The road so far…How my point of view has changed from the beginning to the end of this course

MAn looking at he sunset Words: If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change Wayner Dyer

Made on Pixlr Original picture “Point of View” ” CC0

Something to think about

Our need for knowledge can change based on our point of view or on the completeness of the information available to us.   Over the length of this class and even within each module, my point of view regarding Webpage technologies has changed and morphed into a more well-rounded and informed outlook.

In terms of evaluating various sites on the Internet,  the point of view of a college student researching a term paper is very different from the point of view of a  mom-to-be looking for ideas for decorating a nursery. Both users can find what they need on the web, but the criteria that they use to evaluate the website varies.  For the purpose of this blog entry, I am going to focus on the academic side of evaluating websites.

Evaluating websites

After reviewing numerous resources about how to properly evaluate a website, I find myself much more skeptical when surfing the web. I always knew that trusting information from Wiki sites was not the best idea, especially for research purposes, but I had not realized how many other components should be evaluated before considering a site to be reliable.

The model presented by Jim Kapoun. 5 criteria for evaluating websites, seemed to make the most sense to me. Kapoun suggests looking at a website for:

  1.  Accuracy
  2. Authority
  3. Objectivity
  4. Currency
  5. Coverage

If a website can pass these 5 “tests” then there is a pretty good chance you have found a viable research source. I actually wish I had known about this theory long ago, instead of in my LAST Master’s class.

One of our assignments was to make a mock training module on how to evaluate a website and I based it on the Kapoun theory.

screenshot of my weebly site for evaluating websiites

Screenshot of my Weebly site for evaluating websites

 

Take a look at my Weebly site for more in-depth information on this topic.

 

 

 

As far as what I  would like to add to this module, I think that more concrete examples or materials would be helpful to understand this abstract concept . A chart about what to look for in evaluating various sites or a screen cast of how a site meets (or does not meet) criteria, may be helpful. Or maybe even a worksheet, like this one from Pulaski technical College to make sure all points of evaluation are explored.

screenshot of a worksheet from Pulaski Technical college on website evaluation

worksheet screenshot  from Pulaski Technical College

Reflection on the course

“Webpage Technologies” has been very eye-opening for me. It has allowed me to take textbook knowledge and apply it to the Digital World through blogging, website creating, coding and more.

While I have connected with many of the topics covered, The section on coding had the biggest impact

I had almost zero experience with this idea of Coding. I heard about the Hour of Code and had seen referenced in articles, but I never had the hands-on experience before this class.

As a math geek, it was like lightning in a bottle. I was immediately attracted to the order, the structure and the language,  It was like algebra in text form. I love the fact that a specific line of code creates a specific outcome. Only one right answer. If it didn’t work, then you find the problem and fix it.

Very mathematical.

I’m hooked.

And pretty amazed at the fact that the entire Internet is nothing more than a gigantic series of codes strung together seamlessly.  I was taking the technology for granted.

I would have like more of an opportunity to integrate coding into the projects of this class. But not to worry, I am pretty sure that I will be doing some more research on my own this summer.

Application

My students have multiple disabilities. It is very difficult for them to access the web on their own, no matter what adaptations they have. However, they can provide directions, use partial participation, sequence and make decisions. So, I can see a place for coding in my class.

In fact, I have just been able to purchase 2 Sphero robots and accessories to start a little Robotics group in my class. I am hopeful that it will provide my students with the motivation they need to work on their skills through cutting-edge technology.

I envision races, mazes, scavenger hunts and much more!

I also took the opportunity to apply some of the accessibility guidelines to the website of my own school. Surprisingly, as a school for students with multiple disabilities, we need to improve  tremendously, in just about every category. Hopefully I can address that with the powers that be soon.

 

 

 

Advertisements

mLearning: Rethinking the use of Mobile Technology in the Classroom

So, what is mLearning?

According to the MacMillian Dictionary, Mobile Learning or mLearning refers to any learning that takes place via a portable, electronic device such as:

  • Tablets (iPads)
  • Smartphones
  • Netbooks
  • E-readers

Why use of mLearning in the classroom ?

1. Mobile Devices are convenient, portable and easy to use.

Today, most children know how to use a smart phone and a tablet before they know how to tie their shoes.

2. Cost

Compared to their desktop counterparts, mobile devices have become relatively inexpensive. A dedicated e-reader can cost under $50

3. Creativity,  innovation and excitement

Mobile device are motivating and engaging. Students become more involved in the learning process and active participants in their education. Enrichment opportunities are endless,. Think about these ideas:

4. Accessibility for all

Mobile Devices are accessible to all learners regardless of mLearning differences or educational needs.  In my classroom, 4 of the 7 students use iPad apps to communicate. My students are  non-verbal, non-readers and without this mobile technology, their options for expression are severely limited. The apps range in price and complexity, but they all give the power of speech back to the student.

  • One of my  student’s is also hearing impaired. He  uses the app ProLoQuo2go (P2Go).  It allows him to express his opinions, needs, feelings and responses by touching a pre-programmed button containing a familiar icon. When he chooses the message he wants to say, the button animates for a moment so that he knows it has been activated, even though he can not hear the message. The other day, he  put 3 icons together for the 1st time to ask me to play a game with him.
    • “Regina + Bowling + me” was the most beautiful sentence I have ever heard.
    • That is the power of Mobile technology

What should your website look like to be an effective mobile learning resource?

In addition to educational apps and access to mobile devices, any website can be an effective mLearning tool if certain rules are followed, according to bloggers

  • Concentrate important content in the center of the screen. Your eyes scan that areas first
  • Focus on images over text to convey your message quickly.
  • Use strong headlines, short paragraphs and easy to understand language. Basically Keep It Simple
  • Start with your most interesting information first. Attention grabbers keep viewers reading

Find more information on these mobile copy writing tips at:

The Content Marketing Institute

Ecoconsultancy

Moving from the computer to a mobile device

Finally, I took a look at this site a few other blogs I follow on my tablet. I was pleasantly surprised to see that WordPress seems to translate pretty well from computer screen to mobile device.  I was a little disappointed that my header image could not be viewed in its entirety, but I did not notice any other issues in going between devices. The sites remained easy to navigate and read.

Well, it appear that the mobile-friendly trend is here to stay. It is time to embrace and welcome the new educational opportunities that come along with it.

 

 

Coding 101: Teaching computer programming in the classroom

Trends in education

I often compare the field of education, especially my own small school community, to a roller coaster. A new idea or theory comes along and everyone hops in the front seat and charges to the top of the highest peak.

Excitement.

Nervousness,

Energy,

Maybe a little bit of pride.

They teeter at the top for a short while and then the bottom drops out. After a few moments of enjoying the free fall, many get sick of the ride. Some want to get off. Some hold out to the end. A few die-hards want to have another go. Then the next mega coaster opens up and we start all over again.

That is what often happens in education. We charge ahead full steam when a new idea comes on the scene. We put all of our time and effort into making it work. Then for one reason or another.

Lack of funding. Lack of results. Lack of resources.

These ideas fizzle out and we are back to the drawing board on how to invigorate our students and ourselves. Waiting for something that will stick.

After doing some research, I think the push to teach coding may just be different. At least, I hope it is.

What is Coding?

Coding is basically computer programming. Lines of code become a set of instructions that a computer can translate into actions. There are different types of coding styles, but all have the same purpose: To  provide directions for a computer to carry out a task. Apps. Google. FaceBook. This Blog. All work because someone coded them to do so.

Before this week, I had absolutely no experience with coding. I kind of knew what it was,  but I never tried any of it. Now, I get it. It is a whole new language and I can’t wait to become more fluent in it.

Coding in the Classroom

We are a technology-based society. My nephew knew how to swipe on his mom’s cell phone before he could speak a full sentence. He is now 4 years old and just taught my 80 year old dad how to use Skype – over the phone.

Technology is here to stay. If we plan to compete in the ever-changing digital marketplace, then we have the obligation to teach our children the skills that they need to be successful.  Knowing how technology works and how to create it is just as important as knowing how to use it.

Advantages of Teaching Coding

There are many advantages to teaching coding in the classroom, to students as early as kindergarten:

  • Supply and Demand: The field of Computer Science is skyrocketing, but the number of students graduating with the proper degree is not keeping up with the need.  We have to keep up with the technology needs
  • Coding teaches students:
    • Problem solving strategies
    • Analysis skills
    • Creativity
    • Logic Skills
  • Coding cant be taught in a variety of levels so that students of all ages and abilities can actively participate in the process
  • Coding can be taught across the curriculum in almost any subjects

Concerns with the Coding Trend

Just as there are not enough students to cover the projected job spike in Computer Programming jobs, there are also not enough teachers who are qualified to teach coding in the classroom.  Free training programs are available to help teachers learn code basics  such as workshops on Code.org

Awesome Coding ideas for any classroom

1. Hour of Code

Hour of Code is a global movement that provides a one hour introduction to computer science through a variety of online tutorials. It takes place every year during Computer Science Education Week.

2. Coding Robots

I attended the annual NJ Council For Exceptional Children Conference this year. One workshop demonstrated the use of 2 types of code-able robots that I have actually just ordered for my classroom! I can’t wait to try them out in September. These robots will allow students of different skill levels and physical abilities to try the process of Coding.

Ozobots
Sphero

Additional resources on coding

Keep Calm and Code on

To gain some experience with coding in HTML format, I created  a Remix project using Mozilla’s Thimble Editor I have also included a screen capture of the image below:

I have heard of coding, but I have had absolutely no experience with it before this assignment.

So, for my remix, I choose the Keep Calm tutorial and decided to create a fun meme instead of something for my classroom.  My students have multiple handicaps and are non-readers. This poster would not be meaningful to them, but I had so much fun creating it.

One of my favorite TV shows is Supernatural. The fan appointed theme song is Carry on My Wayward Son by Kansas. I found a licensed image of one of the show’s logos. I added the additional text and made the bottom italicized. I also changed the colors, sizing and background. Finally I added alt text.

Now that I have learned a bit about coding, I love it.

It is amazing how all of those lines of code come together instantaneously to create a cohesive web page.  This assignment was extremely helpful to me. I never realized just how much work goes into creating a simple page from scratch.  After using programs like Word Press or Weebly, the idea of starting from a blank space was an eye-opening experience. No templates. No dashboards. No menus. The user has to know the digital vocabulary for every  line, image and link.

I can definitely see how the idea of coding would be beneficial in most classrooms. It teaches the importance of concentrating on the creative process over the finished product. That is a hard concept to teach. A basic introduction to coding also shows the user the amount of work, time and knowledge that is required to create a even the simplest of webpages.

The Wonderful World of Video

Gray background image stating that 69% of all consumer internet traffic will consist of video by 2017

Made on Canva.com Statistic from Cisco.com

Green background with hourglass watermark stating that By 2020, it will take a person over 5million years to watch all of the video on global networks

Created on Canva.com Statistic from Cisco.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The statistics in the images above are from Cisco, a US networking company.

Amazing and maybe just a little scary.

In the span of a few years, we have gone from waiting endlessly to accessing bits and pieces of information via a dial-up phone connection on America Online to streaming live video instantly to millions of viewers on a mobile phone apps like Periscope.

And the avalanche of videos is not ending there. In fact, I think that this is just beginning.

Let’s think about why the popularity and use of videos on websites is skyrocketing

According to  the Guardian and Sleepless Media,

  1. Video satisfies the information and entertainment needs of the viewers immediately. Instant gratification
  2. Video is naturally engaging for viewers. The more interested a viewer becomes, the longer they stay on a site.
  3. Video is interactive and informative. It is easy to create, share and edit through social media and mobile apps
  4.  Video conveys emotion and tome that do not come across in text
  5. Video has unlimited reach and potential. YouTube is the 2nd most popular search engine on the Internet. Only Facebook tops that!
  6. Even your Google ranking improves with t he use of videos. It  good for on-line business
Does the use of video have its limits on the web?

Absolutely.

  • Video links are often broken and must be checked regularly if you plan to use a clip at a different time
  • Depending on the speed of your internet connection, videos can have slow load times, making viewers eager to move on to a different site.
  • Not all videos play on all media devices. For example, Apple products do not support Flash.
How can you use videos in the classroom?

Here are a few ideas, as suggested by the National Teacher Training Institute from Thirteen.org

  • Virtual field trips. This year, I took my students on a virtual trip through Native American history and had a cool Skype session with some awesome historians too.
  • Illustrate concepts in 3D like how blood pumps through the heart.
  • Show experiments that can’t be completed in class

This video shows a few more suggestions

 

My preference?

I am a visual learner. I learn much faster and completely when I can see how to do something instead of just read about it or listen to someone describe it. To learn how to add closed caption to a YouTube video that i made, I did not look up step by step directions a, I Googled a How-to video and understood the process in 3.5 minutes. Done. I could pause, stop. rewind or replay the video as many times as I needed. I bookmarked the video in my favorites so that I could access it again anytime.  The availability of video makes my life easier and learning more interesting.

A video tutorial for Tagul.com

Using screencast-o-matic.com, I created a short video tutorial on how to use the website Tagul.com to create a word cloud.

My learning objectives for this Tutorial were:

By the end of the video tutorial, the viewer will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate how to add 10 words to the text boxes
  2. Format the words into a visually appealing word cloud
  3. Download and share their creation via email
  4.  Identify 2 ways they could use Tagul.com in the future

After uploading the video to YouTube, I used the video manager to create closed captioning and subtitles for my video. I simply cut and paste Transcript of the Tagul video tutorial into the appropriate box and Viola! YouTube set up all the times and placed the subtitles in the correct location.

 

Creative Commons: To share or not to share…tough question

 

crative commons logo. Black letters spelling out creative commons on a white background. THe letters cc on a circle areplaced on the left side of the words

The Creative Commons logo by John Randell is licensed under public domain

Give credit where credit is due – Proverb

Picture this:

You saved a really cute image from Twitter on your phone only to tweet it out in a new post days or even months later. Did you remember to record where you got the picture from originally? Did you credit the original author? Did you happen to alter the image a bit before sending it back out in to cyberspace? Did a bunch of strangers virtually chastise you for forgetting to do so?

Yup, me too.

I try not to do that anymore…mostly.

During one of my classes in grad school, I stumbled across the usage rights tab in the search tools of Google. There were lots of options for filtering which images could be used for what.  At the time, none of them made sense to me, and I pretty much used what I wanted. I now know that was not the best choice.

This is where Creative Commons comes in.

This non-profit organization with a simple Mission Statement

“Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.”

And a simple vision

“Our vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.”

Basically, this organization wants to “save the world from failed sharing”.

Check out this video for more information:

Copyright laws were created well before the invention of the Internet. Back then, creative works were much easier to share, track, credit and monitor. The reach of the print media was small, to say the least.

Then came Google. And Twitter. And Instagram. Just to name a few.

Social media and the Internet have turned our ideas of sharing an image on its head. Today, a single image can circumnavigate the globe in minutes. Almost instantaneously, a user can download, modify and share a post without giving any thought to the wishes of the original author.

Anyone with a decent Wi-Fi connection can:

  • Turn a grouchy looking cat into a viral meme
  • Put their nephews head on Bob the Builders body
  • Use a cool ocean photo as the header of their new blog, hmm

Research and honor the copyright requests of the creators before any modification occurs. It is the responsibility of the end user to be aware of the licenses and limitations.

Only by respecting the wishes of the original authors can we ensure that Universal Access to images online continues to flourish. By retaining control over their creations, authors are more likely to share their works in the future.

Publishing my own works

At the same time, I firmly believe that I would publish my own original works under a creative commons license. Creativity is encouraged and can even flourish through a shared culture where all users respect the rights of each other.

I don’t think that I would allow my works to be used without restriction. Since all derivatives of a work can be traced back to the original author, I would want to make sure that any modifications or other uses would not be harmful to my reputation in the future. That balance may be hard to find when putting anything out into cyberspace.

So, in the end,

Let your creative juice flow

But…

Give credit where credit is due

And then…

Share and share alike. Pay it forward. Carefully.

I think that’s enough clichés for one post, right?

Reference:

Blog Banner Building

The banner for this blog was created via Pixlr Editor and Pixlr Express. Take a look at the Pixlr official site for all sorts of cool, free tools and effects for images.

Choosing the right image

The original image shown below was discovered using Google Images search tools. Specifically the Usage Rights tool that searched for images “labeled for reuse with modification” The original image can be found on Pixabay.com.

Before I explain my banner creation process, I should explain, for the record, that I have a bit of a thing for dolphins. Love ’em -always have. So that fact that one ended up in a blog about blogging is no surprise to me.

Now, this is really my first full-out blog. I thought long and hard about what to name it and what image to use in order to welcome the readers . I decided on the ocean picture for 3 reasons:

  1. I felt like I jumped into the deep end of the pool- head first.To blog appropriately, a lot of information has to be ingested, quickly. Sink or Swim.
  2. I am also a self-professed beach bum.I do live in Jersey….
  3. The Internet seems as vast and deep as the ocean – and I have only explored about 1%.

So the aquatic theme seemed to fit.

Image of a single dolphin swimming in the deep ocean with the part of the body and dorsal fin above water.

“Free Stock Photo: Dolphin, Ocean Sea” by FitMum from Pixabay licensed by CC 0

Editing the Image

After I opened the chosen image in the Pixlr Editor, I cropped it to the correct size for the blog theme.  Saved it again

I opened the newly sized image in Pixlr Express and applied the following tools:

  • Effects >>> Subtle >>> Ingrid: Changed the coloring and intensity of the image
  • Border>>>Rounded Corner>>> Brave:Lowered the visibility of the effect to about 40%
  • Type>>>Added and positioned 2 text boxes for the title and taglines

The Creative Process

I most likely spent a whole lot more time on the creation of this banner than I should have. It was fun but also a lot more complicated than I expected. Having to find the perfect image within the constraints of the usage rights puts serious limits on creativity. There were very few appropriate images that were also legal to modify. However, this process also ensures that the image owners get full credit over their pictures.

Accessibility Matters

I take my abilities for granted.

I do.

Since I do not need much on the way of assistive technology to get on the Internet, I often forget about those who do not have the luxury to do things like pay their nearly-overdue Target bill online or watch the viral YouTube video of the little girl telling her dad to “Worry about yourself”. (If you have not seen it, take the 47 seconds and watch the cuteness. That dad is going to be in so much trouble for posting this when she turns 16, by the way.)

Now, while that while the video is adorable, it is also pretty non-complaint by today’s accessibility standards. There is no full transcript attached.  No functional closed captioning.  No alt text that I can find. But it went wildly viral and has over 8 million views. How many of those hits could have been from people with disabilities? How many more views would it have received if it were more accessible?

I was finally able to find a transcript of the video on another site and added to it a bit  for clarity.

Transcript worry about yourself

As a teacher for students with significant multiple disabilities, I know it is nearly impossible for most of my students to independently watch the clip you just accessed in mere seconds. They would not be able to locate it, play it, share it or “like” it without my hands-on assistance.

My students are on the extreme end of the disabilities spectrum. But, web access for anyone with a disability can quickly develop into a time-consuming and expensive process, even for those with the mildest of impairments. The web was not created with universal access in mind.  It is time to change that.

OK, web accessibility is fine, but why should we care?
  • Access to the web can improve people’s lives, providing new opportunities and services available only on the web
  • Accessibility leads to active participation in the world around us
  • Users are given more independence and opportunities to make significant contributions
  • It makes good business sense. More online users = more consumers
  • Accessible website benefit everyone, not just those with a disability.
  • It is the law.

Video: Web Accessibility Matters: Why we should care

Universal web accessibility should not be a privilege for those without disabilities. Web access should not be based on your ability to navigate a mouse or log in with a keyboard. Everyone with the desire to access the web should be able to find information, participate in social media or order a dog umbrella from Groupon for $9.99.  Real thing, I swear.

It’s the 21st Century.

The Age of Technology.

We cannot allow anyone to be left behind due to a disability, when we have the tools to prevent it.

What types of tools am I talking about?

Here are just a few examples:

For users with visual impairments

  • Screen readers
  • Enlarged print options
  • Alt text on images

For users with hearing impairments:

  • Closed Captioning
  • Written transcripts for videos

For users with physical impairments:

  • Voice recognition software (text-to-speech)
  • Assistive technology devices

For users with cognitive or multiple impairments

  • Alternative and augmentative communication devices (AAC)
  • Word prediction software
How can we promote an inclusive web environment?
  1. Follow the law
  1. Do some research
  • Make your own blogs more accessible
  • Check out if your favorite website measure up to the required standards by using free accessibility checkers such as http://www.508checker.com/ change name
  • Everyone has the opportunity to make a difference.

Check out links to some of the resourced, software, devices and topics discussed in this blog in the Interesting Links section of this blog