Technology can make research projects enjoyable…who would have thought??!

28 Apr

Working with students is the reason I decided to pursue a career in education. The one thing that I hated while attending school was having teachers design typical, “Traditional” teaching assignments. Learning should be fun and something new where the students are engaged and come to class not to learn but to have fun. Designing lesson plans to get students excited about learning is something that I strive for in ever lesson I create and this past project is an example of me doing just that:

I have a student who I am tutoring that is concerned with the STAAR testing, more specific the writing portion of the test. What I am doing is designing lesson plans so the student can learn reading comprehension skills while finding an apprehension for reading and writing.

I presented him with the opportunity of doing a research project over anything that he wanted to do, I love giving students this option because they always feel that they need to answer with an educational topic. The first topic the student chose was over the Alamo. While this is a good strong, topic I wanted him to do something he would actual enjoy doing research over and something that he can show off his knowledge of later in life. The student ended up deciding to do a research project over “The History of Dubstep.” Which addressed a number of TEKS. We came up with two unit questions  Since this is such a new topic of study in music we went to the internet to do our research. As the student looked on the internet I too was on the computer looking for information as well, manly to help produce Inquiry Based Questions to ask the student to help expand his KWL chart.

Towards the end of our lesson I informed my student that I would be creating a blog for him and that next week he would give me an oral presentation of what he had learned and we would record it on a Podcast, this would be so he could have something that he could show to his family and friends on what he had learned and he could show off the steps it took for him to get to the end result. This was a concept that he absolutely fell in love with. He does not have a computer at home so the only access the student has to the internet is at the local library or at school. So this was something that was new and exciting for him. At the end of the session I showed the student his blog and asked him to give a summary of what we had done for that session as he told me I would write what he said and after I would have him go back and edit the summary so it would grammatically make sense.

Since our project was about the history of a certain type of music genre we decided that a podcast would be the best way to show the different types of music and it would be something that students never think they can do. Videos are all around students but radio is something that is fading about from our society so bring something that they have no idea about is something that students will always remember.

As we went though the research process I was having the student number on his KWL chart how he would want to arrange his topics. This was something that is very helpful for students when using this strategy because if you have a good unit question then it will bring new questions up throughout the research process and a student can become lost in his thoughts when it comes time to move the thoughts to a final project. We orally went through how the format to the podcast would go before we started. Once we felt that we were ready we did our first recording. The funny thing about doing a radio interview is that you feel that it is not to difficult since you are only talking but once you start, everything that you wanted to say is lost and it isn’t until after you are finished that you remember what you wanted to say. This is especially turn if you are recording radio, it really takes a few tries to get the format you want down. After listing to the first one it was the students suggestion to rerecord a second interview  I noticed that there were a few topics that the student could elaborate more on. So, I asked the student some more questions like “what are some accomplishments that the artist has had?” “Now, that we have gone through our first draft do you think there is a new way you want me to ask you the questions?”

Here is the link to the students blog. In the blog is where you can see what the student did for that day, his KWL chart as well as our podcast. Hopefully this gives you some suggestions when working with students and assigning them with a resource project. Making a podcast is something that is fast, east, requires no prior knowledge, and something that is in fun for you and the student. Enjoy!! Continue reading


Assistive Technology

24 Apr

This post, just like my last one about copyright, is something that every educator, not even educator but anyone that deals with individuals that have special needs should have booked marked. I have included videos over everything that assistive technology has to offer as well as a google document that has a short description of the different products.

Hearing aids are not always covered by insurance.

Comfort Contego FM System


UbiDuo Communicators

Echo Smart pen

Perkins Brailler

Jaws ScreenReader

Victor streams daisy player

Zoomtext Magnifier Software

Dragon Naturally Speaking

Kenisgnton Expert Mouse

Smartview 360 CCTV

Audio Notetaker Software

Kurzweil 3000

Adjustable Standing desk

Copyright Knowledge in Education

23 Apr

Copyright is something that every educator has to worry about at least once in their educational career. It is important for you to know what you can and can not do in your classroom. Many times educators think that just because they are using something as an educational tool that they do not have to worry about copyright but in actuality they can get in big trouble for showing or using something that is copyrighted.

  • Everything that you post on the internet is copyrighted!!!
  • You can show an entire film in the classroom but only if the school has paid for it. However if you show a video in an alternative classroom you can show the movie in its entirety
  • A lot of times whenever you write a paper and the paper gets published the author ends up loosing the copyrights to there paper. This happens a lot because people do not know that they are signing their rights away.
  • you can photocopy a page out of something but you can’t copy a whole book
  • Google images has a link where you can go to advanced search and you can specify the usages rights that you want Google to bring up.
  • Amount of the work – has to be a small amount . amount a 10th of the work.
  • if you need to copy the whole book. you need to ask for copyright privilege, normally have to pay amount
  • Does this affect the revenue stream?
  • Does this affect the market?


Purpose Of The Use

Nature of the use

Something that every educator should have saved in their favorites bar is a list of resources they can use regarding copyright. The Library of Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi has set up a perfect guide for anyone curious about what they can and can do just only in a classroom but regarding anything copyright related. They also have a book Smart Copyright Compliance for Educators  find out what you can do with copyrighted material. Where to go if you want to get something you write copyrighted

Fair use – gives educators some leeway when using copyright material in your leaching – fair use checklist   

A website that every body that uses someone else material in their classroom should print out it the Know Your Rights What You Can Do  designed by the Association of Research Libraries


Everybody wants to be Batman

8 Apr

This was a fun project to work on. One of the joys of working on a movie is working with the people that are going to be involved in the movie making process and this project was no exception. I decided to partner up with a fellow classmate to work together on the storyboard, filming and editing process. If you remember from my past post that we were going to be making a movie about a young girl who is inspired by Batman coming to her school and talking to them about how beneficial it is to eating healthy and exercising. 

Now, I had previously worked on movies before; from designing storyboards, to scouting locations, to filming to the editing process. But, that was a while ago and to say that we were able to jump into MovieMaker and start editing and trimming the movie would be a lie, thank you for YouTube for all the helpful videos. Listen if you want to make a movie and not pull out your hair in the process due yourself a favor, buy a mac, install iMovie and make your movie on this program. Microsoft is horrible and is not user friendly, AT ALL, so go with iMovie and save yourself some trouble, plus children love working with apple products, they feel cool. Anywho. One thing that because a problem and something that we should have looked over before we left shooting was how annoying wind can be especially when you think there isn’t any. Once we were in the editing room we realized that wind was a problem and that we couldn’t hear what our Robin was saying at some times so we had to use some voice over in editing to make the project work. 

This lesson was a lot of fun but I think I would want to use this a lot more for creating social stories for students while working in my special education classes. 

Hit Jump to see our finish project.  Continue reading

Oh no, not spreadsheets again..

4 Apr

Spreadsheets have a bad name for itself. Whenever I hear that we are going to be using spreadsheets in the classroom I immediately tone out and pay attention to something else. Nothing good comes from spreadsheets but  spreadsheets are no longer just for math there are endless possibilities for using a spreadsheet in the classroom.

Spreadsheets are a good example of teachers spending hours and hours designing lessons only to have the student say in five minutes time “Mr. Gonzalez, I’m finished.” …

Well crap, what am I going to do for the rest of the class now? I thought that was going to take them at least two days.

This is something that every teacher has said to themselves at least once during their career.

In order to teach spreadsheets to your students you do not need to over think it. Students do not like figuring how how many boxes the warehouse has. That’s just busy work. Assignments do not need to necessary be educational challenging just exciting enough to grab the students interest and hold it there till the assignment is over and give the student a good base of enjoyment in learning something new.

The best way to design a spreadsheet is to take something that the children are all interested in and have them design Inquiry based questions and have the students fill out what they want to know; how many people got this, how low with this. etc etc.

Technology makes this a lot easier. Children learn by doing and creating. If you have a Google account you can design spreadsheets about something that all the students are  interested in and have the whole class participate in putting in their own information.

Using this will help with sharing and teaching students how to collaborate on something.



hit the Jump button to see the sample spreadsheets that I made as well as the movie that I used to learn how to use simple excel functions Continue reading

Creating your first Digital Story … don’t worry it’s not as scary as it sounds!

7 Mar

So you are an educator who wants to break away from the norm and get your students more involved in what you are trying to teach them. You know that you can use an iPad to show your students an animated book but you are a 6th grade Physical Education/Math teacher and your students would look at you like you are crazy if you show them a Dr. Seuss book that that has fluffy pink oddly named characters to them to try and trying to teach them how important it is for them to stay active and healthy.

You want to be the cool hip teacher who gets your students involved in their lesson and get them excited about coming to class. I don’t know about you but every time I get students to learn without knowing they are learning is when I, the educator, start to have fun and if YOU are having fun then your students are having fun too.

A Digital Story is a short from of digital film-making using digital multimedia; images, audio and video, that allows everyday people to share aspects of their life story. The process can capitalize on the creative talents of students as they begin to research and tell stories of their own as they learn to use the library and the Internet to research rich, deep content while analyzing and synthesizing a wide range of content. Critiquing their own and other students’ work, which can promote gains in emotional intelligence and social learning. Students are able to work in groups.

Three different types of Digital Stories;

1) Personal Narratives – A personal narrative is a story is one that can be used to facilitate discussions about current issues such as race, multiculturalism and the globalization that is taking place in today’s world. A personal narrative like this one can, Almost Paradise , also be a positive means for dealing with the some of the emotional family issues that were described in the story.

2) Historical Documentaries – Even though a personal narrative still contains information these are designed to be created from historical material that students might explore in a classroom.

3)Stories that Inform or Instruct – Stories that reflect instructional material in content areas such as math, science, health education and instructional technology.

Teacher-created digital stories can also be used to enhance whatever lesson you are introducing and can be used as a supplement to a larger unit, as a way to facilitate discussion about the topics presented a story and as a way of making abstract or conceptual content more understandable.

Hibbing and Rankin-Erikson (2003) and Boster, Meyer, Toberto, & Inge (2002) have shown that the use of multimedia in teaching helps students retain new information as well as aids in the comprehension of difficult material.

Studies have shown that incorporating Digital Stories into your curriculum help students with their skills in

Writing where they are asked to Formulate a point of view and developing a script;

Organization: Managing the scope of the project, the materials used and the time it takes to complete the task;

Technology: learning to use a variety of tools, such as digital cameras, scanners, microphones and multimedia authoring software;

Presentation: Deciding how to best present the story to an audience; Interview Skills: Finding sources to interview and determining questions to ask;

Interpersonal: Working within a group and determining individual roles for group members;

Problem-Solving Skills: Learning to make decisions and overcome obstacles at all stages of the project, from inception to completion;

Assessment Skills: Gaining expertise critiquing their own and others’ work.

Before you start with wanting to make your first Digital Story you need to have a little bit of background knowledge on how to film your film because after all you are a teacher not Spilberg. If you are unfamiliar with camera angles, creating a story board, law of 3 then click here!

Now that you kind of know what you are doing and what to do in post production then you get to the brainstorming part. This is the fun part becuase now you have to figure out what your story is going to be about and what it is going to address. There are 7 elements to consider when it comes to creating a digital story

1. Point of View – what is the perspective of the author?

2. A Dramatic Question – a question that will be answered by the end of the story.

3. Emotional Content – serious issues that speak to us in a personal and powerful way.

4. The Gift of your Voice – a way to personalize the story to help the audience understand the context.

5. The Power of the Soundtrack – music or other sounds that support the storyline

6. Economy – simply put, using just enough content to tell the story without overloading the viewer with too much information.

You can view these elements as more of a guideline that you will want to use when you are brainstorming on what type of story you want to create. These are important to take into consideration when designing the architute of your movie for the reason that… you are going to be using this in your classroom… for your students so you want to make sure that it is educational and it is something that a student can learn something from, remember this is school, but don’t worry if you are able to master the basic skills to making a movie and the 7 elements questions then after this then you can start that Batman YouTube movie you always wanted to make but never knew how to. Well now you know! Now enter it in a film festival and win some money for your classroom

Here is my the Activity Plan that I did for my first story if you want to have somewhat of a guide. ENJOY. Here are also the apps that we used to make our video!

Continue reading

Now class, if you will take out your cell phones for this next assignment ….. *updated*

2 Mar

Before we do anything. Lets take a minute to listen to what John McWhorter has to say about texting …

Now after watching this lets get into using a cell phone in the classroom and how you can use it now knowing what texting is not as something that the kids do and use cute unrecognizable terminology but as a new form of communicate/language.

Two things you never want you students doing while they are in your class

  1. On their cell phones 
  2. Using social media while you are teaching a subject 

Doing one or the other in class would be a sure way to get your cell phone taken up but with social media all around us and almost everyone having a facebook or twitter page, or at least knowing what one is, incorporating social media into the classroom seems like a no-brainier. Fortunately for students using modern day technology is beginning to  emerge from taboo to it becoming a required, needed resource implicated in classrooms. Teachers from all over the world are finding new an innovative ways to use new technology in their classroom. There are two websites that I will use in my classrooms



Using either of these applications may be something that sounds foreign to you but if you think like an educator then you can find many uses for both social media pages.

Facebook is great for students because rather than spending money on a webpage domain name you can just create a Facebook page for your students where you can post daily assignments for students who have missed class, lost their homework or had it eaten by the dog. You can create discussion that students need to respond to. Eventually students will begin to organically start their own discussion on the Facebook page and asking questions about assignments, setting up study groups, what they need for a group presentation. This is something that every educator wishes would happen between their students but always fall short on implicating it. The picture below shows some stats about facebook and why it seems like a no brainier to start using Facebook in your classroom. My idea is if students are already using something then find a way to make it work in your educational curriculum

Twitter  is another one of those apps that seems that everyone is using now a days. You see #hashtags every time you turn on the time, you see a little blue bird every time you walk into a store. Twitter is the number one app that is the closes a company can get to interacting with their customers. If businesses are using this and have recognized this then why hasn’t the education field? There are a few ways that teachers can use twitter in their classroom to help their students; creating IBP projects where you can have your students follow business leaders, scientist, businesses, anything and they can ask those people who are leaders in the field is they can answer a question that they have. This shows the student who thinks having an education is “stupid” that they can follow their favorite celebraty and ask them questions related to education and how they got to where they are now if it was not for school. The best practice you can do, in my opinion is having a #hashtag that is specific to your classroom, let’s say #MrGs930EnglishClass you can have certain hashtags for every period that you teach, oh and they are FREE! you can encourage your students to have their cell phones out and on your overhead have twitter open and you can have students ask questions if they are confused with something. This encourages decision and gives a voice to students that would typically not ask a question because they are afraid of speaking in a class, because they sound “stupid”*. The joy of learning something new is being able to show it to not just your peers but also to people all over the world. With having a designated Hashtag for your students they can tell their parents, grandparents, friends, whoever that they can go and look up #MrGs930EnglishClass and see what they are working on, this is a good way to get your parents excited about the fact that their child would be using Twitter in the classroom. Below is a visual graph that shows some stats about Twitter

*students words not mine.

I have also created a google document that has useful links that I think are very beneficial if you plan on using either Facebook or Twitter in your classroom.

Here is a blog…Now what

25 Feb

            Blogs are something that are relatively new to older generations but to young adults who have grown up with being around the internet a blog is something that is a useful tool used to discover new and exciting material that the internet and the people creating blogs have to offer. This can be anything from commentary of current events, to new music, to the latest fashion trends.

            Blogs allow an individual to share with the internet community something that that blog creator demeans as something important or something they feel is with sharing with anyone. For a business owner it can be their menu or upcoming events. For the purpose of this blog it will be information that I feel is something that future or current educators can use in their classroom and methods on how to implement these methods into your teaching.  

There are a lot of reason why as an educator I will incorporate the internet and blogs in my teaching curriculum  Having a classroom homepage for your students is beneficial because it allows a place for a teacher to post assignments online if a student is absent, this allows a student to never fall behind if they happen to fall ill and have to take off of school. Students can have the opportunity to participate in online discussion to encourage communication between students and also for students who are to shy to speak in the classroom a blog can give them a chance to express their opinions and their comments regarding a certain assignment.

There are a ton of educational blogs out there so finding the right one to use can get overwhelming if you do not know where to start. Of course, you can always Google “education blogs” but why do that when I have already done that. Here are a few educational blog sites for further reading.  Of course this has to be one of the top educational blog sites but here are some other good ones:  Free Technology for Educators  this is an amazing website; 1. Because it is Free information and who doesn’t like free stuff. This blog has won multiple awards in 2010 Free Technology for Teachers was awarded the Edublogs Award for “Best Resource Sharing Blog,” “Best Ed Tech Support,” and “Best Individual Blog. The Innovative Educator This is an amazing blog if you are an educator and having a hard time separating your teaching style from other educators in your school. Having an organized classroom and designed it in a way that is efficient is a problem that every educator will face sooner or later. Yes there are a lot of well researched textbooks out there explaining the best ways to set up a classroom but who has time for that when their are lesson plans to be made, parents to call and lessons to designed luckily  The Organized Classroom Blog is there to help you out with your classroom management needs.

After looking over the blog  I found a few, innovative ways on how you can use the internet in your classroom.  The beautiful thing about the internet is that everyone in the world has some access to the internet and with this the educator world has exploded. As a teacher you no longer need to relay on textbooks or restricted to your community to find new, innovative ways to educate your students. You can design Project Based Learning activities for students to use the internet to find information in countries across the world or have web conferences with scientists studying in the amazon when you come to a section about plants or animals.

The internet allows students to explore the world they live in and communicate with different cultures that they would have never encountered before.

So, whats the big deal about inquiry and project based learning??

18 Feb

The need for having a strong inquiry and project-based learning question within your unit plan is to give your students an opportunity to answer a question without giving an one word response. A well structured unit question is one where students will not be able to give a one worded answer and needs to ask inquire questions in order to discover what they believe the answer should be. Incorporating Project-based learning will follow the same format; the student researching either on the internet, library, asking questions to experts in that field. This is important for the student because they are having to get out of the textbook and try to solve the question by using more than one source.

My essential question is “Does Texas have reason to fear a natural disaster?  Which ones or Why not?” and the way that I will incorporate IBL and PBL is through my unit plan that I have link in this post.