Friday, July 25, 2014

ED 7714 Personal Learning Networks

Honestly, I have been terrified about PLN's for about a year now.
I looked at the resources we were given for class, and I feel much better. I realized I have already started putting together a personal learning network.

This year, the school librarians in the Danbury area put together a roundtable. We meet physically and we are all on Google+ where we have shared documents. I am also a member of the ITDML community. These pieces of my network are populated with people I can talk when I need to.

I need to expand my online network.

I have always been enamored by Kathy Schrock, a former School Library Media Specialist from Massachusetts, who has been publishing her accumulated knowledge for years in School Library Journal and now on the internet. She is now consults as a self-employed Educational Technologist.
This is her website:
Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything
Boy, can she market herself! She intimidates me. She has since I came across her articles in the 1990's.
After a conversation with my "computer expert" neighbor last night (he is NOT in my PLN!) we decided that "expert" is a relative term. Kathy Schrock has become an expert. She most likely started publishing before she felt like an expert. I'm sure I look like an expert to others. I need to build on that.

I will be attending LearnZillions' TeachFest next week. I am looking forward to networking there and expanding my PLN.
One of my stumbling blocks is Twitter. I have had negative feelings about it since I first heard about it. Maybe it is the name or the "tweet" terminology. I only dabble there when I have to. Apparently, it can be a valuable resource, so I need to give it a more robust try.

I have started to accumulate sites and people I would like to follow in an Evernote document. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ED 7714 Cooking with TPACK

I distracted my son from his computer long enough to pick a bowl, a plate, and a utensil from the kitchen and pick a number from one to five.

This is the result:

Here is the finished product on a piece of microwave chocolate peanut butter cake. The whipped cream was actually a bit thicker than it looks in the photo when I first finished. I was surprised!

Monday, July 21, 2014

The definition of TPACK

Technology, Pedagogy, And Content Knowledge

Technology is tool we use to convey our knowledge in the classroom. This could include, from simplicity to complexity, highlighters, projection devices, and internet applications.

As teachers, we follow some kind of pedagogy, our method and practice of teaching. Our "best practices," students expectations, and classroom management skills come from our personal definition of pedagogy.

Content is our subject area. This is the facts, figures and concepts we feel are important to convey to our students.

Prior to TPACK, there was PCK, which "exists at the intersection of Content and Pedagogy" (Shulman, 1986). Technology (pencils, paper, and projection tools), though considered important, were inconsequential to the definition at that time.  With the advent of the many computer-based technologies used by individuals, businesses, and now schools, we must talk about TPACK.

Here is a Venn diagram which best describes TPACK for me:

Image from

Neither of the three areas of knowledge alone will result in great teaching. For example, a person can have incredible content knowledge and be a expert in his field. Without solid teaching skills (pedagogy) he will be unable to help others learn. Just because a person is a technology whiz does not mean she can teach a classroom full of students. The areas of knowledge must be thougthfully blended in order to maximize a student's learning experience.

Thoughtfully blending Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge is not simple. Teachers who use TPACK successfully often do so using trial and error. The end result is authentic learning. Students are able to use creativity and interpretation. They are engaged.

Koehler, M.J. & Mishra, P. (2008). Handbook of Technological Pedigogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) for Educators. Taylor and Frances.

Mishra, P. & Koehler, M.J. (2006). Technolocical and pedagogical content knowledge; A framework for integrating technology in teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record 108(6).

Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TPACK ponderings

TPACK is central to Instructional Technology and Digital Media Literacy. Having learned about some of the literacies in the ITDML program, Literacy Praxis and Global Literacy, it was interesting to be challenged to use a variety of technologies to express ourselves. As I read about the three examples in the Kohler (2006) article, I pictured how this kind of technology is used or might be used for instruction at Abbott Tech.

"The content-neutral emphasis on generic software tools assumes that knowing a technology automatically leads to good teaching with technology." Kohler, 2006.

Learning technology by design

Example #1: Making movies.
The grad students used idea-based videos (iVideos) to communicate an important educational idea. Technology was learned in the context of the project. There was much collaboration among group members about the content and the technology to relay the content.  Work was done outside of the classroom.
Abbott Tech Connection: Students in our health classes make videos. They work together outside of the classroom during class, study halls, and after school. Students seem to be engaged with the project.

Example #2: Redesigning educational websites
Grad students re-designed existing websites for middle school students based on student-centered knowledge of the topic and the interests and skills of middle-schoolers. 
Abbott Tech Connection: Students have created a Facebook-style page of a US Congressman and a poster about the civil rights movement in the past. Designing a website for a Congressman or a cause would require stronger technology and research skills. Also, students have more exposure to (and pay more attention to) websites than flyers.

Example #3: Faculty development and online course design
Together, Grad students and a tenured teacher created an online course for teacher professional development. The grad students learned about how content and pedagogy work together in real life and the teacher learned to integrate the technology skills.
Abbott Tech Connection: A department could work (with me) on an online unit for their students. They would supply the content, we would collaborate on the pedagogy, and I would help with the technology.

In all three cases the participants learned that "design is about finding an optimal solution, not a perfect solution." Kohler, 2006.  This fits in well with the Common Core State Standards.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

ED 7714 Networked Learning Project #3

Weeping Angel Project

I collected the items for the project. Upon reviewing part of the video, I realized I needed something to secure the pole for the mannequin torso to the stand. I returned to The Home Depot and found a flag pole stand that could be screwed on to wood. I picked up drywall compound as well.

Following the instructions, I cut shoulder holes in the torso. The Spider Joints, which can be bent to extreme angles, connected through the torso with a length of PVC pipe, which was eventually stabilized with a screw through the shoulder.

Of course, the mannequin neck did not fit in the torso neck hole, so I whittled down the styrofoam... and the plastic... to make the pieces fit.

Here is the basic weeping angel "skeleton." This took an afternoon.

I don't use construction tools, other than using an electric drill to screw window treatment placement into the wall. I got help from a general contractor friend of mine. I stood on the boards and held things in place as she used her tools to make the base for our new friend. She also helped me figure out how to secure the wings to our angel. The modified weeping angel in the video is wingless. We securely screwed a board from the base of her neck to the opening at the waist of the dress form.

My home is a "maker space." I use the internet all the time to learn how to make things and how to do things. My biggest challenge for this project was using a YouTube video. I prefer to read the directions and look at the pictures. That way, I can skip over the steps I already know how to do. I was especially annoyed when I couldn't remember the proportions of the "Monster Mud" that I needed to make to cover the completed structure. I Googled "monster mud" and got the recipe in writing on a website.
5 parts drywall compound
1 part latex paint
I purchased the drywall compound and my contractor friend had half a gallon of gray paint at her house that she let me use.

I delivered the "angel skeleton" and wooden base to a friend's house. She had volunteered to dress the angel. I was happy to relinquish that part of project, as this was happening during the last three weeks of school. When the dress was stapled to the mannequin, we set a date for the monster mud phase.  As the date approached, I realized there wasn't enough hair on the mannequin head to do the angel justice. I looked at weeping angel pictures on the internet and re-watched part of the YouTube video and discovered the guy had used a mop head for hair. It was the perfect size and texture.

At home, I painted the wings with the gray latex paint and brought them to my friend's house along with the compound and paint. After covering the angel with monster mud, we realized the wings had a different sheen to them. We applied monster mud to the painted wings so they would match.  

Monster mud is thick like drywall compound and is applied by hand. It is easy to "sculpt" fabric and flexible material. It dries stiff and makes an object look like a statue. Below are the before and after photos of our angel on Monster Mud day.

We decided to transport the weeping angel to the school before attaching the wings.

ED 7714 Networked Learning Project #2

Weeping Angel Project

After finding the YouTube video, "How to make a modified weeping angel" and watching it, I sat down with a pencil and paper and watched it again, writing down all the items I needed to complete the project. The goal was to keep the cost down and make something that would knock the socks off the Dr. Who fans.

Mannequin torso or dress form
Mannequin head
PVC pipe
Spider Joints
Construct base from plywood and wood
Monster mud: drywall compound, latex paint

In the meantime, I made wings. There were no wings on the modified weeping angel statue in the YouTube video, so I needed to go back to the internet. Using pictures from Google Images, I sketched out wings on paper. Because I planned to make the wings using a cardboard display box I scavenged from ShopRite, I chose to search for "dr who weeping angel drawing." I would be better able to see the lines. This is the drawing I used:
I printed out the page for reference.
Doctor Who - Weeping Angels by mikedaws
Out of the corregated cardboard box, I cut out wing shapes and some of the individual feather shapes.  In a couple of evenings, I assembled the basic wings using cardboard only. The following week, I used papier mache (learned via the internet for a 2013 construction) to add detail to the wings. They sat, unpainted, on the back three season porch. this is a basic cardboard wing.

Over the course of two months, I asked around and collected or ordered the objects. A colleague had a dress form that one of her students had given her. She was willing to give it to me. Abbott Tech Hairdressing throws away mannequin heads when students finish cutting and coloring the hair. I ordered mannequin hands from and Spider Joints from Spider Hill Propworks online. I purchased 2X4's and PVC pipe at The Home Depot. I already had bolts of old curtain fabric that a colleage once gave me, and plywood. 

ED 7714 Networked Learning Project #1

Weeping Angel Project

Every year, Brookfield High School sends their seniors off with a Graduation Night Party.  Parents and community members decorate a portion of the school based on a theme. Our room theme this year (2014) was "Dr. Who." As I knew little about "the Doctor," I watched six seasons on Netflix to get a feel for our project. I also was hooked on it once I got started. 

Because I have limited time to devote to this project, each year, I focus on creating a handful of characters to place around our room. One of the most iconic characters (according to Dr. Who fans) is the "Weeping Angel." This alien looks like an angel statue. If you turn away from it, it creeps closer. Don't blink.  If it touches you, something bad happens. If an angel looks at another angel's eyes, they both turn to stone, so they keep their eyes covered.

I volunteered to make a weeping angel. As a librarian, I went to my favorite starting place, Google. I typed in "How to make a weeping angel."  I figured someone had tried to make one and had documented it online. I found a YouTube video, "How to make a modified weeping angel."
I was not thrilled. I prefer written instructions with pictures, but there were none. I watched the video. It was perfect, exept that the modified angel in the video had no wings.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

ED 7714 Philosophy Statement

My philosphy of education has changed over time. This is what I currently believe.

We learn best when we feel safe. As a librarian, I work to keep students in my area busy, on-task, and safe. I keep student behavior expectations clear, student supplies handy, and conversation among staff and among students friendly and respectful. I want students to understand than I am a resource, and also a trusted person in the building. At Abbott Tech, safety is a priority. Staff is strongly encouraged to build positive professional relationships with parents, students, and colleagues. These relationships create a safe envioronment for learning.

We do our best thinking when we have time to reflect. Time is precious. Teenagers spend the bulk of their time socializing, and the rest of it catching up on what they should have been doing while they were socializing. I do not teach every day at my job, but when I do, I build in time for reflection to force students to think about what I have been trying to teach them.

We learn best when we are excited about our learning. Some students can be extrinsically motivated, but most students, especially the digital natives of today, will learn best when we can activate what motivates them internally. As a specialist, I have the luxury of teaching students library and research skills "just in time." They are able to practice and use these skills as they complete work for subject-area teachers. Many of the skills I teach: search skills, documentation, and copyright, are life skills, and sometimes I can hook them that way.

Behaviorsist B.F. Skinner argued that students learn by conditioning. We use conditioning all the time to encourage our children or our students to do what we want them to do. I remember contemplating the irony of telling my 3-year-old to put on his coat nicely like his best friend was doing, and admonishing my 13-year-old step-daughter not to cave in to peer pressure. External conditioning is limited. Although I understand that, I still habitually say, "Thank you for signing in." Getting the same trophy as everyone else only works for a select few.

Teenagers often ask the question, "When will I ever need that?" I think it is important for schools to expose children to many different subjects, even if they are not initially excited about the topic. A student who does not like Biology may have an experience that draws them to Nursing as a profession. That Biology class then becomes important.

I read some of John Holt's book, "Why Children Fail," a couple of years ago. He is not a philosopher or psychologist, but I want to mention him anyway. He and another teacher observed that children do not do well at school due to "fear of failure, fear of being ridiculed... and being forced to study things that they are not necessarily interested in" (Wikipedia.) Holt is a huge proponent of homeschooling. I was exposed to many homeschooling families as a public librarian. Most of these children were well-adjusted and well-read. While I don't disagree with everything Holt espouses, I cannot agree that homeshooling is always the best way for children to learn. Their parents must be wholly engaged in the process and be willing to take themselves and their homeschooled children out of their comfort zones, and not all parents are able or willing to do that. Although we have a bigger class of students than a homeschool parent, we have more tools at our disposal to engage children in subjects they are not necessarily interested in.

My philosophy is a work in progress, and it changes as I acquire new tools and knowledge in this program.

Wikipedia contributors. "John Holt (educator)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 Jun. 2014. Web. 11 Jul. 2014.

(I just used Wikipedia as a resource for the FIRST TIME!)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

ED 7714 Introduction

I have been in the IT&DML program for a year now - one course at a time, not two. The first cohort will be graduating at the end of the summer. It is melancholy - and a little jealous - to see them finish up while I am still working. I still get notifications of their posts, but I am not ready to delete them from my circles. When I have new the names, I will be creating at IT&DML2 circle for this cohort. I am excited to meet you, but not excited enough to sit through an introductory session of the 6th year program! Please remember, if you feel overwhelmed, we ALL feel that way. Seriously. Take a deep breath and ask a colleague.

I chose the IT&DML 6th year program because I am the sole librarian at Henry Abbott Technical High School in Danbury, CT and I felt I needed to force myself to be current in the latest technology. I have discovered that this program is more than I expected. As an educator in the CT Technical HS System, there are trends in education that I have not been exposed to. The experience has been eye-opening. Sometimes I feel completely lost, and sometimes I feel like I am ahead of the curve.

I lead a "busy and fulfilling life." Translated, that means I am highly committed, and often happy to be so. In plain English, I am BUSY. Through school, I am a co-adviser for the Class of 2015, Yearbook, and Leo Club (affiliated with Lions Club.) Aside from sports, Abbott Tech's after-school opportunities are lackluster, and one of my personal goals is to get kids involved. Outside of school, I am active at my church. Currently I sing in the choir, play handbells, and serve as chairperson of the Stewardship Committee. This week (July 7-11) I am leading the Story Center and the sixth graders at Vacation Bible School.

Believe it or not, I still spend time with my family. You may hear a "soundtrack" behind me when I am on a Google Hangout. That very well could be my son writing one of his songs. He and my husband belong to a local band, Dan's Garage. I am a groupie. I keep track of the regular goings-on at home and cook most meals.

Like the familiar story/parable, the stones in the jar are my job and my family. The pebbles are this class and my regular activities. The sand is my hobbies. I find time to knit, garden, sew, entertain, and relax. I'm a planner, and adding grad courses to my schedule has make me an expert at time-management. Because I had a preview from last year, I did a networked learning project this spring. If I can use it, you'll get to see my "artwork" for the Brookfield HS Grad Party... another of my hobbies.

Again, I look forward to meeting the new IT&DML cohort next Monday. Welcome.