The quirks of using Google Classroom: Finishing up our prototype

What’s up!
SOURCE: GIPHY

Hello everyone and welcome back!

So this week we were asked to talk about our prototypes before we hand them in. Taking a step back from our project, I can safely say that we’re done. I’m happy with the content and I’m really excited about some of the ideas we brought into the project.

Soooo excited!
SOURCE: GIPHY

Today, I will be focusing on the LMS we chose to work with: Google Classroom. I’ll be filling you in on some of my thoughts and criticisms about this platform; hopefully giving you some insight on whether or not you should use it in your own classroom or not.

After reading a couple of my classmates’ posts this week, I found it really interesting to see what types of obstacles they went through during their own process. Bill for example talks a lot about the trial and error process that goes into figuring out what types of tools he wanted to use and implement for his prototype. I think it’s a great idea to look over your options and figure out exactly what you want to gain out of your experience working with these types of tools; after all, once you start, there’s not much room to go back and restart.

Why you should always try it before you buy it
SOURCE: GIPHY

Jaymee, Roxanne and I all settled with Google Classroom without actually shopping around for another type of LMS platform. Our reasoning behind this decision was that we already use a wide range of Google apps, tools and products; using Classroom was sort of a natural and logical choice for us.

Would I use Google Classroom again in the future? Maybe… but I guess this is where Bill’s experience got me thinking about shopping around FIRST and getting to know how other platforms work BEFORE settling on a final choice.

Is that your final answer?
SOURCE: GIPHY

In reality however, this is easier said than done. Reading a few past blog posts, I noticed that Katherine has been using several different LMS’s in her actual classes. In a matter of fact, for her ELA and Psychology classes, she’s been using MOODLE and GOOGLE CLASSROOM. That’s extremely impressive, and she had a few reasons for these choices:

However, I had to think of how to set up information in an organized and fluid way, since students need to retain a lot of information. Moodle offers an online ‘binder’, where I can organize content, embed YouTube videos, and provide a place to ask questions. I also wanted an easy way to collect and give immediate feedback on assignments, so I decided to create a Google Classroom and students hand in assignments on that platform rather than Moodle.

Just from reading Kathrine’s blog post, I gained a lot of important knowledge on the pros and cons for Moodle and Classroom. If you’re wondering about these things yourself, I highly suggest reading her post, because not only is it just AWESOME, it gave me some ideas on when to use certain LMS’s.

So many ideas!
SOURCE: GIPHY

Although I am happy with our prototype, I would have liked a more visually and aesthetically pleasing LMS. I found that Google Classroom was a little boring in the way it presents information and modules. There’s little room for customization and it doesn’t really allow you to get “Wild” with anything. I feel like you should be able to just drag things around and place them wherever you want…Google Classroom definitely doesn’t allow for any of that type of maneuverability, which in my opinion is a major flaw.

Why can’t I customize!?
SOURCE: GIPHY

I’d like to attest the customizability of other LMS’s, but I simply don’t have the knowledge to back up my claims.

At one point, I must have spent about an hour copying, pasting and formatting text in my course profile to make it look as organized as possible. I aligned everything, added bold text wherever it was needed, and organized everything so that it would be easy to read and navigate through. When I hit “save” in the editing box, everything went back to this awful messy clump of text. What a waste of time.

Everything’s falling apart!!!
SOURCE: GIPHY

I found that Google Classroom did a lot of this. After a little trial and (a lot of) error, I came to the conclusion that you CANNOT edit or format your text at all in this LMS. This is a HUGE bummer to me. I’m a visual guy. I like things to look GREAT. If you aren’t allowing me to format and edit things the way I want them to look, then you’re definitely going to lose me.

Bye Bye
SOURCE: GIPHY

I know I’m focusing a lot of attention on this one factor, but as far as aesthetics go, this project could have looked WAY cooler than it does if we were to have used a different LMS. It’s a small mistake that I’m not going to focus more attention on, but it’s definitely something I would CHANGE for next time. So yeah…my verdict: If you don’t mind not having much control over how things look and you just want to get the job done, GOOGLE CLASSROOM is for you baby! But if you’re looking to get fancy (which is what I like to do), then go somewhere else.

I’m out!
SOURCE: GIPHY

The lack of any sort of settings menus really bothered me too. I like to change things around, and this LMS simply does not offer any of this. It’s straight forward…which is obviously a pro, but also a con, depending on who you are I guess.

As for everything else, like I said, Classroom was an easy to use, user-friendly LMS that got the job done.

The biggest thing I took out of this process WAS IN FACT to SHOP AROUND. I’m happy with the content we created, but perhaps a different LMS could have really made things shine a little brighter.

Who doesn’t like shopping?
SOURCE: GIPHY

Overall, I learned that creating modules can be tedious and time consuming work. I applaud anyone who is legitimately implementing blended learning in their classroom. I mean, to create all your units from scratch would simply be insane…you would HAVE to find already made material that you eventually replace with your own over time.

I think if that were to be my sole responsibility in my job (to plan units), I WOULD ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. But, as we all know, adding teaching to the mix takes away a lot of your time and energy to properly execute these things.

Creating content is quickly becoming something I’m enjoying more and more, and would love to continue doing so as much as possible. I had a blast making my artifact, and am looking forward to completing my summary of learning as well.

Before leaving you all today, here is my artifact for my module that I made for our prototype. I love doing this sort of stuff and am looking forward to doing a lot more of it in my own classroom from now on.

Thanks for reading my post this week and I hope you all have a great weekend!

Dre

How my experiences in punk music forums shaped my ideas about online communities

For my blog entry this week, I thought I’d start with a story. My story will hopefully paint a better picture of some of the things that can go on in an open online message board/forum.

So I realize that not everyone knows first-hand about what it’s like to participate in an online community typically found in a forum or message board; so I figured I’d give you a glimpse of what that world is like from some of my own experiences.

For years, I was an active member of Regina’s local hardcore and punk music message boards. The boards underwent numerous moderators and name changes throughout the years, but the general idea always stayed the same. Whether it was “Punk for the People”, “Queen City Punk”, “Queen City Hardcore”, or whatever else it was called; it all served the same purpose: staying in the loop about what’s going on with our favorite music genres!

What were these boards used for?

– First and foremost, the board was meant for fun entertainment and community building. It wasn’t THAT serious.

– See what bands were coming through town

– Find out local and surrounding area shows

– Find out about all the hottest and most underground bands (the more obscure, the better)

– Get in touch with out of town venues and promoters

– Booking shows in town

– Sell your merch or music

– Learn about the community and exchange ideas.

The message board was always interesting to me because it always felt like a “digital extension” (so to speak) of the actual Regina music scene. The people posting on the message board weren’t face-less, anonymous pranksters; they were my friends, they were my bandmates, they were everyone that you would typically see at a local event.

I got to know so many new people, learned a lot about Saskatchewan’s interesting live music past (have you read anything about how crazy Regina’s music scene was back in the 80’s?), and most importantly, I got to talk about music (and everything that goes along with it). In a matter of fact, my band Failed States, which were going on to our tenth year as a band, STARTED on Queen City Punk. I remember one night someone starting a new discussion thread titled “Who wants to start a hardcore band?”. I immediately replied and next thing I knew, I was in a basement with four other dudes about to start a band that we’re still in today. This was a huge shifting moment in my life. These people I didn’t even know eventually went on to become some of my best friends. We’ve played almost 100 shows in the past ten years all throughout western Canada. I even ended up starting two bands after that! And all this… from a silly message board? Wow. I mean…it that’s not community building, I don’t know what is.

The main purpose of the board was a place for all of us to talk. With the political and social nature of this type of music, conversations often dipped into social justice discussions and political critiques and debates. As much as people liked to joke around on the message board, conversations were often fruitful and interesting to follow (and obviously participate in).

I found that being part of this type of online community did require some effort to maintain a functioning structure. For one, you need people moderating the board. Moderators keep order, they enforce rules, and they oversee everything that’s going on (at least that’s what they should be doing). So who are these moderators? Well…Moderators can be literally anyone, just as long as they are willing to take on the huge list of tasks they must do to keep things working smoothly.

In my time on QCP (Queen City Punk), I unfortunately did see a lot of harassment and bullying go down. Since the board is basically open for anyone to use, anyone is technically able to join. That means “anything” can happen. This can obviously be a good thing, but it’s more often than not, a more negative thing to worry about. Many times, people would come in and “troll” other posters or sabotage a discussion thread. I want you all to keep this in mind as we move onto this week’s prompt.

Alec and Katia asked us to talk a little about how authenticity is affected by the degree of openness in a forum? They also asked if it’s possible to support “authentic” learning in a closed forum or discussion space and if authenticity is guaranteed if we open the conversations to the online world?

Now, I want to use my story to tie some of these ideas into these questions.

In relation to “authenticity” and the degree of “openness” in discussions that take place in a forum, I’d like to use my experiences to draw some sort of parallels. I know that my experiences are going to be super different from what I would do in a classroom, but I think my experiences taught me to be vigilant and aware of certain things.

First of all, I think there is a lot to learn from an opening up a private group to the public (or allowing outsiders to come in). I certainly believe there can be authentic learning experiences and discussions in open forums (because I see them all the time), partly because we’re allowing outside input from individuals who may bring unbiased or different ideas or opinions to the table. For instance, if we were to be using a private message board in a classroom, and open it up to allow the outside world to contribute to the community, it could allow students to explore a topic in greater detail. Inviting guest “speakers”, in a sort of “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) type of format usually seen on Reddit, students would have the opportunity to interact with an expert in their field. Having that level of intimate interaction with potential learning material is amazing and completely game-changing. That’s why I like AMA’s, I mean, you can literally ask the person ANYTHING.

Okay, so yes, you may run into some big problems. Learning experiences won’t always be authentic either, as we don’t always know what is coming into the discussion when we’re opening the discussion to the world. I’m assuming if you are inviting someone to come speak to your class in your message board, you must know this person, you can probably vouch for their legitimacy; but if that connection is missing, we definitely run the risk of potential fraudulence.

When I think of “openness” however, I immediately think of all the things that can go wrong. When you’re part of an online community, I feel like the whole “Anything goes” mantra can work, but when we’re talking about a classroom environment, this sort of scares me. We don’t know what people are going to say. We have no real way of knowing if people are “legit” or not. I mean, we don’t even know if this type of exchange would even bring forth any authentic learning experiences to the students. Is it possible? YES… but absolutely NOT GUARANTEED, which is something important to consider.

To me, there’s too many “What ifs” to fully commit to this type of learning environment. I say this because I’ve seen how message boards work, regardless if there’s a moderator controlling everything that is going on. Furthermore, if you were to do this for your own class, you would most definitely have to take on the moderator role, which is something I think lots of people don’t know what exactly it entails.

The potential for community building is something I definitely can’t ignore however. Given the right instruction, guidance, moderation and interest, a forum can develop an incredible online community. Of course, this goes back to the work we put into making it something your students will want to use and engage in. I don’t know how well it would work under the context of educational content, but when people participate in online communities that relate to their personal interests, the community is going to grow regardless. I mean, people are engaged, they WANT to participate. But can the same be said if we were to do this in a classroom? Depending on the topics, perhaps… but you would definitely have to push and encourage things to get going. I find that as long as there’s legitimate interest, engagement and commitment to the topic, learning becomes authentic.

Before I start writing more than what I should, I just want to end this by saying that moderators are the key to making these online communities stay on track. Without any rules or protocol, your community won’t sustain and it will inevitably fall apart. This will lead to poor engagement and definitely no true form of authentic learning. If you want it to be as real as possible, you need to make it that way, and make sure to do everything that’s necessary to assure that all interactions are purposeful and authentic.

Please ask me questions in the comments, I feel like I left a lot of open ends in my thoughts and I welcome any form of discussion on what I wrote.

Thanks for reading my ramblings, I look forward to hearing from all of you!

Dre

So what’s going on with my prototype?

Hello everyone and welcome back to the ol’ blog.

SOURCE: Giphy

Today I’m going to be walking you through the basic outline of my group’s course prototype and explaining some of the ways students will be interacting with other classmates/students and teachers.

Our course prototype has taken a much more defined shape over the last few weeks and we’ve finally figured out the direction we’re taking this thing in. Here’s a quick overview of the basic idea and content of the unit:

lo and behold
SOURCE: GIPHY


Course info

Grade 6 ELA – blended learning course

Creating digital content unit

Students will learn how to use various online and digital tools to help them find new ways of representing their written work. The final project: the summary of learning, will be an amalgamation of everything the students learned throughout the unit. The unit will focus on scaffolding and providing students with the skills necessary to create a final product. The unit has been designed with student collaboration in mind, meaning students will work, interact and collaborate with other students in various ways. The final project will require students to pair up with their reading buddies to create a narrated digital story.

Modules

Modules will be set-up as “how-to tutorials”, paired up with assignments and assessments for each module.

– How to use Read and Write (For assisted learning and when students are brainstorming ideas for their stories with their reading buddies).

– How to use Google Docs, Google Drive and other cloud-based software.

– How to use animation tools such as Videoscribe, Powtoon, Telegami and Puppet Pals.

– How to film using your device. Students will learn the basics to simple screenwriting and script writing; they will be given tips on what makes for good and captivating cinematography; and how to capture good footage for your project.

– How to edit videos and raw footage using Windows Movie Maker, iMovie or other video editors.

– How to create podcasts (learning how to use audio recording software such as GarageBand and Audacity for podcasts and narratives for our stories).

– How to narrate and add life to your videos and digital artifacts.

– How to create a time-lapse video.

– Final project. Summary of learning: a narrated digital storybook that combines everything we learned in the unit.


My module

Summary of learning project: A narrated digital storybook

Compose a narrative story using visual techniques learned and acquired throughout the unit. Up until this point, students would have learned how to use a wide range of online and digital tools to create their own visual and narrated content. Students will first pair up with their reading buddies to brainstorm and come up with a story that the grade 6’s will elaborate on, build off of and transform into a visual and narrated representation. The intent of this final project is for students to bring together all of their acquired knowledge to create a “summary of their learning” in the form of a digital narrated story.

Students will have the option to incorporate as many approaches as possible, whether it’s filming, editing and putting together a mini movie of their story; digitally or manually illustrating images that can be used for a narrated storybook; creating time-lapse videos to incorporate into their videos; using online tools such as Videoscribe or Powtoon to create and narrate their content; or combining all of these approaches and more (depending on their own knowledge of digital tools). Students will be encouraged to combine as many of these tools and techniques as possible (including a minimum of at least TWO of these techniques learned in class).

Students will then share their projects on Youtube in order to post on our class blog to share with parents, family, and each other. Students will also unveil their projects to their reading buddies. This project allows for the potential of pairing up with another class or even students in other schools.

The purpose of the project is to allow students with varying skills to experiment with various forms of media to create one, cohesive final product. Students who are more digitally inclined will have the option to explore more digital tools, whereas students who are a little more into acting can focus more on filming and editing. Students who are more visually inclined can explore this domain by creating various types of illustrations and even animations. Students who are looking for more of a challenge can use more difficult tools (such as raw footage video editors such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker), or opt for more user friendly tools such as PowToon or Videoscribe.


As mentioned earlier, the unit has been designed with student collaboration in mind. Although you could use the course to collaborate with other students of similar age (grade six), we’ve decided to focus on collaborating with our reading buddies (grade one).

This idea came to me from my own experiences pairing my grade six class with one of the grade one classes in our school for reading buddies. My coworker and I decided that rather than focus solely on reading, our students could work on writing, art and technology. Why not hit some curricular outcomes for both grade one and six students? After so many years of doing reading buddies, we wanted to create a meaningful exchange between both classes where we could assess our students after each meeting.

My initial intent was to start a “tech buddies” type of set up where my grade six students could teach the grade one students basic tech skills. We got this idea from having experienced a lot of difficulty getting grade ones to log onto their profiles. Talking to a lot of my coworkers, part of the reason why some early primary grade teachers avoid laptop use in their classrooms is the strenuous task of having 20+ five/six year olds log onto their profiles in less than fifteen minutes. We figured by teaching them how to do these tasks, they would get the practice needed to become more familiar and comfortable with technology.

Obviously pairing up my grade sixes with grade one students is going to mutually benefit both parties, that is why my group thought about bringing this element of exchange to our course prototype.

I am putting together the final project module for our course, and the main objective of it is to create a narrated digital story the students created based off a brainstorm they do with their reading buddies.

The first step of the assignment is to pair up with their reading buddy, and using learning assistance tools such as Read&Write for Google, they will write out a brainstorm of ideas for their stories. Students will fill out an online form on Google Docs with details about their stories such as characters, locations, basic plot ideas, etc. Students will then take this basic plan/brainstorm and transform and develop it into a full-blown written story. Students will take their reading buddies story and reimagine it using digital and online tools to create a visual and narrated version of their stories. Students will share their progress with their reading buddies, and will eventually do a “screening” of their final projects to the grade ones.

Throughout the process, as students meet up every week for reading buddies, the grade sixes will share their progress with their partners, allowing the grade ones to give them basic feedback and suggestions on their projects.

We thought it would be a great idea to involve the grade ones because it would give the project a lot more purpose for the older kids. For one, the story is based off the ideas the grade one student came up with. As they put together a brainstorm, both parties will contribute and come up with ideas. This experience becomes more meaningful as it will be assessed (the Google Doc form they must fill out).

Students will then take the brainstorm and build a plan for their project, which will also be assessed. The plan will be set up a lot like the previous brainstorm document, where students must plan out what tools, resources and direction they will be taking with their project.
The intent is for them to combine as many of the techniques they learned throughout the unit.
As the grade sixes meet up with their reading buddies every week, they can show their partner the direction they’re taking with their project. In order to make this a meaningful step in the process, the students must take into consideration the feedback they are getting from their partners, and applying that feedback to their projects.

I want the students to focus on the process that is why every step will be assessed. Whether it’s the brainstorm, the rough draft of their written stories, the plan for their summary of learning video, and the final project itself; students will need to reflect upon their work constantly. Students will be able to share some of their progress on their weekly blog, where they will be able to share what they are doing with the teacher, parents and each other. The final project will be posted to Youtube, where they will be able to share their assignments with a much bigger audience, including parents, classmates and other students.

I’m really looking forward to putting this entire thing together and finally setting it up on Google Classroom. The project will definitely allow for students to work at their own pace, and having a teacher in the classroom will provide students with the extra support in case they need more help with certain tools, etc.

As we all know, the process of learning is easily one of the most meaningful aspects of teaching, and finding ways to keep students accountable for their work throughout the process is extremely important if we want them to care about their work. There is an added element of importance in the final project because students are creating a final product based off their reading buddies’ ideas. As many of you know, the relationships formed through reading buddies are often really strong; the older students often step-up to the plate and take on a really strong leadership role in these situations. Why not use that in this project? It would definitely make the assignment a lot more meaningful, especially since it’ll be shared with so many people.

I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else has chosen to do with their prototypes. I’d love to hear any suggestions, tips and critiques of what we’re doing. I’d also love to hear about what you would do if you were to use this type of course in your classroom. Once again, thanks for reading and good luck everyone!

Dre

Why you should start creating your own curricular and pedagogical content for your class

So for this week, I chose to read a quick article that broke down the 6 blended learning models. As I was reading through each model, I started searching for videos relating to the ones that I was more interested in. Here is a list of the models and some resources I found while reading through the list:

THE 6 BLENDED LEARNING MODELS

1. The Face-To-Face Driver Model.

2. The Flex model
Flex model example

3. Rotation model
Great explanation of how to implement the rotation model in a classroom.
Blended Learning with Catlin Tucker: Episode 2 – Station Rotation (Part 1)

Blended Learning with Catlin Tucker: Episode 3 – Station Rotation (Part 2)

4. Online Lab School Model.

This model involves students traveling to and attending a school with total online educational delivery for entire courses. There are no certified teachers on hand, but, rather, trained paraprofessionals who supervise.

5. Self-Blend Model.

6. The Online Driver Model.

Alright, so I didn’t really dive in too far, but I did read into a few of these models in greater detail. After a little reading, the area I chose to focus my attention on today is the rotation model.

The following model drew a few questions and observations on my behalf. I came to a few realizations and some brainstorming occurred as I wrote this. I only say this because my thoughts may be all over the place, so PLEASE BARE WITH ME!

The rotation model is something I see all the time in elementary schools; but it is definitely still something I haven’t learned to execute properly. Other than the one year that I taught grade 2 (6 years ago) and had a coworker literally show me and give me everything I possibly needed for daily five….I’ve never been able to successfully implement this model in my class (this is partly due to my stubbornness btw.).

As I was watching Catlin Tucker’s video about station rotations, I started to think about how this would look in my grade 6 classroom and how it would affect the learning environment I would be creating for my students. I’ve always struggled to implement these types of models in my classroom because quite frankly, I’m a little old school when it comes to teaching. I like to talk; I like to lecture; I like structure; and I really don’t do too well with noise and chatter. I realize a rotation model doesn’t mean kids are going to be talking and fooling around (in a matter of fact, if students are trained and shown what I’m expecting of them, this shouldn’t even be a thing I should ever worry about), but truth-be-told, I have an illogical fear of losing control of everything.

The more I think out loud however, the more ridiculous I realize how I must sound. As this semester has unfolded, I’ve started to realize that implementing blended learning models in the classroom, especially in regards to rotation models, wouldn’t mean I’d be losing control; I’d actually be gaining much more control, knowledge and overall understanding of how my students are doing, because I would be much more involved in their learning.

I think another more important thing I’ve come to realize this past school year is the importance of sharing the power in my classroom. Why on earth am I the only one calling the shots? I’m trying to distance myself from the traditional lecture-style approach; because this style leaves very little room for the student to make any form of decision on their own learning. Whether it’s transforming my traditional lecture-style lessons to more inquiry-based and open-ended group discussions, or blogging, I’ve definitely started to make a stronger effort to break out of this shell I’ve locked myself in.

At an elementary level, one-on-one or small group teaching is highly effective, so it really makes no sense not to be teaching this way, especially since every kid learns and sees things differently from one another.

Now before I start deviating too far from what I am supposed to be talking about, let me refocus my attention on technology. Catlin’s video made me realize that providing students with online lessons, activities or assignments are excellent ways to keep my stronger students busy and challenged, while providing students with tools that they can learn from in new and perhaps more effective ways. Some students work way better by themselves. Some students prefer individual style lessons like some of the module-based learning Catlin and other professionals have used in their stations. At the end of the day, these tools aren’t just to keep students “busy”, it’s an effective way of providing them with different ways to learn and explore content on their own terms…which is something I personally would love to do a lot more of.

I keep going back to math on this one. I mean, math is a great example that depicts varying levels of understanding in a classroom. At no point will you ever have the entire class be on the exact same page; there’s always going to be a few people who either find what we’re working on to be way too easy, or some that will be so behind, that you may as well continue working on foundational skills.

So I’ve kept asking myself this question: how would online components look like in this scenario? Well, now that I’ve started seeing more and more examples, I’m starting to get more ideas on what I can personally do. This past year, I’ve enjoyed creating my own media. It started with my first summary of learning assignment last year for my eci830 class, where I used Windows Movie Maker to edit all the footage I recorded using my Iphone. I’ve always enjoyed cinematography, and thought to bring this into my summary of learning project in a fun and creative way. I found that creating content (video in this case) was not only fun, but a challenging and meaningful learning experience for not only myself, but my students as well.

My summary of learning from ECI830 this past spring:

Not only did my class participate in the video, many of them helped me film the footage. As I worked on my assignment, I constantly showed my class my progress. Students saw an early draft of my summary of learning, and obviously got to see a screening of the finished project when I was done. They loved it. They loved that they were in the video. They loved that they helped film the video. They loved that they had input on some of the ideas, music and details revolving the final project. I found that students were extremely engaged in the process and they got so much out of the experience. By the end of the year, everyone wanted to make their own videos.

So why not?

And perhaps more importantly, why not explore this area of interest? Students obviously are drawn to these sort of projects, so why not create modules WITH them?

Although there are tons and tons of online lessons and resources that I could use for math stations, wouldn’t it be more fun (and not to mention COOL) to make my own? Or maybe even have my students help me make them? Being that I’m a French immersion teacher, I find that it’s next to impossible to find great French resources that my students will understand. Keep in mind, most French resources are for native-French-speaking students; not French immersion students who are still learning the language. If I show my grade 6’s a video we would typically use with grade 6 students in Quebec, good luck…it’s going to go over most of their heads. Unfortunately, this is usually the case, which means I rarely ever end up using online resources, other than the English ones I end up finding (completely defeating the purpose of teaching in FRENCH!). Creating content specifically for these students would be HUGE! I could make quick videos WITH my students. A lesson can be filmed and edited and USED the following year (or posted later for parents and students on our class blog). I could be building my library of online lessons RIGHT NOW!

I could start a YouTube channel and post all my lessons on there for students and parents to see. How useful would that be? A student is away on holidays, they could still do all their work online. Students are away sick? No problem, they can sit down, watch my quick lesson, do the assignment and hand it in online. A student is struggling on a concept, parents can help them out by getting familiar with the concepts by using the same videos I’d be providing my students in class.

I know this blog post is all over the place right now, but I’m finally starting to piece together some of the main things I want to do for my blended learning prototype. Content creation is something I’m really enjoying right now and I’m trying to find fun and exciting ways to bring my artistic skills to use. I feel like I have a lot to offer, so why not dive in and see what I can do with all of these tools? Furthermore, setting up stations would allow the opportunity for content creation to take place, as you’d be putting together everything for the stations either way.

Before ending my post this week, perhaps I should ask you what you’re doing in your classroom that involves content creation. Are any of you doing any of the things I’ve been discussing here? How often do you create your own content for lessons? Do any of you have online modules that you’ve personally created over the years? How long does it take you to put all of these things together? How realistic would it be to create EVERYTHING from scratch? How are some effective ways that I can involve my students in the process?

As much as I’m learning about all this stuff, I’m still sort of in the dark about it. This is all my doing of course, as I’ve avoided doing a lot of these things in my classroom because I’ve been unsure of how to execute this type of model successfully. I guess nothing works out perfectly the first time, and maybe that’s the first thing I need to start realizing; perfection is something that takes a lot of trial and error to reach, and even then, you should always be striving to improve and make things better than what they already are.

Thanks for reading everyone, and thanks for all the input.
Have a great week!

Dre

Bates and blogs

Hello everyone and welcome back!

Oh, hello there!
SOURCE: GIPHY

So this week we were given a prompt based off last week’s reading of one of Bates’ chapters. The chapter discussed the pedagogical differences between different forms of media; including the whens, hows, and all the ways we can/should be using them. Alec and Katia asked us to consider our own experiences learning from digital resources, and what our preferences are when it comes to using digital resources in our classrooms.

I found the chapter to be quite interesting in the sense that it did a really good job of breaking down the conventional and typical ways we often use media in our classrooms. Having a good understanding of when, why and how we should be using certain forms of media is not only important for us as teachers, but it’s critical in making our lessons as effective and engaging as possible for our students.

In our readings, we focused on text, audio and video. In each section, Bates discusses the pros and cons of each media, including when and how we should be applying these things in our classrooms.

I decided to focus my time today on Blogging because I feel as though it is an excellent platform to bring in a lot of creativity in the way that we present information to our audiences.

I’d like everyone to take a look at my classmate Amy’s blog, as she made a great effort to implement some of Bates’ theories into practice with her post this week.

Now, the great thing about blogging is that you really don’t have to limit yourself to writing. The beauty of our blogs is that we can reach out and extend our arms to lengths we typically wouldn’t be able to reach in a more traditional form of text. Amy for example, broke everything down using the classic VLOG format. Here, she can use her voice, expression and personality to really get through to her viewers. The added visual component of actually being able to see the person speak in a sense “humanizes” and personifies the words we would typically just read. Here, we’re not only transmitting thoughts and ideas; we’re also getting a sense of the author’s emotions, passions and personality, something that is typically extremely difficult (or simply impossible) to portray through text alone.

Okay, when I said “humanize”, I didn’t quite mean this…
SOURCE: GIPHY

Sure enough, as Bates briefly mentions in his chapter, there are definitely limitations to blogging. For one, a blog can’t be too lengthy or technically wordy, otherwise it starts to tread on “academic article” territory; which can’t be considered a blog anymore. But one of the true beauties of blogging is that it allows us to choose a voice that our audience will hear us in; we’re not confined to using our academic or professional voice per se; we can have a little fun with it by bringing in our personality into the realm.

SOURCE: GIPHY

This particular element to blogging is what truly captures my attention. I find that being able to express myself in a more relaxed tone, allows me to behave a lot more like the way I would in real life (including in my classroom). I like to have fun. I like to be sarcastic, joke around and not take things too serious.

SOURCE: GIPHY

As much as I’d like to behave that way all the time, I can’t. I mean, you can’t really pour jokes into an academic essay; but you sure can do that in a blog! But why do I care so much about this? Well, I’m receptive to this type of writing and approach to teaching, and I know that a lot of other people are too (including my actual class). Yes, there’s a time and place for everything, but I’ve found that every now and then, it’s okay to have a little fun with the way you talk, address and teach others.

I’ve been using blogs in my classroom for the past two years. I’d say I’ve had some successes, but I’m still in the midst of trying to really capitalize on the benefits of using this platform in my classroom. I’ve been teaching my students techniques in which they can use their voices in new and exciting ways to communicate ideas to others. For instance, we are currently experimenting with vlogging and using other forms of media to reinforce what they are trying to say with their writing (and how they express themselves).

I use a lot of my own examples to guide them. As most of you have noticed, I really enjoy a good ol’ GIF. Using sites such as GIPHY, I can typically find some sort of fun “moving image” that I can embed into my posts to either highlight some sort of idea or emotion I’m trying to convey through my writing. I mean, it’s one way to (literally) illustrate your ideas and make your writing stronger; and if it’s used properly, it can have some seriously impactful effects on the way we learn and communicate. I also find that it’s a good way to break down all the reading and give my audience some sort of comedic relief or entertaining factor. In my students’ case, they love finding relevant GIFS for their own blog posts because it adds a level of customization that renders their work more unique and personalized. Here, they are learning ways in which they can express ideas using something other than their voice and writing. And since they are sharing their blogs with their classmates, it makes reading their blogs a lot more fun for their audience. Not only that, we can find all sorts of imagery that is relatable to all sorts of people. So why not use pop culture to our advantage?

Ohhh, why not?
SOURCE: GIPHY

But it doesn’t stop there. The blog is great because not only can we use all these different types of media to transmit our ideas to our audience, but it allows us to be creative in the way we blend all of these types of resources as a collective whole. In a blog, we can embed videos, photos, GIFS (moving pictures), audio, files, etc. in ways that complement each other. You want the reader to feel some sort of emotion through your writing? Well, you can reinforce it by embedding a song to play at the beginning of your post to “set the mood” for your post. I know I’m playing up the whole “emotional” and “human” end of the stick right now, but sometimes these relatable elements are what make writing more accessible for others.

What is most important about our reading however is that there’s a time and place for all of these tools, and we definitely need to take into consideration when and how we’re using these tools for our lessons. As Amy discusses in her VLOG, are our students’ needs being met by using these tools? Who are we leaving out? Are these tools accessible to everyone inside AND outside of school? These questions will never cease to be the most important.

When I initially started blogging with my class, we were simply writing weekly posts. There was very little exchange between students, and the format was rather dull. As I started blogging in my EC&I 830 class however, I started to realize the strength this tool has when we start incorporating visuals, videos, GIFS and documents to our posts. In teaching these things to my students, I’ve started to notice a lot more enthusiasm and eagerness on my students’ behalf. Kids want to share when they are given more tools to express themselves. By allowing our students to experiment with all of these mediums, we are allowing different types of learners to gain new ways to communicate and express themselves. As long as they are being taught when and how to use these tools to maximize their impact on their audiences, they can tap into a very interesting, fun, personalized and unique way of sharing with one another.

I’m wondering if any of you are doing blogs with their classrooms right now? What are some things you’ve noticed that students particularly enjoy about the process? Are they being provided with various forms of digital tools and resources to build and create unique content? What blog sites have worked best for you? What are some issues you’ve come across? How do you feel about learning how to use these tools first? And last but not least, what are some tips you would suggest for teachers who are wanting to try out bogging in their class?
Thanks for reading everyone, and I look forward to hearing back from you!

Have a great week!

Dre

Screencastin’ ain’t that easy

Hello everyone and WELCOME!

For this week’s blog prompt, we were asked to choose and review a content creating tool that we have never used before. I chose to review Screencastify because I have always wanted to try a screencasting app, but never really had a good reason to go out of my way to try one until now.

So…What is it?
SOURCE: GIPHY

What is Screencastify? Screencastify is an app that allows you to record everything that is happening on your screen. The program allows you to record audio so that you can narrate and describe what you are doing as it’s happening in real-time.

I was initially drawn to this tool when I watched some of Katia Hilderbrandt’s video tutorials she posted on our Google Community page for some FAQ’s about WordPress. I found her narration extremely helpful, especially when you’re trying to navigate through a website.

So before I move on, I wanted to mention that I recorded a lengthy video review of Screencastify using the app itself. Unfortunately, due to some technical difficulties, I wasn’t able to convert the file under a different format, completely tearing my dreams of starting my first “Vlog” type of response for my blog. Anyway, here’s the written form, which will have to do for now!

So upset
SOURCE: GIPHY

First impressions

PROS

Woo hoo!
SOURCE: GIPHY

Alright, the app is easy to use. I mean, you install it and it’s ready to go, so it really can’t get easier than that! The menus are straight-forward and user-friendly. There are a few settings you can mess around with; overall, a very simple-to-use application that anyone can use.

Secondly, I really liked the video and audio quality. It’s not GREAT, but it’s usable and I think having a feature to record your audio in real-time as you’re navigating your mouse across the screen is an excellent tool. The app also features the ability to record video through your webcam. So not only are you able to talk, but people are able to see YOU too. Pretty cool, especially once you get the hang of doing all of these at once.

Thirdly, once I finished recording the video, I liked that you could save the file onto your desktop OR to your Google Drive. Having access to your files on any device using cloud-based storage is the way to go these days… if this DIDN’T have this feature, I’d be upset.

CONS

THIS IS SO FRUSTRATING!
SOURCE: GIPHY

Alright, so maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but I didn’t like that you couldn’t pause your recording. I know most people aren’t going to be pausing their video constantly, but I would have liked a feature that allowed me to briefly pause my screencast, rather than have me completely end the recording session altogether. The reason why I’m picking at this is because after I finished my first recording, I found that editing my video wasn’t so easy. This was partly due to the fact that my video-editing software doesn’t recognize the format it was initially saved as. I have ways around this (video converting sites such as http://www.online-convert.com for example), where I can convert files to other formats; but when you’re working with massive files, this process turns into a tedious and time-consuming process.

I think a simple editing tool would have been a great addition to this app. I’m not sure what the premium edition has to offer, but I couldn’t find any indication of this type of feature regardless of whether or not we were paying full price or not. Being able to quickly clip out and cut away parts that you may want to discard or edit out would be a dream come true for this type of software.

The framerate of the screencasts is decent, but definitely gets choppy, especially if you were to record some type of video or audio playing off your desktop. I wouldn’t use it to play videos through my screencast, but for simpler tasks, the program gets the job done just fine.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST! MY BIGGEST COMPLAINT!

This thing saves your videos and all, but it saves them under a weird “.webm” format that I had never seen before. As I mentioned earlier, this caused major problems. In a matter of fact, I had so much trouble trying to convert my video into a format that my video-editing software would recognize, that I flat-out gave up. I spent almost three hours trying to figure this out, until I reached a point of defeat. I looked for ways to save my files under a different format, but had no luck. As far as weaknesses go, THIS made my whole initial good impressions of Screencastify completely fade away! You should be able to select the format you save these files under, otherwise what’s the point? Again, if any of you know whether or not this is possible, please let me know, because…. Damn…

I’ve officially lost it…
SOURCE: GIPHY

PEDAGOGICAL USES?

As for teaching purposes, I find Screencastify to be very useful, especially if we were to use it in a blended learning type of environment. Being able to record screencasts allows us to easily create content for tutorials and online lessons within minutes (especially if you figure out how to get past this file conversion roadblock).

I think I would definitely give Screencastify a shot, especially since I intended to bring these types of online teaching elements into my project prototype.

I urge anyone that has ever used this (or is fairly knowledgeable with it), to hit me up with some tips. I mean, CAN you save your videos in a different format, or are they always saved as .webm’s? Any suggestions will help!

Thanks for reading everyone and I hope you all have a great week!

Dre

Interview with the Google Classroom Guru

my head hurts…
SOURCE: GIPHY

Social media has completely taken over my life. In a matter of fact, the reason why I’m submitting this blog entry on a Sunday night is because the past week in world politics has completely consumed my life. I’ve fallen into what the kids refer to as an “internet k-hole”, a “cyber” black-hole if you will… sucking my very existence into its tight grip.

You know it's going to get weird when you're dealing with Urban Dictionary.
You know it’s going to get weird when you’re dealing with Urban Dictionary.

All silliness aside however, I did realize that taking a break from all of this crazy talk is necessary, and what better way than to reflect on some LMS platforms? Honestly, I’m not being sarcastic here, I’m stoked to actually be talking about something else for once.

So stoked
SOURCE: GIPHY

I decided to roll with Google Classroom. If you’re wondering why I chose this platform, I promise you the story ain’t that intriguing. My rationale here was rather simple actually. I’ve seen some of my coworkers use Classroom, so I thought to myself: “hey, why not?”

alright, let’s do it
SOURCE: GIPHY

Of course, there are other great reasons I would want to use Google Classroom. For one, my entire school is connected through Google. All my students have Google accounts with personal email accounts and access to all of Google’s awesome arsenal of apps. This makes using Classroom a no-brainer, as I would eventually like to actually start using an LMS platform in my own classroom. So in a sense, this entire project is going to be a huge trial run for me. If this goes well, it’s easy enough to use, and I can see myself planning and posting things regularly; maybe I’ll end up making the transition!

So I started up a mock classroom just to get a feel for the whole thing. I immediately came to a roadblock as I had no idea how to invite other teachers to become moderators with me. As I skimmed through the site’s various tabs and menus, I found the navigation on the website to be a little confusing. To be fair however, I only looked for maybe thirty seconds. Anyway, luckily for me, my great coworker Scott, resident Google Classroom guru, was there to help me out!

To be honest, he’s the one that ended up showing me everything. So today, I’m going to be giving you a different type of review: it’s going to be based entirely off my coworker’s awesome walk-through.

First thing’s first, Scott is a huge advocator for Google Classroom. When I asked him what he found most compelling about the platform, his immediate response was that it’s using something that kids are already familiar with. “It’s not that it’s that innovative or that the kids really care for it, but it’s practical. I post an assignment, their phones start going off. They’re getting text notifications… I mean, they literally have no excuse NOT to do their assignments”

SOURCE: GIPHY

Hm. Good point. I mean, as long as kids have a means to access their accounts (which he said all of them do), this doesn’t sound like a bad way to set up your classroom at all. See, having someone who actually uses this thing is a big selling point for me. This means I have someone to pester with questions when I run into problems 😉 , but it also means we can link-up and share our classrooms with one another. This means that I can go into his online classroom, and post assignments for his students. But why would I want to do that though? Well… It just so happens to be, that in our case, we actually teach each other’s classes. So really… NOT using this is actually kind of a bad call on my part. And sure enough, some of the kids in his class who haven’t completed assignments for me in the past have used the classic excuse that I hadn’t posted the assignment on their Google Classroom. Dang…they got me there….

SOURCE: GIPHY

As Scott showed me more and more, I started to get a good sense of how you can integrate this tool in a classroom. Scott’s not doing anything that crazy, but the platform allows students a lot more freedom as to what format they submit their work in. He explained to me that many students prefer having a digital copy of their assignment as they would rather type out their work.

He also mentioned how creatively-inclined students have used Classroom to their advantage. Some students submit video responses, pdf files, PowerPoint presentations, audio files, and even digital artwork.

The platform itself is fairly easy and straight-forward. Although I did not get too much into customization, I know that you can get a lot fancier if you really want to. For simplicity’s sake, Scott keeps things simple. At the end of the day, you want to make things easier on yourself, and for practicality’s sake, this thing gets the job done.

Communication between home and school is simplified through the platform. Scott gives access to all parents and guardians to the Classroom site. He says it’s greatly improved student accountability, as students are able to keep track of assignments, due dates, school announcements, etc.

I found that the platform was capable of doing some interesting things I never really thought about doing online; including grading and keeping track of complete/incomplete student work. To be honest, those two are big selling points for me as it would get rid of so much physical clutter from all the assignments students would be handing in, and it would make planning and grading a lot easier when you’re on the go.

At the end of my walkthrough, I was definitely sold on using Google Classroom as Scott answered a lot of my questions and concerns. Posting assignments is a breeze; parents are always in the know of what’s going on in the classroom; students can access, complete and submit assignments from literally anywhere; and it’s using a service that my school and my students already heavily rely on.

The true testament to whether or not I’ll want to fully commit to the Google Classroom world will come once I start actually using the platform for my prototype, but as far as first impressions go, I’m definitely sold on at least trying it out.

If any of you use or have used Google Classroom, and have anything that they’d like to share about the platform, I’d be really interested in hearing about it. I’m all ears at this point and am definitely curious to seeing what it’ll be like to plan a course using an LMS platform. Wish me luck!

Dre