Monday, November 18, 2013

Quizzes vs. Projects: Words of Wisdom from an Edublogger

I was searching through different blogs of edubloggers when I finally came upon Frank Noschese's site. I was intrigued by the following post:

In this post titled "Quizzes vs. Projects (Mass & Weight Edition)", he writes about how he has seen examples of students demonstrating their ability to explain conceptual topics such as the difference between weight and mass in a fair amount of detail, especially when they are presenting work they've completed as a project. One of the things he wonders though, is if these same students would make mistakes similar to the ones his students had made on his summative assessments. The possibility is that they could.

One of the main points of emphasis during my graduate studies has been thinking of ways to engage students in meaningful learning experiences, and one of the methods that we learned to accomplish this is project-based learning. Standardized tests, written exams, and pretty much any type of assessment similar to these have been under much criticism and disapproval from the public as well as students. Therefore, using projects as an alternative form of assessment is appealing. Using projects as a form of assessment could also promote equity in regards to assessments as there are students who may perform better on projects than on tests.

The most important thing to consider though, is tailoring the objectives of the project to meet the purpose of the assessment. As Mr. Noschese mentioned, do we want students to simply recite Wikipedia definitions from a Powerpoint, or something else? I suggested to him that using backwards design could help him to get students to meet the objectives throughout the construction of the project, perhaps through the use of the rubric. One part that he wrote really stood out to me. He said, "What I’m trying to say is that I feel that teacher-generated questions and experiences (quizzes, labs, whiteboard problems, etc.) are important because they challenge students to think and apply in ways they probably wouldn’t if we just left them to their own devices." I like how he gives a valid reason as to why test and written assessments still serve a purpose in the classroom.

I agree with Mr. Noschese when he says he understands that "projects let students be creative and allow them to demonstrate their understanding in ways that quizzes simply can’t" but as he suggests, "Perhaps the answer is just 'all things in moderation.' Projects are great and all, but I feel that there should be a balance of the methods that we assess our students. We really need to keep in mind what we want our students to be able to do. Then we can decide which type of assessment will best serve our purpose.

Webinars and Their Place in my Future Practice

For my technology in education course, I worked with a group of two of my peers to create a webinar. If you don't know what a webinar is, think of it as a online and interactive web conference. You can present real-time presentations online through voice or video with others attending and participating in the presentation. The topic of our presentation was Cmap Tools, which is a program that creates concept maps. It's a pretty simple and useful program and if you're interested, you can check it out at this site: My group and I created a screencast giving a basic tutorial on how to download and use it. You can find that here: That's enough I'll say about that.

I wanted to take the time to post an idea I had about using webinars and incorporating it into my future practice. We conducted our webinars through the website Blackboard Elluminate, but I'm not too familiar on the specifics for registering or using that site on a regular basis. However, I did think about how webinars could be really useful when I start teaching my own classroom. We as educators always complain about how there isn't enough time in a day to teach all of the material we would like to get through. I personally have a sense of guilt every time I see a struggling student and there just isn't enough time to help that student in one class period. We all want our students to succeed (well I hope we all do), so in order to help accomplish that, I feel that we need to provide plenty of opportunities to the students to receive additional support (especially the ones who need it).

The idea I have is to use webinars not as a means of web conferencing or teaching entire lessons, but as a review session which will be held periodically maybe each week or weekend. I could get feedback from the students on which topics they were having the most difficulty with, or have students generate a list of questions they may have whether it was a particular problem or a part of the material. I could then spend this review session addressing these difficulties. I could also use the webinars as a review session for any upcoming exams they may have, or as an after school ACT or SAT preparatory session. Yes, this would make a lot more work for me, but if it will help my students and especially those who are behind or struggling, then I would be more than happy to take on that extra work. Students who frequently miss class could attend these sessions. Students who can't afford tutoring can get free tutoring from me. The possibilities are endless. The major problem I foresee with this is the students' access to technology and the equity issues that may arise from that. Perhaps, some of you have suggestions for me to get around that. I was thinking I could always record the webinar session, and give the student a flash drive or burn it onto a dvd for them. I know I can record the webinar using the mentioned website. I'm not sure if I'm able to download them, but there are always ways around that.

Let me know what you think about my ideas in the comments, or have any input or suggestions. I appreciate any feedback I can get.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Technology and The Classroom: To Flip or Not To Flip

This past week I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation given by Jon Palmer (Website) on "flipping a classroom." What is involved in this model? In a "flipped classroom," students are given video lessons to watch at home that pretty much take the place of traditional lectures, and when they are in class they work on worksheets, projects, and other activities based on the lesson they learned at home. So in this kind of model the student gets the information at home, and the student does work in class. The logic behind this is based on the idea that traditional style lectures are uninteresting and disengaging so a lot of students have difficulty paying attention to it. Also in traditional classrooms, students are given homework, usually on a regular basis, where they are expected to do it at home on their own even if the homework assignment is difficult. In a "flipped classroom," students are just expected to watch a video at home instead of having to work on difficult homework, and when they are in school they can work on activities or problem sets like the ones they would originally do for homework but this time, they would have the teacher with them to provide any help or support they need. So in short, lecture at home, homework in class.

