Monday, September 28, 2009

Week 5: Application Software Productivity Tools for Teachers

1. Share your thoughts on the role of productivity tools in the classroom, and include your thoughts on the pros/cons of proprietary v. open source v. web-based options for use with and by students. Productivity tools definitely have a place in the classroom. By definition according to the text, "Productivity is designed to make people more effective and efficient while performing daily activities." (Shelly 144) With this being said, teachers are some of the most hard working individuals that contribute to society.

By giving teachers an easier way to accomplish what used to be time consuming tasks such as creating written documents, newsletters, lesson plans, handouts, etc., teachers are now able to save time and manipulate their work easily just by clicking a few buttons and creating whatever their needs may be dependent on their class. Lessons that used to require days and weeks of planning in advance, can now take minutes to prepare by using productivity software.

In regards to proprietary software versus open source and web-based options to use in the classroom setting, I like to use whatever I can get my hands on. I enjoy using the Microsoft Office Suite, but there are many programs included in the package that I have never used. For the most part it is easy to use and can be located on most computers. Unfortunately, I often have to look for other resources to use when I cannot duplicate something in the Microsoft Office platform such as templates that have been created in MS Office 2007, not working in MS Office 2003. Typically this is the result of my school computer, not having the most current edition of the software and having to dumb down my home computer 2007 software to use with lessons/presentations that I create from home. For this reason, I am really excited about the links that were provided in the learning module.

I have not used in the past, but will definitely have to keep it in mind when I am looking to create something. I have used web-based options like GoogleDoc's in the past and Microsoft Office's Workspace to save work at home and access it in my classroom. The reason I like web-based platforms is because you can access it from any connected computer and the appearance remains consistent to the original design. Students can also access web-based platforms from school and home which definitely is a plus when thinking in regards to productivity.

2. Provide your reaction to performing the assigned spreadsheet tasks (e.g., How difficult was this? Do you think you'll ever use these spreadsheet skills again?).

I'm glad this was a task required for this module. I had a hard time at first remembering how to work MS 2003's version of Excel in my classroom. I have been using the 2007 version for a while now at home and had to go back and look at some of the excel tutorials. I do not enjoy doing spreadsheets in all honesty, but at some points in time in my classroom they are very helpful. My classroom grading platform is through a web-based service called SmartWeb. Having to go back and configure grades was a good reminder of how lucky I am to have a program that does the work for me.

3. Share the resource(s) that you found most helpful in learning how to perform any unfamiliar tasks.

To help with Excel the tutorial and help menu were excellent in answering my questions. To figure out the extra credit, which was quite tricky, I had to play around and talk myself through the "what if" scenarios until I found what I was looking for.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Ethical Value of Web Censorship....I don't think so.

Is it more unethical to allow threats to students/schools or to deny students/teachers access to instructionally-relevant Web-based tools and content. This is a hard question for me to answer. Honestly, I've been split down the middle all week, which is why I have waited to post.

I think our job as teachers and schools is to protect our students from harmful material. However, by doing so, are we really protecting them or are we making them unprepared for the harsh realities that they will eventually encounter any ways? I think as educators we need to step up the plate and foster student curiousity in a productive manner. Some things we could do might include teaching them how to do school appropriate web searches, guiding them understand that not every site is credible or appropriate for school, helping them to understand that even if something turns up in a search that looks questionable does not mean you have to open it up. By using common sense and practice, teachers can help students and each other make the most out of the Internet. Taking away useful materials and activities, does not do anyone any good.

One issue that I face at school all the time, is encountering "Websense" that blocks whatever page I want to visit. It's very frustrating when I have a class full of students in the computer lab and we are looking up some type of information that I have found prior to class and want to share with them, only to be blocked from viewing the site.

I spend a lot of time trying to find alternate "block free" websites which really limits what I am able to do in the classroom. From this aspect, I find the censorship unethical. I pulled up the Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida and 6B-1.006 states that "Obligation to the student requires that the individual shall not intentionally suppress or distort subject matter relevant to a student's academic program." My thoughts are that if the state has such a principle then, why are we blocking all the websites that could enhance curriculum and subject matter to help that student be more successful. Maybe I am reading that wrong, but I think the state has a tendency to go back on their policies if the counties are not adhering to what has been set forth for educators to abide by.

On the other hand, last year we had students pull up porn before school by navigating around blocked sites. The kids are smarter than many people at the county office give them credit for. The more you tell them not to look at something or "hide" material from them, some times they are going make it their goal to find out exactly what you don't want them to see.

Our job is to give students a quality education to prepare them for the workforce one day. It's hard to prepare them we are not able to access Web 2.0 tools and websites that have the potential to further our knowledge of education and our students.

By using common sense and practice, teachers can help students and each other make the most out of the Internet. Taking away useful materials and activities, does not do anyone any good.

Reference: Florida Department of Education, "Code of Ethics". 1998. htttp://

Friday, September 18, 2009

EME 5050: "The Networked Student" Reflection on Wendy Drexler's Video

EME 5050 Video Reflection from

1. "The Networked Student" video was quite interesting in my opinion. I watched it several times and each time I learned something new. At first I was quite intrigued by the idea of watching a video put together through art work and then manipulated into a story line to make the process of learning about a networked student and 'connectivism'. As soon as I realized that I was going to be able to apply this knowledge immediately I grabbed a pen and paper and began jotting down some notes that I found to be very helpful to me. After reading the chapter and the bookmarked sites, the concept of a personal learning network mentioned in the video resonated with something I did not have a name for, but knew existed. I had not quite thought of our classrooms as becoming our own and shared personal learning networks. By creating these PLNs we truly have created and more than likely will continue to take responsibility for our own learning as we become more digitally inclined learners.

2. I have been slow to pick up on much of the new technology, but now I can't seem to get my hands on it fast enough. Just this week I have had my tech coordinator at my school install new software for my students to begin creating podcasts and digital stories as well as Google Earth to begin creating Lit Field Trips to use with our new Literature textbooks that we just adopted. I've just recently become a fan of Twitter to follow and learn from fellow colleagues on digital learning in the 21st Century. Over the last few weeks I have picked up on using Diigo and how saving bookmarks really does save me time. I have not figured out how to share them easily just yet, but I am working on it. I have subscribed to several RSS feeds and receive them on my phone, so I feel like I'm connected to the rest of the world. One thing that I read in the book that I was unfamiliar with is not about the networking part of being connected, but the connection part of being networked. I was very interested in reading about PLC, also known as Power Line Connection, that is starting to replace/upgrade DSL which many of us have just upgraded to from the old telephone modem. In the classroom this could be especially a great technological advance and connection because not all schools are even fully connected to the Internet in remote locations with access for every student. So by eliminating the wires and being able to plug in and surf, students will only benefit that much more in the classroom.

3. At first I was uncomfortable thinking about the role of the teacher in the video. I think one of the reasons that I was slow to pick up on the digital trend was mostly because much of the lingo was very daunting to me. I wasn't quite sure what a wiki was or how it was being used in the classroom. I knew what a blog was only because I was required to create one in a professional development course I was taking on podcasting. Now after watching Drexler's video and seeing how the new roles of a teacher have changed and what the outlook is, I'm game. Having any part of being a "Learning Architect, Modeler, Learning Concierge, Network Sherpa, Connected Learning Incubator, Synthesizer, and Change Agent" sounds daunting and a little scary to say the least. I think though as teachers we already wear so many different hats in the classroom, that picking up some new titles that we already wear, is very exciting as well.

4. One of the biggest challenges I foresee with the new "connectiivty identity" that a teacher must fulfill is simply being able to do it all and learn the technology fast enough before it is replaced by something else. For example, finding the time learning how to do each of the steps that a networked student will need to have in their personal learning network (blogs, social bookmarking, RSS feeds, mp3s, wikis, etc.). For many teachers we are still learning what an RSS feed is, or how to load up our iPods with tunes from the iTunes store. We already have so much to do during the course of the day, it's going time to transition to a truly networked learning environment to create our "networked students" become truly connected with the classroom that is not truly digital at this point in our own lives.

5. As far as what I can take with me from this video, I like the idea of being a "Sherpa" and showing the kids new ways to search for that missing piece of information that they might be looking for and seeing the lights go on when they discover something that they didn't know. Instead of teaching down to them and doing what we've always done in the classroom, getting on their networked level and digging in deep for the long term will have a greater impact on their education in the future. This is a small goal, but it is an important step in education. I don't mind being a seeker and a sharer when I know there are others who willing to do the same for me to help me create my own PLN.

I think the video over all was very helpful and hopefully this year I can help the kids I currently teach to work on becoming better 21st century digital citizens.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Educational Technology Blog #1

Module Assignment #2 "Educational Search Tools and Directories"

I. Collecting Websites

This is an interesting concept. It can be hard to know sometimes which is the most efficient means of saving a link to review later down the road whether it is tomorrow or a year from now or simply leaving it to google for again later. I have recently added the Diigo toolbar to my browser (Firefox) and needless to say I am now hooked on it. In the past I have always bookmarked my favorite websites to the browser toolbar. However, I have found it difficult to go back and weed through those websites especially if I have not cataloged them in a user friendly manner for myself.

Diigo offers a quick way to highlight passages or text directly on a webpage in addition to being able to bookmark and send the link to a friend.

I have only recently started using Twitter and cannot for the life of me imagine someone wanting to follow what I am doing. It's far more interesting to see what other people like my professors and Martha Stewart are up to. As often though as I update my Facebook status, using Twitter is not such a far fetched idea for me. I will definitely have to report back on using tweet links in a tweet post and see how it goes. I have clicked on several of the tweet links that I have received on my BlackBerry and have found the links very useful if not informative. I have been able follow some interesting news feeds based on the link contained therein.

