Professional Learning Network

Having worked in the fundraising field, I know the importance of networking and making contacts. As someone who is brand new to the teaching world, I made it a priority to get to know people in may student teaching placement, county meetings, and at KSU. I figure that the more people I know, the more knowledge and opportunities I have access to, and that is invaluable to me.

In the future, I plan to continue developing my LPN by joining GCTE, NCTE, and by attending as many professional learning opportunities as possible. Not only do I think that these events help to form me into a better teacher through the content that is taught, it also allows me to meet teachers from all different walks of life and levels of experiences. There is so much I can learn from these teachers that I can implement in my own classroom to enrich the learning experiences of my students. This past week, I’ve been attending the New Teacher Academy for Cobb County, and I’ve been astounded at the amount of knowledge that other teachers have been willing to share with me. I added a lot of these teachers on Facebook, and many of them even post about their classroom practices there – I will continue to connect with these people on social media to continue forming meaningful connections with other educators.

Ironically, I had technological difficulties for this last post, so I had to use pen and paper to construct my personal learning network. Honestly, it was a nice reminder that every once in awhile, we still need to provide our students with opportunities to craft physical products. With something like this, where one idea links to another, I found pen and paper to be an excellent medium. I discussed this makerspace assignment with many of classmates, and found that many of them were frustrated with the tools that they used to put their web together. They explained that the connections came to them quickly, and that the tool they used slowed their thinking down.

The idea of having the tool slow our thinking down seems very counterintuitive to me, and I liked that using pen and paper allowed me to physically connect my network together and create a product that reflected all of the people I knew. The whole point of using technology in the classroom, in my opinion, is to enhance student learning. Therefore, at some point, we need to stop and think about the task at hand and ask ourselves if technology will enhance it or diminish it. In most cases, I think, we should allow our students to make the choice; while many of them are tactile learners and may benefit from doing an exercise such as this one on pen and paper, others might choose to place their thoughts together with technology so that they can more easily revise and edit.

Google Cardboard: The Verdict

My Google Cardboard & me.

When I found out that I, a broke college student, had to pay $15 for a piece of cardboard, I was not pleased. I had previously tried virtual reality (VR) goggles, and I didn’t have high hopes that this would compare – and even if it did compare, would it be worth my $15?

Today, the long-awaited test finally came when I took my little Google Cardboard out of the big cardboard box in which it came and downloaded the Google Cardboard app. Eagerly, I tried to assemble my new goggles without looking at the directions. That didn’t work. Then, I tried to read the directions, which are photo instructions. That also didn’t work, and my classmate and I became baffled and frustrated.

Our next attempt included looking up a YouTube tutorial, and this did the trick. It turns out that you can’t use Google Cardboard with your phone case on! Once we got the goggles assembled and the app up and running, we started to explore the virtual realities that came free with the Google Cardboard app. The ones to select from were the following: Explore, Exhibit, Urban Hike, Kaleidoscope, and Arctic Journey. The first one that I decided to explore was Arctic Journey. I was a little disappointed because the view was a bit blurry, and it only offers a 360 view. What I mean by this is that you can spin around, but you can’t walk or go anywhere within the virtual reality. The Arctic Journey offered various different scenarios, but I chose to fly with the birds. I have to admit, I really loved this! It definitely didn’t feel like the expensive VR goggles, but for $15, it was pretty neat. I could see using this in a classroom to explore and write about unfamiliar locations; I remember doing a travel writing assignment in a class last summer, and this device could transport students anywhere in the world – or, at least, to the places that are included in the app. Speaking of which, I would recommend downloading the Expedition app by Google. It offers many more destinations and even includes information about the tours.

