Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gaining Google Knowledge from GAFE Webinar

Image from

I just want to start off saying that I had no idea what "GAFE" was before listening to this webinar. I have always been a very strong Google supporter and consider myself fairly knowledgeable in all things Google, so when I found this archived webinar, I knew I had to give it a listen. 

This webinar was hosted by Classroom 2.0 Live, and the guest was Google-certified instructor Lisa Thumann. She quickly took the group through the "20 Need-To-Know Features of GAFE You Should be Using Today." Thankfully she explained what GAFE was before she started; Google Apps for Education. Turns out I have been using them for years, I just didn't know it! 

I won't go into everything Lisa explained, but my favorite topics she covered were image editing in Google Docs, Slides, etc., Google search and research in Docs, and canned messages in Gmail. Instead of having to open up a third-party application or program to edit a photo that you want to use in a Google Doc or Presentation, you now have extensive options to crop, edit, resize, etc, any photo you'd like to include. I'm always struggling to switch between programs to present and edit photos, so I'm very excited about this. She also explained that you can now do a Google search directly in Google Docs. You can highlight text and instead of hyperlinking to a link you already have, you can put keywords into the search bar and search for a relevant link to use. Likewise, if you highlight a certain word or phrase and right click on it, you have the option to "research" that phrase. A sidebar will pop up that shows you websites, definitions, pictures, etc, that are relevant to what you're trying to learn more about. One other thing that I thought was really neat was the canned responses in Gmail. Basically, you can preset email messages, so if you send a lot of the same type of emails over and over, you can insert a canned response so you don't always have to type everything out again. I didn't even know this existed! Like I said, Lisa went into much greater detail on many more Google-related features, but those were some of the ones that were new or interesting to me. 

Google is incredibly valuable to education in our 21st Century classrooms. I'm not sure there are many classrooms who have not accessed Google in some way, and I'm amazed every time Google comes out with another feature that can be used in education. It not only makes it easier for students to create, share, and learn, but it also helps the teacher communicate and collaborate with other teachers, parents, and students. It helps all users be more productive, and gives easy solutions to problems that may be much more difficult to tackle on any other software. 

I am proud to say that my future students will be avid Google users. I love how much I can accomplish with the help of Google, and I know there is so much I still have to learn.  I love that everything is streamlined and simple, and I'm excited for the increased functionality and productivity that Docs, Gmail, and all the Google Apps have. I think that my students will greatly benefit from using Google Apps, and I'm so excited to learn how to use these tools with my students! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Global Collaboration with the Global Youth Debates

Photo used with permission from
Not often do you get the chance to interact with people across the world , let alone work with them, but that is what I got to do. I volunteered to be a judge in the Global Youth Debates, a Flat Connections global project that creates a global experience for students to practice global interactions through debate.

I participated in the practice debates, as well as round 1 of the real, scored debates. It was very helpful to be part of the practice debate, because this was the first time I had ever been in a debate like this. Granted, I wasn't actually the one debating, but the students benefited from the practice as much as I did. The practice debate I judged was a little rough, but I was supposed to interact with other people from around the globe to judge the debate collaboratively. The students were debating against a school on the other side of the globe, and I was judging with people on the other side of the globe.

This is much easier said than done. While the concept of the Global Youth Debates was very interesting and unique, it was extremely difficult to collaborate with someone you've never met and can't talk with in real time. It was hard to communicate with the people I was assigned to work with, and I never really got to talk with them directly. I completed my portion of the debates, but my group was never really able to complete the debate as it was meant to be done. We were supposed to comment together, come to a consensus about how the debate went and score it, then each leave our own comments on the VoiceThread that the students were debating on. This was all well and good, but we ran into problems as far as being able to complete the judging in enough time to talk about it together, so we really weren't able to make that collaboration factor work.

For the first global collaborative project I've been a part of, I really enjoyed it, even though it turned out to be sort of unsuccessful. If anything, it taught me how hard it can be to coordinate collaboration on a global scale, even though it is extremely rewarding if it can be successful. Global collaboration is an amazing tool to help students (and teachers!) think globally and consider the people in the world as assets and friends, not as enemies or competitors.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Diving into Web 2.0

Photo by  jonas_therkildsen,

It's no surprise that the technology around us is changing, and the World Wide Web is no exception. We've come a long ways from the days of static, text-based web pages with zero interactivity for users, also called Web 1.0.

We're in the Web 2.0 age, which consists of the most effective, interactive, and engaging web experiences. That's not to say that Web 1.0 is gone and Web 2.0 has taken over; both have been around since the beginning of the Web, according to HowStuffWorks. There are elements of Web 1.0 in our day to day lives (there isn't a super way to spice up reading a scholarly article, for instance. You just have to read the text...but maybe someone should change that ;), and there have been elements of Web 2.0 since web pages were created.

People now understand how to use Web 2.0 most effectively to engage their online visitors and create an interactive experience that will keep them coming back. There are Web 2.0 tools on almost anything, and you can find collections of many of the best ones (like this one from Edudemic), or use a simple search engine to find one that meets your needs.

While I tend to consider myself decently knowledgeable about the Web 2.0 tools that are out there, I came across two that sparked my interest: LiveBinders and Storify. I wanted to learn a little more about them, and I decided to share them with you!

Let's start with LiveBinders. It's "your 3-ring binder for the web." And let's be honest, as a future teacher, I'm an organizational freak, as I'm sure many of you are as well. I love to make sure all my things are in the proper place, but online stuff gets hard. My personal computer is filled with orderly files, but what if I could do that with web content? With LiveBinders, I can! Take a look at this video to get a quick overview of LiveBinders:

Pretty cool concept, huh? Here's more of a fun video that shows what LiveBinders does to replace your old organizational system, and even features some testimonials from students and educators about their experiences.

If you're looking for a tutorial on how to use LiveBinders, check out this website. It has a video tutorial and a cheat sheet so you can easily set up your own LiveBinder! Also, take a look at this great example of a LiveBinder. It's all about Free Technology Tools for Teachers (how relevant!), and it has a TON of resources linked under each category. Play around with it and see how a LiveBinder works, and take a look at some of the great resources!

The other Web 2.0 tool I played with was Storify. Storify, according to their website, is simple, social storytelling. It's a pretty cool concept; you take elements of the web (Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr posts, Flickr/Instagram photos, YouTube videos, and countless other social media forms) and drag and drop them into your 'story', a blog of sorts. Once you drag and drop these elements into your story, you can rearrange them and add text to create an all-encompassing story of whatever event or concept you're trying to explain. From there, you can share it with people on your social media sites or directly link it to the people that you've quoted in your story, and it remains a live document where people can click, watch, and interact with the content you've collected. It's a little hard to explain, so watch this video to see Storify in action and get a feel for how to use it:

If you're interested in a more in-depth tutorial about Storify, watch this video, too!

I think that Storify could be a great tool to use in the classroom, and you don't have to just use it for news stories! Take a look at this article to see 4 ways you could use Storify in the classroom, and check out these examples of what you could do with Storify to highlight a news story, national holiday, or an event.

Pretty cool, right? I think LiveBinders and Storify could be awesome tools to use, not only for personal development, but also for students to practice skills like organization, writing, and research. Other than the ways listed above, what are some ways that you could see yourself using these resources in your classroom? How could students use LiveBinders to create a personal resource? What could students create using Storify? A book report? A science tutorial for other learners? Comment with your ideas!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Learning to Game with Kingdom Rush

Image by RebeccaPollard,

This week's homework was a little different than normal.

Our class was instructed to play a game called Kingdom Rush for three hours this week, then think about how the gaming process fit with the learning process, how we could merge the two, etc. I've learned a decent amount about gaming in education in other classes, and I love games myself, so I was very excited about this assignment!

I decided to document my Kingdom Rush experience with a video and reflection (5 mins), which you can view below! (Navigate to if the embedded video isn't working)

As you could probably tell from the video, I got really into this assignment. Although I've never played Kingdom Rush, I caught on quickly and found myself losing track of time and anything outside of the game. This, according tDr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is the concept of Flow: a state where people are the most concentrated and engaged in what they're doing. You might be familiar with this state of mind associated with artists, musicians, or athletes, but it happens all the time. Whenever you do something that you're completely immersed in and enjoy, you're experiencing Flow. 

I know whenever I do jigsaw puzzles or play my favorite Nancy Drew computer games (shameless plug, call me a nerd if you want ;) ), I lose myself in them. I'm completely focused on what I'm doing in that moment, I'm challenged, and want to keep trying to complete the task or get better. This is Flow. I know I achieved Flow while playing Kingdom Rush, too, and it was interesting to finally finish a level or two and realize how into it I had actually gotten. 

Games have flow naturally built into them. They're challenging, they're engaging, they're satisfying, and they're reinforcing. If we can harness games in education, wouldn't our students be so much more engaged? I can't think of a single kid who doesn't like games. Adults, too, for that matter. Playing is human nature, and it doesn't make much sense to me to have an entire educational system where our love for games isn't built upon. Why can't we have fun teaching and learning the topics we need to learn? If kids stay engaged and learn things from games, we can harness that and apply it to education.

That's easier said than done, obviously, but I think that the perfect execution doesn't matter as much as the attempt at execution. If we try to use games and gaming in the best ways possible, we'll figure out what works and what doesn't. I know that for my future students, they'll be playing a lot of games. Will they be pointless and 'just for fun?' No, of course not. I wouldn't bring games into my classroom that weren't tied with instruction, but I think that games can be created or tweaked to fit the needs of our students and schools. 

I want my students to have a love for gaming, just like I do. But more than that, I want them to have a love for learning. Why not tie those two together?

What do you think? What are your ideas about how gaming could be used in the classroom? Are there any situations where gaming isn't appropriate? Have you seen any classrooms that were exceptional about including games and gaming in the curriculum?

Monday, September 22, 2014

The YouTube Generation

Photo by jonsson,
It's no doubt that YouTube is a great tool for watching, sharing, and creating videos. It's been around as long as I can remember, and I'm not sure if I've ever not gone to YouTube when I've wanted to learn about something. My most recent example of this was a few days ago when I started thinking about ebonics. If you don't know, ebonics (or African American English) is a dialect of English most commonly spoken by African Americans. While I had heard of ebonics before, I hadn't really learned anything about it, nor heard it being spoken fluently. I, of course, turned to YouTube and found this video:

Within this video, a school demonstrates how they've been teaching their students (who primarily speak African American English at home) how to speak American English. They treat each of these dialects as two distinct languages, and they've been having huge success in helping students speak academic English, whereas normally, ebonics-speakers might get in trouble or ignored because they don't speak correctly. Definite win for YouTube. I was able to search for my topic and watch a short, informative video (with an example in education, no less!) in less than 5 minutes.

This is what YouTube is all about. Yes, we may like to watch cat videos and have a laugh at someone's expense because the video of them falling off of a trampoline went viral, but really, we use YouTube to learn things. We do research every day through YouTube. We look up news stories, we get updates from our favorite bands or celebrities, we wonder about random things and learn about them through YouTube. There's an entire category on YouTube for education, (YouTube EDU) where YouTube "brings learners and educators together in a global video classroom." This isn't for people who are currently in college somewhere, this is for anyone with a desire to learn. Your 13 year old cousin is a genius and wants to learn about biochemistry but doesn't have the means in school? She can find entire courses on YouTube that she can take, completely for free. Your grandma decides that she wants to finally take that trip to Russia she's always wanted to go on? She can watch hundreds of videos about the culture and brush up on her Russian (or learn from scratch). What about the guy who dropped out of high school and now works a minimum wage, dead-end job? As long as he has access to internet, either at home, a library, coffee shop, etc., he can start learning about topics he's never even dreamed about.

