Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Chapter Ends and Another One Begins…

Now that I have concluded my experience with EDU776 I feel that I am better prepared to use technology in my classroom. At the start of this course I felt that I had a solid foundation in the technology world. Although that foundation was fantastic I feel that I have truly made some huge leaps and bounds! I find that I look at technology in a new light, almost more attainable than before. I find that I do my normal planning but am not thinking of ways that I can use a technology tool. I do and probably will always have a bit of reservation around technology mainly due to the fact that I still find great importance in human interaction and problem solving experiences. Nonetheless, technology is an important tool that students in the twenty first century must feel comfortable with and be able to problem solve with. My school is one-to-one so I have been easily able to try the tools I was interested in easily. The cool tools were eye opening and the Tech Tac Toe assignment was truly life changing! QR have been such an exciting and interactive way for my students and other classes to see what we are doing. The tool that I has become part of my weekly planning is Seesaw. I absolutely love using Seesaw in my classroom! I never thought that my first grade students would be blogging weekly about their learning. Together we have been practicing and figuring out the best way we can use this application on our iPads. I have found that the prep is easy and it is allowing me to have the students be accountable while still allowing me to check for understanding. It doesn’t get any better than that for me! After winter break, I will be inviting the parents to be part of our audience which will add another dimension to our blogging. EDU776 has given me the practice and exposure I needed to feel comfortable integrating different technological experience in my classroom. This class has also brought my technology specialist and I closer and she is such an amazing resource that I am so glad I am not missing out on.  I would recommend it to any educator that is ready to involve technology into their classrooms in an easy and fun way! I look forward to learning more cool technology tools and incorporating new interactive ways for my students to learn this year and into the future. Hooray for EDU776!

Trends in Education

 I had heard of Universal Design for Learning briefly during my undergraduate education, however, it was not a focus so the concept faded. However, in the last few years my administration has been creating a great deal of buzz around Universal Design for Learning. Many of them went to a Harvard to do the training, so I thought this was a great opportunity to learn what all the buzz is about! The most fascinating thing I learned was that the idea of UDL seeded from CAST around special education needs. What is wonderful is that what started out as such a focused idea spun into an idea that is meant to encompass every learner. I think that the idea that an environment should be able to support every learners potential. The research that has been done in support of the best way to achieve students’ learning potential is pretty amazing. CAST is a phenomenal organization that is continually working on creating solutions to make the educational experience as effective and inclusive as possible. Below are some great visuals to refresh your mind around UDL along with Prezi!  Check it out!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Seesaw Adventure

Seesaw was a tech tool that I was super excited to try because I thought it would be beneficial to add my current parent communication. Seesaw is an interactive website where every child has their own portfolio where they can collect/create photos,videos, drawing, upload a file, add a note or link. We started off small and simple with taking a photo of student math work and then having the kids explain their mathematical thinking. After a quick introduction to the photo taking and editing features, the children were easily able to manipulate the tool. Once they have taken their photo/video they were able to add audio and edit using highlighters to add detail and bring attention to important parts of their work. Then each student posted his/her work on the class feed, which then needed approval from me, the teacher. I really loved that feature as it allows me to filter through their work and also help to support them in creating better quality posts. Once their work is posted their peers can comment and like each others work. They were super engaged and couldn’t wait to comment and like each others work. The task of commenting and liking started the conversation around digital citizenship which was explained as two stars and a wish. State two nice comments or compliments and then one wish or kind suggestion for how your friend/peer can make his/her work better. Digital citizenship is extremely important and it’s nice to start the conversation! Seesaw is a wonderful the tool that is easily used by my first graders. I know these digital portfolios will serve as a great way for my parents to get a look into what their child is learning and practicing in the classroom each week and throughout the week. It will also be a great way for each of my students to reflect on their growth throughout the year as well! Let the adventure begin…                                                                                                                                                                                         

QR Codes are cool!

QR codes was a completely new concept for me all together. I have noticed them around in my environment on books, in grocery stores, etc. However, I had no idea what they did, they just looked like funny looking bar codes! So with the aide of my fabulous technology specialists, I converted my students video about describing leaves into an html. via Googledrive. Once they were converted we inputted them into a goggled template for QR codes and the QR codes were automatically created. The process of uploading the videos was only challenging because the students iPads had to be synced into a Googleddrive account, which was easily created. The QR codes were then printed out onto a leaf template and the boys and girls cut them out and put them on our tree bulletin board outside of the classroom. These QR codes were up and ready for viewing for Parent/Teacher conferences and the parents loved them! The kids around the building were interested with our bulletin board as they walked throughout the hallways as well. I loved having the kids use Shadow Puppet to make their videos about their leaves and they had a blast creating their videos. After doing the QR codes for the first time I felt that I would absolutely continue to use them not only having them used for displaying student created pieces but also as a teaching tool. I would like to try some other ways to create QR codes as I do think that the Google template was involved a bit more steps than necessary. On to my next technology discovery!                                                                                                            

Smore Newsletter


When I was exploring the varies Tech Tac Toe options over the last few weeks I have discovered a great deal! I wanted to tackle Smore as a tool because I write a newsletter bi-weekly or monthly and I figured it would be the perfect resource I would actually use! I have found it to be extremely easy to work with and I enjoyed using the different templates for the background and editing options. There was also a very helpful tour for how to create flyers and all the different features that can be manipulated. After my second newsletter I found that it wasn't as "pretty" without pictures. When I tried to put in pictures using Creative Commons (super easy and convenient) I found that the formatting options for putting in pictures was simple but then I was not able to manipulate the size or location of the picture. That was a bit disappointing… nonetheless, I will be capturing photos of my students doing the activities from now on. Capturing my students doing the work that I am talking about might actually be more interesting for parents. I did start thinking about the fact that this is an online site, can anyone view my flyer or do I have to send it to them? That could pose a problem with the photos of my students as I would need permission for their faces to be in plain sight. Something to be mindful of…I have enjoyed getting familiar with the different features of Smore but there are still some features I don’t know that I will use like button or audio. I do think I might use the video feature along with the embedded link, however, I wonder once I get my Seesaw up and running more consistently if I will even need all the extra features. There are many other features that I did try on the site as I haven't personally found the need at this point.  I definitely plan to continue to use Smore to do my monthly newsletter because I like the format of the site and how easy it is to send it to all my students’ parents. 
Feel free to check out my newsletter on my website in my portfolio! My website

Monday, November 21, 2016

Technology Research for Education

When I first read through the assignment of Educational Technology Research, my initial thought was I’m going to have so much additional reading to do!  Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up was an organization that I had never heard of before so I decided to check it out.  From Print to Pixel: The Role of Video, Games, Animations and Stimulation with K-12 Education was on of the report I choose to closely review.
I chose these particular report because since taking this course I have found myself not only more interested in technology in my classroom, but also struggling to find a good balance.  I found the flyers to be visually appealing and helpful in giving the important nuggets of the report’s findings. I also appreciated that each PDF flyer was broken up into different audiences. As an educator it was helpful to see the different perspectives around technology use. Although I was not shocked by the report, I found it reaffirming that I am going in the right direction with my use of technology in the classroom. Both students and parents support the use of technology in the classroom. I also found it good to hear that in the report many administrators did not think that their teachers had enough training around the use of technology as a teaching tool. I completely agree and am fortunate that my district is aware of this barrier and are working with Dominican University to create an opportunity for training. I think the variety of voices that are being represented through these reports are fantastic!
An interesting article I came across while on Twitter that connected was Gaming for Global Education Gaming for Global Education

Common Sense Media research was another terrific organization as I found the reports to be organized beautifully. I was not expecting to need to sign up for access to the detailed reports, however, it was a quick process. Not only were the topics interesting and informative but also readily available for specific audiences or interests. I think when giving information around technology it is helpful to share it in small doses. I loved that there was an option for the key points and full report as time can be something that is minimal. When reading the report around finding balance with the use of technology and the concern of addiction around use of technology I was shocked that the parents and teens were so close in their survey answers. Perhaps teens and parents are more on the same page than we thought! 

I think having access to research around technology in education is very helpful, but it needs to be in a way that is easily reviewed. Often as a teacher I feel that I barely have enough time for the continuos needs of students, administrators and parents. So thinking about adding another area of consumption can be overwhelming. However, after reviewing the reports in Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up and Common Sense Media I think not only are the reports meaningful but a quick read. I would like to think that school districts take these type of educational reports into consideration when planning PD, implementing new vision statements and other important work that affects students and teachers. With my new found knowledge I plan to share theses two research organizations with my technology specialist as she is often our school’s best medium for important technology news and ideas. Although I imagine they are not new organizations it will be nice to connect with another professional with some shared background knowledge and possible more knowledge to share! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tattoos of the Future

Learning about digital tattoos in class, I was taken back with how easy it was to find out personal information! I couldn’t help but look into my own name to see what was out there and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have much out there besides my current employment.  I prefer my digital tattoo to be minimal and so as not to divulge private information. I am comfortable with technology and have used social media, however, when you look up my name you would not find anything. I don't have anything to hide but am capable with technology tools. Knowing that a tattoo is permanent I do not feel that there is a need to be super public about my private life as an educator.  However, I am enjoying my experience thus far with creating a professional digital tattoo. I know that education and society is revolving around technology in our future and even now and I am feeling more comfortable with embracing the shift slowly. 
 I do think as an educator it is important to teach/bring student attention to the idea of digital tattoo/presence. Especially with my younger students, I feel like there is a care-free attitude when using technology. Therefore, I think it is valuable to teach them to be mindful of what they are putting onto social media. It is never to early to learn that a tattoo is permanent but that you have control over what is put on display. 

 I found the media literacy segment alarming at times but not a brand new concept. I feel that it is extremely important for students to be exposed to media literacy definitely by middle school. Perhaps even the late elementary school age students would benefit from some education around media literacy due to the fact that self awareness starts to be developed. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Digital Storytelling

When it came time to put together my digital storytelling project, I found the idea of telling the story of myself evolving from a daughter to a mother as a the perfect topic. My adventure started on my desktop Mac at home. When I went onto iMovie I discovered that I had done a digital story six years ago about how I wanted to be remembered. It was extremely inspirational to watch the story as it was from my point of view shortly out of undergraduate school. Wow, I’ve learned so much since then! I quickly remembered how iMovie worked and was easily able to put together the digital story. Unfortunately, I had some issues due to the age of the computer and after working late into the night trying to get it on YouTube, I copied it onto a DVD just in case and called it a night. (The lesson learned was make sure your equipment is updated and is compatibly before starting a project.) I ended up making a new digital story with more current pictures and with a more updated computer. I learned how to use GarageBand and was able to easily narrate my favorite story to my pictures. Once my story was done I found embedding took a little bit of time but it was awesome to see it pop up on YouTube and have the control of who views it. I look forward to adding on to it and sending it to my family for the holiday season! 

I could see myself using digital storytelling with my students with the support of my technology specialist. I think it could be useful for retelling stories using their own drawings. I I also think it would be neat to have my class help me make the end of year DVD by narrating what’s going on in the pictures. Digital storytelling is not only a great way to incorporate technology it is a great way to capture your ideas, experiences and share it with others over and over again!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The PLN Experience

My experience with a Professional Learning Network has been engaging and powerful. At the start of my journey on Twitter, I have found some wonderful groups and educators to follow. It is so inspiring to see what other educators are doing in their classroom not only in my district but in schools all over. 
On Thursday, September 29th I set out to try my first #EDChat as @ZikaA27.  I decided to try my luck at the #ICEILchat. I felt a bit nervous mainly because I was unsure of the speed in which I would need to respond. Luckily to my surprise, I found that the pace with not as difficult to keep up with as I thought. I liked that the discussion started off with a introduction and that there was a presentation of all the questions to preview and refer to  (courtesy of @amber_heffner). 
Since technology is not my area of expertise, I learned many interesting pieces of information. It was cool to see how some participants knew each other, yet the vibe overall was one that was welcoming and accepting. It was fascinating to be able to observe and interact with such a large group of people at one time from the comforts of my couch! At times I felt that I didn't have a great deal to contribute to the conversation because I did not have the same background knowledge as all the participants. Therefore, there were questions that I needed to do some research around to be able to respond with some insight. I did learn a great deal and feel that I will definitely participate in another #EdChat soon! 
Professional Learning Networks are a great way to get inspired by other professional and collaborate on your time. My favorite http://www.theprimarypeach.com/ is a wonderful network that I have found some wonderful resources in multiple areas. I have found some great reading ideas and technology use idea for my classroom. Check it out!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Active Learning

    Discovering active learning has been enlightening. I was taught in a very traditional way and yet I can remember a few times when a teacher used active learning and it was a powerful and fun lesson. I love how student driven active learning is because it creates a more collaborative approach to learning.The lesson example (see Prezi below) that I read was a great because the students directed the lesson which increased the engagement and allowed for an authentic learning experience. 

   I feel that teachers should keep active learning in mind when they are lesson planning because it fosters independence and nuture students for the future. Students creating their learning experiences while being cognitively challenged will increase students ability to retain their knowledge because it is meaningful to them.  I would love to incorporate a more collaborative approach to learning in my classroom. We have 1:1 iPads in our classroom this year and I am hoping that I can create a lesson that allows my students to have more choice but with guidance. Working with first graders my goal is to foster independence and through active learning opportunities I feel that I can reach that goal sooner. I am looking forward to implementing more opportunities for active learning in my classroom this year! 

(See Prezi below)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

All About Me

My name is Amanda Zika and I teach first grade at Willard Elementary School. I love teaching first grade because it is a great age for teaching the importance of good character. With all the changes in education it has been invigorating learning new ways to enrich and engage students.  I chose education as my career because I love having the ability to positively impact society.

I grew up in Glenview, IL and graduated from Glenbrook South High School. I continued my education at Illinois State University where I received my Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education and my minor in Psychology in 2007. My first job in education was as a teacher's aide working with students with special education needs which was a great foundation to my new career in education.  I decided to get my ELL endorsement from National Louis University. My next position brought me to Beach Park School in a 5th grade classroom followed by two long term substitute positions in Pre-K and then a full-day Kindergarten. After my experience working with such a diverse population I decided to get my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction at National Louis University. In 2010, I was hired at Willard Elementary School as a Kindergarten teacher and have been teaching there ever since!

On a personal note, I am a new mom! I had a little girl named Madeline Dior on March 16th. My husband Garrett and I are loving our new adventure as parents. When I am not spending time with my growing family, I enjoy time with my friends. I love going to concerts, eating and cooking delicious food and experiencing new things. I find it extremely important to have balance in my life and I am striving to be the best me!