Are You a Digital “Sasquatch”?

In many of my past posts, I tend to pull examples from childhood. Whether it be from parental love or nostalgia, this piece is no different in that vein, and if you have read the title to this piece, you probably have an idea of where this might be going. However, I think, like our child versions, we believe one thing to be true and find out differently in the end. It’s not a matter of right or wrong; it’s a matter of perception.

As a child, teacher, and parent, I LOVE Schoolhouse Rock. In fact, I probably know every word to most of the songs, even the “newer” science songs since my girls love to watch these DVDs in the car on long trips. One song in particular came to mind as I was researching this week. Here are the lyrics:

For years this legend has been told

Of a creature seldom seen

He leaves a footprint so immense

It could make a grown man scream

Sasquatch, Bigfoot, Yeti

He goes by all those names

But now there’s something scarier

And our world’s not quite the same

There are beasts who are leaving footprints

That make Bigfoot’s track look small…

You gotta learn what to do and what to watch

Don’t be a carbon Sasquatch” (Dorough, 2009)

~”Don’t Be a Carbon Sasquatch

While this song focuses on our carbon footprints, I couldn’t help but see its relevance today as we navigate the digital world. Couldn’t we replace the word ‘carbon’ with ‘digital”? What does your personal digital footprint look like? Does it match the perception match the person? Have we left a Sasquatch-sized print? One that we wished was a myth? Or one that is completely non-existent?

Though we’d like to think we could stay invisible, this is just not possible in our current society, which is why it is so important to examine and manage your digital footprint before irreparable damage is done. We have to stay vigilant in what we “say” and do online as it becomes who we are, for better or worse, despite the entire truth of it or the spin others may put upon it.

That being said. I was curious about mine own, and in my personal search, I
was relieved and a bit dismayed that I had to search a bit more specifically to find myself. Don’t get me wrong. I’m in good company. “Angela Wagner” is a doctor, a life coach, an athlete, a yogi, an engineer, a lawyer, etc., and there’s me, a teacher and doctoral student. I found all of my profiles, my blog, website, LinkedIn, Twitter, et
c. only after adding my state to the search equation. This got me to thinking about how common my name is in the U.S. and decided to check out the website www.howmanyofme.com.  

There are 439 people in the U.S. alone with my name, so I can attribute part of this to the commonness of my name, which makes me wonder about the ease with which some folks can leave a positive print effortlessly with a unique name. Or could it just as easily leave a footprint that is harder to erase? What are your thoughts?

Either way, “we gotta learn what to do and what to watch…don’t be a [digital] Sasquatch.”

References:

Dorough, B. (2009). Don’t be a carbon sasquatch. On Schoolhouse Rock- Science Rocks!. Buena Vista: Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

Twitter for Just-in-Time PD Learning

Twitter for PD. It’s not a totally new concept for me. In fact, a doctoral studies cohort member of mine is researching this very area of educational technology, and I know from our many exchanges how valuable are its unique learning opportunities. It’s a place to share and connect, and it’s always available. This week in my Social Networking course I had to follow five new hashtags and share some of my discoveries. I decided to add at least one hashtag from each of my interest areas Secondary Education, English Language Arts, and Educational Technology.

The following hashtags were added to my Tweetdeck: #2ndaryela, #ALedchat,    #edtechbridge, #engagechat, and # googleforedu.

Though I know I will learn far more over time, I’ll share a few here:

#2ndaryela : This is a hashtag dedicated to my teaching content area, and I was delighted to find SEVERAL new books to add to my reading list, both personally and professionally. I also noted some cool ideas and sources other teachers used for summer reading, which I will definitely check out.

#googleforedu: This hashtag is for everything related to the Google for Education suite. While I am a Google Level 2 Certified Educator, there are still new tips and tricks to learn, especially with the apps I do not use as much. Currently, I am in the process of using Google Sites to make some Digital Breakouts/Escape Rooms for my classes. This can be a time consuming concept, but now you can easily duplicate a Google Site with a few clicks. Voila! Editing and creating a new Escape/Breakout will be much easier to edit an existing page as a template.

#engagechat – This hashtag focuses on education and engagement in schools across contents and grade levels. As I was perusing recent tweets, the most striking concept was related to the teaching experience and my participation in this week’s exploration of Twitter.  Essentially, it stressed the importance of collaboration (the foundation of social networking), but educators cannot possibly lead students where they haven’t been themselves, right?! It noted that if teachers don’t collaborate, then how can they expect it in students? It’s true. We need to actively practice the skills we wish to impart in others.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t think I could possibly capture the Twitter learning experience in one entry, but I will end it here with a few final thoughts on Twitter:

  • Connections are important for growth and in forming partnerships.
  • Sharing really is caring, whether it be a really cool tool or a moment from the human experience.
  • Learning is unique and endless.

Social Network Learning: EDTECH543

I know. I know. A course on social network learning seems a bit late to be taken as my last elective for edtech coursework, but let me explain.

Yes, I have already had accounts for many of the social networks we will be using in the course, and, yes, I have used them for professional and instructional purposes, but not consistently. (As you can see, I have not posted to this blog in months. Maybe this course will help change that.)

In many areas, consistency is key, so I hope to learn how to better manage my social and professional outlets. I’m here to learn more from others and expand my personal/professional learning network (PLN). I’m here to learn new ways to harness social networking for my students and colleagues.  I want to know what has and hasn’t worked from others who have tried it out. I’m here to learn some new ideas, tools, strategies to better utilize the 1:1 technology in my classroom

Speaking of life in the 1:1 secondary classroom, I have noted the various options in social networks that students choose to use, but I am most curious to see how to integrate it consistently within a classroom and/or which option works best to gain buy-in.

So, here’s to a summer of social network learning and sharing.

“Helpful Tools in Google Docs to Assess Writing”

Writing is a skill as necessary as walking, and it’s acquired in much the same way. We see others do it, we try to emulate the process, and we often only master it through constant practice.

Student composition skills emerge through routine writing practice followed up by constructive feedback from the instructor and/or peers. This is all fine and good, and it seems like common sense. However, one major impediment to this practice lies within the time required for reading and providing this feedback to the multitude of students within each class. Thanks to technological advancements in educational tools, ELA teachers can work smarter and not harder in this area.

With all of this in mind, here is a list of five technology tools in Google to expedite the assessment of writing.

  • Google Voice Typing – This dictation tool is available for use within the Google Docs toolbar makes offering thorough writing commentary a speedier process.

I have utilized this tool when grading written essays. I may open a Google Doc and voice my feedback through this tool. Afterwards, I can print this doc and attach to the student paper for more thorough instruction as to how the student performed and may revise without the impediments of limited time and space to do such

  • Kaizena – This Google Add-on allows for readers to convey feedback by highlighting pieces within a Google Doc and leave verbal and/or text comments as well as tagging specific writing, grammar, usage, and mechanics skills that may need attention. Each student’s work and feedback stay within a conversation, allowing progress to be tracked all throughout the term.

This tool was particularly effective with my upperclassmen, who seemed more receptive to conversing about their writing, but it also works well for those open to the writing process in all of the editing and revision glory.

  • WriQ – This Add-on allows teachers to open a piece of writing in Google Docs and quickly assess student writing. WriQ offers a suggested scored based upon metrics it analyzed such as word count, sentence count, and time spent writing.  WriQ checks  grammar, punctuation and spelling errors, which will be highlighted within the document for easy examination and color-coded by error. Next, users can assess the writing using a genre-specific rubric within the Add-on by clicking on the appropriate descriptor to suit the writing. After saving, users are given a summary of all feedback and an opportunity to type more feedback if necessary. After saving, this summary will be attached to the top of the document with all errors still highlighted for student viewing.

This tool is great for ELA and writing courses as it evaluates a variety of writing genres.

  • Orange Slice – This teacher-created Google Add-on allows users to create rubrics, score papers, and then return the marked rubric on the student paper with scores and rubric attributes highlighted. There is also a student version available for peer feedback.

Happy reading and assessing with these available Add-ons!

If you have tried these or have another favorite, feel free to share and comment below.

Here’s to New Beginnings…

 

New beginnings incite mixed feelings for most of us. For some, they entail excitement, spontaneity, and adventure while, for some, anxiety, fear, and stress. In fact, many people detest writing since words do not magically flow onto the page; it is a process, but one well worth the endeavor. As an English Language Arts(ELA) teacher, I feel the pressure of all feelings above. Will these entries be of interest? Will I be under compositional scrutiny just because I teach ELA? Oh, the insecurities that threaten our best efforts! But, regardless of initial feelings, the basic truth is that beginnings bring us opportunity. What we make of said opportunity falls upon our own willingness to try something new, to take the risk, to grow.

This blog begins my venture into sharing my educational experiences (both EdTech and ELA) with a larger audience in hopes of helping others find new ways to learn. Often, I have been met with the questioning brow or skeptical look when technology and English class are combined in the same sentence, as if there is some invisible line drawn between print and digital English classrooms (or any classroom for that matter). Choose a side, they say with taciturn eyes; however, technology is not the opposition. It CAN be blended beautifully into the classroom to improve students’ reading, writing, and analysis skills. You can straddle this imaginary line and learn and grow right along with the students. Scary, I know, but well worth the endeavor.

We must model life-long learning if we expect students to value it as well. So, with all of this in mind, look forward to seeing posts on a wide range of ideas, tools, strategies, and the like as the emphasis is placed on learning with technology and reaching students. Though many examples will be within the realm of ELA, I look forward to reading comments on how you adapt them.