Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Ideal Educational Setting

Being that I'm a teacher, I definitely believe in education. I feel that it is extremely important for students to have a connection to his or her teachers. Without a connection, many of the students don't want to learn. As an educator of hormonal 7th graders, I feel that I have to work extra hard to create that connection with my students. The way I'm able to do this is through the content, life science, and the tools I use to teach the content. In order for me to accomplish such a task, it requires me to continue my own education and stay on top of the newest and best strategies for my students. In my ideal educational setting, I would like for students to want to learn and for me to provide the best way for EACH student to do such a thing.
Some of the obstacles that I currently face is: lack of support from administration, lack of funds/limited resources, students that are in my 7th grade class that are at a 2nd grade reading level, too many students in one class, lack of parental support, stress and pressure of common assessment scores, and the most recent, district barricades with technology.  In my ideal educational setting, all of these obstacles would be disappear.
Ironically, I work in a district that prides themselves on being one of the best districts in the state, yet we still have so many of the same obstacles as other struggling school districts. So, the question is, how do we change it? The first step is at the district level. In my ideal educational setting, my district administration would allow teachers to do what they want. Of course there would need to be a few restrictions here and there, but as long as I'm doing something that is good for the kids and creating a successful learning experience, it is allowed. In addition, I would expect parental support. In other words, I would like parents to respect me as the teacher and support me by having the same expectations of his or her child at home as I do in the classroom. I would also love the opportunity to integrate and collaborate with other subjects/contents and how they can be used in each of the different classrooms. For example, the English teacher would use science vocabulary words as part of her weekly sentence diagrams.
In addition, I would really love to use more technology! Being that I'm teaching in the "digital era," I want to utilize technology that will make my students successful. Currently, I'm struggling with the fact that my students are blocked from so many tools on the internet. I would really like to take down those barricades. If I was given the opportunity to teach digital citizenship the way I would like to, I think that students can really respond to independence with technology in a positive way.
Overall, there is a great deal I would like to include in my ideal educational setting. The question is, how?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Experiencing an Online Classroom

Since I've been investigating the advantages and disadvantages to online learning, I decided to really take the time to explore. For fun, I decided to join Mrs. Jones' Room. Mrs Jones currently teaches Kindergarten. This week and last (April 16 -27), Mrs. Jones' room is focusing on the Letter and Sound of the week of "sh." In addition to the letter and sound of the week, her class will questions and 25 kdg words.

Mrs. Jones' overall design of the classroom was very explicit of what needs to be done by each student. To go along with the required assignments, there were games and songs that helped with active engagement. It was pretty evident that parent involvement was a must. Many of the daily activities required interactions between partners. Being that this is a class designed for five to six year olds, it makes sense. I really enjoyed all the hands on activities, songs, and kinesthetics that were required. As a parent of a toddler, I was able to see that Mrs. Jones really knows the best way to teach younger children. In fact, her class motto is: "The more you practice, the better you'll get!" I completely agree with her strategies.

It was easy to see that Mrs. Jones uses Bloom's Taxonomy, Marzano's Nine, as well as Constructivism within her curriculum. For example, one of the themes in Mrs. Jones' class in April is for weather. As a way to learn about weather, there is an interactive weather website as well as a daily discussion of the topic. This definitely promotes 21st Century Learning, use of student driven activities, and the use of Marzano's strategy of Nonlingustic Representation.

Personally, I found Mrs. Jones' class to be challenging and fun. As a parent and teacher, I can definitely see myself using this website with my own son!

Online it effective?

This week, I took the time to really investigate online learning. Online learning, also known as distance learning, distance education, and/or e-learning, is defined to be a web-based classroom. Throughout the state of Colorado, there are approximately fifty different online programs that are available from various school districts. Some online programs are designed for strictly high school level, but there are many that offer K-12 education.

Due to the fact that so many districts are now starting to offer online learning programs, I decided to look into them. Before I started my research, my biggest question was "Are online learning programs as effective as traditional classrooms?" Throughout my research, I discovered there were some definite advantages and disadvantages to online learning. However, it was remarkable to learn what these online programs offer students! Online learning provides students with flexibility, time saved, transportation costs decreased,  progression of technology skills needed for future careers, as well as the ability to communicate with teachers on a one-on-one basis. On paper, online learning looks to be the best. However, there are also some big disadvantages. These include things like the lack of face to face interaction, possible lack of the development of social skills among peers, the need to stay motivated and organized, and the possibility of technology issues.

In addition to investigating the pros and cons to online learning, I took some time to interview a teacher that is able to teach online classes as well as in a traditional setting and a student that has taken online and traditional classes. Some of the questions I asked included the following:
How do you like teaching/learning in an online classroom setting?
What are some of the advantages/disadvantages?
Which way (online learning vs. traditional setting) do you prefer to teach/learn in? Why?
Do you feel online learning is as effective as traditional classrooms?

Both interviewees agree that online learning provides a flexibility and convenience that traditional settings do not. The teacher really enjoys the fact that she can communicate with students early or late in the day without any time constraints. However, the one disadvantage to teaching online classes is the difficulty to develop relationships. Due to the lack of face to face interactions, it can be hard to learn each students personalities, quirks, ticks, etc. Knowing each student's personality can really make a difference when it comes to motivation and active engagement. So, she feels that she has to really to work and pulling out each student's personalities. This helps her with keeping students motivated and on track. This teacher really does feel that online learning can be extremely effective, for the right kind of student. Students that struggle with organization and time management can really struggle. As a educator that has the ability to teach in an online and traditional setting. She enjoys both. She likes the ability to connect to students from all over the state as well as see the faces of her students that are in her traditional class. She finds herself taking many of her online strategies and using them to blend her curriculum in her traditional classes. She plans to keep teaching both ways.

The student I interviewed agreed with the teacher about online provided so much flexibility, but she realized this is not the way to learn for her. This is due to the fact that online learning really is student-focus and requires students to stay organized and stay motivated. For her, this was difficult.

With these interviews, as well as other research, I was able to come up with an overview to online education. Below is the link to conclusion:
Online Learning Overview

Overall, I believe education is extremely important. When it comes to education, it comes in a variety of ways. It could be in a traditional classroom with a teacher and thirty other students, or it could be on an individual basis through the Internet, or it could be a mixture of both. There advantages and disadvantages to all ways; the key is to finding out which way works best for you.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Assessments...Personal Opinion

This week I decided to really analyze assessments. When it comes to education, teachers need to be able to evaluate students and administrators need to be able to evaluate teachers. So, the best way to do so is through assessments. As a teacher, I'm constantly evaluating my students, formally and informally. Since assessments are a requirement, there is no question as to why there are so many ways and programs to choose from. Personally, I think that online assessments provide a much better teaching style than traditional methods. As a teacher of 21st Century Learners, I find online assessments to be extremely beneficial to my instruction. I LOVE the ability to get immediate feedback, my students can work and his or her own pace, and I can provide something that is interesting like a review game or online quiz. When I use online assessments, my students stay actively engaged because of the use of technology.

The only time that online assessment hinder my instruction is the money factor. Many online assessments cost a great deal of money. Most of the time, it is out of my own pocket. I do like the fact that online assessments make my job easier, but I don't like the fact I have to pay for it.

This week I took a look at some great resources. Resources can always have positive and negative impacts, so below is a link that provides some of that information:

Best and Worst on online Assessments

When it comes to online assessments, teachers are entitled to his or her own opinion. However, answer this question: "Are our students traditional and like pen/pencil assessments, or do they prefer technology?" Look around, every student has some type of technological device whether it is a cell phone, tablet, or iPod. Students are constantly using the internet, so why not use technology and the internet to help teach them?!?!!?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Assessment Tools...a little bit of background knowledge

Assessments and Evaluations are a requirement in education. So, it is only natural that it be a topic of discussion. As an educator, I am a firm believer in the use of assessments. I use a variety of them that are formal and informal. Some of these include pre and post tests, quizzes, debates, class polls, projects with rubrics, lab activities, lab write-ups, and many more. Personally, I feel it is my job to prove that I've taught my students the necessary science standards as well as other skills that will make my students successful adults. Being that I'm an educator of 21st Century Learners, there are other skills my students will need as they go forward in his/her education. Not only do I teach life science, but I have to teach organization skills, character education, digital citizenship, communication skills, use of technology components, and other 21st Century Skills. As a way to make sure I'm providing my students with purposeful instruction, I have to provide a variety of assessments and evaluations. Being that we teach in the "digital era," there are abundant amount of technology tools available to use for these assessments and evaluations.

The district that I currently work in has certain required assessments that each student will have to take at appropriate times. For example, in 7th grade, my students have to take CoGat and TCAP for math, reading, and writing, however, the 8th grade students are required to take TCAP for science as well. Being that I'm a 7th grade science teacher, and my students are not tested on science every year, I have to provide other forms of assessments. This usually happens through pre and post tests at the beginning and end of each unit. However, the assessments that I provide are created by me, so they may not be considered as reliable since I'm not compared to any other teachers//schools/districts/nations/etc. The way to change this is through common assessments. Currently, myself and the other grade level science teachers are designing a common assessment to use for the next school year.  This will provide a little more accountability and reliability among the entire science department.

Since my district allows some flexibility with site-based accountability, it is up to each school to provide ways to assess and evaluate. Our middle school does have a variety of technology tools in place for assessments. Below is a link to a quick overview of some of these assessments:
Assessments Overview

Most of the technology tools used in the school are geared towards evaluating reading, writing, and math skills. So, as a science teacher, I have to rely on other technology tools for my own assessments. Some of these examples are shown in the following link:
Assessments with Technology (please feel free to add some of your own assessments that use technology to the page)

In addition to the tools that my district/school/me provide for the students within my building, there are a multitude of other resources available to evaluate students and teachers. Throughout my research I found many technology assessment resources that were specific to certain states. For instance, Michigan has the DW (Digital Warehouse) and Washington has the Diagnoser (a science assessment). It seems that every school district has their own database communication tool for grades like Infinite Campus or PowerSchool. Really, the technology tools are endless. The key is to finding the right ones and using them appropriately. In my opinion, assessments are not worth it if there is no purpose to them. Assessments should be used to evaluate students' background knowledge, learned knowledge/skills, and teacher instruction. If the data from the assessments is collected, then is should be evaluated and used. If not, then there was no purpose to the assessments. Technology tools that can be used for assessments and evaluations are wonderful resources. They provide immediate feedback and continuing evaluations of classroom lessons. Technology also provides a different approach to traditional teaching styles because of the amount of continual feedback these type of assessments create.  Once again, technology is a wonderful resource and can be quite effective when used to increase the value of the learning experience...

Evaluation & assessment tools. (n.d.). Retrieved from

(n.d.). How can technology be used with assessment, evaluation, and curriculum redesign?. Thirteen ed online, Retrieved from

Wheaton Shorr, P. (2002). A look at tools for assessment and accountability. Scholastic, Retrieved from

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Virtual conclusion

Now that I've really looked at both sides of virtual realities, my thoughts have not changed. Due to my research, I've become a little more sensitive and understanding to those that disagree with the use of virtual environments. However, I still believe that virtual realities can be great tools for education. Being that I'm an educator in this "digital era" and teach 21st Century Learners, it is my job to be open to using tools such as virtual realities. There are so many positive reasons to use them. They provide students with motivation to learn.

Since I teach middle school students, I get to see the intrinsic attitude everyday! My students are only interested in things that will affect them. Now, being that I'm a science teacher, I feel my job is a little easier because I have the opportunity to provide so many hands on experiences and teach topics like the human body. So, my students do seem to stay interested and actively engaged. However, I still have students that are not interested in science. As a way to keep ALL my students actively engaged, I change it up. I provide real life experiences through dissections and various labs and activities. But, I also bring in the technological component as well. By bringing in iPads and virtual simulations such as Edheads, I've been able to keep my least motivated student interested. My colleague that teaches social studies has an even more difficult time motivated our students and keeping them interested in things such as the history of Egypt. So, she also looks to technology to keep our students interested. Virtual realities such as Quest Atlantis is a perfect example! The key to being a good teacher is to motivate and engage your students. Virtual realities can provide this ability.

I still believe that there has to be a balance. Any good teacher knows that you can't run your class the same way everyday. If you do, your students will be bored. When students are bored, they don't stay engaged. If they don't stay engaged, they don't learn! So, the key is to differentiate and provide your students with a little of everything: hands on experiences, real world examples, traditional lesson, physical activities, and technological components. Virtual realities are great tools, but they can be the opposite if not used in the right context. It is extremely important to the teacher to instill the educational aspect. The best way to do this is to provide the students with a purpose to the virtual environment. Don't just let them "play" but provide expectations and assessments. Really take the time to evaluate the VR and make sure it provides you with that educational purpose. If it doesn't, then keep looking, there are other VR options out there!

A "Virtual Reality" Persuasion

Through the course of this week, I've been able to investigate virtual realities and how they are utilized in education. In my personal opinion, I believe the use of virtual realities are wonderful tools to promote technology and 21st Century Skills. However, many do not agree with me. As I stated in my most recent post, it is easy to understand why so many are against the use of virtual environments. VR users have the potential of becoming addicted to the virtual worlds and are unable to function in the real world. Not to mention, VR's have been thought to increase aggressive behaviors; many people debate they are the cause of school bullying and students killing other students.  Despite the potential of negative impacts, I still believe that virtual realities can be a great tool in education!!

Virtual Realities can provide motivation to students. The allow opportunities for students to become immersed and completely engaged in the content. Not to mention, VR's allow educators to teach students the required standards as well as NET standards and 21st Century skills. In addition to investigating my opposing side, I took some time to "play" on some virtual reality sites. I'll admit that some sites were so fun that I felt myself becoming addicted! Some of the sites I investigated seemed to be for pleasure while some really could be educational. Through my research, I was able to find quite a few sites that are appropriate for all ages. As a way to model Marzano's strategy by using an Advanced Organizer, I created a tree on

Out of the sites that I investigated, I find four sites that I plan to use with my own students:
Discover!Science Simulations
PhET Simulations

Discover!Science Simulations are more for elementary level, but some of these simulations would be great to use with some of my lower or ESL students. However, the other three, I do plan to utilize a great deal, so I took some extra time to really investigate them. Below is a link to the summary of these virtual realities:

Summary of Virtual Reality Examples

To further prove how strongly I feel about the use of VR's in class, I created a lesson plan that I will use with my Forensics class:

Virtual Reality Lesson Plan

Overall, this week has been enlightening. I've been able to see both sides to a tool that could be good to use and possibly has some negative impacts. However, I still believe that the positive outweighs the negative. It is up to you to decide....

Bickford, R. (2010). Youth access to violent video games on trial: The supreme court takes the case. (Communique ed., Vol. 39, pp. 11-13).

Ethical Issues in Clinical Neuropsychology.Eds: Bush, S.S., & Drexler, M.L., Lisse, NL: Swets & Zeitlinger Publishers, 243 - 280 (2003). Retrieved from

Kommers, P. (1997). Virtual reality for education. Retrieved from

Pantelidis, V. (2000). Reasons to use virtual reality in education. VR in Schools, 1(1), 9. Retrieved from

Tan, G. (2009, August 03). Virtual reality games an addiction for local gamers. The Brunei Times. Retrieved from

The Opposing Opinion of Virtual Realities...

Based on my previous post, it is no secret that I'm an advocate for the use of virtual realities, personally and in educational settings. However, there are many that tend to disagree with me. So, to play devil's advocate, I decided to take some time to investigate the opposing side. As a way to organize my thoughts, I created a graphic organizer to show the potential positive and negative aspects of virtual realities. Below is the link that shows my graphic organizer:

Pros and Cons to Virtual Realities

If I were to look strictly at the opposite to my personal view, it is easy to comprehend why others do not want to promote the use of virtual realities. Even though some educators use them in classrooms, the majority of virtual environment exist in computer and video games. Sites such as World of Warcraft, Second Life and Teen Second Life allow you adults and teenagers to create avatars. These avatars can be anything and do anything. When young adults start to design and create a life they want virtually, it may be difficult for these people to become successful in the real world. The lines between virtual worlds and real world can become blurred. In fact, many adult can't function in the real world because of his or her addiction to virtual realities. There are documented cases of people dropping out college, getting fired from jobs, and/or unable to keep a stable long-term relationship because of addictions to virtual realities. By using virtual environments in classrooms may cause the initial spark to that addiction.

Other examples of virtual environments exist in video games. Video games are in extreme high demand and there are multiple systems and networks to choose. Recently video game systems have been changing a few things by creating games that require physical activity and provide opportunities for family bonding. However, many of the popular video games are those that promote violence. This type of negative entertainment has been studied and proven to increase aggressive behaviors in game users. The debate about video games being to blame for school shootings continues to a sensitive subject for many; however, we can conclude that these type of virtual environments may cause some negative impacts. So, once again, it makes sense why educators do not want to promote virtual realities by using them in classroom.

Based on this new found research, I can understand why so many educators are against the use of virtual realities. However, I happen to know a few teachers that use virtual environments and don't realize that is what they are using! When it comes to defining virtual realities, there are a multitude of definitions. I described the one that I agree with the most in my previous blog, but others may see them a little differently. Even though I played devil's advocate and examined the opposing side to my view, I'm still an advocate for the use of virtual environments in education. The key is to teach students how to balance. Create motivation and active engagement among students by using virtual realities but also continue lessons that contain traditional classroom settings and real world experiences.

Resources: Bickford, R. (2010). Youth access to violent video games on trial: The supreme court takes the case. (Communique ed., Vol. 39, pp. 11-13).

Ethical Issues in Clinical Neuropsychology.Eds: Bush, S.S., & Drexler, M.L., Lisse, NL: Swets & Zeitlinger Publishers, 243 - 280 (2003). Retrieved from

Kommers, P. (1997). Virtual reality for education. Retrieved from

Pantelidis, V. (2000). Reasons to use virtual reality in education. VR in Schools, 1(1), 9. Retrieved from

Tan, G. (2009, August 03). Virtual reality games an addiction for local gamers. The Brunei Times. Retrieved from

Virtual Reality...what is it?

Webster's Dictionary defines Virtual Reality as an "artificial environment that is experienced through sensory stimuli provided by a computer." It can be used in a multitude of ways such as entertainment, training programs, flight simulators, psycho-therapy, space discovery, education, and many others. Due to these uses, virtual realities seem to become more and more in demand. In fact, I found over 100 terms to describe various types of virtual realities. Some of these include: avatar, cyberspace, interface, objects (VR), portal, simulator, tracker (VR), virtual prototype, and many others. There are an abundant amount of ways to describe the terminology of virtual realities. To me, they seem to be artificial worlds to learn from and experience.

When it comes to the education world, it virtual realities are starting to be used more and more. Physics teachers use them for simulations, Biology teachers use them for virtual dissections, Chemistry teachers use them to demonstrate molecular bonding, and many others. Being that I'm a science teacher, it makes sense as to why virtual realities are used in my field. As a science teacher, we are trying to teach students about difficult concepts. The best way to teach these concepts is through hands on experiences and visualizations. Being that there is very little money in education, it can be difficult to provide students with multiple dissections or materials to build fan cars. Virtual realities like: Phet, MAVIS, NCSA and others. These have become so popular that iPads even have apps that are useful for dissections such as the frog and rat dissection apps (both I use with my own students!). In my experience, science teachers seem to be the most accepting the use of virtual realities. However, others content areas are coming on board. I happen to know a few social studies and language arts teachers that allow the students to create avatars for presentations.

 When it comes to virtual realities, we, as educators, should take advantage of these opportunities to teach our students with tools that make our jobs a little easier. Of course there are negative aspects to virtual realities; however the positive seem to outway the negative. When using virtual realities with students it provides motivation, gives opportunities to show things that you may never get a chance to see in classrooms, encourages active engagement, builds technology skills, meets 21st Century Learning skills, and many more!! 

I'm a big advocate for the use of virtual realities, personally and in education. I admit that I'm a huge fan of building a Smurf Village and creating strategies on my TripleTown iPad apps. However, I also love to use them in my classroom too! Since I use them in my class, my students are able to truly analyze organisms, pretend to be doctors, visualize what can happen to environments when keystone species are removed, and many more. Of course, I could just tell my students these things, but to me, that is not learning. As a 21st Century Teacher, it is my job to guide my students to become successful adult by developing 21st Century skills. Virtual realities give me that opportunity!


Pantelidis, V. (2000). Reasons to use virtual reality in education. VR in Schools, 1(1), 9. Retrieved from

Monday, April 2, 2012

My thoughts about Social Networking and Digital Citizenship

When it comes to social networking, it seems to be a growing field. Millions of people are able to connect to others through various social networks. So, it makes sense that the education world also embrace this and start using it to our advantage! As an educator, I've learned about some sites that I never realized can make my teaching even better. By using social networks like wikispace and edublog, I will be able to teach my students how to communicate with other classmates outside of the class and take ownership in the work they complete in school. I do realize that it may take some time to teach my students how to use these social networks properly, but once the students are able to utilize it, I will be saving class time! Social networks are attractive to students, so I might as well use them to get students eager and WANT to learn science. 

When it comes to utilizing technological components like social networks, it is equally important to educate students about digital citizenship. To be honest, I never realized how detailed others have thought about elements of digital citizenship. This week, I learned that there are nine different elements to the topic!! Through my investigation into these elements, I was able to create a lesson plan on how I may teach my students about social networking and digital citizenship. Below is a link to my lesson plan.

Social Networking & Digital Citizenship Lesson Plan

Once I created this lesson plan with a classroom policy on digital citizenship, I discussed the concept of teaching this to my students next year, and she loved it. Technology isn't going anywhere. In fact, it is only going to become more and more advanced. So, it makes sense that we, as educators, need to add lessons on how to be digital citizens. Hopefully, many others feel the same way as I do and plan to do the same with his or her students.

Digital easy way to teach it to students.

Since I've been talking about social networking with students, it is important to remember to teach students about digital citizenship. Many others feel the same as I do about this topic. In fact, there is a website that is completely devoted to digital citizenship and providing adults with resources to teach children about the topic. If found this particular website extremely useful when creating my own digital citizenship classroom policy. Since I work at a school that has a mascot of an Eagle and use the positive behavior support acronym of "SOAR," I decided to use it to promote digital citizenship with my students. Below is the link to my classroom policy:

Digital Citizenship Classroom Policy

Since I teach seventh graders, it was important for me to try and keep my policy simple and easy for my students to understand. Hopefully my classroom policy inspires you to do the same with your students.

Social Networking in the Classroom

When it comes to social networking, there are tons to choose! However, there are very few that are appropriate to use in education. This week, I took some time to investigate some useful social networks that are appropriate to use with students. Below is a link to some useful networks and a brief overview to their effectiveness:

Social Networks for Students

When it comes to social networks, students LOVE them. They are attractive and entice students to want to use them! So, why not use them to teach our students. I'm currently in the process of creating two of my own social networks to use with my students next school year. I'm excited to see how well my students thrive with this kind of 21st Century Learning!!! Below are my examples:

Gaunce's Science Class

Gaunce's Class Blog

Social Networking in Plain English...

What is a social network? Who is on it? Which is the most common? Is it safe? ...These are common questions that many ask when social networking becomes a topic of conversation. It is understandable that so many people may have questions regarding social networking because it is so new. In fact, it is not even considered valuable enough for Webster's Dictionary to define! This week, I decided to look into this new found phenomenon of social networking and its value.

As part of my initial research, I went to a common place that many other visual learners may be familiar with, youtube. I was able to watch a video that described Social Networking in Plain English. This quick, two minute segment describes how most connections among people are "hidden" and social networking makes these "hidden opportunities" visual. Most social networks are found on the internet and meant for people to connect online. In most cases, users will have some type of profile that internet browsers will be able to find and connect to it. Once there is a connection, then people are able to communicate from various places all over the world or close to home with others they may have never come in contact with if not for social networking.

In my personal opinion, the most common users of social networks are Generations X through Z. It is fairly easy to find many young people connected to some type of network. However, social networking is becoming more and more common. So, it is not strange to find Baby Boomers and other generations starting to join a network.

When it comes to access to social networks, the opportunities are endless. You can find a network for dating, communicating with friends and family, advertising and promoting your business, creating personal journals for others to follow, discussing educational ideas for our 21st Century Learners, "pinning" pictures, and many more! Some of the most popular social networks are: Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, My Life, Delicious, and many others. I personally use Facebook (and now the addition of Pinterest), Delicious, Linked In, Wikispace, and, of course, this blog.

Due to my use of these social networks, I've been able to connect with old friends, stay in contact with long distance family members, save useful websites, save my progress on my continuing education, communicate with other educators about iPad apps and other educational resources, and, recently, found some great recipes!

Although social networks do provide benefits, there is always the risk of providing personal information online. There are quite a few people out there that are very knowledgeable about networks and have learned ways to find out information with just a few clicks of mouse. Because of these knowledgeable people, I take a few extra precautions. For instance, I keep my Facebook private with minimal information exposed until I accept you as a "friend." Due to some of these type of precautions, I have experienced very little negative impact.

As a side note, as a teacher that plans to use social networking with students in the near future, it is vital for me to protect my students as well. So, I will NOT allow my students to put personal information, pictures will only be allowed with parental permission, and I will continue to teach students about cyberbullying, precautions to social networking, and digital citizenship.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reflection on AUP's

As you learned in my earlier blog this week, I took the time to evaluate Acceptable Use Policies (AUP). To be honest, I never realized how much is needed to make an effective policy. This week, I learned that there needs to be six elements (a preamble, definition, policy statement, acceptable uses, unacceptable uses and violations); however, there is much more that needs to be included.

It is important to make the AUP reader friendly, organized, simple, and the inclusion of liability. In addition, schools districts really need to have another section that discusses parent responsibility. As an educator, I'm a firm believer that students will not be as successful as they could be without the partnership of parents/guardians and teachers. When it comes to technology, this partnership still definitely needs to exist in order to create digital citizenship among the students.

 Of course the school district has its own AUP, but I thought it was important to have one for just my classroom. This week, I really took the time to analyze my school's policy.

Analysis of AUP's

 Although it is a well written document, there is a lot on it, and it isn't personal. So, I created my own.

Personal AUP

I really thought this would be easy, but I found myself doing a lot of sitting and looking at a blank computer screen. It was difficult to decide what was important to include in the AUP for my parents and students. As a way to honor my school district, I included some key components from the district's policy as well as incorporating some of my own ideas.

One thing that I added that I feel is especially important in middle school is cyberbullying. Although my school has bulling discussions with students, many of them don't realize that harassing, jeopardizing someone else's school work, or just making a joke can be constituted as virtual bullying (cyberbullying). As a teacher trying to ensure digital citizenship among my students, I felt this was important to include. To be honest, my own Personal AUP is definitely a work in progress. So, I would love feedback...

I do plan to use this with my students next school year!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Acceptable Use Policies

According to the National Education Association, each school district should have an Acceptable Use Policy that includes these six elements: Preamble, Definition Section, Policy Statement, Acceptable Uses Sections, Unacceptable Uses Section, and Violations/sanctions Section. This week, I took some time to locate my school district's Appropriate Use of Technology Resources for Students, also known as, Student Internet Use Agreement. Below is a link of the agreement:

Student Internet Use Agreement

The district has one policy/agreement that is used by all schools. This allows the technology team at the district offices keep consistency among all schools. Each student and parent/guardian is required to read the policy and sign it electronically through his/her Infinite Campus Portal every school year. The students are NOT allowed to use the school's computer network until this is done. By comparing our district user agreement to the National Education Association's Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) six elements, it seems that our district has created an effective AUP.

My district's user agreement has nine sections. Within in these nine sections, each of the NEA's six elements are addressed as well as a little more definition. Although the sections are not exactly written with the six required elements at the top of each section, it is easy to find them within the nine sections of the user agreement.  The first section, Introduction, can be considered the Preamble. It explains the use of technology is important to enhance the students' education and provide resources that will allow students to become successful adults. It also states that this agreement is in place to ensure appropriate use with the school, district, state, and federal law.  The preamble as well as the definition section continues within the second section, Using the Internets and Communications Systems. Within this second section, the school district included the code of conduct, key terms and definitions, and the endorsement of educational value in technology.

The third element, Policy Section, is also expressed in Using the Internet and Communications Systems. This sections provides examples of computer services as well as what is constituted as acceptable and unacceptable technology resources. The district also informs the parents and students that using the school's access is a privilege, not a right, so it is vital for the students to follow appropriate conduct. If they don't, there are consequences.

The fourth and fifth element, Acceptable Uses Section and Unacceptable Uses Section is the third section of the agreement, Proper and Acceptable Use of all Technology Resources. This section provides specific examples activities that are permitted and encouraged as well as specific activities that are NOT permitted. These two elements are also linked to the fourth and fifth sections, User Security and Vandalism. These two sections provide a little more explanation about not sharing student logins as well as damage to hardware, software, operating systems, or data.

The final element, Violations/Sanctions Section, is addressed in the final two sections of the agreement, Reliability and Limitation of Liability and Parent Responsibility - Notification of Student Internet Use. These two sections inform users that the district is not responsible for any damages suffered by the student such as loss of data and service interruptions. In addition, parents are responsible to provide digital citizenship guidance outside of school. Specifics about consequences to violations are in the second section of the agreement.

Overall, the school's Appropriate Use of Technology Resources for Students seems to address all six elements required by the National Education Association. Some of the information could be a little better placed in accordance to the required elements; however, it seems to be a thorough and effective AUP. If I were to personally write an AUP for my own classroom, I may include some different things that my district does not address, but that information is for another blog post....

As a side note, I took a little extra time to create a wordle of my district's user agreement.
Wordle of Student User Agreement
This wordle definitly provided some insight as to what my district finds to be the most important. I encourage you to do the same with your own district's AUP. It may be quite insightful to use as well.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bloom's and Marzano's Nine...are they effective?

The answer to the question in the title is: YES! Bloom's Taxonomy and Marzano's Nine Essential Strategies have become vital roles in successful educational experiences! This week, I really took the time to evaluate both. My digging into some of my activities and lesson plans that I created for my 7th graders, I was able to visualize how well I'm using the revised Bloom's Taxonomy with Digital Bloom's as well as Marzano's Nine Essential Strategies. Below is a link to this visualization:

Digital Bloom's Integration

In addition to looking at activities, I also took a look at one of my lessons that I completely revised to integrate technology into the new lesson. Below is a link to that revision as well as an evaluation of my use of Marzano and Bloom's:

Evaluation & Integration of Bloom's in a Lesson

Due to this new found knowledge on Bloom's Taxonomy and Marzano's Nine has really changed my designing of lesson plans. I like how each gives me some guidelines and questions to ask myself. For instance, in my old design of my lesson on the introduction to Circulatory System, I used the old Bloom's Taxonomy. Now, by integrating technology into the lesson, I was able to really update my objectives to include revised Bloom's and Digital Bloom's!! This update was fairly easy to do, and my students will have a much more purposeful lesson. So, I do plan to do this will all my curriculum objectives.
I'm currently in the process of designing a blog and wikispace for my students to use next year. By including these things, I will be able to meet my science standards, NETS standards for teachers and students, as well as include 21st Century Learning skills with Digital Bloom's and Marzano's Nine Essential Strategies. In addition to these updates, I'm also in the process of revising many of my old lessons to include technology components. Of course, I will be creating lessons that are using the appropriate use of technology, so I can still incorporate other skills as well. It is important to remember that technology is used to enhance the curricula, not to replace me as the teacher. By using Marzano's strategies and the revised Bloom's Taxonomy, I will be able to make sure that I incorporate everything into my classroom, not just technology.

As a way to improve my lessons right now, I've changed my essential questions and daily objectives to include verbiage of the newly revised bloom's taxonomy. Instead of nouns, I use verbs. For instance, the objective of the day is: Students will evaluate information from fast food menus to determine which restaurant is the healthiest.