Affordances:

  • Easy to use once it’s assembled
  • Offers a variety of free demos
  • Connects to various VR apps
  • Can take screenshots
  • Provides a 360 view and various experiences
  • Offers the opportunity for additional VR experiences through apps such as Expedition and WITHIN
  • Ships quickly with Prime

Constraints:

  • Assembly is not intuitive
  • Costs $15
  • Students must have a smartphone
  • Can only connect to one phone at a time, so students can’t share
  • Can’t move around, 360 view only
  • Can’t use with phone case

Tips:

  • Make sure that you have an alternative way of providing these for students who can’t afford to purchase one
  • Use in big, open spaces and have students help each other to make sure they don’t run into anything
  • Assemble together so that you can lead students through the process step-by-step
  • Make sure all students have access to a smartphone
  • Go through the tutorial as a class; it’s helpful!

The Verdict: Would I recommend this tool for a class? I’m not sure yet. Honestly, I think I have more exploring to do in order to see what you can really do with Google Cardboard, so I’m about to go download more VR apps and maybe pay for some additional excursions. I guess I’m just not sure how I’d be able to plan enough lessons using the Google Cardboard to make it worth the purchase. I want to use this in my class, because it’s neat and my students would like it; still, I just don’t know how I could justify the cost for my low-income students. I’d love any ideas for how you’ve used this in your own classroom and how you made it accessible for all your students! I think this has the potential to be a great tool; I’m just not sure how practical it is.

Parallel Composing

Parallel composing can be defined as “a way of describing how old and new literacies… may be fruitfully taught side by side” (Leander, 2009). In other words, two types of “texts” can be used together in order to expand one’s understanding of both texts.

For this particular assignment, I decided to write a six-word memoir and overlay it onto a photo of my new tattoo, which I got this weekend 🙂 I did this using a photo-editing app called MOLDIV. Before I get into the specifics of the app, I’d like to explain how the photo I chose works with the six-word memoir I wrote to give students a deeper understanding of both texts. Alone, the picture of my tattoo is just that; a picture of a tattoo of a sunrise. There’s no way to know the symbolism or the deeper meaning behind the tattoo. When you add the six-word memoir to the photo, however, it’s clear that there’s more to the sunrise than meets the eye; the tattoo is a reminder that despite the hardships of life, the sun always rise – better times always follow.

Traditionally, a six-word memoir is taught as a stand-alone mini-essay in a class. I like the idea of making students partake in parallel composing by adding a photo to the six-word memoir to add another layer of meaning. Students not only have to craft the memoir, they also have to think about what visual they can add to aid in their audience’s understanding. In other words, what visual would help to enhance the message they are trying to convey with their six-word memoir?

Now – about MOLDIV.

MOLDIV is a free smartphone app that can be used to edit and add text and images to photos. You begin by uploading a photo, and then you can add filters and text as needed. The app is very user-friendly and intuitive; I can’t imagine students would have a hard time figuring out how to use it, but there is a short tutorial when one downloads the app. The app is available on both the App Store and on Google Play, so any student with a SmartPhone would easily be able to access it. The process of editing a photo and adding text is quick and easy, and there’s plenty of room for students to be creative; there are over fifty filters as well as a plethora of colors and fonts for the text to be used. If students want to get extra creative, they can even add little shapes and graphics. In short, they can make it look like whatever they’d like. The images that are created are easy to download, so this could be something that teachers print and post around the class. Posting this kind of personal student work would convey the message to students that we, the teachers, care about who they are and what they represent.

One constraint that MOLDIV has is that if a student doesn’t have a Smartphone, teachers will have to find a tablet for them to use. Most schools have tablets available, so it’s not a huge problem, but it is something that teachers should plan for.

Some tips when using MOLDIV:

  • Make sure that students are able to connect to WiFi to download, or that you ask them to download it before coming to class. As with all apps, it could take a little while to get it installed, so plan for that.
  • Although there’s a short tutorial once the app is installed, it would be helpful to model the creation of one of these for students. That way, you can show them how to navigate the various components of the app and students will feel equipped to do so themselves.
  • Make sure to check out tablets for students who don’t have access to an iPhone. Make sure you are able to install the app prior to class.

If anyone else has used parallel composing to enhance students’ understandings of texts, I’d love to hear your ideas! This is something I’d really like to incorporate into my classroom in the coming year.

Multimedia Argument

One of the topics that I am currently very passionate about is the immigration crisis facing our nation today. Undocumented immigrants have been called “animals” by our president and, as the photo above shows, they have also been treated as such. I decided to create a multimodal argument by combining the emotional photo of a child in a cage with a quote about the dangers of indifference. In today’s world, people are so desensitized to bad news. It seems like every time we turn the TV on, there’s another atrocity occurring. This can be exhausting and emotionally draining, so at some point, people tune out. I understand that this is a form of self-preservation, but at the same time, our indifference and failure to act has an impact on those who are being harmed and oppressed; when we don’t do anything, things stay the same, and that’s a problem.

Claim: The American people need to be proactive about finding a solution for the children involved in ur nation’s immigration crisis.

Evidence: There is a sad child in a cage.

Warrant: The indifference of American citizens to our nation’s immigration crisis is harming children.

To create this argument, I used PowerPoint. Although PowerPoint gets a bad rap in classrooms, it is a tool that can be easily used to to create multimodal arguments and texts. In the school district at which I will be working, every teacher and student has access to PowerPoint, so it’s easy to use and and all students have access. In addition, most students are familiar with the program, so very little direction is required. PowerPoint also makes it easy to create images by allowing the user to quickly convert their slide into a JPEG file. PowerPoint also allows for many different forms of media such as images, text, videos, soundbites, and more. While my argument above was only image and text, students could experiment with many other types of media when creating their own artifacts.

Although PowerPoint has many affordances, there are also certain constraints. First, if a school district doesn’t provide the Microsoft Office suite, students would have to pay to access PowerPoint from home. This would be a problem for students who come from a lower socioeconomic background. In addition, students have already used PowerPoint so many times, and having them use this platform makes it so that they aren’t learning about or experimenting with new types of technologies. PowerPoint is also rather basic, and students might not be able to make their products as eye-catching as they might with another program such as Photoshop or Canva.

If teachers were to use PowerPoint to create multimedia arguments with their students, I would recommend the following:

  • Make sure that students have access to PowerPoint at home; if not, you’ll want to make sure you book a computer lab or a laptop cart so that students can complete the work in class
  • If using media other than image and text, it might be helpful to provide students with a brief tutorial of how to embed it. While students are familiar with the basics of Microsoft Office, they might not be proficient with features that they have not used.

I love the idea of using PowerPoint in unconventional ways. If you have used this tool in your own classroom in other ways, I’d love to hear about it. Drop a comment below!

Remix

In creating the meme above, I used Meme Generator. My students are actually the ones who told me about Meme Generator; back in February, I sent them a meme. They thought it was funny, so they requested that I send them a meme every day that week. I came back in the next day and told them that they better appreciate my memes, because I paid $3 for an app to create them. My students proceeded to #facepalm and tell me I’m old and that there are a million free meme generators. Although the old insult stung a little, it did lead me to the online tool I am spotlighting today, and for that, I am grateful.

Meme Generator is an easy-to-use platform that allows you to create a meme quickly, easily, and for free. The website provides popular meme photos, which someone can then select and add words to create a meme. The process takes about three minutes, and then there’s an easy download button which can be used to save the image. One of the great things about memes is that our students have been exposed to them for as long as they can remember. To them, memes have always been a way to express, critique, or comment on an idea. With this in mind, it makes sense that we would use this tool in the classroom to give students a way to express themselves in a way that they’re familiar with and that they might even have fun with.

There are really no drawbacks to the Meme Generator other than the fact that it leaves a small watermark on the image. This isn’t a huge deal, especially when this tool is being used for classroom purposes. Teachers should also be aware of the fact that Meme Generator might include images that are offensive or inappropriate for the classroom. Perhaps students should be asked to find an image elsewhere that they can upload themselves rather than browsing through the collection on Meme Generator.

Some suggestions on using Meme Generator in the classroom:

  • Although most students will be familiar with memes, it might be helpful to explore memes as a class prior to asking students to make one. There are certain memes that are used for very specific purposes (such as Bad Luck Brian), and if students didn’t know those purposes, they might create a meme that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to others.
  • This could be a great tool for analyzing characters and conflicts within a text. Rather than asking students to write another painstaking analysis paragraph, why not let them express their analysis through a meme? Then, they can write a short reflection or make a short oral presentation about their intentions for the meme and what exactly they were trying to express in making it.

In creating the remix above, I changed the meaning of the original text by adding words and creating a meme. The original image above is from Spongebob. Spongebob has been taken out of the ocean and has become dehydrated. He is clearly horrified and dying.

The text that I wrote is inspired by someone’s personal experience in our cohort. During their interview, they mentioned edTPA and the principal expressed that they did not know what edTPA is. This cohort member said they died a little bit that day, and so I thought it was appropriate to overlay these words over the dying image of Spongebob. The image of Spongebob helps to emphasize the feelings of despair felt by my classmate after working so hard on edTPA and realizing that principals don’t even know what it is. The meme was a quick, easy way to express her experience without having to explain the whole narrative.

Analyzing Text & Remediation

“Making meaning has always involved more than just words” (Jones & Hafner).

To view/listen to my multimodal reading of Walt Whitman’s “I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” click HERE.

During my student teaching assignment this past year, we had a (fairly intense) poetry unit that overwhelmed a lot of our students. Students spent each class reading and analyzing complex poems, and many of them grew frustrated because they couldn’t understand what the poems were trying to express. About halfway through the unit, students read a poem about a conch shell; problematically, many of the students didn’t know what a conch shell was or what it looked like, and it was impeding their analysis of the text. I decided to show them an image of a conch shell and re-read the poem to them. All of a sudden, I saw the lightbulbs going off. It made so much more sense now!

Although I didn’t know the terminology quite yet, I had just discovered the beauty of multimodality, or “texts that are made up of a combination of modes” (Jones & Hafner). The image, combined with an auditory reading, had helped students to make meaning of the text.

With this in mind, I decided to put these elements together using Google Slides for Walt Whitman’s “I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.” This was also a poem that was tough for our students, and looking back, I think that a multimodal reading like the one above would have helped them to make sense of it. On the slide, I included a recording of me reading the poem, a Calvin & Hobbes comic that encompasses the same theme as Whitman’s poem, and the poem itself. Students are able to read the poem, listen to the poem, and view a picture that helps them to uncover the theme, and having multiple modes through which they can understand the poem makes it easier for them to make sense out of it.

In the future, I would love to introduce my students to multimodality by having them create a similar multimodal text. I love having students write “Where I’m From” poems at the beginning of the school year to help me get to know them. I think it’d be interesting to ask them to submit a multimodal version of their poem. They could include recordings of themselves, images, videos, or whatever else they think might enhance a reader’s understanding. They would then present their multimodal poem to the class, and students could complete a reflection on how the various modes used by their peers influenced their analysis and reading of the poem.

In creating this multimodal text, I used two different technologies: Google Slides and Speakpipe. For an assignment like the one I just described, I like the idea of using Google Slides because it makes collaboration and sharing so easy. Google Slides is essentially Google’s version of PowerPoint, and the sharing settings make it so that students can easily view and comment on one another’s work. Google Slides is super user-friendly and includes templates that students can use in creating their products. It’s also easy to embed videos or links within Google Slides, which makes it great for the creation of multimodal texts. If I do create an assignment like the one outlined above, I would create a shared folder where students can house their presentations. They would all have access to this folder so they could access each other’s presentations at any time. Students do need a Google account to be able to fully use and collaborate using Google Slides, so that’s something teachers should keep in mind. Once they have done this, however, the platform is free to use, and they’ll be ready to go.

The other tool I used to create my multimodal text is Speakpipe. I needed a website where I could quickly record myself reading the poem, then create a link so that I could embed it within my Google Slides presentation. Speakpipe fit the bill perfectly. I went to their website, hit record, recorded the poem, and then the link was ready to go. It really was that easy! You don’t even have to create an account for it to work. I love the idea of using Speakpipe in my classroom because I have often found that when reading poems, students often struggle to figure out how to read it. Instead of reading it using punctuation, they often read it line to line and this impedes their understanding. Allowing the students to listen to the poem could help to enhance their understanding of the poem because the poem is read the way it should be. Speakpipe could also be used by students to record their own reactions to texts, to respond to other’s posts, and more.

Suggestions for Google Slides & Speakpipe:

  • It’ll be helpful to walk your students through the process of creating a presentation and a Speakpipe. Neither of these platforms have a very helpful tutorial, so they might have questions.
  • Make sure the sharing comments are set to “can comment” so that students cannot edit each other’s presentations on Google Slides
  • Make sure they have access to the links even when they’re not on the school WiFi
  • You may want to talk about the etiquette and protocols of commenting on each other’s work

Cautions for Google Slides & Speakpipe:

  • Speakpipe links are only live for three months
  • You will have to give Speakpipe access to your microphone and camera, so if this is an issue for students, you may need an alternate way to have them record

I’d love to hear how you take this up in your classrooms, so comment below if you do!

Digital Tools feat. Canva & Remind


The flyer above was made on an app called Canva. I discovered Canva for the first time when I was working as an event planner at Catholic Charities Atlanta. I wanted to put together a quick, easy flyer for an upcoming event, but the extent of my flyer-making experience only included ones I made in middle school using Word Art. With that in mind, I went on the hunt for a free app that I could use to put together a nice, professional-looking flyer for this event – this is where Canva came in!

Canva is an app that can be used for graphic design. It comes with a huge variety of templates, so you can use it to make flyers or other graphics for Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and a number of other platforms. In a classroom, this app could easily be taken up by students anytime a graphic is needed. It’s free, easy to download, and it comes with a free tutorial to get students started.

One of the affordances of Canva is that it provides enough structure to prevent students from feeling overwhelmed while still allowing for a great deal of creativity and personalization. The Canva app has many available templates that students can pick from, and making graphics is relatively quick and easy. The process for saving the graphic is simple as well, and products could be turned in digitally or printed for submission.

The constraints of Canva are relatively few, but they’re still important to mention. First, students are only able to use Canva on their smartphones. Canva is not available for laptops or desktop computers, so I found that when I was making the flyer above, I would have preferred to be working with a bigger screen. Also, Canva doesn’t allow for autocorrect or spell check, so if the product that the student is working on involves a great deal of text, this could be a point of frustration. Lastly, if there are students who aren’t very savvy with technology or if they prefer making physical products, this might not be their favorite platform. This could easily be remedied by allowing students to choose whether they want to create a digital or physical product, though.

For the purposes of this post, I used Canva to analyze the affordances and constraints of Remind. I thought that this would be the best tool for the purpose of this project because it allowed me to use graphics, which was nice because I could include the Remind logo, and it also allowed me to visually separate the things I wanted to write about; I had a text block that gave an overview about Remind, another one that analyzed the affordances and constraints, and an overall opinion about Remind. The Canva template allowed me to organize my thoughts in a way that was visually appealing and grabbed the reader’s attention. I could see Canva being a great addition to any English Language Arts classroom. This tool could be used for so many things, but one of the first that comes to mind is to analyze the characters of a text. Students could create graphics that analyze the multiple facets of a character in a text such as their relationships to other characters, their actions throughout the text, important quotations spoken by that character, and more. They could also include pictures of the character and design it in a way that somehow reflects that particular character. This is just one idea, but honestly, I think the options are limitless! What I like most about the idea of using Canva is that it adds another way for students to express or organize their knowledge. Rather than giving students essay after essay, this could be a fun alternative for a formative or summative assessment.

