Assistive & Adaptive Tech

This week for class, we had a number of readings (and discussion); because I am traveling on Wednesday, I started the readings at the end of last week so that I could get my work done and enjoy my long weekend away. The topic is one of interest to me, assistive and adaptive technology. While I’ve never been a certified special education teacher, I have worked with students with exceptionalities the duration of my career. When I started teaching in DC, I was assigned two learning clusters for mainstream: ED and MR. I was told this was because my class was calm and I was patient; honestly, it seemed like a reward for hiding my anxiety and how overwhelmed I was by being a shy person by nature. Hoorah.

In all seriousness, it was a great learning experience and as a result, I worked with the head of the ED cluster who’d push into my class to work with some of our more challenging students. It was a win-win for all of us and I really appreciated being pushed to better my practice day in and day out. (I have such fond memories of some of these students and their successes.) If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll remember that I didn’t have books and for a time, I didn’t have a classroom. I did have four desktop computers along the back wall; only one worked and the only person who ever got it to work was not a student of mine but just one who would wander in, fire it up, and look at pornography: A real treat of an experience those redirections were for a green, 25 year old teacher (we actually had a plan where a student would go and get his case manager and we’d continue on — this seemed to cause the least amount of stress for all parties).

One of my assigned readings this week was the article: When the Classroom Feels Hostile: I found this article interesting because ninth grade most definitely is a sweet spot for holding onto or losing students to their learning struggles. In my years in DCPS, I taught ninth and tenth grade English. I worked with students who read typically on a fourth grade reading level and spent countless hours scaffolding my lessons to meet the needs of a very diversely-skilled student body. I caught some students and built upon their skills while others verbalized their ‘waiting it out’ plan (this plan was to quit school when they reached 18; I had several ninth grade students on the cusp of becoming legal adults). This disparity is all too common for students whose educational needs go unmet. After years of teaching in DCPS, I accepted a department chair position in a neighboring district.

When I left DCPS, I worked in an alternative school; we had a robotics program but little technology otherwise. Our school was really small; there was no formal library or computer lab. I had a computer for work and a SmartBoard that wasn’t connected to anything. Our principal held meetings where we passed a talking stick around so I think that tech just wasn’t a priority of his, honestly. His method worked for building relationships with students, but it definitely lacked in preparing them for future tech advancements. After two years teaching in NoVA, I moved to Boston and that’s where things really opened up for me: I worked in a special education school where access to all sorts of technology was atop my administrator’s priority list.

Dragon Speak and Kurzweil were what I utilized most as an English teacher. I feel strongly that students who struggle with reading and writing, learning disability or otherwise, deserve the opportunity to succeed and these programs really offer students a chance to process information in their own ways and output thoughts with ease. In one of the links provided by my professor, I read that only 5% of middle school students with learning disabilities are proficient in writing and only 33% of teachers feel prepared to teach writing (Cast 2019). As educators, we HAVE to do better than this.

In thinking of how I will be able to better utilize technology to meet my future students’ needs in the library classroom, I read the article Assistive Technology: 10 Things to Know by Janet Hopkins (2006) and found it helpful. It is a lot less intimidating to chunk technology into three sections: Low Tech (highlighter tape, graphic organizers, large print), Mid-Tech (tape recorders, headphones), and High Tech (computer-based, text-to-speech, concept mapping). Because low and mid-level tech are most easily available, it’s easy enough to figure out ways to implement and offer supports to both students and colleagues on how best to utilize across the board. The higher tech AT require a bit more planning, as they are more costly and likely require licensing and training. Thus, I feel it’s important to devise a plan on how to properly choose and implement these technologies for the benefits of all students.

Janet Hopkins published another article I read this weekend, School Library Accessibility: The Role of Assistive Technology (2004). In it, she suggested forming a focus group to devise a plan for AT and also using PD time to explore ways to improve upon the library. This has me thinking of PLCs to try and be a part of within the school community to forge connections and better understand the barriers to learning within the classrooms so that I could adequately compare them with those in the library. Hopkins also suggested publicizing AT initiatives and having a plan to speak to administrative staff; to me, these go hand-in-hand and allow for some concrete plans to move forward. Because I recognize that I can be intense at times, I feel like this is something I’d need to really plan and implement slowly to ensure my enthusiasm doesn’t come across in an overly assertive way and that I’m able to move the conversation positively to secure funding and adequate resources.

In her 2006 article, Hopkins addresses ways to secure funding for AT by reaching out to Parent Advisory Committees (PAC) or even writing grants to finance the more expensive educational technology. Otherwise, she suggests using low- or no-cost alternatives. Through looking into all of the shared articles and links for my course, I came across these social narrative apps through the QIAT site: I love the idea of using the app My Story e-Book Maker to allow students a chance to share their stories without an intimidation factor around getting their story out. Project Enable is another option for librarian to look into — they offer training and resources that you can handily select specific learning disabilities/impairments to find books, articles, databases, and websites specifically designed to meet the learning needs of those students. The Cast UDL Studio was another resource I appreciated; here, you are able to design resources specifically to meet the needs of your students.

Personally, I like the idea of the library classroom offering access to assistive and adaptive technologies for students. It seems like one of the more reasonable places within the confines of a school to house accessible technologies and would somewhat force the hand of collaboration between the librarian, special education staff, and content area teachers. As I gear up to work in a school library, this is one area of interest I need to keep in mind for discussions with future school leaders and potential employers.

 

Gaming & Social Networking

This week, for my Emerging Tech class, we are discussing gaming/social networking and how they can enhance education. It’s kind of funny; 13, 11, and I were talking about games they played in school last week and I was telling them that the only games we ever played in school were SEVEN UP (everyone had their head down except for seven people; if you were tapped, you raised your hand and then tried to guess which of the seven tapped you); MISSISSPPI (where you try to misspell it to trick the other team and rush the opposing side); and if we were lucky, we got to play Oregon Trail on the lone computer at the back of the classroom.

Oregon Trail was a fun video game — you got to simulate what it would be like to have dysentery and watch your family die off as you ventured across the US. I was fortunate enough to have a Tandy1000 (thank you, Radio Shack) at home, where my brother and I would play Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. Theoretically, both of these games had learning potential or at least didn’t have ill intentions.

Today, when I think of games, I think of Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto — both of which (to me) are horribly violent. I know that 13 likes to play Sims with her friends but when I looked into it, characters can fornicate and honestly, talking about sex alongside a video game isn’t really the life I’m trying to create. My brother and I used to play an older version where we’d build houses and then catastrophically burn them to the ground. Alas, I was a bit reluctant to think about gaming as an educational tool.

A similar game that my professor shared with the class is called Second Life — I had no idea this was a real website and honestly thought it was just a name used in a bit on The Office. Thus, I tried to keep an open mind that a learning value exists and spent the last few days reading. A LOT. We had two optional books to read: Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal and It’s Complicated by Danah Boyd; I checked both out of my school library through their inter-library loan program.

In the Boyd text, there is a clear and consistent point of youth using social networking to extend their social conversations and engagements. To me, this makes a good bit of sense. Boyd mentioned early networking sites like Friendster — now here is something I could relate to: I remember Friendster. (It’s a site I haven’t thought about in maybe a decade+ but when I read its name, I instantly recall having an account). My boyfriend and his friends were very into networking and I got sucked into their bubble. I also managed to convince my best friend to join too: I remember one of her selections being ‘not that I know of’ for the ‘Children?’ question and a poll about what everyone was contributing to our Gold Cup tent. Aside from that, I don’t really remember utilizing the tool.

This ‘social extension’ bit that Boyd focused on throughout really gave me pause. This is exactly what I use my phone for. My best friend now lives in Florida and most of my remaining close friends are either in PA or DC; the handful of friends I have in MA are still an hour or so away, so texting is really the only option for keeping in touch with quick updates or just casual conversation. It makes sense that teens would utilize technology for the same purpose, especially given how busy teens can be.

I think back to my high school days; I was president of student council, involved in school musicals, worked as a cashier at Giant Eagle, and then I had the lesser involved activities like chorus, saxophone lessons, track, French club, SADD, and probably others. I was involved in A LOT and thus had a bustling social life. I saw friends after school at all of the club meetings and then usually on weekends too. When I was 16, my parents forced me to get a license and bought me a car so that they’d have a break from toting me here, there, and everywhere else. Having my own car definitely allowed for ease of socializing (even though I was the last of the group to turn 16 and only ended up with my license when my parents told me I’d have to walk everywhere if I continued my refusal with driving)… alas, I try to think of what life would have been if I wasn’t afforded those social opportunities but had access to Internet and social networking options. I could see how the virtual world could fill that hole.

I continue trying to keep an open mind. I know that 13 uses tools in Google Classroom to conduct group work (occasionally with the use of a phone call) and this seems to serve a similar purpose of a group meeting at the library after school but offers all students the learning opportunity. I think that there are definitely areas where integrating social networking can help improve upon social-emotional needs students may have.

I’m not yet sold on the gaming piece — the prude in me still needs a little time to adjust. I do recall, in reading the introduction to Reality is Broken that games allow users to create feelings of success through various channels and offer opportunities to “take an active role in changing our lives and enabling the future… [and] build up your ability to enjoy life more, to solve tougher problems, and to lead others in world-changing efforts” (P 14). I will see if through reading this book, my mind is changed at all on the gaming piece.

Until then, I have two additional blog posts I may write from connections I made to passages in Boyd’s book. I am really enjoying reading this as it is challenging my typical line of thinking but in a very productive way. I recommend this text for anyone who has teens or works with teens and is trying to figure out how to properly establish technology-based boundaries.

 

Social Media & The Library

If you can’t tell, this week’s Emerging Tech assignment was to research social media and the library. Honestly, I’ve been really excited for this unit! I actually do use social media and mostly to find interesting articles (also, pictures of sweaters and food and dogs). I have always been one who can’t read enough — always with a book in hand, a magazine on the table, and an article pulled up on my phone. (Admittedly, I hate reading on a screen but I tend to search for articles when I’m waiting on something/someone, and thus, enter the iPhone.)

Our assignment for the week was to figure out a social media plan and also to annotate a handful of social media sources. I did this while watching baseball (why is playoff baseball so entertaining?!) and was so excited that I basically attacked my husband and toddler with everything I’d found when they returned from their weekly trip to our public library.

First and foremost, I’d never looked on WordPress for blogs related to the library. I think it’s because I started this blog to talk about my family and myself. I found several sources here including a blog post that I re-blogged: The Death of the Library is Easily Reversed. This blog post gave me some pause to think about what before/after school options I could offer in the library classroom to meet the needs of students.

After my foray in with the WP search bar, I moseyed on over to Twitter. If you’re on Twitter and want to give me a follow, my handle is: @themumoirs — spoiler alert, it’s mostly about sports, food, and toddler tantrums. Ah, the good life. I have been following some academic-facing feeds for a while though (not everything can revolve around Pittsburgh sports’ teams). Some of my favorites for the library classroom are: MassBook, Digital Commonwealth, and NELA (which is a general site for libraries for all of NE — I like that there are resources posted frequently for how to improve upon the library experience and I think that a number of public library ideals can be used in the school library).

I also did some researching on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Let me just say, I LOVE Insta — I find it so much more refreshing and less to deal with than Facebook. I also can appreciate the privacy features on this site. Whereas my WP and Twitter feeds are public, I keep my Insta and FB private. I like the ability to have as much or as little a digital footprint as I please.

Now, to the social media plan. I put a decent amount of thought into this and wrote mine up accordingly. One thing that I can’t stop thinking about is how to use the BitMoji app to create cartoon versions of students to use in intranet-based chats and forums. Obviously, this would be contingent on the school’s policies and tech-based options but I really like the idea of having a level of anonymity while still being tracked (student log-in/IP) so that bullying doesn’t become an issue. This is something I will have to table for later but it’s definitely something I want to explore more.

I am really enjoying everything that I’m learning in this class. I want to also play around with the different apps, digital media forms, and websites I’ve reviewed in recent weeks and see how I can embed elements into library classroom social media page. I also understand what my limitations are — as a non-youngster, I’m accustomed to using Facebook and Twitter but I’m concerned that it won’t reach young people with my enthusiasm, so I think I’ll need to reach out to the school VSCO girls and learn about the cutting technologies that the teens are utilizing.

I’m excited to continue in my tech search and can’t wait to work in a school library, where I’m able to fully (or even partially) implement my plans.

Digital Media

I will admit, I opened this week’s module for my Emerging Tech class in the parking lot of a new yoga studio I was trying. I am pretty certain that my heart stopped beating for a moment when my professor told us that we needed to create a piece of online media. Yikes! I went on with my morning — yoga, a meeting at 3’s school, and back home for lunch with my favorite toddler and our pup, all the while this weighing heavily on me. I feel a lot more confident giving others creative ideas on how to do things; but for whatever reason, when I have to be creative, it seems like my brain ceases to work.

I decided to do a video in the Animoto App. This app is really neat and allows you to create animated slideshows. I enjoyed playing around with it last week and thought that I could really delve in and spend some time on it today. While 3 was napping, I uploaded photos and created a theme: Summer in Review, more or less. I used pictures (but none of my kids’ faces) to display some of our favorite summer highlights. Honestly, I could have posted thousands of pictures from the beach. Living in a beach town allows us to go to the beach nearly every single day and that’s essentially how I spent my time with 3 & 13 while 11 was at camp; alas, I chose to add in some other highlights of our summer.

My Animoto video can be found here if you missed the linking above: https://animoto.com/play/Lx0TsAghV1pNPzXgGgOPPA

In addition to creating my own little slice of digital media, I was tasked with creating a lesson plan that utilizes five video clips and three podcasts. Much like above, this was slightly stressful for me at the onset. I admit to not being tech savvy; I have never worked in a school that had bounds of technology, which likely contributes greatly to this. Further, I’ve never taken a super interest in video/movies. The first school I taught in didn’t have books; my classroom floor buckled and was condemned by the fire marshall, thus sticking my class and me in a conference room that frequently had no tables-chairs-or both. This led me to wait outside of a meeting Michelle Rhee was in: I, then, took her to my classroom and asked for a new floor (it worked). Needless to say, the situation was dire and as I’m sure you can imagine, if schools in the nations capital were unable to provide physically safe spaces then think of the kind of technology that was accessible. Incidentally, this school was the only place that I ever showed a film by checking one of the TV carts: My ninth graders were rockstars and at the end of the year, when we finished Romeo & Juliet, we watched the 1999 version of the movie. They loved reading and having the text to connect to and felt really accomplished being able to discuss the text in our “cafe classroom” those final days.

While I did find success with this relational book-movie, I never really had success finding things that seemed interesting to my students. I always incorporated music into class and had students create digital media when possible but modeling/showing examples has always been such a weakness for me. Thus, I tried to approach this assignment with the most open mind and deep breathing exercises for the stress.

My professor recommended a mash-up for us to watch and read about this week: It was a conversation between Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Twilight. I thought it was really well put together! It was easy for me to differentiate between the two characters/films despite having not seen either of them. I cannot even begin to imagine how much time and effort it took to put this together, but I love the idea of it and would love to create similar (though much shorter) assignments for students because I think that they could really demonstrate their critical literacy skills through such a task and also, I think they would enjoy it. Full disclosure, I’ve probably watched about a dozen movies from start to finish in my life. I’ve just never had much interest in them, though my husband and kids will sit down and watch them. (I will sit down to watch sports or to read.)

Once I made it to the library (after having a solid 10 hours of thinking to do), I had some ideas on places to look for this task. My first stop, of course, Vivian Vasquez. I took two courses of hers in graduate school at American University and learned so much that I’ve been able to implement in my classroom — critical literacies atop the list. Vasquez introduced me to podcasts back in 2007 and in 2011, I created a class at my school’s summer program for podcasting, which worked out great for my many students with language-based disabilities. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I left the classroom shortly after to pursue other opportunities around curriculum development and that kind of put a stand-still on my tech development. I am eager to plan a lesson for the library classroom that uses Ted Talks, NPR, BBC, TeacherTube (which I’ve used before when I was part of the TrIO program at Chelsea High and Bunker Hill), and whatever other podcasts I stumble upon. I have 13 tabs open on my Internet browser currently of podcasts to investigate. I also think that I need to investigate YouTube more. Sure, I use it; but only to play music that isn’t on the radio (mostly British rock and 90s rap). I’ve always kind of written it off as an educational tool which is perhaps naive or possibly even, dare I say, foolish.

I think that this assignment is pushing me to rethink “MY” way of teaching and really see how far against boundaries I can take my practice. While I both recognize and acknowledge this as a good thing, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated by it; and when I think further about this — it’s kind of silly: Approximately one hundred years ago, when I was just a year out of college, I worked my way from coordinator to Digital Media Manager and later left that position to be THE marketing department at a start-up. I am starting to question where my insecurities around technology come from, because 15 years ago, I was really quite confident. I suppose this all comes back full circle where I pinpointed at the beginning of this post that acknowledged the lack of tech exposure as a classroom teacher. (Similar to setting an intention at the beginning of yoga, I’m going to set an intention from now until the end-or at least mid-semester to not let me get into my own head about technology being intimidating and just going for the gusto, as they say.)

Updates to come.

 

 

Apps

… this is not another blog about appetizers, but rather the technical term, applications.

In this week’s Emerging Tech class, we were tasked with reviewing apps new to us (which, to me, is basically everything outside of Instagram, Pinterest, MapMyRun, and Weather Underground). Because I do not use a lot of apps on my phone, they never actually dawned on me as having an educational component. (I feel like this is a theme; I just never realized all that’s out there.)

My professor shared links of several apps, including a link to the American Association of School Libraries best 2019 apps for teaching and learning. I looked at several of these (mostly ones that I personally had an interest in or ones that I think my kids would like) and wanted to mention some this week:

Khan Academy Kids — 13&11 used this for assignments in elementary school, so I am familiar with the Khan Academy platform. There are a lot of resources for children on the Kids app and even preK-specific options. Personally, I do not like the idea of my child using a tablet or other technology at home; however, I do see how this would be beneficial in a pre-school/early elementary setting. I think that offering tech-based programming while the librarian circulates to help students find books is a great way to multi-task in the classroom, especially given that class sizes range 20-33 in most districts and there is typically only one librarian. This would be a valuable tool in a station-like setting.

Novel Effect — This app is really neat. I downloaded it yesterday to my phone to use with 3. He LOVED it. I think the concept is super cool; you read a book and there are corresponding sound effects that align with certain words once spoken. Personally, I had to delete this from my phone because I don’t like recording my voice and having it filed away somewhere. (Sounds paranoid, I realize. Oh, well.) I think on a basic school-wide iPad or tablet, this could be a great app to utilize. It is fun to hear the various effects and I think even middle-high schools students would be entertained by it in small doses. This app made me think back to teaching MS in Virginia when my ELA students wrote, directed, and filmed ‘TV shows’ for our figurative language unit — my students had so much fun with the assignment and had voice overs and effects for everything. It was a lovely memory to have while testing out this app and I’d love to use it again when I have a practicum experience with younger students.

PBS Kids — Who doesn’t love PBS? I grew up watching Mr Rogers (filmed in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA); it was one of the few shows I was allowed to watch and at an early age had met all of the stars. So exciting! As I grew older, my love of PBS grew. When I taught in the DC area, I sat on a panel where teachers tested/gave feedback to website additions/materials. The PBS Kids app delivers all I’d expect from such an education-centered organization. I love that there are STEM programs available on this platform, but what I really am excited about are the e-books: I think that e-books give families access to reading that they may otherwise not have. I can’t like this app enough and it goes along with everything I’ve ever known about PBS to do — give access to all.

Do Ink — This site is really cool for any school/program with video programming. Do Ink allows for green screen production and could be used for school TV programs, projects for any content area/class, and even instructional videos from specialists. I love the options of creating green screen videos (and there are really detailed instructions as well). The Do Ink Green Screen reminds me of trips to the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh and the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain; both have weather green screens and my kids, husband, and myself have all enjoyed our personal video productions. This could be such a versatile program for students to use and to showcase student projects to parents or even community members (assuming all students can be filmed; all safety measures are followed). Before moving to Boston, I worked in an alternative school for students displaced from their base/public school. Our principal who was equally awesome and ahead of his time, supported project-based initiatives; we regularly took some really unique field trips that allowed students to ‘get their hands dirty’ and they all related to the end of the year culmination project about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. I would have LOVED for our students to use such technology to report their findings in such a way encouraged by Do Ink. I really appreciate all this app offers and hope to use it some day with my students in the library classroom!

iCell — I will be honest: I never got into science. Most everyone on my dad’s side works in medicine and everyone just assumed I would too — that English degree of mine couldn’t be more opposite. That being said, the iCell app is a really neat tool for giving simulated bio lab information. 11 would love such an app and I can guarantee would play on it for hours if we let him. This app allows you to make notations/annotate along the cell’s structure and image; you can lock and hide your notes if necessary. This makes for a great tool in the classroom and yes, in the library. I am constantly thinking about ways to integrate the library classroom into the classrooms of content and it’s really easy for me to figure out ways to incorporate the library into a humanities class and even mathematics; however, I struggle most with science. This would be a great way to support science teachers and/or students who are interested in studying science independently. A colleague at BHCC who teaches science told me that most of their dissection is now done virtually, so I think that students looking to study science post-secondary could really benefit from having access to such an app. I look forward to keeping this app in mind when I am a school librarian.

iCivics — This app caught my attention because 13 is in the eighth grade this year and is currently studying civics. While we are not a very tech-heavy household, I always keep my kiddos in mind when I learn about new educational technologies. 13 and I have been having regular conversations (class assignment) about duties, responsibilities, and rights. The games on this program would allow for additional support in the classroom. Similar to the PBS and Khan applications, I could see this being used in the library classroom while the librarian works with other students to identify appropriate texts. I think that games are a good break for students in the classroom and this could allow them to utilize knowledge without spreading everyone thin and also while giving them a break from the rigorous in-class work and discussion. To me, Supreme Decision seems like the coolest of the games to play within the app — here, you are presented with a case and have to help the US Supreme Court make a decision. Anything that allows a child to be in the company of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a win in my book.

Flickr — We were asked to look at Flickr this week as well. On a personal note, I could see this leading me down a rabbit hole of lost hours looking at pictures of dogs. On a professional level, I see some really neat things you could use Flickr for in the classroom and especially in the library. To me, using the resources available on the site is where the bread & butter is; I think having students post pictures to an open space in the outside world is scary. (Specifically, I think of students in state custody who may not realize the dangers of someone coming across a picture.) This is an app that I need to table until I am in a position to use it. I feel like it would be best to be able to create such a platform on a school/district-wide intranet because there are so many learning opportunities for students to discuss cultures, places, art, humanities, and even science and mathematic components. One area I could see using this would be a collaboration club between maybe an art class and the library; student number would be small and thus could be more easily monitored with content and commenting postings. I see the potential in this app but the parent/foster parent in me sees red flashing lights.

Lastly, it seems there are a lot of virtual/augmented reality apps. I think that these programs are really neat for students to experience and should spend some time looking into them. Sadly, the mere thought takes me back to Body Wars at Disney’s Epcot (circa 1990-something) where the 3D virtual body tour made it so I never see another thing like it since. I get squirmy just thinking about these programs because of that experience… Still, apps like Sites in VR seem really cool. I love the idea of exposing students to other places outside of their comfort zones. Years ago, back at the Alternative School mentioned above, I had mentioned my travels through Europe. Nearly all of my students were jealous of my travels to Amsterdam because they thought it would be a wild party of Red Light District visits and drugs. They were less impressed with my stories of visits to the Anne Frank House, the tulips, the canals, and the food. I think an app like Sites in VR allows students to gain knowledge beyond stereotypes or grandiose stories and could really be utilized in the library classroom to highlight settings of stories, work with ELA/social studies teachers, or just allow students to investigate their own curiosities of the world.

Learning Tech

This week in my Emerging Tech course, I was tasked with writing about new technologies I’m learning about. This is really neat — I am gaining exposure to so many things and have even more opportunities to ‘nerd out’ if you can believe it. On Monday, I started to look into a series of tech suggestions, whereby I latched on to a few different learning technology tools.

