Monday, November 18, 2013

Second Life Challenges

This week for my Emerging Instructional Technology class, we are working with alternate reality.  I wasn't really quite sure of this assignment at first, but like always, it started to grow on me as I worked with it.

The program that I'm talking about is called Second Life and is used as a virtual reality for a lot of people.  The first thing I had to do with it is go on a couple quests to really get a feel for the program and what I could all do with it.  I'm very bad with any type of gaming or alternate realities, so I Was really dreading having to work with this.  It was especially weird when someone started chatting with me on there telling me their avatar was cuter than mine.  Interesting.

As I continued on with my quests, I found myself starting to become more familiar with the simple tasks required by Second Life.  There are a lot of things about this program that I still have to learn, like being able to chat with others, meet up with specific people, etc.
You know, the types of things that you would actually want to use this program for.  I'm sure once I start working with it more, I'll become more familiar with it.  I actually have quite a few quests to do, so I need to get back to it.  Before I close though, I'm curious.  Has anyone ever used a virtual reality in their classrooms or ever thought about it?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How about a tour of Second Life?

Hello everyone!  In my last blog post I talked about the game Second Life and my challenges I was facing while using the virtual world.  Through the couple week stint of Second Life, we were encouraged to go ahead and tour different parts of Second Life and then go ahead and create our own tour.  These were produced on a notecard that you can send to other Second Life users and they can go to each of the destinations that you have chosen.  In this posting I wanted to give you all a glimpse of where I went and what I thought.

In this tour, I wanted everyone to get to see all the relaxing vacation type spots in the SL world.  I first wanted to go to fun places where everyone could dance but I ended up meeting more creepy people than friendly people.  Thats when I decided that I wanted to go visit places that I would love to actually see in real life.  In this tour there are a lot of beaches, forests, and even a trip to Ancient Greece!

Second Life Relaxation Tour:
The first stop on my tour is Bora Bora!  Here I was able to ride whales and dolphins, go swimming or just hang out under a palm tree.  It was such a fun location to go see and it made me want to actually take a vacation there!

New Port Yacht Club
This is a great location for you to go look at boats and other watercrafts.  Here you can also go relax in a clubhouse or take in the sights around the club. 

Tranquility Grove
Here is a real relaxing place where you can explore grottos, swing in trees and go in a Japanese house to meditate. This is one of my favorite places on the Relaxing Tour.

Creations Park
This site is a beautiful place to relax and view some lovely waterfalls.  There are also some awesome building to stroll through.

OTIUM Leisure and Laziness
Here you can let go of your obligations and hang out on the beach next to the sea.  This place is really key on having a quiet and respectful community, so it is safe for whoever wants to visit.

Ed and Gia's Little Bit of Ireland
At the Little Bit of Ireland you can dance in the ballroom, view art galleries and even go out into the open fields.  If you've ever wanted to visit Ireland, this spot is for you!

City Fishing-- Barcola Double Prim Corner Waterfront
At this waterfront you can have a blast by fishing, chatting or dancing to 80s music.  The people here are very friendly and it is a nice place to relax on Second Life.

Tiny's Haven
At Tiny's Haven, you can go and mini golf, join a yacht club and even go fishing.  I love this place because it is unlike anything I've ventured to in Second Life.

The Pillars of Hercules
Welcome to my absolute favorite place in Second Life!  The Pillars of Hercules is an amazing place that makes you feel as though you are in Ancient Greece.  There are Chariot Tours, Amphitheaters, Light Houses, Beaches and much more to explore here!

Heart's Desire Mountain and Forest Resort
This location is very small, but the views here are cute enough that I wanted to include it on the tour.  Here there are cabins that you can stay in or you can just walk around if you want that relaxing forest feel.

After doing all of these tours, I realized that Second Life really has a lot of cool places to go visit and see.  However, the great thing about these technology classes at UNI is that it gives you a good idea of of different programs that you do and don't want to use in your classroom.  Every teacher is unique, so it is awesome that these classes reach out to everyone in their own way.  I discovered that I myself wouldn't use this in my own room, but it was cool to see how other classmates enjoyed the program and would use it.  I'm hoping to follow them in the future to see how these work in their rooms and maybe as I get more comfortable with the program, I'll use it myself.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Collaboration: An eye-opening experience

In a previous post I had talked about Kingdom Rush and how I could use something like that in my own future classroom.  Something that I had failed to mention at that time was the failure I was experiencing while trying to play the game.  I would get stuck and would have to keep trying over and
over again.  I was past the point of frustration but was trying to keep a positive outlook on the activity.  Fortunately this week my teacher assigned us to work collaboratively with a partner to help each other out to avoid such frustration.

Image Source:
I've never really experienced frustration because fortunately things tend to come naturally to me.  However, that was not the case with this game.  I started to think about the students I tutor and that this is probably how they feel when they are in the classroom.  My own failure caused me to open my eyes and realize that this is what my students must feel like.
 It then caused me to reflect on my own practices and efforts to help students foster a positive environment.  What do I do to help students through their failures to learn from their mistakes?  Do I brush off their frustration because I can't empathize? etc.   It almost hurt thinking about my inability to connect with struggling students because I myself had never been one.  So even though I wasn't a fan of the game, I am a fan of how it helped me grow as a reflecting practitioner.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Educational Gaming? Hmmm....

Lately as I gear up for student teaching, I've been doing a lot of reflecting back to my own elementary schools days.  What did I like to do for fun?  What subjects were my favorite?  What activities did I learn the most from?  My elementary friends and I like to reminisce and the one thing we always, always talk about are the games we played back in the computer lab.  Everyone always appreciates looking back to the good ol' days of Kid Pix, Super Munchers, Oregon Trail, etc.  The list goes on and on.  The excitement of technology was glowing in the late 90's mid 2000's and our computers weren't even anything compared to what our students have now. As I think about this, I wonder, what can we as educators do to foster this kind of excitement and enthusiasm kids have for games within our classroom?

This week for my Emerging Instructional Technology course, we've been talking about how learning can occur through gaming.  We were to try and play a game called Kingdom Rush
for a couple of hours and see what we all learned.  When I first heard of the assignment I kind of rolled my eyes because I thought I had much better things to do for three hours, like sit on Facebook ;).  

Now you might be asking, what is Kingdom Rush?  Well pretty much you are battling against different creatures who are trying to attack your territory.  There are many different types of weapons that you use to beat them: arrows, magic, militia and artillery.  Before you can move on to different battles, you have to beat all the waves of enemies and you can then get rewards.  The game is definitely a bit challenging at times, but it made me curious to try and explore different options to become successful.

During my gaming, I come to realize that it can really be a great learning experience.
 The catch is, is that you really need to make sure that it is serving the right learning goals and corresponding with the standards that need to be meant.  These types of activity can be really engaging for the students and keep them on-task.  They can also serve as motivation and a fun reward for kids.

So now that I have this in mind, I hope to create fun gaming experiences for my students that they will be still talking about in their 20's. :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

#TLAP: An Amazing Tweet Chat

Hello Ladies and Gentleman,

I'm writing this blog post not out of an obligatory sense but because I am actually really excited about what took place tonight.  For my class here at UNI, I was required to do some work in Web 2.0 whether it be a Tweet Chat, Webinar, Online Conference, etc.  Tonight I participated in #tlap, which is a Twitter book study about the book  Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.  The chat happens every Monday night from 8:00pm-9:00pm central time.  I had never actually done a tweet chat before, so it was interesting to see how the conversation flowed.

The topic covered during that period was about incorporating fun into the classroom.  There were many experts participating in the chat and they were all talking about how we need to have intrinsic motivation for our kids through fun.  This was refreshing to read because I usually am nervous about using fun activities in the classrooms I shadow since I might step on the teacher's toes.  I actually tweeted to the chat about that and I had multiple people tweet me back including a UNI alum who is a principal in Iowa and the author of the book himself!  Usually when I am blogging I don't really feel like I am being heard, but it is evident when I used twitter that I am.  This was just the spark I needed to really get into the educational side of Twitter.  From the chat I had a few people follow me and when I went to their profiles, I saw that they had some valuable content.  One lady even gave me tips for when I get into my own classroom.

I plan on using this in my own professional life as a way to connect with others to see what types of ideas I can incorporate into my own classroom.  I would also try and help out others who might be wanting to implement new technologic
al ideas into their own rooms.  This chat really changed me because I used to think educational tweeting was hard to follow and pointless, but now I am really excited about all the possibilities it presents me.  I also learned a lot about incorporating fun ideas into my future classroom.

If there is anything to take away from this post, it would be to try and engage in some tweet chats, they really open your eyes!  Here's a link with some great ones to participate it.

