They Aren’t All Digitally Literate

Are all college students digitally literate? The fact is, students are all different and come to us with different skill sets. Some students may enter the freshman year with tons of technology experience. Other students may have little to no experience.

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We often stereotype college students as digitally literate, but I have found that this simply isn’t true. And that surprised me! The first year I taught my college course, I “assumed” that the students were more digitally aware than they actually were. I thought they knew how to accurately cite sources, use APA formatting, create a Google Doc, create a video and a blog post. In fact, my first lesson required students to create a short 2-3 minute video introducing themselves to the class in a creative manner and then upload the video to the class blog to share. I had to step back and re-examine my assignments in light of my new discoveries regarding student culture.

Although students may have a smartphone, tablet, and computer, it doesn’t mean they know how to effectively use them for education. Any technology assignment given should be scaffolded with easy, digestible steps and thoroughly explained. If you find that your students comprehend and understand quickly – great! Keep moving forward! If not, either teach your students what they need to know or provide them with the resources necessary to gather the information.

I tell my students, “Google is your friend.” I say the same thing to you. Want to find extra resources for your students? Need to send them a video explaining APA formatting? Google it. I’m sure you’ll find one. Want your students to collaborate using Google Docs and don’t want to take the time to explain how in class? Google it. Google provides many great training videos. You can always use Screencast-o-matic or a similar program to record your own video for your students.

Just remember, take the time to make sure your students know “how” if you are going to require technology with your assignment.

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Pencil and Paper and Mix by 53

My new stylus came this weekend:

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Simply put, it is amazing. It feels and writes like a pencil (or pen, paintbrush, whatever you wish!). You can even use the eraser as…well…an eraser!  I have long been a fan of Paper by FiftyThree and this stylus is helping me enjoy it even more. Paper by FiftyThree now has Think Kit built right in – a simple tool for diagramming.

What I enjoy, however, is the ability to remix. I love drawing and doodling, and remix allows a user to draw a picture and share it, OR remix something someone else has drawn and change it. Mix by FiftyThree is a great collaboration tool where users may “learn, sketch, play, write, design and think” with others.  Click here to view a remix I enjoyed and be sure to click “replay” to view the original picture.

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2 Great Creativity Apps

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Want to brand a custom logo or create an invitation? The Makr app makes it easy! This app was named “Best App of 2014” by Apple. Design a logo from one of their templates or design choices, then apply directly to products for a one-of-a-kind look. Create business cards, wedding invitations, graduation announcements, custom t-shirts, stationery, or even a logo for your classroom web site. There are in-app purchases for paper products, or a small fee for the digital version.

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Paper by Fifty Three has made some great upgrades to their app.

Click here if you cannot view the video.

The drawing tools are amazing.

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What caught my eye this time was the Think Kit. The Think Kit allows you to easily create graphic organizers – a wonderful tool for educators.

 Click here if you cannot view the video.

Remember, whenever we use tools to CREATE, we are using higher order thinking skills. Consider how you could use these tools in your classroom to have students CREATE something to demonstrate their understanding!

Running Away with Running Apps (or NOT!)

I have never been a runner. Many people think I am a runner simply because my daughter, Lauren, is an avid runner. She is an elite athlete with Asics and is training for the 2015 Olympic Trials in the Marathon. Read her blog here or visit her Asics profile here. But the truth is – I am not the runner in the family. I love cycling, but not running.

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However, I am hoping that technology will help me with this. As a World Vision Ambassador, I decided to take the plunge this year and train for a half marathon in order to raise money for bring fresh water to Africa through World Vision. I denied the opportunity three years in a row and this year decided I would go ahead and commit because I have seen firsthand the devastating water condition in Ethiopia. (Please support me here!)

So…I have been testing out apps to help me with my half marathon training! I am sharing the information with you!

I started with the 1/2 Marathon Trainer Pro.

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This was listed in Apple’s “What’s Hot” and I suppose that is why I paid $9.99 for it. I thought for SURE it would spur me on. I have to say, I liked it for the first week. The music from my iPhone is built into the app so that was a nice feature. And, for the person who is not very athletic, this would be a great choice. It has a “run-walk” method that seems to be very popular. However, under closer examination, I realized that the run-walk method went all the way until the day of the half marathon where you would “run-walk” the half. I don’t want to do that. If I’m going to sign up to run it, I want to run it. I decided it wouldn’t prepare me enough and went searching for another app.

The next app I tried was MapMyRun Trainer.

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I admit – I’ve used it once…last night. It’s free (yay) and let’s you set the date goal (this was my favorite feature). I liked being able to let it know the date of the 1/2 Marathon so that I would be exactly prepared at the right date. But, I did have a little bit of a hard time last night seeing it through my arm band. The icons weren’t bright enough for my old eyes and I had to constantly take my phone out of the arm band to see where to push to begin the run. It didn’t “coach” me along like the 1/2 Marathon Trainer Pro above and I found that I missed that. I am familiar with MapMyRun and I did like that it gave me the distance…which the prior one also lacked. It only gave time. MapMyRun Trainer does train for running the whole event. I need a voice coaching me along so I decided to test out a different app.

I decided to test out Run Training Pro.

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I did have to pay $2.99 for this one but hoped it would combine the best of the past two apps. It advertises that it shows the distance, has a run program, records the map, and will play music. However, this app greatly failed me. It wouldn’t show the run or distance, nor would it give coaching. The only function that seemed to work was playing music. I spent over an hour trying to look up tech support but their web site appeared to be outdated. After much research and viewing blog posts about the app not keeping up with updates, I decided that this company may not be keeping up with the current iOS. With no response to my tech support help request, I decided I was now out $2.99. I deleted it.

My daughter came to the rescue with an online 1/2 marathon plan located HERE and HERE. The 20 week plan will work for me, yet I still really want someone to coach me through this – a virtual coach in an app! Yes, I need “someone” to urge me on as I run.

I downloaded the 21K Runner for $5.99 and decided it must be the one. With all these apps out there, there must be an app that does all I want it to do – right?

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By now I was an hour and a half late for running, so I turned the app on and prepared to run–when I was greeted with a message that warned me that in order to use the app properly, I needed to be able to run a 10k three times a week. Hmmm. Well, I pressed okay – knowing that I currently don’t run that far. (Uh, ever?) This is what the app gave me for my day 1  run – 5 min. warm up, 60 min. run, 5 min. cool down = 70 minutes. WHAT??? I knew then I couldn’t use this app – yet. Augh. I guess I should have noticed that it stated it was 10k to 21k.

Going back inside, I downloaded the 10k Runner for $3.99. You can see by now that I have spent a lot of money on apps – which is why I am writing this article! I hope I will save someone some money.

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It does have an audio coach, music, and plan. The plan is walk/run – but it does end with running a 10k. I counted up my weeks before my 1/2 marathon and I have time to go through the whole 10k plan, then the 21k plan. I will finish just in time. It has motivational tips and images – and honestly, that’s what I need even if it is digital. I let you know I am not a “runner” but I am very determined to do this.

If this app doesn’t work, I am going to scrap all of them and use Lauren’s paper version. No more $$ spent on apps I won’t use.

Which, again, is why I would love your support. If I know that people are putting their support into this World Vision fundraiser, I will be more determined not to let anyone down and really follow through with it! Yes, I will try not to let myself down and drop out, but peer pressure will help! I hope I’ve saved you around $23. Would you consider donating it to my run with World Vision?  CLICK HERE.

Change a Word: Grab Attention?

Little things can grab someone’s attention. I recently read an article by John Waters Engaging Students with Active Learning where he stated that you can increase student interest in your class just by adding the word EXTREME to the title. His example was “Weather and Climate” to “Extreme Weather.” Amazing. It really does grab your attention a bit more, doesn’t it?

I’ve been working on doing something similar to one of my courses – Technology for Teachers. I’m not adding Extreme to the title, but I have been “gamifying” it by changing some of the vocabulary and offering more choice. Sometimes the thought of technology in the classroom, especially to a new teacher, can be a bit scary.

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So I’ve added a few elements to the course to peak curiosity. I am asking students to defeat the techno monster through Experience Points (XP – commonly known as points). I show them how to not only survive the course, but how to thrive in it through a set of choice quests (assignments). I believe by changing just a few terms in the class, it will heighten student interest. Alice Keeler has written a lot about how to gamify a classroom and although I am not going all out, I am trying to change a few elements, such as course vocabulary, to create interest.

Want to learn a little more? Check out some of these resources!

Gamification in the Classroom

Mr. Matura Musings

Bunchball

Gamification in Higher Education

A Gamified Approach to Teaching and Learning

5 Easy Steps

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Help bring clean water to communities in Africa! Support my first half marathon with World Vision. Click HERE.