Screencast-O-Matic Scholarship

I normally don’t like the sound of my own voice and have shied away from making how-to videos. I only had one experience with narrating a video while in the MAED program at Concordia, Irvine. This experience only served to justify my dislike for my voice as well as the frustration of using Screenr. It took several hours to produce the required 3-minute video and many attempts containing less than ladylike language had to be deleted as my frustration grew. While this is a great program for those who clearly write out what they plan to say, it’s not always a good tool for the novice.

A program that I prefer for this type of task is Screencast-O-Matic. It’s free, can be downloaded to your computer, or used directly from their website. The pause feature makes it much more user friendly than Screenr. I have made a few small videos as help files for my students and post them on Edmodo for student access. I even have students volunteer to make videos for me if I send into the library with a microphone. This is especially helpful since no one speaks teen better than a teen!



Pow-erful Presentations Using Powtoons

As a member of the 8th ELA curriculum design team for my district, I receive monthly trainings in Common State Standards newer technologies for the classroom. One such technology is This is a free cartooning service which allows students to present their ideas and understanding of concepts in a more creative platform. Students who don’t normally do well presenting in front of the class are finding it easier to cartoon their learning and discuss their thought process as an introduction to their cartoons. It has opened a new arena for technology, learning, and creativity. My students are now completing an assignment that triangulates a concept found in a reading from my class. We (colleagues, students, and parents) are all amazed and encouraged by what the students can produce when given the freedom to explore, fail, and recover from failures. By introducing new technology to the students, they are forced to problem-solve more than ever before, making them much more knowledgeable and marketable future adults.


Here is a sample project from one of my students: Theme Triangle

Digital Portfolio

In my district, we use writing portfolios from 7th-12th grade. Students add 2-3 writing samples each year and teachers must transfer the portfolios to the teachers of the next grade level at the end of the year. The process of assembling the work and transferring the file folders is an ordeal that seems more cumbersome the more we do it.

Those of us who participate in the process still see the value of having students collect, organize, and reflect. In an effort to find a simpler way engage students in these steps I found Catlin Tucker’s Digital Portfolios. After modifying the instructions for my students, I now have all of my classes curating and interacting on their own websites.

The positives:

I get to see their thought process and personality in a way that was unavailable before through the use of their blog and reflection links. Students are taking ownership of having their materials collected and posted in a timely manner. Some have used their sites as storage where they upload files at home to be accessed on school computers. Parents are thankful for the constructive use of technology beyond the default assignment of a powerpoint presentation.

All in all, I have happy productive students with happy supportive parents: the teacher’s dream. . .

See Catlin Tucker’s Digital Portfolios on the value and components of this project.

Attached is a screenshot of a blog made by one of my students.Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 7.16.22 AMIMG_1475

Digital Responsibility

As educators, we resist the infusion of social media into our instruction. This video shows the glaring problem of students not knowing enough about protecting themselves and others while online. However, we cannot let these statistics scare us from facing the issue. The answer is to expose the problem quickly, loudly, and repeatedly. I show this video to students as an introduction to our “Social Networking” unit. It is a real eye-opener for them, which means they need the information. They get particularly quiet when we get to the employment statistics.

What Do Students Need to Learn?

For the last ten years, our K-12 education system has produced great little test-takers rather than functional future adults. The shift to Common Core State Standards has made it necessary to confront this fact. We have a full decade’s worth of adults who have a harder time succeeding in the workplace because they do not have the skills needed to do so. According to an article in Forbes Magazine, potential employees need a series of skills in order to be valuable to their employers.

No. 1 Critical Thinking (found in 9 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

Critical thinking includes reasoning, analyzing, decision-making, problem solving, and evaluating ( Narrowing down your answer choices on a multiple-choice test does not allow students to practice these skills. Honing these skills will be the difference between success and failure for students.

No. 2 Complex Problem Solving (found in 9 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

Students need to evaluate the information and situations around them by breaking down the major components and developing various ways to solve problems. Knowing which solution is most likely to work is a key skill. If students are to be successful in the workplace, they need to analyze, use lateral thinking skills, take initiative, reason and persist. Using GATE materials and processes can help students develop these skills.

No. 3 Judgment and Decision-Making (found in 9 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

Initially, employees may be able to get away with being yes-men for the company. In time, students who join the workforce will be called upon to make decisions based on situations and materials available in the company. Making the wrong decision could cost them jobs: theirs and potentially others. It’s up to us as educators to teach them how to strategically think and choose the best option in situations that could have multiple problems or outcomes.

No. 4 Active Listening (found in 9 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

As digital natives, students have a harder time giving their full attention to anyone or anything. They need to take the time to put down their gadgets and agendas to hear what others say, consider the points being made, and then ask appropriate questions.

No. 5 Computers and Electronics (found in 8 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

As digital natives, these same students may have more knowledge of what their gadgets can do for them. We need to keep them focused on the positive applications of tools that that can do so much damage. They also need some basic knowledge of how the components work together and what to do when one of the components fails.

No. 6 Mathematics (found in 6 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

If students are to be prepared for the workplace, they need to be able to apply some basic functions is algebra, geometry, and statistics. Knowing how to apply steps in a process is the most beneficial aspect of math lessons. Having a working knowledge of statistics in order to predict and analyze trends is greatly beneficial to organizations, thus a necessary skill in employees.

No. 7 Operations and Systems Analysis (found in 5 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)
This skill requires individuals to see the big picture and manipulate the pieces in that picture to make it a better one. Students need to learn how determining the workings of a system or operation and how changes in conditions, operations and environments will affect outcomes. They must also understand the needs and product requirements of a particular design.

No. 8 Monitoring (found in 5 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

Teenagers are naturally able to monitor and criticize others. They need to learn how to do so constructively and non-judgmentally. Learning to monitor your own performance makes you a more mature, more reflective person. If students can learn to be more cognizant of their own approach and performance on a task and better themselves from the self-analysis, they can grow exponentially.

No. 9 Programming (found in 3 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

This skill is low on the list, but it could make a difference between one candidate and another. The more exposure to technology students receive, the more they become interested in the inner workings of these systems. They need to know that programming is more than writing code for games. There are many other applications of programming. We need to encourage this skill in our students so they can do the work that is often sent offshore. Even when it is sent offshore, they need to understand what was produced, test it, and validate that it is in fact a quality product.

No. 10 Sales and Marketing (found in 2 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

Students need to be taught how to promote their abilities, which will in turn teach them how to promote others, the products they build, and the company for whom they work for.