Ethnography: Me, again!

As part of the IT&DML program, I was asked to create an Ethnography. I chose to describe my development as a musician, educator, and a leader in technological change. Although I feel that I am just beginning to become a technology educator, I know that I am leaps and bounds ahead of many of my colleagues, thus allowing me this claim. Here is my Ethnography, created using PowToon Slides, converted to PowToon Studio. Many thanks to my mom, who spent lots of time finding the ancient pictures necessary to complete the project!

Also as part of the Ethnography project, we were asked to create a lesson plan in which students have to create something online: Online Content Construction. I chose to tweak a lesson I had written in the past, but never fully implemented before. Eighth grade students in my General Music Classes work on research projects in my History of Rock and Roll class. They use technology to research various rock artists and genres. The students present their findings to the class including the music of their artists and genre. I decided to have them create a Coggle to demonstrate the relationship between the assigned artist and the artists who have influenced them. The lesson plan for lesson three, Artist’s Musical Heritage, of the Current Artist Unit can be found here.
Another requirement of the project was that I was to complete the activities of the lesson as if I were one of the kids in my class. This was an eye-opening experience. I discovered that it took much longer than I had imagined it would, to be able to do the job well. This tells me that I need to be more patient with my students and give them the time they need to complete the job, and then I can expect to get better quality work turned in. The lesson requires the students to create a note-taking Google Doc. Mine is here. I chose to research the Musical Heritage (Influences) of Rihanna. The Online Content Creation was to be a Coggle. Mine can be found here and is pictured below.

Rihannas_Musical_Heritage Coggle


Planning My Digital Portfolio

0ea42b1To dot the final “i” and cross the final “t” for my journey through the IT&DML program at the University of New Haven, I will create a digital portfolio to demonstrate all that I have accomplished during the last year. It has been a very intense year full of challenge, growth, and new experiences, and my digital portfolio should demonstrate this to my classmates, mentor teachers, and any colleagues and administrators that I may share it with in the future.

Using a site that enables clear navigation, I will create an About Me section that contains a simple biography, my updated philosophy statement, and a brief resume.

I will also include Artifacts such as lesson plans, tutorials, Badges earned, and the LiveBinder I created for Teaching, Learning and Assessing in the Digital Age.

Finally, I plan to include at least some of my Blog so that my thought processes during my growth in the program can help demonstrate just how much I have accomplished.

I am still exploring possible host sites for my Digital Portfolio, and welcome any suggestions. In the meantime, here is a mind-map which will serve as a site-map for my Portfolio. I created it using yet another new tool I learned for just this purpose: MindMup

Image Credit

21st Century Skills

21st Century Skills, what are they? Which are the most important? Can you teach them? How do you assess them?  That all depends on who you ask.  According to Tony Wagner, 21st Century Skills include:

Tony Wagner DefinitionImage

In this video of a Ted Talk by Tony Wagner, he states that the world no longer cares what you know because knowledge has become a commodity, like air and water, that is free.  The world is now concerned with what you can do with what you know, or, whether you have the skill and the will to use the freely available knowledge.

Of course, Tony Wagner if just one of many respected experts. Another is Will Richardson.
Will Richardson has charted several skills he identifies as 21st Century Skills, according to how difficult these skills are to assess:
Some of these are the same as the skills outlined by Tony Wagner, some are different.

Still another expert, Laura Greenstein, sorts 21st Century Skills into 3 categories, with many sub-categories. Those categories? Thinking, Acting, and Living. Within each category, there are several subcategories, as seen here:


Again, many of the skills she mentions are the same as Wagner, and Richardson, but there are differences. So, if you can teach and assess all of these 21st Century Skills our experts tell us about, you must be a superhero.

So, what’s the answer? Start somewhere.  Narrow your focus to the 21st Century Skills you believe to be the most important.  For me,  that means focusing on Critical Thinking & Problem Solving, along with Creativity & Imagination.

Why is problem-solving (and the use of critical thinking in the process) important? Ken Watanabe points out that everyone has to make decisions, big or small. In the process, we set goals, encounter obstacles, and work to achieve those goals. Problem-solving has even been highlighted in the Common Core (Saxena).  The skill of problem solving can be taught and assessed through the use of games, both traditional and technology supported, such as Minecraft, etc. Need a few suggestions…watch this!

The other most important 21st Century Skill, in my opinion, is Creativity, or the use of the imagination. This is not easy to be taught, or measured, but it is possible. Sir Ken Robinson says so:

It is important to be creative and use the imagination in thinking critically and problem-solving. Naturally creative people tend to use a process to solve problems without actively thinking about that process while doing so. Less naturally-creative people can be taught to use the process, and will probably have to actively think through the steps in the process while solving their problems (Baumgartner). Larmer offers ideas for teaching and assessing creativity in Project Based Learning (PBL). He, too, offers a process to go about innovating creatively. One would then teach this process to students to use in problem-solving using their creativity. He even offers Rubrics to assess creativity. These could be uploaded to a technology platform such as ForAllRubrics, and used either for teacher-student assessment, or peer-peer assessment, or even student self-assessment.

Mike Petty also discusses the use of games to teach and assess creativity. Most of his suggestions are traditional games, or non-traditional but also not technology-based. If you’re looking for technology-based games to teach Creativity, once again we can turn to a game like Minecraft.

So, what’s the key thing to remember? Start somewhere. Don’t be afraid to fail and try again. Soon, you’ll find what works best for you in your classroom. Then, maybe you’ll end up feeling “On Top Of The World”!

Technology and Formative Assessment

In formative assessment, “Oops” is OK. In the General Music classroom, among the various subjects that we cover is the study of the Piano-Keyboard. Students get two marking periods of Piano Keyboard Skills Class in 6th grade and then again in 7th grade. Much of our time is spent on the fundamentals for many reasons. First, in 6th grade, most of the students have never played before. Second, in 7th grade, by the time they play the keyboards it has been approximately 6 months since the end of their 6th grade study, and a lot of forgetting occurs. Third, it is a group class, not individual lessons, so I commonly have 18 to 20 kids playing at one time, which is not a lot of time for correcting individual learning issues.
Formative assessments can be a means of giving the students the feedback they need to correct any playing issues, and point out where concepts may be misunderstood and need re-teaching. I have found three technology based formative assessment tools that can enable me to keep track of student progress and give the individualized feedback they really need. I’ve created a Storify to tell music teachers about three easy to use formative assessment tools.


Music is a free customizable web-based tool for students to be able to practice their note reading skills on both the treble and bass clefs, as it relates to the piano keyboard. Once the students have mastered the basic skill of note reading/naming, it is time to figure out where that note is on the piano keyboard. This tool allows the drill and practice needed to accomplish that task. The customization options allow the choice of one or more clefs, selecting a note range to practice, and one can opt in or out for sharps and flats. Another nice thing about this tool is that it generates a score that the student can email both to themselves for personal use, and to the teacher for data collection. Here is a tutorial I found for how to use the Reverse Identification exercise on Music

Note Works Free is an app available for both iPad or for the Android platform. Note Works Free is a video game that students can play to reinforce note names and their locations on the keyboard. The students get the fun of playing a game, while getting the immediate feedback they need to know that they may still be lacking skill in reading notes on the staff. The game can be set to slow, medium or fast speed, and the students get a second chance on missed notes to get the right response and move on. For those who need it, there is even an option to play with hints, so everyone has some level of success. I have made a tutorial for how to use this game on iPad, and most of the information should still be true for the game on Android platform.

My third formative assessment tool is Audacity. This is an audio recording tool. I can use this to record my students playing the piano, and I have a few options for using this. I can give verbal feedback at the end of the performance on the recording and email the recording to the student. Even better, I can email the saved recording to the student and they can listen to themselves and do a self-assessment/reflection on their own performance. Self-assessment allows students to take ownership of their learning. A self-assessment rubric for piano performances can be found here.
Another possible way to use Audacity is to play some of the examples anonymously to the class as exemplars, and have the students take the role of teacher and assess others’ performances. Here is a tutorial I found for how to use audacity:

From the Technology Tools for Formative Assessment video, I also learned about other free online formative assessment tools, including the tool Kahoot, which is a game based polling application tool. Kahoot allows the teacher to ask powerful questions in a fun way. Another polling tool is Socrative. This tools allows the teacher not only to do exit polls, in class polls, but to create and store entire quizzes, that can give immediate feedback to students, which is one of the most valuable formative strategies. I have found that my own students enjoy using Socrative, and the room is filled with their reactions to the feedback they get from their responses.
A behavior management tool called Class DoJo and several tools that enable differentiated instruction were also presented.

Formative Assessments can help teachers and students make adjustments that move the student toward the intended learning goals. Why not try one of these free online tools to help you get started?

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Assessing with Technology & Assessment of Digital Literacy

Our assignment this week in Teaching, Learning & Assessing in the Digital Age, was to choose a resource under one of two topics, and write to inform others of its content.  We were to post these to the Board for the appropriate topic:  Assessing with Technology or Assessment of Digital Literacy.  In this way, we could all contribute to a shared understanding of these topics, without having to manage the research of both of them.  This will continue to be a valuable resource to us going forward.

Assessment 2

I chose to participate in the Assessing with Technology board, and posted an article by Clarke-Midura & Dede discussing the potential for more reliable and valid assessment with technology in the very near future.  Others who posted on this board include Jody Ceglarski who presented five fun and fast formative assessment tools.  I’m already utilizing one of them, Socrative, in my classroom so it was affirming to have that one mentioned!  Josh Lambert presented a video which discussed using technology for qualitative and quantitative assessments.  Cari McKee presented an article discussing ensuring that assessment engages students and supports personalized learning. She indicated that assessment should focus on development while stimulating teacher-student dialogue to support learning.  Laurie Brandl discussed a video recommending that assessment with technology be embedded in the classroom.  She mentioned several tools from the video that are capable of being utilized for such purposes.  Kara Toman discussed the same article that Cari McKee did, focusing on the capability of technology to differentiate assessments for variably-abled students.  Finally, Sally Markiewicz presented another article about the future of assessment that sounds alot like the article I discussed, envisioning the use of gaming for assessment, as well as computer based assessments with interchangeable components based on student responses.

Assessment 3

In the Assessing Digital Literacy Board,  Christel Russman presented the pros and cons of using Trails-9 to assess student digital/technology skills. Monica Hayes discussed the merits of a rubric from the Reading Workshop to assess Digital Literacy skills.  Carl Pastor presented an article emphasizing the difference between utilizing technology to assess students and assessing students actual technology or digital literacy skills.  His article showed several ways to go about assessing digital literacy effectively.  Trish Foucault presented the Tech Literacy Assessment which assesses students ability at various grade levels.  This is intended to enable educators to integrate 21st century skills into core instruction.  Finally, Stephanie Lovado presented an article discussing the 5 A’s that should measure a students Digital Literacy and Information Technology Skills:   Asking, Acquiring, Analyzing, Applying and Assessing.

Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

As we can see from the multitude and variety of resources presented, we have come a long way in the education field in the area of assessment.  Many teachers are utilizing technology to assess students.  Many teachers are assessing the students’ Digital Literacy Skills.  However, we also see that there is room for improvement, and that there is a need for more teachers to join the movement to assess with technology and improve and assess students Digital Literacy Skills.  I’m in!  Are you?  

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Creating an Infographic…the good, the bad and the final product.

My Original Infographic
My Improved Infographic

Summarize the important information on your topic for other educators

My infographic is about why teachers should use infographics as a teaching strategy. It gives some powerful statistics on how visual humans are as learners. It also offers some effective ways for teachers to use infographics as both an instructional strategy and a vehicle for student assessment. A few free online tools for making inforgraphics are listed. Finally, my infographic challenges teachers to incorporate infographics into their instruction.

Make recommendations for other’s who want to create an infographic

If you want to create an infographic, I suggest you use one of the free tools listed on my infographic. I suggest that you start small, be willing to put in some time to learn how the tool works, and forgive yourself for not being perfect. My own infographic went through many revisions both before and after I published it.

Offer suggestions for how to use them in the classroom

As my infographic indicates there are multiple ways to incorporate infographics into the classroom. First, teachers can use infographics in their instruction to make information easy to understand, more memorable, and make the relationship between items and statistics easier to fathom. A teacher can also ask students to create infographics for many purposes including timelines, comparing and contrasting items, book reviews and more.

Suggest resources for assessing them

If you are looking for ways to assess infographics, this website offers some good tips on how to check your own work before publishing it.  Also, if you are a teacher needing to grade your students’ infographics, this sample rubric is a good place to start.

Consider the ideas and suggestions you received and at the end, explain how your work improved
through this collaborative design process

I asked a Technology Education teacher in my building to look at an early draft of my infographic.  He gave me some tips about using the color of my text to help make the information pop off the page rather than risk having the text blend into the background image that I had chosen.  I also had my fellow classmate and building colleague, Laurie Brandl, review my work.  She helped me with tips on correcting problems I had using the color palette tool in Piktochart that caused me to have to re-do work repeatedly, to my frustration.  She also showed me how to remove pre-built icons that I did not want included in my final product.  Finally, my fellow classmate, Carl Pastor, indicated that I needed to include information on possible tools that others could use to create infographics, in order to present a more complete package about infographics.  This prompted me to investigate how I could increase the size of my infographic because I had already used up all the space that I thought was available.  With all of these suggestions, many iterations later, my final infographic is a work that I can be proud to present to the world as my work.  I even tweeted it out, and have already had it favorited and re-tweeted, even before I got to the final version of it!

Technology Leader: Designing Lessons with Technology Embedded

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Our assignment this week is to take on the role of Educational Technology Program Leader. An Educational Technology Leader assists teachers in selecting purposeful technology to support the instructional standards. As the Educational Technology leader, this week I am assisting Sherri Johns with her lesson on Researching a Musical Instrument, such as this beautiful Talking Drum.
TalkingDrum Image

To guide my thinking, I consulted the SAMR model….what’s that, you ask? This brief video can explain.


In Substitution, technology acts as a direct substitute, with no functional change. For the purposes of this lesson, I recommended substituting all internet sources instead of a combination of internet and actual hard-copies of books. I have done a similar lesson with students in the past and my experience has been that school libraries, in general, have limited books on musical instruments so the sources are usually limited to encyclopedias. The internet has a vast wealth of information that would not be available in the school library.
In Augmentation, technology acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvement. Substituting the creation of a Slide Presentation for the creation and printing of a brochure acts as a direct substitute with the improvement of not having to print the brochure and “waste” paper and printer ink, both of which are precious resources. Also, posting the work to the teacher website will allow the work to last “forever” and be viewed by many more people than the printed brochure surely would have been.
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In Modification, technology allows for significant task re-design. Requiring the students to research in books and online, taking notes on note cards and then organizing this information into a brochure with digital images has been modified. The students are noting their information in a Google Doc (technology) which enables easy organization and reorganization of their materials and ideas, as well as spell checking. Additionally, they are able to copy and paste that material into their slide show. Finally, they are able to insert images into the slide show either by uploading or by using the images’ URL.

In Redefinition, new tasks are possible only because of the existence of technology. The addition of YouTube links to videos of the instruments being played adds an element that was not possible in the printed brochure required in the original lesson plan.

In the article, “Technology and Education Change: Focus on Student Learning”, the characteristics of software and computer usage were compared among classrooms that were seeing above-average student gains and classrooms that were seeing below-average student gains. There were some significant differences found between the two groups in the study. Some of them include:

  • High gains were seen from starting to use the software early in the year.
  • High gains were seen in classrooms with effective classroom management….less time lost in transition from non-technology activity to technology activity.
  • High gains were seen when the teacher was actively engaged with the students during the software use, rather than expecting the software to teach or even babysit the student.
  • High gains were seen when the teacher had time (professional development or maybe released time?) to co-ordinate what was being covered in class without technology and what was contained in the software. The teacher could either change the order in which the software modules or exercises were introduced or change the order that things were covered in class to match the sequence of the software modules/exercises.
  • High gains were seen when the teacher used the data run from the software to drive instruction.

    In the above Ted Talk, Raj Dhingra discusses several things that teachers use as an excuse not to incorporate technology in their classrooms. A primary concern for many teachers is budgetary. Among other options, he suggests Bring Your Own Device and Mobile Computer Classrooms as possible ways to get around a small technology budget.
    Collaboration among teachers can also overcome many obstacles to incorporating technology into lessons. Being able to bounce ideas off of another teacher and discussing possible solutions to problems helps to generate ideas which just might solve those problems. It was good to have that collaboration this week as I went over the lesson plan make-over with my colleague, Laurie Brandl, a fellow music teacher. Getting her feedback and suggestions, as well as her affirmation of my work strengthened my resolve to continue my efforts to incorporate technology into as many aspects of my General Music classroom as possible. The work that I have done, with Laurie’s contributions, can be viewed here:
    Re-Designed Research A Musical Instrument Lesson
    SAMR: A Brief Introduction
    Technology Is Learning