As an educator, it is important to share new found knowledge with colleagues, so they may be able to enhance their teaching practices as well. A perfect way to do this is through professional development. If I were given time during professional development, I would be able to share all the information that I posted in my blogs as well as the bloom's integration matrix. Then, I would encourage the teachers to take some of their lesson plans and revise them to include revised bloom's taxonomy and digital bloom's. If I was unable to have time on a professional development day, I may talk to various colleagues, and show them my information in my blog. I've had pretty good luck talking to many colleagues about my new found technology integration "expertise." By communicating with them, I happen to know a few of my colleagues are taking advantage of using my protopage resources. Two science teachers at another middle school even used my Web Quest: Journey through the Digestive System! I even have a friend that is currently teaching science in Australia, and she is using tons of the resources. It is pretty remarkable that technology allows me the opportunity to talk to colleagues from other schools and help them enhance their teaching practices as well!

So, my next step is to add an area to my protopage on Bloom's Taxonomy and Marzano's Nine Essential Strategies. By doing this, it may help get the information across even easier that time on a professional development day. Keep watching for this new information!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reflection on Bloom's Taxonomy...

This week I took a look at Bloom's Taxonomy and its effect in education. To be honest, until I researched the topic, I never know how long it has been around. The whole concept on how people learn came about in the 1700's. Then, Benjamin Bloom first introduced the his Taxonomy in 1956! Over the years it has been updated and revised. In the 1990's Lorin Anderson started to update the taxonomy to include more 21st Century Skills. The revision was finalized and accepted in 2001. The biggest change between the original to the newly revised is the difference of using nouns to now using verbs. This is really create opportunities for educators to design lessons to include active engagement, an important 21st Century skill.

 When I first started my teaching career, I was given the infamous Bloom's Wheel. This wheel has definitely come in handy when setting my classroom objectives. I must confess that my Bloom's wheel still contains the original nouns; however, I have started to change my objectives to include more verbs. Throughout this week, I took some time to ask other teachers if they used the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy or the original. Many teachers responded with questionable looks and sayings such as "I didn't even know that there were revisions to Bloom's." So, I took this opportunity to show a few teachers the new verbs versus nouns. Many of these teachers realized that they already were using verbs instead of nouns for his or her classroom objectives, but never knew that Bloom's was revised to include them. Along with the lack of knowledge of the newly revised taxonomy, many educators also had no idea about the digital Bloom's Taxonomy verbs.

I must confess that I was unaware of the digital Bloom's verbs until I started my research this week. It makes perfect sense to have such things, considering the fact that we teach in the digital era. Since I didn't know about these digital verbs, I took some time to become acquainted with them and evaluate their usage in my own designed lessons. Some of these examples include:

Without even knowing about such a thing as Bloom's digital verbs, I realized that I frequently use many of these in my own lessons. If I were to make a pyramid similar to the one above, I would have to include many more examples because of my lessons that integrate technology. Some of these may include:
Creating - GoAnimate,
Evaluating - Quia, Quizlet
Analyzing- iPad Frog Dissection App,
Applying- Web Quests, Edublog, Job the Web, Quiz
Understanding- iPad Frog Dissection App, iPad Rat Dissection App
Remembering - visuwords, protopage, Cells Alive

To evaluate my classrooms objectives a little further. I took one my lesson plans and evaluated the lesson's integration of the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy and Digital Blooms. In my old version of the lesson, it only contained the old version of Bloom's Taxonomy: Knowledge. Due to my revisions and technology integrations, the lesson now contains the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy as well as Digital Bloom's! Please check out this new revision in the link below:

Bloom's Evaluated and Integrated

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What are Blogs and Wikis?

Another way to provide definitions is by using This is a great tool, especially for visual learners. Since I've been discussing blogs and wikis this week, I made a few wordle examples. These examples describe exactly what is a blog and a wiki.

Blog Definition

Wiki Definition

Friday, March 9, 2012

Blogs and Wikis...are they a good thing?

This week, I took the opportunity to really investigate blogs and wikis. In an earlier post, I included some comparison matrices that showed my research. But are blogs really a good thing? In my opinion, yes! They are great communication tools. However, they need to be used appropriately, as tools to enhance my teaching, but not take my place.  To prove my opinion, I've done some additional research as to how other educators feel about blogging. My research is in the links below:
Educational Research on Blogs and Wikis
Analysis of Blogs and Wikis

Due to my extensive research, I've decided that blogging can be easily integrated into my own classroom. I plan on doing this in a separate blog (separate from this one) that will be dedicated to opening discussion forums up to my students based on the curricula I teach. This plan will come into effect for next school year. The reason for this delay is due to having a student teacher this semester and giving her the opportunity to design her own lesson plans for the class. Having a student teacher has been a gift because I'm able to take the time to create new things like blogs and wikis!!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Blogs vs. Wikis

This week, I took the opportunity to compare and contrast Blogs and Wikis. Both are used a online communication tools. However, it seems that Blogs are used more for personal discussion forums, while wikis can be used by multiple users for group projects, homework assignments, and discussion forums. As a way to further my investigation, I decided to look at three blogs sites and three wiki sites. My findings are in the links below:
Blog Comparison Matrix
Wiki Comparison Matrix

During my investigation, I was able to find some free and purposeful blog sites. My personal favorite was I chose this one as my favorite because it is linked with googledocs, so I'm able to navigate through my googledocs and blogger dashboard with ease. I also like the way this blog site is so user friendly. In fact, I started my own blog a couple of months ago. Before I started my own blog, I had never used such a site. This site made it very easy for me to create my own blog without too much technical knowledge. Although I've expanded my technical abilities, I still enjoy using this blog site the best.
Despite being my favorite, I recently found out that my school district has restricted students to using this site, so I will have to use something different for my classroom. So, for educational purposes, I plan to use I, personally, believe that Edublogs is a great communication tool to use with my students. This site allows me the ability to group my classes, so I may have multiple class discussions or entire grade level discussion forums. Since this blog is designed for educational purposes only, it does provide a little more safety and protection for my students.
Along with investigating blogs, I took some time to search wiki sites as well. Out of three that I researched, I like the best. I chose this site for professional reasons since it seems to be accepted by my district. To be honest, provides almost too  much information when trying to set up the site. I felt a little overwhelmed with all the definitions and possibilities. However, for those that need lots of direction, this site provides it! It also provides an ad-free zone, so it provides a little more protection for students.
Based on my investigation, I like wikis a little more than blogs because of the possibilities. With a wiki, I'm able to create blogs/discussion forums, but it can also be a place for students to upload group projects and communicate other assessments.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Websites that may help with Technolog Integration

Over the course of the last eight weeks, I've discovered a plethora of useful resources. Most of the resources I found are websites. As a way to organize these new found resources, I categorized them into groups. Below is the link to my organized discoveries:

Erin Gaunce's Bookmarks

Due to the fact that I'm a science teacher, many of the websites bookmarked have to do with science; however, there are a great deal of other resources that may be beneficial to other contents and other educators. Within my bookmarks, there are over 100 resources; however, I have five sites that happen to be my favorite: Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators, Quia, Middle School Science Lesson Plans, WebQuests, and GoAnimate. Each of these sites are my favorite for different reasons.

Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators is a wonderful link because it can help any educator come up with ways to integrate technology into lesson plans. Along with lesson plans, there are assessment links with a variety of different rubrics or other tools that may assist any educator. When redesigning some of my own "old" lesson plans into "new" ones with a technical component, I found myself always looking to Kathy Schrock for some guidance!

Quia is another great resource. This website allows you to create a safe "educational" website for your students. You can create review games or online quizzes. This website also has a sharing component which allows you to "borrow" from other educators that may have designed a review game or quiz that may work for your class. It is worth the subscription!!

Middle School Science Lessons has been a favorite website of mine since I was a first year teacher! This is a great resource for science teachers that may be struggling with lesson plan ideas. Although some of the lessons are outdated, it still has some great plans. I like this website as a place to start, then I've been able to find other links or ideas to make the lesson plans fit within my teaching style. This is one that is great for those "first year teacher moments!"

WebQuests is something new that I've discovered while redesigning lessons to integrate 21st Century Skills and technology. Web quests can be a great way to develop students critical thinking and problem solving skills. There are tons of quests to choose from, our you can create your own. I actually created my own web quests for the digestive system using another Free WebQuest Maker.

GoAnimate is another website that I recently discovered. This website is a particular software that is fairly new, yet a great way to integrate technology and 21st Century Skills into curricula. I've had the chance to see some students play with this and LOVE it! I loved it for the possible to develop students critical thinking skills!

Overall, websites are great resources!! Since we now live in this new "digital era" that is constantly evolving with hardware and software, it is always possible to look to the web! As an educator, my lesson plans get better and better because of websites like these. As a science teacher, it is my job to teach my students the most up to date science facts. With new discoveries all the time, the quickest place for me to find information is through the internet. Now, with my new found knowledge on technology integration, I plan to incorporate websites like some of those listed in my Protopage into more of my curriculum. I hope some of these resources can work for you as well!

Reflection on Technology Integration

Over the last eight weeks, I've had the chance to really explore technology and ways to integrate it into education. Throughout my career as a science teacher, I've always been a fan of technology; however, I never realized how valuable it was for education. In the past,  I looked to the internet to help me learn about new science facts to teach to my students, use other teachers' lesson plans that were shared when teaching something new, and communicate with parents and students. Now, I have a new outlook on the ways I can have my students use it!

At the beginning of my eight week journey to discovering integrating technology into the curriculum, I agreed with the following definition:
"Effective technology integration is achieved when its use supports curricular goals. It must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts. " (, 18 January 2012).
I still stand firm in my agreement. Over the last decade, teacher's roles have evolved into much more than just teaching a subject. We not only have to teach our students the required state standards, but we also have to educate them on ways to be successful adults! We now have standards that include character educations and 21st Century Skills. One of the best ways to incorporate all the expectations and standards is through technology integration.

Before this master's program, I used to think the integrating technology into my curriculum just meant that I have my students use computers for projects or a web quest here or there. Now, I realize that technology integration is vital to my students' success! In order to integrate technology it involves much more than just computers. It involves collaboration with other technology experts and time and motivation on my part in order to create GREAT curriculum to meet all my students' needs. If I have these things, then my students are able to stay actively engaged, learn to collaborate well with others, and connect to real life experiences. If my students have these, then they will become successful adults.

Throughout these eight weeks, I've also had the opportunity to discuss and see technology integration among other educators and his or her own classrooms. I've had the chance to talk to others that are considered to be from a variety of generations. From Baby Boomers to Generation Y, we all have the same duty: to teach Generation Z. So, it was wonderful yet frustrating to see how some of my colleagues embrace or fear technology. Those that chose to embrace technology really seemed to create successful educational experiences for his or her students. Teachers that seemed to use very little technology did not seem to be creating the same type of atmosphere. Although all the teachers I observed are terrific people, those that choose to use more technology just seemed to create classrooms for 21st Century skilled students. I'm now realizing that some teachers that don't want to use technology is mostly due to lack of knowledge. So, with some my new found discoveries, I'm hoping I can bring some more guidance to those that do want to learn!

Along with looking at some of my colleagues technology integration, I also took into my own curriculum. I've always taken pride of following Colorado State Science Standards and integrate more technology than some of my colleagues. However, I used to create lesson plans that used technology for more research and knowledge based purposes. I never really used technology to help students develop other skills such as problem solving or critical thinking. In fact, before my master's program, I never even knew that NETS standards for students and teachers even existed. Now, I find myself looking at every unit to make sure it includes these standards. If the unit doesn't integrate at least three or four of the NETS Standards, I've changed the unit to include them! This is my way to make sure my students are able to still learn the content, but also develop 21st Century Skills.

I still believe that technology should NOT replace the teacher; however, it can be a great way to enhance the teacher. By integrating technology, teachers are now able to provide his or her students with a learning experience that includes standards and skills to becoming great 21st Century adults!

I've still got a lot more to learn, so stay tuned to even more of my new found discoveries like the  integration of technology.....

Reflection on Redesigned Student Lesson Plans

Over the course of these eight weeks, I've taken a few of my old lesson plans and redesigned them to integrate technology. Below are some of the lesson plans:

EcoPeanut Puzzle
Journey through the Digestive System
Respiratory & Excretory System Review
Frog Dissection
Disease Project
Circulatory System

Writing innovative lesson plans can be a challenge; however, I think that I achieved my goal to do such a thing. All these lessons not only integrate technology, but also 21st Century Skills. Being that I'm an educator of Generation Z  and 21st Century Learners, it is my duty to take the time to create lessons that will be worthwhile and purposeful for my students education. Each lesson uses a variety of technological resources such as QR codes, iPads, Web quests, online subscription software and databases, and many more. Personally, I found it fairly easy to integrate technology into these lessons. The challenged I faced was making sure the technology was appropriate and didn't take away from me as the teacher. I like to always preach that technology is a tool, not a teacher, so I wanted to make sure that my lessons were true to this statement.

Many of my lessons did not address as much of my classroom management, so I would like to take the opportunity to explain how I run my class. At the beginning of the year, each of the teachers in our building take the time to go over classroom expectations using our acronym "SOAR." This stands for safety, ownership, active engagement, and respect. As a science teacher, I spend a great deal of time discussing safety due to lab rules. I also like to reiterate the ONE rule in my class "Don't talk when someone else is talking." Being that I teach middle school, I like to keep things as simple as possible. This one rule has worked really well for me. My students know that if I'm talking, no one else is allowed. Along with my one rule, there is a three word phrase that my students have come to know quite well: "STOP and LISTEN." The students know if they here these three words, they are to stop everything and look at me. I like to describe my classroom as "organized chaos." When you first look in the room, it may look like the students are acting up, but I can ensure you that I know everything that is going on, and my students are actively engaged. Overall, my students seem to really enjoy my class and I deal with very little classroom management problems. Now, by integrating more and more technology, I expect to see my student even more interested and engaged.

Due to my new found knowledge on technology integration, I believe, I've developed some skills that will be beneficial for my students. The beauty of this program is the amount of resources that have become available to me. Without this class, I would have never taken as much time to look at so many different websites or organizing them into a page like my protopage:EGaunce's Protopage . I've also had the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers and step out of my comfort zone. The lessons that I created (located in the above links) are great examples of my new found knowledge and skills. Hopefully, they prove to be worthwhile for others as well.

As I embark on my next journey, I hope to only expand my knowledge of technology and how I can create even more innovative lessons!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Evaulation of Websites

This week, I focused on instructional software. Due to this focus, I also took the opportunity to review a few websites as well. Using my evaluation rating guide (see link below), I was able to decipher if SuperKids and Education World were good websites. Both websites were focused on children; however, they were completely different.

SuperKids was a website that focused on educational reviews. It analyzed a variety of instructional software and how well they were for educational purposes. I took some time to look at many of the links, and was able to obtain a great deal of information. For example, Algebrator was a software program that that helped students with algebra. SuperKids used a rating scale from one to five to rate the educational value, kid appeal, and ease to use.  By providing this type of rating scale, I was able to see that Algebrator was rated 4's on educational value and ease of use. This type of organization and "reader friendly" material helped me understand a little about this program even before I read the detailed review. 

Overall, I thought this website was organized fairly well. It provided me with a great deal of information as well as some new apps to try on my iPad. The only thing that made me a little hesitant to use this website on a regular basis is the lack of authors. It was difficult to find the authors that wrote the reviews, so it is made the reviews a little unreliable for me. Also, I wasn't able to try out any of the software. Being that I'm a visual-kinesthetic learner, I like to try things out before I buy them.

The second website I evaluated was Education World. As an educator, I found this site to extremely valuable. It was organized very well with all the links at the top! I was immediately drawn to the Teachers link. This link has some great articles that I was able to take the time to read. Along with articles, Education World also provides lesson plans and printable student worksheets. As an educator, always looking to improve lesson plans, I found these links to be valuable. The lesson plans also contained standards and objectives, making this a site I know I can trust on for reliable material.

Along with lesson plans, Education World contained some of its own instructional software as well. Due to the lesson plans being reliable, I found it easy to trust the instructional software. I even took some time to play Penguin Waiter to practice my own math skills!!

Based on my evaluations, I recommend Education World to be the more reliable website. Although SuperKids seemed to have great deal of information, it was not as interactive as Education World. I like the ability to "interact" with the software before I give it to my own students. Based on my Evaluation, both websites seem to be good, but Education World gets my final vote!

Websites Evaluation Forms

Elements of Instructional Software

This week I took the opportunity to really evaluate the pros and cons to instructional software. There are many different types ranging from Drill and Practice to Tutorials. The key to integrating instructional software into curriculum is know when it is effective. There is an appropriate use for instructional software, but it should never replace the teacher. Instructional games may be a great way to motivate the learner instead of a worksheet, but the games should not replace all the teacher "teaching" the material. Simulations are a great tool when there is a lack of resources or funding, but it shouldn't replace every real-life experience.  The key is moderation and appropriate timing.

Throughout my research (provided in the link below), I've found that there are benefits and limitations to each type of element of instructional software. By analyzing my own teaching style, I was able to come to the conclusion that each is great tool to enhance my teaching style, but never replace me.

Elements of Instructional Software Matrix

Friday, February 24, 2012

Field Experience

Over the last six or seven weeks, I have had many opportunities to talk to educators about their viewpoints on technology as well as observe many classrooms using technology. Below are the links to my findings during my field experience:

Generational Differences in Regards to Technology Use

Technology Integration in Practice

During my field experience, I was able to come to three issues with it comes to technology and teaching: lack of knowledge, lack of motivation , and the shift in teaching roles.

Through my research, I was able to discover that there are many different generations teaching to the same new generation. From Baby Boomers to Generation Y, we are all teaching Generation Z. Due to the gap in years from one generation to the next, it is easy to understand why some educators embrace technology and those that fear it. For example, The Baby Boomer generation was taught completely different than Generation Y. This is partly due to the lack of technological resources that were available in the 1950's and 60's than those that were available in the 80's and 90's. Overhead projectors and televisions were new back then, when Generation Y grew up entirely with computers and internet. So, it is understandable why Baby Boomers may be apprehensive and feel completely overwhelmed with all the new technology available, while educators from Generation Y have a tendency to embrace all the new technological resources.

I found this to be true in my field experience. The educators from the Baby Boomers generation, although great teachers, had a tendency to shy away from using as much technology, while the younger generations seem to want to use it more and more. Most of the hesitation came from lack of knowledge. The solution to this is providing the teachers with some professional development opportunities. In my experience, most teachers respond to learning new things if there is a way to incorporate it into his or her curriculum fairly easy and given the proper amount of time to feel comfortable with the new technological tool. During my interviews, there was one baby boomer teacher that was the exception to most of this generation. He really seemed to embrace technology and now considers himself to be "tech. savvy." When I asked him, how he was able to change is original outlook to embrace technology, he responded: "I forced myself to take the time to learn one thing at a time. When I realized how I could use this to make my job, as a teacher, much easier, it was worth it for me to take the time to learn."  If all teachers had some type of incentive, many may be willing to embrace technology.

The second issue I found during my field experience was the lack of motivation. Although many teachers are willing to learn new ways to enhance the students' learning, if the technological resources are not easily accessible to teachers, it makes it hard to motivate them to use it. The accessibility and amount of resources available can cause teachers to be inconvenienced, so they choose to not use the technology. During my interviews, it was not the accessibility of resource, but rather the district's control of these resources. For example, one teacher expressed that it took her almost two weeks to get a website approved for her students to have access to it at school. Due to this frustration, if her students are denied access to certain websites, she won't bother to use it! The solution to this lack of motivation may be to allow a little more flexibility. I've had the opportunity to see two districts. One district only blocks teachers from viruses and pornography; however, they have leniency on everything else. This really allows them the flexibility to expand their own educational technology skills. The second district requires lots of hoops for teachers to overcome. Some teachers are willing to take the time to go through the hoops, but many do not bother, hence the lack of use of technology in his or her classrooms. I understand that many of the hoops may be for protection purposes, but teachers do deserve a little more flexibility.

The third issues I came across was shift in teaching roles. Teachers have always been the original source of information for students. Now, with new technological advances, teachers are now becoming the facilitator instead of the teacher. Some generations are not wanting to become the facilitator because they have been used to be the leader. The solution to this may be to introduce technology as a tool and not a requirement. In my personal experience as a department chair, I've always found it easier to get teachers to accept something new when I don't make it a requirement. By having technology specialist available to help teachers learn "how" they can use technological resources as tools for their curriculum can help alleviate the pressure to make it a requirement. Then having teachers model this new teaching style, may make those that are resistant to be more open to the change of teaching roles.

Overall, I found this field experience to be an eye opener for me. It allowed me to connect with other educators from different generations as well as possibility to see a variety of content and teaching styles. Hopefully my experiences may help others that are struggling with the same generation issues and issues with technology integration.


Bylery, G. (2010). Generations by generations, part i. School Library Monthly, XXVI(7), Retrieved from

Gahala, J. (2001, October). critical issue: Promoting technology use in schools . Retrieved from

Houser, D. (2011). Dealing with generational issues. Profiles in Diversity Journal, Retrieved from

Olsen, K. (2012). Issues in information technology education. eHow Parenting

Sharbel, A. (2012, February 16). ‘baby boomers’ schooled in technology . Retrieved from

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Own Definition of Assessments

Earlier this week, I discussed the differences between formative and summative assessments. I talked about the types that I use on a regular basis and how my district wants the teachers to create more common assessments. Along with these, there is a new form of assessments, on-line assessments. I've noticed that these have become more popular the last couple of years. I have actually started using them more and more over the last few years. Some of the types that I feel the most comfortable with are the quick warm up questions using PollEverywhere, Discovery Education on-line quizzes that coincide with the movies. Recently I've discovered and Quizlet, and I'm currently in the process of redesigning my entire curricula to incorporate these for next school year.

Since is a subscription program, I'm finding it to be safe for my students. This will definitely show my student's growth much quicker as well as have a place to create fun and engaging activities for my students. When it comes to assessments, I truly believe that the ones that I create are much more valid than "professionally created" assessments. Not to be bias or anything, but I think that my assessments are designed to make my students critically think and have proof of more of a depth of knowledge than some of the standardized tests. Our textbooks come with a test bank that coincides with each chapter. I've taken the time to look at the test bank, and I found that many of the questions are to show Knowledge, but none of the questions really address any other of Bloom's Taxonomy. Of course, showing knowledge of the content is important, but I also believe that my students should be able to evaluate and synthesize the same material.

Even though I believe that my assessments are much more valid, I look to professionally created material to help guide me as well. For example, I'm a big fan of Rubrics. Rubrics really help me provide my students with expectations as well as keep my grading fair. When I introduce a project, I usually provide my students with criteria and a rubric. Through my explanations, I really express how to receive the advanced score in detail and encourage my students to use the rubric as a checklist to the project. I've found that other teachers seem to be an advocate to rubrics because they also provide the students with detailed feedback. When I'm grading assignments with rubrics, I usually circle the score and add any additional comments as to why I gave a particular score. By doing this, my students are able to get detailed feedback as to why they received the grade they did. When creating my rubrics, I do look to to help me, but I add some of my own components as well.

Professionally created assessments or aides like do a pretty good job of meeting standards. However, many of the professionally created assessments are meeting national standards, which can be different from state standards. Also, most professionally created assessments do not differentiate to meet each student's individual needs. So, when using these type of assessments, it is important to evaluate them and make any revisions needed. On another note, I, personally, have a hard time with standardized assessments because they are so broad. As a 7th grade science teacher, it is my job to create an interest for science within my students. The best way to do this is by engaging them with topics that are much more in depth.

Some other ways to assess students is to use web quests. As a teacher of 21st Century Learners, I find web quests to be quite useful. I've created many web quests for my students; they seem to provide a great way to create critically thinking components as well as meet 21st Century skill requirements. Personally, I've never had my students create their own web quests; however, I think that would be a great way to challenge them! In the past, I usually provide my students with an assignment with a rubric as part of the web quest. Now, it may be more challenging for my students to write their own web quests and create their own assessment. This would definitely help them develop those 21st Century skills; which are so vital to this new era!

