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!

IMG_4999 IMG_4998 IMG_4997 IMG_4606 IMG_4605 IMG_4604 IMG_4595



In my 6th Grade classes, our current unit is called, “Discovering Yourself”, where we talk about heredity, characteristics, personality, and most important, self-esteem. Today in my discussion on self-esteem, something just completely clicked for me and brought me to a place I haven’t been in a very long time.

I said to my kids, “You know, you either have a high self-esteem or a low self-esteem. There have been times where my self-esteem has been very low and then there are times where my self-esteem has been and can be very high….maybe even too high. Like now for instance. I AM AWESOME. And I want everybody to know how awesome I am. And guess what?! If they don’t think I’m awesome, that’s too bad for them because they are completely missing out and don’t need to be apart of my life!”

Do not allow the negative words or actions of others take over your being. The second we take ownership of that negativity, we fall into a cycle that becomes difficult to break free from. I admit that I have allowed the hurtful words and actions that have been done to me push me away from activities and others due to my own feelings of inadequacy, but guess what? I was never nor will I ever be a victim. You grow, you stay strong, and you have faith that there is a plan for you greater than you could ever imagine.

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Be honest. Be brave. You never know what one kind act or word can do to change somebody’s life.

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?


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.


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

EDU 625: No worries, there’s an app for that! Mobile Learning and its impact on Education

“Outside the classroom, cell phones, PDAs, PocketPCs, Internet access is everywhere because we need it and use it in our information driven lives. But inside the classroom, the very skills humans need to succeed are discouraged and viewed with alarm. So schools do not teach effective use of Google, of text-messaging, of instant-messaging. They don’t teach collaboration. They barely teach communication outside the stilted prose only academics use. No wonder students are prepared for nothing except more school.” – Ira Socol (2006)

Mobile technologies are more prominent in the world now more than ever. Need to look something up on your phone? Just talk to Siri. No Siri? No worries, there’s an app for that!

There are many different definitions of what mobile learning, or m-learning is, but the one thing that can be agreed upon is that “mobile learning has come to people’s attention because mobile devices are portable, ubiquitous, easily accessible and used by many people” (Keskin and Metcalf, 2011, p. 202).

Below, you will find an excellent PowToon presentation that briefly gives a description of what mobile learning is and its implications for learning. This video explains the positives of utilizing mobile learning as well as some obstacles that teachers might face when utilizing mobile learning in the classroom.

Personally, I have never had an experience using mobile technologies as a learning tool, other than using Blackboard Mobile Learn on my iPhone. However, I have not really used the app that frequently throughout my Post classes, especially when it comes to the discussion board because I find that sometimes it can be difficult to navigate regarding responding to posts.

When I was younger, I didn’t not have a cell phone until I was able to drive and when I got that phone, I was only able to make and receive calls…no texting, no Internet, not even a voicemail. I had that phone up until I got my first teaching job in 2011 and got an iPhone and brought myself into the technology world. Overall, though, I survived.

With that being said, however, I strongly believe that there is an urgent need for mobile technologies in education. I have two issues related to mobile technology for learning that I am concerned about. First, one of my concerns is for my students. I say to myself, “What if I have students that are just like me?” I didn’t have a cell phone in middle school. A lot of my students can’t even afford new shirts, nevermind a piece of mobile technology. The benefit, however, is that the students can potentially have the opportunity to use iPads….once we find out how to get them at our school.

The second concern of mine is how to propose the integration of mobile learning in my classroom when my administrators are very adamant about no mobile devices at all. The district I work in does have a no mobile device policy to begin with, however, students have used their mobile devices in schools negatively and because of incidents that have occurred I am stuck in between a rock and a hard place.

How would you approach this issue if you were in my situation?

Despite the challenges that I need to overcome, I am not going to let it stop my ambition to enhance my students’ learning using mobile technologies. This week’s learning challenge was all about utilizing a mobile app to create a learning activity for a specific learning objective. Rather than completely reinventing the wheel, I thought about taking what I already have and updating it to make it current with the apps that are available.

In my research, I came across a FREE app called, “Fooducate”. Fooducate allows the user to set weight loss goals for themselves, scan and search for foods, track calories and food intake for the day/week, chat with other users, and make comments on products. Also, by using the scan and search feature, the app also gives grades and suggestions on the products that are much better than the ones that were scanned. The video below gives a brief overview of what the app is all about.

For my learning activity, I decided to incorporate the Fooducate app for the homework portion of the activity. 7th Graders in the Family and Consumer Sciences class do a Choose My Plate activity where they are required to track their food for three days, including beverages. The students then have to input everything into the Choose My Plate ‘Super Tracker’ and that system then generates how much they have been eating from the various food groups, what they need to stay away from, etcetera. When the students write down their intake and then go to put it in the Super Tracker, they often run into issues such as not being able to find the foods that they ate and then have to kind of make up the foods, which leads to a skewed result. With the Fooducate app, it takes away all of that confusion and all of the issues and it makes it so much easier to have more accurate results when inputting the foods in Super Tracker. If the Super Tracker does not recognize it still, the students can go on the Fooducate app and input the information from there onto the Super Tracker.

It might seem like a lot of work but once the students get into it, especially with Fooducate, it is so easy!

Although Unit 7 is complete, I intend on searching for more apps I can use in the Family and Consumer Sciences classroom. I strongly believe that mobile learning is the way of the future and educators need to embrace and take advantage of the teaching and learning opportunity.


Keskin, N., & Metcalf, D. (2011).  The current perspectives, theories, and practices of mobile       learning. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10(2), 202-208.



EDU 625: Educational Games successful for learning?

Games in the classroom, huh? Seriously? Education is not what it used to be so open your eyes and get ready because gamification is changing the way students think and learn!

Apostol, Zaharescu, and Alexe (2013) define gamification as, “using the mechanics of games to make learning more engaging” (p. 67). The NMC Horizon Report (2013) stated that, “educational gameplay has proven to increase soft skills in learners, such as critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and teamwork” (p. 21). Furthermore, Shaffer, Squire, Halverson, and Gee (2004) assert:

Classroom work rarely has an impact outside of the classroom; its only real audience is the teacher. Game players, in contrast, develop reputations in online communities, cultivate audiences as writers through discussion forums, and occasionally even take up careers as professional gamers, traders of online commodities, or game modders and designers. The virtual worlds of games are poweful, in other words, because playing games means developing a set of effective social practices (p. 5).

I am a big advocate for incorporating “games” into my learning activities with my students. I have been very successful implementing various games/simulations in my classroom. Some of the games that I have used in my classroom are Jeoparady like activities, Driveofyourlife.org, vocabulary scavenger hunts, and have even recreated the entire game of “Sorry”.

From incorporating these games into my instruction, I have been extremely successful in teaching my students key concepts, vocabulary, and overall ideas about the world. Although we never want to rely on test results, I have found that scores are much higher in my classroom when I use these tools over not using them.

In a way, I like to think that I redesigned the vocabulary activity as a “game”. Rather than just having my students copy down vocabulary and study it, I put the words and definitions on flash cards (this was for a careers unit). I then created a corresponding worksheet that was the base of the scavenger hunt. The worksheet had clues, definitions, and/or vocabulary words. The way I ran the activity so the kids did not go crazy around the building and so they were supervised but still had free roam of what they were doing was I set up flash cards in the room and had every group work only in the room. Once everybody was done in the room, then we went out into the hallway. There were two clues that were nowhere near the classroom- one was at the gym and one was in the main office. I, of course, made sure that the PE teacher, the secretaries, and my principal and vice-principal were well aware of what was going on so they did not think that my students and I were being reckless. We have a strict set of school rules regarding behavior in the hallway and I told my students before we even began, if they got out of control and showed me that they could not be mature enough to handle this activity, I would stop it completely or they as a team would be disqualified.

I found this strategy to be most effective in my classroom because students were absorbing the information. There was no prize at the end other than a good grade. My students were fully engaged and motivated and that is why I love incorporting games in my classroom. I have not used Sorry yet in my middle school classroom, but I used it in my Culinary classes when I was teaching high school and that was SO rewarding. It took me FOREVER because I had to recreate the cards and the rules but when my students played it…..wow. I can’t even explain the feeling of how great it was.

Here is a picture of what I created with the SORRY! Game!



In this week’s unit, I learned that there is more to games and gamification then just Jeopardy, Sorry, and other games. I must admit though, I am super excited for my Eggspert to come in ().

This week I explored the program Inklewriter (www.inklewriter.com). Inklewriter is all about interactive storytelling which I love. With this program, you are able to create your own stories, however, the way the story ends is a result of what the reader chooses. These options definitely bring creativity to the surface for the reader and in a way, tests the reader’s imagination. In a way, I compare Inklewriter to life, filled with choices and the choices we make we must take responsibility for.

I created a very basic story that I can potentially use for my 6th Grade Money Management unit. This is a great activity for students to use to create their own stories, testing their knowledge in whatever unit of mine that I would like them to use. Read my story here… https://writer.inklestudios.com/stories/gh54

If you take anything away from this post, I ask that you please watch this lengthy but FANTASTIC Google Tech Talk on Gamification. It gives great insight to what we are missing and what we really need in our classrooms.

EDU 625: HOW can we EXPECT our students to change, if we are not willing to? The Power of Presentations

How many times have you been in a presentation at school or at work and you have found yourself looking just like the kids in the picture?

I’d venture to guess at one point in time, we have all felt and looked this way during a presentation. But why? Why do we end up getting like this? Is the material boring? Is the presenter/teacher just running off facts that we really don’t care about? What is missing from the presentation equation?

One of the main issues that educators face today is creating more engaging lessons to get students to understand, comprehend, and be successful. Arends (2009) writes, “Some educators have argued that teachers devote too much time to talking, and over the years, considerable effort has gone into creating models aimed at decreasing the amount of teacher talk and making instruction more student-centered” (p. 260).

As I stated in last week’s blog, one of my philosophies of teaching is, “If I’m bored teaching it, you’re (my students) going to be bored learning it.” The same thing goes for presentations. There are times where I feel like I might talk too much and then there are times where I do not think I talk enough. Prior to this unit, my view on presentations was that presentations were the meat and potatoes of any major unit with lots of vocabulary and concepts that needed to be learned. However, my philosophy has completely changed on what a presentation really is.

One of the main ideas that is part of my philosophy when teaching in general and when using presentations is ENTHUSIASM. Waldo Emerson once said, “Nothing was ever achieved without enthusiasm”. Arends (2009) writes, “Many teachers, particularly those in secondary schools and colleges, argue that the key to effective presentation is for the presenter to use techniques and strategies borrowed from the performing arts” (p. 281). I feel that in general, no matter what grade you are teaching, you need to put on a show for your students in order to grab their attention and maintain that attention. It is important to remember, however, that too much enthusiasm can be detrimental to the learning process because if you are too enthusiastic, students will be too focused on the fact that you are probably freaking them out, rather than learning and mastering the objectives.

What are your thoughts? Is there ever too much enthusiasm in a classroom, especially when giving a presentation?

I think there is a similarity between passion and enthusiasm. When I use a presentation as a learning activity for my students, if it is a super dry and boring presentation, I exude passion and enthusiasm. I get my students involved in the content, asking them questions about what they think, their experiences, etcetera. I also provide my students with real-life examples that they can apply to their current situations.

For example, my first year teaching middle school, I was teaching my 7th Grade students about cross-contamination and the reasons why it’s so important for us to be aware of cross-contamination. The objectives were met, I dismissed the class, and we all went on. A week later I went up to the cafeteria to pick up my 2nd grade students that I had to take out to recess and 3 of my 7th Grade students came running up to me in a panic. “MISS GURGA! MISS GURGA! YOU HAVE to say something to the cafeteria ladies! They used the same spoon for the carrots that they used for the other food! You need to talk to them about cross contamination! We’re not eating that!” Some people might say I created little Food Safety monsters, some people might say I was creating trouble, but ultimately, I was doing what I love to do and get paid to do….educate children. The presentation that I admit was dry and boring, came to life for my students because of my teaching strategies that I used that got them involved and got them thinking.

This week’s learning challenge proved to be difficult but very rewarding. The objective of the learning challenge was to create a presentation- based learning activity using one of our new resources while creating something that was more engaging. I can create a PowerPoint presentation with my eyes closed so at the beginning I was excited but nervous to see what I could come up with. For my learning challenge, I chose to use the site PowToon. I took a 6th Grade PowerPoint Presentation that I normally do with my 6th Graders and re-created it using PowToon and I am VERY happy with the results and am excited to use it in my class in the Fall. Thanks to my classmates, they informed me that I can increase the length in between transitions (now I just have to figure it out). Watch the 7 Facts About Kitchen Hazards HERE:

Overall, presentations can be more creative and more interactive than we are making them out to be. Are we going to continue to using our old ways of presenting or are we going to step up to the plate and make our presentations more engaging for our students?

Watch this video below and think about this question- How can we expect our students to change if we are not willing to? Now make your decision.


Arends, R. I. (2009). Learning to Teach. (8th ed.). London: Mcgraw-Hill Higher Education.

Osakabeavers04. (2013). Presentation tips for teachers (Never give a boring lecture again) TEDxOsaka [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdtLELVhEQg