Voki….Changing the Way my Students Learn


Problem: There are 16 different topics to cover in Family and Consumer Sciences. Beginning of the school year. 80 new 6th graders. How do I grab their attention and immediately get them interested in Family and Consumer Sciences, other than the idea that they get to eat when we have Foods Labs?

Answer: One word….Voki.

Currently, I am a graduate student at Post University in CT, pursuing my M.Ed in Instructional Design and Technology. Over the summer I took a course titled, “Integrating Learning and Technology”. One of the new learning tools that was introduced to us during our 8 week module was the program Voki (www.voki.com). In July, I explored the program and it seemed like something that was definitely different. I did not get too in depth with the website at the time, but kept it in my ‘Favorites’ for future reference.

In my 6th Grade classes, the first unit we tackle is an “About Me” unit, where students learn about personality, self-esteem, and what it means to be true to themselves. At the end of the unit, students answer specific questions about themselves that they present in collage form. As a teacher who teaches about 900 students in the district (I teach K-8 at 2 schools in the district….MP 1 and 3 at one school and MP 2 and 4 at another), I do not have a lot of room in my classroom or on my bulletin boards to display work. With that being said, this year I decided that Voki would be the best way to get my students interested in the project, it would allow me to get to know them even better, and it would cut down on paper. It was a project that was definitely different for them and capture their attention immediately.

I created a Voki Classroom account for myself and I was then able to input my students’ names into the program. Voki automatically created a username and password for my students which made it so much easier! I was also able to print them out so if the students needed to finish at home, they had the opportunity to do so. The Voki Classroom program allowed me to create the assignment which my students were then able to see. I gave my students the questions ahead of time so they could prepare their responses.

One of the things that is great about the Voki avatars is that you can type your speech if you do not have a microphone, however, it is extremely important that students write their speech in COMPLETE SENTENCES!!!! This was a great way to show my students how Family and Consumer Sciences connects to English Language Arts and emphasized the importance of good grammar!

Once the students completed their Voki projects, they then submitted it to me for review. I developed my own rubric to grade the students on their answers to the specific questions I gave them, however, I did give extra points for creativity. Some of my students got really into it, changing the background and voice effects of the avatar. Voki was so successful first marking period at my first school and was just as successful second marking period at my second school. Here we are in March and my students are STILL talking about it!

I am so thankful that Voki has come into my life and I am excited to keep using Voki in different capacities in my teaching throughout the various grade levels I teach. I am also extremely excited to be a Voki Ambassador! Voki has changed the way I teach and the impact that it has had on my students is unbelievable! I would be a fool not to spread the word and teach others about how this can change their educational worlds as well!

Below are some photos of the students working on their project and a video of a sample project!

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EDU 625: Final Blog Post…The Next Steps

 

Technology? Communities? Learning Environments? Analyzing Data? Presentations? Games? Virtual Environments? Mobile Learning and Mobile Technologies?

With so much knowledge and so many resources, where does one even start?

Over the past 8 weeks, I have finished another year teaching, visited different states, completed (almost) 2 more classes towards my M.Ed degree, and overall, I have learned so much not only about designing learning environments and integrating learning and technology, but also about myself.

At the beginning of this eight week journey, I had to decide what my personal learning philosophy was. I made the decision that as a Family and Consumer Sciences educator, I like to look at teaching like a chocolate chip cookie recipe. There is a basic recipe that you can use but there are numerous variations and sometimes the recipe does not always come out the way you would like. If that happens, you make another batch and fix your mistakes, learn for next time, and move on. Learning is also like a chocolate chip cookie recipe. The basic recipe is your classroom with students as the chocolate chips and the teacher as the batter. Depending on the nutritional needs of others, a variation of the recipe needs to be used, this being differentiation in the classroom. When the chips and batter are carefully combined and baked, the end product is a mouth-watering, delectable delight. In my classroom, I see learning happening all the time when I am working with my students as a whole group or on a one-on-one level. I also see learning happening when my students are working with each other. I feel so fulfilled as an educator when I see the connections that my students make and the recollection they have from 6th Grade to 7th Grade and from 7th Grade to 8th Grade. It makes me realize that all of the hard work I have done with my students is paying off.

Has my learning philosophy changed? No. What has changed though are my thoughts about how to plan learning activities involving more technology. My first thought when planning lessons and various learning activities is, “How can I make this even more interesting for my students and what technology can I use that can help them even more?” I strongly believe that the more technology that I incorporate, the greater skills my students will gain.

One of the key issues of using technology to actually enhance learning is the fact that the technology is always changing. Maddux and LaMont Johnson (2011) state that, “predicting the future in any field related to technology is a difficult task” (p. 87). With technologies always changing, I believe that nothing is ever set in stone. Something is always being changed, something is always being added and as educators who want to integrate technology, it is our duty to stay on top of our game and be “in the know”.

The positive, however, is that when you become “in the know”, the possibilities are endless. Maddux and LaMont Johnson (2011) write, “We continue to believe that (a) gaming, (b) social networking and Web 2.0 applications, and (c) mobile and handheld computing will continue to gain in popularity and continue to find their way into educational programs at all levels” (p. 89).  There are many positive implications for these technologies that Maddux and LaMont Johnson (2011) write about and I know that I am going to continue using those in my classroom and coming up with new ways to do so.

One of my personal greatest challenges related to technology and learning in my classroom is handling my administrators. We have had some issues with improper use of electronics so administration is very weary of using technology in the classroom. I also do not always have access to websites that I need to have access to because many sites are blocked. If I wanted to download a program on the computer to use, I would need an IT password, so in that case I have to put a work order in and cross my fingers and hope it gets done in a timely manner. Sometimes I have to wait 2+ weeks before my work order is taken care of which can be frustrating when you want to plan a lesson using a program that you need.

One of the main “next steps” that I need to take in order to become more prepared to effectively integrate technology into my learning activities is to do it more frequently. With the school year coming up, I am excited to start using all of these technologies but I feel a bit overwhelmed knowing the challenges I am up against when the school year starts. I am excited to begin EDU 627: Managing Instruction and Technology because I believe I will learn the strategies that will allow me to take all of the new knowledge that I have and make it work for me so I’m not so overwhelmed.  I also need to come up with a strategy in order to communicate with my administrators the need for technology in our building. Right now I feel like I am at a stand still because I do not know how to effectively and successfully communicate with my administrators without being shut down.

How would you approach the conversation with your administrators if you were in my situation?

References

Maddux, C.D. & LaMont Johnson, D. [Editorial]. (2011). Future trends in information technology in education.  Computers in the schools, 28: 87-91. doi: 10.1080/07380569.2011.577399

EDU 625: E-Textiles…changing the Fashion world and my classroom

Here is a picture of me and my cousin, Mikie. IMG_2883 Mikie is 14, almost 15 and will be starting his Freshman year of high school NEXT WEEK! He is like the little brother I always wanted and I love the time we get to spend together. Like many young boys that I know, he LOVES video games. His favorite character is and always will be, Mario. Unfortunately, he is so difficult to shop for because he has EVERYTHING. A couple of years ago, however, I lucked out and found this t-shirt  that not only had Mario on it but also had LED lights on the front that lit up to the beat of music. I bought him the t-shirt for his birthday, he loved it, and the rest is history. I took a video the day I gave it to him and for some reason I can’t upload it here, however, I found an even better breakdown of how the shirt looks, and how you can operate it, etcetera. Check out how awesome it is here:

I bet you’re thinking, “Well that’s cool and all, but what does it have to do with you and  your classroom?”

Techopedia (n.d.) definites E-textiles, or electronic textiles as, “a type of fabric that contains electronic elements. In general, the development of electronic textiles supports the idea of wearable computing, or electronic devices worked into garment designs” (para. 1).

According to IDTechEx, 76% of manufacturers offer electronic wristwear or bodywear (Slide 8, 2014). However, as you can see from the example with my cousin, there is a market for pieces of clothing with LEDs in them.

As part of the Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum, textiles is one of the twelve major parts that is included. 

For this week’s learning activity, related to emerging technologies and in unison with the STEM program, I would create a lesson where students would be required to design and create their own E-tshirt. The lesson would be for 8th graders who would, in teams, sketch a tshirt idea, choose all of the fabrics that they need, and work together to put the t-shirt together sewing and mechanical wise.

This tech would support the effectiveness of the learning activity because not only does it relate to Family and Consumer Sciences but it also relates to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing) which promotes interdisciplinary learning. 

I strongly believe that there is a huge market for e-textiles epecially with the increase of STEM. I foresee that with this learning activity in my learning environment, students will be thinking more critically about how things work and will see the big picture not only for the future but for themselves.

References

IDTechEx. (2014). Wearable technology 2015-2025. Retrieved from http://www.idtechex.com/research/reports/wearable-technology-2014-2024-technologies-markets-forecasts-000379.asp

Techopedia. (n.d.). Electronic textile (E-textile). Retrieved from http://www.techopedia.com/definition/29467/electronic-textile-e-textile

Experiential Learning in a F2F classroom! What type of learning works best for your classroom?

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The three types of instruction that can be “observed” in classrooms across the United States are Face to Face/ Traditional instruction, Hybrid instruction and Online instruction. 

Ball, Mosca, and Paul III (2013) define face to face/traditional instruction as, “The traditional method of teaching a course involves the instructor transmitting knowledge and information to the students. The instructors spend a considerable amount of time developing lecture materials in an attempt to enhance the material to maintain student focus and spark interest” (p. 74). Also during face-to-face instruction, the only activities that are done outside of class is homework and technology may or may not be part of the course, depending on the teacher.

One of the techniques that I believe works best in my classroom in regards to face-to-face instruction is through experiential learning. David Kolb’s experiential learning theory states that, “learning is a cognitive process involving constant adaption to, and engagement with, one’s environment. Individuals create knowledge from experience rather than just from received instruction. Conflicts, disagreements, and differences drive the learning process as learrners move between modes of action, reflection, feeling and thinking” (Bergsteiner, Avery, and Neumann, 2010, p. 30). As stated, Kolb’s experiential learning theory is divided into four modes: feeling, watching, thinking, doing. (Academy of Art University, n.d.). Each mode has learner characteristics that define each mode, however, when combined, there are many positive implications for teaching and learning. In my classroom, experiential learning can be seen through labs, whether they are cooking labs or sewing labs. Cooking labs are considered group work and would be classified under “feeling” for Kolb’s theory, however, the learning targets for the lab are so in depth that the students experience all four modes of feeling, watching, thinking doing.

Currently, my 6th and 7th grade students are in their Foods unit and my 8th graders are in their Sewing unit. Both units require the students to take action and be more responsible. Also, when the labs (experiential learning) are going on and are completed, I have noticed that my students have made stronger and more meaningful connections to the content. Overall, experiential learning theories allow students to take ownership of their learning, which as a result, makes them more successful.

Ball et al. (2013) define hybrid instruction as the goal being “provide moderate-to-high degrees of access and flexibility while offering the potential for moderate-to-high dialogue and low-to-moderate structure” (p. 73). Hybrid instruction is also known as “blended learning” because it combines online learning and face-to-face instruction.

One of the techniques that I think is very beneficial to use for hybrid instruction is critical thinking. Brightman (2001) writes, “John Dewey defined critical thinking as ‘reflective thought’- to suspend judgment, maintain a healthy skepticism, and exercise an open mind” (para. 2). Hybrid learning, or blended learning, being that is part face-to-face instruction and part online, I think that critical thinking activities whether it be online or in the classroom, need to be incorporated into the class. I think that critical thinking activities give students a better understanding of the activity that they are doing and allows them to also explore their own ideas and create their own opinions about certain things. Personally, I am not a big advocate for hybrid learning because I was in a very unsuccessful hybrid course during my undergraduate time. We were actually “hybrid learning guinea pigs” and it was a mess. We were more online than anything else and then when we were in the classroom, everything was very unstructured and I found myself many times asking myself, “Was this really worth the drive?”

However, I am going to try to incorporate hybrid learning in my learning activity with my 8th graders when they create their menus online. Students will be required to create their own menu for a  restaurant that they create. Students will have to create a full menu, determine menu prices using their knowledge of unit pricing, and design their menu to be printed. This project builds off the previous knowledge that the students obtained in seventh grade on basic menu creation. Originally, I designed the project to be simply face to face, however, there is a lot of useful information that my students can get from the internet that will benefit them with their project. I know that if I use this technique with my students, the learning experience will be more beneficial for them.

Lastly, Kaymak and Horzum define online learning as, “gaining knowledge and skills through sychronous and asychronous learning applications which are written, communicated, active, supported, and managed with the use of internet technology” (p. 1792). One of the techniques that I think is beneficial for online learning is both critical thinking and discussion. From my experience so far with online learning, I have found discussions to be very beneficial to learning where I find myself thinking about what other people “spoke” about throughout the week. However, the only negative that I see with discussion is that with bigger classes, your discussions are not consistent or sometimes are not even acknowledged. If the discussion is optional, then I believe that the discussion is not as beneficial as it could potentially be, however, when discussions are going on, it brings in the critical thinking portion and really advances the learning for everyone. 

Watch this video for some more information about face to face learning vs online learning—- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ni9Meh_QinQ . What are your thoughts on Face to Face learning vs Online Learning? What do you think will work best for your classroom and why? 

References

Academy of Art University. (n.d.) David Kolb’s experiential learning. Retrieved from  http://faculty.academyart.edu/resource/kolb.html

Ball, D., Mosca, J., & Paul III, D. (2013). Evaluating the effectiveness of audio in hybrid courses. American Journal of Business Education, 6(1), 73-84.

Bergsteiner, H., Avery, G., & Neumann, R. (2010). Kolb’s experiential learning model: critique from a modeling perspective. Studies in Continuing Education,32(1), 29-46. doi:10.1080/01580370903534355

Brightman, H. (2001). GSU: Master teacher program on critical thinking. Retrieved from  http://www2.gsu.edu/~dschjb/wwwcrit.html

Kaymak, Z., & Horzum, M. (2013). Relationship between online learning readiness and structure and interaction of online learning students. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 13(3), 1792-1797. doi:10.12738/estp.2013/3/1580