Light at the end of the tunnel

I can’t believe we have ONE more course left in the CoETaIL cohort!  This blog post, that concludes course #4, is designed to begin work on course #5 – the finale.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

The assignment is to sketch out two or three options you have in mind for your Course 5 project. For each of the options, think about the following questions:

  • Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?, What are some concerns about redesigning this unit?, What shifts in pedagogy will this unit require of you?, What skills or attitudes will this new unit require of your students?

  • UNIT possibilities:
  • I am still searching for WHAT exactly I am going to do for the final project – some ideas that I have:
  • Socratic Seminar – the students can partipate in a Socratic Seminar enhanced with TECH TOOLS where they are able to engage in discussion and even CHOOSE the piece that they all agree to read.  
  • Literature Circles  – We can conduct a problem based learning or even inquiry based learning where the students assess the books they want to read.  We can then have virtual circles like the article suggests.
  • Skype penpals – Not completely sure what to do on this one, but I love the idea of learning more about other cultures from FIRST HAND experiences.  Taking a story that we read in the classroom and then having the students seek out answers to questions through connections they make on Skype!  Just brainstorming on this one!
  • Concerns about redesigning this unit?

  • My concerns are implementing the SAMR model and reaching the highest level – redefinition!  My current school is a bit technology deficient and I have had issues with gaining computer lab time let alone finding a way to “create new tasks inconceivable without the computer.”
  • I want to go BEYOND the typical using blogs in the reading/writing classroom – see video below.
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  • Shifts in pedagogy that this unit will require?

  • This is going to a take a paradigm shift in THINKING for me and also relinquishing control.  I thrive on being the prepared teacher and I get even more excited when I plan something and it goes well….With this project, NOT knowing how this implementation will happen (lack of technology in the school and with the students) and even worst, what the outcomes will be, makes me anxious.  I need to LET go!!!
  • Skills and/or attitudes this unit will require from students?

  • My students are going to have to become more tech proficient.  I have about 20% of my students in EACH class that have limited technology knowledge – meaning have never even prepared a Powerpoint presentation!

Lots to marinate on – check back in January 2014 for an update on how the project is unfolding!

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PBL – one more problem in education?

Problem based learning is actually NOT a problem – it is the solution we as educators have been looking for.

While I was researching PBL’s I came across PROBLEM based learning and PROJECT based learning.  I was quite confused with the two acronyms until I read the article in Education World.  The author states that the main difference is that problem-based focuses on the problem and the process.  Project-based focuses on the product. Both of the PBL’s have GREAT attributes as well that can be applied in the classroom immediately.

Project-based learning and problem-based learning have a great deal in common. Both

  • involve realistic problems and situations.
  • are based on authentic educational goals.
  • include formative and summative evaluation,
  • are learner centered and teacher facilitated.
  • are intrinsically engaging and motivating.
  • are frequently multidisciplinary.
  • Improve students’ research and problem-solving skills, as well as their ability to work cooperatively with their peers.

I am all about efficiency – let’s combine the two PBL’s into one  – and I do love instant gratification so the wheels started turning as I was thinking of ways to implement PBL’s in my classroom.

As I have stated before, this year has been a transition for me, not only in changing continents, but also teaching middle school and high school AND having 6 classes in which to prep.  Just when I thought I was finally getting the hang of things, I heard from my colleagues that we are switching classes and students in January.   OY VEY!

Before I began to crumbe into a pile of despair and desperation, I decided to look on the bright side.  One good thing that can come from this influx of change is that I have a clean slate.  I will have new students with fresh faces and fervent attitudes about American Literature and World Literature!  Yeah right!  Well, if that won’t exist, then maybe I can have a clean slate in the classroom and look at ways to implement PROBLEM BASED LEARNING.

Mrs. Geisers class website gave me some wonderful ideas of starting with PBL’s in the reading classroom.

Education does not have to be an “unfair game.”  When students feel successful in the classroom – there are no PROBLEMS!  I want/need to THINK DIFFERENTLY!

Posted in Course 4 week 5 | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Connectivism – the 8 ball of education

Reading about ‘connectivism’ and trying to assess where education will be in the future caused me to scratch my head.

Photo Credit: nathancolquhoun via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: nathancolquhoun via Compfight cc

Isn’t this what we are doing with the CoETaIL course?  Isn’t this where our society has already landed in the education realm?

Yes, there are still classrooms worldwide that have limited technology, but are there really still educators out there that do not acknowledge the need for technology and being connected?

I have taught at a wide variety of schools pulic, private and international and tech resources have been just as multifarious.  My current school is about as low tech as I have seen in the last 10 years, but they still promote the importance of learning with 21st century tools.  I have an Apple TV in my classroom and have been provided with an iPad.  Although I cannot gain ANY access to computers during the day and have been told that I cannot rely on all students to have internet access at home, I have never been discouraged from using my CoETaIL findings in my Literature classroom.  So, my question remains are there really educators out there with their head stuck in the 21st century sand?

The article titled, “Connectivism:  A Learning Theory for the Digital Age,” helped me to nail down the definition of connectivism.

Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.

With this in mind, we have to know that online learning and MOCC’s are a way of the future.

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I think the only apprehensions I have about technology in the future classrooms is when I am tempted to use technology to substitute or augment my curriculum.  I am learning how to modify and redefine what the reading and literature classroom looks like with NOOKS and KINDLES aplenty.  I am striving to find creative and innovative ways to teach British Literature and the rich history to students that would prefer to be gaming in a virtual world.  I am determined to gain more knowledge about online reading comprehension strategies for middle and high school students!

Photo Credit: StreetFly JZ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: StreetFly JZ via Compfight cc

Do I know what the future classroom looks like?  Maybe we could ask one of those magic 8 balls – Will education as we know it change because of technology?


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Posted in Course 4 week 4 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Flippady do da Flippady day

How do I flip the classroom with reading?  Flippady do da, Flippady day – that is my response!

Photo Credit: Justin Ornellas via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Justin Ornellas via Compfight cc

I have heard about flipping and even tried it a couple of times last year with my Humanities class.  The success was not overwhelming plus the time was daunting so I slowly began to transition back to my normal routine.  After all, learning was still taking place, essential questions were posted and the outcomes were acheived.  However, the one thing that has always haunted me, stressed me and gave me gray hair is EFFICIENT use of my time in the classroom.

Julie Schell wrote a convincing article about flipping the reading classroom titled, Common Core.

Since I have flipped my class, I have actually gained time to ensure that my students are progressing toward the common core. I have time to walk around the classroom and by watching them perform key learning tasks,  I really get to know exactly where each student is in their progress toward each standard. Whether it is having writer’s workshops one on one, or walking around during a Socratic Seminar discussion of literature, I can easily assess each students’ level of proficiency and guide them toward further progress.   I am only able to do this because of flipping my classroom. I decided a long time ago that the best use of my class time is not lecture or giving rote memorization exercises. Although I can’t get rid of those things completely, I refused to let content coverage take my class time away from my students. Students don’t need me to be there when they are taking notes on Chaucer; they need me when they are reading it, thinking about it, and puzzling through the text.

Teaching at my current school where we can’t assume that all students have access to the internet, the flipped classroom has proven to be an obstacle.  However, my goal has always been to teach more effective and engaging ways of reading comprehension.  Looking at the Socratic Seminar approach gives me hope in allowing students to read the text at home (maybe even providing an audio version to differentiate for some students) and then coming prepared the next day for discussion and questioning.

I love it!  That is a start for me!

Flippady I will do!


Posted in Course 4 week 3 | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Gaming in education

“With games you are allowed multiple opportunities to fail.”

“Trying is what helps us learn”

“We shouldn’t assess students based on a single shot that they have because in the real world there is feedback and extended opportunities.”

Watching the Ted Ed video about Gamification in Education really got me thinking about games and their place in the classroom.

