Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Blog Search and Review (Mining the Web Project #2)

What I learned from the Flipped Classroom Resources on Mrs. Parker Ponders:

I found the articles and blog entries that we were asked to read, to be helpful starting points when deciding whether or not to "flip" your classroom.  I thought that the Pro and Con blog entry from edutopia was very helpful in that just like any lesson, there will be positives and setbacks that can occur.  I learned that you definitely need to have a solid reason behind why you would flip your classroom and that you also need to understand how much time is going to be involved in creating your videos, editing them, and posting them to make available to students.

I found the videos to be much more meaningful for me, just because I am a much more visual learner.  The second video "I flip, you flip, we all flip" video was by far the most comprehensive and useful video I've seen to help someone flip their classroom.  The speaker talks you through examples of why a person might want to partially or completely flip their classroom, shows you some of the equipment that you can start off with, and even how to do some basic video and green screen editing.  I've been wanting to do some flipped classroom lessons, and this is a video that I'm probably going to watch a couple of times, just because I thought it was so well done, and I enjoy the energy and passion that the speaker presented to the audience.

Blog Articles Researched:

  • http://www.edutopia.org/blog/5-tips-flipping-pbl-classroom-andrew-miller
  • http://www.edutopia.org/blog/rethinking-the-flipped-classroom-idit-harel-caperton
What I learned from the blogs that I researched:

I chose the first blog because I mainly teach in a Project Based Learning approach.  Nearly everything I teach is to create a final product.  I wanted to see if there were any differences in flipping a classroom for a PBL class, but a lot of what I read would apply to most flipped classroom concepts.  You should be making shorter and more descriptive videos, making your activities collaborative, and keeping the product at the center of attention throughout all of the learning activities.

I chose the second blog entry because I always like to hear the counter argument for a teaching strategy and what "flipping" a classroom is not.  This blog brings up a lot of good points that make you think exactly about why you are wanting to flip your classroom.  Is it because you are trying to provide the same learning in several different formats and for learners of different abilities, or are you simply trying to hide behind the screen and make your students watch videos instead of having you demonstrating concepts.  Are you trying to use technology in the classroom just for the sake of technology, or is the technology actually bringing you enhanced learning opportunities that you otherwise wouldn't have?  These are all good questions that any teacher should be asking themselves prior to deciding whether or not they are going to flip their classroom and what they are wanting their students to accomplish.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mining the Web Project - Gamification in the Classroom RWLD

Mining the Web
Executive Summary

Facilitators and Important Dates:

  1. Facilitators:
    1. Jeremy Cooper Email:  jcooper@uni.edu
    2. Ian Hubrig Email:  iwh@uni.edu

  1. Important Dates:
    1. Introduction of Mining the Web Activities:  Wednesday, February 26th
    2. Initial Voicethread Discussion Post:   Due Sunday, February 29th
     c.   Blackboard Discussion Participation and Blog:  Due Tuesday, March 4th
Background and Introduction:

Gamification is the notion of applying aspects of gaming to life and classroom learning.  It relies on extrinsic and intrinsic motivators to encourage participants to engage in a type of discovery learning.  Gamification can use rewards and badges, provide multiple points of engagement, and provide a digital social atmosphere.   
Through this Mining the Web activity, you are going to have the opportunity to learn about several key elements of how to add gamification elements to various subject areas, reflect upon your learning in various formats, and actually participate in a couple of different gamified learning experiences.  Each of these activities will require you to reflect upon your experiences using provided links, discussion boards, and blogging tools within either Voicethread or Blackboard.

Prepare for the Activities:

  1. Create a free account for Voicethread, Duolingo, and Codecademy.
  2. Watch the following Ted Talks video called, “7 Ways Games Reward the Brain.”
    1. After watching the video, go to Voicethread and record a short summary of what you learned in the Ted Talks video, and any reactions you had to the speaker.
  3. Read the following articles and respond to the corresponding Blackboard Discussion Link.
      1. Blackboard Discussion - Go to the Distance Education "Mining the Web Project Folder" and find the forum discussion called "Mining the Web: Gamification Discussion"
  4. Works Cited:

Brunsell, E., & Horejsi, M. (2013). Designing Your Course Like a Video Game. Science
            Teacher, 80(7), 8.

Gamification Activities (Site Exploration):
  1. Go to Duolingo and choose a language to learn during this activity.  You are to either work through Level 1 of your selected language, or participate in the activity for a total of 30 minutes.
    1. As you progress you will be awarded various achievements while working at your own pace with your selected language.
    2. While progressing through the first level of your selected language, you will have four hearts.  If you make a critical error during your activities, you will lose one heart.  If you run out of hearts during your Level 1 activities, you will have to start the level over again.

  1. Go to Codecademy and begin working through the HTML and CSS coding lessons using the given instructions.  You are being asked to participate and progress as far as you can in a single 20 minute session.
    1. As you progress you will be awarded various badges while working at your own pace through the coding lessons.  These badges will document your progress through the coding lessons.

Gamification Post Activity Discussion:

  1. Duolingo Activity
    1. Using the provided Blackboard Blog link, blog about your progress through the Duolingo Activity.  Blog discussion can include, but is not limited to; your progress through the lesson, how gamification is being used in this activity to promote or engage the learner, and any successes or challenges you faced while completing this activity.

  1. Codecademy Activity
    1. Using the provided Blackboard Blog link, blog about your progress through the Codecademy Activity.  Blog discussion can include, but is not limited to; your progress through the lesson, how gamification is being used in this activity to promote or engage the learner, and any successes or challenges you faced while completing this activity.

Blackboard Blog Link for Duolingo and Codecademy: Go to the Mining the Web Project Folder and post your blog entry in the Gamification Blog.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Internet Search Activity

Hello Everyone,

Below I am going to be completing the requirements for my "Internet Search Activity" for the Distance Education course.  We have been asked to compare two different search engines who are in the top 10 most used, that aren't Google.  I have chosen to compare the results of "Duck Duck Go" (6th Place) and "Scrub the Web" (7th Place).  I decided to use the search term "Gamification" because it is a subject that I'm very interested in my Masters program.  Below I have documented my search process.

Duck Duck Go
A very simple website design.

I searched the term "Gamification" and below you can see the top results of my query.

Scrub the Web

I searched the same term, "Gamification," just like in my previous search using Duck Duck Go.
Apparently I have to prove that I'm not a robot to search a term.

Analysis of Search
After completing my search using both "Duck Duck Go" and "Scrub the Web" I ended up with completely different results from both search engines.  I also felt that the user experience was completely different while using the two search engines and I can see why Google utilizes the technologies that it does in sorting out search results.

Duck Duck Go was a very easy to use website where it was completely obvious where I was supposed to place my search terms.  The search results popped up very quickly with no lag time.  The top 10 results were from different webpages, which included; various wikis, organization sites, companies, and news articles.  The other interesting element is that the search results were on an infinite scroll list, meaning that as I scrolled down, more and more results appeared without having to click anything.

Scrub the Web was a completely different user experience for me and I didn't end up with very good search results, in my own opinion of course.  I will be honest in that it was my first time using the search engine and I had to look around the webpage for about a minute or so before I even realized where to place my search term.  There was so much stuff on the main page that I felt like I was being distracted by news updates, poor layout, member sign ins, and site searches.  The other aggravating element of this search was that I had to prove that I wasn't a robot by typing a random set of letters and numbers.  I'm not and never have been a fan of this method of user authentication.  My results, the important part of all of this, were very interesting.  I did not end up with a single carry over from the top 10 list that Duck Duck Go generated.  The other element that was interesting was that 3/10 results came from the same website and were just different pages on that webpage.  To me, this did not give the kind of results I would be looking for when beginning a search.

Out of the two search engines, I would maybe return to Duck Duck Go in the future, however I could not see myself returning to Scrub the Web.  Again, all of this is in my own opinion and experience and neither gave me results that would change my behavior right now in using Google for my searches.

Boolean Search
What is the difference between synchronous and asynchronous learning environments?

University that provides an answer to the above question:  University of Northern Iowa - Rod Library

Non-scholarly website that provides an answer to the above question:  Mindflash

I found that using the Boolean method of searching, provided me with better search results.  Better yet, using a peer reviewed article/book/resource search engine such as UNISTAR gave me peer reviewed results.  This is something that I will try to engrain into my behavior when I use various search engines in the future.

Thank you for reading my blog post, let me hear your feedback in my comments!

Jeremy Cooper

Murat, O., Daniel, Z., Clare, B., & Jim, H. (n.d). Exploring asynchronous and synchronous tool use in online courses. Computers & Education, 6087-94. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.08.007

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What does a Technology Coordinator do? - Analysis of initial perception and post-interview

Hello everyone!

I'm am currently taking a course at the University of Northern Iowa called "Coordinating Technology in an Educational Setting."  This past week, I was asked to create a mind map using an online tool called Mindmeister, to create a mind map of what I thought a Technology Coordinator does in their job.  Below you will see the mind map that I initially created regarding my thoughts on what a Technology Coordinator does in their daily job duties, as well as my thoughts on what their initial job description probably required.

What does a Technology Coordinator do?  Pre-Interview:
Pre-Interview Mind Map created using Mindmeister
You can see that I divided my initial thoughts into three different categories; Administation, Maintenance, and Support.  What I initially really concentrated on was what I believed a Technology Coordinator's job description would include.  I thought that most Technology Coordinators were probably in a position where they would make more large scale, visionary like decisions for the district and then delegate everything else to technicians and support staff.  I would find out later that my initial thoughts on what a Technology Coordinator does as apart of their job was very simplistic to what they are actually expected to do.

For my interview, I chose to interview the Technology Director within my school district.  This school district is in a western suburb of Des Moines, IA and it is currently quickly expanding.  The district has over 1000 staff and approximately 9000 students throughout it's K-12 grade levels.  Below you will find my interview transcribed, as well as my Post-Interview Mind Map.  It was an extremely enjoyable interview, where I learned just how much I didn't know about the role of a Technology Coordinator.  I also liked the interview because of how upbeat, happy, and humorous this Technology Coordinator was about his job.  I can see that there is a lot of work involved, but as long as you find ways to have fun in the job, it can be very enjoyable.

Highlights from an interview by Jeremy Cooper with a Technology Coordinator in a growing Des Moines, IA suburb school district, conducted on 1/23/14.

How long have you been a technology coordinator?
I have been the Director of Technology for this school district since December 2011.  Prior to that I was the Server Administrator in the same district.  I also have had previous experience as an Executive Director of Software Development at a Des Moines,IA based software firm.

What do you envision as your primary role in your position?
To lead a team to provide the structure that the District needs to meet the technology needs for now and in the future for nearly 1000 staff and 9000 students.

What are your duties and responsibilities as a Technology Coordinator?
Everything to do with technology needs in the district.  There are many faces to the responsibilities.  Computers, servers, networking, wireless, email communications, social networking tools, phone systems, cloud services of many types, web and internet systems, internet filtering, video and audio systems, working with local businesses that provide technology services, and planning technology needs for new school buildings.  All of the needs listed come from the needs of all departments, staff, and students as well as working with all the external businesses having to do with technology.

Have your duties and responsibilities changed from your original job description?
We are a constantly growing district and changes are becoming very common.  The world of technology is one of the fastest changing fields we experience.  A director of technology has to be open to change, and has to always keep up with these changes and how they will impact each school, and how each classroom will be able to use new technology.  The staff of teachers always come up with new ways in which to integrate technology and it is my job to help support these changes to the best of my ability.

What sort of assistance do you receive in doing your job?
Our technology department receives a lot of support in terms of helping me develop the annual technology budget and processing the necessary paperwork to keep everything moving along.  I also receive a lot of support my technical staff and our teachers in resolving issues and challenges within the district in regards to technology.  Our staff does an excellent job of working through problems quickly and efficiently, acting very patiently even when things do not immediately work as it was intended.  We are always learning and working together.

What parts of the job do you really enjoy?
Seeing the successes we achieve with my team in both big and small projects.  There are many challenges to overcome in this kind of job position and there is always some kind of a project going on.  I also like seeing the technology work to make a difference in the classroom.  Celebrate the large and small victories!

What parts of the job would you rather have someone else do?
Interviews.  (Just kidding)

If you could restructure your position and responsibilities, how would you do it?
Find more time in which I could be creative.  I would also like to have more time, so perhaps working on a time machine.

What words of wisdom do you have for successfully Coordinating Technology in an Educational Setting?
Listen carefully to the needs of the people you are serving and ask questions to understand what the best possible solutions are.  Always remember, even though most of the communication you have is with staff members, everything you do is for the students and for the staff to help the students learn.  They are why we all work so hard.  Learn to talk to people at a level they will understand.  IT people tend to talk using technology jargon, normal people don't do that.  Try to enjoy your job!  We work long hours and long weeks, celebrate your successes.

Post-Interview Mind Map of what a Technology Coordinator does:
Mind Map created using Mindmeister

After completing my post-interview mind map, my initial realization is just how much I didn't know about the role of a Technology Coordinator.  There are so many responsibilities and duties that I did not consider when I made my initial mind map.  I did not realize that this kind of a job position requires an enormous investment of the individual's time, and it involves constantly making decisions that effect the district and all of the staff and students within it.  I became more aware of the small detailed jobs and projects that come along with being a Technology Coordinator, it isn't simply just making large decisions and delegating all the support and maintenance challenges.  I also did not realize that there was so much collaboration and team work involved within the position and that the job description seems to change annually as more responsibilities are constantly added.

After completing this activity, I learned that it can be very insightful, interesting, and fun to get to know what the leadership positions within a school district really require.  As a teacher, I had a good understanding of the Technology Coordinator's job from a teacher perspective, but I had no idea how they viewed the job from their side.  They simply have way more responsibilities and duties than I could have ever imagined, and now I have an enlightened appreciation for the role they play within the district and their impact on staff and students.  Thank you for reading my interview and viewing my mind maps, I look forward to any feedback!

~Jeremy Cooper

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gamification - Using Second Life: Taking a Tour

For Quest #5 of my Second Life gamification experience, I chose to follow the "Games of SL" tour.  It took me to many different locations, that all revolved around the idea of being able to play games within the game of Second Life.  My favorite place on the tour was the Center for Games and Simulations, as it had some information within it that was interesting to me, and it also seemed to be the most up-to-date.  Frootcake is another location that I spent a lot of time in and took a lot of pictures of some of the different areas in which you could participate.  Most of the games required a large group, so I was only able to interact with a few of the games designed for small groups.  I participated in a few of the games with another student in class, Ian.  You can see some pictures of my tour down below as I went to all of these different locations listed in the tour.  I can see where this would be a fun way to take a class on a trip around different creations and see what they think about the various locations and the items within the world.  It's also kind of fun to explore the idea of a "game within a game."  It makes you think very introspectively about how the actual game world works, if you were to go and design a game or world for this Second Life Platform.  I would say the biggest downsides of my tour as I went through, was that many of the locations didn't work anymore, or had been drastically changed from their original intent when the tour was created.  I also ran into a lot of locations not allowing me in because I wasn't on the person's "Access List."  Even with a few shortfalls, it was still interesting to see how you can link locations together and distribute them from a list.

Gamification - Second Life: Changing Avatar Clothes and Appearance

Here are the Before and After Results of Changing my Characters Clothes and Appearance



Gamification - Using Second Life: Exploring Lionheart Orientation Island

Gamification - Using Second Life: Exploring Lionheart Orientation Island

I started my next adventure in Gamification, by using Second Life and exploring the Lionheart Orientation Island.  Lionheart Orientation Island is essentially a tutorial location that walks you through a structure that has lots of areas with information regarding the basics of Second Life.  There were fairly indepth explanations for things like Navigation, Appearance, Gestures, The Library, Lost and Found, etc.   Basically if you are new to the game, this is a good way to understand many of the basic commands, some of the Second Life jargon, and even how to do a few advanced commands.  I also discovered that it is possible for certain locations to lock out some of your commands.  For example, I've pretty much used the ability to fly so far to get around locations much faster, however in the actual structure of Lionheart Island, I was unable to fly.  Stay tuned as I continue through our 3D Gamelab Quest in exploring Gamification.