Saturday, April 8, 2017

There’s an app (or extension) for that - A look at UDL-friendly tools for chromebooks

Recently, in my Selection and Integration class, we examined how Universal Design for Learning (UDL) looks and functions in the classroom, and most important - why it is necessary.  The heart of UDL is based in examining the what, why, and how of our learning.  The beauty of UDL is that it can be used by anyone, not just people exhibit a specific need.  The idea is that it is for everybody!

Public Domain image derived from Pixabay

Here is an example of 10 UDL apps and extensions that I researched recently.

I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The TPACK Game, or how I learned to love lesson planning...

Public Domain image provided through Pixabay (no link needed)
     Recently in my Selecting and Integrating course, I was able to engage in a little game that involved taking random Content, Pedagogy, and Technology options and was tasked to TPACK-ify them.  In case you are interested in the results of my challenge, here you go:

The TPACK Game (of doom)

Social Skills
Create a Film
Movie Maker
I sure lucked out in terms of the self-explanatory aspect of this randomized lesson idea! I see students creating a movie that highlights social skills for other students in the future that might be differently-abled in the social/emotional zone (Autistic folks, like me).
Digital Citizenship
Google Classroom
Students could run a Google Classroom debate through the discussion board on the various aspects of digital citizenship.  Students could record video responses and post links to their videos on the board.
Problem Solving
Project Based Learning
Students could engage in solving a global problem by using PBL and dividing team tasks into Voicethread posts with images and links to other external media.  Imagine a town that could tackle a problem of recycling by getting community members involved in their Voicethread activities!
Purchasing Stocks
Participate in a Simulation
Students could run an in-class stock market simulation over the course of a semester, and in an MMO sense, they could compare each other’s transactions in real time in an online shared database.
Shakespeare Play
Conduct an Interview
Students would be able to retell a Shakespeare play by conducting fake interviews with characters in the play and then spice those interviews up through iMovie, and create a retelling of the play through the interviews.

     The second part of my quest was to dabble in my own TPACK-appropriate lesson plan design.  I took something that was provided on the game sheet, and that had always interested me.  Maybe I will even use it someday.  In the meantime, I issue a thank you to the random number generator on the TPACK game, and I give you my lesson:

TPACK Lesson Plan Template  

Title: Bulls, Bears, and Students: A Stock Market Game

     In this 10th grade economics unit, students will engage in Collaborative (Team-based) Learning to research stocks, analyze stock market trends, and buy/sell stocks across an entire semester using a fixed amount of starting cash ($10,000).  Students teams will use a master Google Docs Sheet to compare their performance with the other teams, and they will use Google Classroom to conduct weekly reflections.  At the end of the semester, students will share their earnings/losses through Google Slides, and an overall class wiki will be generated on Google Classroom.

Primary Core Goals/Outcomes: SS.9–12.E.1
Essential Concept and/or Skill: Understand the function of common financial instruments.
-          Understand the different financial investments, such as mutual funds, stocks and bonds

Intended Learning Outcomes:
Students will be able to:
                Understand stock databases
                Compare/Contrast stocks
                Evaluate the value of stocks based on graphical data
                Calculate changes in stock values weekly

Pedagogical Decisions:
Teacher-Centered —> Student-Centered
     The initial backbone of the project will be teacher centered in the sense that the teacher will provide the parameters for how much money the students can spend, and where students will get their stock market info from.  However, most the lesson is student-centered.  The teams will determine what stocks they buy/sell and when.  Students will also monitor their weekly gains/losses and reflect collaboratively in the provided location.

Type of Learning —> Alternate Type of Learning
     The learning emphasized is mostly divergent.  Students will take the information they have in the beginning and each team and individual will draw their own conclusions about their investments and market performance.  As students reflect, they will be adding more of their own individually and team-derived content knowledge.  Thus, they are taking the basic information of the stock market and generating their own deductions.

Few Prior Experiences —> More Prior Experiences
     Hopefully, and based off Iowa Core data, students should have a great deal of prior experience in the ability to read graphs and follow graphical trends from both social studies and mathematics.  While the stock market information may seem alien to them at first, they analysis of it can be derived from their prior learning.  Thus, I feel like this falls somewhere in the middle.

Surface Comprehension —> Deep Knowledge
     This team-based learning exercise starts with some basic surface comprehension but then leads to deeper understandings as time progresses.  Student teams must make decisions without the assistance of the teacher based on when to buy/sell stocks and why.  Students will be doing their own research and engaging their own hypotheses. 

Shorter Duration Plan —> Longer Duration Plan
\     This plan is intended to be run across an entire semester, so students will be engaged with this project for a lengthy time.  In that time, they will have accumulated a great deal of data and reflections on that data collection with their teams. 

More Structured Learning —> Less Structured Learning
     The structure of learning is heavy in the actual initial design; students need to be placed into teams, students need to be familiarized with the data sources, and students need to know the timetable.  The actual learning, itself, is almost exclusively generated by the students – making the rest of the unit much less structured.

Whole Group —> Small Group —> Individualized
     The bulk of this unit will be conducted on the small group level.  Students will collaborate in their groups extensively and share their individual thoughts and findings.  It is only in the very end at a whole-experience-based reflection, that the whole group becomes a major factor. 

No Additional Resources Required —> Multiple Additional Resources Required
     There are not a lot of additional resources needed.  This team-based project will rely a great deal on web-based functions, such as financial research sites and Google Drive/Classroom content.  Thus, not a lot of resources would be needed beyond physical space for groups, computers, the internet, and Google Drive/Classroom.

TPACK Activity Types:
Read Text (Stock descriptions)
Authentic Adoption
Read Charts
Website (Analysis)
Authentic Adoption
Website (Comparison function)
Constructive Adoption
Complete Charts
Google Sheets
Collaborative Adoption
Develop a Knowledge Web
Google Slides/Google Classroom
Goal-Directed Adaptation
Generate Questions (Reflection)
Google Docs/Google Classroom
Constructive Adaptation

Assessment Plan:
     Students will be assessed in a formative sense through their reflections on the stock market activities.  Teams will be asked to share their experience of playing the stock market game; they will mention their losses/gains, stocks they liked/did not like, and students will provide their rationale for the decisions they made regarding their stocks and investment capital.  This assessment will be through the reflection process and a small classroom presentation done using media that each team chooses. 

Used by the Teacher:  
                Computer, Internet, Google Classroom, Google Drive Suite (Sheets, Slides, Docs)

Used by the Students:
                Computer, Internet, Google Classroom, Google Drive Suite (Sheets, Slides, Docs, Forms (possibly))

Used by the Teacher:
                Internet, Google Classroom, Google Drive

Used by the Students:
                Internet, Google Classroom, Google Drive

Instructional Procedures:
     This unit is centered around students spending an entire semester engaging with the stock market.  They will learn how to buy/sell stocks, and how to analyze stock performance in the market.  Students will begin with a fixed amount of money, and they can reinvest any amount of their profits up until the end of the semester when they “cash out”.  If a team loses all of their money, they are given a loan, which they must factor into the costs of their future investments.

1) Students will be divided into teams of 4 (or whatever dictates even distribution in the classroom. If there is an odd number of students, the extra student will be added to a group at random.

2) The teacher will provide an explanation to the teams regarding the stock research resources (ex. Google Finance) The teacher will have the students research an example stock and report basic data on it, such as: current value, price per share, and P/E ratio.

3) On the second week, student teams will receive their digital $10,000 to invest on a team-generated Google Sheet. The team will collaborate to research and select stocks to use the full amount. Students will individually reflect on the experience on a Google Classroom discussion board for the first week.

4) Each week, students will revisit their stocks, noting gain/losses on their spreadsheets. Students will be allowed to sell/buy stocks based on earnings. Students will make a weekly individual reflection in a team-based Google Document.

5) At the end of the semester, student teams will create a presentation using Google Slides to discuss their gains/losses and their reflections. They will share their stock market “secrets” with the class, and the class will make a stock market wiki on Google Classroom.

6) Students will be provided formative assessment in regards to their individual reflections. The teacher will read the reflections and evaluate them based on the following criteria:

a. Evidence of stock research
b. Validation of stock choices
c. Student conclusions reached about stocks

7) At the end of the experience, students will be provided a Google Form questionnaire to rate their experience and ask for suggestions to improve the activity in the future.

I hope you found this read useful, and that you will consider aligning your future lessons with TPACK in mind!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Navigating TPACK with a cup of coffee

     TPACK has been a part of my life ever since I took my first Ed Tech and Design class way back in the spring of 2013.  I have always had in mind what content I was going to teach, and I had not yet learned the ways in which I might teach - though that would come in the following semester.  I feel lucky in the sense that I was shown the value of adding technology to my lessons before I truly knew how to structure them.  I felt like it gave me an interesting perspective that I otherwise might not have.  Thus, I was introduced to the TPACK model:

fickr image courtesy of uImagine CSU

     Straight away, although I was quite a technology enthusiast, I considered the fact that the technology aspect of TPACK might easily be misused or used to not add value.  I remember sitting through endless slide show after slide show in the Army where they violated all the basic slide show rules - by filling up each slide with novels written in a minuscule font.  The words on the slides were completely the same as the words coming out of the mouths of the presenters.  Needless to say, it was awful.  Luckily, as I persisted in my Ed Tech Minor, I was exposed to the works of Kathy Schrock, an educator that would give me plenty ideas for my future work in education.  Specifically, I became interested in her blog post and discussion about SAMR coffee.  As a coffee fanatic, I was drawn in immediately.
     I feel like SAMR is a simplified version of the Technology Integration Matrix or TIM.  What I like most about SAMR, is that it simply makes sense.  You have to ask yourself how you plan to integrate your technology so that it most usefully blends with your pedagogy and content areas.  Ever since I discovered the SAMR models, I have taken it to heart in writing nearly all of my lesson plans - and because of it - my lesson plans were consistently rated highly by my supervisors.

Here is a video I found that discusses TPACK and SAMR in the Social Studies content area:

     Though the production value of the video may be less than ideal, it combines the two concepts nicely!
     Finally, here is an article I discovered while seeking to improve how I taught Social Studies through technology: How to Teach with Technology: Social Studies.  This article is has both a good balance of TPACK and SAMR principles and can provide a lot of ideas to Social Studies teachers.  I found this through Edutopia, which is always a great place to go when looking for ideas or when you have a general education question.  
     Ultimately, I very much support the idea of designing my lessons based off of TPACK - as long as the technology adds value to the lesson.  I hope you enjoyed this read.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The final A-ha! It's all about how you see things...

flickr image courtesy of Alan Levine
     So this is my last Visual Literacy post.  And, I have to admit that it is very bittersweet to be writing this one.  I have learned much about the concept during this semester, but specifically, I have learned that it is not just about using your eyes and simply looking at the world.  I've learned that we are attracted to specific font styles more than others, and that the creators of advertisements know that fact.  I have learned that Apple designs crappy products because they are visually appealing and give the illusion of being easy and comfortable to interact with while looking cutting-edge at the same time.  About the only thing I really knew in regards to the subject of the class, was the fact that the media and our capitalist society objectifies women in a really bad way in movies and advertising.
image taken by me, no attribution necessary
   We addressed a lot of issues that I never would have felt to be a part of Visual Literacy, yet they permeate the whole notion.  For example, who would have thought that there were so many moral and ethical considerations to make when presenting or looking at photos.  As a teacher, this fact should be very important to me, because my students will be impacted by everything I show them in class, and I have to be careful to pair the right information with the right visuals.  Also, though this class is not a photography class, I will have to say that my ability to take pictures has improved.  As you can see above, I was able to frame my subject in an image that, purely by accident, demonstrates how we perceive depth by showing bookshelves extending back toward the rear wall.
     What I would ultimately like to say, is that I have learned a lot from this class...even if there was a lot of work.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Revenge of the Aha! #4 - Final moments!

flickr photo courtesy of pavel ahmed

November 3rd

     Today we examined the concept of morality in visual literacy.  To be honest, I hadn't thought of it much prior to the presentation, but now that I think about it, perhaps there should be a space for considering morality when interpreting visuals.  I understand that it is important to avoid general morally egregious visuals in society, but what about those things that skirt the boundaries.  Specifically, I would say that the objectification of women in media is a concept that certainly seems immoral or at least unethical in a lot of scenarios, but it happens constantly.  So, I'll leave you with a question after this little section: how do we determine if something is simply in poor taste, but does not violate morality or ethical presentation?

November 10th

     The TED talk today really spoke to me.  If you missed it, check it out here.  Quite often, we see the world through just one lens and we attribute single stories to people based on how we perceive them based on race, culture, ethnicity, or some other visual characteristic.  I think this TED talk speaks to the fact that we have to try to combat that aspect.  In fact, I made a separate PowToon cartoon regarding this topic and how it applies to something I observed while in my teaching field experiences.  I hope you enjoy it, and that it makes you think!

November 17th

     I had a blast when we presented our save the world project today.  I fell like all the groups did an amazing job, and I was amazed at just how much visual literacy actually ended up applying to the projects.  For example, my group had to project an image of being official - so we had to dress up.  Also, we created a darkened room to make the environment seem a little more ominous and used serious facial expressions.  I created documents that hopefully added to the authenticity of the whole thing.  Aside from that, it was amazing to see how much the other presenters took the idea of saving the world in different directions.  I think ours was the darkest!  Also, we have selected our topic for our final project.  Ours is "gluttony"  right away I'm getting pictures in my mind of food, Thanksgiving, pigs, and overall disgusting behavior.

December 1st

     Today's TED talk was about the competition between Prego and Ragu for spaghetti sauce dominance!  Sometimes we forget to think about the fact that maybe we are forcing limited decisions on people, when in reality, people crave a range of options - ones that maybe they don't even know they wanted!  This applies to visual literacy in the sense that we should perhaps provide a range of visual options when portraying how we promote our products and ourselves in society.  There is no one white person, black person, etc., etc.  Instead, we are a living embodiment of that fact that humans aren't just a group, but are individuals as well.  We all have different tastes and preferences, and we cannot keep each other down with just one label or another.  We are complex creatures that crave complexity!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Wag the Dog...or an Idiot's Guide to Political Theater

      Hi everyone!  You know, I actually liked re-watching Wag the Dog...and to be honest, I think I saw it in the theater in the that gives you an idea of how old I am!  I also feel like this movie has a parallel to a lot of aspects in American history, but I will get back to that in a second.
     I think the director was trying to relay a message that maybe politics and media should not be allowed mix, because in our era, the effects can be diabolical.  Also, it seems the director is making a commentary on the fact that politicians will go to extraordinary measures to cover up scandals.  In fact, no one in the story even seems to take the concept of the moral compass into consideration.  
     The film makes all politicians look like opportunistic scumbags who will will take every possible chance to exploit a situation.  Also, the film makes film directors seem like people capable of performing miracles, but then wanting their due credit even at risk of peril.  So, while the film does not necessarily tackle the concept of race, it does look at professions and certain aspects of society.  
     The movie provided strong visual examples of the amount of work that goes into media production, even when it is behind the scenes.  The best example, to me, was the fake funeral for "old shoe."  It was given the television impression of being real, but was a complete facade.  It also reminded me of how in the 1990s, people would fly places and make actual phone calls.  I liked visually seeing actual cell phones!  Also, it felt like a period piece - in that the clothing and haircuts reminded me of an entire decade.  
     I feel like the director used a lot of thematically staged scenes to build plot points.  We see people flying in the plane and everything looking very executive, and at the same time, their actions reflect that on screen - so it feels like the set is sometimes driving the acting.  The direct also uses extremely dark humor to emphasis aspects of the movie.  For example, Robert De Niro's character sort of jokes with Dustin Hoffman's character that talking about the whole process of the deception will result in his death.  In the end, that is exactly what happens, even though he simply talks about trying to take credit, and doesn't have the chance to go through with it. 
     Personally, I feel like this movie is a good analogy to a lot of the political theater in the United States.  Candidates are always trying to get dirt on one another, and they are always trying to cover up their own.  Often times, it feels like there is a distraction that somehow is meant to take attention away from the issue at hand.  While I'm not trying to be a conspiracy theorists, I can see how people can believe in things like "false flag" operations.  I will leave you to come up with your own parallels, but it is not that hard to see how this movie might related somewhat to the events of the last decade or so.  I highly recommend this movie, as it is quite relevant today, and is entertaining even without that aspect.

Objectified...Helvetica for everything else!

     Greetings boys and girls, welcome to another installment of the movie cynic.  I type that because I watched the movie Objectified expected to see something new and eye-opening, but what I got was the design version of Helvetica.  Sit tight, for an action-packed thrill ride of a review.
     I feel like the director was trying to highlight how design in general as changed over the years, especially since the 1970s.  For example, the design mantra of the 1950s and prior revolved around the concept of "form follows function."  To un-package this, I mean to say that things were designed around their perceived usage.  However, there was later a revolution of sorts, and I can think of no better example than the iPod.  It is sleek, simple, has clean lines, and was specifically designed to be aesthetically pleasing.   For an example of this, I encourage you to go to the apple iPod website. The impracticality of it was rectified by the user adapting to the device, instead of the entire design being created with the user in mind.  
     I think the director's background highly influenced this film, because this is very similar to other movies in the series.  A seemingly abstract and minute feature was observed, and the director was able to elaborate on  and make interesting.  Clearing the director has a keen interest in concepts that fall within the realm of design and the impact it has on society in general.  
     The movie added to my visual literacy in the sense that I don't often think a lot about the design of the products that I use.  However, clearly design as a strong impact on consumers, as there are always long lines at Apple stores whenever a new product is launched.  I have always wondered QWERTY keyboard, but I know that I was able to adapt.  Although this is not an exact analog, I think it makes the point that we are willing to adapt to the things we buy.  
     The director mostly just treats the movie as what it is - a documentary.  There are interviews with designers, and some of them give different perspectives regarding their take on the art of design.  Not only are they designers in this respect, but they are also critics of the whole process.
     I don't necessarily recommend this movie if you have seen Helvetica, as you will get more of the same.  However, if you like watching documentaries, then you will find this to be one of the less boring ones.