Delicious is also something that I am new to. It is in the form of social bookmarking and allows you to access other people's bookmarks all over the world. I think this is quite clever, but not immediately useful for me yet in my classroom. Given time though and more time to review it for classroom purpose, will depend on my decision to use this resource. I will probably use this though to share links with friends and colleagues.

II. Educational Search Tools & Directories

With a plethora and never ending source of material on the web, it's hard for teachers to often filter through all of the worthy sites out there and locate what they are looking for without being easily distracted by something else. The textbook that is being utilized in one of my online Educational Technology courses provides many easily accessible sites geared at busy teachers.

I reviewed three sites that I considered very helpful and interesting to me. The first site that caught my interest in the textbook was This website provides more than "15,000 resources organized by topics for teachers, students, and other educational professionals." (Shelly 133) I browsed many of the links and resources that were attached to this site, and many of the links provided me with information that would be relevant to my classes (7th Grade Language Arts). I bookmarked the sites using Diigo that I felt I needed more time to go back to later on when I start planning out lessons for that particular content area. Overall I think depending on what you are looking for if it is a general topic area, emtech is a good resource, however some of the links need to be updated for more current information and ideas.

A second site that I perused is I am a huge advocate for google and have even added it as a working verb when we are searching for something in the computer lab. I had no idea however that google had a place for teachers to look for resources on a multitude of things such as classroom tools, posters, edu apps, and so much more! I am really excited about using the Learning to Search Lessons that I can use in the classroom tomorrow to teach my students how to search in a more organized manner. This is a very helpful website for teachers and would easily qualify in my opinion as a ISTE NET-T site based on the idea of communication and collaboration with other teachers across the globe. I will be sharing this site with my fellow teachers at school to help make their lives just a few minutes easier when it comes to researching with their students.

Something else that piqued my interest on the links pages in the text was one that I have never heard of before called KidsClick! . I love "librarian websites" because who knows more about anything else than a librarian! As I become a collector of what is turning out to be useful and teacher friendly websites, I am discovering that kids don't necessarily need a textbook to learn from any longer. Everything is online, but how we utilize it and approach them with it is how we gain them as learners. This site is broken down into Topics that are interesting and kid friendly. I got quite a laugh out of the Superstitions that are found under the Literature link, but my favorite quote for the evening is "If you use the same pencil to take a test that you used for studying for the test, the pencil will remember the answers." I wonder if that works for a mouse too...Thank goodness for a history button.

III. Florida Department of Education Site

The FLDOE website is one that I attend to on a regular basis. There is something there for every stakeholder who has an interest in the education system in Florida. As a whole the site is very comprehensive and informative for educators, parents, students, and community members. I use it regularly to access the Sunshine State Standards for my lesson plans. I also have accessed the certification page to review renewal procedures. As a parent, I have found it helpful for current initiatives to help my daughter be successful in her education. For college students being able to access FACTS has been beneficial in the long run by helping me better prepare for my college education.

IV. School District Websites

I am a teacher in Clay County which is located just south of Jacksonville. The county website can be located at One of the things that I find very useful on my particular county's website is the fact that there are a wide range of resources available for parents, students, teachers, and administrators. Recently the website transitioned into the Blackboard platform which has enabled parents to access their student's school, parent portal websites, and many other things. As a teacher I have been able to sign up for many professional development oppoturnities, LearnKey programs, subscribe to classroom management newsletters, employee wellness newsletters, and other exciting happenings in the county school system. For county newcomers the school website is a very user friendly place and parents can quickly locate what they are looking for directly from the county homepage menus. A widget also provides up to the minute school closures and other emergency data if necessary.

V. Other Outstanding Resources & My Favorites

Over the summer I took several Media Education elective courses through UCF. one site that I was reintroduced to as a college student was Sunlink. Immediately when you open this page bright colors greet you and make you feel welcome to the site. Depending on what you are looking for, will help you decide what role you will want to tackle and select the appropriate tab (Media Specialist, Parent, Teacher, Student, or Administrator). For students this website is particularly helpful and it definitely would meet the ISTE NET-S requirements based on fact that students would be actively searching for materials and investigating working on information fluency. This website has something for everyone and can help you easily locate a book or a research article that is applicable to many different topics such as "The role of technology in the classroom."

Another one of my favorites unfortunately requires a subsription, but is definitely worth every penny that my county pays for me to have access to it. Discovery Streaming, formerly known as United Streaming, provides teachers with access to 100s of videos for classroom use on any given topic. The site was "Voted the best professional development website in 2007 by the Association of Educational Publishers, this website is a place to connect to other educators across the globe." ( One of the things that I find particularly striking about this DEN website is the fact that many of the presenatations are classroom ready for immediate use. Not to mention that many of the videos are already paired up with the Sunshine State Standards and lesson plans. I have used several of the presentations in my classroom in the past and the kids are usually very responsive to the videos that I have shared with them. Teachers can also create quizzes, writing prompts and other activities directly on the the website and provide students with access codes to access the material at home or in the computer lab. If you have never used this site, I definitely recommend it for all teachers to look into for their classroom use.