Teachers, if you think about using this in your classrooms, you might want to keep the following in mind:

  • As I mentioned you will need smartphones or iPads to use this technology in the classroom. Make sure you or your students have access to one of these.
  • It takes a little bit of time to download the app and to figure out how to use it. Allow your students time to tinker with it before asking them to dive right into whichever project you are assigning.
  • There is a free version and a paid version of this app; for my own classroom, I have found that the free app satisfies most of my purposes. I can’t see why anyone would need the paid version for basic classroom use, but be sure to discuss this with your students before they download the app.

If you decide to take this app up in your classroom, be sure to comment below and let me know what you’ll be using it for!

Goals for Technology & Digital Media

Click HERE to see a Prezi on my goals for technology & digital media in my classroom!

As a new student teacher this past year, Prezi was one of the first online platforms that I utilized with my students. Although this tool may seem similar to PowerPoint, I like that it gives viewers a “big picture” view of the presentation and that it allows for presentations that are non-linear. The website itself is incredibly user friendly; it takes minutes to create an account, and students can watch a brief tutorial on how to begin creating their presentation. There’s really nothing complicated about it, and I noticed my students were able to jump right in and begin working within minutes!

In our classroom, we had students use Prezi to create a photo essay about a social issue that mattered to them. With this tool, students were allowed to get creative as they selected their photos, wrote their captions, and compiled it into an interactive presentation for their viewers. On the date that the presentations were due, we did a “gallery walk” in one of the computer labs. Students set up their Prezi on a computer, then all the students rotated around and got to interact with one another’s final products. It was interesting to see that students added components to their presentations that we didn’t expect; not only were there photos and captions, there were also polls, videos, voiceovers, background music, and more. Since Prezi is non-linear and allows viewers to jump around the main ideas, students could focus in on that in which they were most interested. The gallery walk was a success and students enjoyed being able to interact with the work of their peers.

One of the complaints I hear over and over in English education is that our students are tired of writing essays. As educators, we need to find ways to diversify our assignments so that all students (even those who may not favor writing) can express their knowledge in productive, and maybe even enjoyable, ways. In my class, Prezi turned out to be a way for students to do just that. I’ll definitely be using it again in my future classroom!

Welcome to The High Tech Teacher!

Hello, hello! Welcome to my blog. My name is Julia Moseley, and I’m a first-year English teacher in metro-Atlanta. I graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Science in 2013. After a few years in the workforce, I returned to Kennesaw State University where I will soon receive a Master of Arts in Teaching Secondary English.

The late Rita Pierson gets to the heart of who I aim to be as a teacher in her TED Talk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion.” If we want our students to engage in meaningful learning, they have to know that we care for them, that we believe in them, and that we take who they are into account when formulating our curriculum.

Whether we like it or not, technology plays an enormous part in who our students are, how they see themselves, and how they learn about the world around them. Our students are part of the Tech Generation; that is to say, technology has played an integral part of their lives from the moment they came into this world. As educators, we have the potential to use technology to unlock a level of learning that surpasses what has been done in English classrooms up until this point. The thought of this can be daunting, that’s certain – but together, we can turn our classrooms into a space where our students can use what they know best – technology – to create, invent, and explore the world around them in new and rich ways.

To learn more about me, click here. I used VoiceThread to create a quick synopsis of who I am as a teacher. VoiceThread made it super easy to set up an account, and it didn’t take me very long to figure out how to add photos and narration. What I really liked about this platform is that I was able to add pictures that gave students a glimpse into my life, and more importantly, I was able to add little videos on the margin in which I explain what the pictures mean and tell them a bit about myself.

I love the idea of using VoiceThread as a way to tell parents and students about myself at the beginning of the year. It’d be easy to throw one together and send a link in an introductory email to parents and students. In addition to using it for getting to know one another, something like this could be used for discussing texts, creating presentations, and more; honestly, the possibilities in an English classroom are endless! VoiceThread makes it easy for users to comment and build on each other’s presentations, so I like that this platform lends itself to collaboration as well.

If you’ve used VoiceThread in your classroom, comment below and let me know what you thought! I’d love to continue gathering ideas on how to continue using this versatile tool.

-Mrs. M