Wednesday, April 26, 2017

African American Children and Families Conference (Extra Credit)

I know I covered the African American Children and Families conference I attended on February 24, 2017 in my Personal Learning Network, but it was such an amazing opportunity I decided to write more to explain how important growing my cultural competency has become to me in my first year of college. At the end of the speech by the keynote speaker, Rasheed Cromwell, Mr.Cromwell talked about African American presentation in the media, with the infamous ad by Nivea picturing an African American man flinging an afro-ed, bearded version of himself with the caption “Recivilize yourself”. That image alone slapped me in the face. I had no idea that there could be racism that large in 21st century America. I grew up in a very small rural town with very little diversity so I didn’t have to think about it. I didn’t know how large of a problem racism and cultural incompetence was. In the next couple of hours I saw additional breakout sessions on “How to defeat Murphy’s Law when you teach!” by Dr. David Brown, “Creating a trauma informed approach to address violence in African American families” by Rose Loggins and Robert Tyson, and a panel of African American male students and Caucasian female teachers about how to connect through both a cultural and gender barrier. The panel was my favorite breakout session because I had the opportunity to ask the young gentlemen questions about what they expect from a teacher. Their most common answer was that they wanted to be treated just like other students, respected, cared about, and supported. The panel of teachers that had been very successful crossing the divide stressed that it was most important to just build a relationship with students and get to know them personally. I thought it was cool how the two views really balanced each other, because the students wanted what the successful teachers, essentially, provided. Cultural competence is critical in the changing demographics of the United States today, and as the minority populations begin to become a majority, all educators will teach students from greater varieties of cultures. To provide a welcoming learning environment for all students educators need to be aware of how to approach children and be sensitive to ideas and cultural values that are foreign to you. I, as a Caucasian female, need to be especially aware and trying to learn what I do not know because I am not of a minority and do not face problems that my minority students might face. In the future, I wish to teach in Northwest Iowa in a more urban population that has rising Hispanic populations, especially. The conference I attended was specifically for African American Children and Families, but I hope that I can apply the general ideas of openness and understanding in my future classroom and professional experiences to connect with any student from a different cultural background than my own to create a welcoming and positive learning environment.

Image created by Clker-Free-Vector-Images / 29611 images on Pixaby

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Science and Ecology Mission

One of my favorite classes this summer was my Inquiry to Life Science. I've always been good at science, and I've always liked the subject, but all of the hands on activities and fun led me to truly love biology this semester. Throughout the semester, we have covered many topics, including cells and DNA, Human Systems, Evolution and Adaptation, Plants, and Ecology. I have loved parts of every unit, but today I would like to discuss the Ecology unit. I've learned so much about my Environmental impact, and I honestly think it would be a disservice to not share what I now know. Out of every continent, North America is the most wasteful. Three guesses what country. Yup. The United States. Today I want to introduce one incredibly simple way you can cut back on your resource use and waste. What is it? Challenge yourself to only use one paper towel, and watch below to see how that's possible.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Crazy for QR Codes

QR codes, or Quick Response codes, are a very simple and beautiful tool that can be and should be implemented in every classroom. A QR code functions in a very similar fashion to a bar code, and once it is scanned, it will bring a person to an online website from the link embedded in the square design. I was introduced to QR codes as a teaching tool in my Ed Tech and design class. I’ve been ruminating on the tool for a while and I’ve thought of a few ways to use QR codes. One of my favorite ideas is having “centers” around the room with the QR codes at each and a resource or problem or activity attached within each link that the students fill out within a five minute period of time before getting up to find the next center- I have also thought this would be a good alternative to just giving students a math worksheet- Why not have QR codes with links to a Google Doc with a specific problem, problems scattered throughout the room, and they need to find 5 and complete them? It allows students to move, have fun taking pictures and using technology, AND practicing math. QR codes also serve the simple purpose of getting students to an online location in an easy fashion, without the hastle of students taking 5 minutes to type in the hyperlink or ask for it to be repeated, and so on. They’re especially useful for younger grades to quickly and efficiently get them to a commonly used online tool that they wouldn’t remember the link to. Just keep labeled QR codes by the computer and teach them how to scan the code using the webcam on the computer! I always use QR Stuff to create my codes, and the free website even lets me custom color my code! Scan the code attached to see my final message, and please share your experiences and implementation experiences with QR codes in the comments below!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

In Cahoots with Kahoot!

Kahoot is a beautiful way to add fun into any review and to take a first step in gamifying your classroom. I’ve embedded a video tutorial below on how to where and how to create a Kahoot that shows exactly what it will look like on your screen as you go through the process.
I actually have used Kahoot in a classroom like setting when I created a Micro-teaching lesson in my Level One Field experiences. I wanted to educate my peers on depression, in the hopes that as they go out and become educators that they’re a little more aware of what depression looks like in a classroom, as well as how common depression is. I took a screenshot of my view of the questions from the creation platform for an example from the source ;) 

As soon as the game started going my classmates were ten times more excited, and in the classrooms I’ve been in where Kahoot is implemented, it brings excitement, involvement, catchy music, and instant feedback. The definition of cahoot is to be in a partnership or an alliance. So go ahead! Be in cahoots with Kahoot.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Getting Creative with Canva

I am so excited to share my favorite resource for all things creative! Canva is a free resource that you, your students, or anyone can use to create beautiful images like the one you see to the left. Yes. That image was made with Canva. So was the image I used in my very first post about life long learning. Canva has free templates for everything; from social media posts to infographics to ad boards. All you need to do is substitute your own words in the template, and BAM! Beautiful graphic image. You can also start a project from scratch with beautiful backgrounds, text options, and extra icons to add flair, like the flowers. Canva would be an excellent tool in any classroom for a student project where graphics are needed, especially because it makes designing accessible for students that insist "I'm not creative!" *sulks*. 
I only use the free formats on Canva because I am a poor college student, and the licence information is here. The extended Canva license agreement and how you can use the media is all right here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

My Personal Learning Network

Building my Personal Learning Network

This blog post has been in the works since January and is documentation of my personal journey as a future educator in growing my knowledge about the technological tools I can use to aid my students in learning, as well as enhancing my own learning experiences. At the beginning of my Instructional Technology class, I was instructed to write down a Personal Learning Network (PLN), which was all of the learning tools and resources I possessed at that time. I took a picture of it and you can see it below: 


You can obviously tell that my PLN needed a little bit of updating and love, so read on to see my 10 resources that grew my Personal Learning Network!


1. Twitter


I was introduced to Twitter as a learning resource in my Instructional Technology and Design course at the University of Northern Iowa. I had previously created a Twitter because of a scholarship but had not used it, so I decided to reactivate my account and repurpose it to keep me connected to other educators and information resources. My technology class was invaluable in introducing me to Twitter as a resource, because I formerly thought that nothing meaningful could be written in only 160 characters (habit of an English teacher’s daughter). Through Twitter, I can reach out to my favorite authors (as I have already reached out to my favorite author, J.K. Rowling in desperate hope), and could someday reach out to an author on behalf of my classroom and maybe get a reply that I could share with my students to help them see that they’re favorite books are written by real people they could possibly interact with, or even get a visit from. Twitter also is a fantastic gateway for me to access articles or find out the most recent new in education from EdWeek, Edutopia, Scholastic Teachers, Discovery Education, or a number of other resources. I currently only follow a few resources, but I am trying to find more and more resources and people that I can reach out to. Even while I benefit from the multitude of resources on Twitter, I can become a resource myself. I share information with other educators and my followers about the resources I have learned about in class, or discovered on my own while working on projects. I shared the link to my Webquest, and within 10 minutes I had a like and a retweet from people I did not know, even with having only 5 followers, two of which are my overzealous boyfriend and his best friend whom he forced to follow me. Check my profile out and don’t forget to follow!

