(541) Final Thoughts

Even though my undergraduate degree and current experience helped me along in this course, the assignments and required readings were challenging and forced me to the edge of my comfort zone.  Learning new software and ways to deliver content is always a good thing in my book, so, as a new week began new challenges presented itself also.

During the semester, I enjoyed playing with Prezi, researching the many online resources and most of all, I enjoyed learning from the more experienced educators enrolled in the course.  Having seen many lesson plan templates, I thought that the lesson plan template offered in the course benefited me, as I was forced to consider technology integration into my daily plans.

EDTECH 451 did meet many of the AECT standards.  In hindsight, the following standards that the course leaned on gave me the greatest of education: 1.3 (Instructional Strategies), 2.2 (Audiovisual Technologies), 2.4 (Integrated Technologies) and finally 4.2 (Resource Management).  Using these standards I realize that not only are they connected in one way or another but they each provide a solid way to grow educational technology into the classroom. As for the assignments, each project focused on Computer-based technology as well as Implementation (lesson plans).  I learned that finding the resource was fairly easy, finding a way to integrate it into a lesson plan was the harder part.

Professionally, I have without a doubt grown.  At the beginning of the year I quickly and unexpectedly moved into a new role within my school district.  This new role enabled me to teach my content area but in a new way.  I was asked to maintain a project based learning environment where the students used technology (primarily net-books) no less than 80% of the time.  This one-on-one computing class was the districts way of piloting the future of technology use for upcoming students.  This class was helpful in the fact that I quickly gained the tools and focused resources to create technology based lesson plans and projects.  This opportunity exposed me to the importance of properly integrating technology that enhances learning engages students.

As for my performance in the course…I believe that I completed the assignments to the best of my ability.  While I did not complete every assignment, I believe that I utilized the opportunity to learn and grow as a graduate student and a professional educator.  My blogs were insightful and included resources, multimedia and clear thoughts that reflected my knowledge from analyzing the required readings.  Because of my personality, I also tried to include analogies that were used to set the stage or to describe the foundation of the topic.  I had a lot of fun with my blog this semester!

This semester was eye opening, tough, exciting and most of all USEFUL.


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(541) Assistive/ Adaptive Technology…it’s a must!

It’s the first day of your teaching career.  The classroom is just how you imagined it:  posters are neatly and strategically hung advertising your chosen content area, pencils are sharpened, your cabinets are full of construction paper and Elmer’s glue.  The only thing left to do is to welcome your new students into a new academic year.

As you wait by the door, anxiously anticipating the arrival of your students you notice a merry band of special education students walking towards your classroom.  No big deal you think to yourself, after all the special education room is located close to yours.  As the students near, you notice that they represent the full spectrum of disabilities you learned about in the one and only special education class you took in college.  Learning, physical, emotional and sensory disabled students walk towards you, happy to be there and happy to be together.  As they walk ever closer, you realize that they are not heading towards their special education room…today their destination is YOUR room.

What goes through your mind?  What do you do?  Your first days activity hasn’t been modified for this group of students.  The web-quest you had planned to do later may be too advanced.  What about the student who is obviously hard of hearing?  You do not have a microphone…your room isn’t set up for that.  You begin to sweat, your palms become the equivalent of Lake Michigan.  The bell rings.

Does this sound familiar?  Is this just a fabricated story or is it true to life?

In 2001, President George W. Bush issued the No Child Left Behind Act to ensure that every student had the chance at a decent education.  This includes students with disabilities.  These students were, for the most part, taught in segregated self-contained classes.  Now in 2012, students of all disabilities and skills are integrated into general education classes with other students. (Washingtonpost.com, 2008)

Special Education students pose new challenges for teachers who must find creative ways to meet their individual needs.  There is help though!  Assistive and adaptive technology is constantly being created, tested and revised that help students perform regular tasks such as reading, writing and spelling.  In fact the technology has gotten so advanced that students can further interact with the class in the form of  gesture based computing.  This is all good and well but the technology that teachers, therapists and students use comes at a great cost to the school district and its tight budget.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, National center for Education Statistics “The number of students with disabilities attending higher education has increased. In a recent study, the number of postsecondary undergraduate students identified as having disabilities in the United States was found to represent 6% of the student body.”  95% of 6-21 year old students with disabilities were served in regular schools, others were placed in separate schools for disabled students and others in private schools.  Even though there is a small minority of disabled students, The federal Government has strongly made it clear that school districts provide reasonable accommodations in order for students with disabilities to have access to education.  Students of all skill levels should be able to participate in public education, no matter the cost!

There are critics, however, that would lead you to believe that such money is a ‘waste’ and should be directed in other needy areas.  The fact of the matter is this:  the technologies have the ability to “roughly pay for themselves as they allowed the children to stop attending expensive special schools” provided to them by the state(Gips, Dimattia, Gips, 2004).  Not to mention that as human beings we have a responsibility to ensure that equality as our utmost priority.

Assisitve technology has the ability to effect students lives and this, in its purest definition, is what education boils down to for me.  The cost than is secondary.  Please watch this youtube.com clip that concludes my thoughts.



U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2011). Digest of Education Statistics, 2010 (NCES 2011-015)

An Institutional Perspective on Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, Postsecondary Education Quick Information System, August 1999

Amy Gips, DiMattia, P, Gips, J: The Effect of Assistive Technology on Educational Costs: Two Case Studies. ICCHP 2004: 206-213

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(541) Integrating Technology…for all contents!

The question many educators reflect upon is this: How can a teacher integrate technology into their content area rather then how can they integrate technology into learning?  The importance of technology is not at the heart of the issue in this specific reflection.  The task over the last few days was to analyze the various angles that technology can take in order to be an effective learning medium across multiple content areas such as Social Studies, Math, Language Arts and even Physical Education, then list the relative advantages of technology into such content areas.

Each content area shares similarities.  Educators require students to perform certain tasks or to complete certain projects in order to asses students knowledge.  Technology therefore can be involved in similar ways whether to assist in math or English.  One immediate advantage that all content areas can agree on is that using online software decreases the amount of paper used within the school.  If some sort of worksheet is appropriate for the task then the worksheet should be uploaded into a common place for students to visit and print off further worksheets if needed.

Visually, technology is appealing. “Students can use products such as graphing software, spreadsheets, and numerous online information visualization sites to put data into a concrete form for easier analysis and representation of concepts” (Roblyer and Doering, 338). Technology provides a variety of learning opportunities from simple research to complex simulations.  Either way, what the students see is advanced from the ‘overhead projector’ era.  When something moves, has color coordination to demarcate information, or is interactive then students are more eager to learn and retain information.

Technology provides simulations and other hands on experiences that schools would otherwise deem too expensive or dangerous.  I remember reading about an MIT study that worked alongside the new and innovative gesture based learning.  With a specially designed glove, a household webcam and developed software, MIT students could manipulate a simulation such as tightening a bolt of picking up an object in real time.  There are multiple advantages to this study that works across multiple contents.  Science students can see what would happen when they mixed multiple solutions together, art students can create digital portraits without the need for expensive art supplies and please consider a physical education student who could play a game of tennis against a computer without ever hitting a physical ball.  This is an advancement on the household console games from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

There is an excitement around the school district I work in, here in Indiana.  There is a hope that as part of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL), typical learning approaches in every discipline will be muscled out with exciting new approaches that integrate technology.  Math teachers will use drill and practice methods to help their students who struggle with specific concepts.  Social studies teachers will challenge their students with virtual field trips in order to show rather then tell.  English teachers will be able to view, correct and comment on student work that builds upon student achievement and faster results.  The issue then is if teachers have the ability/training and most of all, willingness to adopt such technology into their classrooms and their teaching.


Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2010). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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(541) Walled Gardens: Keep them or tear them down?

Beginning in 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed to divide and ultimately separate East Germany from West Germany for over 20 years.  The East German Government claimed that the wall was necessary due to Nazi ideology still littered around West Germany.  West Germany claimed that the wall was shameful and restricted the flow of freedom (Cate, 1978).  For years, both East and West Germany were affected by the division and lack of unity.  The East was restricted under communist ideology- travel to the West was not allowed, furthermore, people were cut off from their families and employment. The wall, aptly referred to as the Iron Curtain, symbolizes the modern-day censorship and networking protocols that has limited literature to viewers, especially on the web.

Is blocking information a good thing?  It depends.  Freedom is the foundation of life.  People must have freedom to decide what information they see.  Sure, certain laws are in place that regulate information  and how it is used, but ultimately each of us are our own masters when deciding what we should see and how we should see it.

Freedom is all good and well, but does the same freedoms exist in Public education?  Should students be allowed to view just anything on the world-wide web?  To answer these questions, and using my experiences I decided to take it to the classroom and ask my students.  I asked them to share their thoughts and feelings regarding blocked websites that limited mobility around the world-wide web.  They came up with a list of pros and cons that I am listing below (These are students idea but my words):

Pros to blocked websites:

  • Certain social media sites are a distraction within the classroom.  Often times, instead of listening to classroom instruction students are consumed with social media sites and with topics that are unrelated.
  • The temptation to view unrelated sites are too great.  To have so much autonomy as a young teenager is ultimately a bad thing.  While there are some students who are more mature and can handle such freedoms with responsibility, there are others who will abuse such opportunities.  This can lead to social problems such as bullying, viewing explicit and or illegal material, and downloading files from untrustworthy sites.

Cons to having websites blocked:

  • Having the freedom to view any and all websites creates an atmosphere of responsibility and maturity within the classroom.  With such freedom, students can step up and show the teacher what he or she is capable of.  It is the teachers role to regulate such an atmosphere and to teach best internet practices that focus on student behaviors and etiquette on the web.
  • Social Networking is inherently a good thing.  The benefits of using such sites as Facebook or mybigcampus.com (the Public school version of Facebook) creates a stronger learning network and confidently prepares students for what they will face outside of the classroom.
  • Blogs and wikis are an interesting way to capture student work and it saves the work in one safe location.  Having a paperless classroom is also good for the environment.  Students would have access to each others work, make comments on it, share ideas and have fun doing so.
  • Other schools and students who allow Twitter and Facebook are surpassing those schools and students who are not.  Learning equality is starting to become an issue!

Now let me be clear here, these results are fabricated from 157 students that range from 14-17.  In this specific context, the results reflect the freedoms of this age group rather than those a 5-year-old Kindergarten student should have.

In a 2010 interview Karen Cator, the Director of Education Technology at the Department of Education interview stated that:

“The bottom line is that we do need to figure out how kids can be safe and out of harm’s way and not exposed to inappropriate materials online. But the filtering programs we have are fairly rudimentary. We need more intelligent filtering programs, safer search environments, smarter technologies so that people aren’t just shutting down large swaths of the Internet. There’s a lot on YouTube, for example, that could be safe and really instructive, but since it’s just in one bucket, a lot of schools just shut down YouTube.”

In 1987 American President Ronald Reagan challenged the Former Soviet Union to “Tear down this wall!” in an effort to create a lasting democratic freedom for the German people.  With the help of multiple pieces of heavy machinery, the wall fell in 1989 (Ratnesar, 2009).  In 2010 Karen Cator is finding a way to lower the wall that most school districts have built up in an effort to block questionable information from reaching their students.  The hope is that as more and more schools rely on 1:1 computing and teachers integrate instructional software into the classroom, the WWW wall will finally be demolished allowing students every advantage of classroom technology free from the current limitations.


Cate, Curtis (1978). The Ides of August: The Berlin Wall Crisis—1961. New York City: M. Evans

Mindshift: The DOE’s Guide to Allowing Online Access in Schools (2010) http://mindshift.kqed.org/2010/12/the-does-guide-to-allowing-online-access-in-schools/

Ratnesar, Romesh. “Tear Down This Wall: A City, a President, and the Speech that Ended the Cold War” (2009)

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(541) Understanding Spreadsheets

To begin my blog post I must write a brief disclaimer to let you, the reader, know that I am by no means an expert on spreadsheets.  In fact, spreadsheets is the one application that I have yet to master, or even face my fear and use in any important capacity other than creating my Christmas list.  Let me be clear though, even though I am a self-proclaimed novice, I see purpose in using spreadsheets and the relative advantages of using spreadsheets are vast.

I recently read a news article where a gentleman kept and updated an extensive spreadsheet to keep basketball statistics.  He used this data to correctly predict that a no-name college basketball player from Harvard would be drafted into the NBA and ultimately would become an overnight sensation.  Ed Wieland correctly predicted that Jeremy Lin would become famous and he (and his spreadsheet) was correct.

Are spreadsheets important? Absolutely.  This application provides increased productivity when handling a mass of data.  Many businesses rely on spreadsheets as a way of displaying important information which in turn can be used to analyze and share such data in the form of a chart or graph.  Within the spreadsheet, tools allow the user to perform a spectrum of operations such as simple arithmetic to statistical functions.  The worksheet can be manipulated in order to input data, perform mathematical operations and get immediate outcomes used to analyze.

While businesses utilize spreadsheets in many departments, educational institutions can be found using such format in order to keep track of such things as grades/scores and attendance amongst others. Roblyer and Cohen (2010) list some of the many benefits for both teachers and students:

Saves time: Heavy mathematical equations can be calculated quickly and when data is updated, so are the calculations.

Organizes information: Not only can data be organized but other information that does not have to deal with numbers can be arranged and organized that it is easy on the eyes and helps the teachers and students find information quickly.  Attendance lists are an example of this.  Spreadsheets can list this alphabetically.

“What-if’s:” Spreadsheets allow users to make and view immediate changes.  This can be helpful for students who are curious about what their grade would look like by turning in and receiving a certain grade.  The spreadsheet can help visualize such changes and the very fact that the teacher can “play” with the numbers helps the students in their quest for success.

This week Professor Gerstein challenged us as Graduate students to consider how we would incorporate spreadsheets into our classrooms or place of work.  I decided that using spreadsheets to explain the Human Development Index would be a great idea.  After sharing my idea in the class forum, I am feeling excited at the prospect of introducing such an activity whereby students will find the data, fill in the spreadsheet and then use it to analyze the information in order to compare and contrast various European countries against America.  I also like the idea about turning the data into applicable graphs that further illustrates the comparisons and differences.

Intrigued, I found a handful of websites that give useful tips and add to the positive notion that spreadsheets are advantageous in the classroom:







Doering, A.H. & Roblyer, M. D. (2010). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

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(541) Interactive PowerPoint Presentations

Reflecting over the past week and the multiple readings and short videos, I am firm in my belief that PowerPoint presentations are inherently a good thing…when designed correctly.   What I mean by this vague thought is simply that- PowerPoint’s have multiple advantages as a teaching tool in the classroom if the teacher is able to make the best out of such technology.

I currently teach Geography and History of the World to primarily freshmen and Sophomore students.  Some of these students have low reading and writing levels, are insecure about life or are unmotivated at the best of times.  While my class is built around project based learning, PowerPoint’s serve as a connection between one idea and the next.  In the past, I have used PowerPoint’s to transition students which ultimately guides them through a unit of content.  If you have ever built a barbed-wire fence before, you know that the fence posts must be dug pretty deep.  To connect each post together, barbed wire is used as a defense mechanism to deter people.   Projects are similar to the fence posts- allowing students to go much deeper with their knowledge, while PowerPoint’s act like the barbed wire- knowledge doesn’t go very deep at all but it moves learning along until another project is created or fence post needs to be dug.

There are numerous benefits to PowerPoint presentations and because of this I am listing the ons that I know to be most beneficial to me and therefore have experience with:

1. Supports the speaker.

Often times, the speaker uses the presentation software to deliver information.  The listeners see: the spelling of a word, and images, charts and graphs that enhance the speakers delivery.  When done correctly, the presentation has the ability to “drive home points with images and sound.” (Robyler, Doering 2010)

2. Organizes the topic.

“When teachers or students create a presentation with this software, it helps them think through what they will say and in what order they should present the information.”  (Robyler, Doering 2010)  Assigning presentations to students gives them experience organizing their information in a systematic and succinct way.  Teachers can also design PowerPoints with organization in mind in order to draw from prior knowledge.

3. Inserting live URL’s

Presentations have the capability to connect to the internet.  As a teacher I use this function as much as I can in order to make the presentation interactive for the students.  It is not uncommon for me to post the PowerPoint on the classroom website.  I ask the students to go on to the website and go through the presentation themselves as a way for them to learn at their own pace.  I ensure that video clips, sound bites, images are embedded and that students can click on specific links to learn more about a person, idea or thing.  I can also link other software or documents to the PowerPoint, connecting even more resources for the student to gain knowledge from.

4. Fun and engaging designs.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that designing presentation slides can be fun and, if done correctly, serves as another way to drive the point home with a decorative background, font selection and color.  I have seen a fair amount of presentations in my time (both through employment and educational endeavors) and the ones I remember the most are the ones that were fun, fresh and innovative.  Of course, a cool design does not constitute an amazing presentation, but it does make for a more enjoyable learning experience.

There are plenty of online sites that discuss the relative advantage of using presentation software in the classroom.  Here are some websites that are useful in carrying on the conversation about Presentation Software:






Roblyer, M. D., and A. Doering. Integrating educational technology into teaching . 5th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2010. Print.

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(541) Instructional Software for the 21st Century… Decisions, Decisions!

Jay Hawkins (1997), for the Center for Children and technology, wrote that “Instead of asking, “Should schools have computers?” we need to focus on a more productive question: “How are technologies best used in education to help students achieve and prepare for the world outside of school?”  Introducing hardware such as laptops, IPads and Smartphones into the classroom is becoming a redundant conversation.   “Today’s technology standards (ISTE, 2000) challenge teacher education programs across the nation to address the need to produce computer literate teachers who are not just knowledgeable of the internet, word processing programs, spreadsheets, and presentation software, but are also confident in their ability to incorporate instructional software and websites into everyday classroom teaching.” (Mistretta, 2005).   School districts and teachers alike are scrambling to find the best and most affordable software that assists in teaching students in a new and more diverse way.

Technology and Instructional software has been designed to combat common learning challenges within the classroom.  These challenges include, but are not limited to, retaining and memorizing information, visualizing things that cannot otherwise be seen, and obtaining the correct and appropriate materials in a cost effective manner.  Students who are physically and learning disabled benefit from specific and tailored assistive technology, which also has a place in this conversation.  Simply put, when technology is adapted into the classroom, a spectrum of needs (of both the teacher and students) can be met IF the correct software is chosen.

Kent Peacock stated that “The purpose of technology is to enhance human to human contact, and if technology is intelligently designed with this end in mind the machine itself should tend to disappear, not dominate” (Smith).  Instructional software has the ability to engage students in the subject while connecting them to others in class.  For example, 9th and 10th graders are using software purchased by the school district here in Indiana to keep track of current events.  This software allows students to pull information off the web in an organized way so that they are able to journal what they read.  The advantage to this is simple.  Students are becoming active, they are becoming opinionated and more so, they are eager to use technology to learn more and share more.

Trialing, selecting and then integrating instructional software can be challenging in itself.  There are, however, five main classifications of software available that narrow down such decisions.  These classifications: Drill and Practice, Tutorial, Simulation, Instructional Games, and Problem Solving could easily be integrated into a High School social studies classrooms and further more have the capacity for students to show certain skills and abilities while learning with the content.

Reflecting upon this module I will admit that my excitement knows no boundaries.  I am excited to try new applications.  I am excited to integrate problem solving and simulation software into my lesson planning but most of all, I am excited to know that through the use of Instructional software, public schools are one step closer to 21st Century learning.

The Instructional Software Prezi can be viewed here.


Integrating Technology into the Mathematics Classroom:  the Role of Teacher Preparation Programs.  Mistretta, Regina.  The Mathematics Educator, 2005, Vol. 15, No.1, 18-24.

Smith, T. (n.d.). Technology in the classroom: a field guide. Retrieved from http://www.csf.usu.edu/presentations/field_guide.ppt

Roblyer, M. D., and A. Doering. Integrating educational technology into teaching . 5th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon,         2010. Print.

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