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Website Scavenger Hunt Tutorial
My life never fully got back on track after Super Storm Sandy hit in October, 2012.  With our power restored over a week later, my family was fortunate to not have been majorly affected.  Yet, mentally, I lost focus and momentum that have not been fully regained.  I can't imagine the daily struggle teachers who lost their loved ones, homes, and cars must still be experiencing.

With three marking periods under my belt and summer vacation in sight, I am feeling a bit refreshed.  The dawning of spring usually improves my mood, with its sunnier and warmer days.  Spring is when I traditionally take time to spruce up my wardrobe, try out new hairstyles, and recommit to a healthier diet along with being more active.  Now that I'm feeling a bit more on top of things and relaxed, I am making this attempt to start blogging again.  No promises, but we'll take it a week at a time and see how it goes.

Today, I am excited to discuss some breakthroughs I made over the weekend, while redoing a scavenger hunt tutorial for my class website.  I have been using the pro version of Screencast-O-Matic since 2010.  Hands down, it is the best $15 out of what I spend each year on web tools.  With the pro version, I have access to very useful editing tools. 

This weekend I learned to use the script tool.  Since my tutorial is pretty long--18 minutes--the script tool helped me by chunking it into easier to manage parts.  I was able to record my voice first, then record the screenshots by following my own directions.  I was also able to add my own Power Point slide (saved as a .jpeg file) to the video, prompting my students to pause the tutorial and complete tasks.  What a difference from the original recording--so much more professional!

Anyone interested in taking an in-depth look at my class website is encouraged to check out the tutorial on the left.  After going to the tutorial, you can start by opening a new tab, entering this URL: tinyurl.com/mmstechclass, and toggling back and forth between the tutorial and the live website.

Enjoy!
 
 
I can hardly believe it has been over a month since my last blog post.  Super Storm Sandy knocked me off course and coincided with the beginning of a new marking period.  Hopefully, I will begin posting regularly again soon.  Meanwhile, I am posting briefly today to introduce two exciting new features of both my blog and my lesson plans.

First, I would like to express many thanks to Ingrid Daniels of ID Stationery for designing the exquisite logo/profile picture.  I am absolutely amazed by the quality and detail--it is truly a personalized work of art that I will always treasure!  I highly recommend ID Stationery for all graphic needs: logos, business cards, invitations, announcements, tags and more.  They go above and beyond and the prices are extremely reasonable.

Secondly, I send love and appreciation to my son, who wrote the code for my customized Edmodo game and uploaded it to my Weebly site.  This was his first paid “gig” and he maintained professionalism throughout the entire process.  His fees are also quite reasonable (of course I qualiified for a family discount).   My second marking period students loved playing the game and it helped them to do very well on their Edmodo quiz (here’s the answer key).

That’s all for now.  Please look for my next post--coming soon!

 
 
Listen to Ms. Thompson read this post on Podomatic!
































































































































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Assignment Tracker
 I signed up for Edmodo in spring of 2011, while working full time as an integration specialist/teacher mentor.  At the time, I did not foresee what an integral part of my life this learning management system (LMS) would become.  I made a couple of teacher connections, figured out ways to earn badges on my profile, and set up a few sample student accounts--that was about it.  But my perspective changed over the summer, as I made preparations to teach three brand new middle school technology courses.

The first marking period of use served as an experiment for my students and me.  We learned how to navigate our class page and to filter messages and assignments.  We learned that carefully choosing and recording usernames and passwords helped us avoid having to repeatedly sign up for new accounts, due to forgotten log-in information.  Students socialized on a special group I created, the Tech Ed Lounge, rather than clutter our class group feeds with unrelated comments.  Meanwhile, I continued making connections with other teachers and exchanging educational ideas on the community pages.

During the second marking period, we discovered intricacies of the library backpack and small groups.  This is when major collaboration and peer editing efforts began.  Students started storing files in the backpack, using it as an online flash drive.  They posted URLs of Google Docs and other real-time collaborative editing (RTCE) tools on their small group pages, so that only four or five group members would have access, for working together on assignments and for commenting constructively on each other's essays.  It was around this time that I began discovering teacher-created groups, such as Flip Share.

By the third and fourth marking periods, our Edmodo use was in full swing.  Students turned in all project tasks, classwork, and homework using Edmodo assignment boxes.  Suddenly, my desk was neater, my tote-bags--lighter, as paper became obsolete in the computer lab.  In exchange, I found myself taking time--normally spent socializing on Facebook with family and friends--to grade, create new assignments, moderate the tech lounge, and exchange ideas with teachers from around the world on Edmodo.


Past
What did not work?

-Projecting Edmodo group codes on the white board and having students copy  
This was my attempt at keeping codes private.  I knew that posting on the class website was not an option.  The result: I would have to display the codes daily--time consuming.
-Keeping track of awarding badges
I was inconsistent about awarding badges, and this was unfair to my students.
-Procrastinating and allowing turned in assignments to accumulate  
Having 300-400 notifications is not fun.
-Spammers and trolls
Some students found it funny to post inappropriate or nonsensical comments. 
-Attempting to demonstrate Edmodo functions, step-by-step, during direct instruction 
Students were at varying levels of ability.

What did work?
-Posting Edmodo codes on signs around the classroom
I observed a colleague doing this and have done the same ever since (I don't know why the idea did not occur to me before).
-Assigning Edmodo guidelines review as the first homework assignment of the marking period 
This assignment effectively communicated the expectations and consequences in advance.
-Setting all new members to "read-only" until verifying identities 
This helped to eliminate spammers and trolls.  Students are less willing to post inappropriately under real names.
-Using the Flip Teaching Strategy to demonstrate Edmodo functions  
Students were then able to complete my teacher-made tutorial at an individualized pace.

Present
What is not working?

-Students having difficulty understanding where to turn in assignments  
Work is occasionally sent to me via direct message or posted on the general class page.  Another common error: students click "Reply" instead of "Turn In" on the assignment boxes.
-Moderating the tech lounge is time consuming.  
I feel obligated to watch every goofy YouTube video my students post.  Pink Fluffy Unicorns, Nyan Cat, and the like have been true winners this marking period.  Sometimes I find videos depicting violence or other inappropriate topics.  Offenders are immediately set to "read-only" until we have an opportunity to conference.  Students posting on the tech lounge during school hours is an occasional problem, as well.
-Spammers and trolls 
They have figured out that accounts set to "read-only" can still send direct messages to the teacher, so I have received a couple of harassing direct messages this marking period.

What is working?
-Keeping track of awarding Edmodo badges 
I now use a special daily log that I have developed over the years.  Each student has a unique number and I can easily check off recipients and make brief notes.  I will share the daily log in a future blog post.
-Procrastinating
I have stopped procrastinating, cold turkey, when it comes to grading.  Not only is it daunting to see 300-400 notifications waiting, I realize that I am required to give students feedback in a timely manner.
-Stopping spammers and trolls
A member of the Edmodo Support Team advised me to lock my group codes, once all students have joined a class group.  This strategy has countered our spammer/troll problem, for the time being.

Future
-Edmodo's new format
I look forward to transitioning to the new format with my second marking period group.  This means I will have to re-record my Edmodo tutorial.  
-Global Connections
For the first time, we will use Edmodo to collaborate with students around the world as part of the Global Classroom Project 2012-2013.  I look forward to connecting with classrooms in South Africa, Australia, Canada, and Ireland, to name a few.  Our participation will serve well as one aspect of my students' introduction to the International Baccalaureate, which we will fully implement beginning 
-Students posting in the tech lounge during school hours
I made a suggestion in the Edmodo Support Community for a pinning feature, so that important messages can be pinned to the top of the message feed.  Hopefully, this is in the works.  Meanwhile, I have been using alerts to notify students, in bold print, of important messages and reminders--such as "No posting in the tech lounge during school hours, under any circumstances".
-Students understanding guidelines and where to turn in assignments
My son happens to be highly skilled at computer programming.  He is currently working on a Java Script game that we will host on Weebly.  The game will quiz students on the Edmodo guidelines in a fun interactive way.  I hope my son finishes soon--I'm paying him by the hour and per page.
     I am also working on an assignment tracker.  Click the link in the left column to view.  I shared a mock-up with my sixth and seventh graders and received positive reviews.  Hopefully, the game and this tracker will help my students to better understand how to successfully use Edmodo as a learning management system.

