Saturday, December 7, 2013

Blog Post #16

What I would change from my first blog post (concerning teaching methods):

       I still stick to my bold points (kindling an appreciation for education in my students and teaching them to communicate effectively), mostly because I thought them up with good reason. However, I will certainly change my methods of implementing them as EDM310 has taught me how obsolete pen and paper have become.
       I still wish to teach my students to value education. I do not believe that there is any one way to go about achieving this—as the variety of ways students learn vary so greatly. But I do feel that immersing them in concepts and constantly explaining the meaning of assignments will aid this endeavor. Hopefully, I will be able to enable them to become self-reflective students through this endeavor as well.
       Furthermore, I still would like my students to create effective communication skills. No matter what they wish to achieve in their lives, communication will be an integral part. I think it is equally important that students master written communication as well, which I believe may easily be achieved by blogging daily. From re-reading my first blog post and comparing it to this blog post, I can see my own writing improve within the semester. So, blogging will become my go-to assignment for my students because it is so effective.
       I revoke my statement claiming that “I would use the styles of teaching that worked best on myself”. I find that statement completely comical now. There is no way that my students will learn the way that I did—the world will be a completely different place by then. So while I will keep the persona perhaps that the best of my teachers had along with their expectations, I do not expect to use the same methods with which I was taught to teach my students.
        Now, I plan to integrate the internet daily into my lesson plans. Because of EDM310, I have raised the standard that I wish my students to surpass. Not only will I expect them to read the assigned texts or books, but I will expect them to use tools such as iCurio to explore what experts have stated about the text, its specific contents, and the contextual environment surrounding its author. I will expect my students to learn from their blogging exercises to master the English language and realize their frequent grammar errors and misspellings and correct them appropriately. I plan to incorporate Skype interviews with experts and professionals of my PLN so my students can receive information from another source. I plan to collaborate my class with other classes around the world to work toward a common goal--an excellent opportunity for my students to learn to communicate effectively and learn to value education. Furthermore, I will encourage my students to teach me new tools I may implement as assignments or study resources. I look forward to becoming a teacher and sharing the learning experience with my students.

Main points of this reflective video:

  • a "green" English class is completely possible
  • blogging daily to enhance writing skills
  • for assessing plagiarism
  • googledocs for peer review
  • ipads and ibooks for text materials
  • iCurio for further (safe and credible) research
  • SMART technology isn't really all that difficult to figure out
  • PLNs are not so hard to find
  • most importantly, how to educate myself on becoming an effective teacher for the coming generation

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Blog Post #15

Special Education logo

Video Reviews by Laura Crawford

Luckily, I decided to take EDU400 this semester. I did not think it would be so immediately rewarding that I decided to do so. The class is entitled “Education for Exceptional Children and Youth” and has well informed me of the challenges I might face even teaching in general education classroom. Since the passing of the “No Child Left Behind” Act, teachers are encouraged to integrate all students into the “Least Restrictive Environment”--especially those with special needs. Considering everything I have learned in that class this semester, these videos were no surprise.
In The Mountbatten, Amy Archer illustrates the wonderful device known as the “Mountbatten” which aids blind students in the process of learning braille. The machine writes Braille for the students using certain buttons or a combination of buttons while a recorded voice on the machine announces the letter the student produced. The Mountbatten can also save files and share them with other computers. As an English teacher, I look forward to working with blind students to enhance their rhetoric and their writing skills using the Mountbatten.

Coincidentally, The Mountbatten is also featured in another one of Amy Archer’s videos entitled ”Assistive Technologies for Vision and Hearing Impaired Children”. This video shows a number of (you guessed it) assistive technologies for vision and hearing impaired children. These devices include Gotalk, a Hearing Information Centre, and as I said The Mountbatten, among many others that remained unnamed in the video. The video is obviously meant to encourage teachers to take the extra step in educating children with special needs. The video also offers information such as, “One in 2500 Australian children have a vision impairment” but its main purpose it obviously to inspire teachers to go beyond the status quo of teaching, which unfortunately rarely considers the needs of special education students.

Video Reviews by Ashley Railey

Teaching Math to the Blind Student Video

Professor Art Karshmer, of the University of San Francisco School of Management, shows in his video the device he and his team built to teach math to the blind. Professor Karshmer explains that without a knowledge of math blind students cannot from a career in the study of all the core sciences, which rely on math as their root language. Using computers and computer-based devices, Professor Karshmer has devised a system which translates the 2-dimensional realities of mathematical problems into the otherwise single dimensions of braille to allow a blind student to impress those realities into their visual cortex through touch and electronic feedback.

The device is composed of blocks with numbers written in braille and a board to place the block on vertically. The blocks also have a bar code on them that allow the student to scan the bar code and the computer speak the number. The student can align the numbers vertically on the board and solve the problem as a sighted student would.

iPad Usage for the blind

Wesley Majerus (who is blind) is the Access Specialist for the National Federation for the Blind. In this video he shows how a blind person uses the iPad. He explains that the iPad is equipped with a voice-over tool. Using this tool he is able to move his figure across the screen and the voice-over tells him the apps he can choose from. Once he finds the app he is searching for, he double taps to open the application. The iPad also has an offers a mainstream e-reader, which reads different books aloud. The e-reader allows him to choose by chapter or page number where to start. Using voice-over he is even able to surf the web.

I thought both of these videos were very intriguing. I didn't attend school with anyone who was blind, therefore I'm not sure of the services that may have been provided. I had never thought about how hard it is for a blind person to learn math. Professor Karshmer's device seems to be a great way to help the visually impaired learn mathematics. I also had no idea the iPad was programmed to service the blind. This is an amazing development in technology!

Video Reviews by Caitlin Hinton

I have never actually considered the possibility of teaching students with disabilities or special needs. In the school that I attended I honestly cannot remember any students who had disabilities or special needs. There were some students who had trouble understanding, but they just went to what was called resource. I never looked at them as if they had special needs. In saying all of this when I decided I wanted to be an educator, I assumed that I would teach students who had no learning disabilities or special needs. I assumed they would be in their own classroom with teachers who were specialized in that field and could work with them one on one to assist in whatever their individual needs might be. It was not until last year, when I did observations in a high school, that I realized that there were special needs children in regular classes. I almost feel a little bit silly for being so narrow minded. Why shouldn’t those with special needs or learning disabilities have the same experiences and opportunities as someone who does not have disabilities or special needs? Students who have special needs and learning disabilities are given the same opportunity to learn with assistive technologies.

In one of the videos that Dr Strange had us watch for this blog post, Having a great time teaching mom what her deaf/blind child is learning on the iPad, we watch a mom use an iPad and she learns how her child learns on their iPad. It was so neat to see how an iPad can be used and how you do not have to be able to see or hear to use one. On the Microsoft Accessibility website there are numerous tools that could be used depending on what type of disability your student has. There is a product called an alternative input device and this allows students to control their computer through other means instead of a traditional keyboard. One assistive technology that I found that I thought was really neat and it fit my major is a website called Learning Ally. Learning Ally is an assistive technology that is available to educators to help their students who have trouble reading. Learning Ally is a leading provider of audiobooks. Another great reading assistive technology that I discovered is Bookshare. Bookshare is a company whose goal is to make print accessible to people with disabilities. Bookshare makes books available in accessible formats such as digital texts and digital Braille.

I feel that all of the assistive technologies I mentioned above are ones that I could potentially use in my classroom. Literature is a large part of English language arts and with websites like Learning Ally, I could have stories put on audiobook for students who have reading disabilities, and Bookshare, I have stories turned into Braille for a visually impaired students. These are just a few of the assistive technologies that are available to me as an educator. In using these assistive technologies I am giving each of my students the opportunity to succeed in a way that is conducive for their individual needs.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Project 12, B

Blog Post #14

While reflecting on what I plan to do as a teacher influenced by my own experience in high school, I thought of the one thing that wasn't only missing from this EDM310 class concerning my area of study (Second. Ed., Eng. Lang. Arts), but from the classes I took in high school as well.

I decided to find the solution to a very pressing problem in the subject I plan to teach:

How can I effectively teach vocabulary to my students using technology?

In part, this apprehension is due to my recent reading of Kathleen Morris' blog post "Looking Back, Looking Forward" in which Kathleen Morris basically describes the triviality of busy work/work sheets in the classroom. In my four years at two different academically acclaimed high schools, I realized that the main way I was being taught vocabulary was through workbook assignments that meant little to nothing to me (as these assignments generally meant little to nothing to my grade). However, the main way I was learning vocabulary was through reading via context clues.

It doesn't really seem reasonable to request that all students become avid readers (though it would be ideal!) so while I have every intention of surrounding my students with great literature, I cannot expect them to surround themselves with it. The point being: I cannot expect my students to expand their vocabularies the way that I did, by challenging their minds through reading difficult texts.

So, I start to think that someone else has probably had this thought, too. "Why teach vocabulary through something so obsolete as workbook assignments when the internet has indubitably provided all sorts of ways to teach it?" To me, it is absolutely obsolete to continue to teach vocabulary the way I was taught (pen and paper assignments, quizzes, and tests). Taking for granted that standardized tests do not change soon (though, I hope they do), Vocabulary will still be a large chunk of the tests, considering the Reading Comprehension section, the selected readings, the science section--pretty much any section other than math (though, an expansive vocabulary can be of use there as well). If student's can't understand the tests, how can they be expected to show their understanding? It's impossible.

So, I started to explore the internet for some solutions.

Thankfully, I stumbled upon this little gem . While I admit, all the ideas are vastly aimed towards elementary-aged students, I believe that some of them may easily be modified to produce ENGAGING vocabulary lessons for teenagers. So here is a list of the resources I've found:


Foremost and my favorite because I've used Free Rice since my freshman year of high school. Then, it was really presented as a reward for learning our lessons on time (I first encountered it in a Latin class). Now, I find myself on it just for kicks. Not only is it a completely free website that may be utilized to master the basics of ANY language (and most subjects), it also donates 10 grains of rice for every correct answer to the World Food Program! Talk about a meaningful lesson! Students can contribute to world hunger relief all while learning new words, languages, and concepts. There is only one set back that I can imagine about this program, and that is its apparent inability to supply a certain list of vocabulary words. I'm still young in my educational endeavors, but it seems to me that as long as students are learning as many words as possible on the long list of English words available, we're still accomplishing more than assigning a chapter of a vocabulary workbook and having one student complete it and the remaining 24 students idly plagiarizing.

2.) Wordle

Wordle is a device that takes a group of words and basically jumbles them together to create a visual piece of word art. While most applications of this site seem to be for fun or for younger grades, I believe that Wordle may easily be used in high schools as well to associate synonyms together and antonyms as well. To help with learning "difficult" science terms, I can see Wordle as an aid to learning Latin and Greek roots as well.

This is a wordle I created based off of my last post in my blog (I liked it because it almost resembles a tree, or a dinosaur):

3.) Wordsift

Like Wordle, but better. Wordsift creates a similar visual word jumble as Wordle, only it links the individual words to a thesaurus--so students may easily access similar words to the one they do not understand. See an example below:
wordsift 'I Have A Dream' Speech Example


Vocabulary is basically a more challenging version of Free, only no one gets free rice for correct answers. I will most likely only recommend this one to students for standardized testing purposes.

5.) Balabolka

Balabolka is a Speech to Text program which is a valuable, free resource for audio-learners. The program can take written texts (like a list of vocabulary words and definitions, or synonyms) and read them aloud to those auditory learners.

6.) Visuwords

Visuwords is yet another resource for Visual learners that physically links synonyms together on the web. Here's an example for the word "fantasy":
Visuwords chart of 'fantasy'

Needless to say, these are just a few of the multitude of resources available on the internet. I look forward to further exploring this particular area of my field for the benefit of my students.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

PLN Report #2 (Final)

While I admit that I definitely have room to grow in my PLN endeavors, I'd say that so far I've done fairly well. Twitter is probably going to be my go-to database for new ideas because it is so easy to browse a large variety of ideas as well as gather news information and the endeavors of other teachers I am following. I have yet to find a blog to regularly consult but only because I haven't explored blogs on my own yet. Before I graduate and leave Mobile, I plan to meet with all the teachers that positively affected me as a student so that I can pick their brains for ideas about education and how exactly they conducted their classrooms. I definitely hope to stay in touch with these teachers afterwards as well. Perhaps, I can share some of the magic of technology with them in order to do so. I look forward to expanding my PLN in the future.
the networked educator

Friday, November 15, 2013

Blog Post #13

Charles Leadbeater: "Education innovation in the slums"

written by Laura Crawford

In this presentation, Mr. Leadbeater summarizes the effects of varying programs worldwide that have successfully integrated technology into “slums” for education’s sake. Leadbeater begins his presentation with this intriguing thought: “Your vantage point determines what you can see…The question that you ask will determine much of the answer that you get”. The question that follows is: “where do we look to see what education will become?” Leadbeater seems to regret that most educators answer with “go to Finland.” However, he spent time studying over a hundred case studies of how education has improved in the most impoverished regions of the world.
“Radical innovation does sometimes come from the very best [i.e. Finland]. But it often comes from places where you have huge need, unmet latent demands and not enough resources for traditional [high-cost] solutions to work which depend on professionals.”
The aforementioned quotation best summarizes Mr. Leadbeater’s endeavor. The prevalent theme in all the programs he studied seemed to be the integration of technology. As he stated, the most successful programs used “technology for learning that made learning fun and accessible”. This is because “education in these settings works by pull, not push.” Leadbeater laments that “most of our education works by push” and has since the early 19th century when the Bismarckian structure of the educational system was created. However, in today’s times, it becomes clearer every day that this system is entirely obsolete. In the words of Mr. Leadbeater, “education needs to work by pull, not push.”
Leadbeater suggests that the key to educating students successfully is by motivating them to pursue knowledge on their own. This motivation may be either extrinsic or intrinsic. Leadbeater defines extrinsic motivation as the “pay off” (in our culture, it would be a potential job). However, Mr. Leadbeater also notes that the extrinsic motivators prevalent in our culture are often too far away (i.e. ten years) which does not coincide with the immediate gratification mindset of kids today.
Leadbeater then invites his audience to “imagine an educational system that started from a question, not imposed knowledge” and the consequences of a system set around this type of learning. Leadbeater emphasizes that “you have to engage people first in order to teach them”. An interesting comparison that Leadbeater makes is between Chinese restaurants and the McDonald’s chain. He encourages that schools be like Chinese restaurants, in that—there is no chain (standardization) but you can still easily identify a Chinese restaurant when you see one. McDonald’s, however, is held to a standard. Every McDonald’s in every city in every country in the world has the exact same standard and menu. Leadbeater annunciates that this absolutely should not be the case in schools. Schools need to meet the curriculum of the community attending them.
Leadbeater then invites his audience to consider the alternative to the way schools are enforced today (by sustaining innovation in a formal setting) to disruptive innovation in an informal setting. Leadbeater encourages the latter which advocates “high collaboration, personalized [attention to students], high [standard of] technology[…]where learning starts from questions not from curriculum”
Mr. Leadbeater concludes by reiterating that “the 19th century Bismarckian [model]schools lay waste to imagination, to appetite” and “stratify society as much as it benefits it”. His closing line is a powerful one as he concludes: “We are bequeathing to the developing world school systems that they will now spend a century trying to reform.”

Alison Gopnik: "What Do Babies Think?"

written by Ashley Railey

As I looked through the list of TED talks, my mind was fixed on the first listed. What do babies think? Since I have three kids, I’ve often asked myself the same thing. Alison Gopnik explains in her lecture that a baby or young child’s mind is a lot more complex than we have thought in the past. Children are constantly observing and learning behavior from adults. She explains that because they are taken care of for so long, their brains can focus on learning rather than surviving.
Gopnik compares human babies to those of other animals. She says that the longer a baby is nurtured by it’s mother, the smarter the species is. For example, some crows and ravens feed their young for up to two years. This is a very long time in the life span of a bird. On the other hand, the domestic chicken matures in a couple of months. Gopnik explains that childhood is the reason why crows end up on the cover of science magazines while the chicken ends up as lunch.
Gopnik states,”Another way of thinking about it is instead of thinking of babies and children as being like defective grownups, we should think about them as being a different developmental stage of the same species, kind of like caterpillars and butterflies. Except that they're actually the brilliant butterflies who are flitting around the garden and exploring, and we're the caterpillars who are inching along our narrow, grownup, adult path.”
Division of labor between the adults and children are what helps us survive as humans. Babies and young children are completely helpless and rely on their mother’s care for the first decade of their lives. This way the children can spend all of their time learning and not on sheer survival. Once we reach adulthood, we can take all the things we learned as children and apply them to our daily lives.
Gopnik suggests that babies are like scientist. They develop a hypothesis and go out and test it. Depending on the outcome they may change that hypothesis. To test her theory, she used a machine called the Blicket Detector. The Blicket Detector is a machine that lights up when you put some things on it and not others. Gopnik explains:
“If I showed you this detector, you would be likely to think, to begin with, that the way to make the detector go would be to put a block on top of the detector. But actually, this detector works in a bit of a strange way. Because if you wave a block over the top of the detector, something you wouldn't ever think of to begin with, the detector will actually activate two out of three times. Whereas, if you do the likely thing, put the block on the detector, it will only activate two out of six times. So the unlikely hypothesis actually has stronger evidence. It looks as if the waving is a more effective strategy than the other strategy. So we did just this; we gave four year-olds this pattern of evidence, and we just asked them to make it go . And sure enough, the four year-olds used the evidence to wave the object on the top of the detector.”
At four years old children are just learning to count, but these kids were doing complicated calculations to discover the probability. The kids were forming ideas from the Blicket Detector and coming up with a hypothesis.
I thought Alison Gopnik’s lecture was remarkable. I had never realized how complex a young child’s mind really is. My youngest daughter is 14 months old. When she is mumbling and rattling to me, as if she is having a full conversation in baby talk, I wonder what is going through her mind. I think now, that maybe she is trying to convey to me everything she already knows but cannot voice.
Gopnik ends her lecture by saying, “ If what we want is to be like those butterflies, to have open-mindedness, open learning, imagination, creativity, innovation, maybe at least some of the time we should be getting the adults to start thinking more like children.”

Kakenya Ntaiya: "a girl who demanded school"

written by Caitlin Hinton

In this TED talk given by Kakenya Ntaiya we learn of a girl who demanded school. Kakenya is a woman who grew up in Kenya and she belongs to the Maasai’s. When Kakenya was a young girl was told that she had a man who was waiting to marry her, but she would have to be older. Kakenya went to school as a young girl and she dreamt of being a teacher. When she was 12 she went through a female right of passage within her community. In the Maasai tradition young girls who have reached puberty are subjected to female genital mutilation. Most of the girls who go through this die from loss of blood. Kakenya, who did not want to quit going to school, made a deal with her father. Kakenya asked her father if she went through with the Maasai ritual if he would allow her to go to high school and he agreed. At the age of 12 Kakenya and other girls went through what was probably one of the most painful experiences of their lives. Thankfully Kakenya survived and continued on to high school. In the mind of the Maasai what they subject these young girls to is just a part of their culture and in order for a girl to become a wife she must go through this or it will bring tremendous shame on her family. When Kakenya applied to college in America and started school, it was then that she learned that female genital mutilation was against the law in Kenya. It was from that point on that Kakenya decided she had to do something about this. She decided that she would start a school for girls in her community. The girls who attend this school are not subjected to the horrific act of female genital mutilation and they have a future that is attainable and bright. When I watched this video I honestly felt guilty. How many times do I take my education for granted? In America we are truly blessed not only with education but with education that is full of technological advantages. We are given the opportunity to be whatever we dream of being. In other parts of the world, such as Kenya, children are not encouraged to dream and become the person they want to be, but instead are told what their roles are within their communities and they must follow them. Our children are given stable environments to learn and flourish in. An education is something that should never be taken away from a child or anyone for that matter. I feel as educators we should always encourage our students to dream and challenge them to become whatever it is that they want to be. It is important to remember that our education is important because there are people all around the world who would love to sit in a classroom and be given the opportunity to learn. We must never take our education for granted. Kakenya Ntaiya’s story is a story of hope and inspiration and I think that we could all take something away from the story of the girl who demanded school.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


1: 11/10

Mrs. Kathleen Morris

In this post, Mrs. Morris illustrates the many potential uses of blogging in the classroom--particularly related to meeting the literacy requirements for her students. Mrs. Morris emphasizes that we need to make our students transliterate (basically, able to read all different sorts of media) because it is a necessary skill for the betterment of their education. From literacy rotations to blogging portfolios, Mrs. Morris continues to instill the importance of blogging in the classroom to her readers. Mrs. Morris also gives great advice about blogging in her comments to her readers in the comment section.
See the full article (and hopefully my post) here.
school supplies

2: 11/17

Mrs. Kathleen Morris

Mrs. Morris demonstrates the triviality of work sheets and busy work in this post. She has been asked to clean out her room (maternity leave, yay!) so she focuses mostly on condensing all of her materials from her room. Her greatest lament seems to be her initial respect for work sheets. I agree with this epiphany of Mrs. Morris--only, I had it as a student. Worksheets rarely (if ever) encourage critical thinking, which (I believe) is the purpose of education. See her full article, as well as my comment here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

C4K November



Lave @ Pt England School

Given 40 minutes to write about a topic of his choosing, Year 8 student Lave depicted a typical game of paintball with his family. He uses powerful descriptions through similes and metaphors, adjectives, and forceful verbs. He also uses a fantastic narrative voice as well as onomatopoeia to give his narrative more of a BANG! (get it?) See his full story, along with my comment here.


Mrs. Yollis' Third Grade Class

In this blog post, Mrs. Yollis describes a recent project she created with her class. She basically requested that her students create a digital family tree, and had her students' friends and family members comment on the post in honor of "Family Blogging Month". This exercise, to me, exemplifies how to incorporate the community in the classroom. See the original post (hopefully, along with my comment) here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Project 12, A

Blog Post #12

Sir Ken Robinson: “Changing Education Paradigms”

written by Laura Crawford

Ken Robinson begins his talk “Changing Education Paradigms” by suggesting two reasons every country on the planet is changing their education system. The first is economic; the question being “how do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st century?” The second reason is cultural. Ken Robinson states that every country on earth is trying to figure out how to educate children so they have a sense of cultural identity while being a part of the process of globalization. The problem seems to begin with the roots of the current education system. Ken Robinson says that the current system of education was designed and conceived and structured for a different age—the enlightenment and the industrial revolution. The Enlightenment view of intelligence was really an equation in and of itself: capability of deductive reasoning is completely equivalent to academic ability. This system leaves otherwise brilliant people under the impression that they are dumb and stuck in their lower-paying jobs. Ken Robinson then suggests that these twin pillars (economic and intellectual) create chaos for most people. Furthermore, Sir Robinson addresses the issue of ADHD—an epidemic that he claims isn’t really an epidemic. Ken Robinson claims our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth. What’s interesting is that the instances of ADHD have positively correlated with the increase of standardized testing. Sir Robinson points out that in America, ADHD increases as you go east. What decreases as you go east is the funding for the arts. Robinson states: “the arts are the victims of this mentality”. Arts emphasize the aesthetic appeal—the parts of the brain that are equally stimulated by the media, video games, and advertising surrounding students today. The arts are battled, however, mostly by anesthetics (the medication prescribed for ADHD) that deafen the brain to these stimulating experiences. Ken Robinson states that children are readily “medicated as routinely as we had our tonsils taken out”. His next point of emphasis was the assembly-line mentality taken in schools toward education. He asks “why is their age the most important thing?” and really hits the idea with his comedic comment: “it’s like their date of manufacture”. This production line mentality is conforming students through standardization (of tests, scores, grades, etc.). Ken Robinson seems to be a proponent of divergent thinking, which is frequently confused with creativity but isn’t. Sir Robinson suggests that divergent thinking is actually an essential capacity of creativity. He defines it as “the ability to see many possible answers to a question, of interpreting a question” Basically, thinking more relation-ally than linearly. Sir Robinson supports this idea of education with empirical evidence from a longitudinal study. The study encouraged kindergarten children to answer questions with as many possibilities as they could conceive, instead of enforcing this idea that there is only one answer in the back of the book. The study basically concluded that as we age, we lose the capacity to see multiple possible solutions to a problem. We are taught that there is only one answer and that is what we assume to believe. Ken Robinson closes his talk with the four things we need to solve before education systems will improve. First, we have to think differently about human capacity for knowledge. Second, we have to recognize the academia myth. Third, we have to recognize that kids learn best collaboratively and we should not isolate them and judge them separately. The final is the recognition of the habits of institutions and the habitats that they occupy.

"How to Escape Education's Death Valley"

Written by Caitlin Hinton
flowers in Death Valley, 2005
In this TED talk about education, Ken Robinson talks about how to escape educations death valley. Ken Robinson, who is a native of England, opens with the a joke about Americans not understanding irony. He then goes onto say that whoever came up with the title “No Child Left Behind,” clearly understands irony. He says that the legislation of “No Child Left Behind,” is actually leaving millions of children behind. In some parts of the country 60% of students drop out of school, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The dropout crisis does not include the students who are actively in school but are completely disengaged from school. Robinson delivers three ways in which the human life flourishes and they are contradicted by the culture of education. The first being, human beings are naturally different and diverse. Robinson gives the illustration that if you have two children, more than likely they are completely different from one another. He states that education under “No Child Left Behind,” is not based on diversity, but conformity. Schools are encouraged to find out what students can do across a very narrow spectrum of achievement. Education should be well dispersed and equal throughout all subjects. Children prosper best with a broad curriculum that celebrates their various talents. The second principle by which human life flourishes is curiosity. Robinson says that if you can light the spark of curiosity in a child they will learn without any further assistance in most cases. Curiosity is the engine of achievement. Education is about learning and if there is no learning going on then there is no education. The role of a teacher is to facilitate learning. Robinson proposes that one of the problems is that the culture of education focuses not on teaching and learning but on testing. Testing should support learning not obstruct it. In place of curiosity is a culture of compliance. The third principle is that human life is inherently creative. Humans can create and recreate their lives. Education is supposed to awaken the powers of creativity but instead we have a culture of standardization. So with these three principles in mind, how do we escape educations death valley? Simply put, we bring to life what lies dormant in our students. We foster our students diversity, curiosity, and creativity. The education system is not a mechanical system, it is a human system. We must create a climate of possibility and by doing that our students will rise and flourish.

"The Importance of Creativity"

Written by Ashley Railey

Ken Robinson begins his lecture by explaining how children have extraordinary capacities for innovation. He believes that each child has an individual creative talent that teachers (or adults in general) ignore. Robinson says, “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

Robinson continues his lecture with a few humorous jokes that keep the audience, and myself, laughing. He tells the story of his four year old son being in The Nativity Play when he was four. When the play begins, three four year boys come out as the kings who offer Jesus gold, myrrh, and frankincense. The first boy says, “I bring you gold”; the second boy says, “I bring you myrrh”; and the third boy says, “Frank sent this.” The point of his story is that children aren’t afraid of being wrong. This isn’t to say that being wrong is the same as being creative. Robinson states, “If you aren’t prepared to be wrong you will never come up with anything original.” By the time most children are adults they have developed a fear of being wrong. When education sells that mistakes are the worst thing a child can do, the result is that we are educating people out of their creativity.

Robinson explains how the current state of education models students to become college professors. Our society only focuses on math, science, and literacy. This only allows for the few students who are gifted in these areas to succeed.

I thought Robinson’s lecture was very entertaining and insightful. Personally, I don’t have a creative bone in my body, but I do appreciate art and literature. Our education system should embrace each child’s creativity. When students are learning about what they love, it provides them with more resources for a successful future.

Robinson ends his lecture with this powerful statement, “I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology. One in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we’ve stripped mined the Earth looking for a particular commodity, and for the future it won’t service.”

Project 15

1950s Vogue magazine cover

See my latest lesson plan

Friday, November 1, 2013

Blog Post #11

“Little Kids…Big Potential”

This is a very powerful video. In fact, I was humbled by it. Why? Mostly because it displays Mrs. Cassidy’s First Grade class employing technology I struggled with until my sophomore year of college. These kids are blogging and creating wiki pages to learn the alphabet . That’s a pretty incredible thought. Even more incredible are their responses to the use of this technology. Below are some particular student comments that stuck out to me.
“My writing gets better every time I write on my blog.”
“I can see that I sound out my words better.”
“I can choose whichever web page so I can help myself learn.”
Mrs. Cassidy’s first graders are not only learning to write using technology, they’re learning to learn (something most traditionally taught students, including myself, learned much later than the 1st grade—if at all).

What Technology I Plan to Use in my Classroom:

Unfortunately, for the age group I’d like to teach, I do not see the Nintendo ds being an appropriate technological tool to introduce to my students. I am certain Mrs. Cassidy’s first graders have great success using the ds’s to learn. However, I really found the use of wikis, blogs, and skype conferences with experts appealing. Wikis seem to me like a great way to consolidate units. I plan to incorporate blogging as a ten minute exercise at the beginning of every class to enhance writing skills. Skype conferences with members of my PLN will surely bring another opinion into the classroom and allow students individualized attention for their questions concerning the material.

What I Learned from the Skype Interview with Kathy Cassidy:

Considering the field I plan to teach, I listened most closely to Mrs. Cassidy’s advice on blogging. I believe that blogging can be a useful tool for students especially in a Composition class. Blogs also act as portfolios which students can review and are able to see how their writing has progressed. Blogs are also sort of a grade book for parents, since parents may access them whenever internet is available and review their student’s work. Mrs. Cassidy stated that “kids and technology go hand in hand”. After watching my two-year-old brother successfully operate an iPhone, I definitely believe this is the case. Furthermore, Mrs. Cassidy says that “we cannot teach kids in this generation using the tools that worked 20 years ago, 10 years ago, even 5 years ago. We have to change because the world has changed.” Our methods of educating must change with the world. The pen and paper ways of schooling have been antiquated. The most striking statement of Mrs. Cassidy’s (for me, anyway) was definitely this point: “why would a child want to write on paper so I can see it, when they can write on their blog and the whole world can see it?”
quill and scroll

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Brian Bennett's Blog

post one (10/20):

Brian Bennett compares the flow of a music record to the flow of the classroom in his article "I Learned a Lesson from my iPod". He states that musicians create an intentional flow to an album and that teachers should follow in their likeness. Creating meaningful transitions between lesson plans eliminates (at least a percentage) of the "But whyyyyyy do I have to learrrrrrrn thiiiiiisss?" nags from students. Every lesson should have a decipherable, meaningful point that students comprehend and respect. Such transitions evident in an effective flow of lessons should aid this hesitation to learn by students.
original ipod

post two (11/3):

In this post, Brian Bennett expresses his hesitations on a recently published Wired article ( See it here.) He includes the email he sent to the group expressing his concerns over the lack of credit given to teachers in the article. The article takes the view that students may freely explore the internet to get the education they need. Mr. Bennett obviously does not agree with this as he argues that "the role of the teacher is to provide context for the content". See his letter, article, and my comment here.

C4K October

October 13th: Cameron

In this post, entitled "Out of My Mind", Cameron steps out of his/her mind to imagine what it would be like to be disabled. See the post (and my comment) here.

October 20th: Michelle

In her post "The First Day of 7th Grade Science", Michelle relates the processes of her various experiments. The first experiment of the science lab was to create a Potato Head figure out of an actual potato. After creating the potato figures (Michelle later tells me exactly how she decorated hers), students placed a portion of their potatoes in a test tube and covered it with peroxide water. I'm supposing the peroxide water reacted with the starch in the potato and created a bubbly fizz. Michelle thought "it was cool". She then states that two weeks later she conducted a gummy bear experiment with her best friend. Students kept a gummy bear in water and periodically took it out and checked its weight. Michelle seems to really enjoy 7th Grade Science class so far! See her post here.
Michelle's reply

October 27th: rocky78

In the post "Cars and How Cars Move", Rocky displays interest in the relationship between gas and vehicles. He imagines conducting an experiment in which he examines the results when only filling a car's gas tank half-full. See his post (and my comment) here.

October 29th (due 11/3): Will K.

In his post, Will K. is asking fellow bloggers who they think will win the World Series (Boston Red Sox or St. Louis Cardinals). Will and I agreed that the Sox should win the Series because both our teams (the Royals and the Braves respectively) are out of the running. Will also reminded me that Alexander Cartwright is responsible for creating the All-American sport of baseball. See his post (and my comment) here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Blog Post #10

What Can We Learn about Learning and Teaching from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture?

The Last Lecture book cover

Mark Twain once said, “A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”. To me, Randy Pausch is that man. It speaks volumes that I can watch his Last Lecture multiple times—to the point where I know every punch line and every pause—yet still tear up with his closing lines. Here is a man who not only defies fear of death—but defies fear of life. There are so many things that we can learn from him to honor him and carry on his legacy.

What Can We Learn about Learning and Teaching from Randy Pausch’s Last lecture?

My favorite piece of Mr. Pausch’s advice, though it was difficult to choose, is decidedly: “Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things.” We are surrounded by all manner of brick walls. The literal ones shelter us and keep us comfortable. The metaphorical ones do quite the opposite. These challenge us and require that we prove our dedication—our determination—to the world, if not only to ourselves. If you ask me, these are more valuable. The learning process is often difficult. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth anything. What would be the point? The brick walls enable us to determine the value of our exploits—which ones are worth hacking at for the rest of our lives.

Mr. Pausch also suggests that we learn best by “head fakes” or indirect learning. This in itself is a head fake because he also is suggesting a method of pedagogy. As learners, we should be mindful of the other lessons we may gather by focusing on a main point. As teachers, we should incorporate this clever method into our lesson plans.

As learners, we should also keep in mind that our best teachers are our critics. According to Randy Pausch, “your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and care.” While some may be hard on us, it is always important to remember that it is only because they care.

Easily another one of my favorite sayings Randy Pausch includes in his lecture is: “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” As learners, we all have end goals in mind and we usually have some plan to get there. However, often these plans go awry, and the important thing to learn from Mr. Pausch is that failure teaches us more than success. When we do fail to gain our goals, at least we gain experience.

What Can We Learn about Learning and Teaching from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture?

In this lecture, Randy Pausch gives an anecdote which I hope to relate to someday. He was teaching a new class on the newest technology (Virtual Reality) and was shocked by the exceptional results of his first two-week project. His students completely exceeded his expectations. In a state of disbelief, Mr. Pausch consulted his mentor for advice on how to properly handle the situation. The next day Mr. Pausch said to his students: “Guys, that was pretty good but I know you can do better.” This reaction was based off the advice his mentor had provided: “you obviously don’t know where the bar should be, and you’re doing them a great disservice by putting it anywhere.” As an educator, I believe it is important to keep this in mind. Without a standard, it is difficult to assess your students. But if Randy Pausch had gone into that classroom the next day and revealed his disbelief at the magnificence of their work, he would not have benefited his students in the least. They would not have pushed themselves and raised the bar to achieve even more than their professor imagined.

“That is the best gift an educator can give, is to get somebody to be self-reflective.” These words are fairly self-explanatory. Randy Pausch obviously knows what he’s talking about. Higher-level pedagogy nowadays is almost exclusively focused on enforcing self-reflection in the students.

The final piece of advice I have commentary on from Mr. Pausch is: “You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff doesn’t work.” I think this quotation fits quite nicely his “head fake” idea. Most educators strive towards emphasizing the big points that encourage critical thinking and assume that students will pick up the smaller skills and ideas along the way.

Here is the video (I’d strongly encourage everyone who reads this to give it a watch, if you haven’t already):

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Blog Post #9

Collaboratively composed by Caitlin Hinton, Ashley Railey, and myself


In his lecture, Brian Crosby goes into detail about his students being at risk and how they have been at a disadvantage since birth. The way in which he teaches allows his students to be more than a statistic. Mr. Crosby explains his most effective method for teaching students focuses almost exclusively (as it should) upon their engagement in the learning process. By removing the text-book aspect of learning, Mr. Crosby has relied on projects and internet resources to cover the Common Core standards. One aspect that Mr. Crosby pointed out was that he allows his students to blog about their project and embed their video into their blog as opposed to giving them a test. He expects his students to know enough to write about their experiment as opposed to spitting facts out on a test to obtain a good grade. He encourages his students to inadvertently create their own PLNs by which his curriculum is reinforced by contributors around the globe. Crosby ends the video by explaining that we, as educators, need to stop racing kids through school. We need to give them the opportunity to build schema for the world, focus on their future, and consider all possibilities.


There are two components to the blended learning cycle. In Paul Anderson’s video, he explains that by taking the separate entities of online, mobile, and classroom, and blending them all together, the blended classroom is created. The five E’s of the learning cycle are as follows: engage, explore, explain, expand, evaluate. By combining the blended classroom and the five E’s the blended learning cycle is created. The first step is the “hook”--if students are not interested in learning, they will not learn. A “hook” (a captivating question, experiment, thought, etc) is necessary to engage them in the initial ideas of the lesson. The second step is to allow the kids to explore on their own. This can be anything from examining a work (of literature) to experimenting on their own (safely, we should hope). The third step is to incorporate a video into the lesson. The teacher may have the students watch a video in class or at home independently. The fourth and fifth steps are elaboration and review. Anderson states that he meets with the students individually or in small groups where he asks questions to check their understanding. The students aren’t able to proceed to the final step of a summary or quiz until the teachers is sure he/she understands the material. As teachers, we should then explain in detail the various methods, ideas, etc. to the students so that they may understand the more complex aspects of the subject not previously considered. By furthering their exploration, students expand their knowledge of the subject. Then, as teachers, it is our responsibility to evaluate the student’s progress.


The key to learning composition (writing and rhetoric) has proved to be the documentation which is mentioned in these videos. By reading their progression from earlier years, or even earlier in the semester, students can visually see what knowledge they have gained.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

C4T #2

21 Apples

avrind s grover

Why #Educon is a Place I Wanted to Recruit a Faculty from (and am still trying to)

In this post, avrind s grover describes a new kind of high school which he is creating. He briefly describes Educon as the creation of his friend Chris Lehmann. I found his answer to the question "what is best for high school students?" very interesting as it differs so greatly from the high school from which I graduated. I really admired the structure that is implemented in this schedule and the passion that avrind s grover shows towards his new high school. See his post here.
my comment

Preventing Racist Halloween Costumes

In this post, avrind s grover shares the campaign of Ohio University's "STARS" which advocates critical thinking on the part of students to insure that they are not presenting themselves in racially conflicting attire. He also poses the question: "How does your school go about getting into a mess with costumes?" which several contributors responded to wisely. See the post here.

Blog Post #8

Our New Tech Tools


by Laura Crawford
Victorian Era timeline

For my technological tool, I explored a timeline generator entitled tiki-toki, which I discovered through a member of my PLN, Catlin tucker in her post 12 Tech Tools that Will Transform the Way You Teach!. This wonderful device allows teachers and students to create timelines with background images, embedded youtube videos, links to sources, and information on their subject. I found it particularly useful for teaching literature classes because it seems that the context of the literature studied is hardly ever covered in class. Tiki-Toki provides students with a timeline created by their teachers, and provides teachers with another assignment for their students (yay homework!:)). The program is simple to use and will no doubt encourage students to engage their critical thinking skills when reading and apply what they have read into context. Unfortunately, my free trial did not include the ability to give access via embed code, so here are a few pictures from my creation of a timeline covering the Victorian Era. (I further found that for $125.00 a year, teachers can have an account and allow their students access and accounts as well).
here's a picture of the program in action:
creating the timeline


by Caitlin Hinton
For this blog post, the 21st century tool I have chosen is a web program called Brainscape. I will be teaching high school English and therefore there are a number of items that my students will need to remember. Brainscape is an online tool to create numerous files of online flashcards. Within English you have literature, grammar, spelling and vocabulary, and writing. Brainscape would allow my students to have a file for each of these divisions and then they would have flashcards within each file. One of the features that I find extremely useful within Brainscape is when you are studying your flashcards you can rate the term based on how well you knew the information. The rating starts at a 1, which is not knowing the information at all, and ends at a 5, which is knowing the information perfectly. All of the flashcards with a 1 or 2 rating are recycled more often than the flashcards with a 4 or 5 rating. By recycling the information more often it increases your chances of retaining the knowledge as opposed to just remembering it for the test and then forgetting it once the test has been completed. Once you have created your files and flashcards all of your information is saved in the cloud so that is accessible on your computer, phone, or tablet. I would have my students create the individual divisions and then create flashcards from a list of vocabulary assigned. In order to receive credit I would need to see that each student has created their Brainscape files and has defined each vocabulary word given. I feel that my students would benefit greatly from Brainscape because of how the program works by recycling information that the students were not necessarily sure of in order to help them remember it. The reason I chose this online tool is because of the program features and because we live in an ever evolving technological society. The final reason I chose Brainscape is because all of your files are stored in the cloud which makes the information accessible anytime and anywhere and I feel that that will be incredibly beneficial for my students.


by Ashley Railey
Ideally, my future English/Language Arts classroom will be filled with 7th grade students. The 21st century tool that I would love to use in my future classroom would be Storybird, an online site that allows students to add art to their original stories or poetry. I have created my very own poem with Storybird. According to MCPSS , 7th grade students are required to compose original poetry, write a narrative, and write a lyric or concrete poem or haiku through the school year. I would have the students use this tool with these assignments. When using Storybird, students can show their creativity by applying art work with their words. The students would also have spelling words that they will be tested on throughout the year. I could also implement their spelling words into Storybird to help them gain a better understanding of how to use the words in a sentence correctly.
Storybird is set up for teachers and students. The teacher creates a classroom account, and the the students join the classroom. The teacher can then create an assignment along with any specific instructions and due date. Due dates also appear on the students dashboard as a reminder. Once an assignment is posted, the teacher is alerted of which student has submitted the assignment. Students can also comment on each others work, which is a great way to have the students practice peer editing.
I thought Storybird was a great way to get students excited about writing. When dealing with tweens, you often find that many of them have short attention spans and get bored very quickly. Furthermore, not very many have a desire to learn about grammar usage and poetry. With this tool, students can critique one another’s work, while expressing their own creativity as well. I can’t wait to use this in my classroom.