The idea of it sounds really appealing. Making students only responsible for watching a video at home on a lesson, which isn't too bad considering students probably spend countless hours watching television or YouTube. Students also get more support while working on problems in class, and have access to immediate help and feedback from the teacher. Now instead of students trying to figure out difficult problems or activities at home, they have the teacher there with them. The model sounds really interesting after hearing about, and I can see the potential it presents as it addresses several prominent issues in schools such as getting students to be engaged in lectures and also encouraging students to complete their homework. However, I know from my own experience that there are a lot of possible problems that need to be addressed before this model will produce any results.

First, I'd like you to watch one of the presenter's created lesson videos.

Pretty amazing stuff. As one of his hobbies has been video editing, he above average skills when it comes to producing videos such as these. He created a video where he is able to have three people (all played by him) in the video at the same time interacting with each other. Here's where one of the problems exist. In order for the "flipped classroom" model to work, you have to create these lesson videos that are as engaging to students as the ones Mr. Palmer has created here. He informed us during his presentation that he spends over 200 minutes of planning, recording, and processing for every one minute of the finished video. How many of us has the motivation, skills, and time to put into creating these types of videos for each lesson in a curriculum? Is this really feasible for an average teacher? This also made me wonder about something else. If I were to invest 200 minutes of my time in planning each minute of a lesson, I think it would exponentially increases the quality of my lesson to begin with and students might be more engaged as well as learn more in a traditional lecture.

Another problem that arose during the presentation was the context in which this "flipped classroom" was used. Yes, Mr. Palmer mentioned that he saw improvement in attitudes and engagement of the students as well as quiz grades. However, he used this model to teach an AP physics class. The problem with this context is that most students who elect to take AP courses tend to be highly motivated students who have more than not proven themselves to know the basics of what is takes to be a successful student. In other words, the student for the most part knows how to be responsible for his or her own learning. This translates to these students having a higher likelihood of actually going home and watching the videos on their own. Now consider using this model in an urban "high need" school where students are lower achieving students to begin with who are not motivated in the first place. You really can't assume that the majority of these students will actually watch these videos at home on their own. Even for many who do watch the video, they won't have the necessary knowledge or skills to process that information. How do I know this? Well at my current placement at the Detroit School of Arts (DSA), we are currently using a "flipped classroom" model and these are the problems that have arose during the course of this semester. There are other issues such as students not having the proper technology such as computers or internet access at home.

Mr. Palmer taught at a suburban school which was probably comprised of mostly students from middle class to upper class families. He also said that when he started this model, there was no technology issues either such as students not having access to a computer or internet. In this kind of context, I can see how a "flipped classroom" could produce inspiring results. However, in a context like the one I mentioned previously, I'm just not sure if it's working. I did learn some things I could try in regards to activities, tests, and how to make better and more engaging videos, but I'm not convinced that a "flipped classroom" is the model I want to use in my future practice.

Adding to My Web 2.0 Toolbox

Over the past several weeks in my Technology in Education course, I have been learning about several Web 2.0 tools that could be useful in improving instruction, and they also provide opportunities for innovative activities and methods to engage students. What is a Web 2.0 tool you might ask? According to, it is defined as: "a second generation in the development of the World Wide Web, conceived as a combination of concepts, trends, and technologies that focus on user collaboration, sharing of user-generated content, and social networking."

Web 2.0 tools come in many forms (Blogger is one for example) and it goes beyond static web pages and more towards user interaction and collaboration. I want to talk about one of the tools that I had the opportunity to learn about, and share my thoughts and reflections about its uses in a classroom, and how it might benefit my future practice. The Web 2.0 tool I will be sharing in this post is a popular and widely used tool that goes by the name of Prezi.

So Prezi is essentially a website that creates presentations with pretty cool animations (Link). In other words, it's PowerPoint on steroids. The most distinguishing feature of Prezi that differentiates it with PowerPoint is the implementation of the transitions between slides or "frames" as it's called in Prezi. You upload your images, videos, text, etc. into these frames, and you can select what kind of transition you want to have. The most interesting transition to me was the ability to set a small image in a frame within a large image in a frame. So say you choose your preset background as a giant world map, you can set smaller frames with information within different countries or locations, and when you click on that location the Prezi will zoom in on your image or information. The transitions can also rotate or move along a set path, thus making the transitions with Prezi much more animated and cooler to look at than the ones with PowerPoint.

As I was listening to a presentation about this Web 2.0 tool along with how it can be used for different disciplines, I began to think about how this tool might be more useful for me than using just regular slides from a PowerPoint. One specific thing that I thought about using it for was using the world map background, and then setting frames in different countries that when clicked on it would show videos of mathematical practices or instruction that are unique and specific to those countries. For example, I could put the following YouTube video of children in China learning multiplication and addition of very large numbers using an abacus, an ancient tool that was used for computations like a calculator.

I have always been interested in the different ways math is being taught around the world, and I feel that using Prezi to show these things to students could be a really engaging way to introduce or teach math. Overall, I really like the tool. Even though it's based off a website, you can also download it and create Prezi's offline. The Prezi's you create will also save online for you to have access to at any time. Although I still have some confusion on how exactly to create one as I haven't played around with it yet myself, I can see the potential it has in making my presentations more engaging.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Technology at Detroit School of Arts

My classmates and I were asked to find out what kind of technology was present at the schools we are placed. I'll be describing the technology that is available at the Detroit School of Arts (DSA). In order to obtain the information, I first asked my mentor teacher to answer as many questions as she could. I knew she would have knowledge about most of the available technology at the school for teacher use. I then went to the media specialist, who is also the librarian, as she is responsible for most of the technology in the school. I recommend seeking out your media specialist at your placement for most of your technology related questions, unless your school has a technology specialist.

The most interesting finding about the technology at my place is that every classroom has a with a cart loaded with 30 netbooks. One of the administrators of Detroit Public Schools received a grant promising that every student at DSA would have one-to-one access to a netbook. In total, there are about 700 netbooks available at the school and each student is allowed to sign them out to take home for use throughout the semester. This provided to be very useful as my classroom is implementing a "flipped classroom" where students watch lectures and take notes at home, and do homework during class time. In this current day and age, many people overlook the fact that there are still many students who don't have access to computers at home. Having these netbooks has provided my class with a solution to this problem.

Some other pieces of technology in my classroom includes a document camera which is owned by my mentor teacher, and a LCD projector. It seemed that most classrooms only had a document camera if the teacher had bought one with their own money. It also seemed that not all classrooms had LCD projectors. Although the school has 3 projectors that teachers are able to sign out, I'm curious to know how many teachers in the school don't utilize teaching with a projector and still teaching using the traditional whiteboard/chalkboard.  There is a smart board in my classroom that doesn't work. My teacher informed me that they ran out of money before installation was complete so she just uses it as a part of her whiteboard.

DSA is a special school where students major in an arts field (e.g. vocal, instrumental, dance, visual arts, radio/television). Having "Arts" in the name of the school, the arts program at the school is well equipped in terms of technology. The school has 30 video camcorders for student use and several computer labs loaded with Adobe and editing software. The school has a green screen room with television recording equipment, a fully operational radio station, and a theater with sophisticated sound equipment. I thought about the implications of having this kind of equipment and integrating it with academics. Before this school year started, there was an emphasis by the administrators around focusing on the integration of the arts and the academics. In other words, balancing the student's life as an artist and a scholar. I have yet to put that much though into the kinds of projects that I could do with the students, but I can see great potential for some amazing results.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Digital Literacy in the Classroom

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has been a hot topic in the field of education and is at the center of much debate as to whether or not every state in the U.S. should adopt the same set of standards. I recently learned something about the CCSS that seemed a little troublesome to me in regards to the level of expectations of the standards. For example, the CCSS shifts the content at each grade level down two grades. To give you an example, the content for 12th grade math in the old standards is the content for 10th grade math in the CCSS, which means that students will be expected to master what was previously the 12th grade math content in the 10th grade. In a country where educational systems are being criticized for students not performing at their expected grade levels, people are adopting standards which will increase the expectations of the students thereby increasing the difficulty of the content. Maybe I'm just confused or my perspective is off, but I feel like the CCSS is moving backwards in addressing an education that is equitable for all students.

Another interesting topic to consider is the development of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. This is an assessment designed to measure student proficiency based on the CCSS. I took a look at some of the sample problems on their website ( and from what I saw, this is going to be a very challenging test for students. Of course, I don't have much knowledge regarding the level of competence per each grade level, but it took me a little more time than I thought when figuring out how to solve some of the math problems and I majored in mathematics. The even more troubling thing is when I attempted to solve one of the English sample problems, I managed to get one correct out of four questions. Just when we thought our future jobs as educators couldn't get any more challenging...

One of the major problems that this new assessment presents is that it is a computer-based assessment. Why does this present a problem you ask? Well, believe it or not, there are still many people in this country who are what we consider to be "digitally illiterate". In other words, they are not proficient at typing, are unfamiliar with how to operate computers, and are unable to navigate through programs and applications. In a 5th grade math sample problem from the assessment, it not only required an answer to the problem, but it also asked the student to type the reasoning behind the answer. I didn't learn how to type until I was in middle school so how can people expect a student in the 5th grade to be proficient at typing? How long would it take an average 5th grade to type the answer to this question?

Some of my peers in my class suggested some ideas in order to address this issue of digital literacy without teaching directly to the test. My fellow math majors and I decided to try to put an emphasis on writing out full sentences of answers including reasoning when solving problems. We also decided that we might provide students with additional practice outside of the classroom that required the use of computers and maybe involved typing. The most interesting idea I heard came from the English group. They suggested a day where students would not be allowed to talk to each other with their own voices, but instead they would have a class where they only conversed through a chatroom using computers. This seemed like an amazing idea that could be applied to all of the disciplines. Imagine a math class where students could only explain their answers and their reasoning by typing out the answers. This would force them to be able to express their answers in a clear and concise where so all students would understand. The incorporation of ideas like these are key to providing a creative learning environment that will help students learn and also help students in improving their digital literacy.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Edublogger: Dan Meyer

This was before I started the technology in education course when I watched a TED talk titled "Math class needs a makeover". The talk is given by a high school mathematics teacher named Dan Meyer, who also happens to be an "edublogger", which you can pretty much guess what that means from the name. My favorite quote in the talk is right at the beginning when he says, "I sell a product to a market that doesn't want it but is forced by law to buy it. It's just a losing proposition" ( He is describing his math class and the attitudes of his students towards math. This pretty much sums up one of the largest problems in education today. Students don't want to learn what we're trying to teach them.

He then goes on and talks about how students often expect or wish difficult problems to be solved quickly. He quickly responds to this notion by saying, "No problem worth solving is that simple" and mentions his concern regarding this attitude held by students because he's going to retire into a society that is maintained by the current students today. It was a really interesting thing to consider that what we teach and how we teach will ultimately impact our own future and the future of our children and their children. The rest of his talk is spent about the importance of using layered problems as opposed to problems that require just one equation and no thought process. He also talks about making connections of the content to practical concepts. I remember after watching his talk, I decided to take a look at his blog which can be found at:

One of the most prominent aspects of his blog is the posting of several ideas of or actual lesson plans that he plans on using or has used in the past. The first thought that entered my mind when looking at one of these designs was that some of these concepts are really complex and are high school math students actually able to comprehend this material? I have never witnessed or experience any of the ideas presented by Mr. Meyer so it was hard for me to decide on the perceived difficulty of the tasks he presented. Another thing I noticed is that he incorporates a lot of graphs into his lessons. I'm not sure about the reasons behind this. Maybe giving students graphs helps them more visually? However, Mr. Meyer usually complements these graphs with a series of questions to engage the students in thinking. He presents the students with a practical problem they have to solve, and makes the connection between the problem and math.

The most interesting feature about Mr. Meyer's blog was that when he posted a lesson design or presented an idea for a lesson, he would ask for or include feedback on the post from other bloggers. There were also several posts where he included questions asking readers of his blog what they would change in his lesson or idea. I just thought it was an amazing idea how an educator as experienced and distinguished as he is, is constantly asking for criticism and different perspectives to improve his own practice. He is definitely what more teachers should strive to become like.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Strategy Guide: LEGO English Class

Question: How do we turn an English class into a video game?
Answer: Simple. Turn everything and everyone in the classroom into LEGO pieces and characters.

Just kidding. (That would be pretty awesome though)

In my technology in education class, we were presented with a problem where we had to try to figure out how to design a curriculum of a classroom as a video game. The reason behind this, in short, is that many students find video games engaging but school not so much. So how can we make an English class more like a video game, but at the same time make sure we're meeting the required standards for a curriculum? How do we make a game similar to Call of Duty and at the same time incorporate Hamlet?

I have several suggestions, but keep in mind that I'm a math major and I don't have much knowledge besides from my own personal experience about the requirements or standards that are required in an English class. First, for each book or story you decide to teach, have them turn it into a video game. Make them create characters assigning them strengths and weaknesses, special abilities, armor, weapons, tools, and background stories. Have students create levels for the game, different stages, environments, plots, and even dialogue. Tell students to create a walkthrough or make a strategy guide for the game. This will enable students to approach books and stories in a creative way appealing towards the interests of students.

Second, have students take on personalities or roles that are present within the game. At the beginning of the term, have students select from the options like hero, enemy, support or role character, victim, etc. Whenever a new topic arises in the course, each student will approach that topic from the perspective of their chosen role. I'm not really sure about the specifics of how they might achieve this or how a teacher might implement this, but it would be interesting to see the outcomes.

Third, which would be more of an activity than a transformation of an entire curriculum would be to have students select a book or story, and compare it to a video game of their choice. Have them find similarities between the characters, plots, settings, etc. You can also have the students give their opinions on how to take the strengths of the stories and improve the video game or vice versa.

My last suggestion is for the entire transformation of an class into a video game. Make each topic a level. Assign literature as weapons of choice that you unlock as you proceed further throughout the "game" aka the course. You begin with the texts that are more dull and boring to students as the beginning weapons and as students complete "achievements" aka assignments or homework, they can unlock the more exciting material or unlock new abilities aka class projects that are specialized and are seen to be more fun and exciting. Sorry, I'm assigning random terms from video games to school terms, but you get the general idea. You could have students choose their route or path at the beginning of the course, and have them proceed along that route with all paths leading to the same goal at the end. You can add other aspects from video games like saves or checkpoints where students can return to these points if they "die" aka fail a test or do poorly on an assignment. Each level will increase in difficulty as each stage is completed, and each level will provide new challenges.

If you read my previous post, you would agree that I was one of those students who would've benefited if school was a video game. During a field trip with the middle school students we're working with, we had the opportunity to learn about astronomy from a real astronomer. After the small lecture, I asked a student if he was interested in becoming an astronomer. The conversation when something like this:

Me: "So what do you think about astronomy?"
Student: "It's okay."
Me: "Do you have any interest in becoming an astronomer?"
Student: "Nope!"
Me: "Why not?"
Student: "Because you have to study to become an astronomer."

I had an earlier discussion with this student about where he saw himself in 10 years and he said college. After I asked him what he planned on studying, he replied that he wasn't going to study but instead, he was going to college to play basketball. Back to the conversation above:

Me: "Do you know basketball players have to study?"
Student: "No they don't. What do they have to study? You just catch the ball and shoot."
Me: "Professional players watch and study film."
Student: "That's not studying, that's watching television."
Me: "If I put a science program on the television, is that not studying? Ever watch Magic School Bus?"
Student: "Hmm... I never thought of it like that."

I then went on to describe how the best professional basketball players study the game, plays, player and team tendencies, and methods of improving and developing their own play.

I feel like many students have the same perspective and that anything related with fun like video games can't possibly be related to studying or anything educational. However, I think many of them don't realize what it takes to become a professional gamer. At one point (you can reference my previous post), I was studying a game religiously to become better at the game. I think it is important to make the connection visible to students that we have to study to get good at anything. We can't accept it when a student says he doesn't like school because he doesn't like to study.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Video Game Almost Ruined My Life

It was my 13th birthday. My family had a tradition of always going out to dinner on someone's birthday, and buying presents for each other has never been a popular practice. However just this one time, I decided to ask my mom if we could save the money that we would spend on a family dinner for my birthday and instead, buy a Nintendo 64 with the game Super Smash Bros. On only one of the handful of instances throughout my life, my mom agreed to fulfill my request. This was only the beginning of the my obsession with video games which simultaneously began the downward spiral of my life.. First it was Nintendo 64, then the new Gameboys, Playstation, Xbox, Playstation 2, Computers, and most recently the Xbox 360. The next generation of gaming consoles, the Xbox One and the Playstation 4  are set to release in the coming fall as well.

During middle school, my best friend introduced me to a new computer game that had just released called Starcraft. Starcraft is a real-time strategy game. These games incorporate developing economies and gathering resources, establishing defendable bases or fortresses with means of producing and training armies, and using those armies to attack and eliminate the opponent or opponents. Starcraft was an international success and there are professional leagues and communities dedicated to playing the game. South Korea is the country that is most recognized for popularizing the game and turning it into a profession. They have two cable television channels with programming dedicated to the game.

I immediately became obsessed with the game and in becoming the best I can be. At first I could only play against the computer and not against other people, but in 9th grade when my family gained access to the internet and bought a new computer, that's when the game transformed from a hobby into an obsession. I played the game religiously during high school. I skipped school often and in my spare time I played Starcraft. There was one point when I played over forty hours straight with no sleep, only stopping to eat or to use the bathroom. I met people and joined gaming communities known as "clans" or "teams". I made friendships with some of the other players which have continued even to this day. In short, I was playing more Starcraft than any other activity I did including sleeping. I was committed to being the best I could be and there were many connections to learning skills that were displayed while trying to get good at the game. I studied replays of professional players and learned their strategies and tactics. I practiced my mouse control and typing speed to get faster and more precise with hand movements. I studied replays of my own games to see where I can improve based on what mistakes I had made during those games. I analyzed statistics of my gameplay and gameplay of others, I broke down data about units and characters, their damage output to other unit types, characteristics such as speed and fire rate, strengths, weaknesses, counters to different units, tendencies of others players, time management, etc. I learned team strategies and tactics for any given situation. Due to my competitive nature, I took pride in being better than average at the game, and I took it pretty hard whenever I lost a game.

To give you an idea of how much I played. If you were to combine all of the recorded games from all of the accounts I had online, I probably had approximately 25,000 games played and remember that these are only the games that were recorded online. I played the game offline as well. Each game took anywhere from 5 minutes to over 1 hour. On average, each game probably took around 15 minutes. So this is only an approximation, but using math:

Total minutes played online: 25,000 x 15 = 375,000
Total hours played online: 375,000 / 60 = 6,250
Total days played online: 6,250 / 24 = 260

The total time I played online is approximately equivalent to 260 days. I spent almost 3/4 of a year of my life playing a video game. If you include the amount of time I played offline, and also included the amount of time I've played video games on consoles, this playing time would most likely total over a year. Wow. It's no wonder my grades were so bad in high school. This leads to the questions: Was there any educational value in this game? Why were video games more engaging to me than education?

Starcraft incorporates thinking about systems. You have to construct and main a economy, production, and manage your armies. It teaches you have to develop and identity you can associate with, and teaches you how to interact with others and with a complex system. It encourages taking on challenges without fear of consequences. It develops cognitive processes that can be generalized and applied to other areas such as multi-tasking, making processes automatic, learning how to analyze and apply new strategies and techniques from past failures, applying math to improve in a game, learning the responsibility of being a part of a team and how to function within a team, etc. Is there a way I can incorporate the use of video games in my practice to help develop cognitive skills? I don't know how practical it would be for me to use Starcraft to teach students how to analyze or teach statistics.

I carry a lot of regret from high school. Even though those events have led to me developing into the person I am today, I find myself constantly asking the question: What if I studied as much or even half as much as I played video games? The answer: I would probably have an advanced degree from a prestigious university or I would be some kind of doctor or lawyer by now. I think. And what if I took an approach to education in the same way I approached Starcraft? Would I have developed more intellectually and academically?

One of the most important challenges that educators face daily in their practice is the problem of finding ways to keep students engaged in academic tasks. I know from personal experience, I will try reading long pieces of text and lose my focus, get bored, and take a break or even fall asleep. When I come home tired and sleepy, it's almost impossible for me to read or think critically and my ability to retain information goes out the window. However, when I'm tired or sleepy and I play a video game, my attention and thinking become more focused. I'm awake, engaged, and want to play more. I do agree there are learning skills that are associated with video games that educators can utilize in their own practice like the skills as described by James Paul Gee in his article "Good Video Games and Good Learning". I wrote in the above paragraphs about several techniques and skills often found and encouraged in educational settings. Nevertheless, I think the greatest potential lies in the motivating factor of video games. This leads to the question of how to transform education to become more "game-like" as Gee states in his article. Would that really be beneficial to all students?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Organizing Your Online Life Part 2 and Metacognition

In my "Organizing your Online Life" group, I had the opportunity to learn about (a note-taking tool) and (a bookmarking tool), additional web tools to help in organizing online lives. I'll first give my opinion about Evernote.

