Tech Practice

Module 3 = The Module from Hell

Module 3 Reflection

Ugh.  This module was so hard in some areas.  Major source of frustration for me.  I easily started a free account with WordPress, created a title, tagline, and the 4 menu pages.  Then I decided I didn’t like the theme I had set it up on, so I changed to a different one.  Suddenly, I’m missing things that I’d already set up.  My four menu items were gone and I didn’t notice before because I was focused on the next step of posting module 1 to reflections.  When it went to the home page and I couldn’t find the reflections page I realized, oh crap, stuff disappeared.  How do I get it back? So, I looked for the WordPress support and help area.  Watched some of their videos and help FAQs and posts and still couldn’t get it to work.  I posted in the Facebook group and got a nice person who commiserated with me about being behind and Jennifer responding to another post about how to post the reflection on module 1 from a word document.  So, new thing, don’t copy and paste the file, open the file and copy the text and then paste into the post area.  Okay, so one issue resolved. 

The menu issue still wasn’t resolved.  This took up days of searching before I even posted on Facebook.  Then, nothing is instantaneous, because hey, we all have lives.  But I have other things to do this last week before school starts for me, so feeling frustrated, but the search continued.  I found a link to a live chat help area that I thought was through WordPress, but turned out it was through something else.  I posted my soliloquy of issues and the person said they could help but I needed to register with their organization.  They had a free account for 3 days, or I could pay $67 for the situation to be dealt with.  So I registered for a free account but then my live chat person was gone.  No other helpers could be found, due to it being after 11PM by this point.  So then I copied and pasted the exchange into a request for email assistance.  I’ve been emailing back and forth with a new person all day while trying to watch 2 webinars I’d signed up for.  Jeez!  Are teachers the biggest multi-taskers on the planet, or what?!  Well, except maybe for Moms.  Anyway, this new guy fixed the problem, but then I had another question for him. 

No response for a while, so here I am typing up this “War and Peace” sized post.  Okay, here’s another frustration … the terminology.  I always thought that websites and blogs were two different things.  Seems they are and they aren’t.  The words are sometimes used interchangeably which is confusing for newbies like me.  Then when you get into the actual creation of your blog (I’m using this and I’m sticking to it) there are menus, pages, categories, posts, widgets, oh my!  Apparently menus and pages are the same, yet not the same.  So I don’t even know how to appropriately refer to them.  See the steam coming out of my “type A” ears.  Thank God for kindhearted group members trying to help.  After watching a wonderful video on terminology I think I get it now.  Still trying to figure out why my posts are going to tech practice when I chose the reflections category.  I just learned that you can only post to one page with my theme?? For some reason it’s set as the tech practice for me.  Praying for some divine intervention of how to fix this.  What worries me is that school starts up next week. I won’t have hours to sort out these issues.  That is seriously going to slow things down.  But, again, I’m determined to learn this stuff even if it kills me.  Gah.

So, update.  Sheri has been kind enough to post a couple of how to videos on using WordPress that are so greatly appreciated.  At first I was disappointed that I wasn’t getting any assistance from Jennifer on this, I mean she is guiding us in this journey, right?  I felt like maybe as a rank beginner at the blog stuff I was just annoying to her.  Okay, paranoid much?  Then I realized she was purposely not helping so that I would have to figure it out myself or through the kindness of others in the group.  Understandable, since the purpose is for us to learn.  Reality – Not so fun when you waste days and days of precious time finding nothing and getting frustrated.  That online chat help?  Yeah, not so helpful.  No one got back to me until Day 4 of the 3 free days of help when I tried to resolve the posts going to the wrong page.  Since I can’t afford to fork over $67 to answer one question, that was left a problem.  So I kind of felt like I was left swinging in the wind.  Then I went back to the FB group and Sheri posted that she was creating another video on the theme I’m using.  So awesome of her!  I watched it and learned a lot about what I did right, and didn’t realize it, and what I did not do right.  Definitely broadened my understanding of WordPress and the theme I chose.  Unfortunately, it didn’t help my issue. 

So, back to Google searches.  But now I had better terminology to use and a little more understanding of how to compose my question.  I found a video on YouTube that I thought would resolve the issue.  I watched it and, no.  He said the pages you want to post to should be set up as categories, not pages and to make sure you do that ahead of posting or it would be a long and involved problem to fix.  Well, that’s where I went wrong.  Great!  At least it was validation that I’m not an idiot, this really is a tough nut to fix.  So, again, his video broadened my understanding of what was going and gave me more signposts.  I went in and realized I needed to remove the pages that I wanted to post to and go back and add them in as categories.  This made the posts appear on the home page again.  I left them there and then added the two new categories.  Then I went to the first post and clicked edit and did something where I put a check mark next to reflections and voila, my posts are finally in the right place.  It only took a week to figure it out.  Gah!!!  My learning take-away form this annoying experience?  Do not change your theme before you understand how to use WordPress.  Very, very bad idea. 

So now I’m going to attempt to post this rant and then deal with adding widgets.  God help me….


Module 1

  1. What are your biggest concerns or challenges with technology? Sometimes I feel like Pigpen from the Peanuts cartoon, but instead of a whirling cloud of dust and dirt it’s ideas, professional articles I want to read later, ideas from blogs I’m reading, posts from Pinterest boards I’m following, posts on Facebook from edubloggers, books I might use to teach this strategy or that, ideas from a training, all floating and swirling above my head like some whirling flock of birds. I desperately need a way to corral all that great stuff in one place that is organized by sub categories so I can quickly find them when I need them.  I would like to find technology to help better engage my students that are reluctant learners, who have a history of bad experiences that has led to a lack of confidence in themselves as learners.  I also really need to find something to help my own productivity.  As a special education teacher I have so much paperwork that takes up lots of unpaid hours of my time.  Lesson planning and grading are also often, excuse the terminology, “time sucks”.  I would love to be able to have something that integrates what I’m teaching, the tech I’m using to individualize my students’ learning and somehow track that in a report that I can see to drive my instruction and use for grade reports, SPED progress reports on IEP goals, and parent teacher conference information to share.  I would rather have more time to interact with my students in small groups and individually to help them assess themselves, set goals, and review their goals for resetting and or celebrations.
  2. Which two reasons of “Why Bother with Technology” are relevant for me? Well, frankly, they’re all relevant on some level.  The ones that are most relevant are: to save me time, more and better collaboration, differentiating instruction, having students become more independent learners, and increasing student engagement.  Those relevant for me personally are the saving time and differentiating instruction.  I spend hours after school working on just the IEP paperwork, let alone lesson planning and grading.  Anything that would streamline that process so that I can still have relevant data and other information, yet pare it down to the most essential elements would be phenomenal.  I have almost given up on the whole “work-to-life balance” fairytale.  It doesn’t exist in my life.  I love teaching, but I’m becoming resentful at how much of my life it’s taken over.  I work at a school that is out on the Navajo Reservation so is pretty remote.  Most of the staff commute in either a half hour from the east or fifty minutes from the west.  So no one wants to stay late to collaborate or make up a PLC (aka PLN).  I am always searching for a good group to collaborate with.  I love going to outside conferences or trainings because I meet people excited about the same things.  When I’m around like minded people I feel that I’m always learning something new, some new way of doing something, or a tool I’ve never heard of.  I love that and don’t get enough of it working out in the boonies.    Working with special education students means I am differentiating all the time and coordinating with general education teachers helping them figure out better ways to differentiate, so the more tools I have in my toolbox, the better experiences my students have in the general education setting. For my students:  The population I work with is not known for producing a lot of independent learners, they tend to like to work together or have the teacher feed them knowledge like a baby bird and its mother.  I feel strongly that my special education students need to learn the skills that will make them confident enough in themselves as learners that they will easily and accurately work independently.  This is an on-going battle.  I need all the tools I can get in this area.  I love the idea of increasing student engagement as well.  By the time students get to my classroom they have had many frustrating and disheartening experiences in the general education setting.  Some already have an “I’m just stupid!” mindset and have given up on themselves.  I want them to not only regain confidence in themselves and learn the skills they need, but to have fun learning.  To grow that curiosity that kids first come to school with.  So, I’ll always be on the look-out for tools to help foster this.
  1. Choose 2 specific tools that interest you and describe how they might be used in your work. There are a bunch of great tools in the examples given for the three teachers.  I wanted some way to better communicate with the parents of my students.  I originally thought of a class website, but might also do a blog.  I wanted to share the usual:  upcoming events, reminders for signature forms, what the class is currently working on, etc.  But I also wanted to have a section where I share a good article geared towards parents on a different disability or SPED issue each month and a Q&A section where I choose one or two questions posed by parents and answer them.  So it looks like I could use Weebly, WordPress, Remind, or Edmodo to accomplish that task.  I seriously need to organize all my ideas, so maybe I could use Diigo or Evernote for that.  I would also like to look into more ways to use technology for my formative assessments so that I can have some data to show for that.  My little notations on odd scraps of paper and homemade logs are just not very professional and also easily lost.  Maybe I could use ClassResponder or eduCannon if I flip my classroom in the future.  I love the idea of GoNoodle.  I already use Brain Gym and some brain break chips I bought, but it might be nice to mix it up with a technology version.  I already use Pinterest and am obsessed with it.  I love the idea of creating competitive games for the teams to compete against each other using Kahoot.  I definitely want to check into that one.  I have some Smartboard review games that are game based and my students LOVE them.
  2. The two tips that I believe are the most important for successful us of technology are: to get clear on the reason and prepare for setbacks. You have to have a clear idea of why this piece of technology is better than a low tech way of doing something.  If it’s just for the novelty of using technology that isn’t a good enough reason.  If it is engaging and the child is learning the objective that you set, then it is a good reason to use this tech tool.  For me, also if it saves me time – huge bonus.  The other tip of preparing for setbacks was my biggest frustration this past school year.  I didn’t do that on a few occasions and it was a disaster.  Definitely learned from those awful experiences.
  3. One thing I learned from the Q&A section. The resource Managing Technology: Tips from Experts is something I am definitely going to read.  We have an educational assistant with a few technology person and he often is unavailable or does not know the answers to the questions we have.  I want to be sure I am keeping my students safe online and hopefully  getting some troubleshooting tips.  I also loved the idea of tethering my smartphone to the computer if, okay when, our internet goes out.  Great idea!
  4. Two interesting tools from the 30 Tools Categories: I love ClassResponder, definitely would like to use this for formative assessment data.  May also try Flubaroo if we end up focusing on Google at my school for this school year.  I also like Quizlet to create more engaging flashcards for use with my sight word and vocabulary menus during center time.  I also really like Thinglink.  It would be really cool to have images that grab a student’s attention and then give them embedded maps, music, art, text, or links related to the topic.

Module 2 Reflection

I chose to set up my storage bin in Dropbox.  This is a very easy storage site to use.  The back channel communication areas I’m using are Voxer to chat with my Elementary group and Facebook to look at posts and post questions with the entire cohort for this class.  I’ve made and read posts in both on a regular basis.  Although I did notice that when my group members put their links to their blogs into Voxer it soon disappears, as the site only has the threads from the most recent posts.  I noticed someone posted a central location for everyone in the cohort to post the links for their blogs, which is fantastic!  After that, I could access other people’s blogs and get an idea of what they are supposed to look like.  I have never done a blog or a website before and am easily confused by some of the terms and instructions.  Thank goodness for this visual representation of what we are supposed to do. Since I am taking multiple online classes, this process was wonderful for organization.  Now I have folders for each of my classes on Dropbox and I can easily keep things organized for each class. My group members, who had Dropbox accounts, were able to access my link to Module 1 with no problem.