Thursday, November 15, 2012

TEAMwork=Successful IEP's


An Individual Education Program (IEP) helps students meet their education goals more easy than they otherwise would. Teachers form the students IEPs through data on the student. For special education teachers, ongoing information is important to track students’ progress. Electronic systems have helped teachers form the best plan for their students. Students with an IEP must be tested often in order to form the most affective plan for that student
A student with an IEP must have certain goals and objectives to fit their need to be educated. One method which can aid in the development and growth of the child is Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM).  CBM is a tool used to record academic progress of students’ with an IEP. This tool allows teachers to track the students’ progress and achievements. CBM also is helpful to show if the student is learning or if the teacher needs to improve teaching strategies. Each week the student is briefly tested, and then the teacher collects the data from the assessment and enters it into the system. Assessments could be counting money, reading words, and other brief test monitored by the teacher. The CBM forms the data into a chart or graph which will visually show the students’ progress. This is a great tool to help assist teachers with IEPs. 

There are many web-based data systems to guide teachers with curriculum based measurements. EasyCBM enables teachers to be able to screen, monitor progress, and develop plans for the student. This system makes it easy for teachers to sync accounts to other staff member or the family, which allows for maintaining the students record from year to year. Students are also able to take assessments online that fit into their education plan. Real-time reports can be generated with web-based systems for the teacher or family to view. Web-based systems are a way to involve the parents in the students’ progress and education plan. Intervention Central ( ) is a website which provides information about CBM for the teachers. This website also has videos and manual available for teachers to learn more about ways to promote academic success with this tool. The teacher must know how to effectively use CBM in order to continue to improve a student’s academic goals and achievements. 
Tracking progress is extremely important for students with IEPs; technology has made it less of a challenge to determine the best plans for students. Web-based assessment, data, and management systems are affective tools to use in special education. Ongoing information of the students’ progress is the key to forming affective individual education programs. Web-based systems make it easy to share and compare data with involved parties. Technology in the classroom does not only benefit and help the teachers, but also the students’ success. 

Special thanks to Rockhurst University Department of Education Graduate Student: Brittney Kidd for her contribution to this blog.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Blogging about Blogging

How can blogging impact your instruction?
By allowing students the opportunities to share their thoughts by reflecting on a post question or another peer's reply, the teacher is opening up a forum to encourage writing. Improving writing skills is a never ending goal, for all students. Having a simple process, but including high expectations is key. With blogging, the teacher can set up the expectations, i.e.: correct grammar and spelling, complete sentences and developed thoughts, but still include social media aspects which students gravitate towards.
Rockhurst University Graduate student, Brady Cramer shares his thoughts:
Perhaps it is the mindset of the historian to live in the past. Sure, social studies encompasses economics, sociology, government and political science, but the bulk of the social studies sections in public education relate to or simply are history instruction. With minds in the past and technology leapfrogging itself every day, advancement in the classroom seems to be a particular struggle for secondary education history teachers. Not all hope is lost, as some technologies that are not exactly cutting edge are re purposed through these innovative tools by some teachers who are tired of living in a stale method of instruction. Using blogs, wikis, and digital media-sharing spice up classroom instruction and shake the dust off of inactive students and teachers. As mentioned in previous blogs, (The Future of Literacy, October 4, 2012) students now read, write, and communicate in way different that even just a decade ago. Blogs allow for students to informally write about guided topics and challenge each other in an academically productive way (Wilson, 67). When students in high school or even my age take to the computer regularly to share their ideas voluntarily, it is not such a stretch to convert those thoughts to an educational arena. Wikis and digital media-sharing sites such as or are not only familiar to many students but also allow for collaboration in a safe environment with teacher instruction. Videos on YouTube can be protected to allow only certain viewers, as can invite-only wikis. As students’ interests change, it is as important for teachers to appeal to that as it is to take advantage of their learning strengths.

So, again, going back to my first question: How can blogging impact your instruction? Post a comment on THIS blog!

Wilson, E. K., Wright, V. H., Inman, C. T., & Matherson, L. H. (2011).
Retooling the Social Studies Classroom for the Current Generation.
Social Studies, 102(2), 65-72.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Future of Literacy

In an article for The Reading Teacher, Bogard & McMackin (2012) demonstrate one way that technology is being used in the English classroom to support and augment student participation in the traditional writing process. They observe students using iPads and Smartpens to record themselves orally rehearsing and graphically organizing stories they plan to write. They conclude that this use of technology has proved especially effective because “it allowed [the students] to formulate ideas, revisit their initial thinking, and make decisions about what was working or not working without placing the considerable cognitive demands on working memory that written texts require” (Bogard & McMackin, 2012, p. 322). I find that this research also suggests something further about the promise of technology for developing literacies old and new: a potential for integrating speech and writing in a way that could establish continuity, if not shape the future of language arts instruction.
Addtionally, In the article “Secondary Orality and Emerging Literacy in an Age of Multimodal Literacy,” Matthew Skillen and Kenan Metzger outline the ways in which technology contributes to students development as members of a “secondary oral culture” and the ways teachers need to address this shift through multimodal literacy instruction and assessment. While our society’s dominant culture and educational structure continues to focus on traditional literacy (reading and writing), the saturation of technology and digital media in everyday life means that many students are wired to respond to and communicate best through oral-aural means. The authors suggest a variety of ways teachers can adapt to this change and enlist multimedia and new literacies to account for this dramatic change while guiding students toward competency in a variety of literacies, including traditional literacy. One important example they provide is the use of video “book talks,” where students review a book they read through recording a YouTube video to which teachers and classmates can post comments and start a conversation.

Skillen, M., & Metzger, K. (2012). Secondary orality and emerging literacy in an age of multimodal literacy. SIGNAL Journal, 2012(Spring/Summer), 57-61.

Special thanks to Michael Falgout and Brett Mach for contributing to this blog.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

ESL/ELL Learners and Technology

Here are a few quick research briefs shared from students in my ED 6030 Course: Technology in the Classroom:

In “Jump-Starting Language and Schema for English-Language Learners: Teacher-Composed Digital Jumpstarts for Academic Reading,” Judith Rance-Roney discussed how the use of digital storytelling technologies can help significantly improve language comprehension among ESL students. Initially, ESL students were dedicated during their first few months in school to acclimating to the English language and culture and only once a certain level of understanding had been reached, they would be expected to begin studying content areas. However, recently this has changed. ESL students are now required to combine these two stages into one due to statewide testing and teachers are forced to find alternative ways to teach language, culture, and their specialized area of study. Due to these changes, “it is critical that we seek innovative and effective skill improvement approaches that increase the rapidity of content literacy development while simultaneously developing the four language skills of writing, reading, listening, and speaking” (Rance-Roney, 2010, p. 386). The article focuses on the use of digital storytelling technology (such as iMovie) to create interactive presentations with students that will provide essential vocabulary training in multiple forms, illustrate the critical cultural background information necessary for ESLs, and connect this knowledge with the current classroom lesson. The advantage of using such technology is that the ESL students can review the “digital jump-start” in the back of the classroom on computers, at home on burned DVDs, or on YouTube in the library.

In her article “ELL to Go,” Jennifer Demski describes how ELL teachers in Arlington Heights, IL and New Braunfels, TX have utilized iPod Touches and iPads to not only help students with their academic grasp of English, but also give them a tool to improve their English with their peers and at home (2011). She notes how teachers in these classrooms used various apps like dictionaries, voice recording, note-taking, vocabulary games, and others to engage students in the classroom, at home, and with their peers. As an ELL paraprofessional at a public middle school, I have seen first hand how iPads and other technology can be a useful tool in looking up words and providing visual, image-based support to help students better understand certain concepts. Both this article and my own personal experience suggest that technology like iPads, Tablets, and iPod Touches can be valuable tools to help ELL students succeed academically in their ELL and general education classes.

Teachers must not use technology simply to complete tasks more efficiently, but rather must use it innovatively and creatively to meet students where they are intellectually, socially, and culturally. Demski describes the example of one teacher who allowed uncomfortable, still-adjusting ELL students to record their voice at home and send it to the teacher instead of speaking before the class. This teacher’s awareness of how intricately her students’ social and academic needs are interwoven is an excellent example of effectively utilizing technology. Although most educators do not have a classroom full of ELL students, this article provides several useful examples of how teachers can use different iPod and iPad apps to support ELL students in their general education classes. 

In addition to accessibility, the language learning content available on mobile phones is astonishing.  Mobile phones can store and deliver vast amounts of information, including different language learning programs and audio/visual language learning materials (Bahrani, 2011).  As a language learner, it is imperative that you have exposure to audio and visual content. Because of the large storage based content available on mobile phones, the learner has accessibility to a multitude of songs, and other audio/visual materials (Bahrani, 2011). This exposure will help the learner better understand and comprehend pronunciation for phonetic purposes, and see the spelling and usage of words in the target language as they are used in written context. This enables the user to learn on a more interactive level than just regular textbook based written activities. Being able to engage the student with audio content makes learning the foreign language so much more meaningful, especially if the user is able to record the sounds of their own voice for translation and pronunciation purposes.

Special thanks to Lauren Armstrong, Abra House and Annie Papineu. Read more about research regarding these topics from the folllowing sources:

Bahrani, T. (2011). Mobile Phones: Just a Phone or a Language Learning Device?. Cross-Cultural Communication, 7(2), 244-248.

Demski, J. (2011). ELL to Go. T.H.E. Journal, 38 (5), 28-32. Retrieved from

Rance-Roney, J. (2010). Jump-starting language and schema for English-language learners: Teacher-composed digital jumpstarts for academic reading. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(5), 386-395. Retrieved from

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Providing HANDS ON Learning

At Rockhurst we walk the talk. Not only do we discuss the importance of hands on learning with our students regarding teacher preparation, we provide it. Below you can view a series of pictures expressing exactly how we do this. In my course, Technology in the Classroom, I teach my students the pedagogy and technical skills associated with selecting and using technology in their future classrooms. This technology needs to ENHANCE not hinder student achievement. Thus, it is critical my students have the experience of holding, using, troubleshooting and becoming comfortable with a variety of technology tools.

Showing them the elements of tweaking the SMARTboard Notebook Activity and how to manipulate the images.

 Now they take over and are involved in teaching the lesson to the class.

One student uses the wireless tablet, the Airliner with the SMARTboard to provide instruction on a particular communication arts lesson. We also discussed this type of lesson, is grammar in isolation (DOL) the most effective way for continous and seamless grammar usage?

All students receive an iPad for the semester! They learn how and WHY to use this tool in the classroom. Much reflection occurs through research, readings, discussions and writing about the impact these type of devices have on diverse learners and teachers.  They are involved in lesson planning and evaluating the apps and other uses for the iPads. Then they will go out to our community partnering schools and use what they have learned throughout the semester to teach students and provide professional development to teachers.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


What an eventful and exciting summer of learning!

  • I had the opportunity to grow and learn at the International Society of Technology Education ( ISTE )conference in San Diego along with 18,000 others. I presented my research on iPads and attended a variety of workshops.

  • Received three grants for my research and iPad integration with my Service Learning Projects. The Presidential Grant, the Thomas More Grant for Catholic Studies and a donation from a RU Alumni to purchase iPads 2's for students taking the course I teach: Technology in the Classroom.

  • I ran a Tech Camp at Visitiation School where K-5 graders learned all about iPads, Cybersafety/Cyberbullying and a variety of desktop programs. We all had the best time creating videos (one example a student made from the program Animoto), learning how to stay safe online, playing games and following the Olympics. See the graphic designers in the picture above with their Tech Club Tshirts on. They created their own graphics!

  • Had the opportunity to help pass out new iPads to students at Cristo Rey High School. All students and teachers now each have their own iPad 2 to enhance teaching and learning! I am on their technology committee and partner with them for Service Learning Projects which provide free educational technology professional development.
I'm thankful to be part of the Rockhurst University institution as they encourage and support my continued growth of learning, leadership, and service.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

All Students Shine at Tech Club!

Principal Beck Akright from St Ann's takes time to join in on the iPad activity at Tech Club!
For five weeks this spring, 45 first and second graders embarked on a new adventure: Tech Club! Eleven undergraduate education students and I created a new after-school class at Visitation and St. Ann's Catholic Schools. These brave souls faithfully joined us after school once a week for almost an hour to conquer the world using the iPad and desktop computers. The Tech Club students created robots, paperless signs to 'go green', digital presentations about who they are and what they want to be, polled their class to see how everyone was different, yet alike.
The elementary students came skipping in each week and gave us their all. They discussed how to stay safe on the internet, respect the right to use technology and the importance of NOT using technology at all times.
The Tech Club 'teachers', my undergraduate education students had to write weekly lessons and were responsible for 5 students each week. Tech Club classes were in connection to the students "Service Learning Projects"  for my course, ED 4030: Technology in the Classroom. 

It was our goal to give the elementary children individual attention each week and help them see how educational AND fun technology can be. As the five weeks came to a close, my undergraduate education students expressed the amount of learning which they benefitted from as well.
Here are a few of students' quotes from the post project reflections:
· I enjoyed it when the students finished a project that I could tell they were proud of. I hope that I have made a difference for these students by teaching them to be more proficient with the programs we worked with.  It will make their school careers run much smoother once they get into the upper grades and college. 
·  Prior to this experience, I believed I would be frightened of making a mistake and feel slightly uncomfortable using the technology. Yet, after the first visit I began to feel comfortable with the students and prepared to answer any questions they asked. I knew I would love spending time with the students and getting to know them, but it is always much more personal than one would imagine. I love hearing about each student and looked forward to seeing them each week even more than I expected to. The experience was even more rewarding than I had hoped because I truly felt the students learned valuable skills throughout the duration of tech club. My expectations were very much exceeded when participating in this project. I look forward to using technology in my own classroom now much more than previously! 
·  Anytime I get to work with kids, I feel rewarded, but specifically, what made this most meaningful for me was being able to see how my students improved. Even if it was just something little, like remembering where certain letters were on the keyboard or how to change the font of words, it showed me that my being there was beneficial to them. Besides helping them learn a little more about technology, I made a difference by being a positive example of a teacher who is excited to be there with them, which I think is sometimes worth more.
 Who learned more, the Tech Club students or Education students? I think the technical term would be... BOTH!
TECH CAMP will be offered twice this summer! To find out more email:

Friday, April 13, 2012

No Wait Time!

"Welcome to the place where imagination is the destination. For young and old, big and small — it's the happiest place on earth!"

True, our kids were pretty persuaded by this repeated anthem as seen through the countless Disney Movies and commercials they've watched, but we wanted to ensure our experience was going to be happy as well.  Trying to be the devoted parent and a planner by nature, I reached out to some friends who had taken their children to Disneyland and Disneyworld. I'll be honest, I  instantly become overwhelmed. The character dining, the right height for rollercoasters, the meal plans, lodging, activities, fast passes....the list went on. The Disneyland website and others we saw were saturated with information as well. I acknowledge seeking out information is imperative when planning an important day, but we were initially thinking of being a little bit more low key. So, my husband and I decided to be prepared for being unprepared. Our plan consisted of one goal: walk around and guide the kids to the appropriate areas for them and see what happens.

Well, it certainly left quite a bit to the imagination! I gave in (a little bit) and found the "Disneylad MouseWait" app and "Free Disneyland Maps" app. Both of which I downloaded to my phone on the trip there to research (no I was not driving). These were exactly what we needed and very simple to use with brief tips.  It was wonderful because these apps were constantly  updated  every few minutes to reflect if wait times increased, or there was an area which closed, where to find the characters and when. Very similar to having Mickey Mouse himself walking around telling you where to head to next! It helped us plan what we wanted to do on the spot. This was great for our two oldest children (who are still young: 5 and 6), as they changed their minds as fast as you can say "It's a Small World".

This also got me thinking about how wonderful these types of apps can be for teaching. Using these simple informational apps for field trips: whether teachers or students want to research about a museum or other site before heading out there. Also, having an app at your fingertips that can alert if you if an area of the field trip is new, has been closed or not accessible.

I did some digging and this is what I found related to typical field trip educational outings such as museums:
I hope wherever you travel ends up being the happiest place on earth as well. Go ahead and download a useful app, WHY WAIT?

Monday, April 2, 2012

What Do We Learn From Our Students?

Last Friday, March 31st, over 60 students from Center High School visited Rockhurst Campus through a program called PREP-KC. PREP-KC was organized in 2005 to promote college readiness with high school students from surrounding urban school districts. The RU Department of Education was one of many departments who had the pleasure of meeting and talking with students from Center HS. I was humbled by the fact the students came in and were genuinely engaged and interested in what we were presenting and asking them to share. It made me miss teaching in K-12 schools!

During a six short 30 minutes sessions, we had about 10-12 students in each group who wanted to learn more about the career of teaching and our Department. Being true to our philosophy of modeling the teaching practices we wish for our education students to implement, we started with a 'Think, Pair Share'. Students were placed in small groups and we asked them "What characteristics make a good teacher? What about about the opposite?". We learned that many students want what would seem like basic qualities in a teacher: compassionate, understanding, caring, not too friendly, but not rude, good listeners, and so on.

One of the more interesting activities we then proceeded to engage them with was a cooperative learning exercise. Each student has a role: Leader, Recorder, Presenter. We explained effective teaching happens when learning occurs. Then, we asked THEM, to finish the statements: Learning occurs when....Learning is not occurring when.... They were asked to discuss first, then write down the main learning activities they experience or do not experience in the classroom. We asked them to focus on, how do THEY learn best.

From the photo above you can see one a few group's feedback. Again, this is exactly what the DOE at RU teaches our pre-service teachers. We instill and educate our future educators on these very practices which K-12 students want to feel and see in the classroom.

Here is a list of their answers in their own words from the question: Learning occurs when...
  • No distractions
  • Interactions with each student
  • Different types of teaching
  • Using information in real world connections
  • Challenge each other
  • Peer teaching
  • Repetition
  • Rewards
  • Ask questions
  • Give specific details
  • Stands ground, good classroom management
  • Smaller lectures
  • Hands on work
  • Students being more involved in the discussion
Learning is not occurring when...
  • Students take over
  • Overloading homework
  • When teachers only give negative feedback on returned work
  • Yells
  • Embarrasses student
  • Only does lectures
  • Don't make personalized contact with student
Again, these are practices many teachers do on a daily basis (both sides). But if we continue to ask our students how THEY learn, we will confirm the best teaching practices we as teachers know how to do. Teaching can be challenging, but what an incredibly rewarding profession for those who care about the students FIRST.

I applaud many of you out there who love and respect your students on a daily basis. Because as true educators know: we learn from our students just as much as they learn from us.

Learn more about PREP-KC at:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Freebies for Readers

I keep getting requests for apps which will support literacy for school age children. Here is a short and quality list (10) of apps for teachers and/or parents to use to motivate their budding readers. These apps will not teach the content but reinforce the effective teaching occurring in the classroom. :)  It is best practice for the adult to preview and play/use the app prior to sharing/implementing.


LAZ-leveled reading libraries. If you type in LAZ, then wait to see what pops up, you actually don't download a LAZ app but search through some lists of leveled readers. My son loves the "Discovering Dinosaurs", the girls are enjoying the "Three Little Pigs".

Mad Libs: Who doesn't enjoy Mad Libs! There is also a Goofy Libs (etc) but that comes with a prices. This will broaden children's vocabulary and inspire creativity, plus laughter!

Puppet Pals HD: Contains one sample pack, which is great for kids to start using then you can upgrade to other packs. Your student/child can create their own skit and produce a theater presentation with very little direction. What a great way to promote plots and cause/effect writing.

USA Today: No need to buy a set for your classroom or home. Students can read it like the traditional version.

Shake and Spell:  Remember Boggle? Same concept and it has built in differentiation for various levels of learners. yes!

Spell It 2-3-4-5: (Lite): This encourages kids to spell 2-5 letter words. There is a practice mode and a quiz mode. Hours of fun.

Middle School/High School

Constitution and Declaration of iPad:  Tired of  hearing about or reading one more blog or article how  students today do not know or understand the basics of our's the answer! There are actually two different apps. They are very basic and information, no interactive characters or frills, but very important for our future leaders to read and have access to these primary source documents

Shakespeare: No Shakespeare is not dead, he's free!  You can search for terms from his complete masterpieces. The 'pro' version is pricey but has a glossary and portrait gallery. The free version is perfect if you need multiple copies of each play.

Goodreads: Let your students be the critics of the books they read. This is a great social networking site, they can rate the books, get suggestions and form book groups online. NOTE: students must be 13 to set up an account.

Spell It 6, 7, 8, 9: (Lite): Keep those students increasing their vocabulary and spelling more challenging words. It has a practice mode and a quiz mode. Addicting like scrabble.

Hope these will get you started...come back for more. Remember: reinforcement and reviewing of knowledge helps students rise to achievement!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring Break?

It IS Spring Break at Rockhurst, but that doesn't necessarily mean there is a break from learning!  This week I have been meeting, reading and talking with community members, teachers, students about new technology in the classroom. Don't feel so sorry for me yet, it has been over coffee, email, or I am enjoying the relaxing aspect of a week away from campus. 

This week has shown me how exciting learning can be with technology as I could be just pushing this all aside until next week. But, what I have been discussing with others has been extremely interesting!  Many exciting opportunities are coming to our students in the KC area in the next few weeks-next few years. There are several schools in our area going to 1:1 devices, mainly iPads. Undergraduate students in my course: Technology in the Classroom will be sponsoring Tech Clubs in two of our local Catholic Schools once a week for free.  Several teachers I have talked with this week have shared articles, workshops, blogs they have learned from on how to further improve their use of technology in their own classrooms. Out of all these  conversations, one theme is apparent: selective use of technology tools for learning. More and more educators are realizing the importance of taking the technology integration into the the classroom with ease and purpose. No longer can we afford to take a 'break' from questioning the specific purchase and use of technology with our students.  I applaud those educators who would rather research, reflect and THEN integrate the technology found to be the best supporting material for students and themselves rather than jumping on the next fast bandwagon to the latest and greatest gadget.

To all of you who are on spring break or have spring break coming up...learning comes in all shapes, sizes, and situations. Don't take a break from learning!

Friday, February 3, 2012


Recently my witty and wonderful mother-in-law came back from a restful vacation with a gift for my daughter Molly, a new book! Knowing how much my children love books (and not just ibooks!), it was no surprise to see Molly's excitement as she asked me to read that book before bedtime. I'll be honest, bedtime reading is actually one of my favorite times with my kids. They love to 'read' to me and we love to read to them, especially with their growing interest in ibooks and various apps out there which encourage kids to read in a techy way. Tonight would be different, I would start thinking more about bedtime...withOUT technology.

"Goodnight Moon" is an all time favorite with many readers of all ages around the world. How clever of author Ann Droyd (love the author's name related to this story) to write a parody for the 'next generation titled, "Goodnight iPad".

I won't give away the whole story--go buy a copy (yes printed) for yourself.  In summary, it is a realistic view of many households today. Every human connected to their own little device in their own little world.  Images of parents, siblings of all ages playing, reading, using their interactive technology piece in some way as the 'fed up old woman' observes in one room all the random social activity happening without anyone actually being social with each other. Sound familiar?

Be honest-whether you live alone or not, everyone can relate to being a room with other humans and not even glancing their way as you interact with you smartphone, iPad, laptop, gaming system, etc. We all have been there and continue to engage in this type of activity.  Unfortunately, the consequence of  keeping up with our world results in the missed opportunities in having a face-to-face conversation with others. How about noticing what IS going on around us, instead of reading about it, blogging about it, texting about it, and gaming in a virtual world?

It's ok, I'm guilty, too

As you have probably predicted, the household eventually goes to sleep in the story, reluctantly unplugging themselves. How nice would it be to carve out a time each day to unplug, say 'Goodnight iPad' and be social withOUT social media?  Maybe there are those of you out there who practice this activity religiously--good for you. I know all of us could work on spending more 'real' time with each other.

Related to sleeping and technology, the National Sleep Foundation found from a recent survey (2011) that 47 million people are sleep-deprived.  When the group surveyed about 1,500 people across four generations — Gen Z (ages 13-18), Gen Y (ages 19-29), Gen X (ages 30-45) and Baby Boomers (ages 46-64) — they found that 95 percent frequently used some form of technology, from TV to texting, before bed. See the connection? I see in this more of a disconnection...

I challenge you (and myself) to UNPLUG can start by reading "Goodnight iPad" (or one of your favorites) with someone special...then get some sleep!

Statistics from The National Sleep Foundation:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Getting To Know My Students

Let the semester begin! 

The beginning of the semester is always energizing. After weeks of a vacant campus, there are students walking around, smiling, visiting, running to class. Each semester brings a new set of students, a new class of learners. Even after teaching at RU for over four years, students in my courses continue to come to me with a wide variety of learning styles, needs and interests. How do I know? I ask and assess them. And, it's ongoing...

The first way I get to know my undergraduate and graduate students is by having them take a MI test (Multiple Intelligences). This is a FREE online test anyone can complete to show their specific learning style. Go head, take the test yourself! I have found this to be one of the most accurate MI assessments for my students (and did I mention FREE).

Here is my profile for you to preview what the results look like. I also took the personality test, which is interesting. I share my own profile with my students so they can learn more about my learning styles.

Why? Research shows teachers naturally teach the way THEY learn. As effective educators, we need to teach the way our STUDENTS learn. Therefore, learning as much as we can about them is imperative. My students submit weekly journal entries throughout the semester writing about the content we have just completed in class. These assignments serve as post assessments on the content, but also can be a pre-assessments of what I plan to teach the next class.

Aside from the MI test and the Learning Journal, my students also take an Educational Technology Pre-assessment. I need to know their technology ability,how proficient they are regarding the modules I teach in class. This ranges from Microsoft Office Suite, to iPads, SMARTboards, interactive software, internet resources and so on. The results will support my decisions of how to group my students when I am teaching a program or technology tool in class. Wouldn't want to bore or overwhelm anyone! For example, if you test high on Powerpoint, I am not going to teach you how to create a Powerpoint assignment, I will move you forward to a Prezi presentation or a WebQuest activity. Keeping in mind, I teach pre-service teachers, I'm also modeling these instructional strategies of integrating Differentiated Instruction, Cooperative Learning, and Multiple Intelligences (amoung many others). Many of these theories, practices, and strategies are not new to educators but need to be implemented in a systematic way which allows meaningful learning to take place.

My students assess me, yep, that's right! Not only in the course evals, but in their weekly assignments.If I see a student or students struggling on a certain topic or program, I look at HOW I am teaching it and find ways to reach out to their learning style and understanding. They also provide feedback on how they are doing through their Learning Journals and assignments.

All in all it is a constant reflective journey. I am finding out more about my students and I learn more about myself. One of the many reasons I love teaching at Rockhurst University.

Side Note:
If you haven't gotten the chance to know Howard Gardner you can (he IS still alive!): Such an inspiration to teaching:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I am the IT guy!

Stereotypes, we ever really grow out of them? How can our society move past them? Why do people ask for the IT guy? I am the IT guy in our department; the Instructional Technology (and sometimes the Information Technology) guy.

Last semester I was working with a student on his iPad for my course. He was having difficulty connecting to the Internet at home. He said he first called a friend of his, who asked, "Have you asked your professor, I'm sure HE knows how to help you?"

I was out in one of our local schools in November helping a teacher load her SMARTboard software when a student said, "I thought you would be a guy." When I asked why she thought this, she said, "all technology people are guys." 

The first year I taught my ED 6030: Technology in Education course, students repeatedly referenced me as a 'he' or 'him' in emails to others before they saw my first name or my face. Scenarios similar to these happen quite often to me.

In a recent article published in Campus Technology, statistics show women only hold 21.4% of approximately the 2,600 executive positions in higher education IT. The article suggests women to start taking recognition and pursuing careers in technology as opposed to waiting for them. Reflecting on this I have to wonder why women are so hesitant to acknowledge their hard work and seek out ways to move up. Is it the technology piece holding them back or their environment? As far as higher education professors, I feel surrounded by women colleagues who love to chat about instructional technology practices and the newest gadgets seen in the classrooms. However, when I visit schools for my students' service learning projects and to set up partnerships through my courses, I often find myself meeting with the IT guy.

While dedicated educators demand the STEM initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to be integrated in all areas of learning in schools, my prediction is that more girls will see the fun in technology and gravitate towards more technology-driven fields. I often read how technology is becoming more attractive to the female population with a variety of colors and advertisement geared towards the  'girly'  interests. Not everything is black and gray anymore. That being said, not all girls like pink or orange macbooks. I'm sure you have seen the little girl, Riley, on You Tube ranting about boyish toys. She explains that some girls like superheroes and some girls like princesses!  With the new release of Lego "Friends", girls will now be able to choose from a variety of lego systems which they could find appealing.

Another study came out this week showing women buy more technology than men. Park Associates surveyed 2,000 consumers to find out the reasons behind the technology they were purchasing. The study showed most women purchase technology because of the ease of using that particular technology tool. The only category men out purchased women on where LCD TVs, I don't think that's a surprise!  However, what some did find surprising was that more women like gaming systems than men.  As Jill Braff, executive VP of digital commerce for HSN, shared, "“It’s also not just about features – it’s about simplicity, the seamless use of technology and how technology fits into your lifestyle.”

Perhaps if we find ways to make technology relevant to girls' lives we can close this gap between men and women in STEM fields. I know I will... IT is possible!

(Note: here is an example of one program out there which encourages STEM for girls: )