Hello to Dr. Phil Tietjen and the EdTec 467 Class! I hope you are enjoying this course as much as I did last summer. Thank you for asking me to write as a guest here on your class blog. I am a 5-8 instrumental music, general music and computer technology teacher for Kershaw Middle School in Mt. Ephraim, NJ. In addition to my music ed and music tech background, I recently completed the “Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Educational Technology Integration” from Penn State World Campus. I’d like to tell you about some of the Web 2.0 tools I am currently using in my classes, my recent professional development and plans for the future.
Background of My School
Mt. Ephraim Schools is a small K-8 public school district in Camden County, NJ. We have two buildings, divided into K-4 and 5-8. Like many area schools, we’ve had many recent staff and program changes. The K-4 teachers do a good job integrating some computer technology, but there is not a technology teacher there at this time. The 5-8 staff varies in the amount of technology that is used. The technology curriculum that I teach was recently reinstated to a once-a-week class. This fall, a new flex-schedule will begin with quarterly cycles for music, art, phys ed and technology. I anticipate this allowing me to go more in-depth with grade-level projects. Last year, I taught basic keyboarding and traditional MS Office software such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel. I introduced quite a few Web 2.0 ideas. This year, our district will phase in Google Apps For Education.
Tip-Toeing Into Web 2.0 Tools
I can’t say I “launched” into Web 2.0, although I wanted to! I had to be careful about what tools I started with, as this is new to our school and we do not have proper permissions in place for some situations. Many things I used as a teacher tool or demo. I decided to craft projects that were enhanced by only the very safest of tools. Although I thought I would just get our feet wet, I was surprised at how much I could do for free (or almost free) and really transform my classes!
Class Web Page & Blog– My classes have operated from a web page for a long time. I use it as a portal to the world and the kids are used to going there for both music and technology. Their parents and the staff also utilize my page. I keep a class blog that currently does not allow for commenting, but I plan to change that. I project from my laptop to the wall for the class to see. I’m in a computer lab and there is a laptop cart in the school.
Screencast-O-Matic– PSU taught me how to use this tool and it’s awesome! I used for all my video tutorials on my webpage. These were things I had gleaned from the Internet, but also those I created myself. This made my program visible to the world and gave my administrators and parents a better understanding of some of the things happening in my class. These were great to develop consistency between classes and year-to-year. The kids like hearing my voice! It gave them the idea they could do this, too. We experimented in grade 6 with making videos from PowerPoint presentations that the kids narrated. The only issue I had was not enough class time. Our new cycle courses should solve that. I also want a plan in place with permissions to exhibit student work.
Titan Pad- We used Titan Pad in much the way we will eventually use Google Docs. I created a web page portal to Titan Pad. I would post a link to a live “pad” for that class in the morning. It was password-protected and I would remove the link at the end of class, so that they could not access it from home. Students would work on a variety of assignments in small groups. For a class of 30, I would have 6 groups or 6 pads. One assignment was text that they had to correct. They can edit synchronously, chat and comment. The document is stored in the cloud. Another assignment was writing thank you notes to teachers. They had decision-making via chat and then writing to do. They learned how to download their cloud document to Word. They could then customize their own version on their computer. I made rules for chatting and grading. Many went home and started using this on their own for class assignments! I was able to share this concept with some of the teachers and their jaws dropped!
Socrative- I love using this- mostly with 7th & 8th graders. I made a portal to Socrative from our web page and the kids have instructions there about how to log on. It is great to get them going on an assignment, and then bring up Socrative, which is a live student response system. I can post a quick “Exit Ticket” that is a way for them to type-in responses which are tallied and can be viewed as they are entered. It gives me a quick pulse on what they learned that day- or what they don’t understand. I have also used it to give quizzes or to take votes.
Quizlet- This tool is online flashcards. You can choose from someone else’s set and tailor them for your own needs, or start from scratch. They can be embedded in a page. I use these for music and technology and they can be projected and used for class review. You can use a simple game feature. They can be used from home. They can be printed out. There are lots of ways to use Quizlet. Be sure to tell your students- Quizlet was invented by a 15 year-old kid!
Recent Professional Development: Google Drive
Our school is getting a technology makeover! One innovation is Google Apps For Education, and I could not be happier! I have used Google Docs and other Google tools in my PSU coursework. I pushed some Google surveys and shared spreadsheets with teachers at my school on various occasions, but it was new to them. Last week, I went with three other staff members to take an NJEA in-service session by Susan Ross on Google Docs presented at NJEA Tech Con at Stockton College of New Jersey. It was a surprisingly great session because it was much more than just Google Docs. It really was Google Drive. The teacher included information not only about sharing documents, but using forms, spreadsheets, calendars, surveys, sites, etc. Google Drive requires a Gmail account and therefore the user must be at least age 13.
We were able to ask questions about Google Apps For Education, and how to implement this for our students. It works the same as Google Drive, but it is password-protected and maintained within its own network. So younger students can use it. We agreed to start slowly- first get the staff very comfortable using this cloud software and later launch it with the kids. Right now our teachers are all creating web pages using Google Sites. I find it to be powerful; there are lots of templates to use. But I see some aspects that may confuse some of the teachers, so there will be lots of questions this fall. I have created a Google Site that is a portal to my old page that is hosted on Weebly.
We also learned about some features that can be used immediately, without emails or permissions or passwords. This includes online quizzes and surveys using the Forms feature. This is a really useful tool! Tech Con also had many other sessions on Web 2.0 and they did lunchtime “Smackdown” session- where anyone could go up and share an idea or a site they use. It was very informative and well run.
Plans for the Future
Where do I go from here? Who knows? Everyday I get new ideas! I have decided to continue gaining “badges” as I know you have discussed in your class! At my age (57) continuing my Masters does not necessarily make sense. But I want to continue to learn about things I can really use. I think that I would like to become a Google Certified Teacher/Google Apps Trainer. Who would have thought that a year ago?
Best wishes to you all! Feel free to contact me anytime!
Medford, NJ, USA