Networked Learning Post #4

French, Personal Learning Network, Personal Learning Network Project

Following is my final reflection on my six week Networked Learning Project. During this project, I was able to work to learn something that I have always wanted to learn but maybe otherwise would not have taken the time. I was restricted to YouTube videos and online help forums to guide my way in accomplishing my goal: to know some basic conversational French and become more familiar with French culture with the purpose of travel. In my reflection, I address my goal, what I have learned and how I learned it.



Maker Activity #3 (Assessment & Reflection)

Learning, MAET Year 1, Maker Movement, Squishy Circuits

I have been using the Maker Kit of Squishy Circuits to design my Maker lesson plan and UDL redesign. I had never previously heard of Squishy Circuits before but do remember vaguely playing with electric circuit kits as a grade school student. As an adult, I can reflect and say that comparing the two circuitry experiences, I would have learned considerably more about how circuits work had I been able to explore circuitry as a young student through using the Squishy Circuits kit. The kit is more engaging than a pre-set circuit lab activity because Squishy Circuits have both cross-curricular ties and can be created unique to the learner but accomplish the same overall academic objective.

My group made many interdisciplinary connections while working with Squishy Circuits. It just seemed to make sense that students could use their “…cognitive-creative skills that cut-across disciplinary boundaries” with this kit (Mishra & The Deep-Play Research Group, 2012, p.15). However, without a culture of collaboration and team teaching amongst teachers, I think this would be more difficult to implement in practice. I am not highly skilled in the area of science, therefore did not feel like I could really use the Squishy Circuits to their full potential because I was lacking some basic foundational science knowledge to really help my students unleash their capabilities. For example, I had to look up which kinds of materials were conductive and which were insulators because I had forgotten. So it seemed like a times, in order to incorporate Squishy Circuits into my curriculum meaningfully and not doing some creative stretching, I would need to team teach with a science teacher which is why I re-designed my lesson to include that adjustment.

Maker education seems to fit seamlessly into fields of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics). As …. says,  “creative thought processes are considered increasingly necessary as criteria for accomplishment in the progressively complex and interdependent 21st century (Mishra & The Deep-Play Research Group, 2012, p.14). I think maker education can work in other disciplines but it will be incorporated most effectively if it involves teachers from all disciplines working together on student projects so that learning is more meaningful.  However, the challenge to this is that many of our school environments are set up to be “silo” oriented and do not allow for this type of collaboration.


Mishra, P., & The Deep-Play Research Group (2012). Rethinking Technology & Creativity in the 21st Century: Crayons are the Future.TechTrends, 56(5), 13-16.

Using Technology to Support Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism, MAET Year 1, Tech Integration, Tech Tools

Autism Spectrum Disorders & Implications for

Learning with Technology

With a relatively light background in special education, I am always trying to learn more effective ways to support all of my students in the classroom. Given the freedom to choose a topic, my immediate inclination due to its prevalence and variety was to pursue more information on the topic of Autism Spectrum Disorders.


The Autism Science Foundation (2013) define autism as “developmental disabilities that cause substantial impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests. Many people with ASDs also have unusual ways of learning, paying attention, and reacting to different sensations. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary—from gifted to severely challenged. An ASD begins before the age of 3 and lasts throughout a person’s life.” This great variance in the spectrum has made it challenging for me as a teacher to grasp how to reach, react and support students with ASD.


The causes for ASDs are still being researched. So far there is “no known cure” and “no single factor that’s been identified as the cause” (Whelan, 2009, p. 31). For a while it was widely believed that vaccines were an environmental cause to ASDs but “after a tremendous amount of research, scientists have concluded that vaccines do not cause autism” (Autism Science Foundation, 2013). Because the causes of ASD involve such a a complex system,  the brain, it is difficult to pinpoint exact causes. Scientists have found several gene mutations which lead to a predisposition for ASDs usually combined with some environmental or external factor (Autism Speaks Inc., 2013). There is treatment such as therapy and medications available for ASDs and scientists agree that early intervention leads to significant improvement in skills (Autism Science Foundation, 2013).

Implications for Learning

We have students in our mainstream classroom already diagnosed with ASDs and on specific behavior or treatment plans. However, especially in an early elementary setting, we are also teaching students who may be on the spectrum but have never been diagnosed for a myriad of reasons. Above is an image of some of the more commonly seen behaviors amongst students with ASD.

As Whelan (2009) states, because there are so many unique qualities to each child, “there is no one-size fits all approach to supporting children with autism”(p.34). However, much research supports that technology has created new opportunities that were not previously possible for students, teachers and families affected by ASD. It is also a common conclusion that many people with ASD feel more comfortable interacting with technology than another human being (Autism Speaks, 2013). Currently, the Autism Speaks organization is sponsoring an initiative called “Hacking Autism” stemming from the Innovative Technology for Autism Initiative. The organization put out this documentary describing the immense impact technology has had in breaking down barriers for children with autism. I found it a very touching description.

After watching I Just Want to Say , I was struck by the impact of the invention of touch screen monitors versus a regular computer and keyboard for children with ASD. Tablets, touch screen monitors, iPods and smart phones with their ability to be controlled with one action and simplicity in design open completely new worlds for these students. Dr. Temple Grandin has a list of recommendations for teaching students with autism and specifically refers to them as being “visual thinkers” and having a need for structure (Grandin, 2002). Technology has afforded us with the ability to make visual thinking and structure for those students a possibility every day. For example in a study by Carlile, Reeve, Reeve, & DeBar (2013), autistic students used an iPod as an avenue to schedule their leisure time through structured pictures. The potential to develop skills that were not possible before has led to a boom in ideas of how technology can help autistic children. The following is just a short summary of the variety of ways technology is helping address the social interaction, communication and behaviors and interests in people with ASD.

Technology Tools:

List of Autism Apps– Autism Speaks

This website has a list of over 200 Autism related applications for tablets. It is separated into categories like communication, social skills, recreation, ect. This is a great resources for teachers who have access to tablets in the classroom.

Robots (Social & Communication Skills)

Many times, people with ASD are described as robotic so why is interacting with robots making such break throughs in communication and social skills? Many people with ASD have difficulty interpreting social situations and facial cues. Simple robots like the Keepon, Bandit and NAO, have very few and simple emotional cues to interpret and therefore are less intimidating to interact with than a human being for a person with autism (Autism Speaks, 2013). Following are several examples as to how robots are being used for developing social and communication skills in people with ASD:

Autism & Robots Special on The Today Show:

There are many technology tools being used in the classroom to assist students with ASD.
At the Learning Technologies for Autism website, there are specific links with assistive technology for each skill that may need developing in those affected by Autism. Some of my favorites that I found at this website were Vsked a visual scheduling tool and Vizzle a software that helps teachers create evidence-based interactive visual lessons that correlate and track IEP and curriculum goals.

Learning Technologies for Autism Site


Autism Science Foundation. (2013). Autism Science Foundation. Retrieved from

Autism Speaks Inc.(2013). Autism Speaks. Retrieved from

Autism Speaks Inc. (2013, February 26). I Just Want to Say [Video file]. Retrieved from

Boser, K. (n.d.) Learning Technologies for Autism Site. Retrieved from

Carlile, K. A., Reeve, S. A., Reeve, K. F., & DeBar, R. M. (2013, May). Using activity schedules on the iPod touch to teach leisure skills to children with autism. Education & Treatment of Children, 36(2), 33+. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012, March 29). Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Retrieved from

Gifford, T. (2013, April 25). A Story of Robots and Autism. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Grandin, T.  (2002, December). Teaching ASD Children and Adults. Retrieved from

Schilling, D., & Schwartz, I. S. (2004). Alternative Seating for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Effects on Classroom Behavior. Journal Of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 34(4), 423-432.

V., W. W. (2012). iPads & Autism. Technology & Learning, 32(7), 28.

Whelan, D. L. (2009, August). The equal opportunity disorder: autism is on the rise, and it can affect any family. Here’s what you need to know. School Library Journal, 55(8), 30+. Retrieved from

Reading Presentation- Chapters 20-22

James Paul Gee, MAET Year 1, Reading Presentation, The Anti-Education Era, Uncategorized

The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter

Students through Digital Learning

by James Paul Gee

Final Chapters 20-22

photo-Gee reading

By Lauren Villaluz, Yalonda Combs & Tammy Montgomery

Please follow along in our Google Presentation as we review the main points and reflect on the final chapters of The Anti-Education Era.