What Tweet Chats do you participate in?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Collaborating via Google Docs

Google.  Not only is it a fun word to say but it is a powerhouse of resources for educators, students, businessmen/women, amateurs, etc.  You can use the site as a search enginesocial networkmapping and much more.  However, one of the biggest resources for me as both an educator and a student is Google Docs.

For those who aren't familiar with Google Docs, it is a free, internet-based word processor, powerpoint, spreadsheet and form service that is offered by Google.  The users are able to create documents online and access them from any internet accessible device.  Creating a google account is free and will give you access to these resources that I will be talking about in this post.

I love using this site for anything and everything.  There are endless ways to use this site for not only working on your own personal projects but to collaborate with peers.  In fact, I'm such an advocate for the site that I don't even have Microsoft Word or any type of program on my computer.  I do all of my work solely on the site because it is convenient to have any past or current projects on file whenever or wherever I need to access it.  It has also eliminated the need for a flashdrive, which has saved me from the constant worry of wondering where it is.
Google Docs Application

Through this post, I wanted to talk about some of the features that Google Docs offers and what you can do with them.
1.  Document:  Just like a regular word processor, Google Document lets you do everything that you can think of:  change fonts, spacing, colors, margin sizes, tables, etc.  It is a great resource for typing u assignments, syllabus', papers and more.  The biggest difference from Microsoft Word is that you can choose to share it with other google account holders fi you want.  When you share it, you have the option to let the other party edit, view or comment on it.  A perk of this service is that you can download it as a Microsoft Word document or even a PDF.
2.  Presentation:  This feature is exactly like what you would find in a Powerpoint application.  YOu can change backgrounds, fonts and create new slides for any type of presentation that you might be giving.  This is a great system for group projects because group members can all work on their own slides and not have to worry about emailing a file back and forth with each change that they make on it.  I personally have used this for many group projects.
3.  Spreadsheet:  Google Spreadsheet is just like an Excel sheet.  It allows you to document data, perform calculations on a data sheet, use as a scheduling system, etc.  I have seen it be used for anything from business assignments to scheduling for different campus organizations.
4. Form:  Google Form is a really cool way to conduct surveys online.  This feature allows you to have a form to ask any questions that you might be curious about and get answers from certain readers. It can either be anonymous ro you can know who gave you the answers.  Out of all the Google Docs, this is the one that I am the least familiar with and want to learn more about.

Overall, I love using this website because of the opportunities it provides for online collaboration.  In today's age, it is so important to have this type of a system that eliminates the need to save and send.  Anyone can access whatever they need with ease and what is better than not having to worry about forgetting to save a document?

Now my question for you is, what do you all do with Google Docs?

Creating a community of student bloggers

Hello everyone!  Lately I've been blogging about educational technology and what it means for my future classroom.  Today I wanted to keep on that track and talk about a website that I have used before in some of my field experience classrooms.

An important thing to have in our classrooms is a community of learners.  Having students collaborate together gives them the opportunity to not only reflect on what they have learned but to see what their peers have thought about the same topics.  I utilized a cool tool with a 6th grade class at Lincoln Elementary called Kidblog.  The students were working with literature circles and would respond to blog prompts after each chapter that I had provided for them.  It was so great to see the children be able to utilize their iPads and connect with each other not only personally but virtually as well.

As a teacher, it was interesting trying to evaluate what the students were saying through blogs.  They were not only required to talk about what they were learning through their novel, but to also respond to their classmates with some points and questions.  The kids loved being able to communicate with their classmates online and felt like real professionals.  I even had some students mention that it made them feel like they were writing for a paper because they had somewhat of a public audience, rather than just writing to their teacher.  

As with any type of resource that you use with kids, it is important to know some of the logistics of it.  Kidblog is a safe outlet for students to get into the blogging world while being completely protected.  If there are parents who are concerned with students putting their work on the internet, it is good to know that there are privacy settings that can be adjusted to fit their safety concerns.  It is also important to note that children are not allowed to put any type of personal information in their posts. There is also an educator version of the site where you not only have access to each of your students' blogs, but it sorts out each comment that they make for easier tracking.  This way you can not only keep track of your students' progress, but make sure what they are posting is appropriate.

Overall, I love using this site with any students that I work with.  I really want to try and use this next semester when I'm student teaching to see what it can all do for me and my kids.  I know that there is a lot more that I need to learn about this site and I'm looking forward to learning more as I go!

For those of you who use Twitter, make sure to follow @KidblogDotOrg to learn about tips on implementing this in your own classroom.  There is also a Kidblog Facebook page!