2. Pinterest


I have had a Pinterest all throughout high school and, yes, did use it to repin recipes, wedding dresses, and crafts. I also liked quotes and classroom ideas, but I decided that having a separate Pinterest dedicated to only my classroom would benefit me greatly after looking at suggestions for expanding my Personal Learning Network on my Technology class’s eLearning project requirements page and how other students benefited from this resource in the past. I wanted a platform I could share with a principal from a school I was applying to could look at and see what my teaching style and ambitions were. I do intend to update my personal photo, but as of now, it shows my character and love of theater. I am constantly on Pinterest in my free time, so this resource is perfect for me and will expose me to so many different ways I can engage with my students and incorporate fun new crafts and ideas to teach the same standards and topics. I can also get in touch with my creative side by viewing the way other teachers set up their classrooms, and incorporated character traits and the like within their decorations. I also made a secret board dedicated to only Harry Potter classroom decorations, because why not? My favorite thing about using Pinterest as a learning tool is that a lot of times I can find an idea that was created and implemented by a teacher, so I can easily immerse it into my own classroom someday to make a fun, engaging, and creative classroom that will look absolutely amazing. Check out my board here!

3. Lynda


I was actually first introduced to Lynda during my Freshman Orientation, but I was reminded of the resource in my Educational Technology and Design class. One of our resources to investigate before a lecture was the Lynda course above on classroom management. I’ve heard many times before that one of the greatest problems new, young teachers have is classroom management, so I thought I would be proactive in my learning curve. The course takes about 50 minutes, and as you can see you receive a certificate of completion at the end. I learned about many, many different ways to add control to a classroom, and one of the strongest ideas of the course was that routine and explicit, step by step directions save a lot of valuable classroom time and cuts down on distractions. The specific course I took will obviously benefit me as a future educator in informing me on different classroom management techniques I can implement in future student-teaching experiences and my future classroom. Lynda, as a resource in general, provides tutorial courses on any topic possible for a wild imagination and is available to me for free while I attend UNI. If I want to learn a skill, I can probably find a course on Lynda and complete it within a few hours at most, and have a certificate at the end of the process.

4. You-Tube


Right after Googling something, looking up a You-Tube tutorial is the place I most often go to find something I don’t know how to do. I listen to You-Tube playlists of orchestra music while I study, I watch funny videos, and I’m very comfortable with You-Tube’s platform. I was looking up resource videos for my Webquest project resources, and I ran into a channel called CrashCourse. CrashCourse is created by John Greene (the author!) and his brother, and they cover every topic under the sun in a fast paced, fun monologue aided by animation. My technology class had me watch videos, and my Life Science class often led me to a video on You-Tube as well. My mind quickly popped to the realization that You-Tube was an ideal learning platform. I could partake in a conversation in the comments of a video, subscribe to You-Tube channels that I can learn from or bring into my future classroom to share with students. I decided to look through previous students’ PLN’s and found that they had followed additional channels like SeeSaw and Google for Education that I would not have thought of on my own. I find that I enjoy reading articles, but sometimes a short video catches my attention and memory better because I am primarily an auditory learner, and the images stick in my mind with what I hear. Additionally, if I so choose, I can upload my own videos to You-Tube to share as a resource with my students. I made my own channel for my future classroom and you can take a peek here.

5. Follow a blog


Okay, so here’s the weird thing. I discovered a blog called Upper Elementary Snapshots from a previous student’s Personal Learning Network, and the blog, or website, actually has multiple blogs attached to it. I started to investigate some of the individual blogs and found Digital: Divide & Conquer. The blog archive has posts from 2013 and has about 30 posts per year crammed with useful and easy to read information. Once I reached the website I looked at some of the most popular posts and “Project Based Learning in Your Classroom” “Project Based Learning in Your Classroom” stood out to me as something that I wanted to do, and I’m a little scared to do, so I should read about it. It was really nice to hear that it is okay to start small and build up to larger projects with rises in my comfort. I have had a lot of teachers through my primary education that were very lecture based, so project based learning does not come as naturally to me as I would like. In a planning pinch, I make a powerpoint and give a lecture. The other 9 tips in the post included choosing a topic you’re passionate about, don’t be afraid to use a paper project, as well as materials you have, let go of some control to give students opportunities, allow students to explore the project and be creative within the parameters you have set, share ideas with the class of when a group is doing something cool, that projects are beneficial for all levels of learners, multimedia can be a fantastic hook for a project, and accept that noise, movement, and non-traditional seating are normal and good signs for project based learning. I cannot wait to explore this blog more to see all the other topics I can explore to gain understanding when I have my own classroom, and can further benefit from the resource now as I start to enter my higher field experiences where I create lesson plans.

6. Instagram


I decided to go create a professional Instagram account because Social Media seemed like a very common place that educators could gather to share ideas and information and followed the trend of creating professional Pinterest and Twitter accounts. Signing up for the account was pretty simple, I just put in my email address and chose a name, and then I chose a few things that I wanted people to know about me for my description. I looked at other accounts to see what was appropriate first too :). I decided to also keep this account full of some personal interests as well to document for future employers what I have been doing outside of class as well, especially because my interest in Drama could help me achieve a position as a school’s theatre director. I uploaded a picture of a friend and I attending Pippin at Gallagher Bluedorn, and a Science project I made that coexists with a plant unit and could be used in multiple grade levels. I also went out onto Instagram and started following as many educators and teaching blog related pages as I could to keep my feed full of educational inspiration that I could continually use in my classroom. I learned that a message can be kept short and still display my accomplishments and ideas from creating a professional Instagram. I will benefit from having a professional Instagram because it increases my “Google-ability”. Now, when someone looks for images of me, they might find something that brings them to my Instagram and displays all that I have to offer in a district. I also benefit from having a simple and creative way to share my ideas with few words and to be exposed what others have to show and resources and experiences from educators throughout the country.

 7. Tweetchat



I was introduced to Tweetchats in my Ed Tech and design lab as a way to expand my Personal Learning Network. I was specifically told about the tweet chat #IAedchat, which meets every Sunday night at 8 p.m. and hosts a different topic for educators to discuss. You can follow a live stream of the conversation using tchat.io. I decided to engage in the #IAedchat because I was really curious about what real teachers were doing out in their classrooms, and I had heard it was an amazing way to network and meet principals and educators and to gain followers. The chat topic for Sunday, April 2nd was “Students First” and it covered the main ideas of eliciting student voice, choice, and empowerment. The discussion was a whirlwind of an hour as I gained example after example of what real educators did in their classroom to engage students and giving them independence in their learning. It was also really cool to see professional after professional agree that the best way to engage a student and empower them was to build a relationship with them. It’s an incredibly simple idea that I think can be easily overlooked. I think I benefit from this resource both now because I can discuss with teachers that are in classroom, trying things out, and sharing their years of experience to make me wiser, but I will also continue to benefit from it because an hour on a Sunday is pretty easy to give up, and in that way I can stay updated with other teachers across Iowa and refresh my teaching with new ideas from others. Oh, and not to mention, my followers list grew exponentially from 5 followers to 20. I also got a few retweets, a retweet of a reference to me, and likes and comments!


8. LinkedIn


I found the idea of creating a LinkedIn profile by another’s student example from the project requirements page for PLN’s. I decided to follow their example because LinkedIn is basically the social media website designed to grow your personal learning network. It actually was one of the options out of a list I chose for why I created my page. I learned from my LinkedIn profile that there are A LOT of people out there that I can use as resources to learn information. LinkedIn also has video resources that I can interact with to gain skills to add to my profile. I didn’t realize that employers might be actively searching for job candidates- I always thought that it was mostly the candidates searching for employers unless it was an employer background checking someone. It made me realize that what I do now could be noticed by principals and could possibly lead to a greater chance of making a connection with professionals that will get me a job later. I probably benefit from this resource most now as a student and in the future as I go searching for job opportunities because the website is designed to connect professionals with other professionals and for employers to examine possible employees. It also has contact information, so I would be able to contact influential teachers or professors that I’ve met to ask for advice as I go out into the workforce.

9. African American Literacy Conference



I was informed about the African American Children and Families Conference in my EdTech and Design class and also in my email updates from the university, and once I found out that EdTech was giving us that day to go explore the conference I was ecstatic to find I had room in my schedule for it. I knew that my experiences from my small, predominantly white hometown had not equipped me to help my future students from different cultures and ethnicities, and I wanted to learn what I couldn’t understand from my privileged upbringing. I registered online for the conference and once I arrived and got the program folder I spent some time choosing which breakout sessions I wanted to go to. I had hoped to see the keynote speaker, Rasheed Cromwell, but the program ran behind and I unfortunately had to miss a majority of it for a class, but I still collected the speaker’s social media. I also was fortunate enough to hear from a panel of African American students on what they expect from a teacher, as well as from Caucasian teachers on how to connect to African American students. Two other break-out presentations and connections I made were on “How to defeat Murphy’s Law when you teach!” by Dr. David Brown from EDpiphany and “Creating a Trauma Informed Approach to Address Violence in African American Families” presented by Rose Loggins and Robert Tyson. Both presentations had private emails that I wrote down to connect with them later, but I do not feel comfortable releasing their information to the general world and internet. I benefit from this resource because, as Dr. Galloway said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I can return to this conference year after year to learn more about the challenges of people of color and how I can try to be an informed teacher that checks my own biases and isn’t adding to the prejudices because of ignorance to real problems. I can network with people at the conference that can keep me informed and aware of the things that I don’t know about race because I’ve never had to deal with it. I benefit from it now because it’s always a good thing to try to be more understanding, especially under today’s political upheaval. I have attached a picture of my certificate from the event.

10. Zoom (Distance Learning)


Group projects are an essential component to an Education major’s curriculum, but it can be burdensome to have to find a location to rendezvous, especially because travel time to the location is valuable time that could be spent collaborating on the project. Zoom is a free solution to the above headache. Zoom was introduced to me by my technology professor when my group needed to meet with her late at night to discuss our Thematic Unit project. If you have heard of Skype or Facetime, Zoom is a very similar resource. It allows easy access to people that are far away and has fantastic potential for distance education with and a huge amount of people that can join a call. With Zoom, you can use the webcam to share live video of yourself or share what you are doing on your laptop screen. Additionally, Zoom enables its patrons to draw on the screen while you are sharing it. I can use Zoom in the future to collaborate with people in other projects, as well as to connect with other educators and friends around the world. I can connect with a student if they absolutely need me, and I can connect with professors after office hours. The best thing I learned from Zoom was to branch out from the traditional resources I know, because I had never heard of Zoom before, but now I prefer it over my traditional resources of Skype and Facetime.

Final Product

After months of expanding the resources that I can go to to learn and enhance my teaching, I updated my mind-map of my Personal Learning Network using a website called LucidChart.

My PLN has grown so much within a semester and I have faith that it will continue to grow. Thank you for reading and have an amazing day!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Copyright Dilemma...



So, I was attempting to add some pretty gadgets to my blog so that all you lovely readers could easily access my other social media websites. I wanted a clean, pretty picture that you could click in my sidebar to go directly to my pages. The catch? I had no idea what the copyrights of the logos for those social media sites were. After a quick search, I stumbled across a blog post by Buffer Social, entitled The Always-Updated Guide to Social Media Logos. Handy, huh? The post covers usage rules for social media hubs: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Medium, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Vine, and YouTube. While educators have permission to use things in the classroom, for anything public on the internet the laws need to be minded if you don't want to face huge and expensive consequences. If you've have a similar problem, check it out! And also... please go click on my beautiful, copyright law abiding icons and follow me!

Image is from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.