It may be the end… but my journey has just begun.

It’s hard to believe that the semester has come and gone already. Here’s a video I made with Prezi and ScreenCastify to summarize my experience in ECMP355.

Thank you all for an amazing class and for being apart of my learning experience – which I know will continue for years to come.

 

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Personal Learning Network? Check!

As our ECMP355 class is winding down – it truly is incredible to look back at the semester we have had and the connections we have made. What better way to build your PLN than with an online class, with numerous different apps and tools that kept us connected and informed, and full of people who are as passionate about teaching as I am! Having a knowledgeable instructor who taught us the fundamentals of using technology in our future classroom was really just the tip of the iceberg, but the networking that occurred between my peers and I? That was what put this class into a league of its own. There are a few different ways I feel I have ( or at least I hope I have!) contributed to the learning of my classmates – and in return, they most definitely taught me a thing or two along the way.  Here are some examples…

Google + 

This space was a real life saver! It was a community that was created with the intention to communicate with and support one another. Had trouble opening the link Katia posted for us to read? Or uploading a video onto YouTube? Or fighting with formatting your WordPress blog post? Anything and everything pertaining to our class was posted to this community and I made sure to be in the loop. I may not be a technology wizard but I do know a thing or two and was more than happy to share my knowledge with someone who needed just a little extra insight.

I also made sure to make use of the community myself – on more than one occasion! There were times someone had posted a comment or question that I had been wondering in the back of my mind as well or needed some clarification on which was a huge help. Or even following along with other people’s posts and questions on how to do certain things like upload audio files or video editing tools that are effective to use. Just because I didn’t necessarily need that information at the time, was great to learn for the future.  And in the times when I was stuck with a technology crisis the ECMP355 team had my back.

 

Blog Posts

Oh boy, what a crazy and wonderful world the Blog Hub got to be over the course of the semester. A place where everyone’s posts got streamed onto and were all in one handy little spot to give you hours and hours of interesting reading to do. As I hate to admit, I did not keep up with everyone’s posts as much as I would have liked too, I did however do the best I could and saw some amazing ideas, resources, and impressive learning projects and made sure to leave some words of encouragement along the way.

On top of being a wealth of knowledge for me for in the future, blogging about my learning project was a huge benefit for me in a sense that I was able to help a fellow classmate out with hers, and gained some much needed encouragement. Lisa Perry was learning to play the guitar like I was – so we sort of banded together, blisters and all, and became a great sounding board for ideas for each other. Through commenting on  blog posts outlining our frustrations or triumphs, I could always count on someone being in the same boat as I was! You should check out her guitar journey – as she didn’t take the same path as I did.

And then there was Brad.. who is quite the woodworker by the way and you should check out his incredible learning project journey. He was a shining light when things got a little dreary or I felt discouraged. As a musician himself he always had some words of wisdom and offers to help, which were truly appreciated more than I think he knows. So thank you, Brad! When I hit the big stage in a few years I’ll make sure to give you honorable mention.  🙂

 

Twitter

As much as Google+ and blogging contributed to our learning throughout this course – I think it’s safe to say that Twitter takes the cake above all else. Our class hashtag spread like wild fire and there was always something new every day between people’s blog posts or resources. This is a space I thoroughly enjoyed contributing to. There was always something relevant to the weekly lectures which just furthered the conversation even more, and when you find teaching gold? Why not share it for everyone to benefit from. Here are just some example of the action that took place on my Twitter feed this semester…

I also took the plunge and participated in a couple of Twitter chats with #saskedchat for the first time – wowzers. If you can keep up with the madness – they really are a fantastic way to get connected with other educators from across the province and network in a way that pertains to specific topics each week. Was fun to read and follow along with everyone’s insight, and had fun sparking up some conversation with my own input!

I can honestly say that Twitter has quickly been my favorite place for ideas and inspiration and has enabled me to grow my PLN to the place where it is today by sharing ideas and keeping up with the professionals I follow. Just because this class is over – doesn’t mean my tweeting will so make sure to follow me!

There are not quite enough words to describe how much I enjoyed this class – frustrations and all! The knowledge and connections with people that I have created will benefit me throughout my career – and through my contributions hope this reigns true for my fellow classmates. Without each other, the experience would not have been the same and I firmly believe that together – we are all better educators because of it.

 

 

That’s a wrap! Recapping My Learning Project

Well, it’s time to wrap up my learning project for ECMP355. What a wild ride it has been and I am happy to report that all my hard work learning to play the guitar has paid off. I won’t be hitting the Brandt Center stage anytime soon, mind you. But – my original goal was to learn some chords and be able to play a song and I think I have achieved that. Here’s a recap of the journey of a girl and her borrowed guitar. (This class has sparked the fire.. so I think it’s time I go invest in one of my own!)

In the beginning my course of action was fairly unknown. I had heard of many people being successful with YouTube tutorials so that’s initially where I had started. I learnt a little, but like I explain in one of my earlier posts here it just wasn’t working for me and felt like I was making very little progress. That is when I found Yousician and my project kicked it into high gear.Through this app I was able to learn so many of the fundamentals such as:

  • Picking Strings and Fretting Notes, all with correct finger placement on each fret. “One finger per fret”
  • Tuning the Guitar
  • Names of the Strings – E A D G B E
  • Distance: Half step moves 1 fret. Whole step moves 2 frets.
  • Notes on the fret board – same as the musical alphabet but also includes the Big Cats Eat Fast acronym to remember when to move a half step of a whole step.
  • Musical theory – beats and the length of notes

And then there was learning chords. Which was probably the most difficult but most rewarding process. With chords you are able to pair it with freting notes to make a nice sound when playing a song. I’ve learnt and mastered 7 chords so far, which doesn’t sound like much but most are the chords most commonly seen in songs.

With enough chords covered to get me started, I picked a song that can be played with 3 of them (C, G and Am) and decided that was going to be the song I perform for my final piece. Also didn’t hurt that Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynard and covered by Shinedown happens to be one of my favorite songs.  Switching from chord to chord and having them ring out nicely was fairly simple so then I started to sing along – which then turned a simple task into a not so simple one. Then to top it off, trying to pin down a good strumming pattern that goes along with the song and that I could manage to play? Oh the frustration was high.

I watched a couple of different covers of this song done by people on YouTube and they make it seem so easy. Trying to produce it myself was by far the hardest part, and even in the video below – it’s not anywhere near perfect.  I use a random strumming pattern that I tried to keep consistent but my nerves got in the way – and there’s a couple spots where my fingers got out of line with where they needed to be. I’ve always heard you are your hardest critic, and whoever said that couldn’t be closer to the truth. I think my biggest issue is that I am not where I thought my skill level would be at – but I have realized first hand that learning the guitar takes time and repetition. And looking back while writing this post I am proud of the progress I’ve made. But enough stalling Janelle, show the people your skills….

Well there you have it – I hope your ears aren’t bleeding too badly. Yeah it’s nothing special and I still have a long way to go to refine my skills, but I am proud of what I was able to accomplish using solely online resources and support. This is only the beginning for me, as I want to be able to sing songs and rock out with my future classroom some day. Thanks to Katia and ECMP355 – this learning project has turned into a passion that I have every intention carrying on with for years to come.

Tweeting for Change – #socialactivism and the Benefit it Brings.

#BlackLivesMatter. #MarriageEquality. #BringBackOurGirls.  A few of the endless social activism movements that were created using an online platform. Gone are the days where poster board signs and allies gathered together in protest is commonly seen. Society has evolved into a place where technology is everywhere you turn – and when it comes to social justice, people are taking this evolution and using it to their advantage. People are made aware of social issues from their very own neighborhoods to across the globe, more now than they ever did. With the use of social media such as Instagram and Twitter, it gets the word out there and sparks conversation.

 
Photo Credit: uwgb admissions Flickr via Compfight cc

So can social activism be meaningful and worthwhile? Absolutely. It is all in how you conduct yourself once that conversation has started. When you read something on Twitter about woman’s equality or white privilege do you scroll right past not giving a second look? Or do you take the time to hit that retweet button to share the message with your circle of followers. Initiating the conversation for yourself is the first step – but you can’t be afraid to keep it going. Sharing a hashtag or a picture with a heart emoticon is great, but it’s like many people say… actions speak louder than words. Engage in it to the fullest extent – and be prepared to have the tough conversations with the naysayers that may or may not agree with you. An amazing instructor of mine, who I now consider to be a role model in my own life once said… it’s when things start to become difficult and uncomfortable. THAT is when you are going to experience the most change.

Social activism is present within all generations, and I personally believe it is an amazing avenue to explore with students to educate them about our world’s important social justice issues and most importantly issues in their very own school. Bringing the conversation into the classroom shows students the power that social media can have in a meaningful way. Take part in awareness events such as Pink Shirt Day and Autism Awareness to make these topics known. I’ve always firmly believed that ignorance is sometimes brought on by the lack of understanding. I watched a TedxTalk about a family who started a caused named Emily’s Entourage in support of their sisters battle with Cystic Fibrosis.  Julia Kramer-Golinkoff and her brother Coby talk about how they wanted to do something to inflict change. They wanted to channel their feelings of hopelessness and love for their sister in a positive way that would bring awareness and support for not only their family, but to many others across the globe. Social activism can be created by anyone who has the passion and a voice to share, and can be extremely powerful – just like Emily’s Entourage.

All it takes is one choice. The choice to be apart of the change or the choice to sit back and watch the change happen. I will be the first to admit that I was on the sidelines for many years scared to voice my opinion or have the confrontation with someone who had a different viewpoint.  Now that I have found my own voice and my desire to want to be apart of change – my goal and passion as a future educator is to encourage students to never be afraid and use technology to the fullest advantage. To find their voice and never be ashamed of it. And instead of watching from the sidelines like I did, participate in the conversation and know that with every word they are inflicting a positive change for not only themselves, but for the people around them.

Scratch that, coding isn’t so bad after all.

Coding… what makes technology in all it’s glory possible. We wouldn’t have our Candy Crush or Facebook without it.  Here’s my reaction when our instructor in ECMP355 informed us that in this weeks lecture, we were going to explore coding further….

As important as coding is to how technology works, I’ve never really taken it upon myself to learn anything about it. It always looks so intimidating – like a completely different language you don’t understand, and I always just figured that there were computer programmers and people smarter than I am that are fluent in “code” to get the job done.

As always, leave it to an hour and a half with Katia Hildebrandt to completely change your opinion and open your eyes. She showed us a much simpler side to coding, and how beyond the letters and characters to make up what appears to be just a scrambled mess – is actually a process that can be extremely beneficial to students. I had never realized before that there are websites designed and created for people who can code pretty much anything that they can think of – in a lot less intimidating way. This is when our trusted and brilliant instructor introduced us to Scratch. This website allows you to program your own stories and animations within an online community.  Katia designed, what a dare say was a very terrifying cat , to show us how the website worked and I couldn’t wait to play around with it myself.  This little number here is the result of my first ever coding experience using Scratch.

//scratch.mit.edu/projects/embed/152327410/?autostart=false

I was amazed and had SO much fun – and who doesn’t love a singing crab every once and awhile to brighten your day? Scratch is designed in such a user friendly way that it was easy to navigate and through and figure out the fundamentals of how it worked. What wasn’t so easy about it, was creating the animation itself. And that reason alone, is why I now realize how important teaching students how to code is. Let me tell you why…

Coding is so much more than picking pictures and clicking a button to make it move. It’s all in how to program it to do so. It takes an incredible amount of reasoning and logic to create an image and have it function the way you want it to. Creating my Under the Sea scratch was tons of trial and error. Having the fish move one way when I wanted it to move another – and figuring out which commands and functions I needed to incorporate or change to make that happen. All skills that are fundamental for learners. Not only does coding teach and enhance logical thinking – it is the way of the future. It opens the door to an opportunity for students to express themselves in the 21st century.

Who know’s who is going to create the next big online game or social media website. It may just be a student sitting in a desk in your classroom.

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

“Free choice prompt this week. Write about something edtech-related that you are interested in.”

Don’t mind if I do! Our #ecmp355 class has been nothing short of extraordinary and has left me in awe each and every week. Learning about tools and gadgets that are beneficial in so many different capacities throughout the classroom. As a bit of a tech-nerd as I am… this class definitely floats my boat.

As much as I am enjoying sailing out on my little pre-service raft riding the waves of everything educational technology based – not everyone is paddling in the same boat as I am. Having experience in a variety of different classrooms as an assistant, it’s clear to be that there is still some resistance out there when it comes to implementing technology into the classroom. I have seen everything from veteran teachers who are simply inexperienced when it comes to tech, or some that are aware of whats out there and is excited for the direction that education is taking but are apprehensive. I’ve heard “how do we use technology in a meaningful way?” and “I can barely turn on the photocopier, and you want me to Tweet?”

Change isn’t going to happen overnight, but the fact of the matter is that educational technology is our future as teachers. There are so many articles and research done to support this topic, and I found an archive page to everything pertaining to educational technology. I’d chance to say it’s the holy grail of ed-tech. So I decided to compile my own list of my top 5 reasons why I think being out on my little raft sailing through technology is a GOOD thing, in hopes to make it a little less scary for those who make need a little encouragement.

Here goes nothing:

  1. Get Connected! – In this day in age, phones and iPads are strapped to students hands and are used in their lives outside of the four walls of a classroom. So instead of fighting the Snapchats and the Tweets, why not make use of it in a way that is going to benefit their learning? We as teachers have the golden opportunity to be role models and to showcase how technology can be used for more than just socializing. Use these apps for a platform to learn all about digital etiquette and set students up for success in and out of the classroom.
  2. There’s is something for everyone! – Within your classroom of 20 some odd students – it should come to no shock that not all of those students are going to be at the same academic level. Learning outcomes vary across the board no matter what grade you teach. Technology has a nice way of adapting the curriculum so that even when using the same tool – each student can be challenged within their own learning capacity.
  3. Their education doesn’t stop with us…! – Kids go off to college, to University, or to working jobs right out of high school. Technology is EVERYWHERE. The more we can embrace and build our classrooms around digital citizenship, the more prepared students are going to be for the future. Technology has evolved tremendously over the years and I can’t imagine we are going to go backwards to dial-up internet and flip phones.  It’s all about building up a fundamental basis to build and grow upon with how quickly technology changes.
  4. Get Creative! – Technology gives students numerous ways to express themselves. When I was a kid I never felt like I had an outlet to express myself in a way that was positive and that was going to benefit me. Today, students can soar to new heights – no matter what their strength or passion. Blogging, videos, pictures, to name a few from this excellent list… the possibilities are truly endless.
  5. We all need a little more FUN in our lives! – I don’t care who you are or how many candles are on your birthday cake this year, technology has something for everyone. Fun usually equals engagement, and engagement generally leads to active and successful learners. Students have most likely already experienced technology in an entertaining fashion, but why not have it be entertaining AND educating at the same time?

So there you have it. My 5, but definitely not my only, reasons why educational technology is something to be embraced and not feared. As many ideas as I could ramble off to you, I would love to read more suggestions and ideas! There is always room on my ed-tech boat, so grab a paddle and lets explore the technology seas together!

 

Troubles Will Come. And They Will Pass

My life likes to go in waves and sometimes brings weeks of uncontrollable madness. Therefore, I haven’t been able to practice the guitar as much as I would have liked to, but any spare minute I did have was dedicated to music.

But I found myself at a road block. I had these fundamental skills and knowledge, but wasn’t able to transpire them into a song that I could really be proud of. The program I’ve been working with Youcision has been great, but all the songs are just melodies created by the company, and the songs I know and would like to play are too advanced for my skill level. So I was stuck. I listen to music on the radio and have this deep desire to want to just pick up the guitar and strum it out myself. I know this isn’t realistic for even some more advanced guitar players. But I was determined. I needed to find a way to compile the knowledge I did have and put it into a song. I needed to validate the progress I’ve made so far to give me that push to continue learning. The passion is no doubt still there, but I was feeling it start to fade.

So the hunt began. Finding a song that only has a handful of chords isn’t an easy feat. I was listening to music and thinking, “hey, that sounds like an easy song to play,” or watching YouTube videos of other covers of some of my favorite songs. I found this app Ultimate Guitar Tabs & Chords, which has been extremely helpful. Any song you could imagine is on there, and lets you simply the chords or even transpose them to fit your preferences.  This didn’t dull my frustration – if anything it only made it worse. What sounds or appears to be an easy song, and may be to some people, was not for me.

Screenshot of Ultimate Guitar Tabs & Chords

 

So I went looking for some guidance and did a Google search on some easy songs to play on the guitar. Lots I recognized and struck my interest, but one in particular sparked that fire inside of me that I had been missing. Shinedown’s remake of Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of my all time favorite tunes, so I knew this was going to be a match made in heaven. And the icing on the cake? This song can be played with three simple chords – C, G, and Am.

