Digital Portfolio Update

And the winner is…WIXAs I continue to work on creating my digital portfolio, I find that I am learning a lot about the process of creating such content and about myself as a user of technology.  With much more confidence in my abilities to utilize technology tools to achieve my purpose, I find myself taking more risks and making choices with the understanding that I am capable of learning what I need to know in order to be successful.  For me, the most difficult decision has been related to the platform on which to house my portfolio.  After reviewing several different ones, including WordPress, Wix and Google Sites, I have decided to use Wix. Originally, I wanted to utilize Google Sites because it would be the one that my students will use to create their digital portfolios; however, since I already have a teacher website, I thought it would be beneficial to learn about, use and hopefully master, something new.  What I have found so far that it I have quite bit to learn about designing a Wix website, including how to make full use of the aesthetic features, ways to display content and link to other digital.  As such, I find myself spending quite a bit of time viewing tutorials.  However, I am happy to be learning something new to add to my repertoire.  

So far, I have decided on the artifacts that I feel best showcase my work in the IT&DML program, as well as my growth as a learner and user of technology tools.  I have collected all of my artifacts and examined them to see a big picture and distinguish categories into which each might fall.  Additionally, I have created my site and have started the designing process.  One question that surfaced for me had to do with the extent to which I should revise my work to display current skills, as opposed to including original content to show my learning and skill development throughout.  I imagine that this question will surface for my students as well.  My current thinking is that since this is a showcase portfolio, it should reflect my best work.  However, when my students create process portfolios, they should have opportunities to include original and revised content, along with reflections about learning, skill development and growth.

Platform Considerations

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For the past year, I have been experimenting with two different platforms for presenting my work: WordPress for my blog and Google Sites for my classroom website.  As I think about creating my digital portfolio, I am leaning towards using Google sites as my presentation space.  My decision, so far, is mostly based on one of the overarching purposes for my portfolio, which is to ultimately use it as a model to guide my students through creating their own digital portfolios.  Undoubtedly, the platform that they will be using will be Google Sites and I feel that navigating the same platform makes sense because it will help me to gather information about the process and about certain availability and limitations.  As I learn more about comfort levels, legality issues, etc. with having students post their work online, I am appreciating the privacy controls that Sites has to offer.  I can choose to make my content available publicly or to specific viewers via the shareable link.  Also, I like the idea of being able to adjust the accessibility in the future.  As far as I know, once posted on WordPress, the content is available and if I want to alter the accessibility, my only choice is to delete it.  However, this is something that I will be looking into as I head towards making my final decision.

One of my concerns about Google Site is the limited features for style. Although I can create my own images to include in my portfolio, there are only so many “themes” from which to choose. I did come across WIX, which is something that I will also be exploring further because it seems like it offers a wider range of style elements.

 

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Personal Philosophy-A Work in Progress

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When I was a young child, one of my favorite pastimes included arranging my dolls in front of my chalkboard and then teaching my “students” what I had learned in school that day.  Typically, my lessons included re-reading books, retelling stories and reiterating strategies for spelling and problem solving.  Therefore, many years later, my decision to become an educator seemed like a natural one and after my time in the classroom, I can say that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do.  As an educator, I firmly believe that teaching is one of the greatest responsibilities that one can have, because with every student, comes the possibility of helping to shape who they are, who they will become, and the lenses through which they will ultimately view themselves and their world. In essence, every encounter with a student presents the possibility of that individual “leaving better and happier.”  As a high school English teacher, I enjoy the complexities, challenges and rewards that come with teaching and I love the fact that I have opportunities to personally reflect on, and improve, my practice.  Since students are individuals and their needs differ from year-to-year, class-to-class and student-to-student, I believe that it is imperative to be a reflective teacher because it is only through this continually reflective process that I have been able to know my students and how they learn; consequently, adjusting every aspect of the learning experience to fit their needs and push them to new heights. As a result of constant reflection, I am able to fulfill my responsibility as a public school educator, which is  to utilize aspects of our dominant culture to prepare students to thrive within a global community.  

 

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As human beings, we have an innate desire to feel accepted within groups, yet maintain our sense of individuality.  This is certainly the case with adolescents; therefore, in order for students to really delve into learning in a way that is authentic and continual, they have to feel as though they can be themselves in our classroom. I am always cognizant of how I can help each student gain this sense of belonging, yet maintain who they are as learners. When I first started teaching, I asked a very successful teacher what was her secret and her response was something that I remember often.  She said, “When I interact with a student, I ask myself, ‘If this were my child, how would I want him or her to be treated?” I often ask myself that same question and my answer helps guide my interactions and responses to students.  Consequently, our classroom environment is one that is grounded in respect and acceptance where students are more willing to take risks with their thinking and questions.

In addition to focusing on creating an environment that is supportive of their learning needs, I believe that it is important to help students gain a broader awareness of their global identities.  In a time when we are faced with global crises that require collaborative, authentic and respectful solutions, I want students to realize that they must move beyond following the “Golden Rule,” which encourages egocentrism, to living according the “Platinum Rule,” which is to treat others the way that they want to be treated.  In order to do this , students must extend their cultural knowledge to include perspectives beyond their own.  The result is respect for, and acceptance of, all human beings–regardless race, religion, values and practices.  On the surface, this might seem to be an insurmountable feat to accomplish in the English classroom, but through the examination of literature and other writings, students are able to engage in honest discourse about themselves, their communities, our country and our world.  

While the written word is one way to help students develop and explore their global identities, a key medium through which this exploration happens is technology.  As a classroom teacher, it is imperative that I capitalize on available resources to support and extend learning.  I realize that students today are immersed in technology and the ways in which they learn are different from the way that I learned.  Therefore, it is my responsibility to acknowledge cultural norms and teach students the way that they need to be taught.  Through various media sources, students are able to hear the voices of people around the world who would otherwise remain distant. So, with the mere click of a mouse, a student in our classroom can hear the voice of a young girl in Nepal who was sold into child slavery or the voice of a 16-year-old boy who shows what it is like to live in Iraq. More than ever, the line from the children’s song rings true:  “It’s a small world after all” (Sherman and Sherman, 1964).

As technology and learning have become inextricably woven together,  I get excited about the educational landscape, because learning is no longer limited to the physical spaces of the classroom.  With instant access to all kinds of information and a myriad of perspectives and interpretations, schools must continue to utilize platforms that allow students to navigate and extend their own inquiries. The teacher’s role is not to inculcate students with facts and knowledge; instead, it is to teach them how to use the information that is available to gain their own perspectives.  Therefore, I am committed to the following:  helping students decipher information that is credible and reliable; teaching them how to process that information; and inspiring them to go beyond consuming information to  becoming responsible producers of digital content.

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As I continue my work as a public school educator, I would like to help students see our physical and virtual classrooms as equipping spaces where they are able to gain knowledge, skills and strategies to help them be successful individuals, as well as members of a global society.  As a student, one of my greatest pleasures was to take a course taught by educational theorist, Maxine Greene in which she reflected that education “at its best is a process of teaching people to explore ideas about themselves and the world in which they live, to ask questions about the experience called living and to embrace ambiguity, to notice the unusual without fear and to look upon the ordinary with new eyes” (Shaw, 2011).  I believe that to a large extent, I have embodied Maxine’s philosophy in that I see my purpose as helping students to create the lenses through which they will look at themselves and their world.

References

Images by Reggina Kailan.

Shaw, R. P., & Rozycki, R. G. (2011, August 18) Synopsis of Maxine Greene’s Educational                    theory. Retrieved July 07, 2016, from                                                                                                          http://www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Greene.html.

Sherman, R. & Sherman, R. (1964). “It’s A Small World After All. Walt Disney Music                            Publishing Company.    

 

 

Digital Portfolio: Initial Considerations

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As I begin the task of creating my own digital portfolio to showcase my learning during the IT & DML program, I am careful to consider how this process will not only serve to communicate my evolving identity as a learner and educator, but also how it will support my future work with students as I lead them to create their own digital portfolios. Therefore, at the end of this process, I am looking forward to having my own product, as well as extensive notes, resources and personal knowledge to share with my students.  

When beginning the process of creating a digital portfolio, it is important to first consider purpose, which in my case, is to make a claim about my identity as a learner and educator in this program.  It is also important to identify, and anticipate the needs of, my targeted audience.  When creating a paper portfolio, the issue of audience becomes less complex because the audience is quite limited; however, when in digital form, the range of potential audiences is widened to now include anyone who is able to access the product.  Therefore, as the creator, I must keep this in mind.  Once purpose and audiences are articulated, it is then important to decide on the platform and actual medium that will allow me to best achieve my purpose and address the needs of my audience.

Key concepts  in creating any portfolio include reflection and metacognition because in order for the process to be purposeful, each decision must be carefully considered and thoughtfully reflected upon.  According to Beth Holland in Digital Portfolios: The Art of Reflection, successful digital portfolios must reach beyond merely collecting artifacts as representations of growth. In fact, they must include “reflection and documentation of progress”  and “insight” into the “what, “how and why.” When these aspects are included, the product becomes an active representation of personal growth and learning. An effective strategy to help students achieve this kind of long range view of themselves as learners is to begin the year with essential questions and use those questions throughout as a thread that guides reflection.

As I create my digital portfolio, another concept that I would like to keep in mind is one that is examined by Dr. Helen Barrett, which is Digital Storytelling. Although Dr. Barrett suggests various helpful resources to guide creation of these stories, I am most intrigued by the overarching idea of telling the story of my journey in this program and how my work has helped me to evolve as a learn and as a teacher..  As such, I anticipate that my collection of artifacts will include my best work and also reflections about my process to achieve those levels of mastery.  As I continue in this process, I am beginning to think about ways to tie the parts of my portfolio together with a common motif, which will creatively contribute to the aspect of storytelling.

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Technology Tools & Formative Assessment

As I continue to explore the role that technology plays in the learning process, I am finding that there are a number of tools available to support and enrich almost every aspect.  This week, I investigated the area of assessment, specifically formative assessments, and ways in which certain technology tools can go beyond improving–they can begin to transform this aspect of the learning process. At first glance, the wide range of availability may be overwhelming, but I am finding that the best way to proceed is to identify the need to be fulfilled and then select THE best tool to support that need.  Also, it’s important to consider what is available to my students, by way of devices, as well as existing infrastructure. Additionally, I need to be fluent in using the tool, so that I may guide and assist students. I know that when carefully selected, technology tools can be a powerful differentiating tool and as I continue to examine ones that may be appropriate for my students, I will consider when/how I will include time for students to learn how to use the tools. An initial thought is to include multimodal tutorials on my learning hub.  

One of the key benefits of employing technology tools such as Google Forms, Documents, Classroom, as well as Kaizena and Socrative is that students can receive feedback in real time, which offers them opportunities to reflect on, and revise/redirect strategies to further, their learning.  Personally, my work this week reminded me of the value of giving students the opportunity to use formative assessments to direct their learning.  Many times, teachers assume full responsibility of assessing and re-directing, but students need to be familiar with the language and methods of formative assessments so that they ultimately become self-directed and equipped with using the information to further their own learning.

For more information on my learning this week, please view:

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Infographic: Physical Book or Digital Device?

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Research Topic:

When I chose to research the dynamic of reading on digital devices, as compared to physical books, it was because I wanted to learn a bit more about what researchers have found  about the advantages and limitations of each.  

Rationale for Topic Selection:

As an English teacher, I have certainly seen the change in reading habits from 2000, when I first entered the classroom, to now and wanted to inquire further.  I also chose to research this topic because my own children, ages 9 and 11, have been turning to digital devices for their reading. As I observe their reading habits, I notice that there was a difference in their reading experiences and abilities to relay what they read when they used physical books, as compared to digital devices.  I hoped that my inquiry would shed some light in this area and allow me to further support my children and students.  

Results:

Essentially, I found that younger and developing readers have should spend time reading physical copies of books and less time on digital reading devices.  Essentially, books allow for tactile and sensory, as well as aesthetic experiences that encourage positive reading habits.  An interesting finding is that the entire landscape of the text supports the reader’s mental picture construction and visible locations act as footprints through the journey of the text.  While digital devices are extremely convenient in that an entire library may be carried around in one’s pocket, they are dependent on battery power and connectivity to WiFi or the Internet.  Other positive features of digital devices include access to dictionary definitions and voice readers.  However, both research and anecdotal evidence suggest that readers are most likely to skim when reading on digital devices. A very interesting finding is that is that avid and mature readers do well with digital devices; however, for younger readers, the tactile experience of a physical book is key to support reading comprehension and foster positive reading habits.

Creating an Infographic:

Like anything new, communicating my findings in the form of a infographic posed some challenges; however, I feel like it was important for me to have this experience because it forced me to consider purpose, form and audience in a new way.  Personally, I am a lover of words and that is where my comfort, as a communicator, lies. However, as I went through the process, I became increasingly comfortable with the task. Below is the procedure that I followed and it is also a suggested procedural list for anyone who would like to take on the task of creating their first infographic:

  • Topic Selection
  • Gather information from multiple (reliable, credible, varied) sources and synthesize that information to begin drawing conclusions
  • Engage in follow-up research and continue to draw conclusions
  • Research infographics as a form, including norms, variations and available tools
  • Identify targeted audience
  • Begin creating infographic to fit the needs of  purpose and audience.
  • Keep track of all resources used for works cited and works consulted pages
  • Edit and Revise as necessary to support purpose
  • Publish content

“A Closer Look at Integrating Technology to Support Teaching and Learning”

As educators examine ways to successfully support all learners, we are reminded that technology can, and should, play a significant  role within those landscapes in that it can provide tools that allow students to  inquire deeply, access experts easily and collaborate authentically.  According to Edutopia’s  Intro to Technology Integration,  technology can be the transforming factor.  The short video defines technology integration as “using whatever resources you have to the best of your abilities,” which means that as educators, we must be cognizant of tools that we are selecting and importantly, we must be able to articulate how those specific tools will support student learning.  According to the information presented in the video, there are powerful benefits to the appropriate integration of technology in the learning experience.  One such benefit is that it supports mastery of content through the means of differentiation and personal inquiry. Further, with the teacher as facilitator, students become creators of their own content.  This, of course, is empowering as students consider  audience, purpose and personal responsibility to provide quality information.   

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As technology integration becomes more prevalent in our classrooms, we are reminded of the obligation to re-examine successful strategies, specifically those outlined by Robert J. Marzano and John Hattie, through the lens of technology. In other words, we must re-define what these strategies look like when technology is involved.  

The following re-examination is based off of the information presented in 8 Strategies Hattie and Marzano Agree On, as published by the Australian Society for Evidence Based Teaching.  

  • Goals:  The teacher must present a clear purpose for how why students will be using specific technology tools.  With devices that have multiple capabilities, it can be very easy for students to become distracted; therefore, in the same way that the goal of a lesson is articulated, the use of the technology tools should be as well.  
  • 8028464853_13d5feaab8_nInstruction:  Since instruction is a key to learning, it is important to teach students how to select and use the appropriate tools to support their inquires.  When I first began my exploration of selecting and integrating technology tools, my first lesson was that I needed to provide more instruction.  For example, I realized that I expected students to know how to use the Internet to find credible information online without ever having taught them how to do so.  It made me reexamine my plans and identify places where I needed to instruct through direct teaching and modeling.
  • Engagement:  Technology tools can be powerful methods of engagement, as well as distraction.  As such, it is important to realize the difference between the two.  When students are engaged in their learning, they become immersed, creative and self-directed.  Within the context of using technology tools, it is important to be sure that the tool does not get in the way of positive engagement, but that it fully supports it.
  • 14412333585_3f241818f1_nFeedback:  Since authentic and timely feedback is crucial to the learning process, it is important that students receive feedback to incorporate into their learning process.  This feedback can come in many forms, but tools like Google Classroom and commenting features are allowing for real time communication between peers, as well as teacher and students.
  • Exposure:  Since it is important that students have multiple opportunities to explore, practice and revisit what they learn, they may use technology to reach out to multiple sources through various and repeated means.  Certainly, technology integration can support exposure, but it can also help deepen as it reinforces.
  • Application:  Learning is truly solidified when students are able to apply what they know or what they are able to do in a new context.  Technology tools can certainly widen the possibilities–from supporting the creation of videos and audios to fusing images to create visual representations.
  • Collaboration:  Collaborative experiences can be powerful tools in supporting student learning; however, careful considerations need to be made when designing such experiences.  The teacher should consider how groups will be created and how they will function.  As technology is playing an increasingly large role in collaboration, it is important to teach students what it should look like in digital form. Some topics for discussion might include what rights they release when sharing their work and what they are maintaining, as well as the levels of privacy that come with each sharing.

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  • Self-Efficacy:  It is clear that confidence in one’s ability to do something plays a large role in his or her success.  Therefore, as educators, we must help our students see their use of technology as rich opportunities to extend their personal learning.  Even when they are not in the classroom, each blog post or tweet they read, should contribute to this sense of themselves as learners.

 

As I continue to think about integrating technology into my designs, I consider my students’ needs, as well as our infrastructure and available tools.  Those considerations allow me to design plans that either incorporate previously applied tools or include time to teach new ones.  In one particular plan, Visual Imagery and Tone In Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET, I chose to use a familiar tool–a share Google Document–to support collaboration.  Students also applied their knowledge of using digital images responsibly.  I felt comfortable with their capacity to do this successfully because it is an established practice in our classroom.  Finally, we utilized Google Classroom as a shared learning space where they can provide feedback and extend their own learning.

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As is the nature of technology, old tools will fade away and new one will take their places. Therefore, it is always essential to focus more on desired outcomes in the learning process and less on the technology tool itself.  In fact, I would  say that we know that our selection of a technology tool is perfectly when we forget that we are using technology to learn.  

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