Thank you for reading!


 
 

Listen to Ms. Thompson read this post on Podomatic!




























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My Spreadsheet Lesson on TED Ed
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A Video Tutorial Example on Sophia.org
Logo Design by FlamingText.com
Logo Design by FlamingText.com
I don't remember exactly when I joined the Flip Share group on Edmodo, but active membership has definitely made a tremendous impact on my teaching. Countless educator experiences with "flipping the classroom" are exchanged, through links to blog posts and resources, on the Flip Share group page.

Flip teaching can be defined as: providing students the lecture, resources, and some practice prior to a lesson, thereby freeing more class time for guided practice and student-teacher conferencing.  More and more teachers, of all subject areas, are recording their lectures on video for students to view independently.  This strategy allows each student to learn at his or her own pace, by pausing, fast-forwarding, and rewinding the lecture as needed.  During the third marking period of the 2011-2012 school year, I began experimenting with the flip teaching strategy.

My approach has been to pair lesson preview homework assignments with several video tutorials.  Due to our brief schedule, and the fact that technology class is not a core subject, I cannot burden students with too much homework.  Therefore, I designate class time for students to work through the tutorials.  Students who need more time and/or assistance may come during the second half of my prep period and after school.  Through this strategy, my students are empowered and engaged.


I first learned the value of flip teaching through what my students would call an "epic fail".  As part of the 3D CAD project, seventh graders must compile budgets using spreadsheet software.  Through direct instruction, I succeeded only in boring and frustrating my students.  By the end of the lessons, most did not perceive the advantages of using a spreadsheet over using a calculator. In fact, through anonymous course evaluations, my second marking period students communicated feelings that using a spreadsheet to calculate a budget seemed to be a big waste of time.  I knew I must work to improve my lesson delivery.

I started by conducting research on the history of spreadsheets.  Who invented it and for what purpose?  I found the perfect video segments to engage my students.  After completing two homework assignments, which entailed watching and answering related questions, my students were fascinated, motivated, and ready to get started on their Google Spreadsheets!  View my epiphanic flipped lesson on TED-Ed (feel free to flip it!) and one of my tutorials on Sophia.org, by clicking the thumbnail links to the left.

Not all of my homework assignments require watching video segments and answering questions.  Usually, all I ask of students is that they preview the next lesson, including all of its resources, and briefly explain--in their own words--what we will accomplish.  I find that this small task, of carefully preparing for the next lesson, greatly reduces the amount of time must I spend as "sage on the stage".  Students who complete the homework are able to begin working right away and can even help classmates as I circulate the room to offer one-on-one assistance and conferencing--"guiding on the side".


Past
What did not work?
-Lecturing and modeling on the projector as a class with a vast range of student technology levels attempted to follow along.

What did work?
-Guiding student volunteers in operating the projector during direct instruction, so that I could circulate the room and offer assistance to those in need.
-Assigning lesson preview homework and video tutorials.


Present
What is not working?

-In some cases, students needing the most support do not complete homework nor do they come during my prep or after school.

What is working?
-Giving students feedback on the homework assignments submitted via Edmodo.  I find that explaining how to conduct a more detailed lesson preview and sharing examples of appropriate responses help my students to become more  skilled at preparing for lessons.

Future
I plan to continuously work on developing my assignment directions and feedback by identifying students' areas of confusion and disengagement.  One step I will take this marking period is to add questions about homework completion and extra support to the anonymous course evaluation.  I want to learn  students' reasons for either completing or failing to complete technology homework and their reasons for either attending or not attending the daily support sessions offered.

Thank you for reading!
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Any additional ideas are very much welcome!  If you hover over "Blog" in the top navigation bar, you will see tabs for two pages: "About Blog", where I explain a bit more about the purpose of this blog and how it is structured and "Topic Ideas" where you can communicate to me any ideas you would like addressed in future blog posts.  I also invite you to comment below and to subscribe to receive the latest posts via e-mail.

