A Journey Through Technology

Week 6 Reflection

This week was very exciting for me because I was introduced to some new technologies that could really help me out in the classroom. In terms of others contributing to my learning, Sara introduced us to Classcraft as a way to gamify the classroom and also help with issues like classroom behavior, late work, and tardiness. I am very excited about trying Classcraft out in my classroom, hopefully starting this next week, at least with my freshmen, and hope that it allows me to bring gamification to a subject that has limited options at the moment. The twitter session also contributed to my learning because I was able to see how others have tried gamification in their classrooms, and what some of the other options are that exist.

I contributed to the learning of others through my blog, where I shared about a new program that is currently being designed called ChemCaper, a role-playing game for students to learn about chemistry. It was recently funded through KickStarter, so I don’t know how long it will take to be completed, but I am excited to track the progress. I also shared about reading levels for boys without games versus with them, and Sara L found that useful. Natalie agreed with me that there aren’t many games, like Minecraft, that are useful in all subjects. I hope this is something that changes in the new future because I think using gamifying chemistry would be a great way to get students more engaged and loving science.

UBD Differentiation Unit

The unit of study I will be differentiating will be the Chemistry unit on Gases. I think what I’m going to try to do is have three different levels of activities that I can use and will group students based on scores from a pre-test I will use at the beginning of the unit. I am going to try and do as many lab activities as possible for students to learn about the relationships between temperature, volume, and pressure of a gas, and allow students choice in how they are assessed. My goal for the final assessment of the unit is to have students go through a set of lab stations and describe each using their knowledge of the gas laws. I still have a lot of details to work out, but spring break is in two weeks, so I should be able to have it all planned by the time we get back on the 21st of March, which is when I hope to start the gases unit.

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Week 6: How are games providing new opportunities for differentiation in the classroom?


Here’s my video link for this week: http://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cDnthC1jkX

“Half of all American households have dedicated game consoles; many have two.” (Schaffhauser, 2013) My house falls into this statistic because we have two game consoles that see quite a bit of use. Many of my students play video games as well, and I really enjoy talking with my students about the games they are playing and how my games are going as well. The more I read this week, the more I could see that using games in the classroom, specifically video games, could really help students stay engaged, which in turn can help them learn. “Proponents say gaming provides a compelling way to engage students and make educational efforts more effective.” (Schaffhasuer, 2013)

Steven Isaacs wrote about his experience in the gamification of his classroom, and he was able to “provide a variety of learning paths for students to choose.” (Isaacs, 2015) Differentiation allows for student choice, so it seems that gamification could fit very well in a differentiated classroom. Mackay (2013) shared research that shows a significant improvement in the reading level of boys when they read in an online game as opposed to a regular classroom, which is mainly due to the fact that in the games “the boys could choose what they read.” (Mackay, 2013)

Differentiation is also about getting students engaged. Another way that teachers have been able to get students more engaged in learning is through coding. Greg Hamley, a technology teacher at Monforton School, started teaching his third and fourth grade students how to code and has had amazing results. (Stiff, 2015) “We started last year and the kids just ate it up. They love it.” (Hamely, as quoted by Stiff, 2015)

Joel Levin, a former teacher and co-founder of TeacherGaming, uses Minecraft to help “students and teachers of all disciplines use their creativity to design projects, free from the kinds of limitation they would face using traditional methods.” (Ossola, 2015) A crucial part of differentiation is moving away from traditional classrooms. “The traditional classroom…in many ways stifles some of the attributes most crucial for human learning…” (Mackay, 2013) The article about using Minecraft in the classroom shows that gaming could be a good way to shift from traditional classrooms. “Studies published over the past two decades support the idea that video games can increase students’ spatial knowledge, improving their aptitude for math and science.” (Ossola, 2015)


Granata, K. (n.d.). Teachers Take Advantage of Minecraft in the Classroom. Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_news/teachers-take-advantage-minecraft-classroom-60294258

Isaacs, S. (2015, January 15). The Difference between Gamification and Game-Based Learning … Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://inservice.ascd.org/the-difference-between-gamification-and-game-based-learning/

Mackay, R. (2013, March 1). Playing to learn: Panelists at Stanford discussion say using games as an educational tool provides opportunities for deeper learning. Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2013/march/games-education-tool-030113.html

Ossola, A. (2015, February 6). Teaching in the Age of Minecraft. Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/02/teaching-in-the-age-of-minecraft/385231/

Schaffhauser, D. (2013, September 9). Will Gaming Save Education, or Just Waste Time? Retrieved February 23, 2016, from https://thejournal.com/Articles/2013/09/02/Will-Gaming-Save-Education-or-Just-Waste-Time.aspx?Page=1

Stiff, H. (2015, February 6). Monforton teacher instructs coding to kids. The Belgrade News. Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://www.belgrade-news.com/news/article_6716d926-ae2a-11e4-959b-13ebce844c1c.html



Week 5 Reflection

This week went better for me individually and I also think it went better for our group. I think we did a lot better with our group communication, and it looks like our Wiki is almost completed. We were able to talk via email and establish roles for everyone, thanks to a wiki role link Larissa found for us. I volunteered to be the “Discussion Starter” for the group and communicated with everyone via email, as well as discussion on our blog to establish a deadline for when we wanted to have the Wiki finished. Each group member picked a different role for the wiki and we agreed that Friday should be our goal to have our research finished. I know we didn’t quite reach that goal, but we got most of the technologies posted by Saturday. I think I could have done better as the “Discussion Starter” and that I could have tried to touch base with group members more often than I did.

I learned a lot this week about both of the assistive technologies I researched, Memo to Me and wordQ, as well as how a wiki can be run with a group. I am in awe at the number of assistive technologies that are available, and I look forward to talking with the special ed teachers at my school to learn more about what we offer for our students. I really liked the group role sheet that Larissa shared with us, and I’m thinking of ways I could have my students use a wiki in class and utilize those roles.

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Week 4 Reflection

I can honestly say this was not one of my best weeks. I didn’t feel like I was working at 100% this week, and I am going to make a goal to be much more in-tune to the class for next week.

I was a co-host to the Twitter session this week, which I think was my main contribution to the learning of others. Together with Genevieve and Natalie, we had some pretty good questions that our classmates seemed to enjoy, and saw some great answers from everyone. I think the Twitter chat was also my main source of learning from others because I saw the ways everyone else though of Assistive Technology and how they had already used AT in their classrooms. I have to say I am quite envious of those that have class sets of iPads to use with their students, because I think that would be very helpful in both differentiating my classroom and using assistive technology.

We also started our group wiki this week. We had some difficulties getting everyone together as a group, but once we all connected, I think we did well for this week. I was responsible for creating the wiki page, but aside from that we did not really establish roles for each member, other than assigning a specific part of differentiation to each person (process, content, product, environment) We were each able to look at AT through a different lens and I think we should end up with a nice final product after we are finished with the wiki. We seem to be working well together, although I think we can definitely improve on our communication with each other. I look forward to continuing the wiki this next week and I hope we are able to make this work to produce a very informative wiki.

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Week 3 Reflection

This week was both a good week and a bad week for me. It was good in that I learned a few different ways to try and get parents involved in the differentiation process, and it was bad because I am starting to get very overwhelmed thinking about how to actually implement a differentiated classroom.

This week the main way I learned from others was from our Twitter chat session on Wednesday night. One thing that really stands out to me was the mention that part of the reason parents might not be as involved at the secondary level is that they don’t understand the subject matter for all of the classes. Another way way I learned from others was by reading blogs. Cherie mentioned in her blog that she was able to build relationships with the parents in her class because she has the same students she had last year as kindergartners. In the past, I’ve taught both regular and AP chem, so from year to year there would be a few students looping back, but this year I started at a new school, so its been a fresh start for me. I hope in the future I’m able to establish a loop with some of my students, because I really think that would help communication with parents because they would already know me from the previous year.

I think the main way I contributed to the learning of others this week was through the Twitter session. Twitter has been so helpful for this class, and I think we get a nice groove going, even though Twitter was really glitchy this week. I did not have any interaction with my essential question blog this week, however Catherine enjoyed the game I posted this week and shared that with me.

I hope as the weeks go on I get less overwhelmed by the differentiation process and that I can continue to learn a lot from my classmates. Here’s to a good week four!

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Week 3: How do we prepare parents for differentiation in the classroom?

Most teachers communicate with parents one way or another throughout the school year. Communicating with parents can either be one-way or two-way. ” One-way communication occurs when teachers seek to inform parents…through a variety of sources, such as an introductory letter at the beginning of the school year, classroom or school newsletters, report cards, communication books, radio announcements, school Web sites, and so on. Two-way communication involves interactive dialogue between teachers and parents. Conversations may occur during telephone calls, home visits, parent-teacher conferences, open houses, and various school-based community activities.” (Graham-Clay, 2005, p.118)

For me, I see some parents during parent-teacher conferences, which occur during both the fall and the spring. This gives me a chance to talk one-on-one with parents to discuss any issues their child may be having in my class, as well as the positive things that are happening in the classroom. This would be a great time to discuss differentiation, but unfortunately I usually only see about 10-20% of all parents during conferences. The two best options I see for reaching more parents are sending a letter home to explain the use of differentiation in my classroom, and also utilizing my class website to explain more about differentiation.

Another option for sharing about differentiation with parents would be to invite them into my classroom. As a high school teacher, I had never really thought of doing this, but I think it could be a useful way of connecting with parents. Inviting parents to participate in the differentiated classroom could “allow parents to understand these approaches by participating in them.” (Crowe, 2004). I think if I could get parents to come and see how differentiation works, they might be more comfortable with it and more supportive of its use in the classroom.

According to Tomlinson (2001), teachers should let parents know their goals for the differentiated classroom. (Tomlinson, 2001, p.41) Parents should be made aware that “the goal is to provide challenge and success for all learners.” (Eidson, 2008) According to A Parent’s Guide to 21st-Century Learning, high school provides an opportunity for students to set goals and prepare for life after high school, and I think parents can help teachers determine how their own students would best benefit from this preparation.

I’ve noticed in the six years I’ve been teaching that when parents are more involved, their students usually perform better, so making it a goal to involve parents in the differentiation process is an easy choice. “The more you keep them informed about classroom news and include them in school happenings, the more they’ll feel like a part of the team.” (Mariconda) If I can get parents more involved in my classroom, they can play an important role in the differentiated classroom. Parents can encourage “students to let teachers know when assignments are a good fit and when they are not.” (Foucault, 2008)

I think that having parents become more involved in my classroom will be very beneficial to successfully differentiating my classroom and I look forward to working through this process.


A Parent’s Guide to 21st Century Learning. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/guides/edutopia-parents-guide-21st-century-learning.pdf

Eidson, C. C., PhD. (2008, October 3). What Every Parent Should Know About Differentiated Instruction. Retrieved February 02, 2016, from https://tip.duke.edu/node/910

Foucault, A. (2008). Differentiation Tips for Parents. Retrieved February 3, 2016, from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/differentiation-tips-parents

Graham-Clay, S. (2005). Communicating with Parents: Strategies for Teachers.The School Community Journal, 15(1), 117-130. Retrieved February 4, 2016, from http://www.adi.org/journal/ss05/Graham-Clay.pdf

Mariconda, B. (n.d.). Five Keys to Successful Parent-Teacher Communication | Scholastic.com. Retrieved February 02, 2016, from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/five-keys-successful-parent-teacher-communication

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

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Play a Chemistry Game!

Using only the element symbols on the periodic table, spell as many words as you can in 5 minutes.


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Week 2 Reflection

This was another good week for me. I feel like the twitter session on Wednesday really helped me understand a lot of the aspects of differentiation that I wasn’t quite sure about before. I think I have a better understanding of what scaffolding is, but that is something I will be working on for a while to have a solid understanding. I think I contributed to the learning of others mainly through my answers in the twitter session. I posted my blog this week on Friday night, so I don’t think many people had the opportunity to read it. We have so many people in this class that it’s hard to read everyone’s blog post every week.

I read through Larissa, Teresa, and Catherine’s blogs this week, so they all contributed to my learning. Larissa mentioned the ways she makes her seating charts as a way of differentiation, and I had never thought of that as part of differentiation, so that changed a mindset for me. It doesn’t have to be big changes in the classroom to start differentiating. Everyone who participated in twitter this last week also contributed to my learning because they helped me to understand more about what differentiation looks like at the different levels we all teach in.

I feel like I’ve learned so much in these first two weeks, but there is still so much more for me to understand about differentiation. I am looking forward to another great week!

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