Archive for the ‘Instructional Technologies’ Category


Friday, December 7th, 2012

The goal for my WebQuest is for students to see “the big picture” when it comes to wildlife conservation.  Students will understand how living things are connected to other living things in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats.

I want students to consider why we should protect animal species and their habitats. What would happen if the great white shark became extinct?  What would it mean if the gray wolf is removed from its food chain?  Why should this matter to me?  Why should we protect animals and their habitats?

Creating the WebQuest was challenging.  Although I quickly had the “Big Question” in my mind, I had difficulty maintaining my focus throughout the project.  After I developed my questions, I searched for online resources.  I modified the Custom Search Engine I created in Week 4 and I used my new friend Delicious to organize research sites, games, pictures and teacher blogs that I found useful.

As I worked through the process section, I ran into difficulty creating specific jobs for the individuals on each team.  I tried to make this project relevant to the students’ lives and find jobs that they could understand.  I also encountered problems trying to plan the length of the lesson.  Since I have been out of the classroom for sometime, I had a difficult time estimating how long each section will take.

I am pleased with the final project.  The games I have included are fun for the students but will also help them master the concept of food chains.  The research sites are great educational sites that include pictures and maps which are good visual aids.

Inquiry-Oriented Learning Activity

Any inquiry-oriented learning activity is defined by Coffman as “any activity that encourages students to think, ask questions, explore information, and then present possible solutions or ideas” (2009).  I have created my WebQuest with this in mind.


By providing students with the “big question”, I will guide them in their critical thinking.  Students will learn to ask how and why.

Ask Questions

By working in groups, students will brainstorm and question one another.  This will help them in their investigation of their assigned animal.  They will ask questions as they investigate the websites.

Explore Information

The WebQuest does not have a simple, right or wrong answer.  Students must explore a variety of resources to determine how their animal fits into its environment.  Students must build connections between new concepts and think critically to determine what would happen if that animal became extinct.

Present Solutions or Ideas

Students will need to build upon their new knowledge to determine why it is important to protect animals and their habitats.  Then students will work collaboratively to create a project to educate people about the importance of protecting their animal species.  Students will have to be creative in their approach to this global issue.


This WebQuest addresses the following standards:

Virginia Science Standard 3.5  The student will investigate and understand relationships among organisms in aquatic and terrestrial food chains.  Key concepts include

a) producer, consumer, decomposer;

b) herbivore, carnivore, omnivore; and

c) predator and prey.

INTASC Core Teaching Standards #5: Application of Content.  The teacher understands how to connect concepts and use differing perspectives to engage learners in critical thinking, creativity, and collaborative problem solving related to authentic local and global issues.

ISTE NETS #2 Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments.  Teachers design, develop, and evaluate learning experiences and assessment incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the NETSS.


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


Virtual Environments

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

I was apprehensive about this week’s topic of virtual environments.  I have no experience with multiuser virtual environments (MUVEs).  The first thing that popped into my head was the news story of a South Korean couple charged with starving their infant daughter as they devoted hours to raising their virtual baby online.  I always associated MUVEs with people trying to escape reality and certainly never considered its educational potential.  With this as my starting point, Dr. Coffman and Solomon & Schrum had their work cut out for them in convincing me that MUVEs deserve a place in the education of our children.

I was very surprised to find my attitude regarding MUVEs completely altered after this week’s assignments.  After reading and exploring several MUVEs, including the River City Project, I am convinced that MUVEs offer a different type of learning environment that can benefit students.  There are two features of MUVEs that I found to be most compelling.  First is the collaborative nature of the program.  Students must work together to solve complex problems.  Second is the potential for MUVEs to help underperforming students reach their potential.   A MUVE, if probably implemented, can help develop the ability to think critically and creatively.  It is important the the MUVE not take the place of instruction.  Rather it should complement other forms of instruction such as field trips, labs, lectures (Dede).  I spent a lot of time investigating how MUVEs can be implemented in science curriculum through the River City Project.  However I can see also potential for the use of MUVEs in the arts and social sciences.  Students can experience life as a journalist, scientist, judge, or engineer.   Although I did not see too many applications for the primary grades, the opportunities for older students are tremendous.


Dede, C. (n.d.). River city a research-based movie [Web]. Retrieved from

Visual Learning Tools: Capzle and Google Lit Trip

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Week Nine was tough for me.  I started the week feeling great about technology as last week’s mini-projects helped me gain confidence in my ability to use technology in the classroom.  Well, this week brought me back to the reality that I still have a lot to learn.  I chose to work on a Capzle timeline and a Google Lit Trip because I think these tools could be useful with early elementary students.  Both of these tools are great visual learning tools that will engage students and excite learners.

Originally I planned to make a Capzle timeline about the life of George Washington based on Standard 2.11.  After I had gathered my images and information, I found that Capzles can not be dated before 1753 (and Washington was born in 1732!).  I tried to work my way around this glitch by using the blog posting capability.  But I just was not happy with the result.  So, back to the drawing board.  For round two, I chose to create a timeline about Susan B. Anthony based on the same Standard.  In retrospect, it was probably a good thing that my George Washington timeline would not work.  Based on my experience as a parent, I think it is harder to get students excited about the women and minorities included in the Social Science Standards (Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson).  Many have never heard about these Americans and have no prior knowledge about them.  On the other hand, most have been hearing about George Washington since they were toddlers.  A visual representation of these Americans’ lives give students a better understanding of their lives and their important contributions.  Visual learning tools can also help the students to learn to think critically about content.  They can learn to decode “the effect the image was designed to produce, and they should analyze the extent and ways in which it successfully accomplishes the intended effect” (Solomon & Schrum, 2010).  I thought a lot about that statement as I found images from Anthony’s life.  I am happy with the end product and I think the images really add to the students’ understanding of Anthony’s life.  I think the students would enjoy viewing this program but I do not think young students could create their own timeline with this program.

For my second project this week I chose the Google Lit Trip.  There was sufficient warning about the complexity of this assignment, but I still underestimated the difficulty.  It took me several days to think of the story I wanted to use for a Lit Trip.  I finally decided upon The Race by Caroline Repchuk, a 2001 picture book based on the traditional Tortoise vs. Hare story.  The story begins in England.  While the tortoise hops on a cruise to New  York, the hare tries many forms of transportation which land him in various countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.  I found the Google Earth tutorials very helpful.  I would watch a minute or so, switch over to my project and complete that step, then switch back to the tutorial to watch the next step.  It was time-consuming but it was the best way for me to get the hang of Google Earth.  Although it was difficult to get the hang of, I like Google Earth and I think there are endless possibilities for this program in the classroom.  Although I plan to return to primary grades, I could not help but think of the many great journeys older students could explore with this tool.  It would be great for students to be able to see the route taken by explorers, literary characters, and historical figures.  Imagine students seeing the route taken my Harriet Tubman, Louis and Clark, Tom Sawyer.  Older students could also create simply Lit Trips on their own.


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

Wordle and Voki

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

I chose to work on the Wordle and Voki this week.  I feel that both of these tools have many uses in early elementary classrooms.  I enjoyed Wordle and see great potential for this tool.  First I explored the word clouds created from the Inaugural Addresses. What a great tool to compare texts.  I like that the product is a visual representation of the text.  It conveys the message of what could be a long (and sometimes boring) text into a visual representation that students can easily connect with.  For my lesson using Wordle, I focused on kindergarten standard K.8.  This standard addresses the idea of being a good citizen, one of the first topics covered in kindergarten.  I would use this tool as a culminating activity at the end of the unit.  For my word cloud, I enlisted the help of my children and nieces.  Each provided me with a list of words or phrases to describe what it means to be a good citizen.  The kids really enjoyed seeing the resulting word cloud.  The possibilities for Wordle seem endless even for the primary grades.  A great thing about Wordle is that it allows students to publish their work.  Publishing student work gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment.  When students have an authentic audience, they are more engaged in their work and more committed to their creation (Solomon & Schrum, 2010).  If I completed this activity with a class, I would display the word cloud in the classroom.  The class could then compare it to the classroom rules, noting similarities and differences.

My second mini-project for this week was the Voki.  This tool would also be useful in the primary grades, when students may still have difficulty reading text.  A Voki on a webpage allows students to be more independent and will help them feel more confident when working with technology.  My idea was to create several Voki characters based on Standard 1.2.  This Standard states that students will learn about American leaders with emphasis on George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver and Eleanor Roosevelt.  A webpage with a Voki of each of these historical characters would be a great way for students to review concepts at the end of the unit, perhaps before a formal assessment.  Check out George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on my web portfolio.

I realized this week that we are halfway through the course.  I am amazed with all that I have learned already and am excited to see what the second half has to offer.  Although I have been frustrated with technology many times over the past 8 weeks, I have also been given numerous tools that will add great value to my classroom.


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

No Need for Post-Its Anymore

Sunday, October 14th, 2012


Wallwisher is an interesting program with a lot of potential.  I see it as a great way to share ideas among colleagues and friends.  I did have a hard time finding a place for it in the primary grades.  As young students do not have strong typing skills, I would use Washwisher carefully.  I thought about using it in the primary grades as an end of unit reflection board.  Students could post what they liked or did not like about a particular unit of study.  It would provide a time for reflection and also give the teacher good feedback on how the unit succeeded and how it could be improved.  For older students, the possibilities for Wallwisher seem endless.  Wallwisher would be a useful tool in group projects as it allow students to share resources with one another and collaborate easily.  It could also be used as a discussion board.  Teachers could give students a question to guide a discussion about a topic they are studying.  A teacher must provide opportunities for discussion, reflection and feedback in order to fully engage students (Coffman, 2009).  I believe Wallwisher could be used as a tool to facilitate all three of these areas.

Since I am not currently in the classroom I set up a wall that I could use in my personal life.  As a volunteer in Cub Scouts and the PTA, I am always looking for new fundraising ideas and fun activities and programs.  A tool like WallWisher would be a great way for volunteers to share ideas.  It could become a great resource.  My only reservation about Wallwisher is the public nature of the information.  In order to get the input from people, the wall must be public.  I know I must sound like a broken record by now but I am still uneasy about the public nature of many of these tools as I believe it makes your personal information vulnerable.



Abelman, S. (2006). Retrieved on October 14, 2012, from

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


Flipping the Classroom

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

I enjoyed learning about flipping classrooms and I am intrigued by the idea.  I can see many benefits to such an approach.  This approach allows for differentiated instruction as students can take as much or as little time needed to watch the lesson.  Students who are struggling have the opportunity to pause the lecture or rewind to review a topic.  This give students more time to digest the information.  When students show up in class, they will already have a good understanding of the topic.  This allows teachers to spend class time working on in depth problems, helping students to think critically and problem solve.  It appears that teachers in flipped classrooms act more as facilitators or guides.  The students themselves have the opportunity to take control of and responsibility for their own learning.  In certain disciplines, particularly science, a flipped classroom would give students more time to experiment and participate in authentic activities.

I do have a few concerns about this approach.  One problem, which was raised frequently on the websites I visited, is how do you implement this concept in schools whose students may not have the necessary technology at home.  Clintondale High School, which has successfully flipped classrooms, addresses that concern by allowing students to access school computers before school, during lunch and after school.  I am not sure this equalizes the playing field for those disadvantaged students. However, it is hard to argue with the results they have seen at Clintondale.  Another question I have about the approach is how different is it really from the “old” style?  Some critics say that “flipped classrooms still rely heavily on lectures by teachers, which they argue are not as effective as hands-on learning”(Mindshift, 2012).  A flipped classroom approach gives educators the time in the classroom to guide students through hands-on learning experiences.  But is that what is really happening?  Finally, what about those students who have different learning styles?  Teachers would need to be very careful when creating the lectures to make sure that all of their students’ needs are met.

While I see great potential in a flipped classroom, I think it should be used carefully in elementary school, especially the primary grades.  There could be occasions when flipping the classroom for younger students would be beneficial.  For example, my Animoto project was an introductory video for a first grade unit on American symbols.  Students could watch this video at home at the beginning of the unit.  When they came to class, they would already be excited and ready to start the unit.  This would allow more time for hands-on activities and real life experiences.  Also, I think that parents would appreciate more meaningful homework.   As a mother of three elementary students, I know I would like to see a change in the quality of homework assignments.


BES Photos. (2012).  Retrieved on October 4, 2012, from

Mindshift. (2012, June 18). Can the flipped classroom benefit low-income students? Retrieved from

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: