Monthly Archives: April, 2013

School Evaluation Summary

Reflection:

This assignment was difficult to begin as I was unclear about some of the terminology related to the maturity model benchmarks.  It would be beneficial to see examples of what was meant in each section.  Once I started going though, evaluation became simpler.  I got a better feel for the rubric and could easily pick up on examples within my district of evaluation.

Due to the lack of a technology plan and lack of administrative support in the form of training on implementation of new technologies I had a feeling this district would score low.  The low scores though are primarily because of the lack of training provided to staff.  I think if staff had more training, many areas that received marks in the Emergent or Islands stages would easily move toward an Integrated or Intelligent range.  The information gathered during this process could prove valuable in future arguments toward staff development in the areas of technology use and planning.  Without it, most teachers will be stuck on their islands with no way off.  Many will only see what is in front of them and will only use the technology for what they see as the intended purpose.  They will forever be stranded with no chance of advancement for themselves or their students.

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Artifact #2: Classroom Gamification Through Badges

http://www.timrylands.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/ClassBadges-300×202.png

Following my reading of Developing Effective Technology Plans by John See, the touch typing portion of my instruction may need revamped in order to integrate it more effectively into the curriculum (See, 1992).  This itself may help motivate students to take typing more seriously, but for now I’ve taken an approach to motivating students under my current model of instruction.  In this artifact I plan to highlight the research of gamification in the form of badges to increase to student motivation.  More specifically I will describe how earning achievements/badges have motivated my students to learn and perfect their touch typing skills.

As I began my first year as a computer/technology teacher, I followed the plans laid out before me from a colleague that’s had a chance to work through numerous strategies and ideas to help students along with touch typing.  I moved through the semester employing her methods and found they just didn’t fit my style and under my direction, I was not seeing the progress I wanted.  Often times, I would catch students doing whatever they could to stall from opening the typing program.  When they were typing, I caught students peaking at the keys or blatantly ignoring my requests to have their fingers on the home row keys.  I frequently attempted to communicate the importance of typing skills to their future in education and in their careers, but this hasn’t worked either.  Nothing I could think of was motivating my students to put forth more effort.

Upon returning from the Ohio Educational Technology Conference in February, where I first encountered the term gamification, I took a different direction in an effort to spur progression through their touch typing lessons.  I listened to Dr. Sean Dickers (S. Dickers, personal communication, February 12, 2013) talk about students spending hours playing video games where they received little to no reward aside from personal satisfaction in overcoming a challenge and earning achievements to increase their score.  This point hit me.  I went back to school in search of motivational ideas and strategies to encourage a more focused effort on their touch typing.

The Research:

In this search I came across a reading about classbadges.com in one of my RSS feeds.  The idea sounded appealing so researched further before implementing the idea with my classes. Here is what I found and experiences so far:

My primary aims for beginning a badge system were to give students a clearer picture of their goal and their progress toward the goal.  Research has shown that badges are successful in establishing clear goals to be achieved (Antin & Churchill, 2011; Siering, 2012).  By creating badges for my classroom I’ve established clear goals for students to examine and work toward achieving.  Many of my typically unmotivated students can tell me about the hours they’ve spent trying to beat a video game.  And for what?  What do they get?  A virtual trophy? More coins? An achievement icon and points to add to their gamer score?  Essentially nothing, but it doesn’t matter to them.  They beat the challenge and they have the record to prove it.  They are the type of people who as Ling (2005) puts it, “consume” goals (Ling, 2005).   Their primary interest is achieving the goals, and they put time and effort into doing so.  Their reward is satisfaction in achieving the goal and overcoming the challenge set forth before them (Antin & Churchill, 2011).

Badges also allow users to track progress toward a larger goal (Antin & Churchill, 2011; Siering, 2012).  Fortunately, the typing program I use has a built in feature to allow students to see progress toward their initial goal, but it does little to recognize an achievement once the goal is reached.  This is where the badge system provides that little extra push.  For students motivated by grades and being at the top of the class, badges provide that status symbol (Antin & Churchill, 2011).  I’ve established badges for those wanting to go above and beyond the expected goal.  Earning this badge gives these students bragging rights for their higher achievements without having to brag.  Their badge speaks for itself.

My secondary goal is to get students to spend more time practicing typing.  When using the computer at home students easily revert to old habits and forget all they have been taught, earning a badge provides the extra motivation and reminder to keep practicing their keyboarding skills no matter where they use a computer.  Earning badges has been shown to increase the amount of time one spends on an activity (Koo, 2012).  As you will soon read my badge system has been effective in at least creating the desire to spend more time engaged in typing.  In the future I would like to implement an online practice area that allows me to track time students spend on typing it home.  (In hindsight, it would have been beneficial to research to implement this before the badges program and see if use increased.)

To pilot this project this year, I started out with my third grade students.  In second grade these students began touch typing by learning their homerow keys.  They spent the entire year on this lesson as it is the most difficult because of the number of keys they learn in one lesson.  Touch typing is exciting at first and students love it, but for many the excitement fades quickly in second grade when the newness fades and they aren’t seeing progress.  They lose the desire and motivation to continue learning.  I saw this with my third graders and wanted to start something to create a challenge with an attached achievement.  Something that would also allow them to track their progress and provide some form of extrinsic motivation, albeit in the form on an electronic badge.

Students were excited about the program upon the introduction.  They wanted to see the badge and wanted to get back to typing to try and earn the next, or possibly first badge.  I usually begin class with ten minutes of touch typing, which is typically greeted with moans and complaints.  Since implementing classbadges, students are quick to login and start typing.  Rarely do I hear the complaints and groans unless it is because they just missed a lesson and were close to passing.  I have also seen a desire to practice more.  Numerous students have approached asking how to use the program at home, which sadly they cannot.  I have directed students to the numerous sites available for free though to practice typing on line.  Before school lets out, I will try to put together a list of sites I recommend for typing practice over summer break.

I know badges are not the answer for all students and it will take some more time to judge its effectiveness, but so far I feel a more positive attitude toward the time spent practicing and I’m hearing more desire to type correctly.  I also like the ability I have to easily track progress and provide means for students to check and show off their own progress as motivation to continue typing.  Badges and insignia have been used for years in the military to denote rank, skills, qualifications, missions, etc.  Just looking at a uniformed military member with numerous badges and insignia respect is commanded for the authority they have gained in the time, training, and experiences they have encountered to earn their badges.  I see class badges in the same light, although at a much different level.  When students reach a specified benchmark or have mastered a specific skill they deserve some recognition and for some, a badge is just enough to push the student on.  They will know that when others look at their badges they will know the time and effort put forth to obtain it.

References

Antin, J., & Churchill, E. F. (2011). Badges in social media: A social psychological perspective. Retrieved from http://uxscientist.com/public/docs/uxsci_2.pdf

Koo, G. (2012, March 7). Games, badges and learning valuable games. Weblogs at Harvard Law School. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/games/2012/03/07/games-badges-and-learning/

Ling, K., Beenen, G., Ludford, P., Wang, X., Chang, K., Li, X., … & Kraut, R. (2005). Using social psychology to motivate contributions to online communities. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 10(4), 00-00. DOI: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2005.tb00273.x

Siering, G. (2012, March). Gamification: Using game-like elements to motivate and engage students. Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://citl.indiana.edu/news/newsStories/dir-mar2012.php

Technology Use Planning Overview

Defining technology use planning is not easy because of its changing nature.  I found it best to put together a definition using the analogies provided by Anderson and using See’s suggestions for developing an effective technology plan (Anderson, 1999 and See, 1992).  I would define a technology use plan as a short term plan or map that details the desired outcomes in using technology and provides a suggested route to achieve those outcomes.  It is vital to have the entire map rather than one route to the destination.  A single route ties an institution into one form or one brand of technology that may be discovered as ineffective in achieving the desired outcomes.  As an institution follows its suggested route or working plan, they may also come across a cheaper more effective route to more efficiently achieve their goals.

Long term plans focusing on specific forms of technology simply will not work with the rate at which technological advances occur today.  A popular phrase one hears today is that the technology you buy today is obsolete tomorrow.  I recall purchasing my first big screen TV just last year.  The day it was delivered I came across better deals with larger screens and newer features.  This fact alone makes it challenging to even purchase new technologies.  There always seems to be something newer, bigger and, better and there always will be.  However, short term technology plans create the opportunity for easy accommodations to these changes in technologies and allow institutions flexibility in their purchases.

In conjunction with this idea I agree with Anderson and See that a technology plan must be about more than computers.  The central focus must be the users and creating the opportunity for those users to achieve the desired results with the best technology for the job.

When creating a technology use plan, the National Educational Technology plan should prove to be a valuable resource.  The NETP outlines the goals and outcomes educational institutions should attain with their technology.

Prior to this assignment I had really never heard of a technology use plan.  I’ve never heard mention of one in our district and I’m not sure if we even have one at this point.  If we do not have one I think it vital the district works to create one.  Right now it seems like the district haphazardly throws money into new technology when it has funding available.  There seems to be no consideration about what we would like students and staff to gain or achieve through using it.  A couple of people, namely the superintendent and technology coordinator get together and decide what would get us the most bang for the buck and they make a purchase and hand out the equipment.  There is no staff development, no guidance, just here is the equipment, this should make you a better teacher.  As I enter different classrooms I often see $300-$400 dollar document cameras gathering dust or being used as an overhead projector.  The principal wants each classroom to have a document camera and projector without any consideration to whether or not the equipment would even be used.  I see thousands of wasted dollars that could have been used somewhere else.  I’ve recently tried to turn the tech coordinator toward purchasing an alternative document camera for a quarter the cost of the current models.  If we have to purchase them and they are just going to sit there, why spend so much?  I think this quote from See in Developing Effective Technology Plans best sums up my thoughts on the current situation in my district; “Why not fund initiative, effectiveness, and success.”  (1992)

Anderson, L. (1999). Technology planning: It’s more than computers. Retrieved from: http://www.nctp.com/articles/tpmore.pdf

See, J. (1992, May). Developing effective technology plans. The Computing Teacher, 19, (8). Retrieved from: http://www.nctp.com/html/john_see.cfm

U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology. (2010). National education technology plan. Washington D.C: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from: http://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/netp2010.pdf

Additional Artifact 1 – Minecraft Club (#7)

I am just now getting a chance to post about Minecraft club from this week. I spent a few hours over break creating a “village” seen below. I started out with a random seed and leveled out an already fairly flat place. From here I created a basic city layout with a main street and sidewalk. I then created plots of land from which each student would choose a site to build their home. Most of the plots were separated by a two block wide sidewalk. I wish now I would have created more space between the plots but the students didn’t have any complaints.

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We started today in the tutorial world, where I spawned students straight to the campground to give them some time to practice building in creative mode. By the end of that 10 minutes it was evident by the amount of lava flowing through the area there would need to be some rules established once we started the village.

When we went to the village I explained to students the situation would be similar to when the first settlers landed in America and how they would basically find some land and claim it as their own. The students would be doing this as well and would have to settle disputes using the in game chat. Before setting students free they thought I asked if we needed to make any rules and they all agreed that no lava would be a good idea. They also decided that if anyone was caught intentionally destroying someone else’s property they would be frozen for 3 minutes.

I then let the students go and had them put a sign in front of their plot with their name. I let students build whatever structure they wanted but told them that if they accidently destroyed part of the village they should replace it. The buzz in the classroom was great. Students were so excited about their creations and what others were doing and it was even better to see them asking for and giving help through the in game chat. Here are some screen shots of what they were able to do in about 45 minutes of build time.

I was so excited by what they had created. Just seeing the engagement and hearing the discussions is such an encouragement. Everything was going great!! It was about time to close down the server so students could do some blogging. Of course I heard the groans, not because they didn’t like blogging, but because they didn’t want to stop building. So I shut down the server and one of the students asks “Did you save it?”

I’m thinking, save it? I don’t have to do that right? I got a sinking feeling though so I started the server back up and went to the village, the bare, empty village!!!!

Of course there were some students that were a bit upset, but nothing like I expected. It’s possible that my reaction as treating it as a learning experience for them and myself helped with their reactions. They were a bit frustrated but most said I didn’t really like some of mine anyway, or there was something they wanted to do better. Overall, I think it was a success, and I will remember to save!!

I can’t help but smile about the student’s excitement. I often get stopped outside of class during my other duties and asked what we will be doing in Minecraft Club or that they can’t wait until Minecraft Club.

Digital Inequality

Wow, I’ve learned so much through this assignment, but boy am I glad to be finished with it. On top of the hours and hours I spent researching and reading it doesn’t compare with what I could have done.  It seemed like each piece I read lead me to another or started me thinking about other questions I then wanted to research as well.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day!

As I mention in my presentation I had originally intended to research the inequalities in how the the internet is used among different genders, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education, income, etc.  As I began my research I discovered the larger problem was the divide in access to high speed internet, an issue like most of the public I was fairly unaware of.

Maybe I’m too much of an optimist, but I do not like to think of our government as a corrupt institution where politicians and executives aren’t always in their positions for the good of the public, but instead seek what is most beneficial to themselves.  I am also stunned at the lack of effort by the government to provide the means and methods for all to have access to affordable high speed internet.

In the presentation below I highlight the current status of broadband access, the problems with providing the access, and some difficult but potential solutions to closing the gap between those with access and those without.

Great resource for researching.

Classroom Aid

by Staff Writers of OnlineUniversities.com : 100 Time-Saving Search Engines for Serious Scholars (Revised)

Back in 2010, we shared with you 100 awesome search engines and research resources in our post: 100 Time-Saving Search Engines for Serious Scholars. It’s been an incredible resource, but now, it’s time for an update. Some services have moved on, others have been created, and we’ve found some new discoveries, too. Many of our original 100 are still going strong, but we’ve updated where necessary and added some of our new favorites, too. Check out our new, up-to-date collection to discover the very best search engine for finding the academic results you’re looking for.

General

Need to get started with a more broad search? These academic search engines are great resources.

  1. iSEEK Education:iSeek is an excellent targeted search engine, designed especially for students, teachers, administrators, and caregivers. Find authoritative, intelligent, and time-saving…

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