Guest Blog

Today I have a very exciting post for you. In this post, you don’t have to listen to what I am saying. “What?! That’s amazing” you might well be saying right now. And I completely agree! But how is this possible. Well, as I know you’re a genius and can deduct what the title of this post might mean, I know I don’t have to tell you that today’s post comes from a guest blogger! Oh, well, I guess I just told you.

Anyways, Megan Burbach is my guest blogger. Not only do I respect Megan very greatly in the field of education and scholasticism in general, but I also hold her in high regard in another way: Megan is my very best friend. That being said, I implore you to tear her to read her post with as much zeal as you may read some of mine. Also, if you would like to hear more of what she has to say, check out her blog.

Without further ado, here is Megan Burbach.

Hello there. My name is Megan Burbach, and I am a social science secondary education major at UWP. I’ve known Wesley since my first semester of college, the fall of 2013, so I’ve known him for a while, so I have free reign to disclose all his dirt, right?

I won’t do that. Instead, I’ll tell you a little about myself.


First, today, April 12, is my birthday. My 21st, which is kind of a big deal in Wisconsin. Plus, it’s spring and the winter is finally letting up. Of course, I will not be going out because I will be locked in my room, at my own will, studying for the three tests I have this week. Fun, right? I’m kind of a partier. Admittedly, I’m a little behind for a few reasons. One, I missed four classes on Monday because I was at the WEMTA Conference–a conference put on by the Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association. It was a wonderful and insightful experience, so though I don’t like missing class, it was totally worth it. Two, this semester has been very low-key–which is very rare for me. My classes haven’t kept me as engaged as I’d like and they also haven’t been work-intensive, minus the studying. I have one paper, which is an economics paper, and I don’t know about you, but economics isn’t exactly a “fun” topic for me. Needless to say, I’ve been putting that paper off.


So anyway, Wesley and I are in Ed. Media Apps together. Ed Media Apps is a class that teaches future teachers how to integrate technology into their classrooms. It’s really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities changes in technology has brought to educators. Really, it’s probably one of the most valuable classes I’ve taken to date. Technology in the classroom is something I’m looking forward to working with. Technology right now, however, is probably the third reason why I feel so behind in my academics. Let’s be honest, who isn’t almost always connected to some form of social media on some device? For me, it’s my phone. Let’s say I’m writing that dreaded economics paper and I think, “Man, I wrote two paragraphs. I need a reward.” Of course, I recognize the ridiculousness in that statement, but hey, it’s economics. So, naturally, I’ll pick up my phone and check Facebook–which leads usually to some sort of Google search, a YouTube video, a BuzzFeed recipe, and, thirty minutes later, I feel completely unmotivated to write. Don’t get me wrong–I love writing and pride myself with being  pretty good at it. I also love technology, but sometimes if its usage goes unchecked things can get a little carried away.


If technology sometimes hinders my schoolwork, what can it do to make schoolwork better? PROJECTS. Learning new things is fun! At WEMTA, I learned so many cool new ways to infiltrate technology into lessons and schoolwork using so many (and often free) resources. Of course, sometimes it’s hard to make a dry economics paper “cool”, but, say, if I could make an interactive infographic on some given countries’ estimated real GDP over the years,that would actually be something I’d have fun with. In his blog post, Wesley had said, “Teachers need to keep up with their students in order to understand and relate to them, but, most importantly, keep them interested in what they’re teaching.” I can’t stress that enough (see above mentionings of economics). Really, just Google ways to incorporate technology into lessons and tools to do so. You might be surprised with how much is out there.


A Fun Tool for Formative Assessment

Who wants to make learning fun?! If you’re becoming a teacher or already are, I sure hope you do. Otherwise, what are you doing. Seriously, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Personally, I not only want my students to learn the content that I teach, but I also want them to enjoy doing so. Unfortunately, as many of us have experienced, when a teacher reviews how their students are doing or formally assesses them, it’s rarely fun. Remember Scantron tests? Yeah, so do I.

Well, good news. I’ve found a great tool to use for formative assessment, and it’s called Kahoot! That’s right, there’s an exclamation point in the name for the tool. WOOOOOO!!! So what is Kahoot!? It’s a FREE online tool that allows a teacher (or anyone, for that matter) to create short or long fun quizzes, surveys, or discussions. You can also add images, videos, and diagrams to spice things up. Now, once that has been created, you will be given a short code to give to your students, and, using whatever device they may have (computer, laptop, smartphone, etc) they can go to and enter the code, giving them access to what you have created. One of the benefits of this tool is that it doesn’t feel like a quiz or a test at all, but rather a game that gets your students involved. I have loved the fun times I have had in class when my teacher used this tool.

For a more in-depth tutorial on how to use Kahoot! (though I do feel they do a great job on their website), check out this video.

Communication and Collaboration

Alright, so recently I’ve been looking at tools that educators claim really help them in the classroom in regard to both communication and collaboration. Who’d have guessed that with my title for this post, right?!? Anyways, one of the tools I found on a couple of lists was actually the very first technological tool that I thought of: Google Drive. I’m sure many of you have used Google Drive yourselves, but when I think about how it has affected my professional life, it’s essential.

Google Drive, for those of you who do not know, is a FREE tool available via Google that lets you store a multitude of files that you can create on your own, or, better yet, create using one of the many other Google tools, such as Google Docs, Google Sheets, and much much more. Why is Google Drive so great? Well, on any file you store in it, you can get a shareable link to give to others that allows them to access, edit, and download your file, or you could give them editing capabilities by going through the settings for any file. Either way, sharing is done with a click of a few buttons.

What does this mean for the classroom, then? This means that a teacher could create a collaborative writing project and let every student have access to the document. Though it might be hectic, I bet it would be pretty fun for an Elementary Ed teacher to have all of their students trying to contribute to a story at once on a Google Doc. Another thing a teacher could do is have a shared folder filled with every resource a student might need for their course. Yet ANOTHER thing a teacher could do is create spreadsheets that students can enter their names to in seconds. Really, the possibilities of Google Drive are endless. Oh, and get this. With Google Drive, everything is stored in the cloud. This means that no matter what device you have, if you can sign into Google Drive with your information, you have access to every file stored on it. This is, of course, as opposed to the old method of file saving, which meant you needed some kind of storage device, such as a flash drive.

So, for those of you who have read this and are now SUPER PUMPED about using Google Drive… get to it. Here you go.

The SAMR Model

Later on in my life, when I teach, I want to make the classroom exciting and keep my students entertained. One of the most effective ways of doing so is to integrate technology into your teaching. This does not mean simply using that technology for yourself, either. Students should reap the rewards as well. Sometimes it can be difficult, though, to approach integrating technology in the classroom. When it comes to the classroom and technology integration, there is no better model than the SAMR model. What exactly is the SAMR Model? Well, I’ll explain it for you with this simple video that I’ve created. Did you click “simple video” yet? I promise it’s worth your while.

Well, I’ll go ahead and assume that you’ve watched the video. After all, if you’re reading this blog, you probably care enough to have done so. Now, if you should ever need to just glance at the SAMR Model in a simplified form, I highly recommend checking out this website.  As you can see, there is a nice info-graphic that you can glance at and appreciate at any time! SAMR is a wonderful tool, and as this website explains, “While one might argue over whether an activity can be defined as one level or another, the important concept to grasp here is the level of student engagement.” This is exactly right. This model is not to set guidelines for teachers, but rather to help a teacher engage their students.

When it comes to how I plan to teach, the SAMR Model has already greatly impacted me. As you saw in the video I politely forced you to watch, I was so inspired by the SAMR model that I created a stop-motion video about it! And boy, that took a heck of a long time. Believe me. In all seriousness, though, before seeing the SAMR Model I knew that I wanted to do fun things in my classroom, and I knew that I would be using some technology. But doesn’t every teacher want that? At least initially? One would hope so. Seeing and learning what the SAMR model is, though, has taught me that if I ever find my student’s engagement level lacking, it could be because I am not far up enough on that neat info-graphic I had you look at. Could you imagine having every one of your big projects for your classroom be on that Redefinition rung of that ladder? Because of working with the SAMR Model, I can, and I certainly hope to be at that level more often than not.

The Green Screen

So, I’m sure everyone at least knows what a green screen is, as I did when starting a green screen project in one of my classes (Educational Media Applications). For those who don’t, green screening is when you film yourself in front of a green background and, using a recording device or video editing tool, drop in any background you like. I’ve been having lots of fun with the project, but sometimes it was a tad frustrating.

So why am I telling you about the green screen? Green screens are being brought into classrooms! They are a fun way to do projects that may otherwise be boring. What would you rather do: act like you’re in Shakespeare’s time with the globe theater behind you, or create a power point? Yeah . . . that’s what I thought. They have many applications and show your students that you can keep up with technology.

Why should teachers care? Well, I should hope this is obvious. Green screens are just another tool that they can use in the classroom to breathe some life into a lesson or perhaps a final project. Regardless of the parameters, it is almost impossible not to have fun using a green screen. As a teacher, using a green screen would separate you from the crowd and perhaps even impress your superiors. At the very least, you’d have a wonderful time watching your students’ collaborations.

Some questions one may ask about a green screen:

Q. Where can I find the materials for a green screen, and how much will it cost?

A. Actually, a cheap and effective way to build a green screen is by finding an open space and taping or hooking a green shower curtain to the wall. One would also need, preferably, a tripod and a recording device such as an ipad or camcorder.

Q. What devices can use green screen technology?

A. Certain apple devices can download apps (for a small fee) that warp the green screen behind you as you record, but also most computers can change the green screen while editing the footage on imovie.

Q. Where can I find an awesome example of a green screen project?

A. Look no further. Keep in mind, this was done for a school project and used a minimal budget: perfect for teachers!



The Evolution of Technology

Recognize what this is? Anyone reading this blog would probably know that this is a floppy disk, an outdated storage medium for computers. Anyone born after the year 2000 or so might not know what this device is, though. When I was a child, I played computer games on these bad boys and the graphics were about as amazing as you’d expect. Later on, when I was in middle school I again had to use floppy disks for a required typing class. Even then I knew that floppy disks were ancient and had long since been replaced by compact discs. It fascinates me that technology has evolved so rapidly during my lifetime that people just a few years younger than me can be oblivious to pieces of technology like this. Every year it seems like we can do more and more with the technology in our lives.

It can be a daunting and frustrating task to keep up with this constant development of technology, but I believe it is essential for teachers to do so. Some teachers cling to the past because they know it and are comfortable there, but I feel that they are not only limiting themselves, but also making the classroom less fun for their students. For instance, when I was told I needed a floppy disk for my typing class in 2007, I, along with the rest of the class, was flabbergasted by the ridiculousness of it all. Why wouldn’t you use a disc? Or even a flash drive?? So much more can be done with the better technology! In summary, if any teachers are out there still using a floppy disk, they should probably change with the times or take up a new profession as an exhibit in a museum.