 
 
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Pedagogy & Tech Tools and Professionalism
Listen to Ms. Thompson read this post on PodOMatic!


Can't live without my glogs!  What is a glog, you ask?  A glog can be described as an online interactive poster. Students can use it as a presentation tool, as my students have.  But the reason I cannot live without my glogs is because I use them daily to present directions in a colorful, fun format.

I constantly remind my students about the importance of reading in technology class.  Guiding so many students to complete digital research projects, in such a short amount of time, calls for independent and active learners to carefully read tons of directions and informational texts.  Flipping my classroom with reading materials, along with several tutorial videos has made a huge impact on learning--but I digress--more about my Flip Teaching strategies in an upcoming post.  Designing glogs, although time-consuming, has provided a more palatable way for my students to digest the often lengthy directions.  

Click the livebinder to the left of this text to view most of the eighteen glogs I actively use, to see what I mean.  Glogs provide many choices of backgrounds, clipart, and text formatting, which a teacher can easily group thematically.  A glog can transform this into this.  I back up all of my glogs in text format, in case students are working with devices that do not support Flash.  The four glogs not included in the binder, as I explained in last week's post, serve as my class website's navigation.  Here are some specific reflections on my glog use and plans for continued use:

Past
What did not work?
When I first began using glogs, it took me a long time to find clipart that was just right for each presentation.  

What did work?
I began supplementing the provided clipart with public domain resources, such as OpenClipArt.org and Clker.com.  This solved the problem!  And I discovered that once I uploaded an image, I could use that same image in any new glog I created.

Present
What is not working?
Time is extremely precious to me these days.  After updating Glogster Edu, Google Sites, Weebly, Edmodo, and Livebinders, there is not much time left over for recreation and rest.  And I haven't even begun to discuss the amount of time required for mothering two busy teens.  So I continue searching for ways to become more efficient.

What is working?
My students are definitely more engaged.  In fact, the other day, some of my seventh graders were lurking on the sixth grade message glog, "Hey, how come we didn't have a smiley face and moving arrow when we did that lesson last year," they complained.  "Well, shouldn't I continue to improve as a teacher?  You're more than welcome to repeat sixth grade," I joked, amused at what resembled sibling rivalry.  Each class enters the computer lab and knows to access and begin reading their message of the day and connecting glog.  Students who completed their homework already know what the glogs say.  They can get right to work.  But, again, that's a story for another post.

Future
I plan to continue designing and refining my glogs and encouraging students to use them, not only for my class, but in place of traditional presentations in their other classes, as well.  Another one of my goals is to become a certified Glogster EDU ambassador.  Hopefully, this will become a reality soon.

Thank you for reading!
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Any additional ideas are very much welcome!  If you hover over "Blog" in the top navigation bar, you will see tabs for two pages: "About Blog", where I explain a bit more about the purpose of this blog and how it is structured and "Topic Ideas" where you can communicate to me any ideas you would like addressed in future blog posts.  I also invite you to comment below and to subscribe to receive the latest posts via e-mail.
 
 
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Environments and Professionalism



Listen to Ms. Thompson read this post on PodOmatic!




My adventures teaching three technology courses began in August of 2011, as I designed our class website.  You can view it by clicking here.  I use this website daily to communicate directions to students, for sharing resources and web tools, and to store/display course documents and files for downloading.  Google Sites is the platform of my class website.  I like Google Sites because it is free, reliable, and fairly easy to customize.

The first thing I learned while designing the site was that it is easier to start with a blank template.  I figured out how to decorate the border and trim with clip art from OpenClipArt.org.  Remembering the way a colleague had embedded a glog to serve as a sitemap on her class website, I did the same.  Only, I took it a step further by connecting the sitemap glog to three different chalkboard glogs--one for each grade level--to serve as "Message of the Day" pages and resource zones.  Students access the message glogs by clicking on their designated sitemap stars.

Past
What did not work?
During the 2011-2012 school year, I think my directions on the class website were too wordy and there were way too many links, making the pages appear cluttered and overwhelming.  Another problem was that the default font size, Verdana 10, was too small and difficult to read.

