Thing #15 – Professional Learning Networks

Building a PLN Through Social Networks!

I have been Facebook and Twitter user for awhile now, and I’ve recently added Google+ to my repertoire.  I already belong to a number of the teaching resources, and because of this, there are several new ones that are frequently recommended to me.  I’ve already had the opportunity to build my Professional Learning Network through social networks.  I am also now a proud follower of the 21 Things 4 Teachers Twitter Network!


I am now an official MACUL member, and I was able to sign up for a number of Special Interest Groups during my sign-up process.  I’m hoping to become an even more proficient technology teacher for my students, but also a leader in my school.  While all of the web tools and concepts introduced in the 21 Things course are groundbreaking and exactly what is necessary for education to move forward, these ideas are quite new to my district, and I look forward to sharing what I have learned through this course and what I will get from MACUL!  These Special Interest Groups may help me to get started.

  • Multimedia (SIGMM)
  • Professional Learning (SIGPL)
  • Technology Coordinators (SIGTC)
  • Online Learning (SIGOL)

MACUL Journal!

After becoming a proud member of MACUL, I noticed the journals on the site right away.  It felt like Christmas when I realized that the journal was completely FREE online, and I had immediate access to it!!  I know I only had to read one article, but an hour later, I realized that I had just read the entire journal and was actually disappointed that I had reached the end.  I read through several contributions from people I actually knew, and so I felt pretty important!  😉  I read through the current journal, Fall 2014, Volume 35, Issue 1.  The most interesting articles to me included:

  • TRIG Classroom Readiness – The staff where I teach is constantly griping during staff meetings about the new testing that is right around the corner and how are students won’t be prepared for it.  I wonder if this is something that would help ease their concerns.  I plan on sharing this article with my principal for some potential professional developement.
  • Bringing the Real World Into Our Classrooms – As a math teacher, my students are constantly inquiring as to WHY they have to learn this “junk”.  After reading through this article, I am now a Vimeo member, and I will definitely be using some of the Video Story Problems in my classroom this year.
  • Building Online Assessment Literacy – As with the first article I mentioned, the new testing methods require our students to be able to show what they know as far as content, rather than being bogged down by their lack of technology proficiency.  This topic is a must for our students.
  • A Dynamic Resource for Classrooms – The mention of 21 Things for Students here is perfect, as it is an idea that I have been toying with since way back in Thing #2…as I gradually realized this resource was out there.  We have an outstanding technology teacher in our building, but after blending my Math Lab class last year, I’ve realized that my students’ technology skills are limited to keyboarding, word processing, and data sheet skills.  They are completely unaware of the Internet safety and collaborative skills that are necessary in the world today.  I would certainly like to take some time this year to work with students through 21 Things for Students and to share this resource with our technology teacher.
  • When Digital Native Blog – This is yet another idea that I have tossed around since the very beginning of this course.  Our district writing scores are low, and administration and curriculum leaders have been encouraging us ALL to include more writing in our own core content for quite awhile.  As a math teacher, I never really knew how to implement more writing effectively until taking my Masters in Math Education program completely online, submitting more writing than I ever dreamed possible.  Having students create a blog to write about their math skills is ingenious!  It’s an excellent location for students to write about what they’ve learned, what they understand, what is still confusing…and they can comment and collaboratively work through math content!  I love this idea!

As I said, I got a little carried away with this journal, but the good news is that I am certain to go back and read past issues now, eagerly awaiting the latest issue.


Sadly, I must admit that as early as 2-3 years ago, I would receive emails from our REMC director and just shrug my shoulders.  I had no idea what REMC was, what it did, and no one had ever really mentioned it in our district or explained it, so it didn’t seem that important.  NOW, things are dramatically different!  I lament over the years worth of resources and information that I missed out on, simply due to ignorance.  I am certain that the new school year will bring on HUGE changes in my own classroom, and I’m hoping that a “ripple effect” will cause other staff members to see what I’m doing and bring about some changes district-wide.  As a BLiC instructor, I have already begun to share blended learning ideas with colleagues, and it is guaranteed that they will hear all about 21 Things and how much REMC 10 can do for them.

After visiting the REMC page, I watched the video entitled “Knocking Down Walls: Connecting Students With Blogging” because of this growing idea I’ve had about students forming their own blog page.  It was nice to hear the confirmation that blogs are an excellent place for students to put down their ideas and collaborate.  What I hadn’t thought of was the fact that student blogs will provide students with an entire year’s portfolio of work that they will have forever if they choose, much like this blog that I’ve been keeping throughout the 21 Things course.    The  Kidblog space seems nice, but I’d love to do some exploring to see what would work best.

ISTE Standards

Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity – Building a Professional Learning Network will provide me with the latest information on building a learning environment that will inspire my students.  Whether it be through professional, social, or collaborative sources, the knowledge is invaluable.

Model digital age work and learning – As the knowledge is built for me as a teacher through professional learning networks, I will be able to take what I’ve learned and model and share that information with my students and colleagues.  This is the direction that education is heading, and it is important for students to see models with digitla tools.

Engage in professional growth and leadership – Becoming a member of MACUL and linking to a variety of educators through professional and social networks, I am actively growing professionally as I acquire more information.  Sharing what I have learned with my colleagues will mark me as a leader in the field.

CITW – Best Practices

Cooperative learning – Students will reap the benefits of what I learn through Professional Learning Networks.  I already have a Facebook page that I have set up for my students (past, present, and future), and I also have a Twitter account.  Students can begin building their own learning network as they are exposed to a variety of digital age tools and resources.

Setting objectives and providing feedback – Through social networks, I can certainly share objectives with students as well as provide feedback.  For example, I can Tweet to students the objectives of tomorrow’s lesson (maybe graphing parabolas), and I can encourage students to put on their graphing brains.  Similarly, a student has often asked me a question on Facebook about homework, and I am able to respond directly.


Thing #14 – Powerful Presentations


Have you ever had a complete and TOTAL “aha” moment that hit you so hard, you had the strong desire to do 4 weeks of work in one night??  That’s just about where I am with Blendspace.  I have been thinking and experimenting with a number of different tools and ideas for over a year, trying to find what would work the best for my students as I try to move my classrooms to a more blended environment.  I’ve tried a lot of really cool things, but nothing ever really seemed like Goldilock’s “just right” web tool… until NOW!!  I love love love Blendspace, and my mind is reeling with everything I want to do before school starts.  I have created PowerPoints for nearly all of my lessons, but it’s just not enough anymore.  Blendspace allows me to include practice handouts, videos, games, interactive practice…even links to the textbook.  The Blendspace presentation I created for this “thing” has already been posted on my Weebly site, and it will be our first lesson in Algebra this fall.  I can’t WAIT to create even more!

During that first review week of school, I always find it necessary to revisit the order of operations with students as well as the properties of real numbers, and that is exactly what this presentation does.  I intend to get students hooked up with gmail accounts and access to this first Blendspace lesson as soon as possible.  We have an iPad cart that I can use, or I’ll be signing up first thing to get into the computer lab.  Students will go through each page of the presentation, learning and practicing the reviewed skills.  I plan to facilitate this web experience by speaking with individual students or small groups to answer guiding or specific questions as the students are working on the lesson.  This particular lesson addresses each point of the SAMR model.  For substitution and augmentation sections, students will be going through the content pieces (such as the PowerPoint or the graphics that have been presented) and writing down their own notes, interpreting and explaining in their own words, constructing their own methods for understanding the order of operations and properties of real numbers.  For modification, students will have an opportunity to critique, offer suggestions, and give their opinions in the forum as classmates post responses to where the properties of real numbers can occur in real world situations.  Finally, the redefinition comes in as students develop and create a presentation of their own version of the PEMDAS acronym.  There are also a number of “best practice” components built into this presentation, most importantly setting objectives and providing feedback.  Students will be fully aware of what they are learning, and as I am able to be available to individuals and small groups, the feedback on how well they are understanding the material will be very fast.  The built-in quizzes and provided answer keys will also immediately provide that critical feedback students thrive on.


This is a resource that I have been aware of, but I’m not quite sure why I haven’t used it more.  I think the way I will handle each of these lessons is through a multimedia rubric.  Students will be able to earn points based on the handouts they turn in, the tasks they must complete, and the online assessments.  This puts the power of learning into the hands of my students, where it should be… and I can spend more time moving individuals forward, no matter where they are on the learning continuum.

ISTE Standards

Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity – With something as flexible and user-friendly as Blendspace lessons, students will be able to move forward in their math content knowledge through videos, interactive sites, practice, online quizzes,…something above and beyond where they’ve been with their education.

Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments – There is such a wide variety of digital age learning resources, and through the use of Blendspace, I am able to design and develop lessons for students that will take them beyond the walls of the classroom.

Model digital age work and learning – By bringing in an iPad cart and/or taking students to the computer lab on a regular basis for math class, students will be exposed to a different type of math classroom.  The Blendspace lessons that I create for my classes will show students how well the digital age tools can be used for work and learning.

4b Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources – Students with special needs can certainly access the Blendspace lessons that I create.  Students with specific learning disabilities can complete certain portions of the lesson.  The videos and additional PowerPoint presentations can be accessed an unlimited number of times, and rather than copying down notes, special needs students can print out the necessary content.  Those with hearing impairments can certainly use the closed-captioned feature on the videos.

5c Evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning – The Blendspace lessons can easily be adapted to the newest and best researched digital tools as they become available.  As I read through the updated materials, I can make changes to my Blendspace lessons.

CITW – Best Practices

Setting objectives and providing feedback – As mentioned above, this is the most prominent best practice of the Blendspace lessons simply because the objectives can be plainly stated at the beginning of the lesson for the entire class to see, and then there are multiple opportunities throughout the lesson for both teacher and interactive feedback for students.

Non-linguistic representations – The video and image feature make the Blendspace presentations the perfect opportunity for students to access this best practice.  Students could be asked to make their own Blendspace presentation to teach a particular standard using any of the non-linguistic tools available to them, such as world clouds, images, videos, and so on.

Summarizing and note-taking – As I provide the content to students in the form of PowerPoints and videos, students will have the option to take notes and summarize what they have learned.  There will no longer be the need to copy down every single word they see on the board because it will be there for them throughout the year.  They need to use this best practice to really learn the material.

Cooperative learning – Students could collaborate and work on a Blendspace presentation of their own, sharing the lesson with other students, and perhaps even presenting the information to classmates.

Final Thoughts

I’ve used PowerPoints and Prezi, and even Google Presentations, but I sincerely believe this Blendspace idea is the beginning of something fantastic for my students!  Thanks for bringing this “thing” to our attention!

Thing #8 – Digital Citizenship

My Digital Citizenship Weakness – Lesson Learned!

As I reviewed the nine themes of digital citizenship, I found that my weakest point was Protect… that goes for rights and responsibilities, health and wellness, and digital security.  The problem being, I am consistently the one in the crowd with rose-colored glasses, despite the 43 years of “life” I have experienced.  One would think I would learn something and begin to protect myself or at least be a bit more wary and conscious of what could go wrong.  Therefore, I wasn’t surprised that the three areas under the “Protect” category were my weakest spots.  The rights and responsibilities of the digital world have never really occurred to me, and I was equally ignorant when it came to physical and psychological issues that pertained to technology and Internet usage.  I think the most eye-opening aspect was the security issue.  This is really an area that I needed to research because if I don’t protect myself and my identity, there is the potential for days/weeks/months/years of hassle and headache that can be easily prevented with just a few precautions.

The first step in building on a weakness is recognizing that there is a weakness.  A quick reading of the “Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship” took care of that.  I also reviewed the resources provided in the area of digital security on the Common Sense Media site and 21 Things for Students.  I took a couple of the quizzes, read through the lesson plans, and found that I am WAY too trusting of everything!  It was time to take some action!  The first thing I did was to Google myself, seeing what was out there that was all about me.  I was surprised to find that there wasn’t very much on me aside from a couple of pictures, but it was a little unnerving to see that my boys (ages 21 and 19) were on there a bit more.  Being actively involved in sports and extracurricular activities in high school, I guess it was to be expected, but to see that anyone could look them up, find their home address and phone number – it doesn’t set too well with me.  The worst thing EVER was the White Pages experience.  Not only did it pull each member of my family up, showing that there was a connection to all of us and our ages, but with the click of a button, you can see a Google Satellite Map of my house as well as the names, addresses and phone numbers of my 20 closest neighbors…and we live out in the middle of nowhere!!

What I have learned in the area of Digital Security may seem like a small step to some, but for me, it’s HUGE!  I now realize how easy it is to find information about me and my family.  If it’s that easy to find us, how hard is it really to discover social security numbers, passwords, banking information, etc.  Being aware will certainly lead me to take more precautions, and I am grateful for this “thing”.

Adding Digital Citizenship Resources to the Weebly Page

The community where I teach could certainly benefit from the Educate area.  I teach in a small rural community that is centered around a state highway that directly connects two major cities, leading to an extremely high transient population filled with families that are “between” jobs and permanent homes.  Digital awareness is an area that can easily be overlooked, but through my Weebly page, parents have easy access to a number of excellent resources.  I just added a “Parent Support” page under my “Home” tab for parents and guardians that include videos and fact sheets from the Common Sense Media page.  My plan is to add to the list weekly because putting everything there all at once may overwhelm and scare parents away.  The information will directly tie into the topics discussed with students in class, giving a discussion point at home for parents and their children.  Don’t be afraid to check it out ~

Classroom Activity

The Common Sense Media site is FANTASTIC!!  Our media specialist makes sure students know how to use word processing software, data base software, presentation devices, etc., but there is very little presented in digital citizenship.  Therefore, like parents, I want to focus on the Educate area for my students in brief lessons this year, especially as I will be requiring them to me more “digital” than ANY other content classroom in the district.  I want to start with the basics, and Common Sense Media has a lesson entitled Digital Life 101 that will get students started on being aware of how vulnerable they are and how permanent everything can be when it comes to digital communication.  I expect students to be eager to learn about everything that is digital as this is the world they live in – and it is totally digitized.  I also suspect students will be humbled, as I was, by how much they don’t know and are not aware.  I look forward to sharing this information with my students.

ISTE Standards

1b Engage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources – Using resources such as Common Sense Media, students will begin to see the true nature of what digital citizenship means.

3a Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and the transfer of current knowledge to new technology and situations – Quick weekly lessons in digital citizenship, such as the proper and safe way to create an online identity, will keep the education updated and current.

Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility – Through lessons such as those provided by Common Sense Media, the teacher will be able to directly address the responsibility and importance of security in the digital age.


1 – Setting objectives/providing feedback – Through a lesson on cyber-bullying, students can easily be informed of the cyber-bullying issue and how to prevent it.  With a quick chat on Chatzy that surrounds the classroom activity, the teacher can provide feedback to student comments and questions.

Reinforcing effort/providing recognition – As mentioned above, a Chatzy session would allow students to participate that normally wouldn’t, and the teacher will be able to encourage students and communicate the numerous thoughts and conversations that would surround a topic like cyber-bullying.

Cooperative learning – Digital citizenship is an area that will be a high interest topic for students, simply because this is an area that they are very comfortable.  The teacher could certainly put students into a cooperative learning group and ask them to put together a presentation that would include videos and screen shots of social media conversations, demonstrating examples of cyber bullying and what the students could do to prevent it.

Thing #6 – Communication


I simply LOVE this tool, and I have been using it for quite awhile now.  The recent updates have made this tool even easier to use.  My best friend from high school (aside from my husband of course) has four children…that go to school…..that frequently need math help…  Aunt Bev meets with them regularly during the school year to go over any homework problems they may have.  The two hours it takes to drive to their house is just a nuisance when it comes to tutoring, so we decided to do it with Skype.  🙂

The oldest boy is going into the 8th grade this year…. I just happen to teach 7th and 8th grade math.  His school coincidentally is using the same Connected Math series that I use.  When he gets stuck, he’ll often take a picture of the assignment and send it to my iPad.  I’ll take a quick look at it, and then I’ll meet with him to see what questions he has.  I can write on my own paper, and then hold it up for him to see.  He’ll move the iPad over his work so I can see what he is doing.  It’s perfect!!  This boy has gained so much confidence in math over the last couple of years, just because of the “communication” component provided by Skype.  Last Christmas, he received an iPad, and we use a lot of FaceTime as well now, but Skype is where it all started.

The screenshot is of my friend from high school.  All of the kids were outside playing when I called tonight, so he was stuck talking to me!  Just so you know, an hour passes VERY quickly when talking with good friends!



ISTE Standards

Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity – The possibilities are limitless when you throw in tools that allow students to see and hear each other in “real time” and can communicate synchronously.

Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments – Anyone that taught 10 years ago never would have imagined technology reaching this level.  With Skype and backchats, the teacher can assess without being in the same room, or even the same state, as the student.

Model digital age work and learning – If I can communicate with students via web conferencing or backchats, students will see a clear model of technology used to learn.

Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility – Through backchats, the teacher can both encourage and model appropriate online behavior.  With such social networks as Facebook and Twitter where students say whatever they want about whomever they choose, communication tools such as Skype and backchats and web conferencing will show students more positive uses of technology tools.

Engage in professional growth and leadership – The web conferencing in Adobe Connect that is held for this course is a prime example of how communication can lead to professional growth and leadership.


Reinforcing effort/providing recognition – With the communication tools addressed in this “thing”, EVERY student will have the capability of being recognized.  The quieter students will be able to type in their ideas through a backchat or even in the chatbox during a web conference.

Cooperative learning – Students can use Google Hangouts to meet about a specific classroom project, outside of the classroom.

Assigning homework and practice – After assigning a homework assignment, any of these communication tools could be used if students have questions or ideas about their assignment.




Thing #5 – Collaboration

                                                         Google Drive!

Google Drive

Thank GOODNESS this mystery is solved!  You would think as an instructor for the Blended Learning in the Classroom course, I would be quite proficient with this tool.  I often found myself stumbling through the documents that were shared with me, often pretending that I really knew what I was doing.  However, after being “forced” to both create a Google Doc, share it, and add comments to an existing document, I feel as though I am understanding the process.  I was even able to access the documents from the last course I taught, the same ones that I was quite certain had disappeared into the unknown!

I was able to transfer a lesson that I use in my Algebra class every year, The Shapes of Algebra, into Google Drive and provide a couple of questions in the comment section to make it even better.  I was able to personally invite a few to look at the document, but if you are currently bored out of your mind and would like to take a look, I have it open to anyone that has a link. Feel free to use the “comment” button to add your ideas.

In the classroom, teaching students how to use Google Drive and Google Docs will be an invaluable resource.  In my math classroom, collaborative learning groups could be formed.  I could put an example of student work in Google, share the example with my students in the Drive, and then have the students determine if the student solutions are correct, or if there are errors to correct.  Students could even fix the incorrect solutions.  There is room in the comment sections for students to collaborate and communicate with each other to explain thinking.  Wow!!




There are often times when I go back and forth with colleagues, students, and even parents about what time works best with whom to meet.  There are sometimes as many as 10 emails that go back and forth before a time is decided.  Where has Doodle been all of my life??  In reference to my Shapes of Algebra lesson, I asked a few people to let me know which dates/times would work best to meet and discuss some updates that need to be made to the lesson.  Rather than going back and forth in those emails, I now have the power to take a quick look at a table to determine when we will meet.  This could be used for a group of students that need help in making test corrections, Student Council member that want to meet about yearbook questions, or colleagues that want to meet about curriculum changes.  The possibilities are ENDLESS!!




Well, I must confess that I am a sticky note addict.  I have them everywhere, and even my students know that if it’s not written on a sticky note, it may not ever get completed.  I have instantly fallen in love with Lino, and I suspect this will be a long-lasting relationship.  I realize that there will be several uses for a site like Lino, and I have created a Lino board that will help students through the Shapes of Algebra lesson.  I currently have a few resources posted, and after I am able to meet with someone to update the lesson, I will add even more suggestions and resources.  If you would like to check it out…

HOWEVER, as I was watching the Lino tutorials that I stumbled across, I immediately thought of my Student Council students.  As the junior high adviser for Student Council, I thought this would be an excellent site for students to access.  There is always a list of things that needs to be addressed, anything from Homecoming games to yearbook responsibilities, and with a central location for all of those “things” that need to be done, nothing will be forgotten.  I will give students the capability to add notes, particularly if they have questions that need to be addressed at the next meeting or think of something that needs to be completed.  The different activities could be color-coded to avoid confusion, and I have also included an area for items that need to be finished within the week.  I am very anxious to get this one up and running as the school year will start right off with Homecoming.

ISTE Standards!

Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity – That collaboration component will allow students to work cooperatively, and their creativity will thrive in the environment that Google Drive provides.

Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments – Without the use of the archaic flash drives and paper documents, accessing documents that are available from any computer, any place is certainly a digital age learning experience.

Model digital age work and learning – As I use resources such as Google Drive, Doodle, and Lino, students will see the technology tools in use, encouraging them to use them as well.

CITW Standards!

Cooperative learning – As students are able to comment on a specific document either synchronously or asynchronously, they will demonstrate cooperative learning characteristics.

Non-linguistic representations – The document that can be shared in Google Drive could easily be an image or organizer that can be updated and adjusted in a shared file.

3 Summarizing and note-taking – Students could easily be assigned to summarize what was learned about linear functions or even share some of the notes taken in class.  These items could be shared in Google Drive.

Assigning homework and practice – Due to the “any place, any time” feature of Google Drive, students can be given a homework assignment, even on snow days through Google Drive.

Thing #4 – Cloud Initiation


Wow!  This is something that I have struggled with for AGES, and I cannot believe it has been this simple all along!  Between a school computer, a home computer, a laptop and an iPad, I save great things that I encounter, but I never know WHICH device I have saved them to if I need them again.  I chose to use Symbaloo, mostly because I am such a dependent visual learner.  There are just a handful of sites there, but it is enough to get me started!

You can view my Symbaloo page at


Yet another tool that will make my life so much easier!  I had to use Dropbox as part of the research study that my classroom participated in, but I was always so busy with figuring out the specifics of the research project that I was never able to fully understand the features of Dropbox.  This “thing” really cleared things up for me!  I was able to create folders for my 7th grade class, my 8th grade class, and my Student Council responsibilities.  I have included links to each of them so you can take a quick look at what I’m working on.  As always, please understand that this is a work in progress.  I am FAR from finished! for the 8th Grade Algebra folder. for the 7th Grade folder. for the Student Council folder.

I have even downloaded this app to my iPad to make my life even MORE wonderful!  I can use my iPad along with my interactive whiteboard to project these documents on the board for students as we discuss them in class.


Opening the doors to this “cloud” mystery has certainly revealed an infinite number of possibilities in my classroom.  Not only will students be able to access videos and documents for the classroom through my Weebly site, they will also be able to research and access helpful websites through my Symbaloo account.  The Dropbox idea will provide a chance for students to collaborate, teaching them skills that they will need in the real world AND the math content in the classroom.  My students work in cooperative learning groups of 4-5 students, and I can envision a weekly reflection piece from each group.  Students can include details of discussions held throughout the week (good or bad), about particular math problems and solutions.  The use of these cloud tools will certainly open up some of the barriers I have experienced in teaching in years past.

ISTE Standards

Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity – With the easy access to bookmarks in the case of Symbaloo and the collaborative characteristics of Dropbox, students will be encouraged to take control of their own education and creatively produce evidence of their understanding.

Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments – If students do something as simple as work on a Dropbox document together in the form of a reflection, the instructor will have the opportunity to assess each student’s understanding of the material.

Model digital age work and learning – Creating and regularly updating the Symbaloo site, providing feedback on collaborative Dropbox documents, students will see an example of their teacher consistently modeling these digital age tools.

CITW Standards

Setting objectives /providing feedback – The Dropbox feature will provide yet another avenue for the teacher to clarify a lesson/unit objective and provide feedback on student work.

Reinforcing effort/providing recognition – As students work on assignments collaboratively through Dropbox, their work will have value.  There is the potential for others to see the work aside from the classroom instructor.

Cooperative learning – Clearly, with the Symbaloo and Dropbox features, students will have resources to research and a medium to present the final product in a cooperative learning assignment.   All of the tools will be available to each student.

Cues/questions/advance organizers – Not only will Dropbox provide a collaborative document opportunity, there is also the chance to ask questions and collaborate on organizers.

Thing #3 – Visual Learning


Word Clouds

With just a simple paragraph about how students should be learning math from the Connected Math Program website, a visual learning word cloud tool has transformed this important paragraph into something that is truly meaningful and a gorgeous work of art.  Through the use of Tagxedo at, the eye is drawn to the essential components of learning mathematics.  I love idea presented in “108 Ways to Use a Word Cloud” which suggests taking my lesson plans, or even the course objectives, and using Tagxedo to share with students at the beginning of the year, or even at the start of a unit.  The words used most often appear larger, drawing attention to what types of words the students will encounter the most frequently.  If something like this was required to be in my students’ math binders, maybe even attached to activity handouts and assessments, almost like a unit icon, it would be a quick, but efficient reminder of what students are expected to know.

Mind Map Order of Operations

Mind Mapping

Through a simple mind map, students will be able have yet another example of a visual learning tool that will help them see what will be expected of them in the lesson.  In this case, during the first week of school, I expect my Algebra I students will need to be review the Order of Operations.  After viewing and discussing a quick power point (the top level of the mind map), students will partner up and play a quick game together (the second level of the mind map).  This will be guided practice as they will have classmates and a teacher to help with any questions.  Finally, the lowest level of the mind map shows what will be expected along the lines of independent practice.  I used for this mind map, and you can find this order of operations mind map at

QR Code for Marlette Schools

QR Codes

WOW!  I never really understood what these things were!  I mean… I’ve seen them around of course, but it was always a great mystery to me.  The code above should take the user directly to my school’s website which is located at



This is just a simple way to get information out to students and parents that is user-friendly.  A ton of complicated information can be put into a format that just makes things a little easier for everyone.  The screenshot above could be used during the first week of classes as I am trying to direct students and parents to my classroom “face”, directing them to what can be found on my site and where.

Face of the Classroom Connection

I chose to include the word cloud on my Weebly site, just because it such a powerful image for students and parents to see right away.  You can view the word cloud at, and I continue to think that using a word cloud such as this with the unit objectives would be a fantastic way to get students thinking about what they are supposed to be learning!

ISTE Standards

1) Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity.  There are so many opportunities through the mind maps and word clouds to encourage students to think of math in a whole new way.

2) Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments.  Every one of these visual learning tools gives a digital connection to the math content.

3)  Model digital age work and learning.  As I use the mind maps, word clouds, QR codes, and infographics on my Weebly site, students are seeing an appropriate model of how to use these tools.

4)  Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility.  Again, as I use the various visual learning tools, students are able to see clear examples of how to use the digital tools responsibly.

5)  Engage in professional growth and leadership.  As an instructor, using these visual learning tools makes me stand out as a leader through the use of creative applications used for student growth.

CITW Tools

1) Setting objectives/providing feedback – This could easily be demonstrated through the world cloud tool.

2) Reinforcing effort/providing recognition – As students are asked to create their own visual learning tools, this will allow their work to be recognized.

3) Cooperative learning – Students could easily work together to create a viable visual learning tool to share with classmates.

4) Cues/questions/advance organizers – The mind maps are excellent examples of organizers that will help students to organize their ideas.

Thing #2 – Face of the Classroom

As a participant and instructor of the Blended Learning in the Classroom course (BLiC), I always felt like I was “missing” something.  I knew how to blend my classroom, I knew the research and benefits behind blending, but I struggled to use the tools, mostly because aside from my own investigations, I never really knew what was out there.

Everything is becoming clearer…and I have only made it to “thing 2”!!

I was able to take all of the ideas that had been swimming around in my head and put them together on my new Weebly site.  I will be able to provide all of my students with a place to find notes, homework assignments, and even resources for additional practice in areas where they are struggling.  Right now, students contact me with homework questions through facebook, email, and even text messages.  Hopefully, through the use of the Weebly site, I will become even MORE approachable!  I would love to set up Q & A forums for students to help themselves, a blog page to include some real world applications I see in everyday life, the possibilities are endless!

It IS a work in progress, but the Weebly site is set up, and there are pages for each of my classes as well as a central location for any resources I encounter.

Thing 2 Screenshot


You can view this site at

There are a few ISTE standards addressed by Thing 2:

3) Model digital age work and learning.  Through the creation of this site, students can see technology being used in the classroom through my example.

4) Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility.  Also, with the creation of this site, students will see a responsible form of the use of technology in the digital form.

In addition, Best Practice instruction (CITW) is provided:

1) Setting objectives and providing feedback.  As this site develops, I would like to include a place where students can directly address the math content standards that they must know.

3) Cooperative learning.  With the inclusion of an eventual Q & A forum, students will be able to work cooperatively to get questions answered.

7) Assigning homework and practice.  Easily, absent students or even those that have lost the assignments will have a quick and simple way to recover what was assigned in class.