edtech 541

Reflecting on EdTech 541

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ReflectionScreen Shot 2016-04-23 at 5.48.34 PM

This class is the one that I was most looking forward to taking. I enrolled in the MET program at Boise State because last fall, my high school gave each student a Chromebook. It was as simple and as challenging as that. I have always been passionate about using technology, but in an economically disadvantaged school district, as a special education teacher, there have not been many instances where technology could be seamlessly introduced and used on a regular basis. Now that my students have access, I need to be able to use that technology effectively to enhance their learning and increase their chances of success in what is arguably one of the more difficult subjects they face, algebra. The biggest thing this class taught me is that I can do it. Many times I read the list of assignments for the week and had no idea how to apply them to my subject area. Each assignment pushed my levels of creativity and challenged me to find new tools and methods of implementation. Creating instruction by relating different content areas to math was daunting. I found that the more difficult the assignment was to relate to math, the more I had to research beyond what the book gave me. This increased my learning exponentially, and it shows in my projects and my classroom. I have already used several of these lessons with my students. Applying these in my classroom showed me what I could accomplish when I consider the pedagogy, what tools are available, the relative advantage of each tool and strategies of application. Ensuring that each was appropriate for both algebra and special education added an extra level of constraint. My teaching has improved based on what I have learned this semester. I have learned to really look at the relative advantage of using a particular piece of technology, and implement it because it will enhance the lesson, not take over the lesson. While my mindset has not changed because of what I have learned, my level of understanding is deeper, making me more mindful of how I use technology with my students. At heart, I am a Constructivist, but my teaching style has always been more Instructivist because often that is what my students need and can handle. They struggle with project-based learning and will either give up or shut down completely. They find technology engaging enough that they are willing to put more time and effort, more perseverance into their learning. Using technology also allows me to pursue the Connectivist theory, by teaching my students ways to help themselves by finding tools that will allow them to find success and solve problems on their own. And that, for me, is why I am here.

Standards

Artifacts

AECT Standard 1 (Content Knowledge): Candidates demonstrate the knowledge necessary to create, use, assess, and manage theoretical and practical applications of educational technologies and processes. All of the projects created for this class clearly fell into both the Using and the Evaluating categories under AECT Standard 1. I researched and chose technology to implement and then assessed the relative advantage of that technology and its use in my chosen area, special education high school algebra.
1.2 Using – Candidates demonstrate the ability to select and use technological resources and processes to support student learning and to enhance their pedagogy. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
1.3 Assessing/Evaluating – Candidates demonstrate the ability to assess and evaluate the effective integration of appropriate technologies and instructional materials. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
AECT Standard 2 (Content Pedagogy): Candidates develop as reflective practitioners able to demonstrate effective implementation of educational technologies and processes based on contemporary content and pedagogy. This class made me consider how best to implement chosen technology, while reflecting on the pedagogy behind the process. I struggled with the application of these projects in an algebra classroom but researching the pedagogy was helpful. I needed to consider not only the best way to apply technology to the math, but also how to adapt and create materials that will assist my self-contained students and allow them to find success with concepts that are often abstract and difficult to grasp.
2.1 Creating – Candidates apply content pedagogy to create appropriate applications of processes and technologies to improve learning and performance outcomes. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
2.2 Using – Candidates implement appropriate educational technologies and processes based on appropriate content pedagogy. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
AECT Standard 5 (Research): Candidates explore, evaluate, synthesize, and apply methods of inquiry to enhance learning and improve performance. My students tend not to do well with project-based learning. As a result, my teaching style has been more Instructivist in nature. My time spent researching, using and creating materials by using technology for enhancement has given me methods I can use to incorporate more Constructivist methodologies to my teaching. While my classroom will never be wholly Constructivist, this class has given me the tools to at least blend the theories, making for a better-rounded classroom experience. Interacting with my classmates has also given more credence to my thoughts of Connectivism. My goal has always been to teach my students how to find tools to help them problem solve.
5.1 Theoretical Foundations – Candidates demonstrate foundational knowledge of the contribution of research to the past and current theory of educational communications and technology. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
Resource Page 
5.2 Method – Candidates apply research methodologies to solve problems and enhance practice.  Resource Page 
5.3 Assessing/Evaluating – Candidates apply formal inquiry strategies in assessing and evaluating processes and resources for learning and performance. Resource Page 

 

AECT standards. (2012, July 16). In Association for educational communications and technology. Retrieved from http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/aect.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/AECT_Documents/AECTstandards2012.pdf

 


Performance Assessment

  1. Content – My blog posts are thorough and contain references to both the readings and my personal experiences. They are written with the reader in mind, and contain an attempt to display my thought process, what I have learned, how that new knowledge applies to my world and any extra research I did to learn more. I feel I earned the full 70 points for this area.
  2. Readings and Resources –  Each blog post references at a minimum, the reading from the class text. I often referenced other research that I did to further my knowledge and satisfy my curiosity on topics I found most relevant. I believe I earned the full 20 points for this area.
  3. Timeliness – This was the hardest part of the blogging assignments for me. Writing is a difficult process for me. I am more comfortable speaking in a group than writing my thoughts. I need time to finish the readings, do more research if I felt it was needed, process my thoughts and then put them into written form. The majority of my posts were completed by midweek, but some of the topics I found more difficult were posted later. Because of this, I am going to say that I earned 15 of the 20 points in this section.
  4. Responses to Other Students – I made at least two thoughtful substantial responses to other students’ posts for each blogging assignment. I included my thoughts on what was posted, as well as personal experiences and commonalities. I believe this should merit the full 30 points for this section.

 

Accessibility Features on a MacBook Pro

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apple-loveMy computer of choice is an Apple MacBook Pro running the current version of OSX, El Capitan. I also have an iPhone, iPad, and an Apple TV. Apple prides itself on its accessibility features and assistive technology. This company is very vested in helping people with disabilities access the world around them through their technology. As Tim Cook puts it, “We design our products to surprise and delight everyone who uses them, and we never, ever analyze the return on investment. We do it because it is just and right, and that is what respect for human dignity requires, and it’s a part of Apple I’m especially proud of” (as cited in Ritchie, 2014).

I have a student who is severely disabled. The school has provided him with an iPad because of the accessibility features built into the IOS. Through my two years working with this student, I have learned a lot about the assistive technology that Apple provides. While I was aware that many of the same features are built into my Macbook, I had never had reason to research them until now.

For people with vision difficulties, the OSX has several features:

  • VoiceOver – In simplistic terms, VoiceOver is a screenreader but in reality, it is so much more. It will read whatever you have placed the cursor on, in a voice of your choosing, in over 40 languages. It works with apps and can even work with a Braille keyboard.
  • Zoom – magnifies the screen up to twenty times.
  • Dictation – allows the user to talk instead of type.
  • Cursor Size – easily makes the cursor large enough to see. Swiping rapidly on the trackpad enlarges it briefly for easier detection. I have to admit; I have spent some time making the cursor bigger just because it is fun to see.
  • Contrast Options – the user can invert the colors or use grayscale to enhance visibility. I use my computer so much that my eyes get strained, even though I keep my screen as dark as possible. Inverting the colors helps reduce the irritation.
  • Siri – while Siri does not yet exist in OS X, there are rumblings out there that she will be a feature in the near future (Gurman, 2016).  This will increase the already impressive accessibility features by allowing users to tell the computer what they need and have it react accordingly.

Users that have auditory difficulties also have a wide range of features. As a person who does have issues with hearing (I have had seven surgeries to date on my ears), I use many of these.

  • Face Time – video messaging that allows for the use of sign language and lip reading. This is a great feature even if you don’t have hearing issues. It’s nice to put a face with the voice.
  • iMessage – text messaging system. Because all of my technology is Apple-based, I can text anyone from my iPad, iPhone or even my laptop. I much prefer to text than talk, as I then do not have to pretend that after the third time I have asked someone to repeat something, I understood them.
  • Screen Flash – instead of an audio cue, the screen will flash to get the user’s attention. I use this at work as I do not hear my phone when it is on vibrate. My laptop screen will flash when something requires my attention, such as an incoming text message.
  • Mono Audio – for those with hearing problems, both audio channels will play in both ears through a headset. The user can adjust the volume in each ear independently. This was a feature that I did not know about. My right ear is worse than my left, and it seems every time I get sick, it settles in that ear, making it even harder to hear. It really made a difference allowing me to play everything through both the left and right earpiece. It was also a relief to be able to turn the right earpiece volume up while keeping the left earpiece volume low. I will definitely be using this feature a lot in the future.

Users with physical or motor challenges will find the following feature helpful. I have explored many of these on my student’s iPad but had not played with them on my Mac.

  • Switch Control – this feature allows someone who cannot physically interact with technology to use various devices to control the computer. My student uses a joystick, but that is still hit or miss for him. We are currently looking into a head switch to see if that will increase his accuracy.
  • Slow Keys – this feature adjusts how sensitive the keyboard is. The user can set the keys to respond to lighter touches.
  • Sticky Keys – this is a feature that I had heard of but never explored. Instead of pressing keys simultaneously, such as command-print, turning on sticky keys lets the user press one key at a time. This will be very helpful for my student, as he cannot press multiple keys together.
  • Onscreen Keyboard – this feature places a keyboard up on the screen, allowing the user to use some type of pointing device to type.
  • Automator – allows tasks that require multiple steps to be executed with just one click. It works like the coding blocks we used in class for the Hour of Code, just drag the actions into a workflow and the computer will perform them. They can also be recorded and saved.

There are also features built in for people with learning disabilities. As a special education teacher, I often use these features with my students. They give them a measure of autonomy, while not making it obvious to their peers that they have a learning disability.

  • Simple Finder – this feature makes the dock on my Mac much less cluttered. It takes it down to three folders and allows me to limit the apps that can be accessed. This would be helpful for students who are easily distracted or overwhelmed.
  • Dictionary – Apple has a dictionary built into the operating system. Highlight and right-click on a word and the user is given the option to look up the definition. This is a great feature for many of my students. Learning to find the definition of a new word by themselves is an important life skill.
  • Text-to-Speech – this feature is the one I would use the most with my students. The majority of my self-contained students have the accommodation of material read to them. It is impossible to read material to everyone at the perfect speed. Some need it repeated multiple times; others work ahead because I am reading too slowly. Text-to-speech will read a highlighted section to the user. I can choose the voice to be male or female, and the rate can be adjusted. As a plus for ELL students, this feature supports over 40 different languages.
  • Word Completion – sometimes my students will be unable to pull a word out of their heads. They will know what it starts with, but then they get stuck. Word completion allows the user to type the first few letters, press escape, and the computer will suggest words that meet the criteria.
  • Summarize – most of my students are easily overwhelmed by a lot of words. They will often give up without even trying. This feature allows the teacher to shorten passages, all the way down to one sentence if that is what is needed. This feature allows students with focusing problems or students with learning disabilities to get the information in smaller segments.

These accessibility features allow people with disabilities to overcome some of the challenges they face, often without being obvious. I am currently taking EdTech 503, and my design project is about creating narrated tests using VoiceThread. It is impossible to read math tests to a group of students, and our current system of stigmatizing students by having them take their tests in a different area is unacceptable. According to McLeskey, Waldron, & Redd , “rather than treating differences as something that need to be addressed in segregated environments, the premise is that individual differences should be considered an ordinary feature of inclusive classrooms and addressed in ways that are a typical part of classroom instruction (as cited in Roblyer, 2014). One piece of my project is a video of my students’ thoughts on this process. It was eye-opening and heartbreaking to listen to their feelings. If you are interested, the storyboard with their original comments is here: acmistoryboard – The Reality of Questions Read. The more we can level the playing field for these students, the better the chance they will stay in school and graduate. If we can use technology to level that playing field without singling out IEP students, even better.

References

Gurman, M. (2016, February, 24). Apple plans Siri for Mac as tentpole feature for this fall’s OS X 10.12 launch. Retrieved from http://9to5mac.com/2016/02/24/apple-siri-osx-10-12-2016/ 

Ritchie, R. (2014, July, 9). Apple and accessibility: Pushing back against unacceptable realities. Retrieved from http://www.imore.com/apple-and-accessibility-pushing-back-against-unacceptable-realities

Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.) Massachusetts: Pearson.

 

 

Obstacles and Solutions for Integrating Technology into a High School Algebra Classroom

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While integrating technology into a mathSolutions Not Problems Notice On Board classroom should be a goal to strive towards, there are some significant obstacles to full integration. The first and most daunting is the difficulty writing math functions and symbols on the computer. Drawing graphs, typing square root or cube root signs, creating fractions, even writing simple vertical addition and subtraction problems becomes a challenge when one is trying to type them on a computer. Fractions end up looking like this: 3/5 and my special education students often misconstrue the meaning. Even the graphing calculator has programming to make fractions look like fractions, so the inability to write them in the same format across multiple platforms is a problem. Without access to special math terms, typing a square root problem looks like this: \sqrt{4}. This is LaTeX, which is used in gMath, Google’s answer to inputting math terms. My students find this task very difficult, rendering the relative advantage of using gMath very low. There are many solutions to these issues, ranging from not using technology at all to trying to piecemeal something together to make it work. My favorite program for inputting formulas and symbols is MathType by DesignScience. My math department has been using it for years with no issues until we became a GAFE school. It does not integrate with Google Apps for Education which we are encouraged to use. The add-ons that Google has to input math are weak. It is much faster to write things out with pencil and paper. I use my Elmo to project what I am writing, or I have been known to snap a picture of a problem and throw it up on our Classroom site for discussion. When I must type equations in a document, I use Word instead of Google Docs.

Sometimes technology makes things too easy for students. GeoGebra and Desmos are wonderful graphing programs, but they don’t allow the student to graph the equation. All the student is required to do is input the equation or the points and the program will complete the graph. This makes the technology too helpful and removes that learning curve and with it the understanding we earn when we create something for ourselves. In my classroom, the solution is to use these programs as a check after completing the graph on paper or a dry erase board. If a student is truly stuck, I will scaffold the assignment by having them input the information into Desmos and using that to create the graph. As they gain confidence, they will use it just to check their work.

The graphing calculator used in high school classrooms is a very controversial topic. Many teachers do not like the reliance students have on this tool, stating that it erodes knowledge of basic facts and becomes a crutch. In the eyes of a special education teacher, this calculator is a tool that allows students to participate in deeper, richer mathematical discussions. My students are missing many of the basic skills. They do not know the times tables, nor how to divide. Many are unable to do basic addition and subtraction. Without the calculator, they cannot manage algebra. Using the graphing calculator skillfully levels that playing field. Teaching them how to use it well is an important part of my curriculum. As my overall goal for my students is to teach them how to solve problems by finding needed information, the graphing calculator fits that criteria. As an adult, if I don’t know how to do something, I will look it up or find a tool to help me. My students need to learn that same life skill. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, “ When teachers use technology strategically, they can provide greater access to mathematics for all students” (NCTM, n.d.). My solution to this argument is to encourage use of the calculator as a tool. Many of my students will try to do the math in their heads but often get it wrong. We talk a lot about finding and using tools to help us be the best that we can be. I find they are more willing to use a tool, then something they feel they need because they have an IEP.

The issue with graphing calculators is the question about why we are using them at all. They are old, outdated and prohibitively expensive. None of my students can afford their own, and while my district supplies each teacher with a classroom set, this does not help when they are trying to work problems at home. Desmos is the beautiful, FREE solution to this problem but we are not there yet. I teach my students how to use both the ti-84 and Desmos. The only reason I use the 84 at all is because New York does not allow the use of Desmos on the state exam. It is my hope that eventually we will follow Texas, which is now allowing a special testing version of Desmos on the Star Assessments. This needs to happen and happen quickly, as the continued use of this expensive, outdated piece of technology further widens the digital divide.

Technology is an important part of today’s mathematics classrooms. According to the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, “students have to be better prepared to use technology efficiently and fluently both so they can learn mathematics better and apply what they learn in the workplace” (as cited in Roblyer, 2016).
As programs, apps, websites and tools continue to evolve, the relative advantage of using technology in the math classroom will continue to rise. It will also create new challenges and obstacles, such as the newest apps that allow students to snap a picture of a problem and then it will solve it for them. Luckily the ones that I have tried so far have not been consistent enough for students to rely on, but I am sure that time will come in the near future.

References

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (n.d.). NCTM. Retrieved from http://www.nctm.org/Standards-and-Positions/Position-Statements/Strategic-Use-of-Technology-in-Teaching-and-Learning-Mathematics/

Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.) Massachusetts: Pearson.

 

Relative Advantage of Using Technology to Enhance Learning in a Special Education Algebra Classroom

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Time For Technology Message Showing Innovation Improvement And Hi Tech

According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, “teachers and curriculum developers must be knowledgeable decision makers, skilled in determining when and how technology can enhance students’ learning appropriately and effectively (NCTM, n.d.). There are many math-specific technologies available, such as GeoGebra and desmos that can be used to develop these all-important higher-level thinking skills. According to Sherman, “students who have engaged with higher level mathematical tasks have demonstrated a greater ability to employ multiple solutions strategies, utilize multiple and connected representations, use graphing calculators to solve problems, and explain their reasoning than do those who have not” (2014). Using technology in the math classroom allows all students to better focus on these types of tasks.

“By using technological tools to generate and measure dynamic and interactive representations, students can focus on looking for patterns and making and testing conjectures rather than on drawing and measuring triangles. This use of technology supports a shift in the focus of students’ mathematical activity and thinking from drawing and measuring to looking for patterns and making and testing conjectures” (Sherman, 2014).

This is critical for special needs students who have difficulty understanding lower level concepts. Using technology as a bridge over these basic concepts allows struggling learners to engage in richer, deeper levels of mathematical thinking that otherwise may not have been possible.

The use of technology in the mathematics classroom predates the current technological revolution by many years. The graphing calculator has long been an integral part of the math classroom, allowing students with weaker basic skills to perform grade-level mathematics. The more proficient students are with this tool, the better they can focus on inquiry and problem solving, instead of the fundamental skills in which they are lacking. “Although the current emphasis in mathematics instruction is on learning higher- order mathematics skills, students often need more resources to support the practice of basic skills” (Roblyer, 2014).

This is a near perfect description of my classroom. The use of technology allows me to reach my students on a deeper level, pushing us to have richer mathematical conversations. Technology invokes curiosity, leading my students to identify what they wonder and ask questions that they would not have been able to imagine without it. It allows them to attempt to answer those wondering types of questions in a risk-free environment. While using Desmos to graph two lines through a given point, they are free to explore and adjust their hypotheses without difficulty or judgment until they find success. Google Maps allows me to teach the distance formula in the area we live. My district is a walking district, and many students were surprised at the distance they walk to school every day. They were completely engaged in the activity because it was both authentic and relevant. Tutorials are widely availably on sites like Kahn Academy or Virtual Nerd, allowing teachers to easily differentiate instruction. The use of technology in the math classroom changes everything. It changes how students think and interact with each other and with their teachers. It breaks down the walls and brings the outside world into the classroom. “Technologies can also serve as a catalyst to move teachers toward an instructional style that is more student-centered, active, and relevant to the world in which they live” (Roblyer, 2014). Instruction is more authentic, engaging and relevant  when technology is used appropriately.

References

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (n.d.). NCTM. Retrieved from http://www.nctm.org/Standards-and-Positions/Position-Statements/Strategic-Use-of-Technology-in-Teaching-and-Learning-Mathematics/

Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.) Massachusetts: Pearson.

Sherman, M. (2014). The role of technology in supporting students’ mathematical thinking: Extending the metaphors of amplifier and reorganizer. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 14(3). Retrieved fromhttp://www.citejournal.org/vol14/iss3/mathematics/article1.cfm

 

Relative Advantage of Game-Based Learning in a Special Education Algebra Classroom

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According to Keeler (2014), digital classroom games fall into three categories: game-based learning, game sheets, and gamification. Game-based learning is the use of games to enhance learning. These often provide simulations to draw the learner in and allow the student to experience an environment. Examples include SimCity, World of Warcraft, MineCraft, and CellCraft. Using these games in the classroom can have many positives such as increasing learner engagement, teaching effective collaboration and problem-solving skills and bringing classrooms into the 21st century with technology. These programs give teachers concrete information on a student’s progress, useful for directing instruction and providing progress information for special education student IEPs. GBL also allows for individualized instruction, something that can be very valuable in a classroom with a wide range of learner abilities. Unfortunately, for me, the drawbacks far outweigh the advantages. I am not a gamer, and these games take a long time for me to figure out well enough to instruct my special education students in their use. Time I don’t have. I also have to admit that my interest level in them is not high enough to make me want to make the time. Games that are drawn-out and complicated tend to lose my students. They get frustrated very easily and will completely shut down if they don’t get it immediately. This is a defense mechanism against feeling stupid. It is much “cooler” to say something is stupid and refuse to try it than it is to admit they don’t understand. It is also difficult for me to find enough time to play these immersive games in my limited class time. I have forty minutes per day to teach common core level algebra to students who have very few of the basic skills. Isolation is another concern. Many of my students lack social skills and have few friends. Will it reinforce this behavior if I use GBL extensively? Gamification is the application of game-based elements to non-game situations, such as awarding badges or levels for work completion (Keeler, 2014). Classcraft is a good example of gamification, as are rewards programs offered by stores such as Starbucks (Isaac, 2015). This reminds me of token economies, and I suspect more educators use this form of GBL without realizing that they are using gaming. I had not made this connection before researching this topic and find it an interesting suggestion. While I have used gamification in the past, I am not currently using it. It does cross my mind periodically, but the amount of work implementation requires seems daunting right now.

I find the last category, pagesheets, the easiest to use. Keeler states that pagesheets fall between GBL and gamification, and allow students to practice concepts learned in class. They are basically gamified worksheets, with students practicing a defined skill with game elements added, such as avatars, sound effects, and storylines (2014). Graphite, Cool Math, Brain Pop and Khan Academy all offer games that fall into this category. These are easy to find and do not require a lot of time to learn or to complete, making them perfect for my students.

As a special education math teacher, I find games can be a challenge to implement successfully. Many of my students are poor readers. They also tend to be hesitant to try anything new without near 1:1 support from their teachers. They are quick to frustrate and give up easily. If something takes too long to understand or master, they will just walk away. And yet, they love to play games. Easy games that they can quickly learn and play successfully. To this end, I use a lot of Keeler’s pagesheets. These allow me to choose a specific skill and let my students play a game to practice it. They need so much repetition and practice to master algebraic concepts, and this is something beyond a basic worksheet that encourages more learning. I will often find a short game to reinforce a skill and attach it to our homework in Google Classroom. Even if they don’t do the homework, many are willing to play the game, allowing me to get something out of them outside of the classroom. And the relative advantage of that is very, very high.

References

Isaacs, S. (2015, January 15). The difference between gamification and game-based learning. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://inservice.ascd.org/the-difference-between-gamification-and-game-based-learning/

Keeler, A. (2014). Beyond the worksheet: Playsheets, GBL, and gamification. Retrieved from Edutopia website: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/beyond-worksheet-playsheets-gbl-gamification-alice-keeler

Walled Gardens and Social Media: A Teacher’s Perspective

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Walled gardens. I had never heard this term applied to technology before. It was a description of the beautiful stone walls all over Ireland. I’m a little sad that it now has a more negative connotation for me. This research was interesting but not terribly enlightening. I am constantly finding sites that I could use, but not in the classroom as they are blocked. Many math or special education blogs that I enjoy cannot be accessed during school hours. This presents many problems as I get a lot of ideas from them but must print information in case I forget something. As a special education teacher in a high poverty district, filtering adds unexpected challenges. Many of my students do not have access outside of the school network. They are not learning how to interact appropriately on the web, nor are they learning about how to stay safe on unfiltered web sites. While I can, and do teach this, not being able to demonstrate for them turns the lesson into a lecture, causing many of them to either tune me out or stop listening because they think they know what I am talking about. I believe that fewer sites should be blocked, and teachers should be teaching digital citizenship more thoroughly. My VoiceThread on this topic can be found here:

Walled Gardens VoiceThread

 

Acceptable Use Policies

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Internet usage policy

Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) are put in place by school districts as a way to ensure that the school network and technology are being used in the manner in which they were intended. The policy is often linked on school websites and is easily accessible. Some schools have it as a stand-alone document while others embed it in their general Code of Conduct. However the district presents it, most require both students and parents to sign the document stating that they have read the material and understand it.

 

According to the Consortium for School Networking, Acceptable Use Policies have two main foci: protect and provide. AUPs should “protect students from harmful content on the Internet and regulate students use of the Internet, so they do not harm other students or interfere with the school’s instructional program and provide students with good access to digital media to support engaged learning” (2013). AUPs are also a form of protection for the district itself.

An effective AUP should include, per the National Education Association, a preamble, definitions, a statement of policy, acceptable and unacceptable uses and a violations/sanctions section (as cited in “Getting Started,” n.d.). At a minimum, a good AUP should include the district’s goals, what the acceptable uses are and also the unacceptable uses of the given technology. Definitions should be included to ensure clarity and understanding, and consequences for violations should also be clear. In researching different AUPs from local districts, I found a wide range of policies and documents. Some are very short and lacked any real specificity, outlining the policies and uses in broad strokes. Others are very detailed and lengthy, which everything spelled out very distinctly. Both of these types of AUPs are concerning for very different reasons. If an AUP is too short or is missing some of the sections, such as definitions of terms, it leaves itself open to personal interpretation, resulting in less protection for everyone involved. However, if it is too lengthy and detailed, the district runs the risk of people signing the document without reading it thoroughly, if at all, much like those pages of small print that credit card companies send to users. This can also result in less protection, as end users will not know what is acceptable use and what is not. There was an occurrence in a local district last year involving a custody battle. The student had written a diary of sorts using a Google Doc on the school server. The parent and lawyer demanded the school turn over the documents. The AUP states very clearly that all material created and saved on the school server is school property and as such, is accessible by the district. The student and parent both signed the document but the student did not read it. After consulting with the district attorneys, the school agreed to provide the requested material.

It is a fine balance to write an AUP that includes all the necessary information, without being so long and wordy that the majority of users will not read it in its entirety. My district’s AUP is mailed home to students and parents before the start of each school year. Both must sign it before the student is allowed to access the Internet on the school network, using school devices. As a special education teacher, my concern is that my students are being given this policy, and they are signing it, most without having read any of it. Those that do make an attempt to read it, often do not understand the ramifications of what they have read, if indeed, they can process the material at all. If a student requires tests to be read to them, important documents such as this should also be read to them, with someone from the school checking to ensure that they understand the material and what their signature represents. It is not enough to send it home for a signature. We need to find a way to ensure that the information is processed and understood. This could happen when our Chromebooks are issued in the fall, or during the first week of class. However we implement this, it must be mandatory, for both the students’ protection and that of the district.

 

Here are some examples of Acceptable Use Policies from several local school districts, with the first one being my own:

Glens Falls City School District

Lake George Central School District

Saratoga Springs City School District

Fort Edward Union Free School District

Albany Unified School District

Plattsburgh City School District

 

References

Consortium for School Networking. (2013). Rethinking acceptable use policies to enable digital learning: A guide for school districts. Washington, DC.

Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies. (n.d.). In Education World. Retrieved February 21, 2016, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml