EdTech 537: I’m a Blogger

Blogging has always been an exciting idea to me, but I have never had the push to do it.  I have felt like it would be something that I enjoyed but again had never made the leap.  Well, Jack, I’m flying.  This week, I began EdTech 537: Blogging in the Classroom by creating a blog (It’s Bloggin’ Time!!) on Edublogs and writing my first post.

We were given three different blogging platforms to choose from: WordPress, Blogger, and Edublogs.  Initially, I thought I would go with WordPress because I already have this learning log up and going, so I might as well go with what I know.  After reading a bit more about Edublogs though, I felt like it was something that I would actually use in my classroom, plus it was supported by WordPress.  (The best of both worlds??)

I began by naming my blog “The Hughes Blog” (boring…) and gradually shifting through a number of different names before settling on “It’s Bloggin’ Time!!”  Immediately after settling on this title, I told my husband about my blog and his first thought was that I had named it after The Fantastic Four‘s The Thing (It’s clobberin’ time!)  Nope.  I am not that cool, but I can pretend to be.  Anyway, creating my first entry and page in Edublogs was incredibly easy since it functions similarly to WordPress.  I am really excited about where this class is going to lead.  I want to use blogs in my English classroom to break up the monotony of a traditional writing curriculum.  Who knows what else I will come up with?!

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CSS Stylized 502 Page

Learning CSS with codecademy was easy!  It was much different using it in Dreamweaver, but different in a good way.  Rather than writing code and searching through my notes for possible stylizing options, all the options were clearly outlined and easy to incorporate.  That being said, I feel like I need to learn more about the different sizing options.  For example, what is the difference between a pixel and an “em”?  We used an “em” as a measurement today, and I was not entirely certain what I was being told to do.  Luckily, I am a master googler. 🙂

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Design: In Progress

I submitted my stylized 502 page without being entirely happy with it.  It checked all the boxes on the rubric and included a few things that were not there, but as a perfectionist and a life-long meddler, I knew that whether I submitted it today or Sunday, I would never be completely happy with it.  Let’s just mark this assignment as “in progress,” as I have already made a few appearance changes.


Plain 502 Page

Today, after some serious prep on codecademy (and lots of reading), my very first web page using Dreamweaver CC.  Since I received the invitation into the course last week, I have been working on codecademy to increase my knowledge of HTML and CSS.  It has been like learning a new language.  Easy to use in the classroom, yet hard to apply out of it.  When I first started my plain 502 page, I jumped into Dreamweaver to try and figure things out.  Bonehead move…  The instructional videos on the course page made it all so much easier than handwriting the code as I had learned it on codecademy.  Dreamweaver has so many cool functions that the assigned text’s explanation and activities do not do it justice.

Suffice to say, I feel like I have figured out how to succeed in EdTech 502 today.  The instructional videos are the key.  The questions on the pre-course survey got me thinking about the role of instructional videos in the classroom.  During EdTech 501, I researched flipped classrooms and digital badges, both of which utilized instructional videos as a key component for learning.  My experience today proved the importance of said videos in online or blended learning environments from the perspective of the learner.

I am excited about my new ability to code and build websites.  I think this skill will help me to create custom activities for my students as well as provide depth to my educational technology skill.  Who knows where coding can take me?  I am incredibly excited to find out!

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Dreamweaver made HTML (and CSS) so easy! 🙂


EdTech Definition Graphic

For the final assignment in EdTech 501, I analyzed the current definition of Educational Technology.  As part of the analysis, I created a graphic representation of the definition using PowToon.  I began by reading the expanded definition of EdTech and examining its key parts for understanding.  To me, the definition had four main parts: study, ethical practice, facilitated learning, and performance.  

Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.

All other elements of the definition fit into these four main parts.  The most important of these four parts, however, proved to be facilitating (or facilitated, as I called it in my PowToon) learning.  This notion of learning as something facilitated by the teacher seems to be crucial to the definition because it tips the idea of education on its head toward constructivist thinking and away from the “Sage on the Stage” teaching method.  This idea of “facilitated learning” really spoke to me as a teacher.  It supported my previous idea that the students should be in control of, or invested in, their learning.  EdTech, as defined in our assigned chapter, allows students to claim ownership of their learning through active, learner-centric methods and authentic audiences/situations.  

Following the “facilitated learning” aspect of the definition, “study,” “ethical practice” and “performance” seem to be equals in my opinion.  The reading described “study” as an idea beyond simple research.  It explained it as a “cyclical process” of reflection and practice that led to improved performance.  This idea of a “cyclical process” stuck with me and visually explained the importance of study to this definition and the interconnectedness of the definition’s elements.  I found the “ethical practice” element to be important because the AECT standards are the framework from which we design and instruct.  Without these standards, as stated in the reading, success is not possible.  As teachers, we cannot be sure that we are addressing the “needs” of our students without the AECT Ethics Committee and its standards.  Finally, the idea of “performance” jumped out of the definition as the learner’s ability to use and apply new capabilities in authentic environments.  This performance includes the three major functions of the field: creating, using, and managing appropriate technological resources.

At first, I thought I wanted to create an infographic for this assignment.  (I still would like to learn how.)  But, when push came to shoveScreen Shot 2016-06-21 at 5.37.58 PM, I decided to use PowToon to create an animated visual rather than a static one.  I first learned about PowToon in a Tech Tools seminar, where I starred it in my notes as a potential tool for student presentations.  PowToon was so fun and easy to use that I am really quite obsessed with it now.  The only issue that I had was exporting the visual.  It turns out to do some of the “fancier” things (like, I don’t know, download it as a file) you have to pay for a membership.  Other than that, PowToon was fun to use, and it is definitely a tool that I can use in my classroom or assign for students to use for presentations.

School Evaluation Summary

As an online instructor, I was initially concerned about this assignment.  How am I supposed to evaluate my school’s technology use when all my school is is technology?  I was worried that if I evaluated my non-traditional school that I would not get the full effect of the assignment.  After investigating the assignment more, I decided to evaluate a local school that I admire because of their dedication to outstanding academic achievement through technology integration.  I knew this school would be on the advanced side of the Maturity Model Benchmarks but I was not sure how advanced it was.  This assignment required me to analyze the school’s technology use and policy by ranking school behavior and resource/infrastructure into the stages of maturity outlined below.

  1. Emergent Stage
  2. Islands Stage
  3. Integrated Stage
  4. Intellectual Stage

Despite my chosen school being seated firmly in either the Integrated or Intellectual stage consistently (Not going to lie… I looked for ways to throw a wrench in this consistency), I found that students were exposed to technology in every lesson but were not using their resources to the absolute greatest potential.  That said, they are using technology in incredible ways that any school would love to imitate.  My newfound knowledge of emerging technology and technology-supported instruction makes me realize how much more Birmingham Academy could be utilizing their resources.  As someone who would love to teach at this school one day (please, oh, please, oh, please) and has viewed this school as the crème de la crème of local private schools, I was surprised to find that there were areas of improvement.  To name a few, Birmingham Academy could easily incorporate the flipped classroom model, blogging, or digital badges and other gamification techniques.  My research did find, however, that Birmingham Academy has plans to purchase a 3-D printer to add to their STEM programs.    

Maturity Benchmark Survey: Birmingham Academy

Maturity Benchmark Analysis: Birmingham Academy

TechTrends: Digital Badges

As I read through the Horizons Report, I initially thought that I would focus on adaptive learning technologies.  At the iNACOL Conference last year, I attended a lot of sessions related to adaptive learning technologies, so I knew the possibilities and limitations of the technology before I began reading.  However, after reading the section on digital badges, I felt like my brain was exploding with ideas.  Using digital badges, I could gamify my classroom, specifically my writing curriculum, and increase interest, motivation, ownership, you name it in my students.  Digital badges would also allow me to personalize writing instruction more.  For students struggling with sentence structure, I could assign a modals badge or a word order badge.  Additionally, I could assign more complex or different badges to students with fewer struggles.  Or, even (see, mind exploding again) I could assign students to create different badges for various writing, grammar, or vocabulary objectives while other students are still building their skills.  To me, the possibilities are limitless with digital badges.  

PD example

I really liked the clean, simple layout for this PD module.  Teachers learn to use different Google apps in their classrooms.

My artifact for this TechTrends assignment was inspired by a professional development module that I found on Pinterest.  (All hail, Pinterest! Hail!)  In the module, teachers earned various technology-based badges for different Google apps.  The layout was clean and simple, which I knew would be best for students that have never approached education in a gamified format.  After deciding how I wanted my artifact to look, I began brainstorming possible topics for badges.  I immediately settled on writing-based topics because of my initial inspiration to gamify my writing curriculum.  In a previous post, I ranted about my dislike for research papers and how I could use RSS feeds to aid in topic selection.  That post was the source of my Research Writing toolbox idea.  In this toolbox, four of the badges relate to using RSS feeds, incorporating quotations, identifying reliable sources, and using MLA format.  Each of these topics is a fundamental and crucial aspect of research writing.  Well, RSS feeds is a new idea, but just go with it…

RSSThe RSS feeds badge includes a YouTube video introduction to RSS feeds, a video tutorial (using Screencast-O-Matic), a Google Sheets tracker for students to log interesting articles, and a Google Forms quiz.  I looked into other quiz generators like Quizdini and Quizzy but ultimately decided to stick with my Google theme.  To further gamify this idea, I leveled each of the badges according to their degree of difficulty.  Because the RSS feeds badge is a how-to, I leveled it as a bronze level badge.  (My husband and I had many conversations about leveling the badges.  His gaming skills are finally coming in handy!)  

ICEThe next badge focuses on incorporating quotations using the I.C.E. strategy.  This badge includes a video tutorial (a narrated Prezi), a practice activity, a quiz, and a blog post assignment.  I leveled this badge as a silver level badge because of the blog post assignment.  In the WordPress blog post, students reflect on the strategy and practice the strategy by incorporating an adage into 1-2 paragraph entry.  This activity pushes my digital badge idea into the modification level of the SAMR model because students are practicing their skills in a setting with a wider audience.

The MLA foMLArmat badge has similar activities to the I.C.E. strategy badge and is likewise leveled as a silver level badge.  Students earn this badge by viewing a video tutorial (using Screencast-O-Matic) and completing a practice activity, quiz, and blog post.  The blog post asks students to reflect on their learning process as well as create a checklist of key features in MLA format.  The checklist is meant to be a quick tool that students create according to their own level of understanding and use throughout their academic writing career.

ReliableMy final badge instructs students how to identify reliable sources.  This badge is leveled as a gold level badge because of the concept’s difficulty and the assignment’s difficulty.  For this badge, students view a video tutorial (a narrated Prezi), complete a practice activity and a quiz, and, as a level-up assignment, complete an annotated bibliography.  The annotated bibliography requires students to use their knowledge of reliable sources to find 2-3 reliable sources related to a given topic: ACT/SAT Prep, Texting & Driving, or Cyber Bullying.

All-in-all, I really enjoyed this activity.  In the beginning, I was worried that I bit off more than I could chew because I realized all the activities and assessments I would have to create to do this idea justice.  In the end, I think it came together nicely.  I could continue to mess with this idea for days, as Pinterest (Hail!) keeps e-mailing me ideas.  To further my research, I am going to look more into creating and publishing these badges.  I created the badges for this assignment through Credly, and I read that I could publish them to my WordPress  website but I have to update my site first.  It is my ultimate goal to find a way to publish these for students to add to their own e-portfolios or digital passports, but I think, given the newness of this idea, I could simply track the badges on a spreadsheet or even turn the badges into stickers. 🙂

Digital Divide / Digital Inequality

The Digital Divide – It sounds like a Ray Bradbury novel, right?  Another future predicting dystopian novel explaining how the future will be full of powerful, mind-numbing technology set to consume society and rid the world of basic human interaction.  Well, maybe I read too much.  The idea is about the separation between those with technology and those without and as a result, those with the ability to use it and those without the ability.  It is not merely a game of have and have not, though our research showed the effect of technology in a person’s or community’s life is large.  Our research also revealed, to my great surprise, that despite massive improvements in the last few years, the divide is actually increasing.  The focus of our project was to counteract that increase and provide solutions that could increase the presence of technology.


Photo Cred: Lane Terralever

In this project, my group and I studied the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality as a whole and as it related to a specific state, Idaho.  We were asked to act together as a task force to rank six proposed solutions and provide three additional solutions for bridging the Digital Divide.  In our research and discussions, we found that though we may disagree on ranking the provided solutions, we all agree that the solution to the Digital Divide is not in one step or even six.  It is about acting to integrate and encourage technology use at all ages, in all communities, and for all purposes.

This project opened my mind to how great the divide is in the world, not just the least developing countries.  The divide is everywhere, and even though technology is becoming more affordable and more common, it still has a ways to go.  I think it is especially easy for me as an online instructor to forget the breadth and depth of the divide, so this assignment was an excellent reminder for me.  My new information about the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality also demonstrates the value of what I am trying to do as an EdTech major and what one of my priorities should be as a future “techie.”  A girl can dream, can’t she.  🙂


Photo Cred: Normand Theriault

We formatted our findings in a Prezi consisting of an overview of the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality, six ranked solutions plus explanations, and three additional solutions.  I was incredibly excited to see that we were using Prezi as our presentation format.  Prezi is something I have heard about and seen my students use; however, I have never had the opportunity to use it myself.  This project gave the drive to learn how.  And now, it’s official.  I’m hooked.  As a curriculum designer for an online ESL school, I make PowerPoint presentations all day.  All day.  I repeat – all day.  With my constant use, I’ve grown bored with it, and now, I am over-the-moon excited to have a new toy, so to speak.  Likewise, as a curriculum designer, it is easy to get bogged down with the same templates and lesson formats, so I enjoyed reading the two articles about design.  Many of the principles I knew and implement already in my day-to-day activity; however, I found the idea of using decorative fonts for headings to be a bit surprising.  I try to avoid decorative fonts because I have found that no matter where they are on a slide, they distract readers.  Most of my presentations, for my classroom or designer needs, include only clear, stick fonts so that students can easily and quickly read the information.  Perhaps, I judged too soon though.  Fontspace here I come!!

I love being a curriculum designer.  There is something refreshing to me about getting paid to fret over the small stuff.  My nit-picky, detail-oriented personality is finally paying off! That being said, given the time, I could change a thousand things about our presentation.  Not because I dislike any of the content or design, but because this was my first time using Prezi, and I feel like each time I edited my frames, I learned something new.  I would love to learn more about the animation features and use some of the other templates.  Even with my limited experience, it looks like a resource that my students would enjoy.