and work towards a final project at the end of the trimester.  I believe this will be encouraging for students because they will be able to see a final product of all of their hard work from the trimester. 

I still feel that students will still struggle with this in the future, hence why it is a wicked problem!  The main thing I would change is implementing the problem in the beginning of the year.  This way students don't feel like I am just forcing them to do something, it will be more natural through the use of scaffolding.  Also, I will apply for grants through the PTA or other resources.  This way I can use online tools that may cost money. 

One conclusion that I can make is that there are solutions to these wicked problems that we face as teachers, administrators, or technology specialist.  With a well thought out plan, you can begin to implement strategies using web based tools and technology to help solve problems.  The other conclusion that I can make is that others have really helpful and great ideas about resources that you may not know about.  After giving my survey, I received great ideas on tools to increase my students' communication.  I learned about tools that I had never heard of.  It is great to stay in communication with classmates and colleagues. 

A recommendation that I have for the future problem solvers would be to narrow your ideas from the beginning.  If you have too many ideas of things that you want to do, you will not have time to implement them all.  The next recommendation that I have is to have an open ended question on the survey that gives you the opportunity to get ideas from others such as which technology tools they use.  If a person has used a tool and knows it's good, then you know it's worth a try! Lastly, I would recommend the use of Evernote to record information while you are implementing your project.  It is a great tool that stores all of your information (emails, notes, screenshots, and more) in one place.  Using Evernote was a tremendous help when I was writing out the implementation part of my project. 

Overall, it has been a very good experience to try and fix a wicked problem that I have in my classroom.  It is motivating to know that there are strategies and tools worth implementing that can improve problems while using technology.  In the future I will continue my work as a problem solver! 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wicked Problem Implementation

Over the past 2 weeks, I have been implementing solutions to my wicked problem.  My wicked problem is students not feeling confident communicating in Spanish.  Some of my solutions include using Skype, VoiceThread, and Pen-Pals to increase their confidence in writing, speaking, listening, and reading in the target language.  I can now see why I chose this as my wicked problem.  There is no easy solution!  Though my ideas have guided me in the right direction, there is still a long road ahead.  I am going to explain what ideas worked over the past 2 weeks, what ideas may need to change, and how I plan to continue to solve my wicked problem.
I discovered a great tool while implementing my solutions.  That tool is Evernote.  Evernote is a great resource to organize notes, pictures, important emails, screenshots, and more.  I personally used it to keep all of my observations in once place and have found it very resourceful.  I would highly recommend this tool to others.  

I began to implement my project in my Spanish 1 classes.  I have 2 classes made up of 8th and 9th grade students.  Spanish 1 students struggle with confidence using the language and practice a lot of writing about themselves.  It can be monotonous for the students writing similar things over and over again and it becomes monotonous for me reading the same thing over and over.  I thought pen-pal writing would be an authentic way to have students write to real people in Spanish speaking countries.  I encountered a problem because finding pen-pals was harder than I thought!  I used websites provided by the textbook, penpalsnow.com and mylanguageexchange.com, but they didn't seem to fit very well with what I envisioned.  I was surprised to find that Penpals Now had inappropriate adds in the margins especially since it was provided by the textbook.   It didn't feel very 'safe' to me and I would not have felt comfortable sending my students to that site.

I continued my search for a educational and safe website.  I found  ePals global community. The website is more geared at connecting classrooms together rather than just one pen pal at a time, like the other sites suggested.  I am in the process of contacting teachers, but don't know if I will be able to implement the actual pen pal writing within the next two weeks.  Instead I will get the students ready by writing mock pen-pal emails.  They will still get the written practice. 
As soon as I am contacted by the teacher, the students will be ready to send their emails.  I had students write emails on their school Google accounts and save them for later use.  I will give them a prompt so they include some needed information, but I will also let them write what they'd like.  (Obviously it needs to be school appropriate.)  Please feel free to view the assignment.  I've found that students write more when they have freedom in their writing and when it is to an actual person.  I strongly believe that students will write more with less restriction from the teacher.

