Monthly Archives: December 2014

A Change in the Times

I would like to begin this final blog post (yay!) by comparing Cynthia Selfe’s article, “The Perils of Not Paying Attention” to the other two blog posts that we read for this week’s readings. Selfe’s article was published in 1999, and some of the content in the article reflects that. I found it very humors how Selfe explains that many of her English teacher colleagues and students shy away from the use of technology in instructions. Around 1999, as we know, technology was still a child. It had been introduced several years prior, but it was beginning to take hold of our society. Many people were apprehensive about this, as society usually is about change. Selfe says, “After all this time, however, I can spot the speech acts that follow a turn of the conversation to computers-the slightly averted gaze, the quick glance at the watch, the panicky looks in the eyes when someone lapses into talk about microprocessors, or gigabytes, or ethernets” (1999, p. 412). This shows how concerned people during the time were about new technologies.

What I find particularly interesting is that still today, seventeen years later, some people still react this way to technology. My mom is one of them. She has been teaching for over thirty years, so she kind of knows what she is doing. About four years ago her school gave each teacher a brand new, shiny MacBook Pro. SHE WAS TERRIFIED! My mom was a nervous wreck for months. She would break into a profound sweat and her face would instantly turn red whenever someone would mention giving her a computer (it was even worse when she found out that she was also getting a SMART board). This perfectly mirrors what Selfe says about peoples’ reactions to the incorporation of technology.

Luckily for my mom, and everyone around her, she has since learned to use and love her computer. Also like Selfe says, people just need to learn how to use technology. Once this is discovered, technology is not so scary. Also she explains that technology should be embraced. This holds especially true for educators. Selfe says, “I believe composition studies faculty have a much larger and more complicated obligation to fulfill-that of trying to understand and make sense of, to pay attention to, how technology is now inextricably linked to literacy and literacy education in this country” (1999, p. 414). So many amazing things are available through the computer. It opens our students to amazing discoveries and opportunities. As teachers, it is our responsibility to further learning and literacy extension by incorporating technologies into our lessons, assessments, and day-to-day activities.

One of the ways to do this is to incorporate gamification in the classroom. From what I can determine, it involves incorporating game-like elements into the classroom to engage students in learning. Also, it does not rely on typical A, B, C, D, F grades. Instead, it relies on a badge system. As Mascle says in “Why Gamification?, “Gamification, the use of game-design elements for non-game purposes, interests me because I do not want my classes to be about the grade” (2014). I think this is this key aspect. Not focusing on grades is imperative for student comfort and learning. It also helps us as teachers by saving our sanity!

As Mascle also explains, learning ceases when grades are finally given to students. Students feel as if their goals have been accomplished, and nothing more needs to happen. It is time to move on to the next unit, forget what they have previously learned, and get the year over with. This concept should not be foreign to teachers, as they have been students themselves. The problem is, some teachers are so disillusioned from the memory of being a student that they ultimately forget how difficult and tiresome it is. Think about it, students sit on their butts from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Although that does not sound difficult, it is emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting. When teachers incorporate different strategies and systems in their classrooms, students are more likely to be engaged. They do not have to deal with the boring monotony of never-changing strategies, and they will look forward to a productive and encouraging learning environment.

In “Students Respect the Badge”, also written by Mascle, she explains in more detail the badge system. In her classroom, a super hero represents grading criteria. For example, the Wolverine represents “sharp and incisive writing,” and Thor represents “impressive in every way.” I love the idea of implementing this as a grading system. Students are often nervous about typical letter grades. Using characters, colors, shapes, etc. is a much less intimidating way of grading.

I also appreciate that Mascle has her students grade their peers’ blogs. I would love to implement blogs in my classroom, but it is a lot to grade. With over 100 students, grading blogs once or multiple times a week will drive a teacher insane and take away any social life he or she has. Instead, as Mascle does, students know and use the badge grading system to comment on the blogs. The teacher can then look at these badges and present a grade. Of course it is ideal to read through each blog, but that is sometimes an impossible feat. Mascle also explains that she only comments when there is an engaging question or thought. Besides this, students are in charge of grading and commenting. I love this idea to get students engaged with their peers.

With typical essays, only teachers read the work. Students must adhere to what they believe the teacher wants to hear. As a result, they are not really learning. Another problem is that students are not getting feedback from multiple sources. If a student is proud of the work he or she has done, there is really nobody to share it with. Having weekly blog posts allows students to showcase their work. This also pushes students to write to the best of their abilities. Intern, this drives students to be better writing. This is, after all, what teachers strive for.

Mascle, Deanna.  “Students Respect the Badge” Metawriting.   15 March, 2014. Web.  8, Dec, 2014

Mascle, Deanna.  “Why Gamification?”  Metawriting.  22, May, 2014.  Web.  8, Dec, 2014

Selfe, Cynthia.  “Technology and Literacy: A Story about the Perils of Not Paying Attention.”  CCCC.  50.3.                      Feb, 1999.  Web.  8, Dec, 2014

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Reflection

It was extremely important for me to use this final project as a leaning tool to take into my classroom. Like a lot of assignments I have done for college, I did not want this one to be another pointless assignment that would be deleted from my computer after the semester is over. To ensure this would not happen, I did a lot of research to find a website that I will actually use when I am an educator. I began by searching for online tools that are useful in the classroom. I came across several websites that had lists and explanations of tools and how they can be incorporated in the classroom. Then I spent time using each of the tools that I found interesting.

I first choose a site called Paper.li. The site allows users to make a newspaper from Facebook and Twitter posts. I chose this because the majority of my students will have social media, and I might even create a class Facebook or Twitter. I assumed that students could write posts that would be added to the newspaper, but I was assumed incorrectly. After spending substantial time trying to figure out how to use the website, I finally realized how to create articles. To do so, users search a topic, and a list of names pop up that relate to the topic. Users then choose which people or topics they want for their papers, and their posts will appear on the newspaper. It is not possible to search specific users, so this tool would not work for a classroom.

I then decided Stupeflix would be a better option for this assignment. I had seen someone in another class use the site to make a video, and I loved the results. I spent about an hour playing on the site and understanding how it works. Then I began to create my own video about The Program, written by Suzanne Young. This lead me to the realization that the website would work well with a Professional Book Talk assignment. I then created a teacher example, which included guidelines, instructions, and a student example. I loved the results, and I was very proud of the videos I created.

This most important aspect of this assignment was discovering useful technological tools for my classroom. I love the incorporation of technology in classrooms, but I had yet to spent a large amount of time discovering and learning about these tools. This assignment made me find time to do this, which I found to be extremely beneficial.

Choosing to create a Book Talk assignment that incorporates a movie-making aspect reminds me of assignments that I did in high school. In several of my English classes we were assigned to create a Book Talk and incorporate a visual aspect. I always enjoyed these assignments because I loved showcasing my creativity through PowerPoint. Creating a movie instead of a PowerPoint is another great way for students to explore and engage in technology. Several teachers assign students to create a PowerPoint, so having them make a movie is something new and exciting.

I also did an assignment similar to this in my Young Adult Literature class. Although I chose to create a PowerPoint, a few people in the class made videos using Stupeflix. Their videos created an immediate sense of appeal towards their given books. I found myself wanting to read the books, even though some of them were not my preferred genera.

From this experience I have learned that not all technologies and web tools are appropriate for or work well in classrooms. Teachers need to spend a substantial amount of time using the tools they plan to incorporate in lessons and assignments. I realized how important this is when I discovered that my first web tool, Paper.li, would not work for the final assignment. I apparently had not spent enough time using and learning about the website when I had first chosen it. I learned from this mistake by spending an hour on Stupeflix before I decided to use it. As a result, I was confident and comfortable in my decision to use it for the final project.

I also learned for this assignment how important it is to model technologies and web tools for students. While some students can log on to a computer and create a masterpiece without any instruction, many cannot. Depending on how intricate the web tool is, teachers should spend at least ten minutes, preferably more, modeling how to use the tool. This is an aspect of teaching that all teachers should practice.

I will absolutely be using Stupeflix in my classroom. I will also be using many of the other web tools that people presented during class. I think these tools are fantastic for increasing engagement and excitement for learning. Over the winter summer breaks I also plan on researching other educational tool that can be implemented in the classroom. I strongly believe that the incorporation of technology in classrooms is essential for student learning, especially because our society is consumed by various technologies. It is our responsibility as teachers to find ways to increase engagement and interest in learning. Technology is a great way to do this.

I will also be spending substantial time modeling web tools. I was one of those students in high school who became easily lost when using technology, so I understand the importance of good modeling instruction. I will explain procedures and instructions step-by-step and repeat them if necessary. I will also individually help students who appear to be struggling with the tool. This shows students that teachers do care and want to see them succeed.

This project, along with the class, has taught me to appreciate the many technologies that can be used for education. I had no idea that so many were available. I also had not thought about using many of the websites that I use for my own enjoyment, such as Facebook and Twitter, as being incorporated into the classroom. High school students are obsessed with social media and Internet interactions. Bringing this into the classroom immediately excites students and makes them want to learn and be interactive. It is especially great for students who do not like to speak in class. Allowing them to interact online gives them the ability to openly participate without twenty-something students watching them. Students can also give feedback to their peers on these sites, which instantly boosts confidence. From this, however, I realize that cyber bullying can easily occur. When using web tools and social media, it is important for teachers to monitor student activity. When students know that teachers are monitoring class websites, they are more likely to act appropriately and respectfully online. This teaches students to show respect for others in all situations, especially when online.

Overall, this class was beneficial in giving me confidence to explore many technologies in my classroom. I will take what I have learned and implement it in my classroom. My hope is to teach students the importance of using technology to further their education. I also want to teach students to make wise decisions when using these technologies. When used properly, all students will benefit from the incorporation of technology and web tools in the classroom.