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I am so excited to be hosting a workshop, and two presentations at ISATT 2017 in Salamanca, Spain! Click here for information about the conference.

Evaluating Early Literacy Apps

Posted on Jan 27 ,2016

Posted in Current Research, Evaluating EduTech

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In 7 Steps to Evaluate an App, I discussed the steps in evaluating an app for its appropriateness and technical benefit within a school. However, there is so much more involved in choosing which educational technology to use within your classroom. Recently I read a blog post by Barbara Culatta, Kendra Hall-Kenyon, and Gary Bingham (2016) discussing how to evaluate literacy apps for their effectiveness and benefit to student learning. They focused on five questions to ask before using an early literacy app in the classroom.

  1. Are all sounds pronounced properly? Ex. Are combined letter sounds pronounced properly (ch, sh, etc.)?
  2. Does the app oversimplify concepts? Ex. Does it only use one sound for vowels?
  3. Does the app try to combine letters and sounds that shouldn’t be combined?
  4. What type of feedback does the app give?
  5. Does it use pictures or words that are not common for the child to know? Ex. The app shows a picture of dirt or mud and want the word soil.

Additionally, Barbara Culatta, Kendra Hall-Kenyon, and Gary Bingham found that “Apps can be great tools to teach early literacy skills. But they must be instructionally sound. Technology can enhance early literacy instruction if selected based on solid research principles” (2016). In other words, educators should not just choose apps based on their usability and age-appropriate content. All educational technology educators choose to use within their classroom needs to be based on research principles and effective pedagogy. This type of process is extremely important for educators to go through.

Throughout my research, I will be examining this idea further in order to develop a succinct list of questions that mathematics teachers need to answer before using educational technology within their classroom.

References:

Barbara Culatta, Kendra Hall-Kenyon, & Gary Bingham (2016, January 6). Re: Five Questions Everyone Should Ask Before Choosing Early Literacy Apps. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1NB8see


Looking Back – FETC 2016

Posted on Jan 20 ,2016

Posted in Current Research, Evaluating EduTech, FETC 2016, Integrating EduTech

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Before heading to FETC 2016, I wrote a post on what I hoped to explore throughout the week and what I predicted would be popular at the conference this year! (Click here to read it.)

I narrowed my focus down to two topics that I wanted to explore throughout the week. I then wrote blog posts based on what I had learned. Click the links below to check them out!

  1. 7 Steps to Evaluate an App
  2. 5 Ways to Integrate Technology into Your Classroom

I also made 5 predictions about what would be popular at the conference. Here are my reflections.

  1. Flipped Classrooms: A lot of exhibitors used this term to promote their product. Make sure you think for critically to decide whether you agree that the product you are buying aligns with this method.
  2. Integrating Educational Technology: I was surprised to see that there were not that many sessions on integrating the technology into the classroom. Some sessions covered learning spaces and learning management systems but not explicitly integration. Check my blog post above for what I learned on this topic.
  3. Evaluating Educational Technology: Again, I was surprised that there were not too many sessions on this topic. Some sessions covered evaluating tools for their appropriateness in schools but I would have liked to learn more information on how to evaluate technology for its benefit to my students.
  4. Chromebooks or iPad: There was a lot of interactive boards and tools to bring interactivity into your classroom. Be aware of the prices when looking through these tools. I did not focus too much on whether a product was strictly promoting Chromebook or iPads but I got the feeling that Chromebook is pulling ahead.
  5. Bringing Coding into the classroom: There were a lot of products promoting coding. Coming from a coding background myself, I found a lot of these products were great at introducing coding and the thought process behind coding, but lacked the connection between giving instructions and writing real code.

I think it is safe to say that I had an amazing time at FETC 2016! I learned a lot and got to network with some amazing, inspiring people! See you next year FETC!


5 Ways to Integrate Technology into Your Classroom

Posted on Jan 20 ,2016

Posted in FETC 2016, Integrating EduTech

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So you have gathered some ideas for technology you would like to use in the classroom and you have evaluated it for its appropriateness in your school (click here for more information on evaluating apps), great! Now you need to integrate it properly into your classroom! During FETC 2016 in Orlando, Florida, I had the privilege of listening to a session on Blended Learning by Joelle Chemali from Learning Bird. Using the information from her session as well as my own experience, I have come up with 5 ways technology can be integrated into the classroom.

The Flipped Classroom Method

There are many ways of creating a flipped classroom. One way is to give the students access to websites, videos, and online tutorials (such as Learning Bird) as homework. These videos should teach students a skill or provide background knowledge that they can then bring back to the classroom. It is also helpful if the tool allows the teacher to get an idea of which students understood the material before coming to class. Class time is then left for activities to deepen the students understanding, extend the students that understood, and provide small group or 1:1 support for the students who didn’t.