Photo by aisletwentytwo,

Of course YouTube isn't completely educational. You do have to be careful when you use YouTube in class because not every video is appropriate. Inappropriate content can also pop up in the video suggestions sidebar, and the comments people leave on videos are often not suitable for children to read. If these things make you less excited about using YouTube in the classroom, an alternative is TeacherTube, an online community for sharing educational videos. While I haven't personally used TeacherTube yet, I've heard extremely positive things about it and I think it offers a great solution for teachers who don't want their students on YouTube or if they want a more educationally-themed video resource for themselves.

Regardless, YouTube is changing education. Whether it's by letting everyone become a learner and viewing instructional videos or by letting everyone become content creators by uploading their original videos, YouTube can be a great resource. Check out this article to read more about how YouTube is revolutionizing education, or watch some of 2013's ten most popular education YouTube videos.

How do you plan to use YouTube in education? Have you ever run into things that you can't find on YouTube? Have you uploaded your own content?

Lastly, I'll leave you with this graphic, which I think explains social media in general pretty well. ;)

Photo by ChrisL_AK,

Friday, September 19, 2014

Innovation and Education - What I learned

Image by CERDEC,

This week I did something I've never done before. I viewed a recording from the Global STEMx Education Conference that took place in September of 2013. The session that I viewed was "Innovation and Education: Why and how they belong together" by William J. Ashby. He spoke about how innovation and education are cyclical; education feeds into innovation, and innovation (and innovators!) feed back into education. He also explained how education is still working in the pre-information age, where schools, libraries, etc., had to get information to people. Now, however, people have more information than ever at their fingertips. Why do schools need to teach them things they can look up on Google? Instead, this is the information age, and our problem now isn't to help people get to information, it's to teach them how to problem solve and take risks. People need to learn how to use the information they have access to in order to solve the real world problems that we don't have answers to, like curing cancer, creating better fuel alternatives, or restructuring our education system.

Although the webinar format was frustrating at times (I could only see the powerpoint slides, so whenever participants commented, watched a video, used a poll, etc., I couldn't participate), I really enjoyed being able to listen and take part in this session, even after it had originally taken place. It's pretty neat that a conference that happened one time is available for me to use as a resource any time I want!

The biggest thing I got from this webinar was that in order to solve problems, you have to define the problems. This may seem like a no brainer, but the participants in the session thought that this was the biggest issue in STEM education. You can't solve a problem when you don't know what it is! Ashby explained the design he uses for understanding and developing a problem. First, empathize with the students (or whoever the problem affects) to help you understand the problem. Then, dig deeper so you fully understand by rephrasing the answers you received. Write your findings down, then define the problem.

I feel like this is a good model for problem solving both in the classroom and out. Ashby believes that this model for problem definition is efficient, and I can see it working too. He was presenting it in the context of defining a problem that requires innovation to solve, but I could see it in a much smaller scale as well. If classroom conflicts or problems arise, such as a student who is struggling, I think that this could be a good way to get to the root of the problem instead of jumping to conclusions about what the problem is. By empathizing with my students, digging deep and rephrasing the information, and defining the problem in a concise way, it could help to get a more accurate idea of what's actually going on. Obviously this could be applied to a much larger scale, but for my professional practice, I could see myself using it within my own classroom.

I used to think that innovation was for 'big thinkers', or people who were far more educated and creative than I am. Now I think that innovation can happen on a smaller scale and can be accessible for me and my students. We just have to ask the right questions, get to the problems, and find solutions to those problems! What do you think fuels innovation? Do you think that defining problems can help lead to more innovation in education?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Next Big Thing is Here...Until the Next Big Thing Gets Here?

Photo by Street matt,
Ever since the hubbub last week with the Apple event, I've been thinking a lot lately about the progression of technology. In case you're unfamiliar with Apple's huge unveiling of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Watch, etc., it's been quite a big deal for Apple. Longer battery life, larger screen size (a LOT larger, in the case of the 6 Plus), an Apple smartwatch? It seems that Apple has finally caught up to what companies like Samsung have been doing all along.

Okay now, this isn't going to be an Apple/Android/PC/Windows/Anything debate in the slightest. But really, why are we so excited about these new devices? So there's a larger screen. There's a new smartwatch on the market. Our technology-centered society gets so excited to embrace these new innovations, even though last-year's model is perfectly fine. Technology progresses so incredibly fast, and it's not likely to slow down.

This got me to thinking; why is education so far behind? The iPhone 6 will officially be available tomorrow, and I know that people are just itching to turn in their iPhone 5s or 5c to get the next thing, which they will undoubtedly trade in when next year's model is released. Meanwhile, our schools are still struggling to integrate the use of laptops or tablets in the classroom. I can't think of any classrooms that utilize smartphones, at least in this area, and a good number of schools that 'have' technology don't use it effectively. What is education doing wrong? Why aren't we staying up to date with technology?

Well, I didn't have the answers to these questions, so naturally, I Googled it. I came up with this blog post on Edutopia that discusses this very topic. I really liked this post because it talks about the TPACK and SAMR models for technology integration, both of which have been presented to me in my classes here at UNI. These models help us to utilize technology to its full potential, but education often appears to be content with hanging out and doing things like they've always done until technology slows down. While things are definitely headed in the right direction, this article says that "the only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it".

So how can we plunge into technology integration if it's constantly changing? The blog post suggests admitting that you're not an expert and that there will be things you don't know! You can set aside some time to learn a new tech tool that you've never used and to be a curious learner. It's also important to be familiar with the standards that you're following, whether they're the Common Core, Iowa Core, or other state or local standards. If you know what standards you need to be meeting, it can be easier to decide what technology to use to help you meet those standards. It's also a great idea to read and interact with those people who are considered experts in the field and ask for their suggestions.

Technology is constantly changing, evolving, and influencing the world we live in. It holds incredible potential to be used in education, if we can take a leap of faith and get away from what we're comfortable with. Although it may be painless to simply do what we've always done, it's going to take a little transitioning, experimenting, and adjusting to finally go with the flow of technology. We've been thinking about technology as "Oh no! Something new came out! But I'm still trying to figure out how to use this old technology!", when we should be thinking "Awesome! Something new came out! How can I use what I've learned from prior technologies, both good and bad, to use this as best as I can?"

What do you think? Can education ever 'catch up' to technology? Have you seen evidence of or used effective technology integration in your classrooms? Please comment and let me know what you think!

Photo by mkhmarketing,

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Growing Social Media

Growing Social Media by mkhmarketing,
Social media is completely changing the way we think about education. 

It started from a seed; something we did for fun in our spare time. Now, social media has allowed us to create connections that were never possible before. It has grown into something we use for professional development, resources, and relationships. 

Social media has allowed us to build networks with people all over the world. In her book, Social Media for Educators, author Tanya Joosten explains how educators can easily make connections with people in their field, and this gives them greater access to connections, information, and colleagues (Joosten, p.16). One great example of this that is often used in education is Twitter. Searchable hashtags allow you to track information that is important or valuable to you. You can find people who are talking about the things you're interested in, and join in conversations about those topics. 

Also according to Joosten, social media is organic. In order to experience this organic nature and grow your social network, it's especially important to learn to be authentic and human through social media. If you're open to new ideas, criticism, and unpredictability, it can lead to "unintended, beneficial results," like new connections and valuable input from others that may not have been possible without social media (Joosten, p. 28). Being open with social media helps us gain trust with the people who interact with us, and this can lead to relationships and interactions that help us grow as educators. 

One of the things I get most excited for about social media in education is the growth that is sure to come from future teachers. Joosten also talks about how by participating in social media, teachers are more apt to understand technology and feel comfortable using it in their classrooms. This has been shown to help increase effectiveness with student learning, but many teachers struggle with implementing social media when they haven't had much experience with it. This is something that I feel will start to change as the younger teachers (myself included) start to emerge in the field of education. I consider myself to be a digital native; I can't remember a time when I didn't know how to use a computer. I've been using social media for more than half of my life. My generation has grown up with social media, which, in my opinion, makes us the most well-equipped to implement it into our future classrooms. We know how social media works, we've used it extensively, and now it's our time to use it effectively in the classroom. Social media can also be an amazing resource for us young teachers; check out this short article on how social media is helping young teachers stay in the field.

These are just a few of my observations about how social media is growing and changing the way we view education. Read this blog post about some other ways social media has changed traditional education, and comment below if there are any others you can think of! How do you see social media reshaping the way we do education? Do you think that social media is changing the way we learn?

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Power of Instagram (and Commenting!)

By Jason A Howie,
Instagram has really taken off as one of the top photo/video sharing applications out there. Maybe you don't use Instagram, but I'd bet money that you've at least heard of it. If not, it's an app that lets you share photos and short videos with the world. It's best known for its filters that you can apply to pictures, which give your images a distinct feel and look. While you can follow individual users and users can follow you back, your account is public to the world (unless you make your account private, in which case only approved users can see your pictures), letting anyone see, like, or comment on the photos and videos you share.

While I have an Instagram account that I use semi-frequently, I've always been a little concerned by the number of teens and tweens that are getting into Instagram. The kids I babysit or have had field experiences with, some as young as 10 or so, are putting most of their waking lives on Instagram. I feel like there's a difference between me, a 21-year-old college student, choosing to put moments of my life where others can see, and a 12-year-old who hasn't fully grasped the gravity of what could happen when they put images out where anyone can get a hold of them.

It was this concern that sparked me to read this blog post by TeachMama. She talks about Instagram from a parent's perspective, but gives some amazing insights into Instagram, including a walk-through of what it is, how it works, why kids are using it, and what concerns you should have before letting kids use it. She warns about the public aspect of Instagram; that other people can see the child's account, the child can look at anyone else's account, and that the child could search for (and accidentally find) inappropriate content.

Instagram is starting to sound a little scary, at least where kids are concerned. But let's not write it off just yet. TeachMama goes on to explain how to have a conversation with your kids if they are already (or want to) use Instagram. Some of these ideas include monitoring your child's activity, making their account private, following your child's account (and their friends, and their friends' parents, etc), approve your child's followers, and creating a Family Media Agreement. She even lists some safe alternatives for kids to use if you decide that Instagram really isn't what you want them to be involved in just yet.

This blog post really made me start thinking about if Instagram could be used in an educational setting safely with students. Obviously I'm not a parent yet, so my concern is with how my students will use these types of social media in my classroom and in their lives.

Now here's where it gets really cool :)

TeachMama nor her commentors had addressed the educational aspect of Instagram, so I took it upon myself to break out my commenting skills. I hadn't really commented on many blogs before, so it felt like a big deal for me. You can read my comment (and TeachMama's response!!) below:

May I just say, I am beyond excited that she commented back to me. It makes me want to comment on everyone's blogs! (or you can comment on mine...I'll respond :)

Anyway, after my initial excitement wore off, I decided to start investigating if anyone had used Instagram in education. Turns out, they have! I found this blog post on Edudemic that talks about the top 10 ways you can use Instagram in the classroom. There are some awesome ideas, and they're all illustrated with a nice infographic that gives some great ideas!

Do you use Instagram in your classroom? Have you made an AUP or other media agreement with your students to help monitor social media use? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

The Art of Blogging

The Art of Blogging by mkhmarketing,
This week, I've been exploring the art of blogging. You may think "Psh, Erin, don't you know that blogging isn't an art? Anyone can do it!" Well, that may be. Anyone can start an account and become a blogger with the click of a button. Everything that a person writes is personal and valuable and an expression of themselves for the world to see. That's art, right?

Now, while I'll admit that I enjoy blogging quite a bit, I don't consider myself a master by any means. I'm like one of those 'amateur' artists who would love to make it big but really just makes art because they love it. But then you have those artists who were making art they loved and other people liked it, too. Those are the people we've heard of and look up to and consider the best of the best. Blogging is no different!

I've been following some of those master bloggers this week; CoolCatTeacher and Kleinspiration ended up being my favorites. Both of these amazing blogs are committed to sharing resources with other teachers in an effort to make them better teachers. They have amazing resources about so many topics, and I was very impressed with both of them!

I checked out CoolCatTeacher because of a recommendation from my professor, Dr. Z (check out his blog, too!), but ended up finding so much more than I expected to. Not only does Vicki Davis, the author, write her own books on education, she also creates extremely well-written blog posts, and they are so helpful and informative!  There are hundreds (thousands?) of posts on general teaching ideas, professional development for teachers, technology tips and resources, ideas to use social media, and countless other topics. I'm so excited to keep reading!

I actually found Kleinspiration through her Twitter and then followed her blog (after following her on Twitter, of course!). She originally caught my interest because we have the same first name, but I quickly realized that Erin Klein is one of those master bloggers. Aside from having a very aesthetic blog, the content she blogs about is so helpful and relevant. Kleinspiration definitely has an ed tech emphasis, so there is a multitude of resources that someone could use to incorporate technology into their classroom. She has special resources about Project Based Learning (PBL), which I especially enjoy, since I'm learning so much about PBL and am getting really excited about trying it in my own classroom someday. 

In previous classes that had us blog, I got into the writing aspects more than the reading aspects. I enjoyed writing on my own blog and sharing my thoughts, but I'm starting to see that checking out others' blogs can be a huge asset to me as a teacher. These blogs have an insane amount of resources that are available for teachers to use and revamp in their own classrooms. I'm so glad that they both have such a strong technology emphasis; I feel like I can get even more out of them!

These bloggers are the masters because they're doing quite a few things right:
  • They're blogging relevant, intelligent, and interesting topics that people can use and enjoy.
  • Their blogs are easy to navigate and view, which makes the overall experience of reading their blog enjoyable. 
  • They link to a gazillion other resources, websites, blogs, etc. They don't have dead-end blogs; they're a window to thousands of other ideas and people.
  • They're visible. They network. People talk about them, they get their name out there, and they make it simple to share their stuff. 
  • They share their personal teaching experiences like a real person. When I read their blogs, I feel like I'm having a face-to-face conversation over coffee with the teacher across the hall who's having a lot of really cool things happen in her classroom. I'm not talking to a professor who had experience back in the day but now only speaks in educational techno-jargon.
Overall, I am incredibly impressed with what I've found this week while following these two blogging masters. I look forward to reading their blogs more and discovering more blogs! (And maybe become a master blogger myself, someday!)

By the way, thank YOU for reading my blog! :) You are making my blogging worth it! If you like my blog, I'd love if you would comment or share it! (I learned a good lesson on commenting this week too...if you comment, authors comment back!!! I even wrote a blog post about it!) You can also check out my class's KidBlog site; we're trying a new platform for blogging this semester, so I'm blogging in two places for awhile. ;) My classmates are blogging some great stuff also! Check them out, and don't forget:

Keep Calm & Blog On by mkhmarketing,

Monday, September 1, 2014

Erin's Media-ography Timeline

I love playing with new technologies, and for a class assignment, that's just what I got to do! In Digital and Social Media, we were challenged to create a media-ography about ourselves; a digital story, image, video, etc, that introduced us professionally. In my summer class, Designing and Developing Online Learning, I found a program called TimeToast, an interactive timeline program. It seemed like a cool tool that you could especially use in a social studies classroom, but I didn't have a reason to create a timeline...until now!

I decided to use TimeToast to create my media-ography because I tend to think of my life chronologically; certain events led up to who I am now and everything in my life has culminated to produce the version of Erin that you know today. My passion for teaching and my love for kids, music, photography, etc, has all developed slowly (or quickly, in certain cases!) over time. I pinpointed events that triggered these aspects of my life now, and I hope that my timeline shows some insight into who I am today.

 Check out my timeline here! :) or navigate to

It's easiest to navigate the timeline if you make it full screen, then scale down the timeline so you're looking at a smaller portion, instead of the whole thing at once. If the timeline part is hard to figure out, you can change the view from 'timeline' to 'list', and see all my events in order (but the pictures won't be as large). Enjoy! :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Will the future bring us a SixthSense?

Yesterday I watched a video that really sparked my interest. It was a TED Talk by Pattie Maes and Pranav Minstry in which they unveiled a new device that could change the way we interact with the world. This device, SixthSense, is a wearable technology that uses a camera and projector to process information in the environment and give you nearly instant access to metadata. This device can allow you to get information or reviews about products at a store, project an interactive phone keypad on any surface, even your hand, and possibly even give you data about the people you meet. Sixth Sense, although currently a work in progress and quite bulky to wear around your neck, only costs $350 to manufacture.

Check out the video below or click here.

SixthSense also reminded me of Glass by Corning. Glass is a flexible, interactive screen that can essentially be built into any surface. It can be built into mirrors, counters, fridges, cars, and can be mobile with an ultra-thin, transparent cellphone- or tablet-like device. While the demo videos by Corning are certainly exciting and innovative, it's hard to say whether A Day Made of Glass can be a reality, at least in the foreseeable future. I had a hard time finding anything about if this technology is a real possibility or simply a company's fantasy, but it's an amazing idea nonetheless. 

Check out A Day Made of Glass below, or take a look at Corning's website.

I am beyond excited for the possibilities that technologies like this could mean for our lives, and more specifically, education. It's hard to say how soon these types of technology could be available for the public, and it will likely be longer until they can be integrated into education. I'm confident that greater minds than mine are working hard to make these a reality, and I certainly hope that I'm still teaching when they are!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The End of CTELE...a PBL in itself?

Goodbye CTELE!
Screenshot by Magda Galloway via Zoom

The semester is almost over and we only have a few more days left of CTELE. This semester has been an extremely challenging and rewarding one, and I have learned so much through this course. Looking back at my 'CTELE Expectations' blog post, I realized just how much I have learned. In my expectations, I was excited but nervous for the challenges in store for us. I knew that this class was a lot like Ed Tech & Design, but more rigorous and more open. While that scared me a little at first, I quickly got into the swing of things.

The ideas in this course were definitely more broad, and that led to challenges at time. There were moments when our group had no direction and felt confused about what we were doing, to say the least. We weren't sure if what we were doing met the expectations for the course, and we weren't even sure if our work was meeting our own expectations. Most everything that we did felt like a struggle, and we often found ourselves working up until the last minute on projects to get them completed. It was extremely challenging to not have someone telling us exactly how to do something.

But then I realized; this was probably the most authentic teaching experience I've had in a non-field-experience class thus far. None of my other classes have really taught me about the process of project-based learning. If you had asked me before this class if I could design a project-based learning unit, I probably would have said yes. How hard could it be, right? Well, boy, was I wrong. It is so hard to plan and implement a PBL. There is an incredible amount of thought and work that goes into it, and I think that it's harder than a typical lesson plan because you have to not only know what you want to teach, but you also have to figure out how to structure it so that your students figure out what they should learn (and not because you want them to learn it, because they want to!).

This was not a spoon-fed course. We were in charge of deciding what to learn, to an extent. The whole semester, in a way, was a PBL. We did little 'projects' throughout the semester that led up to a big project that encompassed our learning for the semester: how to create a PBL from beginning to end. Let me sum up those great 8 Essentials for Project-Based Learning that we've been discussing and see how they fit with our semester:

1. Significant Content: Our content in this semester-long PBL was in fact, how to create a PBL. Because we're going to be teachers, this content was significant for every one of us. We all want to know more/different/better ways to teach in our future classrooms. We're also all Ed Tech minors, so the technology aspect of this course was also relevant and interesting for all of us.

2. A Need to Know: I'll reiterate the above idea; we wanted to know this stuff. PBLs are becoming a more popular way to teach and are an extremely effective way to teach students. Students are more engaged, learn more, and do more than in a traditional lesson. We all want our future students to learn in the best, most effective way possible. We need to know this stuff.

3. A Driving Question: I'm not sure there was an explicit driving question, but there definitely was a Driving Idea: the idea that we had to figure out how to create a quality PBL that would integrate the 8 Essentials, Technology, etc. Maybe our professor even had a driving question written down somewhere that she never showed us. ;)

4. Student Voice and Choice: This class was filled with choices for us. Other than creating 'something' at various points during the semester, everything was pretty wide open. Our entire PBL was our choice, from the topic to the grade level and everything in between. Even more concrete mini-projects that we completed were very open; I think back to the personal presentation at the beginning of the semester. There was so much choice that some students didn't even know how to proceed. It took a lot of self-direction to figure out how to create a presentation without many, if any, requirements, but everyone did it and every presentation was different and awesome. The flipchart project had a few more requirements, but was still very open as far as what we actually created. As long as it supported our PBL, we weren't limited. My group chose to do a flipchart on summaries, but we could have made it about movie-making skills or how to collaborate with classmates. We had choices about what we could create, and we could voice our concerns to our professor and she adjusted things accordingly. If we needed extra time to complete something (like we did with our PBL), she heard us out and was flexible for us.

5. 21st Century Skills: This goes farther than just technology. Yes, we were using current technology to support and advance our learning. But we were also collaborating, problem-solving, and communicating. We were learning about our environments, problem-solving, being creative, and exercising our digital literacy skills. We learned how to self-monitor and use critical-thinking skills.

6. Inquiry and Innovation: We were constantly changing what we had created. Our PBL at the beginning of the semester had a whole different focus than our final PBL did. As we learned things, we integrated them into our PBL. We ran into problems that we had to figure out. We had to refocus and reassess our own ideas about PBL before we could continue. We had questions, found answers, then had more questions. This semester was an example of real inquiry; we were constantly thinking of new questions to solve and ways to solve them in order to learn about and create a genuine PBL.

7. Feedback and Revision: As I've said before, we were constantly revising our work. As soon as we'd create something, we were revising it to make it better. Sometimes that took direction from our professor, who helped give us feedback to steer us back on track, or some extra collaboration between our group to figure out what we should do next. Our professor was good about giving us feedback on the things we did in the class, from the concrete presentations we did to the work time we had in class to work on our PBL. She would come around and ask us to tell her about our ideas, then let us know how she thought we could make it even better. Our PBL probably wouldn't have come as far as it did without this feedback. We also had many opportunities for revision during the semester, thankfully; if we had turned in the original PBL we created? I cringe at the thought.

8. Publicly Presented Content: Our final task was to compile our PBL in a web presence, either a website or a blog, so others could access and use our PBL. It's amazing to think that other teachers with experience and students of their own will read our PBLs and potentially use them in their classrooms! We also presented our PBLs to our classmates, so we could see what our peers created and get ideas and insight from each other.

You can check out our PBL website here! Enjoy!

I have learned so much from this course throughout the semester. I feel far more confident about creating a PBL, and have had wonderful, authentic practice in creating one. I wish that more classes integrated PBL, but I hope that more do in the future (and it looks like they will)!

It's been a great and insightful semester! Thanks, CTELE!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Perks and Problems with PBL

Photo by flickingerbrad,,
Our class is drawing to a close, and we're almost done with our PBL projects. Throughout this semester, I've learned so much about Project-Based Learning, and I feel very confident that I can find the resources to implement PBL in my classroom someday. I think that it is a valuable tool and a beneficial experience for students to be involved in, as well as a more meaningful learning experience than traditional instruction.

With regards to my group's own PBL, we struggled a lot. Only in the last few weeks has our PBL really become focused and meaningful. We started our PBL by creating an activity for our students to complete, rather than beginning with the standards we wanted our students to meet and designing an activity that satisfied the standards. We did our PBL backwards from the beginning, and it wasn't until the 8 Essentials for Problem-Based Learning was introduced to us a few weeks ago that we really started to understand what a PBL should look like and how to structure our own. We struggled a lot because of this, and it took us a lot of extra work to redesign our PBL to align with the 8 Essentials.

Now that our PBL is wrapping up, I feel like our group finally has the right idea with project-based learning and how to structure it from the beginning. If we had known where we were going from the start, I believe that we would have better managed our time and project. As it were, we didn't have much direction or knowledge about what we were doing until it was almost too late to fix it (we did our best, however!)

I've learned that PBL can be an exceptional learning tool in the classroom, and I definitely want to use it in my classroom. I think that with the proper guidance, patience, and determination, teachers can create quality PBLs that benefit their students. They do, however, take a lot of time to prepare and plan, and if you aren't careful, they can lose focus very easily. It can be very difficult to keep your PBL aligned with the standards and focus on the content, not the activity. It is also important to align your PBL with technology standards and concepts (like the SAMR model, 21st century skills, etc). Like my group learned, PBLs have to be very carefully planned and needs those 8 Essential elements to be effective!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Chatting with the Expert

Photo by UNI Instructional Technology,,
Last week our class had the opportunity to connect via Google Hangouts with Deb Loftsgard, a certified Project-Based Learning instructor in the Starmont school district. Deb teaches 7-12th grade Social Sciences and bases her instruction around PBL. We got to hear about her work and knowledge with PBL, then we were able to ask her questions about our own PBL units that we're creating to get some feedback and tips for how to make them better.

Deb explained to us the process that she usually goes through to plan her PBLs. First and foremost, you have to start with the standards. Figure out what is important for students to know or do, and stick with them. Don't have more standards than necessary, but do include standards if your PBL covers them.

From there, develop a driving question. This is what gets students interested and excited in the topic. A good driving question brings students in, and creates a need-to-know for students so they want to find the answer to the question. You also have to create an assessment plan for students that describes the purpose of each assessment during the PBL process (though Deb said that most of her assessment is formative).

After you create a driving question and assessment plan, then it's time to create the activities. Too often people try to start with the activities for a PBL lesson, and this leads to lessons that just have the students doing 'things' that aren't tied to the standards. These activities have to be meaningful and rich learning experiences for the students, otherwise you're wasting their time and yours. Students should have an active role, choices, and opportunities to problem solve.

I thought that is was so incredibly helpful to have Deb 'visit' our classroom. Our class had so many questions for her and I feel like we all really got a clearer picture of what a PBL should look like after talking with her. I'm excited to finish my own PBL project and practice this skill to use in my own classroom someday!

A good checklist for PBLs is the 8 Essentials for Project-Based Learning. It describes the things necessary for a quality PBL, and you should make sure to follow this when creating your PBL! It's very helpful and a great tool to keep you on track.

You can check out Deb's page for her class's PBLs here!

Also, to see the notes that our class took from out chat with Deb, check out our class's wiki.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Team vs. Individual Work

Throughout my college career, there's been a lot of individual work and group work. At times, I've been pleased and frustrated with my experiences with both. I recently had a discussion with a friend where I mentioned how all of my classes this semester have the class split up into table groups, with lots of collaboration and teamwork. She thought this was very odd since all of her classes were the opposite way. This really caused me to start thinking about the collaboration that happens in my education classes and if I enjoyed this way of learning or not.

As I began thinking, I remembered how a few years ago I was extremely shy and didn't enjoy collaboration or working with other people very much. I preferred to work alone when possible and didn't enjoy the times when I was forced to do group projects or rely on others for my success. This isn't my outlook now, however. I enjoy the collaboration that goes on in my classes and most times I'm very pleased with the outcomes of my interactions with my classmates. Sure, there are still times when I work by myself. However, I value the teamwork and relationships that I am making with my peers and am learning how to collaborate with people, which will be valuable someday in my teaching career.

I think that I can use dogsleds as an analogy (we'll see if it makes sense :).

Photo by Uryah,,
A single dog pulling a sled has nothing wrong with it, in fact, it's very functional. The dog can run fast and pull its passenger to where they need to go. They can navigate easily and react to the rider as necessary. If that's the purpose of the rider, one dog can serve their needs quite nicely. In the same way, individual work can be great for a certain situation. Some things can be quickly done by an individual and don't require other people to get accomplished.

Photo by Accretion Disc,, 

On the other hand, a team of dogs serve a different purpose. They may not respond to the rider as quickly as a lone dog, but they can pull a large load of cargo or multiple passengers. They have more stamina than a single dog, and they work as a team to carry the sled where it needs to go. Likewise, with group work, a larger load can be carried. More work can be done because the task is split up between members. Each member has a distinct contribution to the group, and the group as a whole is often able to do more than an individual working alone would be able to do.

Now that I've had so much experience with team work, I am learning to value it more than I ever have before. I still value individual tasks, and I think that they have their place. However, depending on the situation, group work and individual work both have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Collaboration is an amazing tool that can work to teachers' advantage, but it can be time consuming and difficult to perform effectively, as described in this blog post by the NWEA. What do you think? Is collaboration the way to go?

Monday, April 7, 2014

ITEC Technology Fair

On Friday, April 4, I had the opportunity to attend the ITEC Student Technology Fair on the UNI campus. The ITEC Technology Fair was for students in grades 3-12 who had developed projects involving technology. It was amazing to see some of the projects that students had worked on! These students were so incredibly creative and passionate about their projects. 

 I spoke with two young girls who had created and designed a website for their school’s TAG program to try to make it more accessible and engaging for students and parents. One group of boys had created a LEGO robot and had a demonstration of how they used software to program the robot to move. Two girls were in the process of using a complicated program to make a game from scratch where the user could take care of a dog. One student had designed a house using CAD software, and another had written his own Java code to create a working calculator. There simply wasn't enough time to view every project with detail, but the students that I spoke with were extremely excited about their projects and were so happy to share what they had created with their audience. It was a great experience and I wish that I had gotten to spend more time with them!

