EDTECH 541: Spreadsheets and Databases

Spreadsheets and databases are a natural component to science courses. If they are not already a part of your science class, then you are doing something wrong. There are various labs students do that allows them to collect data. Data is easily organized in a spreadsheet. I gave a few examples in my Weebly discussion of 4 examples, http://getzedtech.weebly.com/spreadsheets-and-databases.html. Any time a student collects data over a period of time, a spreadsheet is useful.

I am fortunate to teach in a field that naturally lends itself to having databases. One of the most powerful ones is the NCBI database that allows access to genetic sequences of anything that has DNA, or in some cases, RNA. Lawrence Berkeley Labs maintains list of databases for its scientists to easily locate. I should not be surprised, but there is even a wiki that lists databases, and if accessing them is free or not. Even the US government has a website committed to science. They even have a section of the website dedicated to science education resources.

In case it is not obvious, real scientists use databases in their research and work environment continuously. Part of doing research is to find “new” information. When we get something new, it is unique until we can find something to connect it to. That is where the databases come in to play. We use our data and search databases to see if someone else figured out something similar to what we did. Genetic sequences are easily compared in the NCBI database (like I mentioned before).

One of my favorite databases is of photographic images. I love how all the images can be used for free from government websites, unless it is somehow a proprietary website. I even made a webpage of government image databases in EDTECH 502. I don’t know if my links still work, but the ones on the right side navigation bar at the DOE website seem to work. It looks like the government put their images up at Flickr so you will have to link from the DOE landing page to the Flickr spot.

In researching this topic, I am delighted to see that there are so many resources available for free online. Students need to learn how to use spreadsheets to organize their data, and similarly, how to use databases to verify if what they figured out fits in with the rest of what other people are doing.  Collectively scientists and researchers allow us to have the information we have about how our world works. Life did not come with an instruction manual. For example, everything in the chemistry textbook had to be figured out by humans at some point in time.


Basic Local Alignment Search Tool. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://blast.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Blast.cgi

Energy.gov. (2013, November 01). Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://energy.gov/management/office-management/employee-services/photography

Explore Selected Science Websites by Topic. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://www.science.gov/

Getz, M. B. (2012). Why read this page? Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://edtech2.boisestate.edu/melissagetz/502/concept.htm

List of academic databases and search engines. (2015, February 12). Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_academic_databases_and_search_engines

Science Databases and Other Electronic Resources listed by Subject. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2015, from https://commons.lbl.gov/display/rst/Science+Databases+and+Other+Electronic+Resources+listed+by+Subject

Science.gov topic Science Education for user category All categories. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://www.science.gov/browse/w_133.htm


EDTECH 541: Relative Advantage of Using Presentations

I am a fan of using presentation tools because it is something students can stare at instead of me. I did not use them often because students would whimper when they saw PowerPoint was on the way. I can understand their point of view because I had a student teacher who thought he was the most amazing teacher due to his prowess with PowerPoint. I had the advantage of sitting in the classroom with the students so I could see their glazed eyes and confused faces. Using PowerPoint just so you can say you’ve integrated technology into your daily lesson plans is not the right reason to use PowerPoint. It is akin to taking kids to the computer lab so you don’t have to write a real lesson plan for that day. They’ll be doing technology by using the Internet to do research.

I read Alice Keeler’s blog post on embedding PowerPoint presentations into your website, and agree with her about making the class’s content available to students outside of class. I did not start making websites until 2005 so the only time I had a website for students and parents to access was in my last teaching position. There are lots of problems with the links at the website because I did not properly move it to GoDaddy, but one day the links will hopefully work so you can see how I set things up for the kids. It is at http://www.biotechbiotch.com.  Essentially I had a calendar and linked to a copy of whatever I handed out or whatever website we used that day. If you are a teacher who can wrap up the entire lesson in a PowerPoint presentation so that kids and parents can review it at home, go for it. Anything we can do to provide useful structure for students will help them be able to focus on the content. After all, that is the main reason the teacher is there. We are a conduit that helps shovel factoids or thinking processes into our kids’ brains.

If you’re going to use PowerPoint for its structure, that is great. Just don’t make it too wordy or too boring. I may do the extra credit activity for this week because I had students do presentations in the past and I want to improve upon that lesson. I want to do it virtually and as a part of my course in 3dGameLab. This would be a good time to set it up for the kids. With that presentation, I require them to use the scientific writing at the Protein Data Bank to present one of the Molecule of the Month structures. They get to pick the topic and have to focus on using images from the website. I did this in 2009-2010 and it was a very eye opening experience for me. I’ve always tried to integrate one oral presentation into every semester because I know students need the practice. These presentations showed me how bad it had become for the set of kids I had. Laziness had crept up to a new dimension. I had a sample presentation for them, I did a sample for them, and put in as much structure as I knew about at the time. We were a Google school and students uploaded their presentations to the school’s site. Because of this, there is a firewall preventing me from sharing their horrific work with you. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Bottom line…if PowerPoint is being used for positive structure, then it is totally necessary. If it is just being used so you can say you or the kids are doing technology, save yourself the time and frustration. Find something else for the kids to do that will engage them more than your lecture. Even if you have amazing slides created by the textbook publisher, make sure what you choose to include is absolutely necessary.

If you are interested in seeing the presentation I did this week, check out: http://getzedtech.weebly.com/presentation-on-python-strings.html


Keeler, A. (2014, June 15). Embed a PowerPoint on your Website. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from http://www.alicekeeler.com/teachertech/2014/06/15/embed-a-powerpoint-on-your-website/

EDTECH 541: Instructional Software and Technology Tools

Relative Advantage of Instructional Software

When I can find software to use in class, everybody benefits. Obviously it means I don’t have to lecture that day, other than to explain how to use the software. Chances are the students will be more interested, especially if the software is fun to use. Unfortunately some of what I have had students use is less than ideal. For example, I had students do a webquest to learn about doing protein gels. I could have lectured, but it seemed better for them to see the animations. For this particular webquest, I gave them questions and links to various websites where they can find the answers. I learned that if I were to do this again, I may have to put the link to the website adjacent to the question it answers. As much as students like using computers, they don’t necessarily like to use them for research, or to find an answer that can’t be easily found in a Google search or a wiki.

To teach students how to analyze data by using software that gives them the opportunity to read graphs or the results of an experiment, is not as good as having them do it hands-on in the classroom, but it is better than them not getting any experience with the information. Unfortunately many of the virtual labs I have used with students are either so difficult that it takes me hours to figure them out, like Gizmos, or they are just point, click, and drag exercises that they actually end out being a waste of time. Until my abilities with creating software or using software to create lab scenarios gets better, I am afraid that if I use software with the kids, it is going to be written by somebody else.

Interested in what our textbook has to say, I started skimming through it. Sadly on page 77, they say, “Today, after more than 30 years of development and experimentation, there is less talk of computers replacing teachers…” which is actually an optimistic perspective. What is sad about it, is that from my experiences in the last 4 years, it is not true. Computers and scripted curriculum are replacing teachers. There are companies who are making lots of money by replacing the teachers that used to be in the classroom by replacing them with virtual teachers. These virtual teachers will often have a load of 200 students per day from whatever states they have a credential to teach in. While I realize this post is supposed to be about how educational software and technology tools help the classroom teacher, I feel the need to point out the disparity that exists between a classroom teacher and a virtual teacher. Software IS replacing the classroom teacher. I know this because I taught kids in Delaware who did not have a classroom teacher. The software and I replaced whoever should have been the classroom teacher when the school was restructured. For my Pennsylvania kids, I was their teacher, even though I never met them in person, and live 2000 miles away. I did not actually ever teach them anything. I tried to tutor them if they would stay focused enough during a tutoring session to let me explain things to them, but even then, I had some kids who were not used to the idea of being responsible for their learning. This is not at all what I meant this blog post to turn out as so I will curtail my digression on how bad virtual schools are at this point, but I do want to point out that in my presentation of tutorials, drill and practice, and other categories of instructional software, this is not the same software being used in virtual schools. The software links I am presenting for this post are stuff that I either used when I was in the classroom, or would use should I ever get back in a classroom. (The later seeming further and further away from possibility, but you never know. So far using a wheelchair rocks using a walker, and if I upgrade to a power wheelchair, who knows what my limits will be?)

Robolyer and Doerling point out on page 78 that “instructional software packages are developed for the sole purpose of supporting instruction and/or learning.” It is important they differentiate between technology that is merely a tool, technology that is replacing the teacher, and technology that supports the teacher. Granted, they are not acquiescing that software is replacing teachers, but trust me, it is. They go on to elaborate which types of software can allow for directed and / or constructivist approaches. Naturally, as the students are given more control of the software environment, the more constructivist it can be. For example, having students build a website gives them more freedom than merely doing a webquest where they go hunting for answers to questions. (I have had students do both.) I see a parallel between paper and equipment lessons and computer software ones. The tutorials and drill and kill are like the worksheets or notes I used to print out on paper for the kids to use.  Simulations are like cookbook labs. Problem solving scenarios are like inquiry based labs. At the moment, I don’t have a parallel for instructional games, unless doing a Jeopardy review or having kids make board games qualifies as an instructional game.

In chapter 3, Robolyer and Doerling give advice on how to select good examples of software in each category. In addition they elaborate the pros and cons of each type. Many teachers scoff at having any rote memorization types of drill and kill, whether it is a worksheet or a computer program. It is comforting to see that I am not the only one who finds value in having students practice specific types of problems repeatedly. I am currently tutoring an algebra 2 student, and while preparing for her winter final, it became pretty chaotic with so many different problems to figure out. One thing I started to notice, however, is that what was becoming more important than getting the right answer, was learning how to evaluate the situation to determine which technique best solves each problem.  We may never recognize we are factoring a binomial in the real world, but learning how to be calm while sorting through our resources and evaluating them is a skill both my student and I will benefit from knowing.

Tutorials are my favorite type of programs to create because I love learning how to use Articulate Storyline. I took the BSU class on Flash, and it was pretty much a nightmare. I used Articulate’s free 30 day download for two classes, and became hooked. Fortunately I have significant support from my husband and family, so I was able to purchase Storyline.  Flash will integrate with Storyline so I may do some flying numbers in Flash to bring in to a Storyline project, but otherwise I think I am stuck on doing the “explanation screen” way of trying to help students with various science topics. I have not created many tutorials, but you are welcome to see what I have done at www.getzguides.com. For my students who were enrolled in virtual classes because they were at a treatment center, my guides were a way they could get additional support for the classes if a live tutor was not available.  Robolyer and Doerling point this out on page 88, tutorials are useful for instruction when no teachers are available. You may be surprised by how many students are taking classes that don’t have a readily available teacher. It is for these students I write my tutorials.

I am a huge fan of physics simulations. Even making apps with Corona or other simple programs lets you use physics. Even though I did not figure out how to make an app by coding in lua for one of my BSU classes, I did come to appreciate how physics can easily be integrated into simple software programs. As much as I am addicted to Minecraft, it is odd how they only have physics apply to two types of blocks. Then again, because they suspend the laws of physics, students can easily make three dimensional representations of objects when building in creative mode.  Redstone mimics electronics and minecarts can travel based on gravity, so Minecraft is not completely void of physics. The redstone and use of minecarts on trails can give kids an opportunity to participate in something a teacher created, therefore making it a simulation or game, or they can create their own situations which would fall into the problem solving category.

I am torn when it comes to digital dissection because I know I truly learned more about animals by dissecting them, than if I had just gone through a point and click way of learning body parts. I wonder, though, how necessary it is to kill so many animals just for tenth grade dissections.  Our book quotes from studies that showed digital vs physical manipulation does not seem to matter in terms of what information students retain (Roblyer & Doerling, 2013, p.91). For many teachers, the benefits of no set-up or clean-up, less costly equipment once the software is acquired, unless its license has to be renewed annually, and less supervision needed during the class period, outweigh the negative perception that what the students are doing is not actually real. The American Chemical Society (ACS), and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) have come out against virtual labs. Even the College Board will not accept credits in classes where students did a virtual equivalent of a lab. (Robyler & Doerling, 2013, p. 93).  This means students will be doing PCR and running agarose gels for their AP biology lab, instead of imagining the bands migrating through the gel.

The last two categories, Instructional Game Software and Problem-Solving Software, are more difficult for me to see in the science context. The book recognizes Geometer’s Sketchpad, which is a very good program. It helps make geometry more spatially available. They also mention Spore as a game for studying evolution. I can’t comment on Spore because I’ve never played it. I do have to say, though, that I did an internship for a nanotech company in Emeryville, and the folks who created Spore were either on our floor or above us. It was interesting to ride in the elevator with them. But I digress, once again…

You may notice in my presentation , instructional games and problem solving software have very few entries. Hopefully I will be able to add more links after I post my blog. Fortunately the book treats the last two categories like it did the first three by giving example scenarios, and pro/con lists. One possible con that struck me was the idea of having to choose software that can handle limited physical dexterity (Robyler & Doerling, 2013, p. 95). I don’t think many students like having me in class because I can find faults easily in student work, and I will mention it. It is not to be mean; I’m actually trying to be helpful. People who don’t have disabilities really have no clue what it is like to have some. Just ask me about how ludicrous some of the ADA adaptations are where I live, and I’d be glad to tell you how we need people with the disability to create the adaptive physical changes, or in the case of my classes, adaptive software. We used Minecraft as a game, and as a way to do problem solving when I took EDTECH 531. In 531, we created an example of how to use one of three software packages as an educational tool, and there were some lessons I could not physically do because of the way they were designed. I did not have the manual dexterity to click and drag fast enough. If you know how to contact me, and you want me to evaluate any website or program you create for its difficulty with my limitations, just ask. I happily volunteer my eyes, hands, and defective brain as a testing environment.

In 531, I was incredibly impressed with how Minecraft (MC) can be used to simulate many social studies situations. I thought of a few ways it could be used with science, and I plan to make quests in 3dGameLab that have students use Minecraft to look at some science concepts. I feel like Minecraft is predictable enough that you can act like a scientist, and evaluate the game in survival mode as if one is going through the scientific method. I wish I qualified for minecraftedu so I could create scenarios that have students go mining for organic and inorganic resources. I can do that with regular MC, but it will be much more difficult to control student access to specific areas, and to protect blocks. The possible lessons in Second Life are also amazing, but from what little I’ve experienced, they are not on the level of games or problem solving. I can see World of Warcraft being used for problem solving because that is what you have to do continuously- the first problem being how to play the doggone game. I felt that way with Minecraft, too. I think any of these software programs that are easily intimidating at first are actually really good tools for students to learn resilience, endurance, and perseverance.  I was a MC misfit when I first started playing it. I later became addicted to it. The book makes a distinction between doing problem solving software activities merely for the sake of learning how to problem solve. (Robyler & Doerling, 2013, p. 97). I can totally see using software for that purpose, at least until someone figures out how to create something that can be open ended enough for students to be able to make mistakes and therefore be able to learn from them

One thing that should be in any of the interactive software games is a chance for failure. When click and drag scenarios are too predictable, students won’t be challenged and will complete the activity because they are required to, and not necessarily because they are enjoying what they want to learn. We need to be careful, though, to not build in failures that students will take too strongly or  too personally. I still don’t know where I am going to fit into education in my next stages. I’m hoping it will involve creating quest based courses in 3dGameLab that other teachers will want to use. If I can figure out how to turn a quest or a course into how to problem solve something in science, other than an easily predictable physics or genetics lab, I will be ecstatic.


Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching [6th edition].

EDTECH 541: Acceptable Use Policies

Acceptable Use Policies are used to communicate expectations for student behaviors when they are on a school computer or device. Like most “rules” that are written for students, they involve acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Whereas in the classroom, we have safety rules that are obvious like “don’t throw things”, where computers are used, the safety rules may not be as obvious. How do you know what is dangerous with communicating on the computer when the point of the communication is not for the student to ultimately meet the other person.

Safety rules may seem like common sense, but they still need to be stated because as teachers, we only want to see the good in people. We work with kids who are full of potential and is our joy to see them learn how to do something. Likewise, they like to impress their peers or adults in their lives by showing what they can do. It is in our protective nature to want to shield the students from ones who could do harm to them, but a firewall can only do so much. Just like they need to learn as children to not run out in the street before looking, they need to be taught how to be aware of potentially dangerous situations.

My professor found some really good links for us to use to research Acceptable Use Policies. I encourage you to check these out if my interpretation of them sparks your curiosity to learn more.

Edudemic: http://www.edudemic.com/school-social-media-policy/

Times must be changing because I swear that four years ago when I started to submerge myself in this online learning world, having to come up with rules on how to behave in social media was not even close to something I thought I’d have to contemplate. Yes, I had a colleague who used Facebook with his students (2009), but since our IT person had told us not to do that, I just figured he was a renegade teacher who could not be held back. Now I know not only how to use Facebook as a teacher, but I know how to use it safely.

The idea of a school having a social media policy should be commonplace now. I do not know if the school where I taught has one now, but I expect they have added onto their computer use contracts something about safety, netiquette, and other behavioral expectations. In 2009 it was acceptable to just tell teachers to avoid certain websites and therefore not connect school liability with online dangers. Now, in 2015, the school can still choose to not have a designated way for teachers, students, and parents to communicate in an academic way, but we should still be responsible and let students know what is possible. This particular website “crowdsourced” acceptable use policies. They essentially created a wiki and invited anybody to add their two cents worth of ideas.

I love what they created. It covers every conceivable situation. Above I mention how do we know what can happen to our kids in a social media situation? Well, fortunately for me, I don’t have to imagine all the horrible things that can happen because someone else has done it for me. Edudemic took the ideas and created acceptable use policies any school can borrow, adapt, or use for their purposes. If I am asked to create an AUP, I know I will be coming to this website to make sure I included everything that should be there.

Education World: http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

Education World took the National Educational Association’s acceptable use policy and summarized its components. This has two interesting perspectives. First, Education World is a website that currates education websites and hopes to make money from its advertising. They certainly figured out how to use the pop-up window to their advantage. The second thing that catches my attention is that they chose to use the NEA policy. NEA is one of the two major unions that cover teachers. It is only logical that they would have people who could create a document to meet legal obligations.  If I do create my own AUP, I may very well go to NEA or the American Federation of Teachers websites to see what they recommend for the policies.

I wanted to impress you by finding the NEA document, but I am not sure it exists. I have found two places that purportedly quote an NEA AUP document, yet neither one links back to it. Education World does not list it as a citation at the end of its article. This Classroom 2.0 blogger practically quotes the same thing, but does not give a link to where she found her information. The closest I found to an NEA document that gives suggestions on the use of media or technology is their resolutions document from 2013.

Apparently the American Federation of Teachers is now the United Federation of Teachers. I was not able to find a policy statement at their website concerning an acceptable use policy.

BYOD,K12 Blueprint:  http://www.k12blueprint.com/byod

Remember the good old days when you’d see a paper note being passed across the room? I actually used to help students pass their notes because it was less disruptive than having them toss it across the room. Then came the time when you’d hear the cell phone ring, and you’d call out asking for it because you were required to confiscate it. That turned into “make sure your ringer is off” as students entered the classroom during first period just so they would not disturb class during class time; you no longer had to confiscate them. Now we are asking students to bring their own devices to class. We’re having them tweet us during a question and answer session. They are texting us the answer to their question of the day. We may even be taking attendance by having students sign into a document we put online. Times, they are a changing…

I’m familiar with BYOD being bring your own drink. Now we have BYOD or BYOT. BYOD is now bring your own device. The “T” in BYOT is for technology. Naturally if we are expecting kids to bring their own equipment to school, we have to have rules that govern how they  use it. Some schools do not require students to bring their own devices. Instead they are able to check out equipment to students so an income disparity does not get in the way of student success. Plus it evens the use field because one device may be able to do stoichiometry for you, while another can’t even bring up the periodic table. Ye gads!

The k12 Blueprint is an amazing site if you want to bring use of digital devices to your school. Intel sponsors the site, which makes sense because their chips are probably in most of the devices that will be brought to campus. The website is thorough, including sections for:

Just about anything you want to know about how to set up a BYOD program at your school can be found at the k12Blueprint website.

If you are just looking for a policy document on BYOD, check out the TeachThought website.

Actual Examples:

Some schools are considerate enough to put their AUP documents online. Here are a few you can look at.



9 Steps For Schools To Create Their Own BYOD Policy. (2013, October 29). Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/technology/9-steps-for-schools-to-create-their-own-byod-policy/

BYOD. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2015, from http://www.k12blueprint.com/byod

Dunn, J. (2012, May 3). It’s Time To Crowdsource Your School’s Social Media Policy. Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://www.edudemic.com/social-media-policy-crowdsource/

Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

Lepi, K. (2012, June 11). Crowdsourced School Social Media Policy Now Available. Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://www.edudemic.com/school-social-media-policy/

Linking to learning. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://www.uft.org/news/ny-teacher/link-to-learning

NEA Resolutions. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/nea-resolutions-2013-14.pdf

Owen, C. (2015, January 22). Acceptable Use Policies. Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://www.classroom20.com/profiles/blog/show?id=649749%3ABlogPost%3A1049227&commentId=649749%3AComment%3A1049569&xg_source=activity

EDTECH 541: Vision Statement

Tech vision statement

I think I may have had to write one of these when I first started in the EDTECH program, and am glad I get to write one now because I have had the experiences of earning the MET since I last wrote one of these. Even though I am to avoid a personal perspective, it will be very difficult to make this unbiased. I downloaded our text to my Kindle and since I can annotate the text, I have been. Much of what I have been reading in chapter 1 are anecdotes I can relate to because I have experienced what they describe.

The most significant theme in the literature is how technology for the sake of using technology is not how it is meant to be used in schools. Robyler and Doering (2013) discuss the role teachers can play with technology and are quite optimistic that teachers want to use the technology and are interested in finding ways to integrate it into their curriculum. They go on to say, “We need more teachers who understand the role technology plays in society and in education, who are prepared to take advantage of its power, and who recognize its limitations.” (p.10). The chapter continues with suggestions on what is currently possible and how these possibilities connect to current educators.

Teachers now need to understand more than just the hardware- which components to use and how to use them correctly; they also need to be aware of the power in much of the software available for classroom use(p. 11) Robyler and Doering (2013) also recognize the responsibilities teachers now have if they choose to use interactive media that involves a social component(p. 13). There are concerns about software tracking student input along with peer to peer interactions which can lead to cyberbullying (p. 16).

The parts addressing virtual or distance education are optimistic because they recognize there are states that now require students to take a virtual course before graduating from high school(Robyler & Doering, 2013, p. 17). While they bring up the digital divide and how it appears that there are still students who do not have access to equipment or the Internet, they did not emphasize how at least within the last few years, there are companies that will provide the students with a laptop and Internet access. I worked for one such company and they actually had a logical plan to keep the students engaged with the curriculum. They had to demonstrate progress before the computers would be “unlocked” for use beyond the program’s lessons.

Standards for technology use are continuously being examined. They are not revised so frequently that there is a continuous learning curve, but there is the reality that technology can change, so the legal structure or educational suggestions for guidance will need to be revised. I think the “hour of code” may have started at around the same time the sixth edition was published so they were not able to include statistics for the impact that is happening worldwide. According to the website, http://hourofcode.com/us, fifteen million people participated in 2014’s hour of code. There were over seventy seven thousand hour of code events last year. Even though I do not have direct access to students, the hour of code has inspired me to write lessons that will ideally engage students in learning how to code or how to adapt current games like Minecraft and make them more personal. I have no idea if I will ever get to see my lessons used with students, but I know that students won’t be able to try them out if I don’t write them. My teaching credentials for science have not opened the doors I was hoping they would, so I will just have to rely on current trends and projections to give me the inspiration I need to create without already having an audience.

Robyler and Doering (2013) bring up having teachers make portfolios as a part of their credentialing programs. (p. 21). California passed the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) in 2008. http://www.pacttpa.org/_files/Main/CalTPAPromo-Teacher.pdf. Leading up to this law, several California public and private colleges and universities developed the PACT- Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT). The PACT is like a mini-National Board portfolio process. I know this because I was a student teacher supervisor in 2005 at UC Berkeley, and we were testing out the PACT with our students. Because I was not a National Board Certified Teacher at the time, it was strange being the one to guide pre-service teachers in this process. When I had an opportunity to be back in a classroom in 2007, I immediately started working on a National Board Portfolio. It took me the three years to pass, something I am not necessarily proud of sharing, but those three years made a huge impact on me as a teacher. All three years I spent on working on entries, trying to figure out the instructions, and preparing the videos and paperwork were incredible. This blog entry is about a vision statement, and I would love to elaborate on the section Robyler and Doering (2013) use to discuss the roles portfolios play in teacher development and showcasing student work, but I want to respect that those ideas may be beyond what I am expected to do for this assignment. This segment is in here, however, because Robyler and Doering do recognize the power of portfolios, and how now that there are more free electronic resources available, both teachers and students can create them easily.

It is good to see that HyperStudio from back in the mid-1990’s is not completely gone. It has become involved with portfolio software (Robyler & Doering, 2013, p. 23). Robyler and Doering (2013) mention Adobe software having an impact on students building websites, however they did not seem to recognize the strength of Google apps like Google pages or sites, or mini-learning management systems that let students display their work to their classmates like Edomoto or KidBlog. (https://www.edmodo.com/, http://kidblog.org/home/).

Whether or not we like it, technology is going to be a part of the classroom environment. If I could physically be in a classroom, it would be a blended situation. I subscribe to the thought that the school day does not exist merely during the hours students have seat time in a room with tables and chairs. In my latest in-classroom teaching experience, I learned that my philosophy has not fully reached current teachers and students. I left the classroom in 2010 after spending three years at a charter school. While at this school, I learned that students expected their academic obligations to stop at the end of the day (we did not have any bells so I can’t say at the ring of the last bell), and the majority of teachers thought their obligations ended at around 4 pm. Summers were for them to do as they wished, most of the time involving travelling to places outside of the US. It was a new experience for me because I have always seen my time with students as not being enough time; it is the best ten months of the year and always too short. I see technology as a way to get the academic learning to continue after students leave their chairs in the classroom.

In 2009 I tried to get students to engage with VoiceThread and Moodle to have asynchronous discussions outside of class time. I was one of their first teachers to ask them to first do work outside the classroom, and outside class time that was not merely paperwork homework. I was also asking them to use technology that the school did not actually know how to support yet. In 2008 I had students make websites in Google sites/pages to express the use of genetically modified organisms throughout agricultural parts of various countries. I was doing this at the same time they were still making paper posters to defend their senior social justice projects. The following year, I noticed website construction becoming a part of the social justice presentations. Unfortunately once I left the school, my connection with them was completely severed, so I do not know if the person I shared a classroom with has figured out how to teach without relying on prepared PowerPoint slides to guide her instruction, or has asked students to do their year-end biology project in media other than making a colorful self-standing poster. I shared a classroom with her for three years and heard lots of stereotypical comments about why she could not do something, which was very frustrating because she also liked to point out how she was the youngest teacher in our department, and therefore she had the most recent relevant teacher preparation. Although I wanted to point out to her repeatedly that in my third year of teaching I started a biotechnology program for my school, which also allowed the course to be taught in my district, I kept myself quiet, which unfortunately may have led to my body malfunctioning.

I started getting dizzy / having vertigo in 2009. It did not stop so I left the classroom. I sought out the MET degree with Boise State, and am continuing to take classes here because I like what I am learning. I am disappointed that the individual experiences I had with my classes have not led to more than a part-time temporary 1099 position with a company, but my reality is so different than what should be happening in a classroom. The manual wheelchair was delivered this morning and we’re interviewing another company tomorrow for home care services. I certainly do not mean to disrespect this assignment by bringing up my personal situation, but this is my supposed Vision Statement for technology use. Because I cannot physically go into a classroom and force teachers to learn how to hybridize their classrooms, or force them to take time outside the “bell structure” to learn how to integrate technology into their courses I can’t physically get current teachers to go that one more tiny step beyond mere constructivism. My ideas embrace the ideal scenarios, and contain hope that the educational system will change to allow all students to have the opportunities they need in order to become creators, makers, and leaders of how they will use their knowledge. For my vision to happen, I will create what I can to make avenues for students’ learning to be possible. It will still be up to the classroom teachers and students’ parents to decide if they want to be aware of what I can offer, and use the products I will be creating.

Get Secure Account. (2014). Retrieved January 23, 2015, from https://www.edmodo.com/

The Hour of Code is here. (2014). Retrieved January 23, 2015, from http://hourofcode.com/us

Kidblog. (2015). Retrieved January 22, 2015, from http://kidblog.org/home/

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching [6th edition].

What is PACT? (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2015, from http://www.pacttpa.org/_main/hub.php?pageName=Home

EDTECH 531 End of term lesson

There are two parts to the end of term lesson. Both parts are done in Minecraft.

Part 1: Obstacle course

Long story…I sat in the Minecraftedu class that was held in Canvas. In week 3 I learned that there is practically no way I will be able to use the “edu” version because I am not attached to an institution. But I can still get ideas from teachers who do use the edu perks. Our server is not a Minecraftedu server, but I was still able to put in a lot of nifty things.

When I watched this video, a YouTube video link, , I knew I found part of what I wanted to do with this project. What impressed me the most is he is doing this with second graders. How awesome is that?!? I used some of his ideas and added a few of my own.

This next video is an example of what you’ll be doing in our lesson. I highly recommend you watch the video I made before class because I don’t plan on taking part of our 30 minutes to talk. I want you to have the time to play and explore. Overview of obstacle course.  I do not have all the same nifty features that Minecraft Teachr used but there are reasons. Skip over part 2 if you want to hear about what I tried that did not work, which really was not that much. Continue on to Part 2 if you want to read about the Scavenger Hunt.

Part 2: Scavenger Hunt

Each person will be transported to a biome of his/her choice. Please sign up before class at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Bl6-RfO0h_QPgYT-qQV2JA6LJfHK0edIBQUYCfkZgRs/edit?usp=sharing so that things are less chaotic in class.

Everybody will be sent to a different location so that you are not all trying to find the same items in the same geographic location.

Part of my obsession with MC is finding objects or just seeing what happens when I use a shovel to knock something down or shears to trim a tree. I am fascinated with the variety of results that come from actions. You may have read my idea about testing hypotheses, and I think this fascination stems from the part where I was (and still am) hypothesizing what will happen if I…

There are two branches you can go with the Scavenger Hunt: organic or (inorganic and tools).


Organic is everything dealing with trees, flowers, mushrooms, plants, or live beings without killing them, like shearing wool from sheep. If you get flowers and can dye the wool, that would count as a separate item than fresh wool from the sheep. What I learned from the MCedu class, or maybe in the training videos, is that we don’t really want to encourage kids to kill animals. Likewise, we don’t use monsters in the beginning. There will not be monsters in our version, so if you are planning on being able to gather monster parts or skeltons, that won’t be an option. There may still be spider webs (organic), but no spiders.

Each different flower is an item. A purple tulip is not the same as a pink tulip. Collect at least 1 of each and put it in your chest. Lilacs and roses are separate items. Daisies and sunflowers are different items. Two sunflowers, however, are still one item. There are, however, two types of mushrooms: the brown ones and the red ones. If this does not make sense and you want more clarification, please let me know.

Inorganic and tools:

Inorganic items are all of the ores. Technically coal is organic, but for this exercise, it will be treated as an ore and will fall in the inorganic category. After all, is coal a renewable resource? Tools are included here because tools are better with inorganic items. It just made sense to have you collect ores, and make as many tools as you can from them. Even though a gold shovel may be not very useful in a game, it will count as one item and a wood shovel will be counted as a separate item. We’re ignoring wood as an organic asset at the moment, and are focusing on the inorganic or functional side of mining. Yes, you may count tools made of wood as one inorganic item. So a wooden axe is one item, a wooden shovel is one item, a wooden pickaxe is another item (so far that is 3 items). After finding cobblestone, an axe made with stone is 1 item, a stone shovel is another item (we’re up to 5 different items). If this does not make sense, just ask.

General guidelines:

  1. You do not have to collect more than one of an item to represent it. You may need to chop down several trees, but in your chest for display, you only have to have one block of the item to represent it.
  2. So we don’t go crazy, you will have 24 hours to complete this task. I am putting a time limit on it because there may be other people who want to do a MC activity and there are a limited number of servers students can use through BSU. I may start checking chests at 6 pm Thursday, Boise time. (5 pm Pacific, 8 pm Eastern)
  3. Put your items in a chest. I will not be able to see your inventory. I put a double chest at each destination. If you need a larger one, you will have to chop down a tree for the wood. If you make it larger, put it with the double chest I made.
  4. Make sure I know which site you transported to. If you did not sign up on the location sheet before class, be sure to put your name on the sheet before I check chests. If there is no name near a location, I will not be checking those chests.
  5. Please indicate if you want to be a part of the scavenger hunt contest or not. If I can create a badge or award and can figure out how to get it registered with our class, then I (or Dr. H) will be issuing badges or awards based on how diverse your organic or inorganic portfolio is.

What’s the point?

Understanding how organic and inorganic items exist can be tricky, especially since we use wood in so many items. Even though I am not including tools in the organic side, technically tools made out of wood would be organic.

Doing this type of expedition could lead to a discussion about renewable and non-renewable resources. What did students find as they mined? If they were to wait a year and let the area repopulate, what would mining in that area be like? Would the iron ore return? Would the trees regrow?

The concept of biomes is still taught in biology classes. Perhaps instead of a contest, students could compare the organic items found in specific biomes. Notch actually did a good job of trying to get biomes to match their description. I did not grab the coordinates for a savannah, but there is also a savannah biome. The tiaga looks like a tiaga, and the forests have a different name than “deciduous” forest. I like how UCMP decided biome classifications, http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/glossary/gloss5/biome/. It turns out that MC has those 5 designations, too: aquatic, deserts, forests, grasslands, and tundra. (The frozen lands are like tundra.)

Even though this differentiation (organic vs inorganic) may seem very simple and not worth the time it would take to do the scavenger hunt, there may be other ways to use this activity to teach about organic or inorganic items, or the idea of scarcity. If you have ideas on how you can adapt this lesson to meet a teaching expectation, please share it with me.

Resources I looked at and may have used

Obviously the Minecraft Teachr video, .  Please note, YouTube gave me the wrong URL twice. This should be linked to part 2 of his introductory video. I have no idea why it sent me to other videos done by this person, but that is what was happening when I tried to put links in here.

How to work with water:


How to control minecarts:

I tried using switches to activate the redstone powered rails, but I could not get them to work. I ultimately decided to have the rails permanently turned on and powered to help the cart speed down the track. I wanted to have switches control the starting point because the minecarts would just spontaneously start rolling down the track. It did not matter if I was using a powered rail or a regular one- the carts liked to roll. I found this site: http://www.minecraftforum.net/forums/minecraft-discussion/discussion/135427-how-to-start-your-cart-even-with-minecart-boosters

The restraint idea came from that website and it is the only thing I have found to stop the Minecart from spontaneously rolling down the track. This is why the track needs to be reset if more than one person wants to visit the same place. Then again, you could just run down the track, but where’s the fun with that?

How to teleport

This took a couple days of looking at things- I found ideas from building my own transporter, which I tried to do only to learn that the 9 square crafting table I was using was not designed to make certain objects (maybe because it is version 1.7.10?). I eventually came across these websites:

This one told me how to acquire command blocks: http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Command_block

I had no problems acquiring the command blocks. The first time I tried to program them, they did not work so Dr. H. had to make some changes to the server. Please do not change the commands in the command blocks. I am hoping that feature is turned off when the world is open to students, but in case that gets overlooked, please don’ t mess with the locations.

Fortunately there are many helpful people who have answered questions about teleporting:





If you have any questions about how I figured out how to do something, just ask. I may have lost track of some of my bookmarked sites.

EDTECH 531: SL Building Basics

Video of objects

This video focuses on the objects I created.

Video of objects under dome

At first I made a huge dome and then started filling it with objects. The switching from in and outside the dome was starting to drive me crazy so I deleted the dome and made the rest of the objects I wanted inside the dome.

I enjoyed playing with the skewing of objects, but had more fun decorating them. At first I was using library images, which were amazing. Then I found the “local” option. So I resized some of my images and put them on different objects because I was curious how they would be displayed. I think the cylinder is my favorite.

After I had all the objects I wanted to create, I made another dome and positioned it over the objects, but still had the hollow cylinder (don’t know the real name of it) sticking through the dome. This was fun. I have no idea how people manage large builds or do things like the Smithsonian did.

EDTECH 531: VW Design for learning: tour

This is a quest I really want to do because it should help me not only figure out how to maneuver better in SL, but it should help me see how SL can be used for classroom situations.

I first tried NOAA, but is no longer in service. I then went to the International Space Station. Along the way I stopped off at the Smithsonian’s Dia de los muertos, which was absolutely amazing and beautiful.

I get to answer:

1.what you find engaging, what do you do, see, or experience there?

At first I was bored, but once I remembered I could get places by flying, it became more interesting. I did not figure out how to fly in a rocket, though. I looked for where the rockets or the shuttle may be launching, but all of the objects I found were static.  There was one display you can walk in and it was nifty because you could see inside the cockpit (for lack of a better word) of a shuttle (?).  I liked how they tried to illustrate the distance of planets from the sun. They had the distances marked off which reminded me that Sac State has the same type of thing on campus. They have marked of distances to represent a scale drawing of how far planets are from each other- the same thing was on the ground in the International Space Station area. There are a couple things I found odd, they kept saying they were not funded by NASA, but they seemed happy to use NASA images.  All NASA images are free b/c they are a gov’t agency, but it just seemed odd that they were asking for donations because this was not a NASA project. Another thing I found odd was the sign from the Exploratorium, which is a local science museum for me. I am pretty sure the Exploratorium did not make this website area.

2. what looks visually appealing, why?

Seeing the various rockets is interesting. They are displayed well so you can see the difference in sizes. The cherry blossom trees blooming in front of the school are pretty. The roses look similar to Minecraft roses.

3. what elements of the builds would you like to learn to create yourself?

I need to learn everything about the builds. How to mess with texture. How to add words to signs or the title of the building. I still need to learn how to walk around without getting motion sick. I want to learn how to walk smoothly through scenes. I like the science room, with the Geiger counter and all, but I have no clue what I was supposed to do with it.  Apparently they bought the desk because it thought I wanted to buy it.

EDTECH 531: Virtual Worlds and Reading Levels

I totally agree with the article, http://www.wired.com/2014/10/video-game-literacy/, because if there is an interest, kids (even everybody) will read. I can’t verify the reading levels they quoted in the article, but I would pretty much bet the online educational guide sites are written higher than a 4th grade reading level. The irony with me, however, is that I have been avoiding the wiki sites or anything that gives away real secrets. Yes I have consulted the crafting guides, but other than being able to make a bed, I don’t really know why I want wool. When I was building in crafting mode for my epic build, which I am still working on, wool came in handy to soak up the miniature river I created in the middle of my store, but otherwise I am not quite sure what to do with it.

I am still spending hours just mining, and am hoping it will get boring so I’ll stop. If anything, I am starting to become motivated to read about things I have not figured out on my own. Because I want to approach Minecraft as a way of experiencing the scientific method, I’m “testing” myself to see if the hypotheses I have been making are accurate. This means that I do the research by experimenting, however, a part of the scientific process includes doing research on published materials to help me understand what my data may mean. I think I am coming close to having to seek out the published data and figure out what I can do with the animals that spontaneously show up other than scare the begeebers out of them or in the case of sheep, shear their wool.

The article mentions the short stories that have been created by teenagers. I downloaded a few of them anticipating we may be asked to read them during this class. So far we have not  been asked to read one, but I may now that I have learned teenagers are writing these books. That is so cool! I keep telling myself to stop being lazy and write a book about something I know, not necessarily a Minecraft story, and here there are kids 1/4 to 1/3 my age already being published. Imagine having a student who you inspired to write Minecraft novellas being able to pay for college from what she earned by selling her books online. That would make me very happy.

EDTECH 531: Virtual Worlds and Their Inhabitants

I know I must come off as the crankiest person on Earth at times, but I am actually quite picky with my enthusiasm and what I am asked to do. At the moment, I’m in a quest that is asking me to analyze Chapter 2 of Communities of Play by Celia Pearce. The chapter is about virtual worlds and the characters that are in them.

At first I was excited that I’d have an opportunity to read some theory to go with all the Minecrafting I’ve been doing. After all, this is a course for graduate school. Well, I had forgotten my biases when reading published works. It drives me nuts to read something written by an author who is continuously quoting her own publications. Sure, rank up that citation count, why don’t you. Are there no other people who have found data to agree with yours? Is it because what you are doing is so new and novel nobody else has figured it out like you are able to?

So, my first negative impression was because I kept hearing “Pearce” as the citation. You see, if I can get Kindle to read to me, I do. I will also read along while it talks to me, but sometimes my eyes just don’t want to work so I listen. This is not the best chapter to listen to if you don’t want to hear the same person being cited repeatedly. Now that I can be more focused with my reading, I need to rescind this impression. She does a good job of gathering several citations that go beyond her name.

My second negative impression is using the words ludisphere and paidiaic. I’ve heard the words luddite and pedantic before. Are they related to these “new” words? I actually had to run a Google search on the words so I could get a clue what they mean. As brilliant as Pearce is, I did not find a dime store explanation of these words. That is not to say it wasn’t there. It is saying I did not decipher it. Fortunately, Rob MacDougall blogged about this in May, 2010. http://www.robmacdougall.org/blog/2010/05/toys-not-games/

He defines ludus and paidia in a way that makes sense to me! Thank you Mr. MacDougall. Simply put, ludus are serious situations where when in such a situation, a sense of humor is not necessarily an asset. Paidia, on the other hand, concerns that sense of humor. If the situation is or can be frivolous, then it has paidia characteristics.

Now that I understand this part, maybe I will be able to actually do the quest I have been asked to complete.

I made a set of slides in ppt because I was going to just submit that for the quest. Unfortunately I am required to make a video. So I used 4 of the slides and what was supposed to be a 3 min video became 7 min. I’m must not psyched to make a video at the moment. Last night I made the slides thinking I’d do the recording today. Silly me, I forgot I’m a pinhead on Tuesday nights so wearing a headset to talk is less than comfortable.

Communities of Play

truncated slide show community of play


The 7 min video with my babbling.