Friday, January 25, 2013

Creating Community during Student Teaching

When I survived my student teaching experience in 1998, I remember it was a very lonely experience with little support from my supervisor or my cooperating teacher, who on the day I entered her class handed me the text and the ancillary materials and said, "The poetry unit starts tomorrow. If you need me I will be in the teacher's workroom."

Fast forward 15 years, and now as a University Supervisor at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, I have the privilege to work with student teachers and shape their teaching beliefs, practices, and experiences. The first priority was not to make their experience in anyway like mine. My goal with every student teacher is to make them feel as they are still connected to the University, but more importantly to expand their experience into a community at practice.
Community of Practice

Now in my 4th semester, I feel I am getting closer and closer to this community at practice. I have done this by using one of the first online file sharing programs - A new account affords 5GB of free online storage. But as an early integrator, they afforded me 50GB of online storage of files.  This community consists of teachers, professors, student teachers, and former student teachers new in the job market. I created the file structure and opened it to anyone interested in sharing resources. Of course I uploaded much of the content, but as time progresses, more and more are uploading their own resources. Within the file we can hold discussions on topics or files or pose questions to the group as a whole. Currently  over 43 collaborators have access to the resources. While most are in Pennsylvania, the news has reached New Mexico, Virginia, and North Carolina.

Below is the embedded file. I encourage you to join or simply visit. Feel free to upload your own resources or comment on the resources listed. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Connected Educator: Chapter 1 Self Assessment

In the opening chapter of The Connected Educator the authors, Beach and Hall created a comprehensive survey on the new literacies of the 21st century. I adopted and adapted the survey to use a pre-assessment for my student in my Teaching and Learning with Technology course. I will follow the post up with the current data from the 3 sections of my students and how I intend to use the data to drive my instruction and use the same survey at the end of the semester. I am excited. I created the form in Google Drive. 

The Connected Educator and VoiceThread

As mentioned in previous post, I am using The Connected Educator in next semester's cohort of students in our Teaching and Learning with Technology. As I am planning the curriculum, the authors Sheryl Beach and Lani Hall have included a "Get Connected" section at the end of every chapter. At the end of chapter 2, they suggest readers to join their VoiceThread to discuss either by text or by audio about change in our schools. As you can see below, the numbers of participants are growing. Feel free to join in even if you don't have the book right now, but I highly suggest you do. 

VoiceThread is a sight worthy of discussion. It is real easy to sign up and use to create open and private discussions. Respondents can comment via text or audio very easily. To listen or read previous comments, you only have to hover over the profile pics around the discussion board. Try it out. Simply click on one of the respondents to the right and read or listen to the contribution to the discussion. 

Beyond simple voice and text discussions, VoiceThread has created a platform for discussing video and respondents and actually watch a video, pause it, and mark the actual video with comments and annotations all the while talking through their comments and explaining either visually or audibly. Check out this example.

I really like the sharing features. With invites, embedding, and social media integrations, it is really easy to garner more voices to the discussion. I plan to use this with my students to discuss a modified prompt about the chapter. Look for a post in the following weeks after my students have participated in their discussion, I will invite and share to hear what your voices think. Later in the semester I will use the video feature with my student teachers. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Playing Around with Mozilla's Popcorn Maker

I sure I could have spent today's work session completing more productive tasks as the Spring semester quickly approaches, but I couldn't help but play with my "Welcome to SEDU 183" video I created and posted on YouTube. I have and do like the enhancements YouTube allows users to jazz up their productions. In fact you can see my experiment with that below. 
However, I do feel a little limited in the enhancement capabilities in that YouTube disallows most users to embed links to outside resources. Then across my TED TV feed comes this video introduction of Mozilla's Popcorn Maker, and I was stoked to try it out.

Here is my experiment that I thought was relatively easy to do. I love the layering ability. This online video enhancer allows users to embed and link images and web resources, articles to Wikipedia, and run a live Twitter feed. I am still playing but so far I like it. During our Teaching and Learning class I will be introducing this along with the YouTube enhancements. Happy teaching and learning!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

SmarterCookie: A Great Source for Reflective Practice

I found this amazing site in my Twitter feed and had to blog about how I am going to use it with my student teachers (S/T) to promote deeper self-reflection and collaboration. 

 The Tool: Smartercookie is a video hosting site for teacher's to use to promote collaboration and reflection on lessons and teaching practices. Individual teachers can sign in for an individual account. For larger accounts they have great pricing and scaling plans for cohorts, schools, and districts. Registration was painless and the tutorials quickly sold me on the idea. With Smartercookie, I am able to upload 10 minute videos of my student teachers in direct practice. Moreover, it allows me to invite anyone I want through email to view and comment on the video. 

The Problem: I've been looking for a site to host the videos I record using my iPad while I am observing, but because of the file size I would have to use a pay service to host the videos. Currently I use where I have 50GB of space. is a file sharing site I use to share sources, pictures, evaluations, discussions, and limited video through community and private folders. Because of the data upload limit, I am only able to grab snippets of my student teachers in action, and student teachers are limited in their reflective practice.

The Goal: Self-reflection in any field is positive, but in the practice of teaching I see it, as do many others, as a key component to growth. My goal is to enhance the quality of the student teacher's reflection. Comments on the back of lesson plans tend to be list and less specific on practice and pedagogy. By implementing the Smartercookie component, it will allow me to create a safe environment that is secure and supportive while at the same time being collaborative, and hopefully creating a richer more rewarding opportunity for reflection and growth.

The Plan: Most student teachers have two placements, so the plan is developmental. During the first placement, I intend to maintain my own account where I will upload observation videos of my student teachers. For each uploaded video, I will have the observed student teacher complete a Video Reflection Form (still in the creation stage) that I created using Google Drive. Typically I see a student once a week, so potentially the student will have at least 7 opportunities for reflection during the first experience. Smartercookie allows me to invite through email other student teachers to view and comment on the video. After the first observation, all student teachers in my cohort will have access and be required to view one other member's video. During the second placement, I will have the student teachers create their own Smartercookie accounts where they will upload two videos a week to reflect on and share with the cohort. 

Now some foreseeable problems to address. Depending on the size of the cohort, a S/T could potentially spend over two hours watching and commenting on other member videos. This is not practical and becomes detrimental to the process. So, I will assign weekly grouping strategies to minimize the time component: same grade, same subject, complementary subjects, demographic difference, or pedagogical demands. Another issue we may run into is recording devices. Smartercookie has simple integrations for Smartphones and iPad, but S/T data plans may be prohibitive. I do have access to a few flip camera that I can loan out, but to make this a consistent endeavor, I will need to make sure some type of video recorder is available within the classroom. 

The cohort forms at the end of January. Stay tuned for updates and student responses. 

Shifting Gears in 183: The Connected Educator, Flipping Lessons, and Blogging

I teach a wonderful course at Edinboro University titled Teaching and Learning with Technology. This course is an entry level education course for all aspiring Education majors. This class is held in a traditional computer lab, and my enrollment is between 25 and 28 students from all types of backgrounds. I took over this course when I joined the faculty here in Fall of 2011 as a temporary, full-time faculty member. With the Spring semester quickly approaching, I have been some new ideas to further push and develop my students.

The first major shift is the adoption of Sheryl Naussbaum-Beach's and Lani Ritter Hall's The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age. I read this book last semester and found it closely aligned to many of the tenants I am promoting within my classroom. Beach and Hall describe their book on The Connected Educator Blog as "a journey into what it means to be a learner first and an educator second." With chapter content dealing with new literacies for collaboration, the push for diversity, a developing learning theory connectivism, and a call to action for all educators, this book, although geared to teachers in practice, contains many foundational aspects that I aspire to seed within my students' learning and future teaching practices.

Another shift I am making is flipping more of the lessons so that the time in class can be spent in exploration, experimentation, and collaboration. I submitted an application and was accepted to join an online Flipped Classroom Training Program running from Jan 12th - Feb 17th. It is in this program where I will create 5 new flipped lessons and videos using the FIZZ lecture strategy developed by Dr. Lodge McCammon. I also plan to create a series of videos for my student teachers in the field of practice to support their continued growth and development - more on this later. 

The final shift is how I am using student blogs as a tool for collaboration and reflection. For three semesters I have used Blogger as a platform for student work and reflection. This past semester I really tried to promote the blog as a component of the students' personal learning network. Each student created their blog and then shared their blog with 5 other students within the class. Theoretically, each blog and each post would have an early audience of 5 people. The wrench in this was holding students accountable for their comments on other blogs. Early on the comments were constructive and consistent, but throughout the semester, these comments and the audience disappeared. So this semester I am implementing a digital weekly reporting form for students to complete and submit via the dropbox. As the semester develops, so will the audience requirements.