To Enhance an Activity

This type of integration involves using technology to enhance an activity you were already planning on doing. For example, instead of having the students write a story, they can use an online storyboard or animation tool to bring their story to life.

To Give Student Voice

This type of integration involves using technology to give students the opportunity to express their own opinions or ideas. For example, the students could create a blog or website, participate in an online discussion, or produce an online presentation. This type of integration could also include polls or clickers that the students use throughout the lesson to give feedback to the teacher.

Student-Led Learning

Student-led or self-directed learning can go hand-in-hand with a flipped classroom. This type of integration allows for the students to direct their own learning and continue through at their own pace. Virtual Reality, Web Quests, or Immersive Learning Management Systems are other ways to provide student self-directed learning.

Seeing Student Learning

Another useful type of integration is to use technology to see students thought processes. For example, while the students are working collaboratively to solve a problem, they could video tape their progress or provide snapshots of their work. They could also record their conversations, create podcasts, or videos to present their work. Google Docs is another way for you to follow along with their work.

Make sure to choose which method you want to use based on the needs and interests of your students, as well as which works best with the technology you are using. Make sure you are providing a balance of individual online work with teacher-student interaction and student-student collaboration. The technology should not replace the teacher, but enhance the learning experience. Keep in mind that using this technology should make your life easier and enhance the learning experience!


7 Steps to Evaluate an App

Posted on Jan 18 ,2016

Posted in Evaluating EduTech, FETC 2016

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Before downloading an application for your students to use in the classroom, it is important to evaluate that application for its appropriateness within the school setting. During FETC 2016, I had the opportunity to listen to a session on how to evaluate applications by Dr. Kristy Sailors. Through this session and my own experience evaluating the products on the exhibit floor, I have designed 7 steps in evaluating whether an application is appropriate for schools.

  1. Compare the price of the application and the size of the application to other products approved by your school and/or district. Does it fit into your school’s budget? Will it take up a lot of space on your tablet or other devices?
  2. Review the ratings on the App Store (check Google and Apple stores) as well as other websites. The application may have already been reviewed by other educators. Scroll past the top couple comments as these may have been created by employees of the developer.
  3. Decide what age group are going to have access to the application and keep that in mind throughout the next few steps. The age rating in the application stores are set by the developer and may not align to your school’s standards.
  4. Review the general user policy for information on in-application purchases and non-static advertisements. Can the students purchase items through the application? How are the advertisements viewed? Does the student have to click a little ‘x’ in the corner to get back to the application? Do the advertisements change or stay the same? What sort of advertisements can you expect to see?
  5. Review the privacy policy to see if any third-party companies will have access to your students’ information.
  6. Check for search bars and chat rooms. If you can search within application, do some keyword searches to see what inappropriate material may come up. This can be in user generated content, such as comments, or other content designed for older students. Avoid chat rooms, even in protected areas.
  7. If the application is a game, play through the game at all levels if possible. Be aware that content may change as the student reaches a higher level.

Once you have completed these steps you can feel confident in approaching your principal or leadership about the application. Further along in my research, I will be looking at how to evaluate applications for their effectiveness in your classroom and their benefit to student learning.


Looking Forwards – FETC 2016

Posted on Jan 12 ,2016

Posted in Evaluating EduTech, FETC 2016, Integrating EduTech

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This year I have the privilege of attending the FETC 2016 Conference in Orlando, Florida. I am beyond excited, and a little bit nervous, to be rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest and most inspirational educators and educational leaders of today. To avoid whiplash and a sore neck, I have been advised to think about what I want to focus on at this conference so that I don’t wander around aimlessly trying to see absolutely everything. I have to say it’s a bit overwhelming but I have narrowed it down to these two topics that I hope to explore throughout the week.

  1. How are educators (or how should educators) evaluating educational technology? What should educators look for to determine whether a digital tool is beneficial for their classroom or students? What are the qualities of an effective education technology tool?
  2. How should educators integrate educational technology into their classroom to best benefit student learning? What does this type of classroom look like? What are the qualities of a successful technology-integrated classroom or lesson?

I have also been asked to predict which topics I think will be popular for FETC 2016? After discussing this topic with some colleagues and future teachers, I have come up with the following list. I may be a little biased on topics 2 and 3 due to my interest in these areas.

  1. Flipped Classrooms: What does this look like and how can this be enhanced with educational technology
  2. Integrating Educational Technology: What does this look like and how can this be achieved on a school budget
  3. Evaluating Educational Technology: How can educators know that a digital tool will be beneficial for their students?
  4. Chromebooks or iPad: Which one are schools and start-ups turning towards?
  5. Bringing Coding into the classroom

Check back through this week for updates and reflections on what I have learned at FETC or perhaps I will see you there!