Sunday, July 28, 2013

Integrating Social Networking

Subject/Grade:   French 2 - 8th grade

Unit/Lesson:  Unit 3 - Speaking in the past tense

Outcome: Students will be able to describe past events using a various vocabulary and structures

Standards: Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum 

                  1.0   COMMUNICATION
1.1   Interpersonal
b. Students engage in exchanges about familiar and personal topics in the present, past, and future in the target language.

Common Core State Standards
 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
CCSS.Math.Practice.MP7 Look for and make use of structure.

Social Networking Site:  Twitter

Rationale:  In French 2, one of the biggest topics is speaking in the past tense.  It is introduced in Unit 3, and reinforced and expanded upon in all the units after.  Students can not pass the comprehensive final exam (and therefore can not receive high school credit for French 2) if they do not have a firm grasp on speaking in the past tense.  As there is a huge push in my school district to use authentic language in authentic scenarios, Twitter provides a wonderful platform for communication.  Students would get away from translation and meaningless scenarios, and would be able to use what they have learned in a way that is meaningful and exciting for them.  Twitter's character limits would force the students to think critically about what they are typing, and will encourage self and peer editing.  While Twitter is not currently approved for use with students in my school district, we have been informed that it may be a possibility for the upcoming school year.  I am hopeful that I will be able to complete this lesson with my students in the fall!

Lesson idea:  Twitter would be incorporated in this unit as a way to reinforce the lessons while students are outside of school.  Every day, I would post a question to Twitter, like below:

This question asks "What did you do yesterday after school?".  Each student would be required to respond to the question I post.  Then, each student would have to ask a classmate a follow up question to their answer.  For example, if a student responded to my question and said "I played soccer with my friends", a classmate could ask "What time did you play soccer?", "Where did you play soccer?", etc.   By doing this, students would practice understanding questions in the past tense, responding in the past tense, and formulating their own questions in the past tense.  I could tailor the initial question to touch on whatever nuance of the past tense that we learned in class that day.  Since my students spend a huge amount of time on Twitter outside of school, this would be an effective way to get them to use French outside of the classroom.

Differentiation: Above-level learners could be challenged to ask more than one follow up question.  Below-level learners would be provided with sentence starters (or tweet starters, if you will) to provide the framework of how to respond to the daily question.

Assessment: At the end of each week, I would grade students on their tweets using the following rubric

Response to initial daily question
Student responded to the initial daily question all 5 days
Student responded to the initial daily question on 4 of the 5 days
Student responded to the initial daily question on 3 of the 5 days
Student responded to the initial daily question on only 1 or 2 of the 5 days
Student did not meet any of the requirements described
Follow up questions
Student asked at least one follow up question of a classmate on all 5 days
Student asked at least one follow up question of a classmate on 4 of the 5 days
Student asked at least one follow up question of a classmate on 3 of the 5 days
Student asked at least one follow up question of a classmate on only 1-2 of the 5 days
Student did not meet any of the requirements described
Responses to follow up questions
Student responded to at least one follow up question asked of them on all 5 days
Student responded to at least one follow up question asked of them on 4 of the 5 days
Student responded to at least one follow up question asked of them on 3 of the 5 days
Student responded to at least one follow up question asked of them on only 1-2 of the 5 days
Student did not meet any of the requirements described
Prompt Requirements
Student’s responses to the daily question show a high level of understanding.  Student regularly attempts more complex sentences.
Student’s responses to the daily question show a good level of understanding.  Student attempts more complex sentences.
Student’s responses to the daily question show a basic level of understanding.  Student rarely attempts more complex sentences.
Student’s responses to the daily question show minimal understanding.  Student does not attempt more complex sentences.
Student did not meet any of the requirements described
Spelling and grammar are used effectively with minimal errors that interfere with comprehension
Spelling and grammar are used effectively with some errors that interfere with comprehension
Spelling and grammar have many errors that interfere with comprehension
Spelling and grammar usage make comprehension difficult
Student did not meet any of the requirements described

The Seven Day Social Immersion Challenge

CLICK HERE to see my photo of the day for each day of this week

In 2012, I completed the Project 365 challenge, so this week's photo-a-day assignment was a lot of fun for me!  From January 1st, 2012 to December 31st, 2012, I posted a photo every single day.  I tried to take a photo that summed up the major part of my day.  Throughout the process, I learned a lot about photography, and about myself!  I enjoy photography and have taken a few photography classes, so I undertook the Project 365 challenge as a way to improve my photography skills.  I also thought it would be a neat way to document a year in my life.  I used the Project 365 app on my iPhone, and every day I uploaded my photo to Facebook.  This was a great way for my family that lives in New England to know what was going on in my life.  Many of my family members have told me how much they loved seeing my pictures every day (one aunt said they were the only reason she logged in to Facebook every day), and they were disappointed when the year was over.  Many of them have asked me to start doing Project 365 again.  After this week, I remember how much fun it was, and I'm definitely tempted to start again!  Not only did Project 365 help improve my photography, it helped me to try new things and get out of my apartment more often.  Knowing that people were looking at my pictures each day, I certainly didn't want to have picture after picture of me sitting on the couch watching TV.  So I made myself go out and do things more often than I normally would.  I started walking the dog more, going out in Annapolis, and spending more time with friends.  Those habits have now stuck with me, and I'm definitely enjoying life!
For my pictures this week, all of them were taken with my iPhone 5, except for Friday's.  That photo was taken with my Nikon D70 and an 80-400mm lens.  I decided to approach this week like the year of Project 365, and post a picture that summed up the major part of my day.  I have seen other photo-a-day challenges that revolve around themes, or specific subject matter, and I think those would be an interesting twist on the challenge.  I might just have to try one of those out!

Although the assignment said to complete either the photo-a-day challenge or the Twitterthon, I decided that I would try to amp up my Twitter usage this week, just to see how it would go.  I tried to find new people to follow every day, and also tried posting more often.  I found that I got very overwhelmed in trying to keep up with it all!  I am a regular Twitter user, so I'm comfortable using it, but I found that I was devoting way more time to reading my Twitter feed than I wanted to.  I have three different Twitter accounts - one is personal, one is educational, and one is for following the nail art world (which I write a blog for).  For some of the people I followed this week, I have decided to follow them with one of my other accounts.  That way I can read those feeds if I have some extra time.  My personal Twitter account will just be for those that I want to follow on a daily basis.  While I was a bit overwhelmed by my mini-Twitterthon, I did find some interesting new people and businesses to follow!

Photo of the Day - Sunday

It was a lazy day around the apartment.  Finnegan was not happy to be woken from a nap.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Photo of the Day - Saturday

Today I walked 4.5 miles on the B&A Trail (a walking/biking trail that goes from Baltimore to Annapolis).  I've walked about 8 miles of the trail so far, and I hope to do the other 5 miles in the near future!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Photo of the Day - Friday

Today I explored a new park near the U.S. Naval Academy.  This heron was kind enough to pose for a picture or two.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Photo of the Day - Thursday

My dog and I tried out a new walking route today.  This was a view along the way.  I love living in Annapolis - there are beautiful water views around every turn!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Photo of the Day - Wednesday

Spending the afternoon at a vineyard in Connecticut

Photo of the Day - Tuesday

Checking out the mansions along the Cliff Walk in Newport, RI

Digital Story Created with a Cell Phone

For this week's assignment, I used my cell phone to create a digital story.  The theme of the story was "I knew I was going to be an educator when...".  To tell my part of the story, I decided to use pictures and captions.  I added the captions to the pictures by using the "A Beautiful Mess" app on my phone.  I used my phone to find and download the music used in this video.  I then included videos of some of my family members sharing their stories about becoming teachers.  This was filmed while on a family vacation.  At one point in the vacation, we had 14 educators under one roof!  After filming, I edited the video together using Windows Movie Maker.  I enjoyed creating this video, and could definitely have my students create digital stories using cell phones!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Mobiles in the Classroom Interview

For this interview, I reached out to my friend Chris.  Chris used to work at the school where I teach, but two years ago he took a position at the high school that my school shares a building with.  This has made it easy to stay in touch, and I knew that Chris would be a great person to interview about using cell phones in the classroom.

Chris teaches a variety of high school art classes.  He teaches everything from basic foundations of art, through advanced placement classes. When I asked Chris how he incorporates cell phones in his classes, he had a lot of ideas to share.  Chris lets his students use their cell phones in a variety of ways that help enhance instruction.  Chris often has students take pictures of their artwork while it is in progress.  He says he then uses the photos to have the class do some peer-review of art.  Being able to project a picture for the class is much easier than having a whole class crowd around a piece of art.  He says this process also helps students see their art in a new way.  When they have to decide how to best photograph the art, and when they see it in front of the class, they see it with new eyes.  Chris also allows his students to do research on their phones.  There are a variety of art apps available where students can look up famous works of art.  It is much easier to have students do this right in the art studio, rather than trying to reserve a computer lab.

Chris also uses cell phones in his photography class.  He says that the class has evolved over the years, and now cell phone photography is a major component.  Since many cell phones now have sophisticated cameras, he is able to help his students learn how to take impressive cell phone pictures.  He also uses apps such as Photoshop Express to edit the photos.  Chris says that, since most people use their cell phones as their main camera now, he enjoys teaching students how to use their phones to take better pictures.

The high school's policies on cell phones made it easy for Chris to incorporate cell phones into his classroom.  A few years ago the high school principal decided that cell phones would be allowed in the hallways and in classes (at the discretion of the teacher).  Chris says that, because students are allowed to use their phones when appropriate and are often using them for class-related activities, he has not had to deal with any cell phone issues in his classes.  He has not had to take a phone away, come across a student using their phone inappropriately, or any such issues.  Chris appreciates that the principal trusts teachers to use their judgement when it comes to cell phones in their classes.

When I asked Chris if he plans on using cell phones with his student next year, he responded "absolutely!".  Chris has been able to incorporate cell phones into his class in a meaningful way, and he has seen wonderful results.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Discovering Something New

This week, to discover some new online tools, I went to Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything.  Having taken a previous Wilkes class with Ms. Schrock, I knew that I would be able to find some very interesting sites through her page.  I chose three different sites to evaluate, and I enjoyed using these sites and learning more about them.

The first site I looked at was Pixlr, a photo editing website.  I have an interest in photography, so this site appealed to me.  I have Adobe Photoshop Elements installed on my computer, and use it regularly.  Pixlr is quite comparable to Elements, at least when it comes to the basic tools (which are all I have learned up to this point).  As Pixlr is a free site, I was very impressed with the capabilities.  In order to explore and learn about the site, I decided to edit a picture.  I started with a picture I had taken at a 4th of July party.  I used Pixlr's text option to add the date to the picture.  Then I started editing.  I used the spot healing tool to get rid of a distracting mark on the pier, and then I adjusted the brightness and contrast.  Then, I applied a slight blur filter to just the outside edges.  I tried other filters and adjustments, but found that I didn't need to add them.  The end result of the editing I did on Pixlr is this picture:
For my classroom purposes, I don't think that Pixlr would be very useful.  However I can certainly see how appealing it may be to other subject areas.  My friend/colleague teaching a class called Project Runway, and part of her curriculum includes using Photoshop.  She was lucky enough to receive enough copies of Photoshop for the computer lab, but I know other teachers in the county are not as lucky.  Pixlr would be a great, cost-saving alternative.

The next site I explored was Gliffy.  I had come across this site before, but never had a chance to explore it.  In my school district, there is a huge push to use thinking maps.  We are expected to use thinking maps at least once a week, and administrators look to see if our students are creating thinking maps regularly.  Our students are very familiar with the different types of thinking maps, however I find that they get bored with them quickly.  They use thinking maps so often that the students are not engaged by them anymore.  Before exploring Gliffy, I was hopeful that it would be a tool I could use with students to re-motivate them to use thinking maps.  I set to creating a flow map for a story that my French II students read each year.  Here is a screen shot:
Gliffy is extremely user friendly and intuitive.  The tools work in a way that makes sense, so I didn't have to spend any time trying to figure out how to work them.  
The downfall of Gliffy is that it is not entirely free to use.  With a free account, you can only create five diagrams per month.  Unless I had each student create an account (which I am not allowed to do), I would not be able to have students work on this program.  We could use it to make thinking maps as a class, but that eliminates a lot of the purpose behind thinking maps.  Gliffy does offer discounted prices for academic institutions, however with today's financial concerns, it still may not be feasible to use.

The last site I chose to explore was Flisti, which is a poll creator.  I was recently introduced to the wonderful world of Google Forms, so I was curious to see how other poll creating sites stacked up.  While Flisti does not come close to the features of Google Forms, it was easy to make a poll with it.  With Flisti, you can only make a one question poll with multiple choice answers (as opposed to Google Forms with its unlimited questions and various types of questions).  I do like Flisti's option to embed your form into a website, which I have done here:

Could you see yourself using Flisti with your students?

I think that Flisti would be much more useful if you could include more than one question.  If you have a blog you use with your students, Flisti would be an easy way to include questions in a blog post.  However, I would not want to allow students to go to the Flisti site and create their own questions.  Once you create a poll, the site shows ads.  One of the ads that I saw showed a glass of beer, and another showed a scantily dressed woman.  I would not want to expose my students to questionable ads this way. Luckily, when you click "View Results", no ads are shown.  This is why I think that for educational purposes, Flisti would be limited to the teacher creating polls and embedding them.  Flisti does not have a way to contact them listed on the site, but I was able to reach out to them via Twitter.  I have messaged Flisti with the suggestions of being able to add more questions, and to remove questionable ads, and I will be sure to update this post if/when they respond!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fill up your Toolbox

This week, I got to try three tools - URL shortening, QR codes, and Bookmarklets.  Although I have some experience with each of these, I learned a bit more about these tools, and came up with some ideas for using them in the classroom.

URL shortening:
I used Google's URL shortener to shorten the link to my blog.  The shortened link is  This was an extremely easy process!  I have used URL shorteners before with Twitter.  I often tweet links to another blog that I write, and with the 140 character limit, sometimes it is necessary to shorten the URL to fit it in the tweet.  I think that using URL shorteners would be helpful in my classroom.  I often call parents about their students progress, and need to direct them to the online textbook website, or the class homework website.  It would be much easier to give them a shortened link over the phone.  URL shortening probably would not be all that useful in school with my students, because they can not type in URLs until they get to high school.  However, I could definitely see myself using URL shortening to share links with faculty members.

QR codes:
I have used QR codes with my students before, but they have been text QR codes.  It's difficult to get cell phone service in my school building, so it's hard to have students scan QR codes in school that require them to connect to the internet.  I have used text QR codes to send kids around the school on scavenger hunts.  My students LOVED these scavenger hunts, and I definitely want to do more of them next year.  For this assignment, I used a QR code while I was working on curriculum writing this week.  While writing curriculum, we needed to constantly be adding differentiated instruction to the curriculum, and had to reference out county's Blackboard site for differentiated instruction.  Since each group was working with one computer, it was difficult to keep having to go back and forth from the curriculum template to the DI website.  We decided it would be easier to just pull up the blackboard site on our cell phones.  Rather than having to type in the address each day when we got to the curriculum academy, I made a QR code that we could scan each morning.  Here's my curriculum writing partner, Nicole, scanning the code:
I plan on using QR codes a lot more next school year.  One idea I have is to create one for Back to School Night that parents could scan in order to get information about my class.  There are a lot of practical uses for QR codes!

Bookmarklets are very helpful tools, and I got to try a new one this week.  I already use the Pinterest bookmarklet, and I think it is a great way to make Pinterest easy to use.  Rather than having to go to the Pinterest site to pin an item, I can just use the bookmarklet and pin right from the specific website.
I also decided to install the Printliminator bookmarklet.  I am often printing things from websites for my classes, since I try and use authentic materials.  A lot of times I will just want to print an ad, or a section of a website that has French vocabulary that my students can understand.  Printliminator makes this much easier for me to do.  I can easily print sections of a website in a way that makes them more visually appealing.  I could see myself using this often next year, especially with the new push for using online, authentic materials.
I use Google Chrome, and I like how these bookmarklets are stored in the favorites bar.  I like that I don't have to see them all the time, and I can just pull up the favorites bar when I want to use the bookmarklet (using cntl+shift+B).  I do not like my browser to be cluttered with a bunch of different buttons and toolbars, so this is a feature I appreciate.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Digging Deeper into the Mainstays

For this week's assignment, I got the chance to look at some new (to me) websites to determine how they might be used to enhance instruction.  Looking at these sites has given me inspiration for next school year, as I hope to implement many of these sites in my classes.

For the category of social websites, I chose to look at Edmodo.  I have been on Facebook since it first came out, and I check Twitter several times a day, so I wanted to look at a site I was less familiar with.  I signed up for an Edmodo account last year when I took a blog/wiki certification course, but I never actually set up a page for my classes.  Throughout this year, I have heard many teachers raving about Edmodo, and they piqued my interest in the site.  In looking into Edmodo more this week, I was extremely pleased to see that they have an app available now!  This makes using Edmodo with my classes seem like a much easier task.  I am constantly on my phone, and much more likely to keep up with websites when I can do so from my phone.  

Next year, I would like to set up an Edmodo group for each course that I teach (French 1A,1B, 1 and 2).  I would like to post all homework and class announcements on this site (and, like I said, I'll be much more likely to do this since there is an app).  My school uses Blackboard currently for things like this, but the process to update Blackboard is time consuming, and I also run into an issue where students have a hard time finding my class information in such a large site.  I also like that I can post assignments on Edmodo.  Posting a copy of assignments to this site would help eliminate excuses with my students, and I think would help curb the issue of missing assignments.  I am really looking forward to using Edmodo with my classes next year!

For the creative websites, I was already very familiar with Glogster, Prezi, and Voicethread.  I have used all of these myself, and have done assignments with Glogster and Voicethread with my students.  Therefore, I chose to look into another creative website,  I came across this site in another Wilkes class, but never had a chance to explore it.  About two weeks ago, a special education teacher I am working with mentioned this site to me as a resource for French students.  She suggested that it would be very helpful for students that are reluctant to perform skits and dialogues in class.  It would allow me to see that they understand conversational flow and questioning techniques, but without making them fearful or anxious.

In exploring Makebeliefscomix more, I am very impressed with this site! The first thing I noticed is that it gives you the capability to type in French.  This is not a common thing to see on a website, so I was impressed with the option.  To explore the site more, I tried creating my own comic.  I'm not one to read directions, so I just jumped into the process, and learned as I went.  It took a little trial and error, but after only about five minutes, I was completely comfortable with the process.  I created a comic in about ten minutes, so I know that my students could do some very creative work if they had a whole class period to work.  Here's a screen shot of the comic I created using this website:
Makebeliefscomix could certainly extend to other subject areas than World Languages!  I did a Google Images search, and found a variety of comics created with this program.  I found comics for math, science, and many other subjects.  I think that Makebeliefscomix is a very engaging site that students would thoroughly enjoy!

In the category of curation website, Pinterest was the only one I was familiar with.  I use Pinterest regularly, and am very comfortable with how Pinterest works.  For this assignment, I decided to give Symbaloo a try.  Symbaloo seems like a very easy way to organize bookmarks.  As someone that can get easily overwhelmed by busy sites, I appreciate the tile format that Symbaloo uses.  It makes bookmarks easy to find and access. I also like the ability to add Widgets.

A quick Google search led me to Symbaloo pages created by other French teachers.  I found one where a teacher organized all her classroom links into one place - the class wiki, Edmodo page, etc.  Another teacher organized French resources, such as a conjugation website, and online dictionary.  I also appreciate that you can change the language on Symbaloo to French, so that all the buttons and instructions are in French.  Little things like that can really help reinforce vocabulary with my students!

I can certainly see myself using Symbaloo with my students.  In my school district, middle school students are not allowed to type in web addresses.  All websites must be provided in link form by the teacher.  This can be challenging when I want my students to do research.  I think that Symbaloo would help in this situation.  I could easily create one site that students could access in order to get the links to sites for their research.  

This week's assignment led me to some websites that I'm very glad to have explored!  I now have some new ideas for next school year, and I think that these websites will help make my classes more engaging and organized.  I look forward to trying these websites with my students!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Using New Technologies

For this week's assignment, I interviewed my co-worker and friend, Cara.  Cara teaches Art and Project Runway to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students.  Project Runway is a newer course that Cara has built at our school.  In this class, students complete a variety of assignments that involve sewing and design skills.  In 6th grade they work on hand sewing smaller projects, and by 8th grade they are designing and making their own clothes, designing textiles, and completing many other interesting assignments.  Cara is also in the Wilkes EDIM program, so she has incorporated much of what she has learned in these courses into the classes she teaches.  Cara is always willing to try out new technologies, and has had a lot of success.

One Web 2.0 tool that Cara uses often is Glogster.  In 6th grade Project Runway, Cara teaches about the history of fashion.  To do this, she created a Glog for each decade.  The Glogs have pictures, information, and links for students to explore.  Once the students explore each Glog, they then click a link that takes them to a quiz on Discovery Education that Cara has created.  After students explore all the Glogs, and take all the quizzes, they then create their own Glog that summarizes the information they have learned.  I have gone in to the computer lab while students were working on this assignment, and I was very impressed by how motivated the students were to learn the information this way.

Another assignment that Cara's 6th grade students do is the "Holiday Sweatshirt" project.  For this project, teachers fill out a survey about their holiday/winter preferences.  The teachers are the "clients", and the students work to design a holiday sweatshirt that meets the client's needs.  Then on the last day before winter break, all the teachers wear their sweatshirts for the day.  The results are always entertaining!  For this project, students work in groups.  Design and planning are a big part of the process, so Cara finds it very important that groups have a solid plan before their start working on the actual sweatshirt.  Last year, she tried something new and made a Wikispace for each group.  On the Wiki, the groups were able to work at home to plan the design, who would bring in what supplies, etc.  This helped to greatly improve the quality of the sweatshirts.  Before using Wikis, Cara had to complete a Wiki certification course that is offered through our county.  This course covers basic wiki use, as well as internet safety.

Cara's advice to anyone that wants to try new technologies is to jump right in!  She has learned mostly by doing.  She has tried new technologies, figured out what works and what doesn't, and then modified things to make her technology use more effective.  She says that trial and error are a big part of using technology, but it's worth the effort!