FINAL, My WOW Moment this Semester

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If I could sum up my semester in one word or phrase, it would be Michelangelo’s quote, “I am still learning.” This semester has taught me a ton about where I am at, where I want to go, and what kind of teacher I want to become. Simply put, I still have a lot to learn. It’s been wonderful having the iPads given to us Block A students. I have discovered so many new apps, programs, and ways to use them in my future classroom someday. I actually thought that integrating technology and the general classroom would be easy, which is not true. It’s pretty difficult. Any teacher could probably use an iPad while teaching, but it takes a skilled and trained teacher to use it effectively. Technology isn’t an “ends” in education. It’s a means to the end. We use technology to support some concept we are trying to teach, but just being good at using an iPad isn’t what we want students to take away.

I am excited that I have the opportunity to keep learning about how to use iPads, and use them well. A lot of exciting things are happening in education right now, and I feel privileged to have a front row seat.

FINAL, Semester Favorites

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Last Day of School Bus

As this is the last week of classes, I have been thinking about all of the different projects and assignments that I’ve completed over the course of sixteen weeks. Some I have liked more than others, but the following list contains all of my favorite things from Educational Technology and Learning in the Classroom. I am so grateful that this is the first semester that Kansas State has made iPads available to all Block A students. It’s been fun learning how to use them alongside my instructors and peers. It seems like most schools are going in the direction of being one-to-one with laptops or iPads, so knowing how to use them effectively and integrate them properly into a classroom is more important than ever.

1) Pinterest

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It’s no secret among my friends that I am a Pinterest addict, but for great reasons. I have yet to find a sharing avenue that is more effective and fun to use than Pinterest: the amount of resources that it provides for teachers is unbelievable. From learning about lesson plans, to apps, classroom management, crafts, projects, Common Core aligned worksheets, unit ideas, and teacher gifts, there really isn’t anything that you can’t find on Pinterest. I have loved so many of the ideas I’ve found, and many of them I have already used in lesson plans. It’s a place where creativity and ideas come alive, and I know that Pinterest will continue to be my go-to resource for the years to come. Here’s a link to my personal pinterest page.

2) Thinglink

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First learning how to use Thinglink was a major learning curve, but now that I have made quite a few this semester, I have decided that it is definitely something I want my students to use in the future. My favorite part about Thinklink is that there are no limits to what you could use it for: any subject or area in school is possible, as well as using it for personal projects. Students would quickly catch on to making them, and it’s another way for students to build their own skills in technology. At the beginning of the semester, each student in my Core Teaching class had to make a Thinglink about ourselves. This would be a great activity to do at the beginning of the year with students to have them introduce themselves to the rest of their classmates.

3. Passion Projects

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Passion Projects were something that I found while browsing Pinterest; I’d never heard of them before. I immediately dove into research about how passion projects are used in the classroom, and happily found a post on my favorite education blog, Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension by Pernille Ripp. So often, school can become a dreaded prison for children whose passions lay in places other than math worksheets and spelling tests. I think that my job as a teacher isn’t to force kids to regurgitate meaningless information that has no personal relevance to them, but to inspire them. Passion Projects are perfect opportunities for students to showcase their talents, skills, and passions.

App of the Week: BrainPop Featured Movie

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brainpopI’ve used BrainPop apps several times, and have found them to be easy and fun to use. I decided to share the BrainPop Featured Movie app because it has some excellent features that the younger kids will love using in the classroom. This is an award-winning app, so if you were concerned about its usability or features, it’s a great app. You can choose from tons of different subjects like math, science, social studies, english, engineering, art and music, even health. There is a new animated movie everyday, and then the students take a quiz over the new knowledge they learned. I can see this being a really great morning exercise or kickoff activity to a lesson. It’s fun, so the kids won’t feel like they are doing actual work.

The price for this app is free, but add-ons and more in-depth features will come with a small cost.