Austin. (2012, May 19). Affinity Spaces in Education [Video file]. Retrieved July 17,  2013 from

Gee, J. P. (2013). The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gray, K. (2013, March 13). Welcome to District 504 [Video file]. Retrieved July 17, 2013 from

Maurya. (2013, March 26). Affinity Spaces at Gray School – Engaging and Connected Learning.

Retrieved from

Networked Learning Project Update #3: Bon appetit

MAET Year 1, Personal Learning Network Project

crepe2My networked learning project continues this week with a dive into some French culture. As my previous post had discussed, I had not yet ever tasted the beloved French crepe. I was recommended to try Good Girls Go to Paris which is conveniently located a stones throw away from the Detroit Institute of Arts. I decided in the spirit of my new found cultural now ledge that we should go and celebrate on July the 14th or Bastille Day which is the day to honor the birth of the French Republic. The cafe offered sweet and savory crepes and we got one of each. Our savory crepe had Brie cheese, roast beef and cranberries. Our sweet crepe had chocolate, almonds and coconut. I was able to stand and watch them make the crepes. The chef swore to me that they were easy to learn to make. My favorite part of the crepe making process is the crepe spreader that they use to spread out the batter on the griddle. My husband called them little squeegees. As you can see even though we shared, the crepes proved to be too filling and rich for us to finish. They were quite delicious. Their versatility reminds me of that of the Latin American tortilla. Then we continued on to make a morning of the affair with an exploration of French art at the DIA and a trip to the Detroit Historical Museum, a place I had never been. Did you know that Detroit, means “the strait” in French and was chosen because it was located at the narrowest part of the Detroit river so that it could be defended by cannon shot?


This girl looks French, oui?

On the language side of things, I have been practicing my greetings and common everyday phrases once or twice a day with my husband. I think I have the essential greetings pretty well memorized- pronunciation might be another issue.  I encountered the following YouTube video that included a basic French toolkit involving ordering from a restaurant and getting a taxi. I thought these phrases were very simple and necessary for our tourist purpose of travel. I think I have “I want”/ “Je voux” and “please”/ “S’il vous plaît” down which I think could be extremely helpful in many different situations.

Learn basic French: The best basic French toolkit

As I grow a bit more basic vocabulary, I find myself really struggling to imitate the appropriate “r” sound in French so I turned to the French help forums looking for suggestions. Not surprisingly, there had already been multiple requests made about how to best make sure you are saying it correctly and it emphasized that English speakers frequently have trouble with this sound. Practice, practice, practice seemed to be the take away but I did find some links that recommended certain tricks to try and imitate the way it should feel when you make the sound correctly.

Overall though, the more sure-fire suggestion was that I speak with a native speaker and get feedback on my pronunciation in person. That is a bit difficult to accomplish using only help forums & YouTube videos! Even things like Google Hangouts & Skype sessions were still suggested to be a bit challenging to learn pronunciation just because you have the microphone interference. I think considering my purpose of communicating with other people face to face, it is difficult to truly measure my progress without being able to attempt a conversation face to face with someone. I feel like spending an hour face to face with a French speaker would probably trump several hours of my efforts on YouTube and help forums.

Here are some videos I will be checking out before my final post:

Learn French- Basic Phrases for Tourists

Learn to Speak French-Basic French Phrases- Paris Travel Guide

Social Niceties in French

Technology Integration Survey

MAET Year 1, Tech Integration

I sent out the following survey to my colleagues about a week ago. Unfortunately, I was not able to get everyone’s summer contact information in time for this posting so I would say I got a sampling of about one quarter of our school staff in my responses. I plan to give everyone longer to respond so I can at least get a sampling of about half of the school staff when I present the findings to my colleagues in the fall.