Games have never been a part of MY reality.  I make an effort with my 10 year old nephew as he explains the rules of Minecraft or COD.  I look like a large ape as I clumsily will my plausible thumbs to work and bang on the controls 2 seconds too late only to grunt as I fall to my death.  Games are not as much a part of my generation as they are my current students.

My first initial response to gaming is a negative one – I am really not sure where it comes from, but that is the gut reaction.  After hearing from Jane McConigal in the video above, it really challenged me to step back and make a list of pros and cons.

Gaming in Education

Pros                                                                                                         Cons

allows multiple chances                                     lack of human engagement = social problems

encourages problem solving                     encourages leaving reality; entering virtual world

engages the audience                                                                     can cause addictive behavior

students are familiar with the medium

I have always been a fan of lists and the PROS/CONS has been something I have done in multiple situations.  I am still unsure of where I stand with gaming in my Literature classroom, but I cannot ignore the PRO column as an educator.

The wheels are turning!


Posted in Course 4 week 2 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Integrating the Generation X with Generation Z

Photo Credit: Dunechaser via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Dunechaser via Compfight cc

As I read the articles about technology integration and the importance of it in education, I am reminded of all the struggles that come with gaps in generation.  I do not feel that I am an ancient teacher by any means, but I am Generation X – born from the Baby Boomers.  I am teaching students from Generation Z.  I come prepared to class with my suit and glasses, but as I lumber around with all the new technology, the kids see me similar to the lego above.

When asked to assess my level of technology integration my mind immediately went to the SAMR model that we read about.  I believe that substitution and augmentation were a large part of my teaching process for the first 6 years of my role as an educator.  It was not until the most recent 3 years of my career have I been able to move further up the ladder to modification.  My goal is still redefinition, but I have a long way to go.  The three phases of my teaching career are as follows:  Cincinnati, Ohio; Santa Cruz, Bolivia and Seoul, South Korea.

My first 3 years of teaching I was at a public school in Cincinnati, Ohio where my tech integration consisted of movies that I would show on a VCR after reading the novel in class or using an overhead projector and placing transparencies up on the board to review Daily Oral Language.  There were computers in the library that we could use on a weekly basis, but all work had to be saved on the school hard drive and during year 2 of teaching, all my research papers from one class were deleted from the school’s server.  No lie.

Years 4 – 6 took place overseas at a private “American” school in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  The reason for the quotes on the word American is because 98% of the students were Bolivian but would recieve a US diploma upon graduation.  With this school, there was a computer lab of 10 computers where my class size was usually 18 – 22.  We had ONE Smart board in the school where we could sign out and go to the room to teach our class.  I took some great professional development classes in Bolivia that dealt with technology, but really couldn’t apply them to my current place of employment.

Seoul, South Korea was the home of my teaching career for years 7, 8 and 9.  During my first year every room was equipped with a Smart Board and some rooms had Apple TV connections.  Year 2 was the year they rolled out the laptop 1-1 program in the middle school where I taught and also the year I started my CoETaIL program.  In a mere 3 years I had used more applications and technology integration than I had used in all 9 years of teaching (see blog post Course 1 week 5 for a more detailed list of technology used)!

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs via Compfight cc

The integration has begun.  It is a slow process, but a sure one!

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Remix, Reuse….Repeat

Week 6 is the final blog post and the culmination of 2 big projects in course #3.  So far in this course I have been intimidated by large tech-savy words, overwhelmed with time-consuming new applications, daunted by the amount of time I spent playing with all of these shiny new tech toys, yet thrilled to be learning so many new things.

While reading the articles about remixing, I found that I struggle with ways to use remixing in the literature classroom.  One of the things I have loved about this CoETaIL course is that 90% of what I have learned I have been able to apply in the classroom immediately or at least within the week.  Then, I came across the article from The Learning Network. The authors, Amanda Brown and Holly Ojalvo provide great tools for teaching Remixing in the classroom.  The very first activity involves a Monster Mashup from the New York Times with scary Literature book covers!  VIOLA – Now, I have some ideas for next week!

Thinking about our final projects in this course I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel and REMIX something that I had already done, so I began to hunt for previous movies I had edited. I was very excited to dig into the archives and find one of my videos from May of 2013 when I was still teaching in Seoul, South Korea.

