Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I was just reading recently about a new software called “Storify”, which allows you to create stories and based on tweets, photos, and videos. It allows you to search multiple social networks and just drag and drop them into your story. I really love the idea of this…especially given that I think digital storytelling is becoming a new craze! I am so interested in the idea of digital storytelling because I think it’s something fun and creative for students to do, and now being able to create your own story easily from your own personal pictures and videos, I see it as having great potential. I also think it sounds like a great way to collaborate and reflect on our classroom and have it accessible to parents. What a great way to include the parents by telling them a story!
Has anyone ever used this before? Is it as easy as I have read? I’m going to start playing around with it but I wanted to get suggestions on what others might be doing with it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

“Good Video Games and Good Learning” – James Paul Gee

I love the way this article lists the number of learning principles involved in “good” video games. As the Gee points out, “Good video games incorporate good learning principles…challenge and learning are a large part of what makes good video games motivating and entertaining. Humans actually enjoy learning, though sometimes in school you would not know it”.  I completely agree with this last sentence. Growing up I can remember feeling a sense of accomplishment and probably pride when I learned something. It’s a good feeling to have and I think other students like to feel this way too.  But, sometimes in the school classroom learning becomes so regimented and monotonous that we lose this feeling.
As I mentioned in my previous post I am in agreement that video games are a great source for challenging and complex thinking and problem solving that is also engaging and enticing. But I thought this article was a great resource for teachers and academic administration to see the complex learning principles that can be encountered through a wide variety of video games that students are currently playing. One of the 16 learning principles that really stood out to me was #11 “Pleasantly Frustrating”. This is the idea that students feel the games are “doable”, but challenging, which is highly motivating for learners. As I’m sure anyone who has read any of my blog posts would know, I put a high price on engaging students, motivating students, and getting them excited to learn.  Love the idea that video games impose a challenge that they are motivated to take on.
Gee leaves us with a very important question at the end of the article: “How can we make learning in and out of school, with or without using games, more game-like in the sense of using the sorts of learning principles that young people see in good games every day, when and if they are playing these games reflectively and strategically?” And to be quite honest, I don’t know the answer but believe it’s a highly important topic to delve into and begin to find the answers. Using reflection and strategies are the types of learning skills and techniques that students can really begin to apply in all facets or their life and should thus be a major focus in the classroom. I’m open to any suggestions of how to begin to do this more in the classroom?

“Welcome to Our Virtual Worlds” – James Paul Gee & Michael H. Levine

I really enjoyed this article because it’s actually something I have been saying for a while. Every time I see my younger cousins or friends kids playing these video games I seem to complement them on the complexity of it all. As I watch, I always seem to be in amazement that they know exactly what to do, and where to go, and how to solve the task at hand. There is a large amount of thinking and problem solving involved in these games, and it’s great to hear that this is an issue coming to life.  I know for me, I’m always most interested in hearing about the things in the classroom that are of actual interest to the students and that can really get them excited and engaged. I tend to think that the most learning occurs when students are excited about something. It’s like going on a field trip; students always tend to remember what they learned because they were excited and interested in doing it. The same seems to go with video games. Let’s face it…most children spend a lot of their time playing these games, so why not really embrace this, cultivate it, and begin to incorporate it into our everyday classroom.
It’s funny because the article actually makes specific reference to an older game, “Oregon Trail”, which I can remember playing in my computer class which we had once a week during elementary school. I can remember not only me, but the class being so excited when it came time to move downstairs to the computer classroom and play. We were actually excited to learn! What did we need to make it to Oregon? Were we going to get sick? How do we budget our Funds? If we are having students learn while enjoying themselves, then I think we’ve done something special.
Another part of the article that I thought was interesting and feel the need to address is the idea that in order, “To leverage the potential of digital media to transform classrooms and motivate students, teachers must become tech savvy”. This is so true! We need teachers to be comfortable and open to new technologies so we can have things such as more educational “video games” in the classroom. We are in an age where students are so tech friendly, and we need to begin to get the teachers on the same page. I firmly believe that more teach professional development sessions in the schools should be focused on technology and beginning to make the teachers more acquainted with it so they aren’t scared by it. We need them to begin to embrace it little by little so that things such as video games for classroom learning will become more prominent. There is such complex thinking and problem solving necessary for these games and I see them as a very essential part of our students’ educational futures.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I'm actually a very big fan of the SMART Board and I use it alot. There are so many great lessons out there and the best part about them are their interactivity. I think SMART Board is a great addition to any classroom because of its interactivity. The students can actually be a part of the lesson, get up, move around, put things on the board themselves...it really is a great thing. My favorite lessons on the SMART Board are the lessons you can use with the Jeopardy template. I think they are a fun creative way of reviwing any lesson you want in the classroom. I've actually used this a few times in different classes I was taking and teaching, and students loved it! They got excited about it and more imporantly it was a fun way for them to learn.

The SMART Board makes it so easy too. You can download the Jeopardy template and you simply just input your own questions and answers based on the subject and/or unit you are going through with the class. You can split the class up into two teams, or you can have more smaller teams, which is how I prefer it. Gives more of a chance for everyone to participate and have to answer. The template even comes with Jeopardy music...so while the students are thinking over their answers they can here that famous tune!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Open Source Software

So after combing through the sourceforge.net website, I was trying to decide what kind of open source tool I would be looking for. I’m always a big fan of brainstorming, idea organization skills, content mapping, etc. So I decided to research for a tool like this and came across Xmind, which so far seems very useful. I saw that it had a lot of great reviews and it was even won an award in 2008 for being the best Eclipse RCP application and the best project for academia in 2009 in the SourceForge community, so I thought I would download it and give it a shot!
First off, let’s talk about what Xmind is. Xmind is an open source software that allows to create and edit topics with content maps. You can drag and drop, reorganize, move markers, take snapshots, and add attachments. This software even allows you to use google to search for images and drag them into your map. You can use Xmind to give presentations and you can easily export files to PDFs or Word documents so they can be printed and/or shared.
Xmind is free but they do have upgradeable functions that you would need to pay for. But I think free version has more than enough functions that can be considered useful and beneficial in the classroom.  As I mentioned previously I am a major promoter of brainstorming and organization of ideas. For example, when going to write a paper I like to get my main ideas in order, follow them with sub ideas, and really map out exactly what I want to put into my paper. Doing this by hand, with a paper and a pen, can sometimes leave you in a disarray. Everything can get jumbled, you want to move topics around and then you just end up making a big mess that you can barely read. Using Xmind you can make a content map of your choice…whether it be a topic web or a tree version, you can color code, use different themes and outlines and you can use markers to label priorities, provide ordering, mark ideas you think are most important or ideas you questionably want to remove. Another great function is that you can add your notes right into it, so if have a sidebar, you can come back to it later.
This FREE software tool reminds me a lot of the PAID tool “Inspiration”. I actually really like Inspiration as well, but seeing that you can get something so so similar is great! I would definitely use this with my class of students. I think tools like this are beneficial to all students.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Virtual Learning Environments & Personal Learning Environments

This week I read a very interesting blog entitled:

Edufountain: Virtual and Personal Learning Environments My Thoughts

It’s from John Fontaine’s blog:
Fountains of Fontaine
Education, Technology, Baking & Other Things
The blog has a lot to say about Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) and Personal Learning Environments (PLE).  Different VLE’s are of a lot of interest to me as I currently help teach Blackboard ( a very popular virtual learning management system) to faculty at Pace University.  Using a VLE as both a student and a professional I see them as great tools. They are constantly making changes to them and new improvements keep coming down the pike. Stephen Downes said that “VLE’s are inherantly closed and inflexible”, but I don’t agree with this at all. As John Fontaine points out, are people who feel this way just having a misunderstanding of what is possible? I think this is the case. As I mentioned, with my job, I get to see faculty using Blackbaord all the time, and I hear them whine and complain…”this can’t do this, and I want to do that, or why can’t it do this?” And it’s frustrating for me, because for the most part it’s a function that can be done.  Everyone is just so quick to harp on the system that they don’t really stop and see what it can do. How it can be used and how it can be used to really improve their students’ learning process.
                The tools on systems such as these does continue to grow and now you can incorporate them all into one area, whether you want to use the tool provided by your LMS or you want to incorporate an ad-on into the system.  I think one of our main issues with this is that “people do often see the VLE as a simple tool, or perhaps as imperfect copies of other tools”, but I don’t think these teachers are being trained properly. I truly believe that VLE enhances learning for students. Speaking as a student myself I think the VLE supports instruction and done correctly is extremely effective.
It’s funny that the blog posts makes mention of a recent editorial from GW Hatchet arguing to make Blackbaord mandatory. This is funny because I’m always saying it should be mandated for teachers. I would love to see a survey of students and see their thoughts on this. I know based of myself and some of my friends that they love the idea that everything can be posted at your fingertips, or everything is conveniently located in one area, and you can discuss online with ease, etc.
I think its interesting to note that the blog was also trying to compare the differences between the VLE and the PLE. Under the PLE they put things like mobile phones, bookmarks, RSS, Readers, Social Networking Sites, etc. In my opinion these things are all being converged. What I mean by this is that all these tools can be used in conjunction with the VLE and honestly that’s how I see it being used as its most effective! I’m looking forward to seeing both PLE & VLE expand…how about you?

Monday, February 28, 2011

How Technology Reinforces Poor Learning – An Experiment???

I was recently reading a blog from "The Tech Savy Educator" titled:
How Technology Reinforces Poor Learning – An Experiment

When I first read the title of this article I was a little turned off because I don’t look at technology as a way of reinforcing bad habits, but rather a supportive tool to compliment the “traditional” lesson plan. The author of this blog seems to be criticizing StudyBoost which is “a service that teachers can submit a battery of review and study questions, which are then delivered to student’s devices whenever they have time to study in their normally hectic schedules”.  I think his main issue with a service such as this, is the idea of “wherever/whenever”. To have students “studying” while at a football game or a noisy bus doesn’t seem effective to him. I tend to both agree and disagree with the author on this topic. I agree that if the student chooses only to use a service like this when he or she is highly distracted by other events taking place then the student might not be getting all they can out of it, but with the same token, I believe a service like this offers great possibilities, and as I mentioned before I believe technology tools are an additional aid to students being able to grasp content. The author thinks this might just be a cool use of technology but I think it’s that and more. It’s a cool use of technology that can be engaging for students and they can learn from it by having the teacher’s questions, notes, and comments at their fingertips.
The author of this blog did make a great point about the idea of using this service by running “student-led” study sessions, and I think that’s a fantastic idea. But why can’t it be both? Student-led & teacher-led? Do you think it is really a waste of time for students to have the teachers posting this kind of content for them? These are my thoughts on the topic, but the writer has decided to conduct an experiment to see if others feel certain technologies are not being used in an effective manner in the classroom. I can see teachers not using all technology effectively due to lack of knowledge and training of the tools more so than a lack of the particular technology tool being useful to students.  I’d love to know how others feel about this?