Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Post 4: Thinglink and Education

Recently, I explored an educational social media website called Thinglink. This website allows users to upload photos and videos to turn them into interactive tools. For example, if I uploaded a video for my students to watch about the importance of recycling, Thinglink allows me to add in questions, comments, or external links that scroll across the video in order to help guide my students’ critical thinking and keep them engaged. With photographs, the creator can put interactive dots that create text boxes with information, website links, videos, or questions for the students to explore. Playing around with the site, I created an interactive tool about deforestation using specific pictures and icons on which I placed interactive buttons. For example, there is a picture with a panther; the interactive dots on this photo go to links about endangered animals affected by deforestation.

My interactive tool I made using Thinglink. 

allows me to compile links, questions, and videos to engage my students, spur research, and prompt them to own their learning. The site is also Google App friendly, allowing linkage to Google docs, maps, and forms. Looking at the social media side of the site, users can search and view other people’s creations if they do not have time to compile their own. A quick search of “panther” brings up a variety of interactive pictures displaying links, information, and videos to educate viewers about the animal. By simply clicking the heart icon, a user “touches” the photo, thus saving it to their Thinglink profile. By collecting tools this way, a user can effectively manage a variety of resources to share with their students or use to inspire their own interactive tool.

Thinglink has free and premium versions and is very user and classroom friendly. It allows teacher to sign into the account separately from their students, and features multiple channels to organize different units, classes, or groups. You can even use Thinglink in place of traditional projects by allowing students to compile research and make their own interactive tools rather than using markers and posters. Thinglink is a great tool that can be implemented into any classroom for it helps student engage in autonomous research, summarizing skills, and higher ordered thinking.   

Here is a link to the Thinglink education website:

Screenshot of Ms. Gorzney's Thinglink page

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Post 3: The Struggling Reader’s Ally

As an English pre-service teacher, I am always learning and researching about how to make my classroom universally designed. Recently in one of my special education courses, we came realized that we never go over the kinds of universal technology that help our readers and writers. I took it upon myself to find a resource that helps students who may be slow readers, have trouble pronouncing words, or have visual impairments or dyslexia. Here is what I found:

Learning Ally is nonprofit organization that provides a collection of over 80,000 human-narrated books to help readers improve comprehension, confidence, and performance. The content they offer is centered on the core-curriculum, featuring text along with the professional recordings. The program works on computers, tablets, and many mobile devices, making it easy to use and a personalized experience. There are two programs: 1) $49/quarterly for four audiobooks or 2) $119/year for unlimited audiobooks. The first program would fit nicely into any school unit, because the books for that semester’s curricular could be downloaded and used in class. The site features many success stories and celebrates readers from all backgrounds. However, the program is only licensed to those with a documented disability.

Like Learning Ally, many other programs and tablets have read aloud features that can help struggling readers. The great thing about tablet readers are that the benefit and are open to ALL students rather than just accommodating for those with diagnosed disabilities. By giving every student the choice to use assistive tech, no one will feel different, disabled, or given unfair advantages. 

Here is a link to the Learning Ally website: Learning Ally 

Below is a descriptive video featured on LEarning Ally's website and YouTube channel:

Photo by Brian Moore, "Using more iPod Book" on Flickr 

Friday, November 11, 2016

PLN: 10 and 11

10) Zoom

Zoom is a free, online video chat room where co-workers can call in and collaborate at any distance. It is the modern day conference call. Zoom has many useful features, such as screen sharing that, if you subscribe with a monthly fee, can support up to five-hundred participants. It’s easy to use, supports more people than other video chats, and allows effective collaboration. I learned about Zoom from my educational technology course where we were encouraged to use it for our many group projects. Since we all had busy schedules, Zoom allowed us to convene at an hour that worked best for everyone and did not require anyone to travel. I will definitely use zoom as a teacher so I can collaborate with my co-workers. Grading, planning, and boards keep teachers very busy, so Zoom is a very flexible tool to use in place of formal meetings. It can also be used to conference with teachers across the country, such as in podcasts or other live events about education. As teachers, we need to work together and share our knowledge and research; sites like Zoom allow these interactions to be done face to face and screen to screen over any distance.

Snapshot of what our Zoom meeting looked like

11) College of Education & Teacher Leadership Workshop

Even before this class I was at work expanding my PLN. As part of the UNI College of Education, I receive many emails about speakers, events, and seminars to further equip and prepare me for my career as a teacher. One of the emails I got invited me to a workshop that would help teachers learn how to be leaders in their school and collaborate with their co-workers. Many other prospective teachers were there and we got to break out in groups and talk with one another about our own negative and positive experiences with collaboration, contradicting beliefs, and unhealthy partnerships. We talked about the importance of compromise and how to stay professional in stressful, argumentative settings, as well as doing what is right rather than what is easy. Another part of the workshop talked about how to make a resume and efficiently market myself when applying for a job.
My workshop certificate 
Being a part of the college of Education is very beneficial because it is another facet of information about teaching, partners me with my peers, helps me build my resume, and prepare to be a teacher. I recommend joining many clubs and organizations to expand your own PLN.

PLN: 7, 8, 9

7) Pinterest
            I started using Pinterest because my mentor teachers insisted it would help me organize my classroom, but I never got around to making an education board. After following English and Education blogs for this class, however, I see how beneficial Pinterest is to educators. Like Twitter, I am able to share and receive numerous ideas pertaining to education. The tag feature is very helpful because I can find specific things I am looking for, anywhere from stimulating classroom designs to lesson plans. I followed a variety of boards and pinners, so now when I go on the site I am greeted with hundreds of new ideas neatly laid out for my perusal. Another nice thing about Pinterest is that I can make my personal boards private, so I do not have to worry about managing several accounts.
            Some helpful boards I’ve followed and pins I’ve placed have to do with English education. There are many classroom starter activities, essay and discussion prompts, and a never ending cluster of synonyms for crutch words. These are all helpful tools for both me and my students. With these board organizations, I can easily find inspiration when I feel my lessons need some stimulation or my thinking is blocked; everyday my dash will be full of new ideas. If feeling ambitions, I can also share my own lesson plans and ideas.  Pinterest will help me stay organized, creative, and in touch with my fellow English teachers around the world.

Many of the education boards I have followed 

8) Symbaloo

I continued expanding my PLN with Symbaloo. This site acts as an organizer where a teacher can compile all their social media, assistive tech, and blogs they follow. I first heard of Symbaloo from my level one mentor teacher. She used it to organizer her personal and class related material, such as websites and programs the school used. Recently I made my own Symbaloo, featured in the picture below, where I organized all the blogs I follow, educational websites I have used or am familiar with, and my college and social media related material. Symbaloo also acts as a sharing device; I was able to follow the educational technology department’s Symbaloo where I can find all the materials we have been using and discussing in class, as well as example projects. Their Symbaloo helps me easily find the course material and examples I am looking for rather than having to dig through the files on eLearning. As a future teacher, I could have my students create their own Symbaloos and then share mine with them so they will always have easy access to my class blog and other websites we use. Rather than sending email links or social media posts that can easily get lost on a dashboard, I can post the helpful sites or homework information on Symbaloo instead.

My Symbaloo 
My Symbaloo: link to my Symbaloo about English education and my portfolios

9) Facebook

            Using Facebook, I was able to join groups for the clubs, major, and associations I am a part of here at UNI. One of these groups I joined is UNICoTE, a club and Facebook group for English teachers. As a future English teacher, this group gives me the opportunity to connect with my peers and often posts about English education related events such as authors, NCTE, and keynote speakers brought to UNI. Through social media groups like this, I am able to stay involved and up to date on all that in happening in my major here on campus, giving me even more opportunities to expand my PLN. As a teacher, I can use the group feature on Facebook to create a page for my class to join where they can get updates and collaborate. As the admin, their posts must be approved by me to prevent bullying and cheating. It also works to organize clubs and other school associations. I was a part of many Facebook groups for the clubs during high school to help me stay involved. Not only does it reach out to our students, but to the entire school community. Parents can stay up to date 
on school events and fundraisers, motivating them to get 
involved in their child’s education.             

UNICOTE Facebook group

PLN: Expanding 4, 5, 6

4) Innovative Blogger

In expanding my PLN, I followed several bloggers I found through #iaedchat, Twitter mutuals, and blog recommendations. One of the blogs I followed, called “Class Tech Tips”, is run by a teacher named Monica Burns. Her blog is all about educational technology and how to implement new tech equipment and research into the classroom. I subscribed to her blog and newsletter, and also followed her on twitter. I decided to follow her because she is a published professional and provides great ideas about how to implement new technologies into the classroom. Her recommendations and reviews target all areas of education, even my specialized field of English. For example, she blogged about the benefits of a program called WriteReader where students can write and publish books to share. This is an amazing program that lets students make their work and ideas tangible, and since they are sharing with a wide audience they will be more proud and motivated to put in the effort to revise and learn. On her blog she also encourages us to attend educational technology related events and workshops, and gives book and consulting recommendations.
            I get newsletters and updates about her blog about once a week that let me know what she recently researched. Following blogs like this is very helpful because it is a constant outlet of new ideas for me to explore, research, and implement into my classroom.

Monica's Blog informs me about new technology for schools

5) Connect with an Author

As an English teaching major, it is very important for me to stay engaged in the literary world. One way to do this is to actually read literature to improve my own reading and writing skills; modelling engagement in literacy is very important after all. Using the internet, I was able to find one of my favorite authors on all forms of social media. She is very active in her fan-base and provides loads of information about reading and writing. I followed her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and subscribed to her blog. I emailed her about how much I loved her books and she even responded back. By engaging with an author like this, I demonstrate to my students that they have a voice and the abilities to communicate with people  they admire. By being able to interact with our heroes, we develop a sense of ability and empowerment, and can begin imaging and working towards making out own aspirations come true.
Going back to this author’s blog and other social media sites, she posts many helpful tips and ideas about writing, creating ideas, developing characters, worlds, plots, and publishing. I have spent many hours and dollars engaging with her works and applying her advice to my own writing. It is important to demonstrate that the writing process never ends and that there is an entire community of writers to interact with and learn from on the internet. I might be able to use social media or email to request that authors come into my classroom or do a video chat. Authors usually love this because they have the opportunity to share their books on an educational level and can inspire the next generation to develop a love of reading and writing. Also, I will definitely have a letter writing unit wear my students write to their heroes and favorite authors to help them see the largeness and openness of these communities. A unit like this would segue nicely into a creative writing workshop where we use the internet to get writing advice and share our work with others.

Rachel Aaron's Newsletter

6) A Professor who stimulates your thinking

As an English teaching major, it is very important for me to work, learn, and share with other teachers. In discussions like this, we can brainstorm about literary teaching ethics, practices, and share our own experiences and beliefs. In my class Teaching of Writing, my professor, Dr. Davis, creates an open, collaborative discussion environment for exploring how to effectively guide our students in creating their writing processes. Dr. Davis really helps me to ask questions about teaching students to write and how to prepare myself to respond and guide them in the process. He uses eLearning to encourage us to have open discussions about the topics and readings we went over in class, and, most importantly, he responds to all our posts. He also shares many articles for us to read and discuss. By modelling and promoting a reflective, engaged, and collaborative teaching environment, Dr. Davis motivates me to stay involved in society, to question and pursue answers through writing, and to work with my fellow teachers to solve problems and reflect on situations. Dr. Davis has really prepared me for my duty as an English educator, and his practices have really impacted the way I teach. I plan to respond to my students’ writing in questioning manners rather than grammatical, and it would be beneficial to encourage students to post reflections and respond to one another on my blog. Writing unlocks more opportunities by giving students time to reflect and express themselves. 
Example of Dr. Davis's eLearning blog and discussion board 

PLN: Expanding 1, 2, 3

1) Twitter

Twitter is a social media networking site that I’ve used in the past, but unable to fully understand its function or gain anything from tweeting, I ended up deactivating my account. As I am expanding my personal learning network, however, I realize that Twitter is facilitates communication and innovation within my teaching career. Through Twitter, I am able to follow other teachers, and together we can learn from and help one another. If we want our students to grow and create a better future, we need to constantly work together to instill new teaching practices, technologies, and research. I also see the potential for using my twitter to stay in contact with my future students. Since Twitter is a popular site, many teachers use it to keep their class up to date on homework, tests, and projects. They even tweet about sites and events to provoke their students to own their learning outside of the school. It truly adds a new layer of collaboration and community to the classroom, and helps to integrate learning into everyday life.
With my Twitter account, I was able to follow and immediately begin interacting with other teachers and educational organizations around the world. In doing this, I discovered a ripple-effect: when I followed my professors and old teachers from high school, I then looked into the people and organizations they follow and began following them as well. As I followed more and more people, I noticed my homepage fill with articles, ideas, news, motivations, and provocative questions about education. I began re-tweeting posts I liked, participating in hashtags that were educationally appropriate, and even acquired my own followers. The site truly promotes interaction and the sharing of informative ideas.

Education Association liked my Tweet

The people/groups I followed responded back and sent recommendations

2) Twitter Outreach

Twitter is a very open environment that encourages communication, collaboration, and the sharing of ideas, but before this class I had always been too scared to interact with others. Becoming a professional, however, I have seen the importance of using social networks to actually work together to learn and teach one another. This is especially important in the teaching field because with the ever changing world and technologies, our job is different every day. In my interaction with Ryan McCarty, I was able to relate to his post about fake news because of the topics we’ve discussed in my edtech class. Using Twitter, I was able to reach out, ask him questions, and share the mutual importance of educating our students about internet safety and using their own minds to discern fact from opinion. Ryan was very helpful and provided me with his insights and more links about this issue. We are now mutual followers and a part of one another’s PLN. Because of this positive experience and the visible benefits of interacting with others on Twitter, I will use twitter in the future to collaborate, share ideas, and interact. It is so easy to become trapped in our school’s limited thinks tank, so interacting with others across the world and exploring new research and technology will be very beneficial to my teaching practice. I can also use twitter to communicate with my students. Instead of having my students send me repetitive emails asking the same question about an assignment, I will be able to publicly answer their questions for all to see. The re-tweeting feature and tags will be very beneficial here because it will make it easy for my students to access. I can also tweet helpful websites, information to consider, and practice problems to improve and further engage their learning.

An active teacher responded to my question and provided me with additional resources 
Tweet source: link to the Twitter conversation

3) Tweet Chat

            Tweet Chat is a live feature of Twitter that allows large groups of people to communicate about a shared topic using specific hashtags. Events like this allow groups, such as teachers, to directly communicate, share ideas, and ask or answer questions in an immediate response situation rather than waiting for a person to respond. Another benefit of Tweet chat is that you can be a viewer, participant, or a mixture of both. In the Tweet Chat I participated in, we were encouraged to view a live video on YouTube where Trevor Ragan, advocate for athletic and education reform, spoke about challenging our students, the growth mindset, and empowering our students to learn. While watching the video, we could use the Tweet Chat hashtag #iaedchat to communicate with each other about our opinions and answer and discuss some of the proposed questions. Though I did not participate in the Tweet Chat, I was and active viewer; I was able to see many peoples’ ideas about the topic both in the chat and live video, and was given time and resources to further consider and explore the material. Events like Tweet Chat and live YouTube streams allow teachers from all over the world to convene and discuss important education matters rather than having to fly out to a conference and spend lots of money recruiting and housing key note speakers. The environment is very relaxed and helpful; everyone there wants to learn, share, and make a difference in their students’ lives. When I have my own classroom and am student teaching, I will definitely be an active participant in Tweet Chat events like the #iaedchat in order to share what is working or not working in my classroom, learn about new research, and get good advice.  
Tweet chat (click to enlarge) 

Trevor Ragan LIVE Video 
#iaedchat : link to the tweet chat

PLN: What my Personal Learning Network has done for me

Starting my PLN (click to enlarge)
At the beginning of this class, I was not quite sure what a personal learning network was or how to expand it. I thought about the clubs I was in and people I went to when I needed advice about teaching; it never occurred to me that I could use the internet and social media to learn, share, and collaborate with other teachers. I only used the internet for personal reasons, and rarely would post anything for I had nothing to say. Educational Technology and Design changed the meaning of social media for me; it is no longer a platform for poking or tweeting at my friends, rather a tool to communicate, collaborate, learn, and share with the people in my career. I was tentative at first about following and communicating with strangers, but after following my professors and digging around in their follows, I began building a large base of teacher connections. Instead of opening Twitter and seeing it filled with poorly worded jokes, I now have a dash full of resources specific to my career that encourage me to stay informed, research, ask questions, and share my own experiences. Instead of seeing slews of baby photos on Facebook, I now have invites for education events and other happenings here at UNI. I have created organizers like Symbaloo and Pinterest, and receive weekly emails about new ideas from the blogs I follow. I am constantly being informed and often persuaded to participate and share. Such collaboration even takes a step further with events like Tweet Chat, group discussion boards, and video conferences like Zoom where I can interact with other teachers at any distance. The internet has unlocked forms of knowledge and communication I never imagined possible for my career; my education is not stuck in the walls of a classroom, and it does not end upon receiving my diploma. Thanks to expanding my PLN, I have become a more resourceful, informed, and involved teacher, and I will be adequately prepared to help my students in our ever changing and updating world.

In the posts to follow, I will describe in detail how I expanded my PLN and the amazing resources and people with whom I have connected.
My PLN now (click to enlarge)


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post 2: Google Chromebooks Galore!

More and more schools around the United States are adopting 1:1 programs, which is inexpensive technology provided to all students. With the z-generation being exposed to technology from birth, it is important we work to incorporate, teach, and encourage 21st century skills in our students’ everyday lives.

In completing my teaching practicums, one way I saw 1:1 being implemented was through the use of Google Chromebooks. These inexpensive computers, starting at just $149, allow schools to affordably purchase and provide their students with computers. Technology is becoming a necessity in our society, with many jobs and university’s continuously updating devices, linking on social media, and moving towards to future. Not all families, however, can afford laptops and other tech for their children. As teachers and schools, it is our responsibility to give each student an equal opportunity, so by utilizing Chromebook programs we help every student get the tech experience and collaboration they need.

Not only are Google Chromebooks affordable, but in its eagerness to help schools, Google has made the devices easy to manage and multi-user friendly. If a school cannot afford a laptop for every student, they can buy a smaller package and simply checkout computers to classes. Using a network that can support up to ten-thousand devices, students can sign into their personal desktop from any school device. Using cloud features such as Dropbox, OneDrive, of Google Drive, students will always have access to their material and work. Google is so excited to help schools become 1:1, that they even offer free services such as technology training for teachers. After all, a teacher must know how to work the devices if they are to teach with them!

Google really cares about giving our students equal opportunities and preparing them for the future. Follow the link below to check out their education site, programs, and scholarships!

Image by Kevin Jarrett Follow, “Chromebooks Rollout – Shenkus” on Flickr

Monday, November 7, 2016

Post 1: – Engaging K-12 Students in Higher Ordered Thinking is an amazing site for students of all ages to collectively or individualistically create and share their writing. It works on multiple device platforms so it is easy to implement into any 1:1 classroom.

The site stimulates creativity by presenting a series of related art and images to help inspire and get students started on their writing process. If a student wants to write about the jungle, they simply click “create” and then type in the word “jungle” for a slew of beautiful, unique, and inspiring artworks from which they can craft or add life to their stories. The site is very friendly, encourages collaboration, and is free to use. It links easily to any email account, and provides start up directions and simplistic easy for any student to understand. is good for creating picture books, long forms, or poetry for any subject. When I was junior in high school, I used to tell a story about computing gravity on other planets for my physics class with pictures of astronaut rabbits. It was a nice break away from formal labs and lectures, and it gave me a creative way to share the information I had learned.

I recommend for classes of all ages because it gives students a chance to be create, collaborate, and analyze information as they develop and construct tangible stories.

Here is a link to the website:

Check out the site’s featured YouTube video below!

Image by Fred Seibert, “Storybird logo” on Flickr 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Who am I?

My name is Sarah Gorzney and I am a Secondary English Education major at the University of Northern Iowa. Literature and writing are my passions; I always love a good story with relatable characters and high stakes plots. With my blog, I hope to share new information and ideas about reading, writing, and most importantly helping our students discover their voices. If you have anything to contribute, please comment and share!