What tech tools are we using?

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What tech tools are high school teachers using in their classrooms? For a data collection assignment for a class in my instructional technology master’s program, I surveyed the teachers in my high school to see what tools they are using and how often. The survey was done on a Google Form. The survey asked if they had used various tech tools this term and how often. There was an open response question to add other tech tools they had used that were not in any of the questions.

Each multiple-choice question asked if they had used the tool once this term, more than once, or had not used it. The tools mentioned were Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Drawing, VoiceThread, Flipgrid, Padlet, iMovie, and Prezi. 

I sent the link to the certified staff in my high school, explaining that I needed the data for a class I was taking at UNI. I had 31 responses by the end of the day!

Here are the results: 

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These are some of the other tools listed by teachers that they are using: Nearpod, EdPuzzle, Quizizz, Kahoot, Quizlet, iBooks Author, BookSnaps, blogs, Remind, WriteIgniter, Google Forms, Adobe photoshop, Makerbot, Illustrator, Windows, Work Excel, Google photos, Brilliant, Thatquiz.com, iTunes, photoshop, and Garageband.

As far as the results, I was hoping the percentages would be higher for tools used more than once. But I also was encouraged by the list of other tools that teachers are using that were not in the questions.

 

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Partner Poetry Collaboration Project

For the final project in my social media class, we could design a gamification unit or a global collaboration project. The jury is still out as far as I’m concerned with gamification, so I chose to design a global collaboration project. This project could be done with another Spanish class in my school, in another nearby school, or even with a school in another state or country

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I call it the Partner Poetry Project–students writing, reading, and collaborating on poems. You can see the entire write-up of the project here: click here. Students in high school Spanish 2 and above would enjoy this project. The teachers in each of the participating classes make a short video showing their classrooms and giving a brief introduction.

The first thing the students do is to write a bio-poem which is an eleven-line reflective poem that will help the students get to know each other. The teachers put the students in pairs, one from each school. The students share their bio-poems and comment and ask questions about them. 

The next step is for the students to write a four-line collaborative poem based on a Spanish noun the teacher gives them. Student one writes one sentence about the noun. Student two writes the next sentence. This process is repeated. The completed poems will be shared on the project website.

Finally, the students write a collaborative poem in the same way based on one of the likes mentioned in one of the student’s bio-poem. This poem is 10-12 lines long. These completed poems will read at a Poetry Celebration during a joint Skype session with both classes. 

This project will help kids explore writing poetry, use Spanish in a different way, interact with students from another school, figure out how to collaborate to produce a final project, and so much more.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Our social media class has a unit called “Global Collaboration” in which we were planning to connect with students at a university in Poland. The plan was to meet through our video conferencing class and in small groups make videos comparing the culture of our two countries. A week before this took place, there was a realization that the language barrier may be too difficult to overcome for such an extensive collaboration.

Plan B: Do the same project with students at a university in Connecticut. This also fell through, even after extensive efforts to make connections.

How did I feel about this project and the ultimate choice to abandon it? There were certainly many highs and lows. I was apprehensive with the Poland project, partly because of the time zone differences and partly because of the language barrier. I think we could have worked through the time zones, even though it would have been a challenge.

The instructors needed to make sure with each other that the expectations were clear about this project and what would be expected on both sides. Through that conversation, it may have been clear earlier that the Polish students needed a better grasp of English to meet the goals of the project. It is unfortunate that that realization happened so late in the semester. At that time I was a little relieved that I wouldn’t have to step outside of my comfort zone to work with international students.

After the hassle of making contact with the students in Connecticut, I again felt relief that the project had been cancelled. I didn’t feel like they were very motivated to work with us, nor that the expectations were made clear to them. But I also felt like I missed out on an exciting learning opportunity.

Through this I learned that when planning my global collaboration projects in my own classroom, that I need to be flexible, not get frustrated, remain optimistic in front of my students, always look for another way, plan ahead, give lots of time for possible delays or changes in plans, realize there may not be success the first or second time, keep my eye on the reward of having my students collaborate globally, and celebrate the successes!

Global Collaboration Prospects

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As a Spanish teacher, one of my goals is to help my students see beyond the borders of Iowa and the United States to other cultures and people around the world. I do this in class through videos, current events, tales of my travels, an occasional Skype session with former students who are traveling abroad, and more. But I have always wanted to make real connections with students in other countries so that my students can share writing, opinions, photos and stories with other high school kids in other countries.

