Category Archives: AECT Standard 4 (Professional Knowledge and Skills)

Candidates design, develop, implement, and evaluate technology-rich learning environments within a supportive community of practice.

EdTech 543 Final Reflection

Because this semester was a shorter summer term, and because I was either out of the country, or visiting family for the majority of it, it feels like it has all gone by in a blur. I feel like all of the assignments have helped me to grow and have given me new information or questions to consider, but I had to really think about what I have learned and what I plan to use.

The idea of a personal learning network wasn’t new to me, although I hadn’t necessarily called it that in the past, but some of the social media we used for our PLNs was new to me. Or, I hadn’t used it enough to consider it a learning tool. I was already using Facebook as my primary news source, but I hadn’t really ever used Twitter. I enjoyed being able to track education hashtags, and participating in love Tweet chats. I will probably continue my participation in those in the future. However,  I probably will not use Twitter with my students. Since I teach 7th grade, my students are generally 12 years old when the school year begins. By the end of the school year, there are still some students who are only 12, which means that they are not old enough to have a Twitter account. If I were to teach older students, I may have them use Twitter, though.

One assignment I learned a lot from was the first curation assignment. I had no idea that tools like PearlTrees existed. I love Pinterest, and will continue to use it for article “clipping,” but PearlTrees is on a different plane. I like the ability to move my clips around so that I can make meaning within a board as well as the ability to create separate boards. I like that I can put annotations directly in an article so that my comments have context. I will continue using content curation as a professional as well as in other aspects of my life. I will also use this tool with my students. It makes research more engaging and forces you to think about why a resource is important.

Another tool I will use is PLNs. I appreciated knowing that a few people would give feedback on all of my assignments, and that I knew who those people were. In most of the EdTech courses, we have been required to give feedback to at least two other people on each assignment. Unfortunately, people would submit their assignment and then give feedback to whoever had already submitted their work. The first few people to turn the work in would receive feedback from half of the class. The last person to turn the work in rarely received any feedback because people didn’t want to have to check back throughout the week. Because we had specific people to whom we gave feedback, we kept checking back, looking for each person’s work. I feel like the feedback was more useful, and more sincere as a result of this method. I will probably have my students create similar types of groups for each unit.

Finally, blogging. This is my EdTech learning log, so this summer’s posts were a continuation of a blog in progress. One requirement of this post is that I analyze my blogging efforts for this class. Here goes.  I don’t love blogging my reflections. I don’t love the idea that anyone in the world can look at my blog and see what I think. But, I do it. I try to cover each assigned topic completely and I try to be sincere and thorough. My learning log is a useful tool to me, even if I would prefer to keep it private. This semester we have had a few assignments that were simply blog posts to be graded later. As far as I can tell, I have completed all of the required blog posts and I have fulfilled all expectations. I would give myself a 75/75.


Peer Review of Social Media Unit on Sharks

I created a screencast for a peer review of a social media unit on sharks. Until I had made two 5-minute videos in Jing, and tried uploading them to YouTube, I forgot that my last screencast was made using SnagIt. I wish I had remembered earlier. My peer review is on ScreenCast because that is the only was I could find to share my Jing videos. I created a playlist, which you can find by clicking here, and I am listing the videos in order as well.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

In the video, I state that I would give a numerical grade of 140 or 145 out of 150 points. The unit meets almost all of the requirements, but the ones it misses are important. I have settled on 142 points.

In the future, I will probably not use Jing and ScreenCast because they are limited. I may use them for student feedback, but only if my school paid for a subscription that allowed more bandwidth. For instructional screencasts, I would prefer to use SnagIt, or another platform that uploads to YouTube.

EdTech 504 Module 3 Reflection

Over the past three weeks, I have begun exploring theories of educational technology in conjunction with general learning theories. What I have discovered is that educational theory has its basis in the primary learning theories, but it seeks to explain not only how we can learn using technology, but how technology is changing the very nature of our learning.  De Castall, Bryson, and Jenson (2002) indicate that we currently have  a theory of educational technology which “takes for granted…the integration of education and technology,” but that we do not have an educational theory of technology which would “investigate technology from the standpoint of educational values and purposes.” An educational theory of technology would rethink “educational epistemology” and look at how technology is changing our learning. Lankshear, Peters, and Knobel (2000) argue something similar and show how the Internet has changed how we learn.

Lanshear, Peters, and Knobel reference Gilster who has described a five-step process for knowledge assembly using the Internet. These five steps include: subscribing to a news service, subscribing to newsgroups and mailing lists, searching the Internet for background information, accessing other Internet sources to “verify or disconfirm” (p. 30) information, and relating the information obtained to traditional non-networked sources such as television, conventional newspapers, library resources, etc. To me, this process of learning is similar to discovery learning. The learner takes a topic in which she is interested and approaches it from as many angles as possible to gather accurate, credible information. This is a process I plan to have my students follow with a project I designed recently. Students will construct knowledge through extensive research, learn to write a proposal, and present their proposal with limited direction from me. I will offer support materials, but students will approach and assimilate the information on their own. However, because I have studied Bruner’s explanation of discovery learning, I realize that before I put students on this path, I will need to ensure that they have the foundational skills necessary to learn on their own.

An additional item I learned from De Castell, Bryson, and Jenson is that in the new media world, information has become a commodity and due to a lack of an educational theory of technology, schools have become glutted with mass-produced instructional delivery systems that do not necessarily take into account learning theories or actual student needs. In the drive to be the best, or to add value to a student’s education, schools purchase these systems without really evaluating their claims. I have seen this in my own school. We recently purchased a reading intervention program because of the hype surrounding it, and we have found that is meets the needs of very few students. It was not created for the complexity of issues our students face in reading comprehension. I have been guilty of this as a teacher, I see a program that sounds like a panacea for all my students learning issues and I investigate. Unfortunately, these packaged, mass-distributed programs only benefit the technology industry.


  • Bruner, J. (1979). The act of discovery. In Bruner, J. On knowing: Essays for the left hand (pp. 81-96). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press (Original work published 1962).
  • De Castall, S., Bryson, M. & Jenson, J. (7 January 2002).  Object lessons: Towards an educational theory of technology. First Monday, 7(1). Retrieved from
  • Lankshear, C. Peters, M. & Knoel, M. (2000). Information, knowledge and learning: Some issues facing epistemology and education in a digital age. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 34(1), 17-39. Retrieved from

EdTech 504 Module 1 Reflection

This is my 12th year teaching. For the first four years, I taught Drama, so my use of technology involved DVD players, body mics, a sound system, spotlights, and stage lights. I often used an overhead projector and an LCD projector. Since I began teaching English, 7 years ago, I have gradually included more technology in my teaching. Until a couple of years ago, that technology was almost entirely used by me. I hosted a class website, and projected notes, and occasionally presentations or videos, from my computer. However, I rarely had the students use technology. Part of that was because I didn’t have any computers in my classroom, and we shared one computer lab between the 47 teachers at our school. It seemed pointless to even try scheduling the computer lab for anything but research and typing essays. For the past 3 years, however, I have used technology somewhat more. For instance, I have tested out Edmodo and MyHaiku class and decided that they are not for me. Google Classroom, however, I like, and I have been using Google Docs for 3 years. Since starting my Edtech Master’s, I have realized even more how little I truly use technology for instruction or student products. I have had glimpses over the years, insights about how technology could be useful in certain situations, but when I tried to act on those insights, classroom management became a nightmare. This past week, for instance, I tried to create centers for my students so that they were all occupied and could rotate through using my 9 classroom computers to finish enrolling in Google Classroom and Newsela and to complete an assignment in Newsela. Every center, regardless of how easy I thought it was, required my help and I spent most of my time racing between helping students work on a literature assignment or assemble portfolio folders, and resetting students’ passwords so they could logon to my Chromebooks. I have tried for years to differentiate my instruction, and I see how technology can help, but my classroom management has not caught up with my instructional vision.

For several years, I have wavered between accepting/merging a couple of educational theories. I’m not sure to which I subscribe most right now. One of the changes I wish to see as a result of my experiences in EdTech 504 is to decide what I actually believe about educational theories and arrange my students’ classroom experiences accordingly. While I don’t love direct instruction, I do feel that it has its place, but I feel like it takes over. I feel the same way about student constructed learning activities. Neither seem to get to the core of what I feel my students need. My feelings about technology use go along the same lines. I waver between wanting students to use technology as much as possible, and wanting students to do many things the “old” way with physical books and paper and pencil. I hope that this course can help me decide a path to take and allow me the peace of mind to stick with that path once I begin down it.

Because I am one of the few teachers who has tried several different technologies and web 2.0 capabilities, I am often looked to as someone who “knows” technology. As a result, the office staff and administrators often recommend teachers to me when they have questions or problems with their computers or with the software we use, especially if those teachers use a PC. This reputation has allowed me to influence some of the decisions my school has made about purchasing subscriptions to online programs, as well as to convince my fellow ELA teachers to try new assignments using technology. Last spring, I was able to convince my school to subscribe to Newsela as a result of my experiments with it. I hope that my experiences in the EdTech program and with my own experiments with technology in the classroom will lead others to test different technologies in their instruction as well.

EdTech 542 Self-Evaluation

This class has been a challenge. Not because I do not understand Project Based Learning, but because I simply have not had time to process and create. I feel that the aspects of Project Based Learning that I understand best are the Driving Question and the Entry Event. The Driving Question is essential to PBL, because it guides the inquiry. Students should be required to dig into the material and come to their own conclusions. In order for this to happen, the question must be open-ended and not tied to a specific event or time period (if possible). The Entry Event is where you grab the students’ interest. If the Entry Event is not compelling, if the problem or project you present is not interesting, then Project Based Learning will not attract the students any more than direct instruction because the work will just seem like work.

I don’t think that there is anything about Project Based Learning that I don’t understand, but what has challenged me most is managing the process. I understand the concepts, but I know that I struggle with balancing direct instruction and independent learning. I tend to instruct too much or let the students have so much freedom that they don’t really know what to do. The key is to try to prepare as much of the material ahead as possible. I know my students will need some instruction on source citation and on research. I also know that they will need some guidance on organizing their notes. I can prepare materials in anticipation of their questions. Another key to my struggle with managing the process is time. I need to be sure that I have time to check the students’ work so that they can receive feedback. Formative assessments aren’t really formative if you never grade them. Because of time constraints in the past, that has actually happened. I hope that by preparing all of the rubrics ahead of time (I know; it’s obvious) I will be better prepared to evaluate the students’ progress and determine their needs as we progress through the project.

I came into this class without any real expectations about what I would learn, but I have learned so much. PBL is similar to Understanding by Design in many ways, so I was familiar with the process of backward design and driving, or essential, questions. What is different, is the focus on the project teaching the content, rather than demonstrating understanding of the content. Using the project to teach makes so much sense. As I read the class materials and the textbook, I realized that this was what I already believed. What I didn’t know was how to implement it. Having to create an organized website for someone else to use has helped me to focus and to plan ahead. If I had come up with my project ideas during the school year, not as part of a graded class, I would have jumped in and expected the students to figure things out with me, without any support materials in place – no rubrics, no templates, no instructions. I would have conducted an Entry Event and orally given the students directions. This is what I have done in the past. So having to create a project for a grade has forced me to slow down and plan out every aspect of the project before using it. I have learned to slow down and to plan ahead. I have learned to force myself to pay attention to the details. I am still plugging all of the details into my website, I have a lot of materials to create, but I feel more organized and my ideas feel more well-thought-out than in the past.

I plan to use my Lead an Expedition project with my students this year. We start school next week and will probably start the project in mid-September. We will not work exclusively on the project, because we need to spend time on literature as well, but I am excited to see how it plays out. Since this is supposed to be part of a larger, year-long project, I plan to work out the details for part II as soon as possible and possibly implement that part of the project this year. As a teacher leader at my school, I plan to encourage other teachers to work collaboratively with me to develop this project, and a couple of others I have in mind, into interdisciplinary projects. This particular project would work best with social studies, but I have a couple of ideas that would work well with science as well.

In all, this class has been invaluable to my education. I didn’t necessarily learn any new content, but I have learned to slow down and prepare in detail. Now I just need to learn to speed up the process of preparing materials.

Here is the link to my PBL website. I am still determining the overall project title, but I have renamed the Part I project to Lead an Expedition. If I have time, I may reorganize the site to separate the three projects that make up the larger, year-long project.

After PBL – Debriefing

Debriefing is an important part of the PBL process. Once a project is over, you need to analyze what worked and what did not. For instance, in planning my Create-a-Civilization project, I am unsure about the overall project timeline. So, assessing how well the project worked in my 3 month time frame will be part of my debriefing process. To determine whether the time frame is appropriate, I will look at what each student learned and was able to accomplish during the project, as well as solicit feedback from the students. Since I am not collaborating with another teacher on this project, I will ask for feedback from colleagues, but the student, and even parent, feedback will be more useful.

To begin the debriefing, I will ask students to write about how they felt about the project. Although I want this discussion to be as open-ended as possible, I will provide students with some questions to answer so that they don’t just say they liked it or didn’t like it and then not give any more input. I will ask the students to discuss how they felt about the amount of time provided, the access to resources to complete the project, the grouping strategies, and the materials provided. I will try to keep questions about these components as open-ended as possible.

On my own, I will look at the quality of the assessments, both formative and summative, and the students performance on those assessments. I will decide whether students needed more support, whether the assessments were clear and well-structured, and whether the assessments really assess the learning objectives.

Assessment of a PBL is not a one-time process. It should occur before and after you use the unit. I also think it is useful to reflect on the effectiveness of the PBL throughout the school year, each time the students are required to retrieve content knowledge or use skills that should have been learned during the unit. Is it an effective PBL unit if the students cannot replicate the skills months later? In order to keep a record of my reflections, I will probably create a hidden blog page on the PBL website. This will allow me to keep all of my materials for the PBL in one place. If I decide that my reflections would be useful to someone else, I will make the page public.

Managing the PBL process

As I include more project-based learning in my classroom, I will have to change the way I teach. I have always enjoyed having my students complete projects to learn, and I have required them to work in groups, but I haven’t always adequately prepared materials in advance of projects. One thing I will have to change about my teaching is that I will need to prepare far in advance. Rather than creating a rubric days before a project is due (or just grading without one), I will need to create, or include my students in creating, a rubric that spells out the requirements of the project, and I will need to create the rubric before introducing my students to the project through the entry event.

Another change that I will need to make for effective PBL to occur in my classroom, is that I need to be a better facilitator. In the past, I have over-helped student groups while moving around the room to check on them. Or, I have gone to the other extreme and completely ignored the students and graded papers while they worked. I will need to move around the room with purpose and be prepared to steer students in the right direction without over-directing or making decisions for them.

I believe that the project I am currently designing will be a good project for students to learn the skills they will need to complete other assignments. The purpose of the project is for students to practice research and writing skills, which are basic skills they would need to complete any future projects. I am hoping that this project will prepare my students for the rest of the school year. I plan to begin this project about 3 weeks into the school year, so my students will be well-prepared for future writing assignments. This project will also introduce my students to the themes of Need and Choice which we will use to examine literature throughout the year.

The main change I will need to make as a teacher, is to prepare ahead of time for projects. I often have an idea, usually of epic proportions, and I jump right into it the next day (or later the same day) without taking the time to prepare materials, decide upon final products, or determine its requirements. To be successful in using PBL as an instructional strategy, I will need to slow down, organize, and prepare in advance. Once a project is up and running I am usually adept at mentoring students in completing it, if it has been properly designed. So, the real change will be taking time to completely design projects in advance.

Here is the website for my current PBL, (currently titled) What do You Need?