Monday, March 4, 2013

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Moodle to Deliver Course Content

Moodle is a program that I have been using since my undergrad days at CCSU, but after graduation from the Tech Ed program I never though I would have to use it extensively again.  But after getting back in the swing of things with the Ed Tech program, we are required to create a Moodle site for an online class. I think  Distance Learning will become a more and more prominent way that students will seek to receive their educations. I know that the couple of online courses I have taken have saved me an hour long trek to school after work for a couple semesters.

I do believe there are both positive and negative drawbacks to using Moodle to delivering course content online.  You have to be crystal clear with your directions.  If you are not, you are setting yourself up for the same questions from students over and over.  I feel like you would even be getting questions from students ever if you thought it was so easy a caveman could do it.

Delivering the content online could allow students to work at their own pace, rather than in the allotted time slot you have for class time.  Students would have more access to outside resources that they could use to help them. At the same time, they could have outside sources pushing them in an opposite direction than where you as the teacher would envision they would go.

I also think that by delivering content online would make you a better teacher.  Like I said earlier, you have to be crystal clear with you directions.  Sometimes when you are teaching a class you can slide by and just figure out the lesson as you go along.  When you deliver it online, you have to be prepared with your content.   There is no room for error or unclear instructions.

If it Moodle is used properly, I believe it can be an effective tool to use as a teaching aid.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Outside My Comfort Zone with Ed Tech

As teachers, I'm positive we all have our one go to activity our one go to technology that we want to show off during our observations or when other teachers come in.  We'll boast about how this tool helps us and never stop talking about it, kinda like me with screencast-o-matic.  But what is our kryptonite when it comes to using technology in our classroom?

For me, it is using animation tools, like Adobe Flash. I really don't see the point in using it as a resource. For me, it is much more time consuming to create an entire animation for my students. I don't really see the benefits I would like for all the work I put into making an online animation. I suppose it really doesn't fit my style of teaching, so I tend to stay away from it.  I also feel like that using animation tools depends on the content you are teaching in your classroom. For a pre-engineering class, I feel like this is to abstract and not sequential enough.  

Now I know this is not the case for many educators out there.  Many teachers have probably created tremendous resources for their students, I just don't even think I've come close to being one of them.  When I have tried creating different animations for my projects, it has only been when I have been required to do so for my Masters class. I feel like I am reaching way into left field to come up with an idea that will fit into what I teach.  I'm sure that with more practice would be come better results. 

Here is a list of free animation sites I have tried to use. They are pretty easy, so check them out!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Instructional Websites

My favorite website list could go on forever. I have a certain routine I go through everyday when I log on the World Wide Web. I first check my work email, then school and personal email where I have them both conveniently synced to my gmail. I then check Facebook and Twitter. After that, I'll surf the web for a while, checking ESPN, NFL, Uni-watch, MSN, Yahoo, and CNN.

A lot of these may seem like a waste of time, but I am actually learning a lot. On my personal and work email, I subscribe to a lot of newsletters. I'll scroll through to see what I get and what catches my eye. Some of the newsletters I subscribe to are ASEE which is the American Society of Engineering Education and then PLTW action bulletin.

On ESPN I look for the sports science videos. They are really cool and really integrate science, technology, engineering and math into 5 minute sport clips. They feature all different sports so all the students can find something that they are interested in.

MSN, Yahoo, and CNN are awesome resources because they are always posting technology related articles that I can share with my students and connect to my curriculum.

Other websites I Look at are:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Best Experience Using Educational Technology

Those little moments where you see a student have an aha moment is what really makes our jobs as educators gratifying. We have those experiences whether or not we are using ed tech or not.  I found that when you use technology properly, you see a big increase of how many aha moments you'll get.

The best experience I had was before I started in the ed tech program at CCSU. I teach a 3D modeling (CAD) software called Autodesk Inventor.  I was very confident in my personal skills using the program, but underestimated how tough it would be for eighth graders to pick up.  My first time teaching it I was all excited to transfer my knowledge of the program to the students, but as a new teacher didn't realize the difficulties I would be facing.  The fact that students frequently are absent, pulled from class for whatever reason, classes get cut short for assemblies and field trips are just some of the obstacles that I have to deal with just to name a few.  The biggest problem I dealt with was getting students up to speed who missed a class or two.  While I could go over and show them one on one what to do, that would leave the rest of the class restless and confused.  If I assigned a student helper to coach them along, I found that the helper would be doing all the work and not showing the student who is behind how to use the program.  Written instructions left the students overwhelmed, screen shots of the step by step process were not doing the trick either.  Something needed to be done!  I started to wonder how people made tutorial videos on youtube.  I did some research and tried downloading a program called CamStudio to capture my tutorial videos. I would not recommend the program to my enemy. It was confusing and I had to do more work to get the video ready than it was worth.  I then started searching screen capture software on Google, and stumbled upon screencast-o-matic.  What a life saver to say the least.  I could easily create tutorial videos for my students, save them in whatever file type they needed to be in or even post them directly to Youtube.  Creating tutorial videos for each of their projects saved me and my students so much time and frustration in class.  I was now able to have students download the program and work at home or sit them down at a computer and have them catch up in a couples days worth of work in about 45 minutes.  I noticed an overall improvement in all my students ability and my sanity during the unit.

All in all, there is technology out there to help everybody achieve that aha moment.  My aha moment came after the first time I stumbled onto screencast-o-matic. What's yours?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Favorite Instructional Resources

Being a tech ed teacher has A LOT of perks.  I have access to a lot of technology that many of my peers don't.  Even though I get to play with all these cool gadgets and tools, I still find my brain is the best tool I can have.  There are websites and programs that I frequently use at home, but are blocked by the school filters when I go to use them.  Some of the websites and programs I am going to recommend may fall into those categories, so you will have to find a way to get around the filters to use them.



I love CNET.  This is where I find may of the open source software's that I use in class.  Though I have to get my IT guy to come in to give me administrative access to my laptop, I find that the frustration of getting him in is a small price to pay to get what I want.  I know I can't purchase expensive software, so finding an open source software is an excellent way to get what you want for free.  CNET gives you reviews, news, downloads and deals on many of the programs you are looking for.


Though these websites have a lot of gossip and articles that have nothing to do with what I will be teaching, sometimes I will stumble on a little nugget of awesomeness that I can share with my students in class.  I will often click on the tech tab to see what is happening in the technology world.  I find this helpful because I can then take an article and use it a real life example in one of my lessons or use them as a discussion piece in the beginning of class.


Mashable is a pretty cool website. They frequently update the site with articles from their staff. Sometimes it is hit or miss, but I find it is often more of a hit for me. I recently learned how to properly cite a tweet in a research paper.


I love this site.  It always has cool little projects to do. If you like to fiddle around with gadgets in your personal time or finding a special project for a kid who may not learn conventionally , this website is for you. I was recently turned on to the website by some coworkers this past summer and I check it every day.  I even wrote a grant to get a 3D printer that I saw at the Maker Faire in New York this past year.


When twitter first came out, I thought it was pointless.  Then I learned that if you follow the right people, you can learn a lot. Most people who tweet will provide a link to what they are talking about.  I follow @mashable, @pltworg, @techcrunch and @edtech_k12 just to name a few.


Edmodo is a site I use with my students.  The interface is similar to Facebook which really draws in the students. A teacher creates and account.  The teacher then creates groups.  The teacher then has the students join using codes that are unique to that group so nobody else can join them.  The students can not communicate with one another and the teacher can monitor everything they do. I love it because it is a central place that the students can log in to where my assignments are posted and they can post their work.  The students do not need an email account and the student can also give their parent an access code so they can monitor the site as well.


This website has really helped me out.  When I teach my CAD unit, I am able to create videos for the students look at who are lost or have been absent for an extended period of time.  I can make a video recording of everything I do in my laptop and can save it as an .avi, .mp4, .flv or even post it directly to youtube.

8) Extreme Engineering - Discovery Channel

Extreme Engineering is a go to video series for when I am unexpectedly absent.  They feature extreme engineering feats they have happened, are happening, or will happen.   You can buy the dvd set, but why should you do that? Go to youtube and have your students watch them.  Better yet, download them from youtube and burn them to a DVD because you know that the internet will be down when you want to show an episode. How do you download youtube videos? Check out number 9.


Ah keepvid. Love it, except when I can't use it at school. However, if you have the time to use it at home, PLEASE DO.  In a matter of seconds, you can have a permanent copy of the youtube video. All you need is the direct link to the youtube video you want, paste it into the website and BAM, it's yours to cherish.

10) is a great website for getting a lesson plan in a pinch, or even finding resource to help bolster your lesson plan.  They have FULL lesson plans they are aligned to TE standards with the break down of the lesson. They even have the attachments they go along with the lesson.  It is 100% free, no need to register, no pop ups, no unnecessary advertisements or hoops to jump through.  I highly recommend it.

Open Source Programs

1) Gimp

Gimp is a tremendous alternative to Photoshop   It is just as powerful and works in the same way.  It may not be as flashy as owning Photoshop  but it does the same thing.  For someone who will only open up Photoshop once in a while, just download gimp and save your money.

2) Open Office

Well I don't use open office, but from what I understand is Open Office is extremely similar the Microsoft Office suite.  Check it out.  

3)  Scribus

Scribus is a desktop publishing software. It is very similar to programs like Microsoft Word and Publisher, as well as Adobe Pagemaker, for those of you who remember that program.  Scribus allows you to lay out forms and worksheets how you want them.  Microsoft programs seem to enjoy moving around your font and never letting you place anything on the screen where you exactly want it.  If you don't want to sepnd the money on the office sweet, go for Scribus.  

4)  VDownloader

VDownloader is an alternative I use to  Since I can't access keepvid at school, or any other websites similar to it, I use this program. Basically works the same as keepvid, but has a few drawbacks.  The biggest of which is that it will not download videos if they are copyright protected.  

5) Wax2.0 

Wax is a free video editing software that works pretty well and is a bit more powerful than Windows MovieMaker.  If you are looking for something to use in your classroom, I would suggest checking out Wax.  

6) Audacity

Audacity is a program for recording and editing music.  You can do a lot of cool things with it.  I enjoy using it with my students just as a fun activity.  There is a lot to use once you start digging.  

7)  FreeOCR

OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition.  Put simply, you can scan a document or take a PDF that has been emailed to you, plug it into FreeOCR and it will spit out a word document so you can edit the text. This program has saved me countless hours of retyping worksheets among many other things.  You need to always proof read the document because sometimes the characters of the text got a little mixed up, but all the trouble is worth the results you get.  

To finish up, there are many other programs I have come across and used.  Most of the time, I end up going to myself, "Oh man, this program is gonna save me so much trouble!" but then I forget to save it and then losing it forever.  I always find something new that pops up that is similar to it though, so don't fret if this happens to you.  Remember, there are at least 3 ways to get the results you want when you use technology, so keep digging! The examples I have listed though all work well independently, but work even better when I start to use them together.  Again, the best tool you have is your brain.  These programs are worthless unless you use them properly.  

Please feel free to comment with any other websites or programs that I left out that really help you educators in your classrooms.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Issues in Ed Tech

There is and always will be issues when it comes to using educational technology in our schools. What are the most pressing issues out there? Is it integrating it properly into the classroom? Is it funding? It seems to be any number of things depending on your school district. My district has implemented the BYOD policy for the upcoming school year which I am really excited about. I feel like I have a good enough command of my classroom to be able to have the students effectively use their personal devices in my class. I feel fortunate to be in a great situation at my school. I have a lab with 26 brand new pc's, a teacher lap top and 2 printers. I have 18 robotics kits that are brand new. I just wrote a grant to get a 3D printer. I have a wi-if enabled classroom. Technology wise, I am pretty well off and I am very thankful for that. But I hear so many stories of people who do not have access to a computer, let alone the equipment I have.

Overall, I believe the biggest issue in ed tech is funding. There are so many tools out there for educators to use, but there is trouble gaining access to it mainly due the cost. I would love to have my students have access to iPads. But an iPad 2 costs at least $399. You could go with a Kindle Fire, but they're $169. That's big money for an average class. You could set up a central computer lab, but those are really expensive to set up and maintain. There are so many variables: getting software and licenses, having an IT person, the electricity costs, a network that can support them and so on. Another thing that I see is towns feel the need to spend money on computer programs when it is not necessary to. It seems like administrations like to say they spent money on something just to say they spent money to get a program. There are free programs out there whether they are open source or available free online, you just need to research what you want.