Since the glogs are not accessible on devices without Flash, I back up them up in text format.  This system is also useful to students who are absent or have some other reason to look at previous lessons, after the chalkboard has been updated.  Here is an example of how these backup pages used to look: The Old Way.  I began noticing that the more text presented all at once, the less students would read.  They seemed to prefer immediately clicking links.  Then would become confused about what to do.

Present
What is working?
This year I am using a larger font.  I have worked to reduce the amount students must read all at once on the website and the number of links appearing on a page.  I have accomplished this by 1) creating and connecting more glogs to the site which are more palatable, with their fun and colorful fonts and clipart links (I will discuss these glogs in another post) and 2) linking my glog backups to their own separate pages, reserved to be seen only during situations when, for what ever reason, students cannot view the glog version. Here is how the backup pages look today: The New Way.
What is not working?
Students are still "click-happy".  It is difficult to get them to read all of the directions carefully.  As a result, there is still too much confusion about what to do and where to find site resources. 

Future
What are some goals for future implementation?
To help students become more comfortable with the site, I would like to one day try out a website scavenger hunt and/or a site navigation tutorial created by a student in exchange for extra credit.  Other ideas I am considering are possibly restructuring the site for clarity and creating a comprehensive syllabus for each course.  The syllabus would list all homework, class work, and project task due dates on one page, so that students can avoid searching several different places to view due dates.

Thank you for reading!
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Any additional ideas are very much welcome!  If you hover over "Blog" in the top navigation bar, you will see tabs for two pages: "About Blog", where I explain a bit more about the purpose of this blog and how it is structured and "Topic Ideas" where you can communicate to me any ideas you would like addressed in future blog posts.  I also invite you to comment below and to subscribe to receive the latest posts via e-mail.

 
 
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Image: OpenClipArt.org
This is my second year teaching technology literacy courses to students in grades six through eight.  In some ways, I feel that it is actually my fifth.  During 2011-2012, I taught all 800 children of the school.  Each of the four marking periods was a new beginning, as I acclimated two hundred new students and perpetually groomed the newly written curricula to keep up with ever-changing technologies and course-related resources.  My classes meet for approximately twenty 50-minute sessions, which take place every other school day.  Sixth graders study "Technology and Social Responsibility",  seventh graders, "Introduction to Computer-Aided Drafting and Design (CADD)" and eighth graders, "Television Production".

For my seventh and eighth graders, this marking period is the next twenty days of technology class.  Two things amaze me--how much my students accomplished last year in such a short amount of time and how much knowledge they have retained since then.  On the very first day of school, after a warm greeting, I said, "Okay, you know what to do."  And they immediately got to work navigating the class website to find my directions, opening and sharing Google Docs, and joining fresh Edmodo class groups.  It was breathtaking to watch!

For my new babies, my sixth graders, it is an entirely different story.  For them, this is technology boot camp.  I have been describing these courses as hybrid--partially in-class, partially online, somewhat traditional, mostly flipped, not as difficult as the core subjects, yet more challenging than the fine arts, physical education, and health classes.  Rarely does a student earn a "D" or an "F" in my class, but nobody earns an "A" for merely showing up, either.  

There are twelve to fifteen graded assignments, including homework, classwork, and project tasks, all weighted differently to formulate the final grade.  Everyone works on their project within a self-selected group.  However, grades are a reflection of what the individual has contributed to the group.  There are numerous opportunities to meet with me throughout the week for extra time/help: during my preps and during conference period (the last period of the school day).  All of this--not even factoring in all of the URLs, user names, and passwords to remember--can be quite intimidating to my little sixth graders and their parents.  "Don't worry," I recently soothed a concerned parent during Back to School Night. "The first few weeks of technology class are always a bit. . .chaotic.  Eventually, students learn what to do."

This is the first post concerning my adventures teaching technology literacy, year two.  My topics will include: implementing flip teaching, implementing International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP), and (of course) new technologies enhancing education.  I refuse to commit myself to a specific day or amount to blog, because I don't want to feel defeated if I can't live up to my own expectations.  So, please be patient and stay tuned for my updates.  

Meanwhile, I invite you to explore my class website:  


https://sites.google.com/site/mmstechnologyliteracy/home 

Thanks for reading! 


 

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