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I am currently 3rd grade teacher at West Burlington Elementary School in West Burlington, Iowa. I'm in my ninth year of teaching at the same school I attended from K-12. I pursuing my Master's degree in Instructional Technology through the University of Northern Iowa and I am so excited about this adventure.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Selection & Integration of Technology

Integrated Technology Learning Experience Outline

Unit Title:  People in Communities

Unit Length:  5  weeks

Grade Level: 3rd

Description of Students:   21 students, 10 boys and 11 girls. 1 identified special ed, 5 At-risk students.  Reading levels ranges from 0.9 – 5.2  

Unit Description:  3rd grade social studies unit about people in communities.  Students will learn how people in communities express their culture. They will investigate different cultures in their community and nation, and even outside our nation.  They will also learn how different cultures can make life in a community more interesting.

Goals for this Unit:  (BIG IDEA)
1.  Students will understand that cultural differences enrich communities and make them diverse. 
2.  Student will use technology tools to express ideas and collaborate with peers.

Iowa Core Curriculum Standards 
~Understand how geographic and human characteristics create culture and define regions.
~Understand how human factors and the distribution of resources affect the development of society and the movement of populations.
~Understand the role of culture and cultural diffusion on the development and maintenance of societies.
~Use technology resources to create original products, identify patterns and problems, make predictions, and propose solutions.
~Use interactive technologies in a collaborative group to produce digital presentations or products in a curricular area.
~Understand and practice appropriate, legal, and safe uses of technology for lifelong learning.

Learning Outcomes (specific skills you expect your students to master):
Students will understand why people move from place to place and how communities are affected by these movements.
Students will be able to describe different cultures found in the United States.
Students will explain what makes up our American Heritage.
Students will show ways that people express their cultures.
Students will illustrate how customs are different around the world.

Overall Sequence for the Multiple Lesson Unit:
    Our American Culture
                Moving to New Places
                Sharing Cultures
                Our American Heritage

   Cultures Around the World
                Expressions of Culture
                Holidays and Traditions
                Cultures of the World
Unit Content:
Our American Culture
                1.  Moving to New Places: 
                                Identify reasons why people move and settle in new places
                                Describe immigrants’ arrival and living conditions in the U.S.
                                Identify reasons why people move within a country
Many immigrants come to the United States to find new opportunities.
                2.  Sharing Cultures: 
Understand how different groups share their cultures in the U.S.
Compare and contrast cultures and diversity in communities
Identify ways that immigrants contribute to communities.
(Ethnic groups in Washington D.C., include Asian, Caribbean, Latin American, and African.)
                3.  Our American Heritage
Identify American landmarks
Identify and explain the significance of national holidays

Cultures Around the World
                1.   Expressions of Culture
                                Recognize literature, art, music, dance, architecture, and religion as expressions of culture
                                Compare and contrast the many ways people express their culture
                2.  Holidays and Traditions (GRR example)
Focus Lesson(s)
Purpose: Review cause and effect and show students how that relates to lesson 2 Holidays and Traditions reading

Guided Instruction
Activity/Activities: Students will partner up and using the cause & effect sheet, read through lesson 2  and discuss the reasons behind the celebrations
Guidance: I will work with a few groups to reinforce proper use of the cause and effect sheet.
Formative Assessment: We’ll come back together as a class and discuss what they read

Productive Group Work:
Collaborations: students will work in groups of 3-4 to create invitations to a cultural celebration they’ve read about.
Technology-Enhanced Collaborative Process(es) Used: students may use a web 2.0 tool of their choice to create or share their invitation
Accountability: each student will have a job in the process

Independent Learning
Activities:  Writing project ~ What’s Your Custom
                Students will think about customs or traditions their families share.  These can include an activity that occurs during a holiday or a tradition involving everyday life.  Students will create a descriptive blog post about a time when they took part in the tradition, or simply describe the tradition. 
Assessment: Teacher will assess the students understanding of what a custom or tradition is and if they’ve described the cause and effect properly.

                3.  Cultures of the World
                                Compare and contrast language, dress, and food in various cultures around the world
                                Define cultural identity
                                Identify expressions of different cultures around the world

Further Unit Analysis
Describe how you integrated each of the modular topics into your unit. (Please refer to the assignment sheet for the specifics of what is expected.)

