Archive for September, 2012

Twitter, Google Reader and LinkedIn! Oh My!

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

This week was a mixed experience.  I did not enjoy my first experiences with Twitter. Maybe it is because I am a digital immigrant that I am hesitant about Twitter.  I have always associated Twitter with celebrities who pride themselves on tweeting regularly but really do not have much to say.  It takes a lot of time to weed through the fluff of Twitter to get to those worth following.

I struggled with Google Reader as well.  It takes a long time to sift through the overwhelming number of options.  I tried several subscriptions that I quickly found to be dull and repetitive.  Others that I have not subscribed to are showing up on my feed.  Obviously, I have a lot to learn.

I am conflicted about LinkedIn.  I understand the benefits of being involved in an online community.  However, I am still apprehensive about sharing information about myself with total strangers.  To be honest, I did not feel particularly comfortable doing my introduction video on Brainshark.  Again, maybe it is the digital immigrant in me, but I am weary about putting my life “out there” for everyone to see.  It is going to take me some time to get used to this but I am willing to try.

With all that said, I can see that there are educational and professional benefits to social networking.  The readings this week opened my eyes to the possible uses for communication sites such as Twitter.   I could use Twitter to gather information, ask for advice, use as a sounding board for ideas, stay up to date on the latest educational trends or find help for projects (Solomon & Schrum, 2010).  Twitter, if I can learn to access its potential, would be an valuable instrument in my professional learning network (PLN).  I realize now that it will take time to establish my PLN.  It seems to be a trial and error process to find those on Twitter or Google Reader or LinkedIn that are the right fit for me.  While I have been frustrated a lot this week, I do recognize the importance of developing a PLN.

The video assignment has been great fun.  I chose to base it on Standard 1.11.  This standard addresses  American symbols and practices, such as the American flag, bald eagle and Statue of Liberty.


I enlisted the help of one of my sons to record some patriotic songs.  Finding images that were free to use was not difficult.  However, finding images of the proper quality was challenging.  This video would be a great beginning to a unit on American symbols.  The video would spark students’ prior knowledge about national symbols and help facilitate a discussion.  Students could think of images to add to the video throughout the unit.  Animoto was easy to use and I think students would enjoy making videos of their own.



Solomon, G. & Schrum, L. (2010). Web 2.0 how-to for educators. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

Information Literacy and Creativity

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Wow, what a lot to take in this week!  To say I was a bit overwhelmed would be an understatement.  Let’s look at one thing at a time.

At first I had little success with Technorati.  I searched for election news coverage but most of the hits were just not what I was looking for.  Then I looked for blogs relating to the U.S. Marine Corps.  As I have many friends all over the world with the Marine Corps, I thought it may be a way to stay better informed.  Again, I did not find what I was looking for.  I finally had some success while searching for information on foster parenting and teaching overseas, two things my husband and I have thought about tackling in the years down the road.  The foster parent blog was  I found it interesting and it also had links to other useful sites.  The other site I enjoyed was  This is the blog of a woman who is living in the United Arab Emigrates with her family and how they have adjusted and thrived in a new country.  This was not exactly what I had in mind when I searched for teaching overseas, but it was very informative about the adjustments an American family has to make while living in a foreign country.

Scratch…well, Scratch had me scratching my head a lot!  I recently switched back to a mac after many years on a pc.  Sometimes just installing and launching a new programs is a challenge for me!  I watched every tutorial possible and still had a difficult time.  I spent some time experimenting and finally started to got the hang of it.  I decided to make an animal habitats exhibit.  I picked the desert background and five different sprites.  Three are animals found in a desert habitat, while two are not.  If students click on the correct animals, they move into their habitat.  If they click on the wrong animals, the gong sounds and the animal runs away.

My idea is to eventually create multiple backgrounds with different habitats.  I created it with kindergarten or first grade students in mind.  Both grades study animal habitats.  After my initial frustration, I really enjoyed using Scratch.  I think my students would really enjoy this too.

Cmap was also new to me.  I found this program to be less user-friendly than the program we used in Week 3.  Although I did not enjoy the program, the process of building the graphic organizer definitely helped me organize my thoughts and clarify my understanding of website evaluation.  The Cmap would be useful in planning how to guide students in website evaluation.  Teaching students this skill is essential as not all websites are legitimate sources of information.  One study in Colorado found that only 27% of the websites one group of middle and high school students utilized contained reliable information (Colhoun, 2000).  Evaluating websites will also help develop students’ critical thinking and reading skills.



Colhoun, A. (2000). But-I found it on the Internet.  The Christian Science Monitor.  Retrieved September 22, 2012 from:

Copyrights in the Classroom

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

I retrieved this image using Google Advanced Image Search.  I searched for the Supreme Court.  It was the first Washington D.C. building to pop into my mind after reading about copyrights.  I selected to search only images that are free to use or share.  This image is available for reuse but requires proper attribution and cannot be used commercially.  I retrieved this image at

It is necessary for teachers to instruct students in the proper use of copyrighted material.  Many assume that if it is on the internet, it is free to use.  It is so easy to copy an image, a sentence or paragraph and insert it into a document without recognizing the true owner of those words or image.  Students should be taught to respect copyrights in elementary school.  As I have been out of the classroom for a long time, I have never dealt with this issue as a teacher.  We did not have internet access on school computers when I last taught full-time.  However, I have dealt with the issue as a parent.  When completing homework projects on the computer, my children noticed that some pictures on the internet had faded words across the picture.  I explained to them that this is because the owner of the picture doesn’t want anyone to reuse that picture.  It is a very simple concept to understand, even for early elementary school students.  It only took a few minutes to show my children how to check to make sure it is okay to use the image you selected.  It would be just as easy for me as a teacher to model the correct way to search for usable images.

Teachers have many opportunities to use copyrighted information in the classroom under Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976.  This section explains that “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright”(U.S. Copyright Office, 2012).  As teachers we are given much leeway in the use of copyrighted material for educational purposes.  However, we must be careful not to abuse the privileges we have been given.


Massmatt (April 26, 2009). Retrieved September 13, 2012 from,

U.S. Copyright Office (2012). Copyright Law of the United States of America and Related Laws Contained in the Title 17 of the United States Code. Retrieved September 15, 2012 from



21st Century Skills vs. Core Knowledge

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

I really enjoyed this week’s readings.  Education is continuously evolving.  My days in elementary school were spent sitting at a desk with a teacher talking at us from the front of the classroom.  There was little student collaboration or discussion.  Today, I love what I see in classrooms.  Students are moving around the room, engaged and excited about what they are doing.  Things have certainly changed from thirty years ago.  The websites we visited this week discuss the paths educations need to take to help our students succeed in a global world.

I found Core Knowledge to be very persuasive in its argument for a coherent, content oriented approach to education.  I agree that education must cover the fundamentals of academic areas such as science, history, literature, and math.  Core Knowledge does not address how to implement inquiry based learning or technology into the classroom.  In fact, the only place I found the word technology on the website was in the frequently asked questions section.  The question asked: why isn’t there a section for technology?  Although many assume content-centered teaching must mean directed teaching, Core Knowledge does not address how the content is taught.  In fact, it states that, “Teachers are free to devote their energies and efforts to creatively planning how to teach the content to the children in their classrooms” (The Core Knowledge Foundation, 2012).  Teachers have the freedom to use inquiry based learning or technology tools such as Web Quests and student blogs to teach content.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) emphasizes the importance of the 4C’s: critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity.  While P21 advocates integrating these skills into the teaching of core subjects, it does not provide details about what to teach in the core areas.  Instead they focus on how to teach.  21st Century Pedagogy resembles P21 in that it emphasizes that how we teach must match how we learn.  This approach stresses problem solving, thinking skills and collaborative project based learning.  Again, it spotlights teaching content in context.

Each of these approaches allow for inquiry based learning.  While P21 and 21st Century Pedagogy emphasize inquiry based learning, Core Knowledge allows teachers to decide how to best teach content.  I believe one of the most important features of inquiry based learning is that it strives to increase the student’s motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic.  Students who are motivated are more engaged, take ownership of their learning and are inquisitive (Coffman, 2009).

I think my classroom would benefit from each of these schools of thought.  I appreciate how Core Knowledge and 21st Century Pedagogy stress an interwoven curriculum.  While investigating these sites, I thought about how I could weave a second grade social studies lesson on China into different aspects of the curriculum.  While studying China in social studies, discuss Chinese proverbs in language arts, endangered  animals such as the Giant Panda in science, the Terra-cotta Army in art and the guqin during music.

As I read the 21st Century Pedagogy, I thought about the ways students could better their collaboration skillls during the social studies unit on China.  Why not have students collaborate on a project with students in China?  As an elementary student I enjoyed a pen pal relationship with a student in Germany.  It was a wonderful experience although it often took weeks to get a reply.  How great is it that students can communicate instantly with students halfway around the world!  The learning pyramid also got me thinking about how I ran my classroom.  Did I spend too much time standing in front of them lecturing while they only retained about 5% of the information?  Did I give them chances to work collaboratively and teach others which would help them retain 90% of the information (Educational Origami, 2012)?

P21 addresses very important issues as well.  Students must learn to think critically and solve problems.  Memorization of facts is not enough to succeed today.  But how do you teach these skills?  How do you fit it into a schedule packed with material that must be covered to succeed on standardized testing.  Can these skills really be implemented without the core subject knowledge suffering?  I believe I can teach these skills while providing strong core subject knowledge.  The key for me is not what to teach, but how to teach.  One tool that could help me is the Task Oriented Question Construction Wheel based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.  This tool could help me create lessons that would teach content while developing the desired skills identified by P21.  I can guide my students to higher order thinking skills by choosing the right action verbs as I create my lessons (Coffman, 2009).  My objective should be to engage students and spark their curiosity.  If I achieve those objectives, I believe I can guide my students to develop both the strong content knowledge and the critical thinking skills necessary for success today.



 Coffman, T. (2009). Engaging students through inquiry-oriented learning and technology.  Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Educational Origami (2012). 21st century pedagogy. Retrieved September 7, 2012 from:

The Core Knowledge Foundation (2012).  About our curriculum.  Retrieved September 7, 2012 from: