Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top Stocking Stuffers

I'm not sure if these technology gadgets really could fit into a stocking, but here is the top 10 (or so) list of what was most popular for Christmas gifts this year.

Drum roll please...

  1. iPad 2
  2. Kindle Fire
  3. Apple TV
  4. iPhone 4S/iPod Touch
  5. MacBook Air
  6. Nook Color
  7. Wii
  8. Playstation 3
  9. iPod Shuffle (2GB)
  10. iPad Bluetooth Keyboard Attachment (see #1).
Bonus gift: Freehands gloves! (not on some lists, but a must-have for you texters)

Now, the real fun begins. Learning how to use these tools effectively! Whether you are an educator or not, one simple rule applies: get to know your technology.  Before you start spending a considerable amount of time with your new (and probably pricey) gadget, read about it. Use your new gift in small amounts and in a stress free, low risk environment. Enjoy the technology, don't start off with frustration. While instruction manuals and how to guides can be cumbersome, talk to those around you who have used the technology item before. What are some tricks or shortcuts they have used? Also, every company has a website on how to use their product, you can also check there. Sometimes they will post quick tips, videos, or a blog where others post their successes or challenges with the technology equipment.

You will save yourself time in the long run if you take the time now to understand what makes your technology tick.

NOTE: This list is in no particular order as it truly depends on who your sources are. I blended the lists from two websites: and;brandnav

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


In case you haven't heard, there's a 'new' instructional strategy teachers are using in their classroom called "Flipping your Classroom" or the "Flipped Classroom".

Basically it is this: instead of a teacher lecturing IN class, they digitally provide the videos (they used powerpoint) or podcasts to the students as homework OUT of class.   Class time is spent on collaborative learning projects, individual help and engaging activities. This prevents boring lectures and the students 'sitting and getting'.

Who came up with this notion? Well, Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams were the first ones to coin the phrase. As teachers at Woodland Park High School in Woodland Park, CO they wanted to create ways to engage their students who were present in class and make sure those who missed class were receiving the instructional support they needed.  You can see the chart of how it all came to be at:

Famous questions, what does the data show? did the test scores go up? Well, they did. In fact, they also saw other positive effects of this teaching model: lower behavior problems and decreases in students flunking math and english. Obviously, the students in this school had devices at home to access the videos. This could be a challenge for some schools and teachers. Students may not have internet access at home and/or the program the teacher is using with the video. If this is the case, the teacher will need to think of a creative solution.

But reflect on this model: instead of sitting through a professor or teacher lecturing each class, what if you did you 'homeowork' and projects IN class and watched those lectures at home. You are able to pause the lecture where you need to take notes, write down questions, and refer to the readings. Then in class you can work on showing what you learned in a collaborative and engaging environment. Instead of, at home, where you may not be able to find the answers and you are isolated in what you are learning. You can also take breaks from watching a 20 + minute lecture!

As you begin a new year, share this idea with an educator. Remembering, it needs to have a purpose tied to the objective! Start with the end in mind and decide if that particular unit, lecture or activity would actually benefit the students, if the Flipped Classroom model is used. I have tried a similar method in my courses with much success. You bet I will 'flip' some lectures and projects in my course next semester, when it will be meaningful to enhance the learning of my students. 

I think it just might make me more flexible as an educator and my students may flip for joy!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thankful for Thoughtful TFA Teachers

I'm thankful for my career! More than anything, the teaching aspect of it. My students are dedicated and committed to learning in and out of my course. I could share many special stories with you, but today I am giving thanks for 6 graduate students of mine who are also TFA (Teach for America) corps members. They are all in my ED 6030 Course: Technology in the Classroom. We have had several insightful discussions together either in small group or through their reflection journals about the challenges they face, especially related to technology resources in their classrooms.

What is Teach for America? I encourage you to visit their website if you have not heard about this inspirational organization:  Teach for America is a non-profit organization that aims to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting the nation's most promising future leaders to teach for two or more years in low-income communities throughout America. The organization aspires for these "corps members" to gain the insight and added commitment to tackle the root causes of America's achievement throughout their lives. Rockhurst has developed a partnership with Teach for America, so they may take their graduate level course here to earn a Master of Education Degree and teaching certification in their content area of interest.

Because they serve in low income schools, one of the issues they face is the digital divide: the inequalities individuals, families, schools face due to the lack of information and communication technologies accessible to them. Many students they teach do not have internet access or even a computer at home. Some of their schools do not have internet/wireless access, let alone 'smart' technology.  This may seem surprising in the Kansas City Metro area, but it a reality for these teachers. When presented with the assignment of looking through available grants they could possibly apply for, they quickly realized the roadblocks associated with researching grants for their classrooms. A few of them have found grant possiblities, but others are taking matters into their own hands. They are working with the veteran teachers in their buildings to provide professional development and use the limited resources they currenting have as they seek out other avenues of funding.

Even through their journey of locating resources, the commitment to delivering the best education to their students has been at the forefront. They instantly reflect on if they had the technology tools available to many other schools, how would these tools close the achievement gap and raise achievement in their classrooms?  Always student centered and focused on the achievement of their students, they have written thoughtful reflections such as this one...

  I see my students interact with my iPads [one through ED 6030 and one through TFA] and dream of what they would think of a giant version of this otherwise known as a Smart Board.  However, my students suffer from the school district's frequent overlooking of our school with innovative technologies or software due to the reality that our test scores rest just over district norms.  I do believe . . . that my students deserve the best of the best.  They deserve to have equal access to the great resources that are available and transforming education.  

Teaching is both rewarding and challenging. I am thankful for teachers and future teachers who set their sights on bringing to their classroom the best education they can provide.  I am thankful for those educators who strive to reflect on their practices and improve their teaching each day, with a smile on their face and keeping each of their students learning at heart... with or without technology.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Today's Forecast: Cloudy

It's all relative, if you ask the following groups of people the question, "what is a cloud? This is how they might respond...

 The average person: "a big puffy thing in the sky"

A  professor: "a mass of condensed water vapor in the atmosphere"

A college student: "where I store my stuff!"

The National Institute of Standards and Technology:
(cloud computing) "is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction."

What's that you say?

Basically, cloud computing has been around longer than you think. Do you use Gmail? That is called a Software as a Service cloud (SaaS).
Have you ever bought an "all you can eat meal"and never went back for seconds? Wouldn't it have been nice to buy only the small portion you consumed?  Through cloud computing organizations no longer have to pay to run at full capacity, only for what they use? This type of cloud computing system is called Infrastructure as a Service cloud (IaaS). This one is popular in higher education.

The highest level of cloud computing is Platform as a Service (PaaS). When an organization would rather build their own software tools and manage all the systems themselves. Some higher Ed institutions and other organizations are moving this way.

What does cloud computing mean to the individual technology user. Simply this: cloud storage...

Your PC, iPad, smartphone, etc being in sync at all times. Rockhurst U uses a cloud system for their portal: Another good example of this is Google docs. A popular and highly reviewed cloud storage option is "Sugarsync". No more carrying around that annoying flash drive or feeling of frustration and anxiety because you forgot which device you saved a file you need immediate access to. Watch the demo, try it out. It's inexpensive.

One crucial point to remember: you will need internet access to mange and access your cloud storage. But, the feeling of having all your files backed up to one spot from all your devices will leave you with more sunny days than cloudy ones.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Who Says Using Technology Impedes Social Interaction?

It doesn't have to!  Another service learning project yesterday, mission accomplished.  This time the 6th graders came out from Holy Cross Catholic School. As blossoming middler schoolers, you might expect some challenges, but not this group. They quietly came in and my pre-service graduate students worked with 3-4 students at a time.  We covered the essentials of internet safety, cyberbullying through role-playing activities and showing them various videos provided free by:

The students proceeded to move forward with their Powerpoint projects and SMARTboard notebook activities individually on the RU computer lab desktop computers.  The activities we had them engaged in were built off their interests and curriculum from their classroom. As they excitedly went throught the creation and completion of their projects, a clear constant varaible was evident: they repeatedly were showing each other their work.

I'll be honest, this was not an avenue we were directly encouraging or had focused on. Their confidence was on the rise. Their motivation and excitement was expressed through their positive behavior and sharing of their work.  I must say, I was reminded quickly, as I'm sure my pre-service teachers were, the crucial piece of allowing students to ENJOY learning. The Holy Cross students were skipping around showing their color printed copies of their powerpoints, pointing out their frog dissection from the SMARTboard, and discussing how and why they were using the programs. As educators, we must offer them opportunities through small groups, 'think, pair, share' activities and informal, open conversations to move around and proudly communicate their hard work.

As schools rapidly progress towards new technologies,  individualizing instruction, offering 1:1 technology tools initiatives; the promising theme is clear: motivating students to do their best and share their hard work. Time is tight during the classroom day, but social interaction and keeping high expectations for students to discuss the evidence of their learning is a key factor in a collaborative community.

Special thanks to the RU Department of Education graduate students: Felicia Cash, Matt Dow, Nicole Flowers, Rebecca Paul and Rose Rylko.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

There's an App for That!

You hear this phrase quite often if you own a smartphone and enjoy downloading apps. The majority of people out there wonder: how do you exactly go about finding THE app that you really want without paying a hefty price?

Depends on what type of app you want...

If you are an educator, which most of the people I encounter on a daily basis are, check out this Livebinder full of places to find the best educational app for your/your students' needs: It might take you some time to go through the different areas of the binder, so start small.

If you are an app-enthusiast, and would rather use an app to find apps: try "appbzr". This app allows you to view several many different categories of apps: Entertainment, games, music, productivity, educational, social networking, sports, travel, books, finance, news, medical....just to name a few. The features on this app include: Top 100 Apps, Hot Apps, Price Drops, New Apps, Updates, and you can create your own lists to organize your interests.

If you prefer to read online reviews about apps: go to: and

Quick tips:
  1. Always read the reviews, especially if it is an app which has been around for a year or so. If the creator hasn't been updating to work out the 'bugs', probably not worth your money or time to use.
  2. Keep up with the updates. Don't disregard an app because it doe not function exactly as you wish at first. That is the beauty of apps--the updates!
  3. Create folders on your phone or iPad to organize your apps. You simply press down on the app until it 'wiggles', bring two apps together and it will form a 'folder' for you. You can drag any other apps you wish to your folders.
  4. Take a screenshot of the app you are using. (This is useful if your friend doesn't believe that you passed that angry bird level you've been working on.) Simultaneously press the on / off switch and the center home button at the same time. You will notice an on-screen flash. If you have sound enabled, you will hear a camera click.
  5. Have fun! Choose apps that are well worth your time and inspire you to learn!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?

Five of my pre-service teachers (graduate students) found out they indeed were smarter than 5th graders, but learned a great deal! Through their first Service Learning Project this semester from the course I teach: Technology in the Classroom: Applications and Implications they had the wonderful opportunity to work with twenty-two 5th graders from Holy Cross Catholic School. The students arrived energized and ready to learn!

We started off in Sedgwick 307 computer lab and discussed the importance of learning technology, and keeping them all safe on the internet. The fifth graders went through different scenarios with their ‘teacher’ (RU Department of Education graduate student) of how to handle being bullied on line/texting/social networking. The Hoy Cross students also read, discussed and signed an age appropriate internet safety pledge to follow: . 

This is an amazing resource for each student about internet safety, cyber bulling and technology responsibility. Each student was placed in a group with one 'partner teacher'. They introduced themselves and learned a little bit about each other. After some lunch and dessert, they were ready to roll up their sleeves and work hard. We moved over to  Van Ackeren 310 lab, which is a smaller lab. This enabled us to work together and help all students. Five of my graduate students: Matt, Rose, Felicia, Paula, and Rebecca each worked with a group of about 5 students each and showed them how to make their own PowerPoint presentation.

It was a success! Although the Holy Cross fifth grade students had not worked in PowerPoint program before, they jumped in and got started right away. They enjoyed creating a PowerPoint about themselves. They created five slides about their favorite area in school and their goals for the future while inserting pictures, different designs and animations. Their end products exceeded our expectations. It truly confirmed: our current generation are the Digital Natives.

My graduate students were able to facilitate the learning taking place and gain experience working with 'live' students, the ones they read about in their textbooks. This is crucial in teacher education programs. The days of field experience where students only observe and do not engage with K-12 students is in the past, especially here at RU.  I was proud of the warm spirits and guidance my students showed 'their' students and the amazing behavior and product the Holy Cross students showed that special day at Rockhurst University.

What made this Service Learning Project even more rewarding was when Dave Rush, the Holy Cross Catholic School's 5th grade teacher sent an email after writing:
“Thank you for including the 5th grade with your ed tech program.  We are very excited about the trip yesterday and have had 4 students report today they went home to see if they had PowerPoint on their home computer. Thank you for increasing our students’ awareness of the world around them.”

Note: Lunch, Materials, and Transportation were funded through the Thomas More Center Grant through Catholic Studies, RU.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Graduate Student Funds=Travel and Learning!

I had the pleasure of presenting with four graduate students this summer to Philadephia for the ISTE Conference. We were able to attend this amazing international conference together and enjoy the sites in Philly. Gradudate student funds are available to all graduate students in each department of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies. Graduate students may apply through this link: Hear from one of my students: Tasha Howard and how she felt about the trip....
Four graduate students descended on Philadelphia as nervous pre-service teachers, not at all sure how we would fit into a conference that was sure to be overrun with experienced and veteran educators. I feel confidant in saying that we all left Philadelphia with a whole new respect for the education profession. The ISTE conference was one of the most rewarding experiences of my educational journey at Rockhurst University. Not only did I learn about the latest technological innovations in the classroom, but I was able to meet seasoned teachers who were more than willing to share their personal experiences with technology in their classrooms. Dr. Sonnenberg mentored us as students and as colleagues, which allowed us to flourish at our Rockhurst University Poster Session. Which was a complete success!
            We also seized the opportunity to do some sight seeing while in the city of “brotherly love.” Everything we encountered while in Philadelphia was one more tool we will be able to take into our future classrooms. Making the trip all the more rewarding. From running up the famous “Rocky Stairs” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, walking along the same cobblestone path that Benjamin Franklin once did, standing beside the Liberty Bell and finally standing in the very room the Declaration of Independence was signed, were all experiences that I will never forget. Without a doubt, I will take this experience into my future classroom. If I ever have the opportunity to attend a similar conference, it would be a no-brainer, I am there.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What is Parse?

Welcome to my blog! Here I am, your 'parse' professor. What does parse mean? According to the brief definition, it is a technical term often used in computer science. It means to analyze an object specifically. For example, search engines will parse search phrases entered by users so they can accurately search for each word. I hope to parse tools, programs, theories, and practices to provide learners a clear explanation about a certain tool related to educational and instructional technology.

I want to inspire you to seek out which technology tools will support your life-long learning. There are many technology tools out there. How does one decide which to use? For what? When? How? Each week I will post about an area of technology. I’ll discuss some benefits and challenges. Sound good?  We live in a digital society with a digital divide. My goal for this blog is to inspire and motivate my readers to learn more about what they are using and the possibilities technology can provide. I welcome discussions, questions, thoughts, comments, etc. Become engaged and excited about how to use technology. Note; I promise not to get “too technical”.

This week’s picture is my 2 year old interacting with an app on our iPad. The iPad is not just for toddlers. For the last two semesters, all of the graduate students in my night course receive an iPad for the entire semester. While all show signs of excitement when they receive it the first night, I do see signs of apprehension. Why is this? Technology can be overwhelming. If you are feeling overwhelmed, follow my blog. Let’s grow and learn together. For example, if my two year old can figure out an iPad, so can you!