Integrating Digital Technology:
There are several activities that involve technology. Students collaborate in creating an invitation of their choice and their work in “A Week in the Life” project would lie on the Authentic-Infusion part of the matrix.  Students use technology tools to link learning to the world beyond the instructional setting and the teacher provides the learning context and the students choose the technology tools to achieve the outcome.

21st Century Classrooms:
I integrated the Flat Classroom A Week in the Life project into this unit. It allowed students to collaborate with other students in other states and countries.  It allows students to be more involved in what they want to learn and in finding ways to accomplish that on their own therefore creating a more student centered learning environment. 


Students needed to be aware of what information is safe and not safe to share on the internet. Students learn to always ask permission from their parents and other trusted adults before filling out forms online and learn to create secure passwords for their accounts.  They learn what spam is, and how to deal with it when they see it. Finally, they decode privacy policies, and think critically about the implications for the information that they share online.

Universal Design for Learning: 
The unit included several differentiated activities for the students.  Leveled research materials were provided for students at different reading levels.   The differentiated lessons address multiple methods of representation, expression and engagement of learners with information and knowledge. This unit involves a variety of instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments.

This unit will be very successful.  I have used pieces of this unit before, however not in the sequence or with the technology projects integrated into it.  I’ve learned that it is much easier to use technology on a deeper level than I first though, however the skills of the students can always provide challenges in activities involving technology.  We are always changing and adapting lessons to better fit the needs of the students.  Having done so in this unit will provide some guidance to look at others in the future.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

UDL and Assistive Technologies using the iPad

     Assistive technologies have been around for a very long time, as have numerous strategies for reaching all learners.  Universal Design Learning has put a new focus of how to effectively reach learners at all levels and abilities.  The Apple iPad has provided numerous tools to help teachers and learners accomplish this tremendous task.  I have yet to gain the opportunity to use an iPad in my personal classroom, but I have been an Apple iPhone user for many years now and can definitely see the benefits it could bring to at-risk students of all kinds. Teachers work extremely hard to find ways to pull struggling learner up and push gifted students forward.  Individual classrooms tend to have a range of abilities wider than the grade levels in the entire school.  I searched for iPad applications that could assist students in the classroom and out move their learning to higher levels.

Please take a look at the following Google presentation.

For more apps for education see: 65+ iPad apps for Elementary Education

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A New Kind of Safety

Today's children are growing up in a digital world. They are learning of the tremendous resources that are available to them through digital tools and the internet.  However, in this digital age, it is even more important for them to know how to stay safe while using these resources and how to be a good digital citizen in this new and ever expanding digital world.  We can start in our classrooms with our colleagues, students and their parents.  There are many topics and resources available to tackle this important task.  I have gather several for a beginning lesson on internet safety for my classroom.  Below is an overview with links, however I am creating a more user friendly Wikispace for my actual use. 

Digital Citizenship

3rd grade teacher team, students, and parents
Common Sense Topic: Internet Safety
Teacher Resources:

Students Resources:

Parent Resources:

Teaching Schedules:
3rd grade team: 45 min during shared planning time period
3rd grade students and parents: Together 45 minutes, Family Togetherness Night

Teachers will:
• Understand the importance of teaching internet safety to their students and parents
• Learn how to locate and access commonsense.org resources and lessons, as well as other resources

Students & Parents will:
• Understand that being safe when they visit websites is similar to staying safe in real life
• Learn to recognize websites that are good for them to visit
• Recognize if they should ask an adult they trust before they visit a particular website

Teacher Outcomes:
Will prepare the CommonSense.org lesson on Staying Safe on the Internet to present to 3rd grade students and their parents on Family Togetherness Night.

Parent & Student Outcomes:
Match statements about websites to colors of a “website traffic light” that symbolizes various levels of online safety
Play an interactive game to judge which websites are best for them
Extension: Students make a website traffic light poster in groups with tips about how to identify “just right” sites

Homework: Students find new “just right” sites to visit with their family members  

Wiki:   http://elliottsdigitalcitizenry.wikispaces.com/

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Welcome to the 21st Century

Jami’s MNW Walkthrough Form and Technology Infusion Data

Characteristics of Core Instruction: The following topics and items were taken from Iowa Core Curriculum sessions and reflect the Characteristics of Effective Instruction outlined by the Iowa Core.

Course/Classroom Being Analyzed:  
3rd grade classroom

Image: Creative Commons

Student-Centered Classroom
  • Students at center of learning, teacher facilitating process
  • Cooperative or collaborative learning taking place
  • Teacher leading students to the answer not giving it out
  • Students have choices
  • Students are engaged in challenging work
  • Teacher questions and probes
  • Not visible during walkthrough
Specific comments about the Student-Centered Classroom:
Our training and focus on the Gradual Release of Responsibility framework and more specifically with productive group work and inquiry this past year has helped to move my classroom towards being much more student centered.  We’ve really been working on what productive group work looks like for the students through modeling and specific expectations. Through inquiry, students are engaged in thinking and sharing fostered by prompts and probes from the teacher.

Teaching for Understanding:
  • Problem or project based learning
  • Hands on, minds on
  • Students think and demonstrate understanding
  • Visual learning (conceptual models, graphic organizers, webs, etc.)
  • Factual knowledge is transferred to usable knowledge
  • Students involved in designing, problem solving, decision making, and investigating
  • Summarize targeted concepts and skills
  • Multiple means of presenting information
  • Not visible during walkthrough
Specific comments about Teaching for Understanding:
We definitely do alot of problem and project based learning tasks, especially through math.  Students are continually demonstrating their understanding and creating and completing visual models.

Assessment for Learning
  • Formative assessment is used as a tool to adjust teaching
  • Essential concept and skill is clear and evident to the students
  • Teacher provides criteria of quality work
  • Teacher provides examples of both high and low quality work
  • Self or peer assessment is evident
  • A collaborative classroom environment
  • Assessment for learning takes place DURING instruction
  • Variety of feeback to students (web, tapes, oral, written, video, etc)
  • Not visible during walkthrough
Specific comments about Assessment for Learning:
I definitely use formative assessments to adjust teaching according to what the students’ needs are.  I also have students self-evaluate and peer-evaluate.

Rigor and Relevance (We have not studied this so you do not need to include this section if you don’t know about the Rigor and Relevance concept.)
  • Quadrant A
  • Quadrant B
  • Quadrant C
  • Quadrant D
  • Opportunity to set goals
  • Expands on prior knowledge
  • Not visible during walkthrough
Specific comments about Rigor and Relevance:
Iowa Core urges tasks and activities to be in Quadrant D, these types of tasks seem to require significant planning out side of the box.  As I continue my teaching I hope to move closer to having more tasks closer to Quadrant D.

Teaching for Learner Differences
  • Plans for variance in learning
  • Assesses the interests and needs of individual students
  • Learning goals are clearly stated
  • Flexible grouping (supplemental and intensive)
  • Engages students in self reflection, collaboration, and learning choices
  • Works in variety of settings (large group, small group, individual)
  • Engages students in self reflection
  • Not visible during walkthrough
Specific comments about Teaching for Learner Differences:
As part of our school’s differentiated instruction committee, I’ve learned to incorporate many strategies to reach learners where they are.  We also give interest surveys and “interviews” to students and assess where they are numerous times throughout the year with summative evaluations and daily through formative evaluations.  

Technology Infusion
  • Web 2.0 tools being used
  • Technology used as a reference
  • Technology used as a textbook
  • Technology used to differentiate learning
  • Technology used for collaboration or communication
  • Using technology to create a "product" or "project"
  • Technology was not being used during the walkthrough
  • Other
Specific comments about Technology Infusion:
I try to incorporate technology as frequently as possible to simply get the students using it.  By the time students have reached third grade I would love for them to have more experience with using technology so that we can start focusing more on using technology for learning, but reality is they just aren’t there. So within the restraints of our classroom and school, we do as much as we can with the limited resources.

** In order to create a better 21st century environment in my classroom, I will begin by definitely pushing for more technology resources within the classroom and in the lab. Steve Hargadon stated "You can’t ask teachers to teach 21st century skills if they aren’t in a 21st century environment themselves." I hope that administrators can see that teachers do need more control over the technology that is available to them in the classroom and invest in ways to enrich the resources as well. Second, I will focus more on assessments for learning and the feedback that students need to be more successful. Finally, I will invest the time in moving tasks from Quadrant A towards Quadrant D for stronger rigor and relevance.