Screenshot of Ultimate Guitar Tabs & Chords

This was it. Finally a song that I can play that I am truly proud of, and one that I am working on to make my own. It’s rusty and needs some definite refining, as it’s a whole different ball game when you are trying to find the chord, get your strumming pattern straight, AND sing the lyrics all at the same time – but I honestly cannot wait to share it with the world and show off all my hard work.

 

Stay tuned 🙂

 

Putting Quizlet To The Test!

Educational technology has come leaps and bounds in a very short amount of time. As great as it is to get a referral from a fellow teacher on a great app or program that they have heard about or are using… I truly believe the best way to make the final decision in whether to implement something into the classroom, is to first put it to the test for yourself.

So, the app under investigation this week? Quizlet. What is it you ask? It is basically what I am sure you are assuming it is… but better. Quizlet is an online learning tool for both students and for teachers. At first glance I thought it was merely just an app to generate your own digital flash cards, which I have to admit I was pretty excited about – having grown up in the day and age where you wrote out every single term from the Biology textbook. But along with the ability to make your own flash cards, you also have access to thousands of existing sets of flashcards created by people from around the world, or even within the walls of your own school, pertaining to a multitude of topic areas.

Once your cards are made  or you’ve found a set that works for what you need, this is when it gets to the BETTER part. Sure you can go through and read the cards yourself, or, you can have your device read them to you if you are more of an auditory learner.  You can also take your study sets and learn them in a variety of ways – whether its playing a game, matching, spelling the word out, or taking a test. I could type you a novel on all the cool features that this application has, but why do that when I can take you on a front row seat experience….

Does Quizlet have any disadvantages? 

Honestly – overall, I think this app is a great educational tool. I think one aspect that might cause some potential concern is using study sets that are already made by another user. If not careful, the information may be wrong and then you have spent all that time studying the wrong material, where you ought to have just spent the time making your own. So I’d use caution when using material from users that you do not know.

Another aspect that may be seen as an disadvantage for some user, is the fact that you have to pay to unlock all of the features that this app has. Although frustrating, I firmly believe that the money you would put into having an account would be worth it in the long run. And if you could create an account that can be utilized by more than one teacher? Even better.

How can Quizlet be used in the classroom?

I have mentioned a few already, but the fact of the matter is, you can use it with more than just studying content such as sight words, like I’ve shown you above, or learning the alphabet and differentiating from lower and upper case letters. This tool has features for students regardless of their learning style and is a great resource for teachers for documenting progress.  Along with my own ideas, there are countless of articles and reviews of this app to support you. Creating your own folders and study sets with the content you are teaching, gives students another avenue to learning and in a fun way that can be tailored to each individual learner. Primary to post secondary – there are benefits from this tool for all.

Quizlet: You get an A+ from me.

 

Gif provided by: giphy.com

Teaching With Twitter

In our ECMP355 class our task was to simulate a likely conversation surrounding the topic of implementing the use of social media in the classroom.

Lisa Perry and I tackle Twitter… from the perspectives of two of the most important adults in a student’s life.

Video References:

“10 Amazing Ways For Teachers & Tutors To Use Twitter In Education”
“Digital Citizenship : Using Technology Appropriately – The Nine Elements”
Photo Credit: clasesdeperiodismo Flickr via Compfight cc
Music By: Transient by
Psychadelik Pedestrian 

CHORD-ially Learning Guitar

My level of excitement right now is through the roof. With last week being Spring Break and having some time off of both school and work, the guitar and I spent some quality time together. What was my biggest frustration last week, is now my greatest accomplishment! COWBOY CHORDS!

There were moments I thought my fingers were going to fall off of my hand – but I was determined to make some sort of sound ring out. And what do you know… by hard work paid off and BAM – I felt like I was a strumming machine, making up all sorts of rhythms and songs as I jammed out the 5 chords I have mastered.

As I shared my utter excitement on Twitter…..

I got a surprising response from a fellow educator….

So another HighFive goes out to Twitter and its amazing ability to connect you with people, some who you have never crossed paths with – and being a such a helpful resource. Chordie.com is such a cool website – one that I’m not going to lie, was very intimated of at first. But I found a list of absolute beginner songs, and can some what jam out to a little Enrique Iglesias Hero – which isn’t ready to be shared with the world quite yet! Amie also shared with me Cadd9 fingering, which required some researching on my part to figure out what it actually was.

This is only the beginning folks! With every passing day, it’s getting better and better, and like I shared with Twitter…