There's me! ^^ :)

Photo credit to UNI Instructional Technology,

One thing that I realized as I was speaking to one of the younger presenters was that these could be my students someday (and someday will probably be very soon!). My 2nd graders or 5th graders or whatever grade I end up teaching will be involved with technology and will likely be even more comfortable with technology than I am! It is important for me, as their teacher, to foster that technological development and to encourage them to use their imagination to create amazing new programs and projects using technology. My students could invent something that could change the world, and it’s my duty to help them achieve that!

Check out Dr. Z's blog post about the ITEC Technology Fair!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Promethean Ponderings

Photo by kjarrett,
During the last few weeks in class, we've gotten the opportunity to play around with a Promethean board and the ActivInspire software that it uses. I had never used an interactive whiteboard in such depth before, so it was a great hands-on experience for me and my classmates. I took a short workshop on Promethean and ActivInspire last year, but there were so many people in attendance that there simply was no way to let everyone play around or make flipcharts to try out on the board.

 To get our feet wet with Promethean, we created our own flipchart (ActivInspire's version of a PowerPoint, in a way). Promethean is the physical interactive whiteboard part of the system, and ActivInspire is the software to create the flipcharts and activities that you display and interact with on the Promethean board. It was definitely a trial-and-error process when figuring out how to use ActiveInspire. I personally only watched a few tutorials, then went right to playing around with the tools and figuring out how I could manipulate the program to get what I wanted out of it (However, there are tons of tutorials and tips on Promethean's website especially for ActivInspire, called ActivTips).

Another resource that was available to my team and I was Promethean Planet. There are lesson plans, flipcharts, games, homework assignments, etc, etc, etc, and all for free. I found a lot of great examples of flipcharts and lessons that can be created or downloaded for the Promethean board and used in your classroom. Some of them are extremely well made, and I was very impressed by the creativity that people have used to make these resources!

Screenshot by Erin Mulder
Our flipchart was created for 6th grade and was centered around teaching how to write a summary and evaluating/creating story endings. When creating our own flipchart, I wish that my group had gotten more creative. We found several examples that we really liked and created a flipchart that I'm very proud of. However, I feel as though we could have made better use of the interactive whiteboard. The activities that we included were ones that could have been done on a whiteboard or PowerPoint. The one activity that I felt was unique to our presentation was our use of the ActivInspire clickers. We were able to add a survey/quiz element to our flipchart, and we had clickers that were synced to Promethean so that students could vote for the answer they thought was correct. It was really fun to see it in action and see how easy it was to use, especially since none of the other groups used the clickers in their flipcharts.

In my future classroom, I hope that I have the opportunity to use an interactive whiteboard. I know that most schools have some version of them (Promethean, SMART Boards, Mimeo, etc.) in classrooms, and I'm excited to learn about the possibilities of using interactive whiteboards. There is definitely a learning curve, with any technology, but I'm confident that I can get comfortable using interactive whiteboards and learn how to use them in more creative, productive ways. This project really let our class explore with ActivInspire and get a feel for how we can use flipcharts in our classes with Promethean!

If you'd like to download my team's flipchart for viewing in ActivInspire, click here!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spotlight on STEM

Photo by Dell's Official Flickr Page,
One reason I love UNI so much is the opportunity to attend a wide variety of events right here on campus. One of these events was the Spotlight on STEM Day, and I had the privilege of attending! If you don't know what STEM is, click here.)

Spotlight on STEM Day features award-winning science projects by pre K-12 classrooms around Iowa. These science projects integrate technology and highlight the challenges and joys of incorporating science, math, and technology. Presenters had table displays for viewing throughout the day, and there were demonstrations and presentations held throughout the day.

I was only able to stay for a little while, so I was able to walk through the table displays and attend one of the presentations. The presentation that I attended (and table display that I viewed the most thoroughly) was about a high school Earth Science class that were making their own weather tools. The class had made their own barometer (air pressure), anemometer (wind speed), and thermometer (temperature). It was fascinating to see the students get so excited about the tools they had made as they explained their process and challenges as they designed their weather tools. The class used an inquiry-based model for instruction, so their teacher made it clear that his class was doing the work while he acted as a guide to make sure they were meeting standards, staying on task, etc. I thought that it was incredible that these students took such initiative to come up with a question and solution like "How do weather measurement tools work?" Instead of researching about them, they researched AND built their own! The group also explained how they modified their tools when they had problems and inaccuracies in their designs and results. 

Overall, I was just really impressed with the deep thinking that was going on in this rural classroom! Though the school was small and this particular class only had 6 students, they did an amazing job of integrating technology with science and math. I wish more of my classes in high school had been structured in this way!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tech Tools for Collaboration

For our last CTELE project, our class had to create a question about metacognition to research. In our groups, we had to create a survey to see what our classmates thought about our question, put our information into a presentation that summarized our data, and combine all of our information into a document that we were to submit. The catch (because of course there was a catch) was that we weren't allowed to talk to each other about our project face-to-face. We could only communicate to our group members using technology. It was left very open-ended, and we could have used as many different technologies as we wanted. My group chose to use the chat/comment function on Google Docs, since that was where we were doing most of our project. We also communicated on Facebook chat since we all used Facebook regularly and we knew there was a greater chance that we would see each other's comments when we used Facebook versus another communication form.

In today's world, collaboration from a distance is getting easier and easier. Thanks to Google Apps, it's possible to create and edit documents, presentations, spreadsheets, forms, etc., as a group, online! Video programs like Skype, Adobe Connect, or Zoom (which we got to experience as a class) allow groups to see their collaborators even though they may be miles (or continents!) apart.  There are countless apps available for smartphones and tablets that allow you to talk through text, voice, or pictures and share things with others, such as Voxer, Kik, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and the list goes on and on.

It really is amazing to think about the number of tools that we have at our disposal to collaborate with others. Many of the resources that I listed above are already used by people to casually talk and share things with friends, family, classmates, or coworkers. However, any of these tools could be used to collaborate with peers. As educators, we need to be aware of all of the collaborative tools that are available to ourselves and to our students! The possibilities for digital collaboration are endless, and the tools are right at our fingertips.

Photo by William Brawley,,