Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Curriculum Pages for Differentiation

As I was completing my Learning Summary for EME 5050, I had an A-ha moment. Instead of using one curriculum page for the whole class, we could use modified pages for appropriate differentiation in the classroom. We can create one curriculum page for the majority of the class. Then make a modified page to support and scaffold our struggling learners. This page can modify requirements and provide additional practice of the concepts. This page could also offer review and practice of basic concepts, if necessary. This page could have the option for portions to be read aloud to struggling students.

Finally, make another page for gifted learners. This page could be an extension of what you're doing in class or something completely different if your gifted students have already mastered the objectives you're teaching. We can accelerate or enrich our gifted students through curriculum pages. This would be an incredibly motivating way to differentiate for our gifted learners. Heck, some of your gifted kids could create curriculum pages for other kids!

The initial set up of these pages would be time-consuming. However, appropriate differentiation has always been time-consuming. This wouldn't take any more time than creating differentiated centers for your diverse learners. You could start slowly and create these diverse pages for one unit you tech each nine-week period. Then slowly add pages for additional units of study. Also, teachers can work together and divide the workload to get these done. And once they are done, you can utilize them repeatedly with minor tweaking.

I think that curriculum pages could be a powerful tool in the fight to meet the needs of the diverse learners in our classrooms!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I found this article from late 2015, linked below (also linked in diigo), about two schools that do not allow the use of technology. One is in London and one is in Silicon Valley, of all places!

According to the article, employees of some of the tech giants like Apple, Google, and Yahoo send their kids to the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, which prefers hands – on, experiential learning rather than technology. Instead, they emphasize imagination, creative thinking, and problem solving. There is apparently some research showing that technology use has shown no significant improvement on student learning and some even says that students using a great deal of tech actually do worse. These schools want students to become producers of knowledge rather than consumers.

Personally, I can see both sides of this argument.

First, I’ve been teaching a looong time, and we did just fine before there were computers and internet access in every classroom. We managed without Power Point or Word or gradebook software. We researched in the Library instead of on Google. Students bringing devices in class can be very distracting. At my school we caught students using texts to cheat on exams. Teachers often complain about shrinking attention spans and I think there is some truth to the argument that the constant stimulation of technology has added to that. So I can understand the appeal of tech – free classrooms.

On the other hand, tech – free classrooms?!?!? Are you crazy!?!?!? With tech, lessons are more engaging, practice at an appropriate level is immediately available and OMG! who wants to ever see another card catalog??? Tech has allowed us so save so much time on research and grading and lesson planning. It is hard to imagine going into a classroom tomorrow and not having my Smart Board and projector. As advanced as it was for the time, no one misses the overhead projector!! So I can understand the appeal of tech – filled classrooms.

So, I bring this up because I figure there are LOTS of opinions out there on this subject. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Digital Storytelling Project:

This project will be part of a Reading assignment for 5th graders. They will research the mystery genre, write their own short mystery story, and then create a digital storytelling project. I did my example in Power Point, which I realize was not the best choice. It tells a story written and read by a 9 year old.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Integrating Digital Storytelling into the Curriculum

          For my gifted fifth grade Language Arts students, I would assign a digital storytelling project as part of a genre study. For example, if we’re studying mysteries, they would read at least one mystery, identify the required elements of a mystery, identify optional elements of a mystery, and then craft a digital mystery story using these elements. This same project could be done with any genre. This assignment would demonstrate mastery of the elements of that particular genre. This would require them to access all levels of Bloom’s for completion.

           At the beginning of this unit, I would familiarize students with web resources such as Powtoons, PowerPoint, Animoto, Voicethread, Crumbles, and Zeega. I would also have them watch tutorials such as: What is Digital Storytelling? ( and Digital Storytelling Tutorial ( Ideally, I would try to find an expert in digital storytelling to speak to the class. This unit will require access to computers in school, so use of a computer lab will probably be necessary. I would also prefer that each student have a jump drive so their work can be saved and they can continue working at home.

           As this unit is for gifted learners, much of it will be self-directed with the teacher acting as facilitator. In the final product, I would be looking for a complete story (beginning, middle, and end) as well as a minimum number of elements usually found in the genre. These elements should be fairly easily identifiable in the final product.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Is computer coding a foreign language?

Should coding be considered a foreign language for high school credit requirements? I found an interesting article linked here from U.S. News and World Report. The article shares the different points of view on this topic. Believe it or not, Florida actually tried to do something first! Florida Senator Jeremy Ring submitted a bill to allow students to choose computer coding over the traditional foreign language requirements. The bill passed the Florida Senate, but then died. In speaking to the Senate, Ring said, "We can be the first state to do this, or we can be the 50th state to do it. It's our choice. It's going to happen."

I found this to be an interesting debate. The concept is that coding is a foreign language, allowing us to communicate with computers. Critics say that speaking a foreign language is a great advantage in the world marketplace. As someone who took the required two years of a foreign language, I can tell you that I am in no way fluent in Spanish, so I don't see the current requirements as beneficial.

I do think that coding courses should be considered a foreign language. Sure, maybe speaking Chinese will be a marketable skill, but communicating with computers? No doubt that this is a skill that will be needed more and more as technology continues to grow exponentially. Our students today are digital natives, so they should have the chance to learn the language. All the computer hardware in the world won't do us any good if we can't tell the computers what we want them to do.

Galvin, Gaby (2016). Some Say Computer Coding is a Foreign Language. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved on 10/14/16 from

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Week 4 Blog

Bullying has been around forever, but cyberbullying is a relatively new issue. Although this does effect adults, most victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying are teens, which makes this an issue for schools. The fact that kids have online access almost 24/7 has made cyberbullying more and more prevalent. Recent research has shown a slow but steady rise in cyberbullying. 25% of kids have been cyberbullied. 15% had been cyberbullied within the previous 30 days. Being in the online realm, which almost feels anonymous, causes many people to be less inhibited in what they post and teenagers are not immune to this. Many say things online they would never say in person.
Being involved in cyberbullying (whether the bully or the victim) can lead to an assortment of psychological issues including poor self-esteem and suicidal tendencies. It is also related to poor school performance, behavior problems, and substance abuse. 
So what can we do about this?
First of all, parents and teachers need to be involved. We need to be aware of our children’s online activity. We need to be observing their online use. Some teachers and parents are intimidated by their kids’ online abilities. We can’t let that stop us from helping them. While it is important to honor their privacy, children need to understand that parents and teachers can and will check their emails, browsing history, etc. if they feel it is necessary. 
If your children or students are victims of cyberbullying there are some immediate steps to take. Keep evidence of the cyberbullying. Report cyberbullying. Do not respond to the cyberbullying. Many sites have advice on how to deal with this. For example, has resources that give kids tips on cell phone, social media and password safety, in addition to tips on coping with cyberbullying. They also have tips for adults on handling cyberbullying. 
Signs that your child may be a victim of cyberbullying may consist of:
Being very upset after being online
Being extremely secretive about online activity
Failing grades
Changes in mood, behavior, or sleep patterns
Choosing to stop online activity
Being edgy when receiving a text or email
       As I read this list, I realize that many of these can be signs of multiple issues, not just cyberbullying. I believe that as teachers our first job is to build a relationship with each student. That is extremely hard with large numbers of students, but kids aren’t going to tell us cyberbullying (or anything else) is going on if we don’t take an interest and build a relationship. These kids need to feel safe coming to us when they need help. 
A few years ago at my school, we had an issue where several girls were cyberbullying one girl through Facebook. The victim was brave enough to come forward and report it to the school. Since it was not taking place on school grounds, there was little we could do about it. All of the involved students’ parents were contacted. In this case, all parents agreed to rescind their daughters’ Facebook privileges. I wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t agreed? Would their daughters have continued bullying others through social media? Since proximity is no longer required for bullying, schools must have the support of parents to prevent and stop cyberbullying. If parents aren’t willing to provide appropriate consequences to these bullies, schools will be hard-pressed to stop it.
I never really thought about it before reading Ryan’s blog last week, but now I realize that we definitely need to be teaching digital citizenship to our students. We must model good digital citizenship. We need to teach the kids that there are online rights and responsibilities just like real life. Acceptable digital behavior is just like acceptable real life behavior in that kids need to be taught right and wrong. They aren’t going to just automatically know without modeling and instruction. Cyberbullying is an unforeseen and unfortunate byproduct of the digital age.

Cyberbullying Facts (n.d.). Retrieved on 9/20/16 from 

Report Cyberbullying (n.d.). Retrieved on 9/20/16 from 

Cyberbullying (n.d.). Retrieved on 9/20/16 from

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Utilizing Technology to Meet the Needs of Gifted Learners

Utilizing Technology to Meet the Needs of Gifted Learners

Instead of walking into a classroom and listening to your teacher talk, how would you like to enter your classroom and see this?

          So many of our gifted students are bored and estimates show that 20% - 50% are underachieving. One of the big challenges in gifted education is keeping these kids motivated and engaged. Powtoon is one easy way to motivate and engage ALL students. In under 45 minutes, I was able to use one of their templates, figure out how to modify it, and create the Powtoon linked above. And it cost me nothing! I think this is my new favorite website!
          Effective use of technology is one way to meet the needs of our much ignored gifted students. With the focus on the lowest 25% of students, our highest students are left to fend for themselves. Technology offers hope for these bored and frustrated students. In his article, Using Technology With Gifted Students, Neven Jurkovic delineates four ways technology can serve our gifted students. One way is to provide differentiated content for kids ready for more than the regular classroom can offer. Another way is differentiated assignments, which would allow gifted students to show their learning about the same topic the rest of the class is studying in a more challenging way. Additionally, technology can allow these students choices for what they want to explore in depth. Finally, Jurkovic praises technology’s communication opportunities which enable our gifted students to connect with like-minded peers across the world.
          As a classroom teacher, it is very difficult to appropriately differentiate for our highest ability students. I agree that technology offers a multitude of ways to successfully challenge these kids. Here are some more resources I have discovered. Many would be good for all students, but these offer gifted kids in particular the enriching opportunities they crave.
·        Powtoon: a great site for teachers to create fun ways to deliver content. I would have gifted kids use this site to create presentations for class assignments.
·        WebQuests: these are projects which require a great deal of research and problem solving, most of which is done online. For example, I found one in which students are given the task of designing and building a community park. This requires a multitude of cross curricular skills to complete. There are several WebQuests available. There are also templates and tutorials to help you create your own. This is the kind of learning project that many gifted kids love. I would offer this for kids who can pass a pretest on the topic and allow them to complete a WebQuest to go deeper into the topic.
·        Virtual field trips: many organizations offer this opportunity to visit far-away places without leaning your classroom. This allows gifted kids to pursue their passions without having to travel. These could be used to enrich so many topics and again, this would be good for all kids.
·        Online courses: there are a plethora of sites out there that allow gifted kids to take courses at their academic level as opposed to their grade level. Many are free. This could be a replacement of traditional homework.
·        Online Projects: there are projects to be completed online that require students to interact with other students across the world that are working on the same project. Gifted kids can choose a project they are enthusiastic about and interact with others.
·        I also discovered which takes educational content and turns it into an online game. Instead of passing tests, kids earn experience points and badges. Video games to learn school content??? What kid wouldn’t love that?
·        One other resource that many articles I read supported for gifted kids are some Web 2.0 resources. (Check me out! Before yesterday, I had no idea what Web 2.0 meant!!!). One type of scaffolding that gifted students need is interacting with other gifted kids. Blogs, social media, and other Web 2.0 content can serve that need well. I have used a blog in class before and it is definitely something I would do again.
Reaching and serving our gifted kids is something I am passionate about. I had a great time exploring some online resources to enrich the curriculum for them. Before this exploration, I didn’t know most of these resources existed. I am wondering what else I can make into a Powtoon….


How Gamification Works.  Retrieved on 9/13/16 from

Jurkovic, Neven (2012) Using Technology With Gifted Students. Retrieved on 9/13/16 from

Online Projects for Kids (n.d.) Retrieved on 9/13/16 from Resources for Teaching the Gifted and Talented (2008). Retrieved on 9/13/16 from

Van Sant, Joel "Brandyn" (n.d.). Gifted students with educational Technology. Retrieved on 9/13/16 from

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Technology's Implications for Schools

The rapid pace of change in the technological world is a complicated issue for schools. 

On one hand, technology allows us to do so much more in the classroom than ever before! We can take virtual field trips to far off destinations or listen to a book being read aloud while watching animated illustrations. Our students can sit at a computer and do research on a topic in a matter of minutes. Kids can do a virtual frog dissection! Technology has opened doors to educators that have never been possible. Technology is motivating, fun, challenging, and seemingly limitless.

On the other hand, paying for technology is a challenge for schools. I agree with 2016 US Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes when she states that schools don't have the funds to keep pace with ever-changing technology. Our school computers are out of date after a couple of years, but there is no money available to replace them. I really liked her idea of partnering with technology corporations. With this kind of partnership, schools might be able to keep up with the constant demands for new hardware.

I think an important point she makes is that students have taught teachers how to use some technology. I think this is a valuable tool. At this point in history, students are often more competent in technology than their teachers. Why not let them share their knowledge with teachers? This would be motivating and valuable to student self esteem. It would also help develop the ever important teacher - student relationship.

In addition, there are physical changes in our brains due to technology. Neuroplasticity allow our brains to be rewired when we interact with technology a great deal. Today's children are developing neural pathways that are different than other generations. What are the implications for educators? Does different neural pathways indicate a problem? No one knows yet. This is an evolving field of research. 

To attempt to keep up and stay relevant, instruction needs to move away from teacher-centered, single media teaching to student-centered, multimedia teaching.

In the video Did You Know?, it says that college students beginning a technology related degree will learn things in year one that are outdated by year three! How do we, as educators, tackle that kind of problem? In my opinion, we have to focus less on learning specific content to pass a standardized test, and more on teaching students how to learn. If we do this, then people will be able to continually grow and learn, even after finishing school.

References (2016). "We Don't Have Resources to Keep Up with Technology': 2016 Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes Talks to EdSurge" Retreived from on 8/30/16. 

Estwves, Jose. Did You Know? (2016)  Retreived on 8/30/16 from

Gunter, Glenda A.; Gunter, Randolph E. (2015). Teachers Discovering Computers: Integrating              Technology in a Changing World (Shelly Cashman) Kindle Edition. Cengage Publishing. Boston
 (Links to an external site.)