Some of my 7th grade students were PUMPED after we watched the movie Pay it Forward and talked about ways to practically carry this out in our local community.  I discussed the fact that every week I volunteer at a local orphanage and hold babies and that even though I can’t speak much Korean, those nurses and babies know that I am there to love on them.  There are close to 70 babies and only about 3 – 4 nurses on duty every shift.  The babies are STARVING for physical touch and the nurses, with hearts of gold, are in desperate need of encouragment or a break.  Well, the idea caught on like wild fire and before I knew it about 15 students signed up to volunteer their time, money and Saturday afternoon to PAY FORWARD an act of kindness in the Republic of Korea!

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Inspired by my experience and memories from the Pay it Forward trip, I decided to create a ZEN Google presentation about some facts dealing with orphans.

Advocate for the Abandoned


No rest for the weary – time to tackle course #4!


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Let’s get graphic!

Photo Credit: ViaMoi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ViaMoi via Compfight cc

There are times when I miss the days of paper resumes.  I don’t feel old, but I do remember the days when I was running to KINKO’S 20 minutes before my interview spending the extra money to pay for color copies of my resume.  Prior to teaching overseas, I went to the UNI recruiting conference in Cedar Falls, IA with 600 international schools represented and I was armed in my power suit and briefcase with freshly printed ONE PAGE resumes….And, I had FOUR job offers!

Over the past couple of years my professional reportoire has been included on sites such as Linkedin, Vizify, Weebly and now  Check out any of the links to see similar information presented in a variety of ways.

I am not bashing infographics, but instead I am trying to walk softly and carry a big MacBookPro!  I might be worn out with infographics with my resume, however I have found many uses for infographics in the Literature classroom.

I am proud to say that I have read 8 out of 10 of the most read books in the world.  I would be curious what my current students would say.

As far as teaching THEME to my students in literature, sometimes it can be a daunting task.  I loved Kate Hart’s blog and the post about Uncovering YA covers:  2011.  Some of the infographics are difficult to read, but most of them are full of depth and ripe for discussion.  I particularly like the one about Minority representation in YA books or Gender representation in YA books.  These graphics are solid tools for my classroom that would spark discussion and open up a new visual world for my students!

As far as infographics that are guaranteed to spark conversation that are somewhat related to education, I was intrigued by the Trend Hunter Marketing blog.  There were graphics about social media, Facebook, Instagram, and trends in education.  The options are endless.

The world is trying to GO GREEN, but I am GOING to GET GRAPHIC!

Posted in Course 3 week 5 | Tagged , | 1 Comment

20 questions about Digital Storytelling

I love stories – Listening to them, telling my own, writing them down, bloggging about them!  My favorite game to play with people is 20 questions – I am intrigued by what makes people tick!

If you would like to waste 4 minutes of your life, check out some random, somewhat-funny questions below.

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The articles about digital storytelling caused a ripple of excitement for me personally.   I have never used the concept of digital storytelling because I have not known enough about it, but now being equipped, I was ready to dive in.

Even though I was thinking of 20 different ways in which I could use this in my personal blog or even in brainstorming with my current book, I had to stop and think about how this relates to my students.  I have recently moved to a new school near Nashville, TN.  It is a private school where, as teachers, we wear many hats.  One of those hats is mutiple preps!  I have 6 different classes that I teach throughout the day!  Now for those of you who have had this unfortunate situation, I empathize.  I have been spoiled for the past 10 years with 1 – 2 preps AND teaching in international schools where my planning period allotment usually is 3 times the amount in the States.  Teaching this many classes all in one day has caused my head to spin and makes for a daunting task when I think about introducting digital storytelling to World Literature, British Literature, American Literature, 8th grade Reading, 7th grade Reading and Creative Writing classes.

The article titled, Becoming Screen Literate  by Kevin Kelly seemed to confirm my dread.

We are now in the middle of a second Gutenberg shift — from book fluency to screen fluency, from literacy to visuality.

