Final Reflections – CEP810

I cannot believe that I’ve reached the end of my first course in the MAET program! The 7 weeks have flown by! Although the course is ending, I’m glad that I still have several weeks of summer break left, because that means I have time to continue to reflect on what I’ve learned in the course and make changes for next year based on what I’ve learned.

What I’ve Learned about Teaching for Understanding with Technologies

What I’ve appreciated most about this class is that we were asked to focus on teaching and learning along with the technology.  I’d heard about TPACK before I signed up for the MAET program (and it is part of why I chose to enroll in the program!), and through my experiences reading, researching, and creating in this class, I feel like I’m really starting to understand why it’s so important.  As a teacher, I need to be familiar enough with technology, the content that I’m teaching, and best practices in pedagogy that I can thoughtfully choose learning opportunities for my students and can repurpose technology tools, when appropriate, to support their learning.  A desire to incorporate technology should not take precedence over using good pedagogy in my teaching.  When used carelessly,  technology can interfere with my students’ ability to learn and understand the content.  Through this course, each week I’ve had a chance to experience first-hand as a student how technology can be used effectively at different points within learning cycles (Learn, Explore, Create, Share) to help me learn.  I’m excited to take those principles back to my school next fall and incorporate them into my professional practices.

How My Professional Practice Will Change

In this course, I’ve been challenged to use a variety of technology tools such as:

By being required to use them as a student, I’ve come to a much deeper understanding of these tools.  I know that I will continue using some of them for myself, and I hope to repurpose some of them to use with my students next school year.

For my personal use, I will definitely continue to use Twitter to learn from my PLN.  During this course, I’ve created lists of educators I follow on Twitter, and I read my list of favorites daily using a HootSuite account.  When I find resources there that I want to refer to later, I send them to the appropriate notebook in Evernote (I currently have notebooks for EdTech, Chemistry, and Teaching Practices).  I also want to continue to share what I’m learning by tweeting and writing blog posts, so that I’m contributing to the community of educators.  And just this week, I was introduced to Jamendo, which has TONS of free, creative-commons music that I can use in the videos I create

With my students, I want to require them to CREATE more.  Through this class, I realized how easy it is to create videos.  I’d previously created screencasts, but I’d never recorded myself on a video, edited clips together using Camtasia, added music, and uploaded the final videos to YouTube.  My students don’t have access to Camtasia through the school, but there are a lot of other tech tools that allow them to create and share videos (such as Screencastify, Animoto, Voicethread).  Consistent with what I learned from Bransford, Brown & Cocking’s book How People Learn (2000) and the TPACK theory, I think requiring my students to make video products that demonstrate their learning would be a powerful way to leverage technology.  I will do this in a big way in the Nuclear Chemistry project I developed, but I also can do this in small ways throughout the year by having students record themselves explaining how to solve a problem.

Questions that Remain

I know that I don’t have it all figure out yet, and that I have a lot of room to grow in how I use technology.  For example, for the past 3 years I’ve been “flipping” my honors chemistry classes, but I’m growing to be a little dissatisfied as I think about it in light of TPACK.  The class is still pretty traditional, in that students are introduced to a concept by watching the videos at home, practice in class through activities and worksheets, and then demonstrate their learning by taking a traditional paper-and-pencil assessment.   Sometimes a lecture is good pedagogy, but there’s a lot of times where it’s not, so I want to continue to think creatively about what I can do to teach through inquiry rather than lecture.  I also think I could be using technology more powerfully for assessment purposes in that class, rather than relying only on traditional tests.  And there’s a lot of opportunity within a flipped classroom to help my students develop metacognitive skills by analyzing instructional videos or sites, reflecting on their own learning progress, and creating artifacts that demonstrate their understanding.

I’m looking forward to learning & thinking more about these over the summer and in future MAET clases!


Cooking with TPACK

This week for my CEP 810 class, I was given a challenge:  to cook something using only a bowl, plate, and utensil.  The twist was that all of these things were blindly chosen by someone else!  Watch my video to see how I fared:

Although I initially thought it would be very challenging to use the wine bottle opener (officially called a wine key or sommelier knife) for this task, I think I was actually pretty lucky.  It only took minimal repurposing, as I was able to use its little knife, originally intended for cutting through foil wrapping, for scooping and spreading the peanut butter and jelly.  My prior experience with this utensil enabled me to quickly repurpose it for my sandwich making.  If I’d never used a tool like this before, I might not have realized that there was a knife hidden in there.

used with permission from

used with permission from

You might be surprised to realize that this task is directly related to what teachers do as they construct learning experiences for their students!  The TPACK framework outlines how technology, pedagogy, and content are interconnected.  Dr. Mishra, one of the creators of this framework, emphasizes in this talk that teachers take technology, which was often not intentionally created for use in educational settings, and repurpose it to fit the content they teach and the pedagogy they use.  A teacher uses technology most effectively when their teaching is NOT dictated by the tool, but instead when they use the technology in a creative way to support the learning outcome they desire.

I could have tried make my sandwich using the corkscrew part of my utensil, but it would have probably made a mess, and I would be wasting the potential of my tool.  Similarly, I could use technology like Screencastify to record my lectures and have students watch them at home.  I’d be integrating technology, which is great.  But if I keep teaching outdated content or using bad pedagogy (individual work on in-class worksheets, or front-loading content with lectures instead of having students inquire first), it’s still bad teaching.  Instead, I could repurpose the technology: have students make videos explaining how they solve a problem as evidence that they’ve mastered the content and have metacognition about their strategies.

Instead of letting your pedagogy and content be controlled by the technology available, I challenge you to explore the tech tools available to you, and then think about whether you could creatively use them to enhance the way your students learn!

Nuclear Chemistry: a 21st Century Lesson Plan

At the end of our atomic structure unit, I have my honors chemistry students do a research project on nuclear chemistry.  In the past, I’ve let students pick a topic (such as the Chernobyl disaster or storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain), and asked them to make a poster that summarizes the relevant information.  I’ve been increasingly dissatisfied with this project, because I find that some students just regurgitate information from Wikipedia or random blogs without applying any critical thought.

Instead, I think this could be a great place to inject 21st century skill instruction into my curriculum and to help my students learn to use some tech tools to support and demonstrate learning.  I developed a lesson plan for a 4-day project in which my students will decide whether a new nuclear power plant should be built in their community.  Students will (1) conduct and share research about the topic of nuclear power, (2) participate in a class discussion about the reliability of the research that they compile, (3) use a tech tool to create a digital product that shares their evidence-based argument for or against the nuclear power plant, and (4) analyze their classmates’ arguments and digital products.

This lesson plan was inspired by the principles laid out by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown in their 2011 book “A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change” and by Renee Hobbs in her 2011 book “Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom”.  

Thomas and Brown argue that students need to be taught how to find information, create products that represent their learning, and play as they learn (2011).  In my lesson, students will be scaffolded as they conduct research and analyze the sources they find.  They will be asked to play with a new tech tool and then use it to make something that represents their learning.

This lesson also aligns nicely with Hobb’s five fundamental literacy practices (2011): Students must know how to:

  1. Access relevant information.  In this lesson, my students will access both text and multimedia sources as they conduct research on nuclear chemistry.  They need to be taught how to appropriately use the powerful tools available to them (databases, Google, etc.)
  2. Analyze information they collect.  We will use a Google Form to collect students’ research, so that we can analyze it in small groups and whole-class discussion.  I think this is an area that my students need the MOST help doing well, and is an area that is so important in their future academic and real-life settings.
  3. Create content.  My students will have choice in how they create a product that is relevant to the stated purpose: to argue for or against the new nuclear power plant.
  4. Reflect on learning, thoughts, and feelings.  After viewing their classmates’ arguments, students will have a chance to reflect on their learning through this project.
  5. Act on their learning.  While the scenario I created for this project is hypothetical, as there are currently no plans to build a nuclear power plant here, this type of scenario is something my students could face in the future.  I hope that they will remember what they learn about researching and sharing their arguments, and that they will use that to make a difference in their communities when controversial situations arise.

I am so excited to try out this lesson plan, because I think it will provide a chance for my students to grow in skills that can be transferred to other classes and to life while still allowing them to interact with chemistry content in a meaningful way.  When I try it out in October, I’ll let you know how it goes!



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

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?.

Networked Learning Project Part 2: Maxi Skirt Update

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve gathered materials and information for my Networked Learning Project, and now it’s time to dig in and begin!

After watching videos and reading articles on how to sew with knit/jersey fabric, I made a run to the local Hancock Fabrics store, where I purchased the materials I needed: thread, bobbins, a ballpoint needle, 2 yards of a grey fabric for attempt #1, and 2 yards of a pink and black chevron fabric for my final product (which will be more challenging to sew because of the pattern).  I also bought a double needle and some elastic, because some of the resources recommended them, but after reading a few more sources, I decided not to use them for my first attempt.