The only type of assessment that I've had my students create was a test. In previous years, when teaching the circulatory system, I've had my students make their own test instead of me. They were required to have a variety of questions that included Bloom's Taxonomy. Along with the test, the students were required to create an answer key. I always found this to be challenging to the students because they have a tough time designing questions that touch on more than just knowledge of the content. Now, thinking of web quests and other formative assessments, I think it is a great idea for students to create other types of assessments. This may be tricky, but providing the students with guidelines and certain requirements may prove that they can create even better assessments than any professionally created ones, or even better than my own.

As an educator, I believe it is important that we provide our students with the skills they will need to be successful in this world. Currently, most teachers are evaluated on their ability to maintain classroom management and create standards based curricula. However, I've realized many schools still do not evaluate teachers on their use of technology and ability to teach students 21st Century Skills. In order for our students to be truly successful, these should be just as important! Throughout my research and field experience this term, I've found many teachers hesitant to use technology. Due to their lack of technology, their students are missing out on some wonderful opportunities.It is understandable to be hesitant to use something that is foreign to your teaching style. However, we are now in what is considered the "digital era," so it is important to embrace technology as part of education. Over the last couple of years, I've learned to embrace it, and technology has made my job as a teacher even more engaging and fun!  Maybe, if technology was part of a teacher's performance review, it may make those that are hesitant willing to learn.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review of Formative & Summative Assessments

This week, I took time to search commonly used forms of assessment. I decided to just google the words: "commonly used forms of assessments." My google search came up with 123 million listings, and the first 100 links were mostly advertising for formative assessments. Of course there were a few about authentic assessments here and there, but the majority seemed to think that formative assessments are the most important.
As an educator of 21st Century Learners, I personally like to use multiple forms of assessments: authentic, formative, and recently I've added summative. I find authentic assessments to provide a quick check on my students' understanding and doesn't take a lot of time. These type of assessments are usually in warm up questions at the beginning of each class, review games, debates, and some Q & A sessions during lab observations. As for formative assessments, I usually give my students some type of written test or project at the end of each unit. Usually my tests are also given as a pre assessment at the beginning of the unit, so I can track my students' growth. Now, our department is working to create common assessments.

Due to the changes to the science standards and the Colorado State Assessment Program (CSAP) and Senate Bill 191, my principal is wanting each department to start the process of creating common assessments. Since Senate Bill 191 is evaluating the teachers based on student growth, the best way to accomplish this is with common assessments. However, this has created somewhat of a challenge for the science world. When it comes to science, many of the topics can be taught a multitude of ways based on the experience and risk a science teacher has with the topic. So, as a department, we have come to a way to make it work for everyone. Each grade level will create a series of 100 standard based questions and they will be put into a test bank. All 100 questions must be used (50 each semester), but the teacher may decide which questions to use and when. They must also use the same questions as their pre assessment and post assessment as a way to show their students' growth. By creating this type of pool of tests to use as summative assessment will allow the with some flexibility to their teaching style and lesson plan frameworks.

Along with the types of assessments, I have started to use technology to aide with these assessments. I've become a huge fan of some rubric creator websites such as Rubistar and quiz creator websites such as Quizlet and Quizstar. As an fun authentic assessment, I've used to create warm up questions for my students and they text in their answers. Usually technology has been very effective for me. I find the online quizzes to be easier for my students because they are self paced and the students take them when they feel ready. Not to mention the quizzes are scored and the grade is sent to me, which saves me a great deal of time on grading! Using tools like PollEverywhere keeps my students actively engaged, especially since they get to use their cell phones in class. These type of technological resources provide immediate feedback and allow my students to use things like cell phones in a positive "educated" way.

When it comes to tracking student growth, I use one subscription system provided by the school district. Our district prefers to use Infinite Campus. This system allows me to communicate grades with students and parents as well as see their IEP's ILP's, ALP's, and previous CSAP's scores. Our Language Arts and Math teachers also use a summative assessment known as Scantron. This is an online program that allows them to show students' growth in reading, writing, and math concepts. However, this particular program is extremely expensive, so the science teachers rely on the newly designed science common assessments that were mentioned above and Infinite Campus.

Through this week's investigation, I have had the opportunity to evaluate the type of assessments that I give my students. One thing that I've never used is a "game" system to track my students' growth. However, through my research, I've found a great website, Quia. I've used this website to create review games for the students to use to study for upcoming tests. So, I wonder if I could use those as a way to track my students' growth as well.....

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Why" Collaborate

"Honor the natural learning cycle" "Teachers rejuvenated" "Focus on pedagogy" These were some of the things expressed in the video "Teacher Collaboration" from the PD360 website.
PD 360 Website
The School Culture Collaboration video expressed the same type of concepts: Less Jealousy, Less Competition, Creates the whole package. One principal expressed that when teachers don't collaborate, then you may have "isolated pockets of greatness" but it won't be as the whole school. By collaborating, you will be able to get the whole package and meet each student's individual needs.

I will admit that I have had a hard time collaborating with other teachers within my department. This is due to my experience with teachers that lack the motivation to play an equal role in the collaboration. So, I, usually, am the one that seems to create the lessons and everyone just takes. I'm all for the collaboration if there are equal roles. This year has been exceptionally hard because I have a teacher that is even secretly taking lessons from my website. This would not be a problem, if this particular teacher opened the lines of communication and ASKED!! I'm always willing to share...if I can have the same possibility to borrow ideas/lessons from them as well.

However, I have been able to collaborate by using new technology tools. This year, as I embark on continuing my education in technology integration, I've been able to collaborate via internet. Along with the internet, I've been able to really take the opportunity to collaborate with others in my building that I've never worked with before this year. Technology has really helped me expand my thinking to tools that may help my students be more successful. Since I've been able to create lesson plans from others by searching internet sites, I've been able to enhance them to fit my teaching style. In return, I now know how to share my ideas with others. Hence this blog!! So, my views of collaboration are starting to change. I hope that I will be able to establish more of a collaboration within my department.

Analysis of Collaborative Lesson Plans

Due to all my research this week on collaboration, I took two of my old lesson plans and recreated them to integrate technology. I was able to do this by collaborating with two specialists at the middle school I teach as well as use some of my own background with technology integration. Below are the links to show my newly designed lessons.

Disease Project (Collaboration Lesson)

Frog Dissection (Collaboration Lesson)

Overall, I found this to be a fairly simple thing to do because of the two specialist that I was able to utilize. Since both my librarian and technology specialist are people oriented, they are always willing to work with those that ask. I was able to come to both of them and let them know I had this idea for a lesson, and they were able to help me integrate the technology component. Due to the deadline for this particular lesson, I wish I had more time to pick their brains a little more, but I know I will be able to do this again in the near future. Personally, I believe that both lessons have been re-created are excellent due to the new technology component. The students are excited about the fact they get to make a cartoon instead of a research paper for the disease project. I had a chance to see a teacher use the software GoAnimate, and her students seemed to be having fun and completely engaged! I can't wait to see my students do the same with diseases.  As for the frog dissection, it will also be exciting to see how the students react. Being that iPads are so new, they are exciting for the students. They can't wait to get their hands on them!! The app I plan to use is really going to help with dissecting. Due to the app containing pictures to go with the directions, it will make it so much easier for the students to dissect and not have to spend so much time reading the directions.

This entire experience was nothing but positives except for one negative component. All the positives include the chance to utilize someone else's expertise, introduction to a new software, and the ability to incorporate so many components (Marzano's Nine, 21st Century Skills, NET standards, Science standards) into a simple lesson. The only negative impact is the amount of red tape my district requires me to go through for technology. Since they control our software, I know that the librarian had to struggle to purchase the software and had to go through multiple people. We are now dealing with iPads in the same manner. I'm hoping that there are enough people that realize that these technological tools are only helping the students' achievement, and it will get a little easier.

Since these lessons will not be taught until later dates, I have not had the opportunity to analyze the student growth impact as of yet. However, due to my experience in teaching these two lessons, I personally think that they will provide great student growth opportunities. Each assignment is geared more for the 21st Century Learners than they were before the revision. So, being that I teach 21st Century Learners,  both lessons should be perfect for them.