Tag Archives: EdTech 541

EdTech 541 Final Blog Entry

Part 1: Reflections

This has been an exciting semester! I have discovered a treasury of resources for integrating technology into an ELA classroom. Although I was not able to find any free tools for improving student writing, I have found a wealth of resources for reading, grammar, and spelling. I have discovered websites and apps that will not only allow students to create, but to learn. The course readings, both the textbook and suggested sites, helped guide my research and bolstered my confidence as I created lessons integrating technology.

The course work has allowed me to master several of the AECT standards. I have created presentations, videos, documents, and charts. This meets AECT Standard 1 (Content Knowledge) which states “Candidates demonstrate the knowledge necessary to create, use, assess, and manage theoretical and practical applications of educational technologies and processes.” I have created lessons using my own products as well as lessons using a variety of websites, videos, and web tools/apps. This meets AECT Standard 2 (Content Pedagogy) which states, “Candidates develop as reflective practitioners able to demonstrate effective implementation of educational technologies and processes based on contemporary content and pedagogy.”  As I have tested the materials and lessons I have created, I have reflected on their effectiveness. I have also conducted research on the relative advantages of using specific technologies in English Language Arts. This meets AECT Standard 3 (Learning Environments) which states “Candidates facilitate learning by creating, using, evaluating, and managing effective learning environments.” I have created instructional design products for short lessons according to research-based practices.

This course has helped me to find better avenues for researching best practices. I have discovered educational research sites that have helped me to make decisions about technology and my classroom. Edutopia has been especially helpful. Surprisingly, I have not converted to the idea of integrating technology 100% into my classes. my research has led to me realize that just because a technology is flashy or new, it isn’t necessarily better. In the future, I will use technology more frequently for collaboration, but I will be sure to included printed resources as well. I personally have discovered that when text is long or involved, especially if it includes details for an assignment, I prefer to have it in print version – or at least in checklist form. I will be sure that students receive a physical handout when I give directions for complex assignments.

Part Two: Self-evaluation of Blog

Content: My blog entries were rich in content and full of thought. In writing most of my entries, I made connections to previous or current content, or to real-life situations. In other entries, I could have done better at making connections. I would give myself a 68/70 for content.

Readings and Resources: Many of my posts refer to course readings and some refer to other research. I cited all of my sources using APA format. I would give myself a 16/20 for readings and resources.

Timeliness: I made all of the required postings, but many were submitted very late in the module, so others did not have time to respond. I would give myself a 15/20 for timeliness.

Responses to Other Students: I responded to two other students blogs for each assigned post. I’m not sure that one response each week was detailed, because the responses depended on what the other students wrote. Some weeks I had two detailed responses, and some weeks neither were detailed. I would give myself a 25/30 for responses to other students.

In total, I would give myself 124/140 for my blogging efforts this semester.


Assistive Technology

In modern society, computer use has almost become a necessity. Students who do not know how to use, or cannot access, computer technology are at a distinct disadvantage. Students with disabilities may be among those who cannot access the technology, especially if they are unaware of the accessibility tools built into most modern computers.

This week I tested the accessibility tools that are available on my work computer.  At work, I use a laptop with Windows 7. Windows 7 has several accessibility features for people with visual impairments, hearing impairments, and physical motion impairments.

Two options that would help people with visual impairments are the ability to choose high contrast themes for the screen, and the ability to magnify the screen. Both of these options allow users who can see, but have difficulty with small text, or color blindness, to more easily use their computers. Another accommodation that helps people with vision problems is the narrator. When switched on, the narrator reads all text that is on the page. With this tool, users can choose to use the computer without any monitor at all. This tool gives users with severe, or complete, visual impairment the ability to use most tools on their computer. Users may still face problems with websites that do not follow universal design principles.

For users with either visual or physical-motor impairments, Windows 7 has Speech Recognition. This tool allows users to dictate text and to navigate their computers using only their voices. I completed the tutorial for this tool, which made it seem quite easy to use. However, I could not get it to type in WordPress for me. I’m not sure if that requires more practice, or if it just isn’t possible.

Other tools that can help people with physical-motor impairments are the on-screen keyboard and sticky keys. The on-screen keyboard allows people to use the mouse to type. It includes a word menu predicting choices based on the first couple of letters typed. Sticky keys allows users to only press one key at a time, for instance shift and a letter, or control-alt-delete. Both of these options would be especially useful for people with motor control, coordination, or other issues involving hands. Keyboard shortcuts are another tool, they allow users to control their computer without having to use a mouse. These would be useful for anyone who has difficulty controlling a mouse.

For users with auditory impairments, Windows 7 has visual notifications, instead of sounds. Users can also turn on captions for spoken text. These notifications could be useful to let users know that they have received an email, or that their printer has started or stopped printing.


Microsoft. (2015). Accessibility in Windows 7. Accessed at  http://www.microsoft.com/enable/products/windows7/default.aspx


Obstacles and Solutions for Integrating Technology in ELA

One of the obstacles I have found in integrating technology in the ELA classroom, is that students do not know how to use the technology. We often think that because our students are digital natives, they know how to use technology. That assumption is wrong. Teenagers, especially young teenagers, know how to use technology for entertainment, but not many know how to use it productively. I administered a survey to all of my 7th grade students this past October. Most of the students responded that the only productive use to which they put technology was searching for information on the Internet, and typing homework in Word. Surprisingly, this year I have had students complain when we use the computer lab because they would rather hand-write their essays.

A solution for this problem is to use technology more regularly. When it is part of the routine, teachers can include a typing component for those students who need it, and students will be more comfortable using technology to create. There are many tools available for students to organize their thoughts and visually present their thought process. Using tools like Glogster, LucidPress, and YouTube, can allow students to express themselves more creatively and may make writing more interesting. One solution I found to students not knowing how to format an essay (or use most of the tools in a word processor) was to create a screen cast showing how and MLA formatted essay should look. It shows the students where to click to center their title, how to change the font, etc. Screen casts, and other videos, are a great solution for students who have been absent as well.

Another obstacle in integrating technology with ELA, is that the resources do not really exist, or they are ridiculously expensive. My school received a quote to use MyAccess, a writing program that includes instruction and computer grading for essays, for $16,000 per year. That’s a pretty steep price for an underfunded public school.

One solution to the lack of materials, is to create your own. There will probably never be a perfect app for language arts, but videos are another story. As I mentioned before, screen casts and other presentation apps can allow ELA teachers to show processes and remind students of procedures.

A final obstacle to integrating technology in the ELA classroom, is teacher training and teaching methods. Integrating technology, and not just using it for word processing and presentations, requires that teachers rethink their physical classroom structure, their teaching strategies, and their classroom management.

The solution to teacher training and teaching methods is to provide the necessary training to help teachers decide when using technology would be be beneficial. I have had several unproductive days with my students while we have worked out the bugs involved with using our hybrid classroom/lab. Since it is a sign-up lab, it feels a little wasteful to take the lab and not use the computers the entire time, but part of integrating technology is deciding what percent of your instruction and/or materials should be technology based. More teacher training is necessary, and more experimentation will help teachers see how to rethink their teaching. 

Integrating Technology into the Content Areas

As a 7th grade ELA teacher, I have found that technology makes my life easier and enriches my students’ educational experiences. I love using technology in my daily life. Texting, social networking, HULU, Kindle, Amazon, Audible, online banking – these are all examples of technologies I access on a daily basis, just on my phone. At work I use an online gradebook, word processing, Google Classroom, and Internet searches. My students use many of these technologies on a daily basis. However, as a teacher, I have primarily used technology with my students for word processing and research. During the course of my EdTech studies, I have discovered many benefits to integrating technology into the content areas.

One benefit to integrating technology into my ELA classroom, is that I help improve my students’ digital literacy. One of the Common Core standards for writing is to “use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources.” This is essentially how I have used technology in the past, with the exception of collaboration. With Google Apps for Education, my students can collaborate within a document, or on our class website. However, there is so much more that technology can do to benefit my students.

According to Roblyer and Doering (2013), (citing Stripling, 2010), digital literacy means that “Students must be able to gather information from any format and, more importantly, make sense of that information, use it, and communicate it to others” (p. 267). That is exactly what a modern language arts teacher is called upon to do.

One issue in the language arts classroom is the availability of equitable texts written at widely varying reading levels. The reading levels in my classroom range roughly from 3rd grade to 11th grade. If I want students to engage independently with a text, I have to pick a low-level text that all students can access, or use direct instruction, which doesn’t really allow for independent work. A wonderful solution to this problem is newsela.com. Newsela allows teachers to create accounts for their students and assign articles and quizzes. The articles are available in a range of reading levels. With this technology, I can have my students read the same article, and engage with it independently.

Another issue in the language arts classroom is writing. Seventh grade students struggle with writing and the writing process. When we have students write an essay on paper, they resist revising and editing because it is a lot of physical labor. It is often difficult for teachers to track students’ writing progress because students lose early drafts and it would be unwieldy for teachers to store every piece of paper students use for writing. The solution to these writing issues is to use Google Docs. Ben Stern at EdSurge suggests reviewing the version history of a document to see how students have grown as writers during the course of an assignment.

A final benefit of technology in the ELA classroom, is the opportunity for students to receive immediate feedback on grammar assignments. Websites like NoRedInk provide grammar assignments based on the students’ reported interests and provide immediate feedback and instruction as students answer questions.

Technology can truly transform the content areas. I have seen my students work much harder on an essay using a graphic organizer on Scholastic’s website than they have ever worked on paper. Embrace the new and discover what works in your classroom.




Social Media and “Walled Gardens”

For this week’s entry, I used Voicethread. Here is the link to my VoiceThread, and here is the link to the YouTube version.

Below is a transcript of the VoiceThread:

Social Media and Walled Gardens

An analysis of how schools could be using social media

By Kjersti Withers

My school district automatically blocks all popular social networking sites and most blogging sites. Many school districts across the US are taking this approach to social media, but should they? According to Webopedia, this is called a walled garden. “A walled garden refers to a browsing environment that controls the information and Web sites the user is able to access.” Why are so many schools placing students inside a walled garden? Is this kind of protection really necessary? Or is it preventing students from learning to harness the power of social media?

An infographic compiled by Edudemic shows that 81% of children age 12-17 use social media. This number exceeds the 72% of all Internet users who use social media (Lepi, 2014). Our students are using social media; it is a phenomenon that is not going away. Instead of blocking social media at our schools, we should harness its power to connect students to ideas and to teach collaboration. The New York City Department of Education, the largest school district in the United States, has done just that. They have prepared an 8 page guideline for students about how to use social media, and have outlined for educators how to use social media professionally with both students and parents. The introduction to the Student Social Media Guidelines states, “Part of being a successful citizen is understanding that social media and digital communications are essential parts of our world today. It is important to recognize that access to information can result in tremendous advantages, but it can also create new responsibilities of which students should be aware.” (2014, Fall. pg. 2). By choosing to embrace social media technology, the New York City schools are guiding students to create a positive online presence that will aid them in college admissions and job seeking.

Schools around the world are utilizing social media to engage their students in the subject matter and to encourage shy teens to speak up. Simon McKenzie, a teacher at Aquinas College, a Catholic school on the Gold Coast of Australia, saw this happen when he used Twitter with his students. “He encouraged his students of ancient history to tweet questions or comments while watching a film clip and ran the Twitter feed on a projector” (Topsfield, 2012). McKenzie reported that students began to interact with one another, and that students who were “very knowledgeable but a little shy” participated in the debate, something that they would not have done if the debate had been oral.

Social media allows students many opportunities to learn from and interact with people all over the world. Skype in the Classroom gives classes the opportunity to Skype with an author, listen to guest speakers from around the world, or interact with another class and guess where that class is located. It also allows classes to discuss topics with another class somewhere else in the world. All of these activities could enrich students learning and pique their interests.

Rather than wall our students in to protect them, we should be embracing the opportunities that social media affords us to enrich our students through interactions with other people. While my school blocks Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social media sites, it does not block education-based social media. I could have my students interact through Edmodo, for instance, or I could use Skype with my entire class. My students could also benefit from maintaining a class blog or Twitter account.



Internet Safety for Tweens and Young Teens

Internet safety is important for everyone, but especially for our students, who are just entering the realm of information. Safety encompasses many different facets of Internet use. We need to teach our students to protect themselves from physical harm, but we also need to teach them to protect their identities, their reputations, and their minds. We also need to teach them to protect themselves from misinformation. To read my multimedia guidebook, “Internet Safety for Teens and Tweens,” click here.

Video Blog: The Relative Advantage of Using Hypermedia in the Classroom

There are many benefits to using hypermedia in the classroom. I interviewed 5 teachers at my school about how and why they use video in their classrooms.

To create this video, I used Explain Everything on my iPhone. I thought that everything was clear, but when I uploaded it to YouTube, a couple of the slides didn’t show all of the text. This was a frustrating assignment because I had to do it 3 or 4 times. I have used Explain Everything on my iPad in the past. However, I didn’t have enough storage room on the iPad to create the video. The iPhone app is fairly new, and it has some bugs. Twice the entire video disappeared after I saved it and I couldn’t find any way to recover it. When I uploaded it to YouTube, it had a couple of glitches.