2014-05-22 06.28.00

my 2 fabrics

Then I ran the fabric and elastic through the washer & dryer, to shrink them before I sewed them.  While the fabric was washing, I took my measurements and made a pattern.  This was one of the hardest parts to decide on, simply because there are SO MANY different people online telling you SO MANY different ways to measure, to cut the fabric, and to design the waistband.  Since I’m new at this, it’s hard to figure out what the BEST way is, so I just went with method suggested by the most professional-looking video. (I think this has implications for anyone learning a new skill by networked learning.  Since novices have a difficult time discerning who is a reliable expert on the topic, they may be swayed by less important criteria.)


my pattern & measurements

Next, I ironed my fabric to remove wrinkles and then cut out my fabric using the pattern I made.  At this point, I noticed a potential problem.  It appears my waistband is probably going to be too small, partly due to the fact that I cut the fabric going the wrong direction.  The fabric is more stretchy in one direction than the other, and I probably should have cut it with the stretch going side-to-side instead of diagonal, so it will stretch over my hips.  I don’t have enough fabric to re-cut the entire skirt, so I just re-cut the waistband, and hoped for the best!

waistband looks too narrow!

waistband looks too narrow!

I replaced the normal needle with the ballpoint needle on my sewing machine, and then used some scraps to experiment with zig-zag stiches and my new needle’s tension.  Then I started sewing!!  First the side seams got stitched together.  The video recommended that I sandwich the fabric between tissue paper to keep it from stretching, but my machine got stuck when I tried that.  No other sources I saw recommended that, so I decided to try it without (which turned out to be a fine choice).

attempting to sew with tissue paper

attempting to sew with tissue paper

Then I sewed my new waistband on.  Unfortunately, I had my skirt turned inside out when I sewed the waistband on, so the seams on the waistband are inside-out when the seams on the skirt are right-side out.

skirt issues

skirt issues

I thought about removing and re-attaching it, but I discovered that it actually looks okay if I fold the waistband down to hide the seam.  I’ll make it right on my final skirt!  Then I hemmed the bottom of the skirt with a straight stitch, and…Voila! I have a new custom-made skirt!


I’m happy with my first skirt attempt.  Even though I made a few mistakes, it’s wearable, and I learned some things I can fix for my next skirt.  Stay tuned for another update soon!




A Teacher’s Guide to Evernote

I have a reputation as being a highly organized person.  I find great enjoyment in taking chaos and putting into a logical order.  And as a teacher, I often feel like I have a chaotic list of tasks and things to remember floating around in my brain, and I’m always looking for ways to be more organized and waste less time on mundane tasks.  I’ve found that during the school year, a vital part of my workflow is a to do list.  I look to it to figure out what task is most urgent and can be completed within the time that I have.  I can look at it and add to it, even when my computer is being used to project a Power Point or video during class time.  And I take great joy in crossing items off my list.  One of the highlights of my week is throwing out my old to do list and filling in my To Do List Template for next week.  I organize my tasks based on my class preps (honors chemistry and general chemistry) and a miscellaneous category.

To Do List (Click the image to download my template as a Word Doc)

In the past, I’ve checked out digital organizational tools like Remember the Milk, Wunderlist, and 30/30, and while they’re fun and somewhat helpful, none of them have stuck and become a vital part of my daily workflow.  But for the graduate class I’m currently taking, CEP810, I was challenged to explore some new tools and incorporate one into my routine to enhance my productivity.  I’ve heard people rave about Evernote, but never really explored it, so this week I committed to really dig into it and find out how I can use it.  Here’s some highlights:

Why You Need to Check Out Evernote:     evernote

  1. It syncs across devices.  I can access my information from my web browser on my school PC (running Windows 7), a Windows 8 app on my personal PC, the app or widget on my Android phone, or my iPad.  This means I’ll never forget my lists at home (unless I also forget all of my tech devices…), and I can quickly add an item to my lists from anywhere (no more taking 3 different lists scribbled on different papers to Target!)
  2. You can make To-Do lists with check-boxes.  Great for making sure you don’t forget to buy something at the grocery store, tracking your progress toward completing a multi-step process, and feeling great about yourself when you finish a task.
    To Do Evernote
  3. Creating Notebooks & Sub-notebooks is easy.  Part of why I’d avoided Evernote in the past was because I didn’t understand how to organize it.  I’d just created a bunch of random notes, and it stressed me out to log in and see a list of random notes.  Now I’ve created a notebook for each area of my life:
    Notebooks evernote
  4. The Chrome Extension Rocks.  I think the coolest part of this extension is that you can clip a page from the web, annotate it, and save or share it immediately.
  5. It’s a great place to store your web-based research.  When I’m researching something online, I find myself with about 15 tabs open in my web browser.  You can use Evernote to save links to each of those sites, include pictures from the sites, or even include the full text of each page.  Then those notes are searchable (in case you can’t remember where you saw something)!
  6. You can upload your own pictures from your phone.  On my android phone, I downloaded the Evernote Widget app, which gives me a widget with this toolbar, so with one click, I can take a picture and create a new note.  

  7. You can add reminders to alert you when to to revisit a note.  This works on the web and your phone.
  8. You can share notebooks with other people, so that you can collaboratively work on something together.  Here’s the link to the notes I took about Evernote as I was exploring this week.  This link will update if I add new resources – it’s not a static page.
  9. Everybody’s using it — so you can find tips on Pinterest and recipes on IFFT to combine it with other tools.

I will still keep my paper-and-pencil To Do List, because I like the week-at-a-glance layout, I need to be able to access it when I can’t look at my computer or phone, and there is less potential to get distracted when using paper. (Am I the only one who turns on the computer, checks email, checks Facebook, checks the news, and then 15 minutes later asks “Wait, what was I supposed to do on the computer?”)  But I am convinced that Evernote has the potential to enhance my productivity in some powerful ways.  Hopefully you’ve now got some ideas on how to get started with Evernote. If you’re already an Evernote user, please feel free to share your tips and tricks with me!

My PLN (Professional Learning Network)

I believe that one of the best ways to grow both professionally and personally is to interact with new ideas on a regular basis.  I often tell my students that when we stop learning new things, we get crusty, stale, and stagnant.  This applies to teachers as well as students.

Luckily, in this day and age, it is so easy to find new ideas! Over the years I have built a wide network of professional contacts and quality resources that I rely on to help me encounter new things. In education jargon, this is called a professional learning network (PLN).  Sometimes I’m looking for a specific activity or lesson idea; other times I just browse and see what catches my eye.

This week, for my CEP 810 course, I used a new tool – Popplet – to create a visual representation of my PLN.  I found Popplet very easy to use.  It would be a great tool for students to use to make mind maps.  You can embed images and YouTube videos, but it is currently somewhat limited in the ability to customize fonts and colors.  The font is small on this image, but if you click through you can see the full size image.


As I made the Popplet, I realized how much I rely on digital resources in my PLN.  I do read printed resources like journal articles, but those come infrequently, and often sit on my desk until I find time to get to them.  And I do learn a lot from face-to-face interactions with colleagues and at conferences, but again, new ideas come relatively infrequently from these sources.  But I can get a deluge of information from my online sources.  In fact, if I go a couple days without checking them, I get overwhelmed by how many emails, tweets, and blog posts I have to catch up on.  I’ve gotten good at skimming them, gleaning the important information I need at that time, and then not worrying about missing out on other things.  I’m always looking for new additions to my PLN, so feel free to suggest some for me!

Networked Learning Project Part 1: Making a Maxi Skirt

As the weather has finally started to warm up this spring, I’ve found myself frequently browsing the racks at my favorite clothing stores in search of some sundresses and maxi skirts to wear on warm days.  Unfortunately I’m realizing that the particular combination of shape, fabric, and cost I’m searching for is hard to find.  Actually, I often find shopping frustrating and wish I could just sew my own clothes in the specific colors and sizes I want.  A few years ago, I convinced my mom I was serious about this, so she bought me a sewing machine.  As these dreams often go, of course, that sewing machine is currently collecting dust in my closet. 


Luckily for my sewing machine, the Networked Learning Project for my CEP 810 course is about to rescue it from the dust bunnies!  I have been challenged to learn how to do something using only YouTube and online help forums.  I’ve decided to learn how to make maxi skirts (as shown in the picture) using only online resources.  I haven’t actually sewed anything since I made pajama pants in middle school.  And even then, I was using a pattern I purchased at the store and had the extensive help of my mom (who, if I’m being honest, did at least 90% of the sewing).  I also have never sewed with stretchy knit fabric before, and it seems that it requires some different techniques.

 I’ve done a little preliminary research and found a few links to sites that I think will be helpful:

  1. Video: DIY Maxi Skirt tutorial, ThreadBanger
  2. How to Make a Maxi Skirt, Wikihow
  3. Video: How to Sew Knits and Stretch Fabrics, smarmyclothes
  4. Sewing Knit Fabric on Regular Sewing Machine, Tilly & the Buttons

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for updates.  I appreciate your encouraging comments!


Photo Source:

Carina. (2011, April 11). Floral maxi skirt [Photograph]. Retrieved from  Made available under Creative Commons Licence.