The overthrow of the book would have happened long ago but for the great user asymmetry inherent in all media. It is easier to read a book than to write one; easier to listen to a song than to compose one; easier to attend a play than to produce one. But movies in particular suffer from this user asymmetry.

I have struggled with keeping up with planning and prepping and grading and posting, HOW IN THE WORLD will I introduce a concept that seems so tech-savy in a school setting where we have a computer lab with 12 computers very old computers.  Administration has told us that we sign up and bring our classes – the catch?  The computer lab is used consistently by our technology, elementary, middle and high school teachers EVERY day!  I have tried to sign up for the computer lab for the past 6 weeks to NO AVAIL!

Tons of questions and obstacles come to my mind – How can I help the students with a digital project when we don’t have convenient access at school?  How can I tailor the project to meet the needs of my 10th grade students reading at a 5th grade level?  Can I assign this project and require all students to have a video or could I tweak it to the students that can’t master editing?

Then I came across this webpage called Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling.  After a little bit of browsing, I found a digital story about The Most Dangerous Game.  This was a great visual to help introduce the concept of RETELLING a story using a digital format.  Although I am sure the prep work will be more than I would hope, I know that the implications for this is far more profound.  If I can become familar enough with the concept then I can introduce it with confidence to my students and be able to provide another avenue of reading comprehension for them.

I seem to have more than 20 questions – Now, to get started on that story!


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Kung Fu Panda seeks ZEN Master

After reading the information for Course #3 I realized that even though I have been creating presentations for the past 15 years, I am a bit intimidated.

I was pretty sure I knew the meaning of ZEN, but decided to look it up just in case.  Urban Dictionary provided the most thorough and humorous definitions.  Definition #7 really has no bearing on presentations (but may be a hot topic among high schoolers), definition #1 is probably the most popular use of the word, but definition #5 was one that got the wheels turning for me.

ZEN:  n: a state of coolness only attained through a totally laid-back type of attitude.
adj.: used to describe someone/something that has reached an uber state of coolness and inner peace

I have never been much of a ZEN person.  I was raised in a rowdy, chaotic household that believed in talking loud and taking life by the horns.  I believe in sucking the marrow out of life and I never learned how to do that being laid-back.  Peace requires being quiet and still long enough to listen – THAT has not always been part of my personality.  I even lived in Asia for three years and was constantly shushed on the subways for talking too loud and received stares as I excitedly laughed on my cell phone in a coffee shop.  Yep, I have always been known as the clamorous, unruly, rambunctious white girl.

Zen presentations?  You got to be kidding me – I am the round, flabby Kung Fu Panda admiring all those amazing “Inner Peace Presenters” that are Master Shifu.

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However, for as intimidated as I might be, I am also STUBBORN and persistent!

Reading some articles from my RSS feeder, I found a great an article that made the mountain seem a bit more attainable.  Marta Kagan writes about 5 rules for creating great presentations from @NancyDuarte.  The article breaks down your presentations nerves by offering 5 nuggets of wisdom.

  1. Treat your audience as king.
  2. Spread ideas and move people.
  3. Help them see what you are saying.
  4. Practice design not decoration.
  5. Cultivate healthy relationships with your slides and your audience.

Step by step – My audience is generally my students and every once in a while parents or maybe colleagues.  Developing rapport with your students helps to establish #1 and #5 in a very quick way.  If you have a sense of respest in the classroom, then healthy relationships are developed.  #2 and #3 – Spreading ideas is fairly easy when you have a curriculum that must be taught.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t add humor or even personal stories to your presentations to make them more interesting, but that generally takes care of two more of the steps.  Practicing design rather than decoration just takes time!  Watching Jeff”s tutorial about Zen presentations helped me learn about the process involved with presentations.  Lots of brainstorming and getting the overall idea out there.  This is very similar to writing and that is something I have done ever since I was a teenager!  NOW, it doesn’t seem as daunting!

Kung Fu Misty will be PATIENTLY waiting for the next challenge.

Posted in Course 3 week 3 | Tagged | 1 Comment