Category Archives: Technology Enhanced Learning

Playing Around In The Virtual World

Ever since our class last week about Second Life and Teen Second life, I haven’t been very busy trying to understand it. I was very excited to create an account on Second Life and enter the virtual world. I figured why not try something new! I love the Sims game and from what I could tell during class and from listening others speak about it, SL was just like an interactive, realistic version of it. So I downloaded second life (during class time, I apologize hehe) and believe it or not, waited until after class to try it out. I created my avatar and chose the tutorial room. This was where I became frustrated. The first thing I did was walk around the room to practice walking and flying. This was not difficult at all, but there was not exactly any step by step instructions to tell me about how things work. People were trying to talk to me in the chat after walking up to me and since I wasn’t there to meet people, I was a little irritated by this. I just wanted to figure out what the exactly I was doing.

So after wandering around a little I decided that I wanted to change my appearance and outfit. I found the change appearance option under the ‘Edit’ tool bar and was completely overwhelmed by how many options I had to choose from. I could change anything about my face, my hair, my body, my skin color, my height, and my outfit. After about half an hour I still couldn’t decide what I liked so I just decided to leave it as I had it right at that moment and do some more exploring. I found the map of different places I could go and decided that I wanted to leave the tutorial and find a few places that were mentioned in class. But I had no idea how to find them and I had no idea how to switch locations. It looked a lot easier to navigate in class.

Since my first experience was leaving me feeling frustrated I decided to leave it and come back to it another day. I decided to try it out again a couple of days later, but still experienced the feelings of confusion and frustration that I had had on my first attempted. It was then that I decided that SL just wasn’t for me and that I would stick with the Sims. Maybe I made this judgement too soon, but without someone walking me through it I just do not have the time and the patience to explore it and understand it on my own. I think it would be very time consuming until learning how it works.

However, I think that what Erik, Garnet, and Marcel are doing with it with their grade 8s is really neat. They are using Teen Second Life (TSL) to become familiar with and explore the many different cultures that are found around the world.

In this unit students will explore the cultures of people around the world through seven common cultural patterns: economic, political, kinship, artistic, religious, educational, and recreation and play. The activities are designed to help students develop an understanding of how cultures are defined and acquire respect for cultural diversity. They will learn that all cultures have similarities, and they will come to value the differences among cultures for the richness and variety they bring to our world and way of life.

TSL is very similar to SL; however, only people between the ages of 13 and 17 can take part. Adults are allowed to join but they have to have some ties to educational institution, have completed a CRC and are limited to staying on the island that was created for Regina Public Schools. If you are interested in more information about this, please see their website to learn more about their engaging project.

Even though I decided that SL isn’t for me, maybe using TSL would be a different way for me to connect with more of my students if I was to teach an older grade (a new way of differentiated instruction?). I couldn’t see myself using this tool with young students. And maybe with a little more practice and someone to walk me through SL to show me how exactly it works, I would be able to decide that SL really is for me. But for now, I will just stick with The Sims.

Here are some websites that I found interesting and helpful:

Vocaroo – the premier voice recording service


While browsing some blog posts this morning I came across a very interesting idea that Kathy Cassidy has for students to practice reading smoothly (reading fluency) and record and learn from listening to themselves read using Vocaroo. Students can hear if they are reading fluently or not and compare it to what fluent reading should sound like. I think this allows students to take a bit of responsibility of their own learning and be able to identify their own growth.

The program that she used to help her grade one’s improve their communication skills is Vocaroo (she found out about it via Twitter…surprise surprise)

“Vocaroo’s website says, “Vocaroo is a shiny new service for sending voice messages across the interwebs.” It allows you to record your voice, play it back to listen, and then provides you with a url or the html to embed an icon into a webpage or blog.”

After experimenting with it myself, I found out that this tool is extremely quick and easy to use. I decided to read a nursery rhyme while recording my reading on Vocaroo to see if I read smoothly or not.

I could see myself using this tool in a variety of ways as well; I think that since it is so easy to use, you could use it as a center for students to practice their reading independently and for you to listen to it later on to assess their communication skills. Since there were not any complicated steps to it, Vocaroo is easily linked to your class blog for parents to listen to as well. Students can be proud of their progress and it can be heard by using this tool throughout the school year.

The only con I found with it, besides the fact that it won’t upload directly onto my blog, was that if a student makes a mistake with his/her reading, he/she cannot edit the recording and has to begin recording again from the very beginning.  Despite the one very small con, this tool will definitely be on my list of things to try with my class next year.

Creation of Our Final Project

For our final project, Kristina and I have decided to make a ‘Twitter in the Classroom’ wikipage since Twitter is becoming more and more popular everyday.  When this wikipage is complete, you will find:

– an explanation of what Twitter is
– the steps of how to set up a Twitter account
– an introduction to using Tweet Deck
– the benefits of using Twitter in your classroom
– some ideas on how to use Twitter in the classroom
– commonly asked questions about Twitter
– a list of resources that we used to complete our project
– and much more!

Some of the pages will have a video that matched the text instructions/steps as a visual for you to follow along.  We will be making these videos using Jing to record our computer screens while using Twitter.  Since we had never used Jing before, we decided to make a trial video to test it out.  So far, we have found it rather easy to use; however, we have struggled uploading the video to our blog since we are using the ‘free’ version and are not able to upload our screen casts to You Tube.  We have been able to post it as a link though, so click here to see our very first Jing creation!

Special thanks to Alec and Dean for helping us out after class tonight to teach us how to upload a Jing video to our wikipage. 🙂

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling = telling a story using tools on your computer.

What is a “story” here consists of more than one type of media (images + text, audio + images, etc) that are assembled on the web, and can be presented on the web or embedded into other web sites.

A story does not always to be read from a book or told orally from an Elder. It can be told digitally as well.  Web 2.0 has over 50 tools you can use to do this, such as Bubble Share or Voice Thread.   CogDogRoo has a great site explaining all the different tools you can use with your students.

There are 3 basic steps to creating a digital story.  First, students need to create an outline for their story.  The most difficult part of digital storytelling is choosing a story to make an outline for.  Students sometimes struggle with finding an idea on their own and make the concept a lot harder than it actually is.  Personally, I like to give students some ‘suggestions’ in which they can choose from or allow them to choose their own.  Of course, I like to approve their idea before they can start with their outline in order to make sure that the concept is appropriate for the given assignment.

Next, students are to find some media to match their story.  This can also be tricky considering the media used in the digital story have to be copyright free; you need permission to re-use someone else’s media in your story.  This media can be in audio, video, or image form.  Click here for a list of websites where you can find copyright free media for your classroom.

Thirdly, choose a tool to build your story.  This tool is what will help you make your story come alive for its viewers.  This tool will not be as effective for you if you have not completed step one and two first! Using these storytelling tools is a neat new way to for the audience to connect with the author and the characters in the story.  Students may feel more comfortable when telling their story as well because: a) the story is their own and b) they are telling it to a computer which may be a lot less intimidating than their classmates.

“Web 2.0 storytelling picks up these new types of stories and runs with them, accelerating the pace of creation and participation while revealing new directions for narratives to flow.”

As an educator, there are many purposes of using digital story telling in the classroom.  Not only are the students learning about how to write a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, but are learning how to express themselves and find their voice in a secure setting.  If they make a mistake when reading and recording their audio it is as simple as going back and re-recording the sentence.  Mistakes are easily fixed the finished product is done in the best they can be done.  These story telling tools can be used for students of all ages as well, but if using them in the younger grades the teacher will need to help out to receive the product he/she is looking for.

What are some other strengths to digital story telling?  Any weaknesses?

Making Connections

Over the course of the week I have really been thinking about all the connections I have been making throughout my Pesronal Learning Network.

CONNECTIONS: a relation between two things or events.

The connections I am making are growing every day.  I am following, and am being followed, by new people on Twitterconnecting through Twitter.  My blog stats are now almost at 1000.  I get rather excited everytime I post on my blogClustr Map is an excellent visual for where people from who are reading my thoughts as well.   One again, I am connecting to people through my blog.  Whenever I read someone else’s blog posts, I am making connections to what I am reading, making relatoins between two things or events.  When listening to the lecture in my computer class I am connecting to what is being said, I am relating the information to background knowledge or to an experience I have had.  I am making connections to friends everytime I check my Facebook page, send a text message, or even when walking to school and notice that the girl I just walked past is wearing the same jacket as me.  Making connections is constant.
every day.  I have never met most of these people face to face before, and I probably never will.  But we are and notice how how many people are reading my thoughts.  The

Making connections happen every day in everything that you are doing.  Most of the time you don’t even realize it.  It can be anywhere, anytime, and about anything.  From the foods you are eating, to clothes you are wearing, to TV shows you are watching.  We are constantly making connections to make life make sense .  The connections have to be there in order to learn and be interested.  Where would we be without these connections?

One of the more recent connections I have made lately was the connection I made to a few of the students’ blogs in EC&I 831 class.  I was speaking to my sister on Facebook chat earlier this week and she told me that one of our previous high school teachers had seen one of my assignments in a class he was taking .   I was proud but rather confused; what assignment of mine would show up in class in my home town, which is 6 hours north of where I currently live and how would it get there?  I thought about it for a little while before it dawned on me.  I made the connection. This teacher must be talking about my blog or my personal documentation of my technological growth I am keeping in a Google Doc.  The prof, who happens to be my prof as well, must have showed it to the class in an Elluminate sesson.  My assignment had been displayed and the connection was made.    It had to be it, it couldn’t be anything else.  As it turns out, 3 of my former high school teachers are taking that class while working on their masters.  I realized this by checking out the participant directory on the class wiki. And there they were, Mr H, Mr G, and Mr M (sorry guys, but you will always be a Mr to me.  Using a first name would just be too weird).  This connectionAnd with the right tools, you can connect to anyone/anything in the entire world.
I had just made turned into an ‘uh huh’ moment for me.  The world really isn’t as big as you think it is.


Where would we be without these connections?

Making Learning Fun

As I went to be after class last night, I couldn’t help but wonder why a lot of teachers do not use the technology that is available to them.  The opportunities are fantastic and will definitely increase learning in the classroom.  All of a sudden ‘find North America’ on a world map becomes a lot more fun because you are using Google Maps and are finding it with the click of a mouse.  I would love to see a lot more teachers be open minded about technology and bring their school into the 21st Century.  Be open minded, be creative, be teachable! Learn, learn, and learn some more.  Learning should never stop.

When using technology, educators have to realize that it takes more than just one attempt to learn how to use whatever resource you are using, such as Google Apps, iMovie, wikispaces, and blogs.  It is a new language and culture that you have to learn; you can’t just read the manual and understand.

I was blog surfing this morning and came across some interesting points.  One point was made in a post by Lisa Thumann about a middle school language arts teacher who was really questioning how using technology would benefit her students.  This teacher was against using technology to assist her students in finding their voice and becoming better writers because “when she was a student, she learned to write just fine without a computer.”

Yes this may be true, but not all students learn the same as they did 10, 20, or 30 years ago.  In fact, not all students learn the same way as they learned yesterday.  It is a new world out there and teachers need to recognize that students are not the same as they used to be.  They are unique individuals born in a completely different generation than they were.  They learn by multimedia, visuals, experiential learning, by sharing their ideas with the world by posting on a classroom blog.  And students don’t have to just share their ideas by writing essays or descriptive paragraphs either.  They can use voice thread projects, podcasts, or recorded videos of themselves sharing their thoughts.  The Lipsky team does a nice job of this on their class blog.  Not only will these students feel that their response is valued, but will feel excited because their friends made through the collaboration of their teachers, who live across the world will be able to listen.  Mom and dad can listen at home too and be proud of their child’s work.

Students can really find their voice when using a classroom blog to express their thoughts.  Teachers can post creative writing suggestions or questions for their students to answer too.  I would have loved this when I was a student.  Not only would I get to use the computer, but I would be more willing to share my thoughts since I knew that people would be reading it.  One teacher posted the question “What do teachers need to know?” for her students to respond back with some advice for teachers about what would help them learn.   Students post their thoughts, teacher reads and is able to her what her student’s like and what they don’t like and is able to take those thoughts into consideration and make adaptations in his/her lessons.  This way, the teacher is meeting the needs of his/her learners and the students are feeling respected and are given the opportunity to enhance their learning.

I found some of the responses to that post made by the students very interesting.  It was repeatedly said that  school needed to be more ‘fun’ to help them learn.  And it was also said that they wanted less homework.  So learning needs to be more fun and there needs to be less homework (hmm sounds like the same thoughts I have about many of my university classes hehe).  So lets use technology to spruce up the lessons; lets research on Google what it was like to live the life of a SK pioneer and record our information in the form of an interview.  Then lets record our interviews by using Garage Band and turn it into a pod cast and post it on our class blog.  Then for homework, we are to listen to some of our peer’s interviews and comment about their final product (peer assessment?).  But this homework doesn’t really feel like homework because it is kind of like watching our friend’s videos or looking at their pictures on Facebook and that is pretty cool . How much more fun could a research project be?

So lets allow students to have the opportunity to break down the walls that are holding them back from learning in the new ways that the 21st Century is bringing.  Let us teachers hop on board and begin the journey with our students so that everyone can learn in a way that is best suited for them.  Be open minded, be creative, be teachable.