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“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” – Bill Gates

CEP 810: Reflection

During the past seven weeks, I have uncovered a plethora of information about myself not only as an educator, but also as a learner. Week 1 of CEP 810 challenged me to think about the meaning of the word “learning”, as well as how novices acquire information differently than experts. I was reintroduced to the importance of prior knowledge and misconceptions through Leo Lionni’s Fish is Fish, and how as an educator, I must always stay in tune with the background information that students bring into the classroom.

A few weeks later, I was asked to teach myself something new using only the Internet for help. At first, my chosen project of making potica without the help of a live human being or even a cookbook seemed extremely daunting. After exploring various blogs, YouTube videos, and help forums, however, I soon realized that access to international information was actually an advantage. I don’t personally know anyone who has firsthand experience making potica, but on the Internet, I found many experts who were able to positively contribute to my project. I was astonished by how easy it was to find information on different topics – even topics that are a little more absurd (like making a little-known Slovenian pastry). The project also reminded me of the importance of choice and of being engaged with the content – it makes a huge difference in one’s motivational level!

Another piece examined during CEP 810 was surrounding the topic of technological integration. Integrating technology into the classroom was a goal in which I had been interested before beginning the MAET program, but I naively believed that introducing technology required only to learn about the technology and then to hand it to my students. After reading the work done by Kereluik, Mishra, & Koehler (2011) on TPACK, however, I came to realize that technology must be carefully thought about before introducing to the classroom. Because technology is most often not designed specifically for education, these tools must be repurposed to fit the needs of the task at hand. During the “Cooking with TPACK” activity, I gained experience making the best of a situation, having to use tools creatively to get my job of slicing cheese completed! Educators must also think about which tools best fit each task, as well as how students are going to gain something of value from the technological tools at one’s disposal.

The work I have done in this course has challenged me to think about learning in a more critical light and to ensure that I am allowing students to use technology to innovate. I want my students to be able to contribute something of value through using technologies to express their personal view and interpretations. Gone are the days of regurgitating information – today, with access to unlimited amounts of information, it is what students can do with the information that matters.

I have made much progress toward becoming a more technologically-driven, 21st century teacher during the past seven weeks. I feel better equipped to teach using technology, having been introduced to many new tools including Skitch (a new favorite). Additionally, I understand the framework (TPACK) that aids the successful integration of technology into the classroom. Despite all I have accomplished, though, I am still at the beginning of my journey. I know that I need additional work with applying what I have learned into the classroom – I need to take these tools, let my students use them, and then alter my work based on the results. I also am wondering how integrating more technology into my classroom will affect standardized test results. In theory, students should perform the same or even better than before, due to the critical thinking that is required during technological innovation, but this is still a worry. I am excited to continue my journey through the MAET program and to become an even better 21st century educator.

References

Kereluik, K., Mishra, P. & Koehler, M.J. (2011). On learning to subvert signs: Literacy, technology and the TPACK framework. The California Reader, 44(2), 12-18

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CEP 810: Slicing Cheese with TPACK

This week for CEP 810, I performed a task using Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK). This framework explains how, in order to successfully integrate technology into learning, educators must align content (what is taught), pedagogy (best practices), and technology (tools utilized during learning).

My assignment was to have a friend choose three items from my kitchen: a plate, a bowl, and one utensil. My boyfriend chose a large plate, a cereal bowl, and a fork. Next, I was randomly assigned my task: to cut a block of cheese as though I was assembling a cheese platter. My journey is captured below:

As the video illustrates, a fork was not my ideal choice for slicing the cheese. Usually forks are used for piercing and transporting food, not slicing it! After attempting to cut the block with the curved part of the fork, I knew I had to repurpose the fork in a new way. It was then that I discovered that slicing with the straight handle of the fork was better suited for my task.

For my cheese slicing assignment, I had to use a technology (the fork) in an innovative way in order to meet the demands of the task. I also applied my content knowledge (prior knowledge about how to slice cheese) and pedagogical knowledge (making adaptations & repurposing) during the learning process.

For educators, the implications of TPACK require going beyond using and integrating technology. TPACK demands that educators employ technology to innovate – from using photoshop programs to show transformations in geometry, to creating a biology website that can be viewed worldwide. It is not enough to simply teach educators how to use technology or to introduce technology into classrooms. Technology must be rethought and repurposed to fit the needs of the classrooms and students.

 

 

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CEP 810: 21st Century Learning in the Classroom

The idea of integrating 21st century technologies into the classroom is one that many teachers support, yet it is also an idea that is easier said than done. Additionally, simply having technology in the classroom is far different than maximizing its potential. Thomas Friedman (2013) writes that “the capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge.” Essentially, this means that learning how to interpret information and to create something out that content is far more important than regurgitating information. In the 21st century, application and innovation trump memorization and recall.

This week in CEP 810, I had the opportunity to create a lesson plan that not only follows my 5th grade social studies curriculum, but also integrates technology in a meaningful, purposeful way. In my lesson, found here, students have the opportunity to use Skitch on iPads to observe, analyze, and wonder about two separate images of the Boston Massacre. The Paul Revere image depicts the events of the Boston Massacre quite differently than the Alonzo Chappel image. Using Skitch, pairs will be able to express their ideas about the images in a comfortable, non-threatening environment prior to class discussion.

In Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom (2011), Renee Hobbs states that students should use “critical thinking to analyze message purpose, target audience, quality, veracity, credibility, point of view, and potential effects or consequences of messages.”  Seeing two very different depictions of the same event will prompt the question, “Why would the artists show different versions of the same event?” Students will ponder how artists’ bias and motives influence their work, as well as the effect that such propaganda would have had on the colonies. Which artist victimized the British soldiers? Which artist showed a crowd of rioters? Does the immediacy of the image matter in its reliability? All of these questions are posed during the lesson.

Post-discussion, students will be asked to create a short presentation using Animoto to express their thoughts regarding each artist’s depiction of events, the reasoning behind the artists’ choices, and how bias can influence history. Students will conclude their presentations by explaining how one can determine a source’s reliability. During this process, students will have to access relevant information, critically analyze the message of the artists, create a presentation that is aware of its audience, imagine the thought processes of the artists, and work collaboratively to share knowledge. These practices follow the skills that Hobbs (2011) lists as fundamental to learning in the 21st century. In essence, students need to be given the opportunity to explore, to analyze, to evaluate, and to create in a safe environment that is supervised by someone who can offer guidance. In order to cultivate a classroom of innovators, students have to be given the opportunity to create and think for themselves, with access to the appropriate tools. A 21st century classroom will foster just that.

References

Friedman, T. L. (2013, March 31). Need a job? Invent it. The New York Times, p.SR11.

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

 

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CEP 810: Not Such a Novice Anymore…

For the past three weeks, I have been teaching myself how to make a Slovenian pastry called potica, using only YouTube videos and Internet help forums. My first two attempts actually turned out better than expected, partially due to my thorough research beforehand and partially due to my history of baking. My journey, however, was still full of learning and progression!

In the video embedded below, I demonstrate the entire process of making potica from start to finish: activating the yeast, creating the dough, making the filling, flattening the dough, rolling up the dough, and finally, baking the potica! During the video, I talk about changes and improvements I’ve made throughout my journey.

As the video above demonstrates, I became very comfortable with the process of making potica over the past couple of weeks. During my first attempt, I was constantly checking the recipe and consulting the visual aids on Joe Pastry‘s blog. By my final attempt, however, I felt much more natural and relaxed during the process. I had my recipe printed out, but I didn’t feel the need to examine my other resources as I baked. I also felt more comfortable to make adjustments of my own during my final attempt, having been through the process two times before.

Adjustments Made During Final Attempt 

  • Substituted Active Dry Yeast for Fast-Rise Yeast
  • Omitted egg wash before baking to reduce over-browning of dough
  • Used less filling and didn’t not spread as close to edges to prevent leakage
  • Baked for 43 minutes (instead of 45)
  • Hand-mixed filling for less mess

As I learner, creating a Networked Learning Project was very revealing. From the beginning of the project, I found myself thoroughly engrossed in the assignment. This was largely due to the fact that I was able to choose something that I had always wanted to learn how to do. My engagement in the project was directly tied to my ability to choose what I wanted to learn – a simple, but powerful thought to remember in my own classroom.

Restricting research to only the Internet was also an eye-opener. First and foremost, this project showed me just how much knowledge can be gained from the Internet, even on lesser-known topics like potica. Through reading online help forums, I saw firsthand the power of networking and communicating. I had several questions during my project, and many of those questions couldn’t have been answered by any of my personal acquaintances, for none of them are experts on potica. For example, I learned about using a floured bed sheet for easier rolling, that some minor filling leakage is normal during baking, and that different types of yeast yield different results. This project has demonstrated that the Internet has the ability to bring together people worldwide who have shared interests. It is a place where ideas can be discussed, altered, and expanded in a matter of minutes.

I plan on transferring my newfound knowledge regarding networked learning into my own classroom in the future. I believe wholeheartedly that students should be given the opportunity to choose topics that are of interest to them, within certain limits. Additionally, I think that allowing students to explore different networks online can give them knowledge that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

 

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CEP 810: Novice Potica Baker

Over the weekend, I decided to delve into my proposed NLP – making potica. I began by assembling my list of ingredients, taken from Joe Pastry, and by piling everything I would need onto the very limited space on my kitchen counter.

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I first reviewed a YouTube video that I found while “researching” last week, just to get a feel for the process and the techniques involved in this complicated pastry. I noticed that the woman in the video seemed to be applying quite a bit pressure.

I decided to stick with the Joe Pastry for the duration of my potica adventure. I liked that the website broke things step-by-step with pictures – so wonderful for the visual learner!

My first step was to make the dough. The recipe called for “instant” yeast, and my local Kroger didn’t have any yeast labeled “instant”. I ended up choosing a “fast-rise” yeast that didn’t require any activation. Even after 90 minutes, my dough had barely risen!

Batch #1:

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During my next attempt, and after consulting the “Lessons in Yeast & Baking” section of a yeast manufacturer’s website, I decided to dissolve my yeast in water prior to utilizing it. This seemed to help some, although my dough still did not rise as much as I expected.

Attempt #2:

ImageI am currently researching how to alleviate the problem of the dough not rising. It is possible that my recipe is just for a smaller batch of potica, but I feel like the dough should still be rising more! Solution still to come!

While the dough was rising, I made the filling of walnuts, breadcrumbs, melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla, eggs, salt, honey, and cream.

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Next came the dreaded step: rolling out the dough! I covered my dining room table in a *clean* bed sheet, dusted it with flour, and began to roll!

I found that pressing firmly from the center of the dough and pulling evenly in all directions was a pretty solid technique. I also discovered that patience was very important!

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I then covered the dough will my filling, staying clear of the edges:

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The filling was a little runny, and on both attempts, I put too much filling on top of the dough. When I make my final batch, I will definitely use less filling. Hopefully this will alleviate the problem of leakage, although I have read on Joe Pastry‘s comment section that a little bit of leakage is normal!

Next, I had to roll it up. The key here: slow and steady!

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After brushing the roll with eggwash, my final step was baking! During my first attempt, I baked the potica in a 13 x 9 baking dish:

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The result here was quite a bit of leakage! The escaped filling browned on the bottom of the pan, making the loaf of potica difficult to get out. 

For round two, I decided to use a loaf pan. This helped to eliminate some of the filling leakage:

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Both times, the potica tasted delicious! I still have a list of improvements for next time, though:

1). Decrease cook time. 45 minutes makes the top a bit too crunchy.

2). Use less filling.

3). Eliminate eggwash. Other recipes, such as the one found on the Slovene National Benefit Society, do not call for eggwash. Perhaps this would take away the over-browning of the top of the loaf.

4). Research yeast solutions that would allow dough to rise more.

I am excited to improve my potica-making skills even more in the weeks to come! My fellow staff members have been thoroughly enjoying my progress in the teacher’s lounge! 🙂

 

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CEP 810: Organizing my Brain With Evernote

I pride myself on being highly efficient. I am the definition of Type A: I never procrastinate, and I have one mode for completing tasks (URGENT!). So when I read that my assignment in CEP810 was to play with tools that would help me become more productive, I thought I had nothing new to learn – until I came across Evernote.

Evernote is an online organizational tool that automatically syncs with all of my devices so I can access it from anywhere. If you are using this tool simply for the basics, (i.e., taking notes), it is a very user-friendly device. It took me only seconds to create my first “Note”, which was a to-do list for my second blog post for my NLP. I can add pictures and maps, set alerts to remind me of certain tasks, and I can search my own account for notes that I’ve created.

On the downside, I’ve already encountered some glitches with Evernote. One feature that I was excited about was Web Clipper, which allows you to take sections of websites or even full articles and clip them to your Evernote account. It turns out this was a separate download, and once installed, it took several attempts to get the feature to open properly. Once opened, I could only save screen shots of articles I tried to clip, instead of smaller selections. I definitely still have some more investigating to do!

Overall, Evernote is a tool worth checking out. I recommend watching the tutorials first to get a feel for the different features, and to take the time to explore the tool to give it a proper chance. Get started for yourself!

 

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CEP 810: My Professional Learning Network

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This week in CEP810, our focus centers around learning to grow and evolve professionally. Before embarking on this adventure, we were asked to think about the sources that we currently seek out when looking for support in the workplace. The Popplet above shows my current Professional Learning Network. These are the people/places I look to when needing assistance with education-related topics! I hope that by the end of this week, my PLN will have expanded to include many new sources.

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CEP 810: Networked Learning Project – Making Potica

Like many Americans, my ancestry is something of a mixed bag. I’m Polish, Irish, Scottish, and Slovenian. Truthfully, I have never felt particularly connected to any of the countries that I just listed. Aside from one great aunt who makes outstanding pierogies, and a grandfather who passed down some extremely select Slovenian vocabulary, I have never learned how to do much of anything associated with my heritage. Therefore, over the course of the next few weeks, I will be teaching myself (with the assistance of YouTube videos and online help forums) how to make potica.

Potica, or povitica, is a Slovenian pastry with several layers, filled with a delectable honey and walnut filling. Typically, potica is eaten at Christmas and Easter. In the past, my family has ordered potica from a small bakery in my maternal grandmother’s hometown of Virginia, Minnesota. If you’re interested in learning the history of potica, or in ordering yourself a loaf of the real thing, check out the bakery’s website here.

So if potica is so delicious, and if my family loves this Slovenian delicacy so much, why haven’t any of my relatives learned to make this heavenly bread? The answer is that making potica is a long, arduous process. After the dough sits for an hour, it must be rolled out paper thin so that it covers an area of about 3 ft by 4 feet. Next, the filling is spread evenly over the dough, and finally, the dough is rolled up tightly and baked. Here is what the final result should look like:

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CC licensed (BY NC SA) flickr photo by Rebecca Winzenried
http://www.flickr.com/photos/53054235@N03/5643604179/
So far, I’ve found the following sites and videos (bulleted below). I will use these as a starting point to determine the ingredient list, the tools necessary, and the proper techniques for rolling the dough.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be making a couple of attempts at this recipe. From my research, I have decided to focus on the following points:

  • Dough consistency
  • Rolling technique to flatten and expand dough
  • Rolling up/pinching method
  • Taste (obviously!)

Wish me luck on this tasty endeavor, and don’t forget to come back to check on my progress!

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CEP 810 – Week 1: Learning, Understanding, and Conceptual Change

This week in CEP 810, I was asked to read three chapters of a thought-provoking book by Bransford, Brown & Cocking (2000) entitled How People Learn. Afterwards, I responded to the piece through a short essay, explaining my own thoughts regarding the definition of learning, as well as how people who have varying levels of expertise learn differently from one another. In my essay, found here, I define learning as the process through which a concept is acquired and then applied in a new or innovative way. I argue that in order for one to truly “learn” a new concept, the individual must have the ability to transfer the material to a different context. I also reflect on how educators can help learners become better thinkers by teaching the process of metacognition. I welcome any comments or feedback regarding this topic!

 

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