  • You can download it onto your computer and your web device and have access to all your notes where ever you have internet access.
  • The most interesting and amazing feature I found Evernote's optical character recognition (OCR) feature. If you don't know what this is, it is the ability to recognize handwritten or typed text from scanned images or photos. The way Evernote utilizes this feature is giving the user the ability to search for words these are contained in these images and photos. This is especially useful for me since I can now upload articles that have been scanned to Evernote, and when I search for keywords it will bring up articles that contain them.
  • Another thing I found convenient is you can create checklists in Evernote. You can then create grocery lists or to do lists on your computer, and access them from your phone.
  • Evernote also has a web clipper tool you can add which will allow you to save or print websites and eliminate all unwanted parts of that website. For example in websites that don't include a printer-friendly option, the web clipper will give you to ability to produce one.
  • It isn't the most user-friendly note-taking tool. The tools within the program itself are not organized in a familiar way. For example, Microsoft word keeps option for new document at the top left while the option for a new note on Evernote is located somewhere in the top middle.
  • It'll probably take time to learn how to utilize and maximize Evernote's capabilities. There is an abundance of widgets (or extra tools) that you can add to Evernote and learning how to use each one and determining if it is useful might take some time.
Uses in and out of a classroom: At this point I'm not really sure of how exactly I might use this for a classroom besides organizing my own notes and having students use it to take notes. However, I feel using Microsoft Word and assigning good file names can accomplish this as well. The OCR feature I feel is one of the most powerful features for organization and I could see myself using this often.

Next, I'll give my opinion about Diigo.

  • Diigo has a feature where you can make annotations, highlight, or add sticky notes directly to a web page and save it for later use. It also has a feature to clip out portions of the website which you can refer back to later.
  • It allows you to bookmark web pages and add your own keywords to those pages so you can search from your own saved list. You can also share folders of your bookmarks to others.
  • Diigo keeps a more detailed web history which you can refer back to.
  • The free version of Diigo only allows a limited number of screenshots or clips of websites.
  • Diigo is more targeted towards people who save a lot of bookmarks or are bad at organizing their bookmarks.
Uses in and out of a classroom: I find it useful with the ability to share your bookmarks to other students and annotating or highlighting web pages to show to your students, but you could also provide a list of links to websites you want to share and use print-screen or print > save as .pdf and add annotations in that way too. I'm not sure if I find must benefit in using Diigo.

In class we played the game "20 questions". At the end of the game, my professor explained to us the importance of giving students access to our knowledge. In this game, the class had the opportunity to think about the professor's thinking (aka metacognition). As future educators, students will always be trying to understand how we think which can affect how they interpret our instruction and the information we present. This can be beneficial towards encouraging students to think critically. However, we can also give students access to our knowledge by making our thinking visible through processes such as "Thinking out loud". This is beneficial for students to learn the kinds of strategies and skills we use to solve problems, analyze information, and complete other important tasks.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Organizing Your Online Life

Last week, our Technology in Education class was tasked with researching specified web tools that we as future educators and our future students may consider using to organize our online lives. These web tools included:,,,,, and We were assigned one of these tools, and had to prepare a handout and a lesson on the tool to be given within our chosen groups.

I was assigned To see my handout, click here. What is Gooru you might ask? According to the website, “Gooru is a free search engine for learning that makes it easy for teachers to discover educational content, organize it into learning playlists, and teach and share it with students to study.” In other words, it is like a Google made specifically for educators and students with organizational tools.

Here are some pros and cons of the website in my opinion:

  • The best feature in my opinion is the ability to create class pages. You can organize all of your resources and share it with your class. In short, you can teach entire lessons and have students complete assignments and quizzes entirely on the website.
  • Another nice feature is the ability to organize all of your resources into "collections" which you can then share with others. The website is interactive which enables you to click and drag resources from your lists of results into collections.
  • And of course, there is a vast amount of resources that are accessible when searching from handouts and activities to scripted out lesson plans. The search filters are also handy as you can narrow your searches by categories, subjects, grade levels, and even educational standards.
  • Registering for the website is a little inconvenient unless you have a Google+ account. While using Google chrome as a web browser, the sign up button was not viewable on the page unless the window was maximized. Also, the registering process was a little tedious and not very straightforward. You have to first enter your birthday and email, respond to a confirmation email, then fill out the rest of your registration information like your username and password.
  • The tutorials aren't very specific or detailed. It will tell you how to create and manage items, but there are no examples of a completed class page or student interactions with a class page. However, this might be due to a new layout for the website indicated by the word "Beta" next to Gooru on the main page.

Overall, I believe that with further development, this website could serve as a powerful tool in classrooms. However, there is the possibility that it could also make direct instruction from a teacher obsolete in the future. Heavy reliance on these tools could result in a crutch for teachers as well. Therefore, there is much potential in most of these web tools being used in education, but that potential relies on the balance of use, and recognizing when and where it is most effective for implementation.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Intellectual development is not enough

In his pedagogic creed, John Dewey states, “I believe that moral education centers about this conception of the school as a mode of social life, that the best and deepest moral training is precisely that which one gets through having to enter into proper relations with others in a unity of work and thought. The present educational systems, so far as they destroy or neglect this unity, render it difficult or impossible to get any genuine, regular moral training."

There is already enough responsibility put on schools and the education system to develop students intellectually, should they also be responsible to develop students socially? Previously, I always felt that it was the responsibility of the parents or family for the moral training and development of a child. Whenever I have experienced a child misbehaving in public, or heard a story on the news about a child being convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison, my first thought has always been that his or her parents didn't raise him right. 

This happened to me just before I started graduate school. I was at dinner with my mother at a small restaurant. This restaurant had a large sheet of paper posted on the wall with a container with crayons next to them and the paper was laden with drawings and written works from other customers. At the sight of this paper, two young boys from a family sitting at a table across from us ran up to the wall so they could add their own artistic pieces. However, since the sheet of paper was pretty high off the ground, the two boys jumped onto the chairs and then proceeded to climb on top of the table so they can draw. Two young boys standing on an old and unstable table where people eat off of didn't seem very safe or sanitary. I looked over at their family across from us, more specifically at the parents, and they didn't respond or pay any attention to their children. Immediately, in response to the lack of response from their parents, my mother said to the boys, "No no no! Don't stand on the table!"

Although the above situation wasn't the end of the world, and my mom probably exaggerated the urgency of the situation a little bit, I still agreed that the boys needed to be told to come down. I'm not too sure about most people, but I personally got most of my moral training from my parents, my religious background, and from the military. The truth of the matter is that many children that we see in schools may not have had that training from their parents, may not even have parents, and might not have any affiliation with a religion. The reason why I, like Dewey, believe that school should be responsible for the social development of a student is the simple fact that every child is required to go to school. 

Dewey also says that school is an extension of social life. Imagine if no one had said anything to those boys in the above situation. They might have gone to school and jumped or climbed on the desks and might have fallen off because my mother wasn't there to tell them to get down. Okay, I'm exaggerating but you get the picture. Also, in class we heard about a high school student tweeting about drinking and other unacceptable behavior using racial slurs, profanity, etc. The student started following his teacher on twitter, but was completely oblivious to the fact that his posts were visible to the public including his teacher. The teacher approached him and told him that the posts were visible, and the student immediately ceased the posts on twitter and most likely resulted in the deletion of the previous posts and maybe the entire account. There has also been instances in the past where students ranked highly in athletics lost or didn't receive scholarship offers from top universities because of twitter posts that were racist or obscene. Dewey argues that education's goals and purpose are the same and that the purpose of school is not only to prepare students for life in the future, but school is responsible for teaching students how to live life now. As soon as I make a connection with a student, I immediately feel a responsibility for the student's intellectual development. I know now that as a future educator, I am responsible for the student's social, emotional, and ethical development as well.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reflecting on the beliefs of John Dewey

Let's reflect on and analyze a couple of excerpts from an article about John Dewey's beliefs.

"Dewey took an early stance against the 'sage on the stage' approach, proclaiming that didactic teaching is not the most beneficial approach for students" (Rich & Reeves, 54).

John Dewey was one of the most influential images in educational reform. It is made quite apparent in many publications about him that he was not an avid promoter of didactic or objective teaching. In other words, he was not a fan of traditional teaching where the teacher stands in front of the class and lectures, which is probably the most commonly practiced teaching method in the United States and perhaps even the world. Even with Dewey's influence, and other great minds who shared his vision, why is this still the most prevalent teaching method?

I'm sure many of our parents and grandparents also experienced this didactic teaching on more than one occasion during their schooling, but their generation accomplished many great things. They reached the moon, developed nuclear devices, developed cars, airplanes, etc. Don't get me wrong, I agree with Dewey that the traditional method of teaching that we're quite familiar with is outdated and not very effective. Maybe I'm the only one who doesn't know the reason for it, but it's interesting that an outdated and ineffective method is still in wide use today.

It makes me wonder about all of the great minds throughout history. Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton,  Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, William Shakespeare, and many others, what set them apart from "average" people in the world? Was it their intelligence? Was it how they were raised or their experiences throughout life? Was it their education? Did they sit in classrooms with a teacher standing in the front of the classroom lecturing? Maybe studying about how these great minds were educated and what practices were used could help us understand methods of effective teaching.

In a previous course I attended during my undergraduate studies, I learned about some of the greatest scientific minds that contributed to the history of astronomy. For one of the essay tests, there was a question about Einstein's view on the process of thinking. One of the key things I remembered from his view was that he believed that there must be free play in thinking so that common sense has no effect on the thought. Why is this relevant? My professor told the class that if we could understand and learn the process of thinking of people with brilliant minds, we could too train our minds and think like them. In that sense, maybe learning about how these people were educated is the key to learning the most effective method of teaching.

"Perhaps the most important of Dewey's ideas that have influenced educational technologists was his pragmatic notion that experience is central to learning" (Rich & Reeves, 55).

I agree completely with Dewey on this point. Experience is at the core of learning. When instruction is combined with experience, that is when learning occurs. For example, we're learning about all the theories and proper practices to become effective teachers. However, we will never become effective teachers without gaining experience and practicing what we learn. We see this not only in education, but in other professions and everything else that requires learning. Without experience to accompany instruction, there are many problems that may arise. Take the military for example. When learning basic marksmanship, an instructor will teach the basic functions of a weapon. Imagine sending a soldier who learned how to fire a weapon from a powerpoint presentation into a combat zone. It's obvious that this is not an ideal situation for the soldier. This is why soldiers will spend countless hours practicing (gaining experience) to become proficient at firing a weapon before they are sent into combat. There are many instances and situations when experience can be more valuable than instruction.

"Thus, even though John Dewey was a stalwart believer in independent thinking, he recognized early on that a purely discovery approach was insufficient, even foolish. The teacher's role is rather to provide guidance throughout the process of learning, to 'suggest an end or plan to students'" (Rich & Reeves, 55)

Dewey advocated the importance of students developing as independent thinkers, but he also knew that leaving students to discover things solely by themselves wasn't a superb idea either. Going back to the military example. Imagine an instructor handing a weapon and ammunition to a soldier and leave him alone to figure out how to fire the weapon. Again, not an ideal situation for the soldier. It is important for the soldier to be able to think independently, but the soldier requires guidance and instruction towards that independence.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Technology in society and in the classroom

As a future educator, especially since the beginning of my educational studies, I've started thinking critically about the skills, knowledge, and practices that are necessary to become an efficient teacher. The practice of classroom organization, however, has never struck me as being overly important until just recently. In one of our classes today, we were asked to draw our "ideal" classroom and specially focus on the technology we would incorporate into our classroom. This seemed fitting since this was the first meeting of our teaching with technology course . This is what I came up with (ignore the scribbled out portion).

Before I give an explanation of the drawing, I'd like to apologize for my artistic abilities. There are five groups of four individual desks grouped together (the squares that look like windows), each group arranged in a pentagon or circular formation around the classroom. Each group of desks includes a tablet connected to a projector (on the group of desks) with a corresponding whiteboard and projector screen (the plain white squares) on a nearby wall. There also two cameras (the two tripods at the bottom of the drawing) in the classroom.

The primary question that influenced my "ideal" classroom was, "How do I create a classroom that encourages collaboration, engagement, and is not teacher-centered?" I began with creating groups of individual desks which will enable students to collaborate in pairs, or in small groups. Also, the circular or pentagon arrangement of the groups allows for large group discussions. Having individual desks will allow for manipulation of desk arrangements for based on needs or just to shake things up. It seems that most professors in the school of education emphasize the importance of collaboration. Collaboration to me also helps develop important skills such as communication, and gives students an opportunity to experience the thought processes of others. Each group has one tablet, projector, and whiteboard/projector screen. This makes it possible for students to present their work for their class to their group and to the classroom. The different projector screens and whiteboards around the class will enable me to teach from any part of the class which will be different from a traditional teacher-centered classroom with the teacher always in the front of the class. Two cameras allow for recording of the classes and group work so I can critique my own effectiveness as a teacher, and so that the students can critique their own work in the classroom as well (at first I thought of putting a camera to watch each group of desks but I thought that would be kind of creepy and students might feel uncomfortable).

I also thought about what I didn't need in my "ideal" classroom. As a mathematics teacher, I didn't really consider including scientific instruments or equipment. Although some physics instruments or other math-related tools might be interesting to have in the classroom. I didn't want a smart board because after using one before, I just thought it was less efficient than using a whiteboard (it took me awhile to write things on it). Any suggestions as to what else I might consider putting in this classroom?

Another interesting thing that happened in was hearing a story about a teacher's problem attempting to figure out how to water a new garden he and his wife had started while they went on a family vacation for a week. He first considered two options:

1. Ask their neighbor he hadn't met yet.
2. Ask one of their friends that may not live in their neighborhood.

Neither of these options were appealing to him because he is a thoughtful person and didn't want to inconvenience anyone. He then soon found a solution. He discovered a device with a timer which you hook up to your water hose, and it will automatically water your garden on the time interval you choose. The problem had been solved. However, he mentioned even though the problem had been solved by the use of this technology, there were downsides to it. By using this technology, it would eliminate the possible relationship that could have developed by going over to their neighbor's house to ask them to water their garden. I have previously heard and thought about how technology can cause a disconnection from the world, but I never specifically thought about how technology could prevent a the creation of a relationship. People generally think of technology as a means of communication and connection, never a disconnection.

After sharing this story with my girlfriend, she told me an example of how children these days are going growing up without developing the proper skills and practices communicating with their voices. She told me about a project in her class where they would have to call CEO's and significant people of companies related to art (she was an art student). When students in her class failed to complete the assignment, the teacher asked them for a reason to explain why. She said that the common response had been, "I didn't know what to say," or "I don't know how to interview someone." Most of the communication used by children (most likely adults too) today in the United States appear to be in the forms of texting, emails, and instant messengers. I didn't have a cell phone until I was eighteen years old and bought one with my own money. Today, I'll go to a mall and see an eight year old walking around with an iPhone 5. I don't get it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the common misconception of technology has been that it is advancing society, and is improving every aspect of of life. The truth that I have learned though, is that technology is like a double-edged sword. There has to be careful consideration of the use of technology, and there needs to be a balance of its use especially when applying it to education in a classroom. In the reading that was required for class, it described a study about the effectiveness and use of television and radios in classrooms back in the early to mid 1900's. Although there was an abundance of missing information, the general consensus was that the use of these pieces of technology failed to be effective in the classroom. Technology and its potential in the classroom may present endless possibilities, but learning how to balance and incorporate its use to maximize effectiveness is the current problem that needs solving.