So far in my career, I have not accomplished this goal. I have signed up through an online pen pal site a couple of times without success. In preparing for an assignment in my social media class, I have spent hours searching for ways to connect my students with others. This has been a frustrating search. Many of the websites are out of date and no longer sponsor projects. I have missed the deadline for the start of some of the projects. I have tweeted to other language teachers through #langchat asking if anyone would like to collaborate, but have not yet received a response. A long-term project would be difficult at my school, with our block scheduling which ends classes in January and new ones start again.

At this point, I started thinking about lowering my expectations for this inaugural project and decided to look for a collaboration experience with another Spanish teacher in the United States. My students would still be able to write to pen pals in Spanish. We could link the Spanish 1 students, the Spanish 3 students, and so forth. My goal would be to begin with introductory letters back and forth and progress to collaborative projects between the two schools on Google Apps for Education on topics that fit both of our curricula.

My main collaboration project would be to join with a Spanish 2 or 3 class that is reading the same novel that my Spanish 3 class will be reading in December. This is a popular classroom novel, so I hope I can find another teacher who is teaching it at this time.

My Spanish 3 students are sophomores and juniors. I have one section of 27 students. Three of the students are heritage speakers with more expertise on speaking and listening rather than writing and reading. More than half of the class is currently earning a grade of 80% or better. There are three or four students who are struggling with the language skills needed at this level. None has read a Spanish novel, only short stories and news articles.

Our students could share opinions on a back channel, such as Today’s Meet, or an interactive bulletin board like Padlet or Linoit. They could share predictions, background information about Guatemala, the novel’s setting, and reactions to the progress of the novel. They could produce a collaborative Google Slides presentation about the characters in the novel or the issue of immigration from Guatemala.

The advantages for my students of such a collaboration include interacting with students beyond their own classroom. They may hear new ideas and interpretations of the novel. They would have the chance to form a collaborative relationship with a different school and see the differences and similarities of their school culture. The challenges may include time differences and finding common times to interact. One school may read a different pace than the other, so the two classes may not be on the same chapter at the same time. There may be differences in the number of students at each school. I have 27 in my Spanish 3 class, but the other class may be smaller.

The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration has an extensive list of past collaborative projects that have been completed. Not many details are given of these projects, but they do give me new suggestions for what to do with a collaborating class, rather than just write pen pal letters. Some projects are done with students in other countries and many are done within the United States. Examples of ones that are similar to my idea for sharing about a novel include videoconferencing about A Tale of Two Cities and The Crucible. One project was a collaborative back-from-the-island talk show with characters from Lord of the Flies. One group set up a coffee-house writing project with another school.

Other ideas included having a video conference or Skype session where one school presents a 15-minute readers’ theater to the other school. Global School Net has some projects that could fit with the culture discussed in the novel, like ones about the rain forest, volcanoes, clean water, and more.

I plan to keep trying to make a connection through Twitter to find a partner school to carry out these plans.

Kingdom Rush. It wasn’t.

Before this week, I had never played a video game. Ever. I grew up before they were created and never had any desire to play one. I probably never would have played one, except it was a required task in my social media class. Play a video game for three hours. Thankfully, the professor told us which one to play, or I may still be looking for one.

I dutifully loaded the game (Kingdom Rush) onto my iPad and decided to do as my students do—jump right in. No instructions, no directions. Let’s see what I can find out by clicking here and there. The first few games were, as a fellow student said, “mindless.” I wondered if I was actually playing it right. There had to be more to it than what I was experiencing. So I searched for explanations of the game. I didn’t view this as cheating. I was just trying to see if I was missing something key to this game.

According to what I read, I was playing it. I kept clicking on buttons and found how to purchase some additional weapons. I accidentally was earning gold by killing a few bad guys here and there. I went up a few levels, but don’t really know how I accomplished that.

I played a few games, and then left it. I came back and played a few more. But I was not hooked, probably because I was not advancing very fast and not experiencing the thrill of victory and rewards. I looked at a couple of hints and strategies sites, but couldn’t follow what they were suggesting. It just did not interest me. I certainly was not in the Flow. I kept thinking what else I could be doing besides shooting little soldiers.

I was not frustrated when I was playing. I felt like I was going through the motions of building the fortresses, calling for reinforcements, and releasing a meteor shower. I felt pretty good that I could play the game—even at this low level—after figuring this much out on my own. This is not typical for me. I am definitely one who reads instructions first.

So, how can I relate this experience to learning, and to my students? First, this experience put me in the shoes of my students when I ask them to do a particular task or assignment that they have never done before or are not interested in. I only did it because it was required. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to motivate many students.

Second, I know many of my students do not read directions on tests or assignments or computer work, and probably would not on a video game, either. I showed that’s it possible to figure out how to play the game, even though with more instruction, I probably would have been more successful from the beginning.

Third, I can understand that students would feel rewarded when they “level up.” But I also realize that it needs to be clear how and why those accomplishments are being made. What do they need to do to move up to the next level and what happens when they do? If they approach learning as they approach a videogame, they are wanting to know what’s in it for them. What are the goals, the challenges, the rewards?

Next, I am still interested in learning more about gamification in the classroom. Obviously, video games have hooked many of our students. If we can use components of the games to hook kids into learning and doing schoolwork, I’m all for it.

Finally, my opinion about video games has not changed because of this experience. I am not going to negatively view a person who enjoys playing video games. But I will continue to question why someone would spend hours engaging in this activity, just like they might question why I would spend hours working in my flower gardens. To each, his/her own.

Growing a PLN

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For my social media class, we were asked to map our Personal Learning Network (PLN). Over one year ago in another class, I was asked to do the same. It was very interesting to look back on the 2015 PLN map. At that time, I was just beginning to use Twitter. I was mostly an observer, rarely tweeting myself. I had just begun following a few blogs connected to my teaching area and I had recently attended a couple of edtech workshops. This is what my PLN map from 2015 looked like:

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Since then, I have been following Twitter more consistently, participating in Tweet Chats and tweeting more myself. I have several blogs that I follow regularly. I have started a blog of my own. I have attended several more conferences and workshops on edtech. This is my current PLN map:

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Here is a link to it.

Throughout my course work in the UNI Instructional Technology master’s program, I am sure that my PLN will grow significantly. Some immediate areas that I plan to expand are 1) to participate in more edchats and to do so more regularly, 2) network with more Spanish teacher bloggers and use my blog to share and collaborate, and 3) continue attending technology and language teacher conferences and workshops.

How Big is My Digital Footprint?

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A digital footprint is all the stuff we leave behind as we use the internet (Your Digital Footprint Matters): online shopping, social media posts and comments, emails, and more. For a social media class I am taking, we were asked to investigate our digital presence and see if we can improve it. Improving it may mean reducing questionable content from years prior. It could mean making yourself stand apart from others with the same name. Or it could mean promoting your online presence in a positive way to clarify who you are to potential or current employers.

I started my investigation with a Google search of myself.

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No surprises (good or bad) here. The images and links included ones from my children’s weddings and honors, my involvement with professional organizations, my social media connections to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and more. There was a newspaper article when my daughter and I won first and second place in the bread division at the county fair.

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There were some links to others with my name, including an NCAA volleyball coach and a future bride planning her wedding through an online site. Her profile actually popped up on Facebook with other “Regina Schantz” profiles.

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A couple of things I didn’t expect were how the top three links in my search were for LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I signed up for LinkedIn years ago during a class, but have never used it and hardly even have a profile on it. I was also a little surprised that some comments I had made over time to a cooking blog were some of the links in my search.

Part of this assignment was to take some proactive measurers to assure a positive digital presence. I signed up for a Google Alert so I know when someone is searching my name.

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The next step that was suggested was to create an About.me landing page.

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I am still not sure if this page is necessary or if it is just one more toe of my digital footprint. I can see that it could be helpful if I were being confused with another Regina Schantz. It is a way to synthesize various social media. It could be helpful to direct potential employers to this page.

I added it to my profiles on Twitter, Pinterest, and my blog.

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Following advise from Ten ways to build your online identity, I updated my LinkedIn profile and added a photo and other information. I now have a blog and was recently added to the list of blogs of members of the Iowa World Language Association. I am the creator of a collaborative blog at my high school to which staff contribute. I participate in edchats on Twitter regularly and read and comment on several language teachers’ blogs. I plan to check regularly to self-checks on Google and other search engines.

These steps have made me more aware of that footprint I am leaving with every digital step I take. Although much of this process may not apply to my students at this stage of their lives, it is still worthy of a conversation with them about our online presence and what potential employers, scholarship committees and admission counselors look for. I would tell them the steps I took in this project and encourage them to Google themselves. If nothing else, they might see there are other people with their same name. This would be an interesting discussion on the potential problems with this. I would emphasize that it is much harder to clean up a negative presence, than to be proactive in an approach to have a positive image online.