  1. Padlet — This was really neat; you can take a picture and then give a little caption about it. A classmate mentioned using this for book recommendations, which I think is a great idea. I also could see using it as a character highlight when discussing ELA readings or to highlight a specific country, language, or culture for a social studies class. Further, it would be a great visual supporter for word problems in math or even a way to introduce lab items for science. Uploading these to a SMART/Mimio board or to the library/teacher sites would allow students access. I just had so many ideas about how to be able to utilize such a tool in the library classroom, be it through collaboration with teaching staff or to enhance the library experience.
  2. RSS Feeds — I’ll be honest: it never dawned on me to use this tool for educational purposes. I’ve used RSS feeds many times in my personal life and have received many notifications for step-parenting, infertility, IVF, and adoption. I think because I was so entrenched in my personal stories that the thought never occurred to me to use this for anything more. I could see having tabs available on a library site (or just bookmarked on the librarian’s computer) that relate to topics being researched, current events, famous authors, inventors, technology, college applications (because librarians can absolutely lend a helping hand to the school guidance staff) and so much more.
  3. Tumblr — I used to follow a food blog on Tumblr (years ago) but got frustrated by the lack of words. I think that this is a great site to use for blogging for students though. I appreciate lengthy reads; I’m a lover of words, what can I say?! I know many students, however, may prefer to tell a story through images or music or any other artistic means. I love that this is a site that would more easily encourage students to use it in that capacity and I think that integrating this in a classroom or library setting could be a lot of fun. Clearly, in a library setting, students could all post to the library’s page where they highlight current events or review recent books or give tips on how-to use different technologies. There really are endless possibilities and unlike some of the other technologies, Tumblr could easily be used by specials/electives or even outside clubs/organizations with ease.
  4. LiveBinder — HOLY MOLY! The organizational nut in me has died and gone to heaven! I spent hours clicking around this site and thought, “why has nobody told me about this before?!” Honestly, on a personal/professional level, I could catalog all of the consulting I do for grant writing and charter school development. In terms of education or library cataloging — there’s just so much! I could see having students use this to organize and present senior projects or any other type of portfolio (Hello, art teachers!). I can’t wait to start using this tool, myself. If you’ve not heard of it, I advise you check it out immediately (but only if you have a few hours to spare).
  5. Pinterest — This was another suggestion per my professor. There’s both so much and so little to say about Pinterest. I use it for basically everything. When we learned I’m allergic to yeast and had to reframe our entire family diet, Pinterest was my go-to; when we wanted to give 13 a perfect tween escape, I pinned and bought (and was basically banned from ever shopping at Pottery Barn Kids ever again) and had my husband set up every detail of the tween dream; when I wanted to take a cute Halloween treat to 3’s daycare last year, I pinned, failed, and sent a half-empty bag of Oreos with an open bag of pretzels and was reminded why I hate all things crafty and cute… You get it — Pinterest is basically my right hand man. I’ve used it for teaching ideas in the past and for classroom setup. It’s an easy go-to that I can always rely on. (Link to my personal Pinterest (education) site above)
  6. Diigo — I was really psyched to find this tool; online annotation, count me in! Instantly, I my brain was filled with ways to make annotation lessons engaging and fun for students who appreciate the use of technology over the traditional book. I constantly hammer the benefits of annotation and think that an online tool can help students who prefer reading this way. My big thought here, though, centers on how compatible this might be with assistive tech, like Dragon Speak, for students who may not easily be able to find what they’d want to highlight or comment on. This is something I need to dig deeper on. I tried to Google it but only found articles about Diigo with advertisements for Dragon Speak, so I tabled this search for the time being.
  7. Google Classroom — Last night, I had 13 walk me through her Google Classroom. I know the kids talk about using it and in my head, I had pictured a UI similar to Blackboard or Moodle. Her teachers use it to post readings, assignments, and test reminders — don’t get me wrong, this is all great. It allows us to see everything that goes on in the class and allows access to students who miss a day. I was just hoping for more engagement (sure, you can comment to class or teacher, but I don’t really think of a comment box to be engaging). One benefit though, as is Google’s way — it’s super user-friendly and most likely intuitive for students/parents. I just was expecting… more…

These are some of the education tools that I’ve spent time looking at this week. I appreciate the time and space to investigate and learn about these tools. I am starting to realize that it’s not that I’m bad at technology or even that I have a lack of interest; it’s that I haven’t had exposure to various classroom technologies. I think that largely this is because I’ve been out of the traditional classroom for the last seven years, focusing on curriculum development, grant writing, charter applications, and teaching at the college level on the side. I’m excited to continue to gain exposure to these types of tools and eventually implement them in the library classroom!

EduTech

This week for my Emerging Tech course, I’ve been tasked with writing a blog post that shows some of the new things I’ve learned and what I’ve been thinking about based on the readings and discussion.

Wow. What a loaded prompt!

First, I would like to point out that in terms of educational technology, I’m most familiar with things piloted or mastered in the mid-2000s when I finished my first graduate degree. My, how things have changed! I read an article today, titled: Saving School Libraries: How Technology and Innovation Help Them Stay Relevant” and it has me thinking all of the things. I have always been intrigued by the work of the school librarian, but thinking in terms of working “as a catalyst for social change” is something that never dawned on me (Lynch 3). As an English teacher, I always thought that engaging students in reading and discussion could drive such change and as I worked at the college level, I saw just how thoughtful students were when it came to social events and news. I did not really put a lot of thought into how the librarian can shape students similarly, but I love the idea of encouraging students to research, engage, and utilize their critical thinking skills to make waves around them.

My experiences with reluctant and struggling readers, something I’ll likely discuss often, allows me to work with students through a critical scope regardless of where their skill sets are. Another thought in the Lynch article states that, “Libraries need to provide an unbiased, and unlimited, access to information” (3). This is a statement that I think will stick with me as I think of ways to integrate community and technology within the confines of school walls. Further, I think that utilizing new technologies to advance learning will assist with this.

Through my readings, I’ve been introduced to a few new sites and concepts:

  1. Librarians without Borders: This may become my new obsession, as I see that in 2019, trips to Guatemala and Ghana were organized to set up libraries and learning resources. As I type this, I am mentally thinking of ways to help my husband understand why I should participate in something like this next year.
  2. EdShelf: Perhaps this is more applicable to other educators browsing this blog. I bookmarked this page for later (and even created a Library Resources folder in my bookmark bar!). EdShelf has a number of educational tools listed for whatever task you may have at hand. I’d read an article by Joyce Valenza that touched on Augmented Reality and there’s a whole section of applications available for perusal on the EdShelf site. I also clicked on the Read/Write/Literacy tab and was pleased to see ReadWriteThink has an application (this is a website that I used 10+ years ago for resources for my students). I am really looking forward to delving into this site more!
  3. FlipGrid: We used FlipGrid this week to create a 90 second video about our comfort levels with technology. I really enjoyed this task and learning about this platform. I can see this being used easily in collaborative approaches between content-area teachers and librarians as well as professional learning communities (both in-person and online). I love the idea of students creating FlipGrid videos to keep responses concise (it makes me think of Twitter limiting characters with typing). I think there are a lot of applicable ways to use such a platform: word problems in mathematics; breaking down a science experiment and its outcomes; giving a quick book review; reciting a timeline from history. This is something I really want to keep in mind when I’m working in a school library.
  4. Glogster: This was a site recommended in another Joyce Valenza article. It is animation software and on the site, there are examples of how content area teachers are able to have students utilize this within the confines of an in-class project. This is software that seems valuable to use from mid-elementary school through high school. It is more graphic/animated than Prezi but should offer a similar engagement.
  5. Bubbl: In the same Valenza article mentioned above, there’s a piece that focuses on mind mapping via Google Docs. This jogged my memory: When I used to teach in a special education, independent school, I had my students use a site called Bubbl. This site allowed students who needed to visually map out their thoughts the space and capacity to do so. I have also recommended this to college writing students who need the same processing accessibility.
  6. The last is a concept that I need to wrap my mind around. In both the Lynch and Valenza articles, it is stated that libraries need to advocate for improved digital access to include social media, blocked sites, and cell-phone usage. This is something that I am going to continue to wrap my mind around and think about how these tools can be responsibly used to further the educational growth of our youth. I think a lot of this as to do with the fact that I work hard to preserve a tech-free space within my home and get anxious at times that I’m very far behind in cutting-edge technologies. For example, my three year old thinks cell phones are only for FaceTime with his grandparents (also, for taking pictures) but has never used one otherwise.

While I battle mentally with the cell phone piece, one thing that is starting to give me a little relief is that I’m realizing maybe I’m not as overall technology resistant as I can sometimes feel.  Reading this week’s assigned articles have given me the ability to take a deep breath and rethink my technology uses within the classroom. Sure, I always have preferred to lecture without PowerPoint slides, but I’ve always printed out my lectures for students who need to read and re-read information and may not be adept at note-taking.

As a classroom teacher, I have always tried to touch on the various learning styles my students may have. Now, I am thinking about how I can support teachers with similar tasks through technology-infused assignments and various resources. Now that I’m reading and gaining access to sites, I am feeling less intimidated about the prospect of such a task.

Finally, in the midst of thinking and reflecting on technology in terms of what I’ve had access to and what is available to students and teachers, I want to think of ways that students can publish writing. When I was an undergrad, I received The Writer’s Market as a gift — this was a book with thousands of pages of publishers and contests for writers. I think it would be so fun to eventually run an after-school or advisory program where students write in accordance to contests to submit for a chance at publication. I am not sure if most teens would find this cool, but I’m really jazzed at the thought. (I also find it encouraging that in my nine years teaching at a local community college, I’ve had four students major in English — I know there are other writers out there who are eager to find these opportunities.)