Archive for March, 2011


In Howard Rheingold’s article about building a Personal Learning Network he refers to Shelly Terrell who is an English teacher that is a strong advocate of helping students develop their own “passionate learning networks.” She instills in her students the idea that within a virtual learning community any question they have can be answered by an expert in the subject. Rather than just having the peers sitting next to them in class they have an entire web of people to go to for help.

When I started developing my personal learning network it was with the basics by posting blogs and commenting on my peers’ blogs. Then I opened up in twitter and start following people who were big advocators of technology integration. Through twitter I was discovering blogs, videos, and articles of local educators, education advocators like Sir Ken Robinson, George Siemens, Daniel Pink, and so many more. I am following the classroom 2.0 twitter, I have joined google alerts, groups, and reader. My peers are posting relevant links where I am getting even more relevant links and resources and my personal learning network is no longer that but it is instead a passionate learning network. Here is what my PLN looks like today.

This is what needs to be taught to students. The resources that they use and the people they choose to communicate with are personal to them because they got to choose them. That is what also makes those same resources passionate to the students.

Shelly Terrell does a great job of explaining the importance of passionate learning networks and how to introduce them to students and even administrators in this video:

As the end of the semester approaches I find myself engaging in my project more than anything else. It is approaching quickly and I can’t believe how fast time is passing! My PLN has grown tremendously since my last benchmark. I have gone from just the basics of blogging and tweeting to putting myself out there in the virtual learning community. I have created accounts on various useful websites such as Classroom 2.0, Google Reader, Google Alerts, and Evernote. I am following more and more people on twitter which has opened me up to some pretty incredible resources like this blog on technology for teachers. Another resource that has been very useful to me in the creation of my project is edutopia. All of these resources have really opened up my personal learning network.

There are however some areas where I would like to see myself improve. I’m still having trouble with Mahara and putting my project together so that is something I need to play around with more and figure out. I would also like to figure out how to use Evernote because I just signed up for it so I haven’t been able to use it to my advantage yet. Once I get the hang of it I think it will be perfect because I need something to keep all of my project ideas and resources organized.

I think that my blog posts are well supported with videos, pictures, and other resources. I not only respond to the mandatory weekly readings but I also explore the web for ideas for other posts. In class I always ask questions when there is confusion and I think that is a strength of mine. Discussions with peers have improved a lot since my last benchmark! More people are talking in class and sometimes we get really good discussions going.

Going into Asa Adams for class and seeing the technology integration was a tremendous opportunity! I had fun and it was really neat to see how technology is incorporated right here in Orono. I have grown quite fond of Sir Ken Robinson and I still LOVE his video Do Schools Kill Creativity? Listening to him is not only interesting and educational but he is humorous as well. I love videos like this one and I would like to see more!

Google alerts and google reader are going to by my most important resources when building my project. New stuff is added to the web everyday and with these two places I can see exactly what is new without tracking it down. My peers are going to be my biggest resource for getting help in using things like Mahara and Evernote. Everyone really wants to help one another and thats what makes a virtual learning community so great. I look forward to seeing what the next few weeks in EDT400 has in store!

The field experience at Asa Adams was a critical piece to my development in EDT 400. For months we have been discussing all of these different ways to incorporate technology into education but I had yet to see what that would play out like in a real classroom.

The morning began in a second grade classroom where deb was

using the smart board to work with students during their math lessons. As pointed out by Deb, there are many advantages to this tool. The board itself is magnetic so she can take it off the wall and move it to any classroom she wants. The students are engaged by using the pen to solve problems themselves up on the board. When asked who wants to solve a problem on the board almost every student raised their hand showing how eager they are to use this technology. Deb can also hook her laptop up to the board so that students can see her screen. She pointed out how useful this was because she can use the calculator on her computer rather than having students struggle with their solar powered dollar store calculators.