To be honest, I had planned on sending a survey out to my colleagues without the prompting of this assignment sometime before school began. We do not have a designated Educational Technology coordinator in my K-8 building  and have been implementing technology in a way that is coming from all sorts of different directions and sources perhaps lacking a unified vision because there is no one person to lead the way who is particularly focused on technology. I have been interested in jumping into the role of managing and helping to lead our technology integration efforts across the building. We have such a vast array of teaching styles, available technology, technology comfort levels and student needs that although we have many interested and motivated teachers, we struggle as a building to implement technology as a connected community and sometimes lack the realization that technology, pedagogy and content knowledge are interconnected.

My first question in my survey addressed how teachers are currently using technology in the classroom. Here is a summary of the responses:

forwhatpurposesThe other options were listed as: Math Practice & Accelerated Reader

This data shows that the most common purpose for using technology in the classroom is as a presentation tool or visual aide. This proves that teachers are comfortable using PowerPoints, other presentation tools and websites to visually support, organize and analyze new concepts for students. This is positive finding as Universal Design for Learning stresses the importance of allowing for multi-modal representations of information for learning and using technology as a form of visually displaying information does just that. The second highest data points regarding technology classroom use are as a research tool, for differentiation and for informal assessment.  The data points that currently show no teacher use are using technology as an accessibility tool, note taking tool, flipped learning and formal assessment.

My second question addressed the issue of how do we implement technology more effectively in our school:

The response was overwhelming and it was to be expected in my opinion. Last year, we were thrown many different technologies with unique purposes, some required and expected, some suggested, some optional. I was very curious to find out what my colleagues thought. In response to this push for technology use, the trend teachers expressed was there needs to be a focus on one or two relevant technologies and that there needs to be ongoing training on those technologies. Along with this there needs to be explicit explanation as to exactly WHY the tool is valuable and how it can be tied with pedagogy and content to enhance learning and increase twenty first century skills. Teachers expressed frustration with the one and done trainings on technology tools that may or may not have been relevant to what or how they teach.

The third question related to the second and asked specifically what kinds of tangible courses of action could we take to improve technology integration for teachers:


Obviously there were many concerns about how we could be implementing technology more effectively in our school environment. We could sit and talk back and forth all year about the best way to integrate technology but actually accomplish nothing so for this question, I chose to have my colleagues pick something tangible that we can actually begin starting this fall. The overwhelming choice was something that I had heard my Twitter PLN discuss before, offering Tech Tuesdays before or after school where teachers vote on a technology tool each month that they would like to focus on and there is a learn, explore, create portion of the workshop where teachers have sessions once a week to play with the tool, troubleshoot and ask questions. It allows teachers who understand or are already familiar with the tech tool to attend the first session as learners and maybe attend the other sessions as mentors to teachers who are still learning and becoming familiar with the tool. Since we have not had very many collaboration opportunities related to technology tools, I think this plan of action might help teachers discover the value in working together on technology integration. My hope would be that it would eventually help to spur more collaborative efforts on other technology tools within content area groups or grade levels without the needing the formalities of “training sessions”.


If we are going to find creative solutions to technology integration, we are more likely to do it together than separately. No room for silos. 

Tech Tuesdays is something with my administration’s blessing and hopefully a few willing colleagues, I would like to begin in August. I think it will address many of our staff’s concerns about tech tool relevancy (they choose the topic and you do not need to go if it is not relevant to you) and time to master the tool (month long sessions).

The second highest response was attending technology conferences. This is an interesting response because we are blessed enough at our school to be able to! This year we had six teachers attend the MACUL conference and all teachers that attended were inspired in all sorts of ways to incorporate technology into their classes. Maybe an implication for next year is that we ask that one representative from each grade level attend MACUL and share out what they learned with their colleagues.

The last question addressed in this survey was asking about specific technology tools that teachers would like to receive training on:

As K-3 teachers are receiving 5-6 iPad minis for their literacy centers this year, they have obviously expressed an interest in being trained in how to use this new technology and applicable apps for use in the classroom. However, this particular question was lacking in results otherwise. Only one specific technology tool (Mimeo Board) was actually listed but it was suggested in the results that teachers are not really aware of what is available for them to use and how it is relevant to their students learning.  Also, teachers expressed concern that the technology tools that they receive training on must be actually available to use in their classroom. For example, I know in my own experience, in certain parts of the building, wireless connectivity is slower or nonexistent. This results in some classrooms being able to easily use certain technologies and others attempting to use the same thing but are unable or it is not worth the effort to try to get it to work. If we are going meaningfully incorporate technology use, we must have the technical strategy and infrastructure to support it.

Although it was low on the response list, I still think it would be a great idea to compile a collaborative website of annotated technology tools that we can share amongst ourselves. It might take a while to catch on, but I find that if the resources are there for me and the correlations to my content or application to my classroom have already been made, I am much more motivated to try it out. I know that my colleagues share my concern of a general lack of time as a teacher and if there is a compiled list of resources out there it will eliminate some of the frustration of finding the time to sort through the seemingly endless amount of tech tools available.

I think sharing the findings from this survey will lead to some changes for more effective technology integration at our school. I am excited to share and take action with new solutions to get more of our teachers preparing our students with the twenty first century skills they will need for their future.

Universal Design for Learning Revamp- Squishy Circuits & Spanish Lesson

MAET Year 1, Spanish, Squishy Circuits, Universal Design for Learning

Reflecting on my Maker #2 post has made me regret not actually creating a more formal lesson plan rather than just a lesson outline. To truly reflect on which guidelines of Universal Design for Learning I had already included in my lesson, I would have needed to expand my thoughts into a lesson plan template. That being said, my redesign follows including many additions to make this a more thorough and complete lesson plan. You can revisit my original lesson outline at my Maker #2 post.

Maker #2 Re-designed with UDL Lesson Plan

Lesson Overview

Title: “What in the World?” Squishy Circuit Central American Landmarks
Subject: Spanish (Team taught with Science teacher)
Grade Level(s): 4

Unit Description

Essential Question: How does my environment affect who I am?

Students will explore through multiple lessons how the features in their environment impact their daily life and therefore impact their perspectives and practices. Students will learn environment related vocabulary specifically geared toward places in the neighborhood. Students will relate these concepts with Spanish vocabulary to cross-curricular activities pertain to science and social studies concepts.

Lesson Description

Lesson Sub-Unit Essential Question: Which physical and cultural landmarks are unique to Central America and why are they important?

Lesson Sub-Unit Science Essential Questions: How do batteries and wires conduct electricity to a light bulb? What types of materials are conductors of electricity and what materials are not conductors?

State Standards

P.EN.04.51 Demonstrate how electrical energy is transferred and changed through the use of a simple circuit.

P.EN.04.52 Demonstrate magnetic effects in a simple electric circuit.

2.1.N.F.c Describe how daily needs are met within a community or culture in which the language is spoken (housing, shopping, food preparation, transportation, health care, access to public services)

3.1.N.a Reinforce previously learned content knowledge through the target language

4.2.N.a Identify basic target culture practices and compare them to one’s own.

Lesson Goals:
Students will—

1. know basic geographical features of Spanish speaking Central American countries.

2. identify and discuss the features of a unique Central American landmark.

3. demonstrate how electrical energy is transferred and changed through the use of a simple circuit.

4. create an accurate model of a unique Central American landmark using Squishy Circuits kit.

5. analyze the cultural significance of a unique Central American landmark.

6. compare and contrast an American landmark with a Central American landmark.


Anticipatory Set:

Students will receive a sticky note with a famous American landmark on it.  Students will play the Guess Who? game where they may ask only yes or no questions to try and figure out which landmark that person is. They will have five minutes to stand up and try to talk to as many classmates as they can to figure out their landmark.

Introduce and Model New Knowledge:

Students will go through learning goals on their Unit stamp sheet to identify the goals they are working on in this lesson and will be stamped by them when they are accomplished. The teacher will then activate prior knowledge of Central American geography with a familiar map of Central America with highlighted geographical features with blank labels. Students will be given opportunity to fill in knowledge and then pair with another student to find anything they might be missing.

Present students with new information about their specific landmark through an explore at your own pace unique MentorMob learning playlist (where is it, how old is it, what does it look like, why is it special, who goes there, what do people think about it)

  • Included in playlist are
    • multiple images
    • video describing landmark
    • Tweets describing landmark
    • informational texts about landmark

Teacher will model this process with an example American landmark through a MentorMob learning playlist and ask critical thinking questions about the process as she models.