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App of the Week: Inspiration Maps

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inspiration-mapsSince I am a huge fan of visual-notetaking, I thought that this would be a great app to share! Inspiration Maps is an app that lets students brainstorm, plan, and organize their thoughts on a virtual blank slate. It can be used for taking notes, making projects, or just brainstorming ideas. Unlike other concept-mapping apps, you can add text and pictures to create any kind of project you desire. I can see this app being a huge hit in upper elementary and middle schools, and high schoolers could also use it. It would be great for literature or history classes that deal with more abstract concepts. My only issue is the 9.99 price tag, but if it is something that you plan on integrating into the curriculum frequently, then it is probably worth the money.

The amazing features include:

- Friendly design developed specifically for iPad
- 1500+ searchable symbol library
- Record and attach audio to any symbol
- Create an unlimited number of documents
- Diagrams transform to outlines with a tap
- Personalize with images, color, shape, arrow style, and backgrounds
- Refine layout with align, nudge and spacing controls
- Use images from the web or the iPad camera
- Attach notes to any item to start writing
- Add hyperlinks
- Diagrams save instantly
- Dozens of templates are included
- Add written or audio instructions to any document
- Import and export documents between Inspiration Maps 1.4 and Inspiration 9.2 for PC/Mac
- Share files with other apps on your iPad, such as Pages
- Share files with other iPads via Dropbox or iTunes
- Additional templates available in French, Spanish and UK English
- Localized in French, Spanish and UK English

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App of the Week: NASA

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unnamedFor kids with an insatiable appetite for all things space, planets, and stars, NASA’s app is perfect. You can check out sunsets from space, keep updated on the newest launch, and track the orbit of the International Space Station. There are tons of pictures and tweets you can get updated to your phone. I was so excited about this app, because as a secret science nerd, I get tons of ideas on how I can make science more interesting to my future students. This would be a really fun app to use in the classroom, especially when doing a planet or stars unit. You can even make pictures into writing prompts. I also love how this app is FREE! Such a great deal. The website says that seven is the target age, making this perfect for kindergarten through third grade. I can’t wait to use this app in my own classroom!

Some cool features:

• Current NASA mission information
• Over 12,000 images (and growing everyday)
• Latest news & feature stories
• On demand NASA Videos from around the agency
• Live streaming of the NASA TV
• Third Rock internet streaming radio
• Launch information & countdown clocks
• Sighting opportunities (visible passes for the ISS)
• ISS and Earth orbiting satellite trackers
• Featured content section
• Latest tweets from around the agency
• Programs section
• Facebook® Connect and Integrated Twitter™ client for easy sharing
• Map, information and links to all of the NASA visitor centers
• Favorites & image bookmarks
• Printing support

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Reflection Week 15: This Could Be One of The Best Cases Ever Made Against Common Core

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While I am still figuring out my stance on the highly controversial Common Core Standards, I find both sides of this issue fascinating. What struck me most about this argument against Common Core was its speaker, a high school senior in Tennessee, Ethan Young. He eloquently states his argument, and his passion was striking. I haven’t been a huge fan of Common Core (for several reasons, but that is for another post!) but I do think that standards are absolutely necessary in education. Teachers need some measurable way to check if students are learning what they need to learn. Please watch this video, it is worth it.

Reflection Week 14: TEDucation

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As this semester is winding down, I always find myself in need of some inspiration or encouraging message that jolts me back to the reality of my life amid finals, papers, and impending grade reports. I am a huge fan of TED talks, and have used them a few times in various blog posts throughout the semester. There’s something simplistically refreshing about hearing how ordinary people are using their platforms to change and affect the way other people look at the world.

TED Talks aren’t just for the intellectuals or career professionals; there’s a talk for everyone. Since most of them are condensed to 20 minutes or less, there’s a lot of meat in these videos. I also think there are some that are totally appropriate for the primary ages. There are an innumerable amount of ways to use TED talks in the classroom, from sparking debates to informing ideas about education, science, and philosophy. I decided to share a few of my favorite TED talks, so I hope you enjoy!

Reflection Week 13: “Tear Down That Wall: Joining the Global Classroom Community to Instill Global Citizenship”

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This week’s reflection is really important to me. Being that this is 2014, and we live in an increasingly global society, it’s imperative for our children to become open-minded and global citizens. I am also concentrating in English as a Second Language, so fostering cultural understanding and acceptance in students is a pretty important part of my teaching philosophy as an educator. In this article from one of my favorite education websites, Edutopia, the author talks about the need to instill “global citizenship” in our students.

Being a global citizen goes well beyond simply traveling or living in another country. It refers to a more holistic view of the world, understanding the commonalities we share and recognizing our responsibility to help our fellow man and safeguard our planet’s future

I love this. Our students don’t have to be world-travelers or masters of geography to be considered a global citizen. As a teacher, I have a responsibility to my students to break down the walls that divide cultures and countries. But how? What are practical and applicable ways to educate my students? The author writes that International Education and Resource Networks abound for those teachers who seek them out. One of these resources is called iEARN. According to the article, they offer a wide range of global projects for students from elementary through high school based on different subjects, such as science, social studies and math. iEARN also has 15-week Learning Circles. These are interactive and project-based partnerships that bring schools from around the world together to address educational, environmental or social issues. So cool! Another feature: “iEARN also offers face-to-face and online professional development courses for educators interested in becoming comfortable with these types of projects.”

But it doesn’t end here. TakingITGlobal for Educators is another major organization bring students from all over the world together to collaborate on projects that can include technology and social issues. There are even free e-classes offered for teachers that help them create lesson plans and connect them with lots of global resources.

Both TakingITGlobal and iEARN are free resources, and will help teachers engage their students with the rest of the world. I know that I want to educate my students on the importance of cross-cultural acceptance, because in this era, being a global citizen means everything.

App Smashing: Popplet Lite, Explain Everything, & Evernote

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Newsflash: if you haven’t heard of App Smashing yet, hold onto your seats, because it’s a new craze lighting up classrooms across the nation. Using more than one app to make some product or concept, a teacher can help students unleash creativity and engage in learning. You design something in one app, open it in another, and then finally use a third app to finalize whatever you are working on. Some examples: using Comics Head, Explain Everything, and Youtube to make an original ThingLink, of sorts. You start out by making something in Comics Head, then saving it, opening and continuing to work on it in Explain Everything, and then finally uploading it to Youtube.

For my assignment in DED318, I decided to use Popplet Lite, Explain Everything, and Evernote. Popplet Lite is an app that basically gives you a blank canvas to upload pictures and links to create projects or concept maps. Explain Everything is a voice recorder and verbal annotating app. It can be used to record voiceovers and explanations of diagrams or concepts. Evernote lets teachers and students create portfolios and notes that organize and showcase information.

First, Popplet Lite. Since I am concentrating in ESL (and I love geography!), I thought that Popplet would be a great app to use to show how important English is all across the world. Here’s a great Popplet made in Popplet.com that does an excellent job of mapping this out:

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Next, I would use the App Explain Everything to have the students record their own voices and annotate their presentations. This app is great because it allows students to use expansive and unrestricted creativity in what they can do with a presentation. The students would talk about the importance of English (and ESL education!) around the world, while learning that students all over the world are discovering and learning similar concepts as they are.

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Finally, I would have my students upload their presentations or projects into Evernote. I would have my students using Evernote all year to build up a portfolio of their work, so it would be easy for them to store and organize their projects. The reason why app smashing is so cool is because students can own their learning, and connect new information in a way that is relevant to them. They are using and mastering technology, while creating more engaging learning products.

App of the Week: SelfControl

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logoI’m really excited for this app. It’s called SelfControl. Don’t have any? Well, this is the perfect app for you! SelfControl is a free app that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. All you do is set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click “Start.” Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites–even if you restart your computer or delete the application. Genius, right? I know that my studying time is hampering with trips to Facebook and Pinterest. Even messing with my music channels on Pandora can be distracting. This is a great app for students who want to focus more on their studying without the distractions of their favorite websites. I can see this being a great app for encouraging students to download. Studies show that our brains take in more information when there are less distractors around, so this is great for students to download even in the classroom, so you know that they won’t be messing with Facebook and Twitter during learning time.