Videos, Games, Animations and Simulations in the Classroom

speak up 2k16 cover

This week I read the Speak Up 2015 findings. This year they focused on the trends they had seen in previous years’ surveys: the increasing use of videos, games, animations and simulations in the classroom. What they had to say was informative and thought-provoking. Stats like 68% of teachers are using videos they found on the internet in their lessons as a basis for a larger class discussion or to present content (pg. 3) were not that surprising. Based on my own observations of classrooms in the last couple of years, videos are increasingly used. The rise of platforms like YouTube make showing videos so much easier on teachers, and they are a great took to get and maintain student engagement.

What did surprise me were the different views on the use of technology from the demographics they looked at. For example, they shared that 41% of first-year teachers would like to have some of their professional development given by videos, while only 1/3 of teachers who had been teaching for 16 or more years wanted the same (pg. 6). The same was true of the students themselves. Elementary students more preferred to learn through the use of games, while middle and high school students preferred to use videos that they had found themselves on the content.  Even parents had their own view on the use of videos in the classroom, one that was different than both the students and teachers.

That made me think that this point would be important for me to remember as a teacher. My principal will more than likely have a slightly different interpretation of how I should be using technology in my classroom. My students will each have their own opinions on how they want to see the content and how they best learn. Their parents will more than likely have a completely different view on how I should be using technology to teach their children. It all goes back to a point that was made in the Universal Design for Learning chapter I read, which was stated again in this report,  there is no one-size-fits-all method for ensuring that all students understand the content. Likewise, not all students use technology in the same manner to learn. As a teacher, I need to know this and make sure that my lessons have some way to connect to all of them, which requires more than one method of engagement, of presenting content, of letting students show me what they have learned.



Teaching Inquiry with Primary Sources

Library of Congress

Today I completed a training of how to use inquiry with primary sources to lead students to a deeper understanding of a topic. While the example in the training was history, the inquiry model can be used in almost any subject.

Flipped Classroom: Organelles

For my flipped classroom I decided to work with cell organelles with the goal of relating cell form to its function. After watching it, students would go to the padlet link they were assigned and place a post in at least 2 of the categories. An example padlet can be found here.

To make the video, I started with a google slides presentation and found all my pictures and then painstakingly added callouts for every term that I was going over. I then exported my presentation into PowerPoint so that there was no annoying control bar every time I changed the slides, and screen captured the visuals and my voice over using open broadcaster software.

I was excited for this assignment because I had made movies before with my siblings when we were younger, but I had never done it for my science passion. And, I had never uploaded something to YouTube before. I wanted to know if the process was really as painful as some people had told me it would be.

Coming up with what lesson I wanted to do this with was not that hard. Trying to find images was the most frustrating part. Biology is a very visual science. There are plenty of copyrighted images that showed exactly what I wanted, but I was hesitant to use them. It would have been easier if I was working in a school and had access to a textbook where I knew I was allowed to use the images. Also, I couldn’t record my entire video without messing up and stumbling over words like “subunit” or “endoplasmic reticulum”. The only way I could get through it was to split it up into smaller portions and record each separately and then join them together later. Of course, there are no good free PC video editors, so I had to borrow my sister’s computer with Adobe Premiere to finally combine my segments.

This project was time-consuming, partly due to my own constant fiddling with getting the slides so-so. I can see why some teachers dread switching to a totally flipped classroom style because of trying to make all these videos. Now I have a better understanding of what goes into making video content, so if I decided to go to a flipped style I would not be so overwhelmed. Overall, I’m happy with the way my video came out.

Equity and the Digital Divide

This week, I had the chance to read several articles and watch two videos on the digital divide. Until this week, the only time I had heard the term “Digital Divide” was watching Comcast commercials while waiting for the football game to resume. But the readings this week made me realize that there is more to it than just some students not having access to the internet. There is also device access and a gender gap that falls under the broad category of the digital divide.

While programs like Comcast’s help bring access to the multitude of learning opportunities through the internet at home, it is important for me as a teacher to understand a few thing. One is that this problem exists, and because of that I will need to be flexible. Two is, based on the make-up of my class, I may need to change how I would like to do things to make sure that all of my students have the opportunity to do it. It is okay to use videos and online modules as a method of engagement and content delivery, but I need to use class time for an assignment that may have been designed to be homework. And three, that this issue does not mean I need to pull technology out of my classroom. All students can benefit from technology, and it is counterproductive to pull what access to it some of these students have away because they cannot access it at home.


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Big History in 18 Minutes or Less

If you are anything like me, this picture makes you a little bit uncomfortable. It’s got eye catching colors but it is difficult to read and contains A LOT of information. This picture is a timeline of the history of the universe, all 13.7 billion years of it. It seems like something that would be daunting to try and learn about, but David Christian manages to walk through it in under 18 minutes in his TEDTalk.

As a self-described science person, his talk captivated me for every minute of it. His descriptions were easy enough to understand, and it was mind blowing to think of how difficult it was for our universe to come to exists as it is. It also made me concede why, as someone who studied biology, I had to take so many chemistry classes. In this talk, he shows how all of the sciences build on each other, how they are all interrelated. More than that, it shows just how small a part humans have played in story of our universe’s history.

But what does this have to do with education? There were a couple of things that I gleaned from this talk, more than just the chance to spend almost 20 minutes listening to and watching my favorite subject. First is the concept of collective learning. This is something, that according to Big History, sets humans and the rest of the modern era apart from the rest of history. Because of our ability to create and understand language, it is possible for us to build on the knowledge of our ancestors. We are the only species that can. I think that it would be powerful for our students to understand. The knowledge that they gain through their life will add to the collective knowledge that we have, something that will not only benefit them but their children, grandchildren, etc. For some students, that may be beyond what they want to think about. I certainly didn’t want to think about the future when I was in upper elementary and middle school. But giving them a glimpse of this idea, even as just a consider this moment, is something I think they should have.

The second thing was what David Christian spoke about at the end of his talk. It is our students who are going to have to deal with the great dichotomy of how complex our society has become. There is great power in our connected, global society. Our students have an unprecedented amount of connectedness, and with that an opportunity to greatly increase their own knowledge and the collective knowledge. At the same time, they will have to deal with the consequences of this connectedness. That makes my job as a future educator to help prepare them for that future.


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The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher: We’re Still Relevant

This week I had to read an article called The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher written by Michael Godsey. In it, he shares his answer to the question “If kids can get all of their learning from the internet, what is the role of the classroom teacher?”. In his view, in the not too distant future, students will learn from everything “super teachers” who webinar in to many different classrooms at the same time while classroom teachers will be demoted to only a “tech expert” to make sure the technology works.


I think that he is right in the vast change in the role of classroom teacher in the last few decades. No longer is the teacher expected to be the sole source of knowledge for students to use. Nor would I ever want my future students to only use me as their source of information. However, that was about the only opinion he and I agreed on.  It felt like the article complained the technology was replacing the teacher made all the work that the author did to get the degrees in his content, and in education, less valuable. I don’t think that this is the case. The reason that I became so passionate about the subject I want to teach is because I had teachers who showed me their love of the subject. Yes, they went to university and graduate school, and that is an accomplishment. It didn’t take away from that accomplishment to use a YouTube video made by somebody else to introduce content. The power that exists in a connection with a person who shares their passion, whether from a recording or in person, has not changed.


This week I also had to read a chapter on the Universal Design for Learning, and in it they stress using multiple methods of engagement, representation, and demonstrating knowledge to hook each individual learner in a class into the content. For some, they like the video as it hits both auditory and visual components of learning. For others, they still need the group or student-teacher interaction. Technology provides some ways to do that, but it does not remove the teacher from the classroom, nor diminishes the importance of having a teacher in the classroom. The educational landscape has changed. The 4C’s and the 21st century learners are not just the newest fads. They are being accepted as what we as a society want our students to leave school able to do. As an educator, it is my job the help my students learn. It would be entirely selfish and wrong for me to not give my students the tools to learn how they learn best. Being a facilitator, a guide, or any of the other “cliched” terms for the role of a teacher is not a bad thing.  As a future teacher, I am not irrelevant.

Podcasts in Education

I listened to a podcast on the Hooked channel of BAM Radio. Specifically, I listened to “The 3R’s of Engagement: Robots, Rap and Relationships”. In this 11-minute audio podcast, a Teacher of the Year winner talked about the strategies he uses to keep his students engaged. As the engineering teacher, he uses robotics to keep his students wanting to come back to class. He discusses as an educator it is important to have a little bit of understanding of what is currently popular with the students, whether it be music, games, etc. as well as really getting to know your students are the best practices for grabbing and maintaining student engagement.
Are podcasts something I would consider for professional learning in the future? At this point, I don’t know if I would. This particular podcast was three people talking at me. While it is not impossible for me to remember things that are said, there was no visual to go along with it to keep my mind from wandering. I really had to focus to not switch between tabs and read something more interesting like my twitter feed. I could see me using podcasts combined with images or even a written transcript for professional learning. But a pure audio podcast would not be the best way for me to learn more about developments in the field of education.

Infographics with


This week a played around with making infographics. While they are great at displaying important, and sometimes a large amount of, information in an easily digestible manner, making infographics can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. makes the process significantly easier. A free account, or a log-in to your Google account,  gives access to ready to go templates and a drag-and-drop interface that makes producing an infographic quick and relatively painless. I made the infographic above from start to finish in less than 40 minutes using their system.

Overall, my experience with the site was good. The tools to align text boxes and other graphic elements were incredibly helpful. The templates eased the agony I usually experience in trying to pick the correct color scheme to make the words legible.There is an option to upgrade to a premium account for a small yearly fee. By the end of my experience, I was seriously considering upgrading just to see what other shapes options that would give me. The free account has limited shape and chart options and I was missing some of the free form shapes that come standard with programs like Word. Other than the one issue with the shapes I wanted to use not being available in the free version, is a great program that I will return to if I ever need to make an infographic again.


Extracurricular Empowerment-The Power of the Social Web

This week I watched a TED talk called “Extracurricular Empowerment”. In this talk, Scott McLeod talks about when it seems everyone is talking about, technology and our youth. However, he demonstrates through the stories of multiple kids from the age of 10 through their teens the good of empowering our kids with technology. Instead of the vastness of the internet, and the millions of people it reaches, being something to be feared it is now being used as a platform to enact positive change.

His talk touched on some similar points as the “Generation Like” video from last week. Likes, followers, tweets, retweets, and views are what elevated his examples to the level of “internet famous”. I did enjoy that this talk focused on the positives of kids using technology, especially after a discussion in class on the idea of digital natives vs. digital immigrants that left me somewhat frustrated with the gloomy outlook. The 21st century learner is not a phenomenon that will just disappear. Technology is not going to disappear. That does not mean that it is inherently something to fear. I’m not naive enough to think that nothing bad will ever happen because of that technology. The world is a mix of good and bad, I think it is important that the conversation about our students and technology reflects that.