Students will then be presented with the “What in the World?” project rubric outlining project expectations and roles for group members.

Provide Guided Practice:

This portion of the lesson will be team taught with the science teacher. The students will have prior knowledge of circuitry and the teacher will activate this prior knowledge. The science teacher will demonstrate the squishy circuit kit for all students and get input as she models. Students will then have opportunities to work in stations toward mini-play goals using the Squishy Circuits. This also gives students an opportunity to play and brainstorm their ideas physically with the landmark project.

Provide Independent Practice:

After play with Squishy Circuits, students will be put into well-designed groups of four to work on their project. They will begin by working individually using their groups as support to fill in a concept map of necessary information for the design of their landmark. This concept map and their MentorMob learning playlist must be completed and shown to the teacher for guidance before they will be allowed to begin working with the Squishy Circuit kits on their final creation.

Students will have about one and a half class periods following their research to create their squishy circuit landmark with their group. When squishy circuit landmarks are complete, each team must display in the classroom and group members will take turns being tour guides and providing key information outlined on their concept map.


Students will reflect on their Central American landmark project and an American landmark of their choosing and create a Read/Write/Think Compare and Contrast map. Students will share with the teacher who will post to shared website.


Formative/Ongoing Assessment:

Provide ongoing assessment throughout the lesson.

  • Observe and encourage student participation in class discussion, asking and answering questions, and volunteering comments and ideas.
  • Visit students throughout their MentorMob learning playlist, Squishy Circuits practice and team work.
  • Did student’s responses accurately answer the questions?

Summative/End Of Lesson Assessment:

At the end of the lesson, students will be assessed formally using the “What in the World?” project rubric.


This list of materials represents several different media including text, graphics, and video.

  • MentorMob Learning Playlists for different landmarks
  • iPads
  • Squishy Circuits Kits
  • Books on landmarks
  • Images of landmarks

What were you already doing to support UDL? What did you revise to make your lesson better?

As I was reflecting on how I incorporate UDL into my lessons, I got stuck at the difference between differentiation and UDL. I feel that I really focus on offering my students different means of representation, action and engagement on a regular basis but discovered that UDL means that it is designed as part of the curriculum before it is even considered necessary unlike differentiated instruction (Hall, Strangman & Meyer, 2003).

As you can see in my GoogleDoc that contains the UDL Guidelines, I had many aspects of UDL in my initial design but was lacking some key components, which I added in my revamp. I began my revamp this time using the CAST Lesson Plan template examples to make sure that I was addressing each key section.

Since the iPad is a tool that will be available next year for my students use, I used my knowledge about its built in accessibility features to provide all sorts of accommodations for my students. The iPad absolutely offers many features such as VoiceOver, Closed Captioning, Zoom, and Speak Selection which provide options for perception of learning materials in this lesson. My lesson also originally included a learning playlist from MentorMob which is able to include all different sorts of media to make the learning more accessible to all students.

This lesson is rich in options for comprehension. It builds on prior knowledge of Central American geography and circuitry and includes a concept mapping and modeling activity that connects previous knowledge to the new knowledge. This lesson also used multiple actions for students to demonstrate their understanding including experimenting individually and in groups, composing physically their Squishy Circuits, and using a rubric and goal sheet to keep students organized and on track.

Finally, this lesson is also a good example of multiple means of engagement. Students are hooked with the opening activity that involves physical movement and collaboration with peers to solve a problem. Students are focused on a goal and self-regulate with their goal stamp sheet. Students work in collaborative groups with expectations and roles to share skills in the “What in the World?” project. Students are able to make choices throughout the creating process including choosing their landmark. Students can use their project rubric to help determine a process to get the desired end result. I also added the idea of “team teaching” this lesson with a science teacher to really emphasize the cross-curricular connections and engage students in a new way.


CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author.

Hall, T., Strangman, N., & Meyer, A. (2003). Differentiated instruction and implications for UDL implementation. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum. Retrieved [insert date] from…

Wicked Problem: Failure as a Learning Mode

Failure, MAET Year 1, Wicked Problems

Allow failure to be as powerful a learning mode as success.

2013 NMC Horizon Project Summit Communiqué
“Learning is all about risk, but learning institutions are anything but risk tolerant. There are good reasons for that, except when it comes to learning. We deceive students when we do not make it clear that not all knowledge is absolute. Truth is the result of generations of exploration, of refinement, of pushing the boundaries of our experience.Truth builds on failure as much as success, but failure is anathema to today’s learning institutions. We must instill in students the drive to learn, and to help them see the vital role of failure in discovery. We need to expect our halls of learning to question their own processes and strategies, and their own success. We measure things, but spend little time on understanding what we should be measuring. We know great innovation always comes from the refinement of an initial idea, but we teach in and administer schools as if there are absolute certainties that we must never question. How can we ensure that the next series of great discoveries will be made? That is a challenge whose dimensions and starting places are elusive enough to be considered a truly wicked problem.”

Please check out our Wicked Problem VoiceThread:

Rebecca, Tom, Kate and I began to our to address our wicked problem of practice by taking a look at the above quote from the 2013 NMC Horizon Report. We divided and conquered with our research as we looked for answers to define our problem of practice, find examples of how it is wicked, looked for people who have addressed this problem and then determine our best recommendations.

Through our research and own experience, we have determined that most teachers realize that failing is a natural part of learning but do not necessarily foster an environment that students are comfortable taking risks. I began my own research diving into what makes this problem so wicked. Why is something that has been determined common knowledge (failure is part of learning) not being practiced in our schools?

I looked for research to support the stance that our current educational grading system is contributing to the culture of grade obsessed, perfectionist parents and students that we have today. I encountered this study by the American Psychological Association, where psychologists say that students performed better when they felt confident and were used to a risk taking environment where failure was treated as a means to learn. It suggested that parents and students need to be more concerned with the process of learning than the result of standardized tests and grades.

I then enlisted the help of my PLN and found a link to an #edchat summary discussing alternatives to traditional grading. This was a great resource that began to discuss possible solutions to the traditional grading angle of our wicked problem.

We also had a related article for some of our required reading from class called “Teach Your Students to Fail Better with Design Thinking”. This article speaks of our intense desire for all students to always succeed at all costs in education. However, we are preparing our students for a future that has many unknowns and our students need skills that enable them to fail but learn and improve from their failure.


All references are listed in our VoiceThread above.

21st Century Lesson Plan- Places in the Neighborhood

MAET Year 1, Uncategorized

21st Century Lesson Plan

Places in the Neighborhood in Spanish


Middle of second semester (4th Grade); Have been introduced to community vocabulary in third grade.


Essential Question: How does my environment affect who I am?

Lesson Sub-Unit Questions:

  • What makes up a neighborhood?
  • Are the same things that are important to you in your neighborhood important to someone who lives somewhere else in the world?

Enduring Understandings:

  • The learner will understand that the resources and places in a neighborhood affect how people live and the opportunities available to them therefore affecting the personalities and lifestyles of the people who live there.
  • The learner will understand that recognizing cultural differences between their own country and others helps them gain new perspectives to aid in language comprehension and leads to a more tolerant society.


Know & Show:

  • Students will know the following list of community places vocabulary: el restaurante, la cuidad, el vecindario, los vecinos, la tienda, el supermercado, la biblioteca, el café, el cine, el parque, el zoológico, la playa, el banco, la iglesia, el hospital, la escuela
  • Students will begin to know the following list of additional community places vocabulary: la panadería, el correo, la calle, la estación de bomberos, el peluquería, la estación del tren,  el museo, el estadio, la calle, el hotel, la mapa, el aeropuerto
  • Students will know how to use “Voy a/al…/Vamos a/al…” correctly in context.
  • Students will explore a Central American community using GoogleEarth Streetview and Panoramio.
  • Students will create a virtual tour presentation of a Central American community labeled in Spanish using Popplet.
  • Students will be able to analyze presentations of Central American communities with their own communities to write a collaborative summary of what makes up a community.

Standards & Benchmarks:


  • 1.2.N.L.b Understand interpersonal communication on topics of personal interest such as preferences, family life, friends, leisure and school activities, and everyday occurrences
  • 1.3.N.S.b Present brief personal descriptions on familiar topics in target language such as self, friends, family, home, and school
  • 2.1.N.F.c Describe how daily needs are met within a community or culture in which the language is spoken (housing, shopping, food preparation, transportation, health care, access to public services)
  • 3.1.N.a Reinforce previously learned content knowledge through the target language
  • 4.2.N.a Identify basic target culture practices and compare them to one’s own.


Materials Needed:

  • 30 laptops equipped with GoogleEarth
  • Popplet Student Accounts
  • “How does my environment affect who I am?” Vocabulary list & Goal Sheet
  • Pencil
  • Paper


Setting the Stage: The teacher will have students answer a multiple choice question on Edmodo- Where do you usually go on the weekend in your neighborhood? The bar graph will be displayed on the screen so students can watch the responses as they come in.

Providing input/engaging learners: The teacher will review some vocabulary with a Think-Link-Ink Activity beginning by asking students to think about the neighborhood surrounding their school. Students will be given three minutes to draw and label as many places around their school neighborhood that they can think of in Spanish. Then they will be given three minutes to link with as many fellow students and speak in Spanish about the places that they labeled. During this time, if the students missed places that the person they are talking to listed they must ask that person to write it on their map. After the three minutes are up, the teacher will ask the class based on the responses, how could we categorize what makes up a community? Students communicate their responses on a class Padlet linked to their Edmodo accounts.

Guided Participation:

Students will make predictions in an Edmodo class post about the differences and similarities there might be between their community and a community in Latin America. Students will share a few responses aloud. Students will watch a quick modeling of how to effectively use GoogleEarth and to explore a city specifically looking for specific places in the community. There will also be a quick model of the expectations of the finished “Welcome to the Neighborhood” Tour guide.  Students will be working in groups of three or four students and will be provided a rubric to guide their exploration of an assigned Central American city. The rubric will also guide their creation in Popplet of a presentation that will act as a tour guide from place to place in the city. Students will label neighborhood places that they find in the target language and put links from GoogleMaps and images into their Popplet presentation. Students will post their presentations to Edmodo then present their Popplets orally to the other students in Spanish.

Informal/Formal Assessment: Students will be formally assessed according to the rubric for their “Welcome to the Neighborhood” Tour guide Popplet and oral presentation. They will also be informally assessed by teacher observation during the Think-Link-Ink activity.

Closure: Students will view the completed Padlet from earlier on the board. Students will be asked to think about their answers and see if the communities from Central America have similar or different needs. Students will be asked to quickly pair and discuss and then share out with the class.

Summary and Reflection

I began working on this lesson plan with the intent to remix a lesson plan that I am already using in my classroom. I think it took a little longer and a little more patience using the TPACK method of finding a tool to work for the goals I wanted to achieve. I could have started with a tool and thought of something in my content that might relate well but I took the slightly more challenging path in this case. I explored some GoogleMap editors like MapFab and Prezi (which doesn’t allow for direct GoogleMap embedding) but they all did not serve as the tool I was looking for. I remembed that in the past, I had used Popplet and it had a direct embed GoogleMap images along with options to embed creative commons images and text. The great thing is that Popplet can also be programed to present similar to a Prezi and jump from bubble to bubble in presentation mode.

In this 21st century lesson, my students are addressing Hobbs list of the five communication competencies in digital literacy. They are accessing and exploring information through GoogleMaps and Panoramio. They are using the resources with the purpose of finding specific information. This process is modeled before students attempt it so that they know how to properly find the information that they need. Students are analyzing information found in GoogleMaps and Panoramio. Students are also using Padlet in the beginning and end of the lesson to analyze and compare how their thinking has or has not changed related to the essential question. Students are creating for their peers a tour guide of a new city using Popplet. Popplet allows for multi-modal collaborative creations through videos, images, maps, text and organization that can be added to the students’ presentations. Students are also creating the Padlet full of their ideas. Students reflect on the presentations and newly acquired knowledge through the think-pair-share closure activity. Since the presentations are in Edmodo, there is freedom as well for students to comment on other students work in reflection. Students also reflect using the think-link-ink activity. Finally, students are acting collaboratively toward a common creation in the “Welcome to the Neighborhood” Tour Guide presentation. They have a desired end result outlined in the rubric but together but determine and act through the process of getting there.


Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.