Monday, May 24, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ipadio Star Phlog

Yesterday, I uploaded my first podcast, "The Computer Ate My Homework," to Ipadio.  Then, I received an email notification that my podcast was selected to be the Star Plog of the day!  It appeared on the main page of Ipadio and was has now been viewed almost 500 times.  Now, I am just waiting to share it with my students, since Ipadio is currently blocked at school.  Hopefully, it can be unblocked, since I am eager to integrate them into lessons for next year.  Hmmm....what will I podcast next? 

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Computer Ate My Homework

I just made my first real podcast! I am so excited!!!  I also added the iPhone app, uploaded my podcast to iTunes, and added the text below.

The week I began graduate school, my dogs ate my homework. Well, they didn't actually eat my online assignment, but they did consume a textbook thrown over the fence by a careless delivery person. As I laughed about seeing by backyard covered with a dusting of white pages, I began to think about how my students now blame missing homework on the computer instead of the family pet.

Since most of the assignments in my classroom are taught and learned with the help of computers, my students occasionally come to class unprepared as a result of technology glitches. Many times, these students try to blame the computer instead of themselves. However, blaming a computer for a missing assignment is never an acceptable excuse.

I continuously teach my students how to save their assignments using the best technology available. I tell them to always save their work in two forms. Most students opt to save their work to a thumb drive and email it to themselves as an attachment. I also teach them to be careful to check the item's name and file type before saving. This system has worked moderately, however I recently discovered that saving work to "the cloud" is much safer than a thumb drive and Google is much more responsible than any of us. Now, most of my students choose to create assignments in Google Docs, which automatically saves their work within their Google Account. Since a variety of file types can also be uploaded to Google Docs, they can also create permanent portfolios.

However, sometimes accidents happen. Computers crash, servers go down, viruses infect files, and even humans make mistakes. When these things occur, I tell my students that it's unfortunate, but they must figure out a way to overcome the setback. I can't grade something that I cannot see. Resilient students find time to quickly redo or fix the assignment. Those who dig in their heels and blame the computer, will probably have a second chance to practice resiliency in my summer school classroom.

Though, my students may feel that I am little cold-blooded for not simply crediting them for the work eaten by the computer, I am confident that I am teaching them real-world responsibility. If I am going to teach my students to respect and value technology, I need to emphasize that the computer is the tool and they are the users. However, I can dream of the day my dogs accidentally eat a giant pile of essays I need to grade.

Teen Second Life - My Thoughts...For Now

After viewing "Education in Second Life: Explore the Possibilities" (2007), I began to consider taking my students on virtual field trips or performing Romeo and Juliet with avatars.  I thought about creating a virtual classroom where my students could visit and share resources.  I considered the collaboration with people from around the world.  Then, I was grounded by the reality of introducing a new social networking medium to my students. 

If I were to use Second Life with my ninth and tenth grade students, I would use Teen Second Second Life. My teenage students would be able to register for accounts, and I could apply for an adult teacher account.  Teen Second Life has added safety features which are unavailable in traditional Second Life.  According to "For Parents" (n.d.), "Teen Second Life will always be staffed with Liaison coverage during open hours" (para. 3).  I also discovered the "Teen Second Life Community Standards" (n.d.), which outline an acceptable use policy and discipline plan (para. 14).  It seems that Teen Second Life contains "the norms" of online safety features.  However, it is still possible for an online predator to simply lie about his or her age. 

Despite their good intentions, I am unable to completely trust Teen Second Life's ability to control all aspects of their virtual world.  I regularly use free online social media in my classroom, any of which could lead to a potential online safety issue.  However, none of the sites I use have a next step program that includes a vice-filled adult world.  As simply stated by Kristin Kalning (2007), Second Life is a place to "Buy stuff. Sell stuff. Gamble. Listen to music. Buy property. Flirt. Play games. Watch movies. Have sex." (para. 2).  I teach my students to be responsible; I would be a hypocrite if I introduced them to an online world that exposed them to these types of temptations.          

Even though Teen Second Life provides a more secure world than Second Life, it seems as if it is designed to build create a captive audience who will eventually graduate to Second Life.  Second Life seems more like a business than an educational technology tool.     

Education in Second Life: Explore the Possibilities . (2007, May 29). YouTube . Retrieved May 14, 2010, from
Information for Parents. (n.d.). Teen Second Life. Retrieved May 14, 2010, from
Kalning, K. (2007, March 12). If Second Life isn't a game, what is it?. MSNBC. Retrieved May 14, 2010, from
Teen Second Life Community Standards . (n.d.). Teen Second Life . Retrieved May 14, 2010, from

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Name On just found my name in an article on, which is powered by Investor's Business Daily.  It's about my scholarship, but it's funny to find my name in an article so far from education.

Snapshot of My Tech World

I recently heard a fellow Computer Using Educator say, "If you want your students to do cool stuff, you need to make cool stuff." Since then, I have significantly increased my usage of technology in my classroom. I try to model using new technology as I teach my students to use new technology.

The technology tool I have used for the past few years is Blogger. Now, my class blog has become the skeleton of my courses. Daily, I post warm-ups, classwork, and homework assignments. Within each post, I am able to directly embed or create links to online tools and resources. The RSS feed style of the blog makes it easy for people to access the most recent assignments in my class. Additionally, they can easily utilize gadgets, such as a translator and internal search. I have also created pages within my blog: Assignment Calendar, Student Blogs, Contact Ms. Priester, Student Resources, Campus Adult Resources, and Technology Resources. Visitors can follow links to my personal blog and our school's webpages. Since my blog is so thorough, my students know to "check" the it if they miss class or simply forgot the nightly homework assignment.

One of the gadgets near the top of my blog is a Google Calendar gadget. This gadget continuously updates to post a simple list of all assignments sorted by class period. When one of the assignments is clicked on, a link to the blog post describing the assignment is available. Within this calendar there are actually four separate calendars, which synthesize into one feed that is labeled color-coded for each class period. I edit these calendars from within my Google account, and the calendars are all automatically updated. A full calendar is also available as a page within the blog, as I mentioned earlier. On this Assignment Calendar page, students can also watch tutorial videos of how to create, add, and embed a Google Calendar. A few months ago, I began to have my students create calendar pages on their blogs and add their class period's calendar. My goal is to have all of the teachers on my campus create and maintain a calendar for each class. Then after adding all of their teachers calendars, the students will be automatically able to view all of their assignments on their own blog.

On the Technology Resources page of my blog, I have an embeded tagcloud to my Delicious account. Delicious is an online storage place that saves and allows simple organization of bookmarked/favorited websites. Whenever I find a new technology tool, interesting article, or other useful website, I save it to my Delicious account. I also create tags, which are keywords or labels, for the site. The tagcloud is a collage of all of my tags, that are automatically sized in relation to their frequency in my account. When one of the words in the cloud is clicked on, the visitor is taken to a list of links to all of the websites I saved using the same tag. Just this week, I taught my students how to create and use a Delicious account as a tool to help save resources used in the process of drafting research papers. They immediately wanted to know how to create and embed a tagcloud into their blogs. Many of my sophomores shared my excitement of discovering a way to permanently collect, organize, and share online findings.

By following the links on the Student Blogs page of my blog, a visitor can find Blabberizes within my students' recent posts. Blabberize creates online talking pictures. On the Blabberize website, users upload a picture, add an animated mouth, and record or upload a short podcast--these can even be recorded from a landline phone. Then, all three elements are blended together to create an entertaining talking picture. As a comprehension activity during my last unit, I had my students summarize a story using first-person narration from the protagonist. The images they selected matched descriptions of the character. Advanced students also use speaking techniques to creatively share their 100-word summary.

Many of the links on my blog are connected to Google forms, which are made in Google Docs. Within Google Docs, I create a simple form using their customizable template that allows for text, paragraph text, multiple choice, checkboxes, scale, grid, and choose from a list question formats. The form becomes a simple webpage that can be published via a link or embed code. The responses automatically appear within one editable spreadsheet in Google Docs. I began using this tool to have students answer questions and to collect information from students and parents. Now, I have learned how to create self-grading tests within the spreadsheets and mainly use the form for students to turn in assignments. The spreadsheet view can also be published for public view, which assists with collaboration during projects. Within the past few months, using Google forms has enabled me to simply create a almost paperless hybrid of live and online class.

Using these technology tools has decreased the energy I need to spend on the tedious parts of teaching, such as publishing assignment sheets and grading stacks of papers. Instead, I am able to spend my time focusing on connecting to my students and creating engaging, meaningful lessons. As a result, all of my students are completing more assignments, have become more engaged in class, and are beginning to show a raise in standardized assessment scores.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Learning Theories

As a high school teacher, I have integrated learning technology tools into almost all of my lessons.  I decided to examine five tools I have used in my lessons within the past month. 

When selecting learning technology tools, I select those that relate to the behaviorism learning theory when my intention is to reinforce a simple skill.  For example, today I wanted to create warm-up activity to reinforce my students' typing skills.  I selected Type Racer, a free online game that allows students to compete with one another.  After creating accounts, students followed my link to join our typing racetrack.  Within a few minutes, my entire room of sophomores, were competitively typing to push their car toward the finish line.  A simple challenge motivated my students to practice, correct, and improve their typing skills.  Students were encouraged to type accurately and quickly when they saw their car move forward on the racetrack.  Students were punished by watching their car barely move from the starting line.  Additionally, peer pressure contributed to the training through cheers and friendly teasing.  I further rewarded my students by posting screenshots of the finish line on our classroom blog.

As an English teacher, I rarely need to train my students to memorize simple content, so most of my lessons that relate to behaviorism are small supplemental lessons.  For example, when my students have a few minutes of free time, I encourage them to go to Free Rice.  This online quiz rewards students by donating ten grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program each time they correctly answer a question.  Quizzes are categorized into a variety of subjects, including, chemistry symbols, English grammar, and multiplication.  When using this tool, the rewards and consequences are deepened by connecting the students' learning to helping others.  Forty years ago, BF Skinner predicted that future teachers would use "'teaching machines' arrange the necessary contingencies of reinforcement (Skinner, 1964).  I doubt he envisioned online quizzes feeding people around the world and racecars fueled by teenage typists.             

Since my students come from a variety of educational backgrounds, I frequently use the constructivism learning theory within my lessons to help my students connect to the content.  To help my students compile lists of what they already know, or can easily independently access online, about a new subject, I use Wallwisher.  Before our lesson begins, I create a new wall with a simple title and description of our focus.  Then, my students access the wall via a link or an embedded gadget in a post on my blog.  By simply clicking on the wall/background, students are prompted to add their names, comments, and/or links to the form within a text box.  As the owner of the wall, I am able to rearrange and edit the stickies as they are published.  During a recent lesson examining the biographical and historical approach of a short story set in the Vietnam War, my sophomores contributed to a wall to share what they already knew or had access to.  Using Wallwisher helps my students to increase investment in their own learning and enables me to view each class as a unique set of learners.  I combine this information with data from pretests and standardized assessments in order to base my lessons on my students' previous knowledge. 

At a later point in my lessons, I employ the constructivist learning theory by encouraging my students to engage in online discussions.  Recently, I discovered Cover It Live and began using it to facilitate interactive discussions individualized for each of my classes.  Before class, I can create a file of questions, links, and surveys related to our content.  During class, my students join a live discussion embedded in the classroom blog.  From my computer, I am able to post questions and regulate responses.  My students are able to read each others' responses as they appear in the field, which allows them to compare their ideas with those of their peers.  As I view responses, I am able to add supplemental information if I notice that many of the students are struggling to understand a concept.  I also select which questions to ask based on the depth of the previous responses.  Since this is a social and fast-paced activity, my students quickly become engaged in learning that is customized to build upon what the they already know.     

Out of all of the learning technology tools I use in my classroom, the one that has most piqued the curiosity of my coworkers best exemplifies the cognitive learning theory.  Vocab Ahead is a website that contains over 1,000 vocabulary videos explaining challenging words.  Each video displays one illustration of a scene related to the definition.  During the video, a narrator defines the words, uses the word in a few example sentences, and restates the definition.  While he narrates, the simple definition and sentence appear at the bottom of the screen.  Within the website, my students and I have created a customized word list for each class.  A few times a week, my sophomores and I add three new words to add to our queue.  Then, we orally review the pronunciations and definitions of our master list, between watching new videos.  For each new video, we quietly watch the video,  write a complex sentence using the word, chorally practice pronouncing the word, share sentences in small groups, and share one sentence from each group to the whole class.  The video allow the students to use their senses to process words and images.  By providing my students quiet time to independently construct meaningful sentences in their working memory, the words begin to move into their long-term memory.  As a result, my students have strongly increased their vocabulary and begun to use these words in other writing assignments.          

As soon as I discovered Type Racer, Free Rice, Wallwisher, Cover It Live, and Vocab Ahead, I expected that using them as learning technology tools in my classroom would engage my students in learning.  I am excited that the behaviorism, constructivism, and cognitivism learning theories support what I am already seeing succeed in with my students. 

Skinner, B. (1964, May 20). New methods and new aims in teaching. New Scientist, 122, unknown. Retrieved April 29, 2010, from