Month: July 2015

POP…goes the filter bubble

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Pause once in a while to read differing opinions.
Pause once in a while to read differing opinions.

Recently, I read James Paul Gee’s book, The Anti-Education Era and it helped me to think about the affinity spaces I use. According to Gee, affinity spaces are “Places where people go because of a shared interest in a common endeavor” (2013, p. 175).  With this knowledge, I thought it would be a good idea to take an in-depth look at how I utilize my own affinity spaces.

When you think about all the food you put into your body, it makes up your diet.  The same can be said for all the information we take into our brains.  We can consider this our “information diet” and naturally, we want it to be healthy. When I began reflecting on my information diet, I quickly came to the conclusion that it might not be as balanced as it should be.

What do I mean by this?  While browsing my Twitter feed, it was evident that I followed people who think like me, teach like me, and reaffirm my viewpoints.  In essence, naively believing that my views are correct and those that disagree are wrong.  According to Gee, this is dangerous because I am only interested in people echoing back my views and values endlessly and mindlessly (Gee, 2013, p. 163).  If I see a post that contradicts the way I think, I usually just don’t follow that individual simply because I don’t want the added frustration.  In a sense, I am creating my own filter bubble (check out more on Eli Pariser’s idea of filter bubbles here).  I believe the reason I don’t follow people with differing views is not because I don’t value them, but simply because I never really used social media as a critically engaging tool before.

I know the value of opposing opinions.  It’s at the root of building critical thinking skills.  After examining my Twitter feed, I came to the realization that I was severely limiting myself.  I will never be able to critically engage in a topic, if I don’t take advantage of following people whose views differ from mine.  Viewing other people’s opinions may not change my own, but it will help me understand more of the whole picture, leading to a healthier information diet.

homeworkNot only do I use Twitter as an affinity space, but I also use blogs. In order to expand my views, I have started following John Spencer and his blog.  He wrote a post about “Ten Reasons to Get Rid of Homework”.  While I disagree with this viewpoint, after reading his post, it has challenged my thinking.  He also wrote a post titled, “What happens to student engagement when you take away grades?”.  In it, he discusses that he teaches a class where no grades are assigned.  He has discovered that in this class, students’ creativity soars.  I don’t discount his findings, but they do challenge my current thought process.  In my experience, I feel like there needs to be some way for students to know they’re accountable for their work.  He has an interesting perspective and it definitely makes me consider a different viewpoint.

I have also started following Mark Barnes on Twitter.  He is a very active tweeter and wrote an article called, “Five Reasons I Don’t Assign Homework”.  I have always thought of homework as, among other things, a way to teach responsibility.  Wow.  Barnes does make some compelling points in regards to homework when he writes, “Students are told what to do, when to do it, and when it must be returned. Where does responsibility come into play?” (Barnes).  My question is, doesn’t the act of turning it in on time count as being responsible?  His argument will not necessarily get me to eliminate homework all together, but it’s certainly food for thought.  Even though I don’t agree with all of his ideas, seeing his tweets on my feed will definitely allow me to continually expand my information diet.

Another blog and Twitter account  I’ve started following is The Educator’s Room.  One of the posts by Lori Rice discussed classroom seating.  She allows her students to sit anywhere they would like after she’s taught them how to determine their best learning environment.  I have always had my students sit in groups rather than the “traditional rows”.  My rationale being the ability to collaborate, help each other, and learn to be constructive critics.  I thought that was good enough.  This blog has expanded my thinking and encouraged me to step out of the box and perhaps allow my students to determine their own seating.  The Educator’s Room shares a plethora of ideas.  I do not necessarily disagree with all of them, but many posts make me think twice which is exactly what I need to pop my filter bubble.

Adding these sources of information push me out of my comfort zone, which as I’m constantly learning, is a great place to be.

References:

Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Barnes, M.  (2013, October 10). Top 5 reasons I don’t assign homework – brilliant or insane [web log post]. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://www.brilliant-insane.com/2013/10/top-5-reasons-i-dont-assign-homework.html

Rice, L. H. (2014, April 3).  Where should I sit? [web log post]. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://theeducatorsroom.com/2014/04/sit/

Spencer, J. (n.d.). Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives) [web log post]. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://www.spencerideas.org/2011/09/ten-reasons-to-get-rid-of-homework-and.html

TED2011. (2011). Beware online ”filter bubbles”  given by Eli Pariser (video file and transcript). Retrieved on July 31, 2015 from, http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles

[Untitled illustration computer keyboard ]. Retrieved August 2, 2015 from https://pixabay.com/en/keyboard-computer-button-holiday-393838/

Networked Learning Project Post #2

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I walked into Home Depot and I headed straight for the lumber section.  I made it to that section in seconds, however the time it took me to actually pick out and purchase the wood, seemed like hours.

You might be asking why I was in the lumber section to begin with?  I am doing a networked learning project for one of my MAET courses and it requires us to learn how to do something using only YouTube videos and online help forums.  I headed straight to my Pinterest board for inspiration and chose to learn how to make a piece of wood wall art.

The first thing I needed to do was use my online resources to get my supply list together.  The main resource I am using is a blog called Shanty-2-Chic.  I am attempting to recreate this exact sign.  This resource is easy to follow and the step by step pictures make it extremely user-friendly.  I am definitely a visual learner when it comes to this project.  One downfall is that on some of the steps, I wish it went into a little more detail.  For example, it says you need “furring strips”.  Maybe this is common knowledge to some, but I had NO idea what furring strips are.  Naturally, I Googled to find out.  Crisis averted.

Shanty-2-Chic also talked about needing a nail gun. This girl does not own a nail gun, so I searched for other alternatives.  I found a YouTube video and Craig says if you don’t have a nail gun, you can use a hammer and finishing nails.  Second crisis averted.  This video has played a key role in my learning on how to actually put together the sign.  Although Shanty-2-Chic shows the process in pictures, it was very helpful to me to watch and rewatch someone work through the process.

As a learner, one difficulty I found is that there is so much information on the internet about making wood signs and different techniques to use.  As Danah Boyd wrote, “Becoming literate in a networked age requires hard work, regardless of age” (Boyd, 2014, p.177).  A simple Google search will return thousands of results.  I had to learn how to weed out the good tutorials from the bad.  Eventually, I had to tell myself that I’d looked at enough and to go with the blogs I found most helpful.  Sometimes, you just have to jump in.photo 2

After all my searching, I finally had my supply list and was off to Home Depot (which is where my story first began). Wandering among aisles and aisles of wood, I finally found the furring strips and felt a bit relieved.  I got those cut to size and then found the rest of my materials; wood glue, finishing nails, and stain.  The lady at the checkout wished me luck with my project.

Look how some of the boards didn't even make contact with the back support board.
Wood glue failure

I got started right away.  I laid out my boards and they looked fabulous.  Following Shanty-2-Chic, I took one of the back supports and glued it on.  Epic fail.  The wood glue did nothing but make a mess.  The boards were a little uneven, which is not good when you are trying to use wood glue.  In the YouTube video I found, Craig does not use glue at all.  Therefore, I decided to forgo the glue and just use the nails.  Third crisis averted._MG_3447

With that decision made, I began hammering the boards together.  It was difficult at first to make sure everything lined up.  However, with each nail in, I was feeling more confident and my project was coming together.  Currently, this is where I’m at.  Next comes the staining process. This is quite the adventure, and I have learned that projects are never as simple as they appear online.

Resources:

http://www.shanty-2-chic.com/2012/03/wood-love-sign.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaV-84VaoZg

References:

Boyd, D. (2014). It’s complicated: the social lives of networked teens. New Haven + London: Yale University Press.

Can you #RepeatTheBeat?

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What is a Maker Faire?  That is the question I asked myself the first time I heard those words used in my MAET courses. Naturally, we dove deeply into that question through a QuickFire.  Basically, a Maker Faire is where people come together to show off creativity and invention in the form of a project that they have created.  As a culmination of our study of the maker movement, the MAET year 1 cohort put on their own Maker Faire.  Our purpose was to create a fun, tech-infused maker project for the all ages highlighting how to use basic science and a few materials to do so.

I worked in a group of three with Chelsea and Rosie as my partners.  We used a Makey Makey kit and Play-doh to create an interactive Simon game.  We struggled a little bit with coming up with a concept, but once we made a decision, things flowed pretty smoothly.  We had a few guinea pigs that we were able to try our creation out on before the faire and they gave us some great feedback.  We were able to tweak things before the actual Maker Faire.

For our game, here’s what you had to do.  On the computer screen was a Simon game.  The player had to listen and watch which color lit up and made noise and then push that color Play-doh.  With each round, another color was added to the sequence and the player had to remember the entire sequence and push the Play-doh in the correct order.  The object of the game was to get the highest score by remembering the longest pattern.  It may sound simple, but it takes a lot of concentration and is not as easy as it sounds.  The highest scoring individual got a 25, which is quite impressive!  We had friendly competition, complete with a scoreboard to record the top five results.  We also used the app, Scorekeeper, to record all results on an iPad.

Does this game sound like fun?  Here’s how you can recreate it.

Supplies that you will need:

  • Makey Makey Kit (purchase it online here)
    • comes with the board and necessary alligator clips
  • Play-doh: four colors-red, blue, green, yellow for the board, one different color for start button
  • Shoe box lid 
  • Construction paper
  • Tin foil 
  • Conductive thread ( purchase on Amazon)
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Computer
  • Headphones
  • Website (https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/69597388/)

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Step 1: On your computer, bring up the website https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/69597388/.  This is the Simon game.  Start is controlled by the space bar and the colors are controlled by the arrow keys.  Up arrow is blue, down arrow is green, left arrow is red and right arrow is yellow. Press the space key to start.

Step 2: Connect the orange USB cable that comes with the Makey Makey kit to the board that also comes in the kit.  Connect the other end of the USB cable to your computer.  Your computer should recognize it automatically and there will be no need to click anything else on the computer.  Once hooked up, this board will control the arrows and space bar on your computer.

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Step 3: Connect the alligator clips to the Makey Makey board. (ProTip: It is easiest to connect the same color alligator clip to the arrow button that controls that color on the computer. ie: Connect the blue alligator clip to the up arrow.)  Also, connect another clip to the space bar section on the board.  You will also connect a sixth alligator clip to the spot labeled “Earth” on the Makey board.  Leave the other ends of all the alligator clips open for now.

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Step 4:  Take a shoe box lid and cover it with construction paper.  On one of the longer edges, cut out an opening that will allow you to slide the Makey Makey underneath and allow the wires to come out.

Step 5: Take the shoe box lid and punch four holes far enough apart but in a square like pattern.  You will be placing your “Play-doh buttons” over top of these holes.  Punch a fifth hole somewhere off to the side for your “start button”.

Step 6: Take the alligator clips and wedge them into the holes making sure to connect the right color to where it’s located on the Simon board (use the computer screen as reference).  (ProTip: Cover the ends of the alligator clips in a little piece of tin foil so the Play-doh does not stick and harden on your alligator clips.)_MG_3391

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Step 7: Take the Play-doh, a handful of each color, and form it into a thick rectangular shape.  Place the correct color Play-doh over the hole where you wedged the alligator clip into.  Push the alligator clip into the Play-doh so it is secure.  (Play-doh is conductive and you need the alligator clips to always be touching it.)  Take your fifth color Play-doh and form it into a start button.  Place this over top the hole off to the side.

Step 8: Take the alligator clip that is connected to the “Earth” spot on the Makey board and attach conductive thread to it.  Then wrap it around the glue stick and secure by taping it to the glue stick and also wrapping the entire stick in tin foil.  This will act as the person’s grounder.  (ProTip:  Also connect thread from that same alligator clip to a piece of tin foil on the floor.  This would allow people to step on the tin foil with their bare foot and use that as their grounder.  People can choose either hand or foot.  It’s good to give options.)

_MG_3302
The Earth clip is the reason why the Makey Makey works. It is a circuit, and the person playing is basically a connection in the circuit. Therefore, when a player is either holding the grounder, or stepping on the tinfoil, and then simultaneously pressing the Play-doh, the circuit is complete and the game works. How cool is that?!

_MG_3306

Step 9: Your game is almost complete.  Now that all your clips are hooked up, take your board and position it under the_MG_3410 shoe box so your station looks pretty.

Step 10: PLAY!  You will need to be grounded (remember either hand or foot) when pressing the Play-doh to repeat the pattern.  When you are grounded, you pushing on the Play-doh completes the circuit. Check out some of the pictures of people playing in the slideshow below.  You will notice that some are holding onto the tinfoil glue stick.  If you see them playing and they do not have that in their hand, that means they chose to put their foot on the tinfoil on the ground. (ProTip: This game takes a lot of concentration.  You may want to use headphones when playing to eliminate background noise.)

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If you’re still unsure about by how and why the Makey Makey works, Ryan Hunt gives a great explanation (in our game, we used Play-doh instead of apples).  I hope you enjoy creating your own version of this Simon game.  With a Makey Makey, the possibilities are endless.  You just never know what you might develop.  In fact, maybe you’ll even show your own activity at a Maker Faire some day!

References:

Hunt, R. (2014, May 12).  How does a Makey Makey work? [web log post]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://dhmakerbus.com/2014/05/12/how-does-a-makey-makey-work/

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Lesson Plan Version 5.0: Final Revision

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Weaving it all together!
Weaving it all together!

Lesson planning is a process and I would argue to say that a lesson plan is always a “work in progress”.  As teachers, we are constantly teaching, reflecting, and revising to create lessons that best meet our students’ needs.  Over the past two weeks in the MAET program, I have been revising a sixth grade math lesson focused on the concept of parallel lines cut by a transversal.

My hope is that my final revision meets the diverse needs of my students.  My revisions stem from my newly acquired knowledge of several educational frameworks.  The lenses I have been looking through to revise this lesson are TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge), UDL (Universal Design for Learning), and Networked Learning.  My final revisions based on these frameworks are shown in my updated lesson plan.  In this document you will find the original lesson plan first, and the revised lesson directly underneath.

TPACK Framework
The foundation of TPACK revolves around the importance of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge with special emphasis placed on where these three ideas overlap.  It is at this “sweet spot” that learning is meaningful.  My math lesson plan features direct instruction delivered through a screencast, that the students will view on an iPad.  Originally, I did not have the screencast as part of my lesson.  Rather, I used a lecture as my mode of direct instruction. For my first draft, this was okay because the content was sound. However, after learning about TPACK, I quickly realized the technology was lacking.

While discussing TPACK in class, one important idea that we learned was that we need to make sure that the focus of the lesson is the content, not the technology.  It is important not to choose the technology before knowing the subject.  In my original draft of this lesson, I had the content clearly outlined.  After evaluating my lesson plan with TPACK in mind, I chose to integrate the screencast.  Direct instruction is a clear pedagogical choice and the use of the iPad incorporates technology meaningfully.  The content is clearly explained via the screencast.  This brings the three foundations of TPACK together to hit that “sweet spot”.

UDL Framework
Once my lesson was revised using TPACK, I began looking at it from a UDL perspective.  The three guiding principles of UDL are: provide multiple means of representation, action & expression, and engagement (CAST, 2011).  In my lesson, I had already incorporated some of these concepts.  However, I did make one big revision after analyzing the UDL framework as well as researching a math learning disability called dyscalculia.  After students view the screencast, they are going to be working with manipulatives to construct parallel lines and show angle relationships.  The use of manipulatives will help all of my students because it will provide options for physical action and allow students to participate in a hands-on activity. This type of learning is imperative because many students, including those with dyscalculia, learn best through concrete learning.

Networked Learning Framework
After revising my lesson through both the TPACK and UDL lenses, I turned to evaluating it through a Networked Learning perspective.  Networked Learning involves using both my own Personal Learning Network (PLN), as well as exposing students to building and using their own PLN in the lesson.

My big revision after learning about UDL was adding in the activity with manipulatives.  This activity is done in groups of three.  This type of collaborative work is an example of networked learning.  They are reaching out to their peers and assisting each other in learning the concepts of parallel lines and angle relationships.  They may even end up helping to teach one of their classmates.  We know that if they can do this, they have developed a deep understanding of the content.

If students are still struggling with the concept, I have provided them with extra YouTube videos.  These resources connect them to others around the globe and show the importance of expanding their PLN and the value of learning from others.

Reflection
As a professional educator, I have definitely grown through this revision process.  It has caused me to take a much closer look at the way I think about assessment and evaluation.  It helped me to understand the power of the process and doing things in chunks.  I did not take an initial draft and magically turn it into a final draft.  It took careful consideration of each framework along the way, constantly re-evaluating my document.  If I had been assessed on my first draft, I do not think my grade would have been what I hoped.  Instead, it is essential to assess one’s progress.  We can’t expect students to go from learning to mastery immediately, nor can we assume that one style of instruction or assessment is appropriate for all.   Learning is a process and we need to allow students to fully engage in it.

Above all, I have learned that lesson planning is a continual cycle.  There is always room for revision after careful reflection.  It is imperative to look at lessons through various lenses.  It is only then, that we can begin to provide for student differences.  By working through the process and doing several revisions, I was able to receive feed back, both positive comments and constructive suggestions.  This is the culture I need to create in my own classroom.  In the end, our goal is to have students not only learn material, but be problem solvers and critical thinkers.  We can only develop this through careful lessons that allow them to explore, attempt, fail, receive feedback, and revise.  This is something I have experienced first hand through my own journey to produce this final (for now) lesson plan.

References:

CAST (2011). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author.

McPhee, N. (2013). Fluorescent Ort Loom [Online Image]. Retrieved July 21, 2015 from https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicmcphee/8743140222/in/photolist-ejASYW-a23Tn-4EQEUd-48dAJa-9zvm3-7ywGeL-jRWbkr-kZx8N-aDvJ3N-9npHXt-cciNtj-c3boFE-ejveZH-dQo6G8-iasvPx-fQhQib-iasvSN-j1X1Bd-8vHnig-nBgd5y-ceRnY-5CNoRE-5PoRJX-65FSTj-dYqNgs-dWyLNe-8FDqka-j1T1Eg-5PoRf5-6UJdC8-2Nqecs-8uLEUd-dAenwi-4VijP5-e32eiL-a36dRZ-jLUVRj-6DsW8z-7yx6F9-5xNoaX-dYqQyL-cepf6d-9MzPwF-fQhQ2J-aaeb4F-GDtKZ-aDvJ6f-aDrSmg-a23To-coDKf9

Networked Learning Project

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I bought this piece but would love to create something similar myself!
I bought this piece but would love to create something similar myself!
Have you ever asked yourself, “What do I WANT to learn?”  Not what do I HAVE to learn but rather, what is something I’ve always wanted to learn?  If you’re like me, you probably get caught up in other things and what you want to learn gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Not this time.  In fact, I am required to learn something new for one of my courses in the MAET program.  The catch here is that we are only allowed to use YouTube and other internet forums for information on how to complete our chosen task.
We have been learning about personal learning networks (PLNs) in class and the important role they play in extending our knowledge. PLNs are an important tool because we can learn a great deal by connecting with other people.  When I mind mapped my PLN I had online networks and in person networks.  For this assignment, we are only allowed to use the online help.  I believe we are doing this project to show the value of this kind of learning and discover ways that we may be able to incorporate this kind of instruction in our own lesson planning.
I am excited about this task as it finally gives me a reason to tackle one of my 65 pinned craft projects on my Pinterest board!  Since I went straight to Pinterest to find my idea, I even used my PLN to come up with my goal of what to learn.  Let’s just hope this isn’t a “Pinterest Fail”!
I have decided to learn how to create a piece of wood wall art using either reclaimed wood pallets or wood purchased from a store and distressing it, whichever the tutorials I read say is best.  I recently moved and my walls are still quite bare.  I am in love with the reclaimed wood looking art (shabby chic)  and have always wanted to try my hand at creating a masterpiece.  I just never had the time to do it until now. I am nervous but optimistic, and excited to get started.  I have already stumbled upon a few resources that I can use, Shanty 2 Chic, Storypiece, and Craig Hurst’s YouTube video, and I’m sure I will be finding many more.  Check back often as I will be blogging about my progress.

Lesson Plan Version 4.0: Networked Learning Revision

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connectedWriting lesson plans can be a tough task when students have so many different learning needs.  There are various frameworks that one can analyze a lesson through which helps to achieve the goal of trying to meet students’ needs.  I have been working on revising a sixth grade math lesson by examining it through the TPACK lens (Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge) as well as a UDL lens (Universal Design for Learning) and have made several changes to it thus far.  I am now going to be evaluating this lesson by looking at it from a Networked Learning perspective.
Networks are powerful learning tools.  Whether it be connecting with others digitally or talking to someone working right down the hall from you, networking can open a world of possibilities.  In a previous assignment in the MAET program, I looked deeply at my own personal learning network (PLN) and reflected on the importance of having an ever growing PLN.  I also realized how vital it is to utilize this network whenever possible.
In revising my math lesson on parallel lines cut by a transversal, I thought it would be best to begin by looking at how I could use my PLN to enhance this lesson and then look at how I can incorporate opportunities for students to use networked learning.  I am lucky in that I work with an amazing group of teachers whom I can bounce ideas off of daily.  It struck me that I need to take advantage of this in prepping for this particular lesson.  It would make sense that I should connect with the teacher my students had the previous year to see if they touched on this topic last year and how it was received if they did.  This will give me some background on the students’ knowledge and a sense of any prior misconceptions.  Utilizing this network connection may seem simple, but it is vital.
Another revision I am looking at has to do with the screencast portion of the lesson.  In my original plan, I was going to use a lecture format.  However, after looking at it through a TPACK lens, I decided to change routes and use a screencast to convey the topic.  Educators tend to be awesome because they like to share ideas and resources with other educators.  Therefore, there may already be a screencast or video that I could use that teaches parallel lines cut by a transversal.  When thinking about my own PLN, I realized that I could check out Youtube or Educreations for an already made, teacher created, screencast.  Who knows, it may be better than anything I could have created myself!
After looking at how I can use my own PLN to help me in preparing for this lesson, I wanted to take some time to delve into how my lesson already incorporates the ideas of networked learning and what more I could do to enhance this kind of collaboration.  In this lesson, the students work in groups of three to complete an activity involving creating parallel lines and finding angle relationships.  This type of group work is an example of networked learning because they are reaching out to their peers and helping each other learn the concepts of parallel lines and angle relationships.  It is common knowledge that often times when a student can teach someone the concept they just learned, it shows a deep level of understanding.  By working in groups, students are given this opportunity to teach one another and learn from one another and build their own learning networks.
As the students are working on the group activity, they are allowed to go back to the screencast if they need clarification or help remembering one of the angle relationships.  After thinking about learning networks, I thought it would be good to add in links to extra Youtube videos about parallel lines cut by a transversal because sometimes students need to hear an explanation of a topic in multiple ways before they understand it.  Students would be able to learn from a wider network of teachers by accessing these approved videos.  They would be learning not only the concept of parallel lines but also the much broader idea of how helpful it is to reach out to others to gain information.
Networked learning is an essential aspect of developing knowledge.  If you think about it, we all probably use networked learning on a daily basis.  I believe it would be hard to think of one day where you didn’t learn something from someone else, whether it be from a coworker, a news report, or a Youtube video.  By reaching out to these networks and having students do the same, my math lesson will be greatly enhanced.
References:
Connected [Online Image]. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from https://pixabay.com/p-358063/?no_redirect

Content Curation

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At the end of the day we had the opportunity to visit the ELPL Maker Studio!
At the end of the day we had the opportunity to visit the ELPL Maker Studio!  

During the Master’s in Educational Technology summer program, one person is chosen each day as the content curator.  You might be asking what a content curator is because I know I certainly had no idea what that meant when I first heard the term.  Basically, that person is responsible for analyzing the day’s activities while making connections to our learning and highlighting the wonderful work that we are all doing in the MAET program.  Each day is different and brings about new challenges and exciting activities.  Having the content curation pages allows students to remind themselves of important learning experiences.

I was chosen as content curator for Thursday, July16.  With my camera in hand  (you basically could call me the paparazzi that day) I took lots of pictures to document the day’s events.  Then, I used smore.com to create my page of content with lots of pictures.  Check it out here!