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!

Monday, September 23, 2013

To pin or not to pin, that is the question

Hello everyone!  In my last blog post, I talked a lot about social media and my struggles to tweet professionally.  Another thing I like to indulge in during my free time would be designing my dream life and classroom via Pinterest.  There are many great ideas floating around that site that pertain to classroom management, teaching strategies, etc.  I've also found great resources like Teachers Notebook, where there are free printables, lesson plans and much more. This all seems pretty great right?  I mean what could go wrong with looking at some cute crafts or lesson plans on everyone's favorite time-killing site?  I didn't think that anything could, until I took Remedial Reading and Tutoring this summer.
A look at the Teachers Notebook board on Pinterest

During Remedial, I got my first real opportunity to completely design my own lesson plans and implement them on a daily basis without someone supervising me at all times.  This was very liberating and I FINALLY felt like a real teacher.  I was pulling ideas and worksheets off of pinterest and had such cute things for my students.  Everything was going well until I had to show the research behind my activities and how they were going to benefit my student.  I immediately thought, why do I need to show research, this activity was so fun and my student loved it.  However, the more I looked at these activities I found on the site, the more I realized there was no immediate research to back what was being shown.  As a teacher, we need to be sure that what we are using in our classroom is valuable to our students' learning and the goals we are trying to reach.

So you're probably asking yourself, why the heck is she putting down Pinterest after saying that she loves going on it? Well, I'm not necessarily putting down the site.  This is such a GREAT resource, if you use it correctly.  Like I pointed out earlier, pinners like Teachers Notebook have some great activities that can be backed up by research.  Just be sure to only use resources that are credible or can be proven with research.  If you can't find any research, maybe tweak the activity to match some research that you've found yourself.  I've learned my lesson when I had to prove my methods to my professors and stumbled.

Moral of the story: Pin as much as your little heart desires.  Just make sure what you are doing will be beneficial to your students in the end.

Does anyone have any favorite educational pinners that they follow?  What are your thoughts on using Pinterest to lesson plan?  Shout out your thoughts in the comments below!

The troubles of Tweeting professionally

So I don't know about you all but I love to indulge in social media.  Every chance I get, I am checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to catch up with my friends and favorite celebrities.  I love posting thoughts about my daily life, images to let friends know what I've been up to and chatting with family through these outlets.  However, the further I get into my courses in my educational technology minor, the more I realize that these sites can be used for so much more than personal entertainment.  Using these sites can promote professional development by allowing teachers and other educational administrators to collaborate and share important ideas that can be implemented into our own classrooms.  Now there are a lot of pre-service teachers out there just like me, we're trying to separate our personal lives from our professional lives.  I was required to begin a twitter a few months ago for my class, but I took it upon myself to follow some educational tweeters.  Its been great reading what they have to say and learning from it, however I'm finding myself having a hard time participating in those conversations.

My professional twitter (@nschro3)

Tweeting for me has always been something I've done to communicate with friends.  I'll tweet about what I'm watching, my favorite music, or what I happened to have done that day.  Hardly anything I say has real substance to it because anything I'd have to say, I'd rather discuss in person.  So I really struggle when it comes to tweeting professionally.  I have a hard time trying to think of things to tweet, even when it can't be more than a 140 character message.  This is something I really hope to improve throughout this course that I'm currently taking and when I go out and student teach next semester.

So readers, do you have any suggestions for me on how I can improve my professional twitter?  I love tweeting about my personal life and having conversations with my friends, but freeze when I try to have conversations with strangers.  Let me know what you think by throwing some comments below!


Blog Reviews: Round 2

Hey everyone.  Thank you for reading and commenting on my previous Blog Review!  Its been exciting getting emails and knowing that people are actually reading what I'm writing.  For this second blog review, I wanted to blog about someone who has really set herself up as a inspiration for a lot of technology savvy teachers.  This blogger is Vicki Davis and she writes on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.  I've been following her stuff ever since she skyped with my class here at UNI a couple years ago and I love it.

Vicki not only is a teacher and IT director, but she also is the co-founder of Flat Classroom.  The things she has to say not only pertains to teachers who are comfortable with technology but all teachers.  One of my favorite posts by Vicki is 10 Ways to be a Terrible Teacher.  This post has some great tips that every teacher should be conscious of, some things are obvious, yet others are things that we do unconsciously.  One way of being a terrible teacher that she posted was "The teacher only teaches with one method."  This is one that I absolutely loved.  If you are only giving your kids worksheets or lecturing at them, you will have a hard time reaching each of their intellectual needs.  As a teacher, I want to be able to reach all of my students and adjust my teaching to meet their specific needs.  I know that my style might not always be perfect, but as long as I'm trying my best to individualize/personalize my lessons the students will be benefitted.

Another powerful blog post by Vicki is Is a teacher's non-use of technology an excuse to be demoted?
Within this piece, she wrote about how a teacher got demoted because of lack of technology use in her classroom.  This really struck me because technology is supposed to be a tool, not something that people should get demoted over.  The school was worried about the state wouldn't be happy about her teaching style.  We can't expect our teachers to use these tools without first giving them the correct training.   I'm hoping that when I am working in a school system that I can use all of the educational technology skills that I have acquired at UNI and help implement them to avoid the kind of problems mentioned in this post.

Overall, Vicki has a great blog and I always learn a lot from reading her stuff.  If you are all looking for someone to follow, she is great. :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Blog Reviews

Hello everyone!  It has been a long time since I have written in my educational blog and hopefully I can get back on track with it.  To get everyone back up to speed with me, I'm currently in my last semester of undergrad before I go and student teach in January!  It is crazy how fast my time here at school has gone.  Right now I am enrolled in my final class for my Educational Technology minor and we are currently talking about blogging and learning from our peers via different social media outlets such as twitter, blogs, etc.  One of my favorite things to do is read blogs, especially ones of teachers that are out in the field right now.  There are a few that I will be talking about this week, but I wanted to start out with a blog of a personal friend of mine.  This young woman is such a gem and very passionate when it comes to her students and school.

The blog that I am referring to is My Pink Scribbles by Chelsea G.  Chelsea is a first-year teacher at a rural school and blogs about adjusting to the classroom and things she is learning along the way.  It is so great to read her posts to learn from her on the do's and don'ts on being a first year teacher.  I find her inspiring because she makes me so excited to get out into the classroom and begin my journey.  I obviously first selected this blog because Chels is a friend of mine, but as I read, I know that I would follow this blog even if I didn't know her.  Her enthusiasm rubs off on you and I have gotten goosebumps more than once because I can feel how much she loves her students and life.  Chelsea is such an amazing woman/blogger and reading her posts is definitely worth your time.