We were also introduced to a device called the ladybug which is a small projector that can not only project images onto the board but can also record voices. This is beneficial to students who may have missed school because Deb can record the lesson and post it on her website for that student or parents to access.

The remainder of our time at Asa Adams Elementary was spent in the computer lab with a group of 4th graders who were doing some research on Maine. We were able to walk around the room to see what students were working on and sit down and ask them questions. The child I talked to mentioned how much she enjoyed using the technology. Her favorite thing to do with the computers is to use the paint application because she enjoys art. She said in previous years she had been given the opportunity to work with twitter and a class blog.

I was amazed by how independently these students were able to do research and stay on task. They seemed genuinely interested in the topics they were researching. By doing this work independently they are able to explore their own interests and curiosity and they aren’t forced to learn about a specific topic. They are learning so much more about themselves, and their interests, and what they have the ability to do on their own, which is such a tremendous aspect of growing up.

Prior to this class when I thought about incorporating technology into the classroom computers is the one thing that came to mind. Now I know that there is so much more to it than that. There are numerous ways technology can be incorporated and computers are just one. Seeing a teacher use these technologies in action was beneficial to me in several ways! Not only did I get a first hand look of what really goes on in the classroom, but I also got some awesome ideas for my project!

Teachers who are new to technology integration in the classroom may be unsure of the relevance technology has to learning or what kind of environment they should be trying to create for their students. Here is the answer… the Performance Indicators for Teachers for Digital Age Education. These are clear cut guidelines for teachers to follow when trying to incorporate technology. This is extremely helpful to me because I can look more closely at my resources for my project and figure out if they align with these indicators. I can do the same with the Standards for Students for Digital Age Education.

Looking at the standards for students I have also realized that in EDT 400 we have touched on all of them! Just by creating blog posts every week and commenting on other peers’ posts in our VLC’s we are practicing all 6 of the standards. Creativity and innovation will be clearly shown through our final projects. Communicating with peers and researching has helped me develop my PLN more than I ever imagined. There are definitely times when I feel lost and confused because this is all so new to me, but it is getting better and I am accomplishing so much in such a short amount of time.

I encourage teachers to take a look at these standards and performance indicators and use them as guidelines in their classrooms. Technology integration is so important to a child’s education and what better way to get students to research, communicate, make decisions, collaborate, and use their creativity than with the one resource that has it all.

Choosing the topic for my project was the hardest part. There are so many things out there relevant to incorporating technology in schools so it was hard to choose what I thought would be the best one. Now that I know what my topic is researching should be a breeze right?… wrong. Researching takes a lot of time and effort. Finding a resource is pretty easy, but  finding out what it is all about and whether or not it will be critical for the final result of my project is the hard part. Some of the websites I have found are quite detailed and I want to be sure I know how it works from every angle before I recommend it to other students and teachers.

I have found quite a few websites that I think are perfect for my topic. One titled Little Bird Tales is a website where students can create their own digital story! The first step is to create the illustrations. They can either draw them and scan them onto the computer, use the paint tool given on the website, or take pictures with a digital camera and upload those. Once the pictures are all in place students can do a voice recording of the words. I listened to some of the public stories and it seemed like a project that kids could really have fun with!

Since most early elementary students are new with computers I found a website for beginning computer users to learn to type. Once students are familiar with the keyboard and typing they will be comfortable enough to move beyond these beginning skills to more advanced projects like a classroom blog. This is a teachers blog with a day by day lesson plan on how she introduced blogging to her 4th grade students.

Another popular way elementary teachers are incorporating technology into literacy is through online books. International Children’s Digital Library is a website where students can choose a book to read online. It has different levels depending on the ability of the reader and there are books in 16 different languages! So it is an excellent source for foreign language students as well!

I still have a lot of researching left to do. My next step is to start looking at scholarly reviewed articles and discussion groups. My plan is to organize all of these resources into folders on my desktop. Once these are all organized I want to put them all onto Mahara at once. For me this approach will help to keep things organized. More to come on how my project is developing!