Monthly Archives: January 2014

Ed Tech Blog: Edutopia.org

Educational Technology Blog Review

January 20, 2014

The blog Edutopia (http://www.edutopia.org/), sponsored by The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF), “GLEF is dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by documenting, disseminating, and advocating innovative, replicable, and evidence-based strategies that prepare students to thrive in their future education, careers, and adult lives.” The topics that are offered on Edutopia run the gamut from those directed to administrators, education trends, new teacher support, and parent partnerships. It provides a thoughtful platform for “researchers, teacher leaders and curriculum experts” in the field to share their expertise and for all to “join the conversation” and add their own insight.

As in any blog there are those select few who use the forum to espouse their own agendas. Although I must say I did find this to be exception, rather than the rule, as most of the participants have a genuine concern for the topic.

Edutopia is an excellent resource for anyone with an interest in education. Followers are able to find information on current issues and relevant topics in education today, as well as access lessons. To quote from the website: “Through Edutopia’s vibrant community of change-makers in education, GLEF spreads the word about ideal, interactive learning environments and enables others to adapt these successes locally.”

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Mastery Connect Review

MasteryConnect

The Good: Mastery Connect is a web based software system which allows teachers to “effectively assess core standards, monitor student performance, and report student mastery to parents and administrators.” This program can be used across many subjects and is available for Title I funding. Mastery Connect allows users to share ideas with learning communities in their district as well as the other 10,000 districts in the network. It permits users to quickly and easily create or access assessments aligned to the Common Core or state standards, store resource pins and retrieve “additional resource tools to help teach and understand the standards. Mastery Connect was designed with Response to Intervention in mind [and] identify[ing] students for tiered interventions has never been easier.” This program provides immediate feedback on assessments to allow teachers to conduct ongoing diagnostics. The free resources available include: Team Data Collaboration Tools & Reporting, Assessment Privacy Controls, Student Reports, Parent Reporting, and Curriculum Maps. (https://edshelf.com/tool/masteryconnect)

The Bad: Access to all available features of Mastery Connect requires a subscription to the Premium package for $159 per year or $6 per student per year. Free package does not allow short answer questions, only bubble sheet, and the number of questions are limited. In order to access features of the program that grade assessments instantly, additional technology is required.

The Bottom line: Mastery Connect was created by an educator to assist other educators in creating formative assessments to monitor student progress and to report those findings. This innovative, user friendly program can be a quick and powerful tool when considering the competition of other assessment apps available to teachers.

Ed Tech Blog: www.purelypaperless.com

“Purely Paperless” from www.purelypaperless.com is a blog written by Kate Peila, an elementary school teacher from Montana and a self proclaimed “Teacher. Learner. Blogger. Nerd.”  This blog is a must-read for teachers who are looking to be on the cutting edge of technology use in the classroom and would like to challenge their students to be creative with authentic formative and summative assessments. 

The site is very engaging with a simple, easy to navigate, user interface.  She provides examples of “paperless” teaching strategies and easy to implement technology tools for the classroom.  In her most recent post she outlines how to create stop motion animation, using the MyCreate iPad application.  She provides commentary, directions for use and download, as well as YouTube videos of her students using the product.

All of her blog posts are specific, concrete examples of how to implement new technology in the classroom and lessons that can be executed immediately using free, web based tools and tablet applications.  In each post she also defends these authentic assessment ideas and their connections to the Common Core State Standards, which all teachers will need to begin addressing. She also provides many step-by-step screen shots for those that are less tech savvy and need visual cues.

In order to truly benefit and take advantage of Ms. Peila’s blog, teachers must be able to put technology in the hands of their students and have access to computer labs and/or laptop and tablet carts.  The author of the blog is an elementary teacher and therefore many of her examples are geared towards younger grades.  It would take a bit of thinking outside of the box to implement at higher levels, but easily adaptable.

Educational Technology Blog by Joy Inouye

As someone who is admittedly technologically challenged, I definitely do not follow any technology blogs; therefore, I began my search by looking at the sites suggested on PathBrite.  In looking at the sites, I selected EdSurge to conduct my review on because of the user-friendly way in which the site appeared.  EdSurge Inc. is an educational technology company that publishes newsletters and operates databases used by venture capitalists, teachers, school administrators and others.  The company was founded by Elizabeth Corcoran in 2011.  Corcoran is a former executive editor of Forbes and a former technology reporter for The Washington Post. 

EdSurge offers a free subscription to a weekly email that highlights the latest technology tools, tips and best practices from and for educators.  Each Thursday, an email is sent that delivers tips from teachers on how to use tech products to solve real-world problems, profiles that celebrate teacher-technologists, reviews of the latest educational technology products, links to upcoming events and job postings.

As stated above, the reason in which I select this blog was due to the ease of manipulating through the site.  EdSurge begins with a headline article and below are titles of four additional articles for viewing.  Below each of these four headings there is a brief description as to what the article will be about.  Following these links, there are several additional articles.  While this is fairly typical of any website, what I liked most about EdSurge can be found under the heading ‘EdTech Index’.  Within the EdTech Index, users can search for curriculum products, teacher needs (for keeping learning on-track), school operations, and college resources and a tab entitled everything else.  This section lists apps for children, discovery and for parents.  Under the tab titled Curriculum Products, the user can click on such titles as 21st Century Skills, which then provides you with a list of products that develop 21st century skills.  There is a section for technology that develops the arts, engineering, language arts, math, science and social studies.  I was drawn to this list because it presents a brief overview of the suggested app listed under the exact area of curriculum that you may be working on.  The list is an easy reference guide to the latest in educational technology.

While I don’t think that I will be a regular reader of the blog, I did subscribe to the weekly email update.  If something is sent to me and I don’t have to go out searching for information, I am more likely to read it.  Even though I don’t think that I will continue reading this blog, I will certainly use the feature listed in ‘EdTech Index’ if I wish to quickly reference educational technology.             

Is Educational Technology Worth the Hype? by Joy Inouye

            Technology affects almost every aspect of our culture. We live in a society that requires students to be proficient in multiple uses of technology in an effort to be both college and career ready.  Post graduation, it is certain that whatever the job is, the use of technology will be required.  As educators, we must then use technology in a way that enhances education.

            The simple fact of the matter is that the role of both student and teacher is ever changing in this digital age.  When students are using technology as a tool or a support for communicating with others, they are in an active role rather than the passive role of recipient of information transmitted by a teacher or textbook.  The student is actively making choices about how to generate, obtain, manipulate, or display information. Technology use allows students to be actively thinking about information, making choices, and executing skills than is typical in teacher-led lessons. Moreover, when technology is used as a tool to support students in performing authentic tasks, the students are in the position of defining their goals, making design decisions, and evaluating their progress, taking a more active approach to their own education.  Such projects can also provide students with choice, a powerful tool that increases student motivation.  When students are conducting research on authentic projects that they are interested in, student motivation and engagement will likely increase.  When students are engaged, they learn more.

            The teacher’s role changes as well. The classroom teacher is no longer the sage on the stage as the dispenser of information, but rather plays the role of facilitator, setting project goals and providing guidelines and resources, moving from student to student or group to group, providing suggestions and support for student activity. As students work on their technology-supported products, the teacher rotates through the room, looking over shoulders, asking about the reasons for various design choices, and suggesting resources that might be used.  The teacher serves as a coach in this setting.  He/she provides support through individualized mini lessons in areas of weakness that is observed through student-teacher interaction.

            Technology has definitely become a major influence in how people live. However, I do not believe that in the future, computers will take the place of teachers.  I see the use of technology as a resource that can enhance the lessons taught within our classrooms.

Review: Zinch.com

Zinch.com is a one-stop shop for providing high school students with everything they need to succeed in their next phase of life – college. Setup much like Facebook, this online, social networking tool, allows students to connect directly with colleges in an engaging, low-pressure environment. With their extensive database of scholarships, any student can find plenty of opportunities to pay for college. Zinch’s free webinars help students and parents understand the in’s and out’s of higher education. To help students begin their journey towards college, Zinch’s college matching helps students find the right school for their educational needs. I have used Zinch with my AVID students and they have found it to be a great resource with an easy to navigate interface.

It all starts with a student building a profile. Building a complete profile allows a student to be matched with the right potential schools for them, the maximum amount of scholarships, and get connected with the best opportunities. When a student is trying to decide which college to go to, Zinch helps bridge the gap by providing all the data a student needs to make the best, informed decision.

In addition to college search tools, Zinch also provides many other great resources for students and parents. Zinch’s scholarship match system allows a student to be matched with scholarships in our database based on their GPA, interests, and other factors on their student profile. Zinch’s webinars cover subjects from preparing for the SAT to choosing the best fit college, among many other relevant subjects for future college students and their families. Zinch’s Blog, “More Than a Test Score” is the go to source for any and all topics that students are thinking about in preparation for the college journey.

Zinch is a free service that all high school students should take advantage of!