Email to ePal teacher in Spain.

Currently the students have written the emails and have sent them to me.  I would like to check them before they are sent out to the recipients.  I am not checking the emails for grammatical errors because I think that the students that respond may tell my students what they need to fix.  I am checking the emails to make sure that all things written are school appropriate.  
I have not yet been contacted by any teachers matching up with the needs I am looking for in pen-pal communication which poses as a problem.  I will continue to use ePals to contact other teachers.  The practice emails seem to be very good so far.  The students included a lot of great ideas in Spanish and seemed to be writing with confidence, but I am still seeing common grammatical errors.  One good thing I saw while students were writing is that they seemed more concerned with their emails sounding good because it was going to a person, not just me reading it off of their test.  Overall, pen-pals seem to encourage students to write authentically and with more confidence.    

The next thing I looked into was signing up for a VoiceThread account.

Signing up for VoiceThread.
Signing up was really easy and the website offers video tutorials on how to use VoiceThread.  However, there was a big bump in the road...it costs money!  I contacted oue technology expert at the school to see if our district has an account.  

Email to technology expert.
Unfortunately, we didn't have an account.  The next step I plan on taking is contacting our PTA to see if I can get a grant for the use of VoiceThread.  I hope that they will support me and see the educational uses that VoiceThread has to offer Spanish students.  
I have not had the opportunity to research Skype, but I have used it in the past so I am somewhat familiar with it.  I need to make good relationships with pen-pals before I can move onto Skyping with them.  I am excited to look into the uses of Skype.

I discovered many great ideas from the survey I conducted.  I was delighted by the thoughtful responses of my peers.  If VoiceThread and Skype don't work out as planned, I have various other ideas on how to have students practice their speaking skills and gain confidence.  Future ideas that I can use are Audiboo, CLEAR, Garageband, Google Hangout, and Google Voice. I look forward to looking into these ideas.

Overall, I am very happy with the pen-pal writing and ePals website.  It will be a great way to increase students' writing and reading skills.  I am going to continue to look into VoiceThread and Skype to increase students' speaking and listening skills.  I am confident that technology will help improve the confidence of students using their Spanish skills in the classroom.

Mobile Learning

Mobile learning like every idea, has its ups and downs.  The down side is that is can be difficult and expensive if your district doesn't have a big budget to use on technology.  Grants are out there, but may be hard to get as so many teachers value mobile devices.  A lot of times, students have devices but can easily get "off task".  Can you blame them?  I love checking Facebook and Twitter myself!  Although there can be many obstacles, they can all be overcome with a smart, motivated, techie teacher in place!

So...there are some downsides, but there are upsides too!  Students can use awesome apps on their iPhones or iPods, they can download podcasts and music on their MP3 players, and they can download audio books on their E-Readers.  The good news is, they can all be used in healthy ways to promote educational learning.  

Recently I've used laptops in my classroom.  The students were working on a WebQuest where they learned about the food habits of a Spanish speaking country and World Hunger.  They also had to create a restaurant skit using Google Docs so that all students could add input at anytime, anywhere.  It was great to watch the students move their desks and form small groups while using the laptops.  Other students chose to work more independently while using the laptops.  They pulled out their headphones and listened to music (all in Spanish I am sure!) and they began to connect with each other and learn about the world.  

One thing that I would like to try in my classroom is using different poll websites where students can text their answers.  I really like Poll Everywhere because students do not need a smartphone to participate, they only need standard text messaging.  This makes it easy for all students to participate. It is quick and provides instant results.  Also, if a student doesn't have their cell phone that day, a student can easily pass their phone to a friend to use.  It is great for a teacher because they can see what their students know or don't know at that exact moment and use the results to move the direction of the class based on their students' knowledge.

I've also began to have students tweet using their smartphones.  Many students don't have a Twitter account which becomes a problem, so they tweet old school style...sticky notes.  The students that are able to use their phones, love tweeting.  The students that use sticky notes, love tweeting.  Originally, I wanted to show the tweets using the projector so students can read each others' tweets on the board.  Since, not all students have a twitter account I was met with a major challenge that I was somewhat able to overcome.  The only problem is, I overcame it without using technology. 

Plan B (if students don't have smartphones)

I foresee this being a problem in the future with the use of iphones and other smartphone devices.  Not all students will have one and those that do may not have the proper app you are trying to use.  I know a lot of parents don't feel comfortable have their child use certain apps, so I didn't want to force a student to sign up for an account.  Perhaps I can use something like Edmodo in the future, a site that is secure for students to use and has similar features to Twitter.  

Overall, I am excited to continue to use mobile devices in my classroom and it is easy to see how many benefits there are to learning with the use of mobile devices.  Don't forget to tell your students to BYOD tomorrow!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wicked Problem Survey Responses

Recently I conducted a survey about my wicked problem, which is how to get students to feel more confident while communicating in a second language.  Overall, 9 people took the survey using a Google Form.  I based my results from the 9 people and broke it down using percentages and pie graphs that can be seen in the SlideShare below.   

The first question I asked was to discover the position people hold in their workplace. Of the 9 people that took the survey, 89% were teachers, 11% were technology integration specialist, 0% were administrators, and 0% were full-time graduate students.  Most people that took the survey were teachers and one was a technology integration specialist.  In the future, I would ask people to fill out what content area they teach.  It would be helpful to know if they use the following tools in their content area, so I could see how it relates to teaching in a world language classroom.

The second question I asked was to find out how many people use Skype in their workplace.  100% of the people that took the survey do not use Skype.  I found this surprising because I thought more people would use Skype.  I want to look into more information about Skype and its educational purposes.  Perhaps Skype is not a good source for better communication in a foreign language classroom because it is difficult to use or not very helpful.  Also, I may need to look into another idea (not Skype) to increase students' speaking and listening skills. 

The third question I asked was to discover how many people use VoiceThread in the workplace. 78% percent of the people that took the survey do not use it and 22% use it.  This is not as surprising to me because I think VoiceThread is mostly used in foreign language classrooms.  It's likely that people that took the survey are not foreign language teachers.  Also, after looking into VoiceThread, I discovered that is cost money to join.  This may be a reason why people don't use it in their workplace.  I am excited to see that some people are using VoiceThread.   It is encouraging to know that other educators and technology specialist are using it!  Based off of the results from questions 2 and 3, I will try to use VoiceThread first to increase the confidence of communication then look into using Skype.   

The fourth question I asked was to find out if people believe that Skype and VoiceThread can help enhance communication in a foreign language classroom.  Overall, 100% of people that took the survey believe that it would help!  It is very encouraging that people who use and don't use the tools believe that it will increase students' communication.  It shows that people who use it, find it to be a successful tool.  Also, it shows that people who don't use it believe that it has helpful features to improve the communication skills of learners.  I agree with the survey results and will try to use both of these tools to help solve my wicked problem.

The fifth question I asked was to list any effective technologies that you may know about that may help increase confident communication in a foreign language classroom.  This was my favorite question in the survey because everyone listed so many helpful ideas.  I am excited to use these tools in the future, especially if I am unable to use Skype or VoiceThread to solve my wicked problem.  People listed the following great ideas that may be helpful in increasing communication skills in a variety of content areas!
Audioboo (iPad)
Dragon Dictation
Google Apps
Google Chat/Hangout
Google Voice
iMovie (iPad)
Online textbook with recording materials
Rosetta Stone 

Overall, the survey results have given me encouragement to use Skype and VoiceThread to increase communication amongst many learners.  After trying out these tools, I will try to teach my colleagues how to use them to raise awareness about them in the workplace since many people do not currently use them.  Lastly, I will try using some of the tools that were given to me by other educators and technology integration specialists.  The tools I am most interested in (from others' responses) are CLEAR, Dragon Dictation, and Google Voice.  I hope that these survey result can provide some insight for you and give you some ideas as to how you can increase communication in your classroom.

Data Visualization with Glogster

After browsing the website, Free Visual Tools, I discovered great data visualization tools.  Data visualization tools can help a learner view information easier and access multiple types of representation about the subject being presented.  I took some time to navigate through the website to find which tool would work best for what I wanted to represent which is what I have being working on in my Wicked Problem Project.  My wicked problem is getting students to become more confident speaking Spanish in a World Language classroom.    

I used the tool Glogster to represent the 3 tools that will help a Spanish student become a more confident learner.  Those 3 tools are VoiceThread, ePals, and Skype.  Glogster allows you to connect links to these websites, which is an excellent feature giving easy access to the viewer to connect to the information.  Glogster also allows you to embed videos and MP3 files.  I embedded a video (visual) on how to use VoiceThread.  (I chose a video on VoiceThread over Skype and ePals because the other sites are more user friendly.)  I embedded the MP3 of my podcast (audio) that describes my wicked problem, giving the viewer an option to hear as well as look at the ideas being presented.  At the end, I brought it all together showing how they all work together to make a learner more confident in using the language!

The "ah ha" moment I had was how awesome these tools can be!  I feel like pen and paper limit students' creativity so much.  I brainstormed an idea of what I wanted it to look like and then when I created it using Glogster...it was WAY better!  I was able to add visuals, podcasts, and videos adding multiple representation of the product to reach a bigger audience.  

I viewed other data visualization tools such as: Exploratree, Dia, and Open Clipart.  Exploratree would be a great website to create and print thinking guides.  The website was user friendly and provided many features such as creating, printing, saving, and sharing the thinking guides.  It has similar features to Google Apps because students can work in real time and it allows others to 'view', 'edit', or 'comment' on the thinking guide. Dia did not seem very user friendly to me, but it can be used for making diagrams.  Open Clipart has free clip art!  I am excited to use this website in the future because I use clip art all the time in docs and presentations and it can be hard to find good clip art for free!  

Overall, Glogster was the best for me because I was able to use pictures, texts, videos, podcasts, and link websites.  It has a little bit of everything!  Also, my students use it in their ELA classes at my school, so I thought it would be good to learn how to use.  Perhaps I'll  have them use it in my class someday!      

My Brainstorm

 My Glogster 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Group Leadership Project Presentation on Edmodo

For my group leadership project on using Edmodo to help develop a flipped classroom, my partner and I created a Jing presentation that can be used for professional development.  Throughout the Jing presentation we provided screenshots from Edmodo's website.  We used the cursor to show where one would need to click as if they were navigating the website.  We highlighted Edmodo's great features such as: creating classes, assigning homework and assessments, using polls, embedding links and Google Docs, and more!

If I was going to use this presentation for professional development at my school, I would create an invitation on Google Calenders and invite all staff members to attend.  After seeing the amount of interest, I would book an appropriate location to show the presentation and have teachers use computers to try Edmodo on their own.  To start off, I would show the Jing presentation so teachers can get a general idea of what it is and how to use it in their content area.  I would then play clips of the Jing presentation and pause it throughout to take time to work with teachers one on one or answer questions as a whole group.  I would monitor the group and answer questions as I am giving directions on using Edmodo.  I would make adjustments to the presentation as I saw necessary depending on the needs of the attending teachers.  

Before teachers leave the presentation, I would have them fill out a quick Google Form to provide feedback on the presentation.  Their feedback will provide common questions that need to get answered in future sessions.  Ideally, I would like to provide other Edmodo professional development sessions where teachers could meet and focus on using specific features of Edmodo that they may still be unclear on how to use.  It is so important to provide follow up on professional development because often teachers feel like they need more training and it can boost motivation to use Edmodo in the future to help flip their classrooms.  Lastly, I would  provide a follow up e-mail to all teachers letting them know that they can contact me if they have any questions regarding Edmodo.

Enjoy the presentation and feel free to email if you have any questions about how to use Edmodo or how to use this as a professional development opportunity for your school.     

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