RE: Summer Institute

The Summer Institute of Mobile Technology at Millersville University was the perfect reminder of why I love technology. Due to some winter negativity directed towards me, I had shut down and took the opportunity to recharge my non-digital life. I unplugged my professional development, but continued to utilize technology in the classroom. Time does make the heart grow stronger. I realized that I missed constantly discovering and sharing new technology ideas. The Summer Institute helped to bring me back to a state of enlightenment and inspiration.

REconnected with people / It was a chance to talk face-to-face with people who could push my thinking and provide positive support as I learned. The discussion during lunch  on Wednesday about the benefits of social media inspired me to catch up on my Twitter feed. My favorite Tweets are automatically saved to Evernote using IFTTT, so I now have many more treasures stored. The discovered treasures also includes blog posts from presenters and other referenced experts. I am grateful for everyone who contributed to the experience. I expanded my PLN to include local teachers with similar passions.

REjuvenated / This week was a mixed set of emotions. To best explain it: image the last day of a vacation, when your mind starts to create the ‘To Do’ list of everything that needs to accomplished once you return to reality. The class had a calming atmosphere because of the positive energy of the professors, presenters, and attendees. However, I always felt like there was something else to do.

REnewed aspirations of another degree / I can do it! It was great to sit down over lunch and talk through some ideas about post-graduate level degrees. Later this summer I am going to seriously examine the idea of a Ed.D. again. The field of educational technology is not new, but it felt that legitimate schools that were offering an Ed.D. in a more hybrid format (so that I could continue teaching) were rare. I want to pursue another degree, but my end goal is teaching middle school with an occassional graduate class on the side, so quitting my job to become a full time doctoral student is not an option.

REflective / Everyone can improve their teaching. Sometimes you just need to remove yourself from the classroom to honestly reflect. If I reflect in the classroom, I come up with more excuses than solutions to the problems. While planning for the final project for class, I realized there were two problem units during the year that struggled to reach the students. I decided to focus on the unit for Spatial Inequality the instant Clint Walters (@mrwalters) presented serious games. Before the next school year starts I will look at the other unit that I identified as a trouble unit and modify it to better accommodate the learning needs and interests of the students; it just won’t be for a grade. I wrote down many ideas and resources during the week that will transform more than a single lesson.

This week provided ample time for reflection. I drove one hour in the morning and another hour to get home after class. The time in the car allowed me to work through potential issues and come up with work arounds. I discovered there is nothing more frustrating than having a great idea and not being able to write it down or record it. I guess that would be a great use for wearable technology; I should have used Google Glass to compose messages in Evernote to reference after I arrived home.

21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times

The book that we read and discussed the first day also provided points for reflection. Previously during tech trainings, our school has discussed the 4C’s of the 21st Century. In my opinion, these are easy to see and apply. What I had not considered were the necessary literacies for students today that they were not faced with in the past. Our group created a demonstration on Educreations of why Information Literacy is so important. Social Studies is not a subject tested by the state, so I have the freedom to focus on the literacy skills that would make the students successful across the curriculum. It is also a natural connection because of our focus on Current Event Fridays. The students need the skills to evaluate the resources for authenticity, bias, and be willing to look at multiple sources for the same topic. I have plenty of chances to model Information Literacy for the students since I am willing to research their questions with them. I will keep some of the discussion points associated with Information Literacy in mind and intentionally model and teach it with our current events. With the end goal of social studies to make them global citizens, information literacy reigns supreme.

REdiscovery of tools / I know the purpose of this institute was not tool specific, but walking away with resources is greatly appreciated. For years I had been collecting resources to apply in my Spanish classroom, so there are many tools that are a perfect fit for Social Studies that I knew about and had forgotten. Rediscovering new resources is just as exciting as finding them the first time. Some of the resources I came away from the summer institute with are:

  • Games for Change – The website and games provided have improved so much since I saw this years ago. Now many of the games are applicable to my classroom (like Spent, 3rd World Farmer, etc) and I look forward to utilizing them.
  • iCivics – As the name implies, the website provides games to teach Civics.
  • Fake iPhone Texts – As a group, we brainstormed some creative class starters or discussion starters that originate with a fake text message conversation. There are a bunch of websites to create these.
  • Fakebook –  Fake Facebook profile creator from ClassTools.net. This would be an interesting way to evaluate a historical or political figure.
  • Scribble Press App – This app allows students to add short text and draw a message. It looked perfect for explaining a concept. However, the app is only for iPads and costs $3.99.
  • EdTechTeacher – Helps you find an appropriate tool to you. Gives you the starting prompt to search by device or to search by learning activity.
  • Learnzillion – Flipped lessons pre-created to teach Common Core topics.
  • MIT App Inventor – I hear about the App Inventor every single year. I always think that it sounds good in theory but do not see how to use it. This summer was the first time I seriously played around with it. I even created a functioning app that was much more complex than the basic tutorials. I was able to string ideas together and feel incredibly accomplished.
  • Tutorials for App Inventor
  • Intro to Scratch Cards – I liked how these broke Scratch down into manageable pieces that could easily be implemented into larger projects. I want to use these with our BYOT Club.
  • Other Ideas for Hour of Code – I did the Hour of Code with a group of students, but I want to get more students involved this year.
  • Classroom Salon – This is a tool from Carnegie Mellon University that could be useful when flipping a classroom.
  • EDpuzzle – This is another tool to flip a classroom. This was a favorite of many people in the Institute because of the tracking and analytics it provides to the teacher. I used part of this in my final project and already brainstormed a few more times it would be a great fit in my class.
  • Touch Cast App – This iPad app is described as “Looks like video, feels like the web.” It has potential in a flipped classroom. It is definitely on my list of things to try.
  • Dan Spencer – Many additional Flipped Classroom ideas and resources
  • Flipped Classroom Reflection – These are the resources that I found last summer, but I had not looked at them in a year. After having a Skype call with Aaron Sams (@ChemicalSams) I was motivated to revisit all the resources.
  • Being Device Agnostic – Blog post that provides great links to additional resources on tools that work across devices. Since I technology still have a BYOT classroom, this is valuable.
  • Infographic of wearable technology apps – one of the topics I presented about. By preparing my presentation it helped me evaluate my own use of wearable technology in the classroom. I came to the decision it is not the right use, yet.
  • Video Star App – Easy app to create movie video like videos. This could be a fun medium for students to share information about a topic.
  • Jot Script Pen – A pen for an iPhone or iPad. This looks amazing. It provides much more precision than a traditional stylus. Because I do not have an Interactive Whiteboard in my classroom and just project using Apple TV, I think this is a great investment.
  • Mr. Walters Blog – There were many, many resources mentioned in relating to serious games and the ramification of the classroom.

REinvigorated ideas for the classroom / I have bookmarked, and already referenced numerous times, the Technology Integration Matrix. It is great how the matrix breaks down integration into distinct areas and provides examples of what it would look like by subject area. I already use significant amounts of technology. However, a tool like the Technology Integration Matrix would provide the conversational framework for explaining to colleagues how some of our common tasks could be made digital and why that is important in terms of student learning.

Reading the predictions on the K12 Horizon Report for 2014 and listening to stories, theory, and pedagogy from Chris Penny (@ChrisPenny) solidified my determination to teach problem solving and self-sufficient use of technology in the classroom. There are so many devices, the teacher can not be expected to be the master of everything. By promoting student leadership and problem solving, students will be better prepared for the ever-evolving world of technology. Some of the smart technologies and wearable technologies of the near future are both exciting and creepy.

Overall, this Summer Institute was exactly what I needed to reinvest in my professional development. I have so many ideas about what to do next year in the classroom. I am glad that I have six more weeks to process and create.

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About Lisa Butler

Middle school teacher of Social Studies and Spanish, tech trainer, Flocabulary MC, Nearpod PioNear, and Edcamp Hershey Founder. I have embraced the power of blogging and reviewing products. If I am not doing something with ed or tech, I am probably reading, baking, running, or traveling.
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