Social Media in the Classroom

For this post, I created a VoiceThread that explores some of my thoughts on social media in the classroom and the importance of helping students become safe, responsible, respectful, and kind users of social media.

To check out my VoiceThread, click on the image below:

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 9.57.49 PM


Barham, C. (2014). Global awareness and collaboration. Live Binders. Retrieved from

Dawson, C. (2011). Google gives schools, organizations “walled garden” approach to email. ZDNet Education. Retrieved from

OurITC. (2016). 20 Ways to use social media in the classroom. OurITC. Retrieved from

Ripp, P. (2015). Global read aloud. Global Read Aloud. Retrieved from

Reed, J. (2007). Global Collaboration and Learning. EdTech Magazine. Retrieved from

Acceptable Use Policies

Acceptable Use Policies (AUP)  intend to teach students how to use technology in ways that are developmentally and socially appropriate. These policies essentially “teach students how to behave with technology” (Common Sense Media). As technology becomes more and more prevalent in our society, it becomes increasingly important for teachers to teach students how to be kind, safe, responsible, and respectful when using technology. It cannot be assumed that students know how to act with this tool.

One of my foundational tenets of my practice as a teacher is to establish clear expectations in my classroom. I think that an AUP,  whether rolled out at the district, school, or classroom level, serves as the expectations for device behavior for students.

In my research of AUPs, I found a couple of examples of District Policies. For example, you can review the Clark County School District Policy here. This district outlined their expectations in nine categories within which students, teachers, and parents might use technology. Their categories included things like how to communicate via email appropriately, what language should be used when on the internet, intellectual property expectations, and access opportunities and limitations. Similarly, the Portland Public Schools AUP includes similar expectations, however, instead of being a view only document, PPS asks that students and parents sign to reflect their understanding. Both documents highlight the importance of being appropriate and safe when using devices and both pages were lengthy, “autocratic, and binding” (Murphy. 2012).

However, this negative, punitive approach does not have to be the end of the road for AUPs. Rather, we should shift the language and appearance of AUPs such that they reflect more closely the potential and promise of technology integration. Deer Park Elementary has a vision of transforming their Acceptable Use Policies to be Responsible Use Policies. Chief Technology Officer, Murphy (2012) explains that she hopes for “a  single policy or set of guidelines that was positive in tone — one that would reflect what we value about learning, teach our students digital citizenship, and empower our teachers.”  This resource, divided for student responsibilities and parent responsibilities is written in positive, I statements that gives students autonomy, power, and confidence when using technology. The document suggests that students are capable of using technology appropriately and wants to see them be successful. Similar to the other districts, the expectations are clear and high, but the potential and language of the documents seems very different.

My own classroom and school AUP is modeled more closely after the Deer Park vision. Last year, I designed a poster for my school that includes our technology rules. I teach in an elementary school, so I wanted the language to be user-friendly and the images to help connect students with each expectation. The posters are in every classroom at our school, so students are able to recognize that technology use rules are consistent across our school. Additionally, at the beginning of the year, students review the expectations and sign them as a contract to affirm that they understand and will abide by the established rules. This provides a great foundation for conversations with students and parents if there are any issues or unsavory conduct with technology. Here is the poster I created:
Technology Rules A


Clark County School District. (2017). “Acceptable use policy.” Clark County School District. Retrieved October 3, 2017 from  

Common Sense Media. “1-to-1 essentials- acceptable use policies.” Common Sense Media. Retrieved  October 2, 2017  from:

Deer Park ISD. “Technology department policies. Deer Park School District. Retrieved October 3, 2017 from

Murphy, K. (2012). “Bringing acceptable-use policies into the 21st century.” Education World. Retrieved October 2, 2017 from

Portland Public Schools. (2012). “Agreement for acceptable use of Portland Public Schools technology resources students grades K – 12.” Portland Public Schools. Retrieved October 2, 2017 from

The Basic Suite

According to Roblyer, (2016)  the basic suite is the triple threat of software tools available: word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software (p. 109). These three programs have revolutionized productivity, and thus have a rightful and commanding presence in classrooms. Roblyer articulates four main benefits of the basic suite: “improved productivity,” “improved appearance,” “improved accuracy,” and “more support for interaction and collaboration” (109). To further examine relative advantage of using the basic suite in the classroom, I am going to utilize these four categories.

Improved Productivity

Students and teachers are able to be more productive when using the basic suite. All three digital software tools are cited by Roblyer to save time and help organize information. Consider writing, for example. I teach fourth grade and student handwriting and spelling can be unreadable to all but a finely trained eye. Furthermore, for some of my students, the act of writing is so cumbersome, time-consuming, or difficult that they come to despise writing. However, when given access to the basic suite they are able to express themselves with ease and joy. Word processing, especially, has transformed my writing instruction.

Another way that the basic suite increases productivity is through increased motivation; if students are motivated to complete work, they will be more productive. Roblyer cites spreadsheets as increasing student motivation to work with mathematics (121), word processors increasing motivation in writing (115), and students who “created interactive PowerPoint products to illustrate new vocabulary words were more active and engaged than other students and demonstrated greater understanding of words and concepts they studied” (132).

Improved Appearance

When materials are crafted and created within the basic suite, they most often look better than those created by hand (especially by fourth grade hand). Students and teachers have the opportunity to edit and make changes with ease instead of crossing things out. Students and teachers can make up for poor drawing skills with image searches and poor handwriting with font selections. Therefore, students and teachers have the opportunity to make professional looking products. Teachers can make inclusive decisions about and accommodations to instructional materials by changing fonts or adding pictures.

Additionally, students and teachers can enhance the presentation of materials by adding videos, images, and color schemes. While this can lead to overwhelming presentations, as Tecknologic (2016) points out spreadsheet processors (like Powerpoint) “are just a tool, and the way that you use it determines whether it is useful or not.” This quote stood out to me when considering the relative advantage of the basic suite because it is just a tool, or a collection of tools, but it is still the responsibility of the teacher to use these tools to enhance student learning and engagement.

Improved Accuracy

For students, the basic suite provides easier opportunities to edit and revise their work. Additionally, there are more opportunities to collaborate and provide feedback. These both lead improved accuracy for student-produced work. In addition, teachers can use the basic suite for data collection and record keeping, which allows them to make more informed, data-driven decisions in the classroom.

More Support for Interaction and Collaboration

In my classroom, I utilize Google Apps for education. As such, my students can share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with one another to collaborate on group projects or provide feedback to one another. Additionally, I can pop in to any of their projects and make changes or suggestions and provide feedback. Sometimes, this looks like me helping them with grammatical errors or making suggestions about sentence structure or sometimes I link a video in to a comment to teach or re-teach them a specific skill. In this way, the basic suite allows me to increase differentiation, collaboration, and feedback in my classroom.

Essentially, the relative advantage of the basic suite is that it prepares students to be 21st century learners, thinkers, and creators. By utilizing the three tools, students are able to create professional products, collaborate with their peers, and increase productivity. Furthermore, they are more engaged and motivated to succeed ultimately making the basic suite a necessity in today’s classrooms.


Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Massachusetts: Pearson.

Tecknologic. (2016, February 20). “Is PowerPoint a useful teaching tool? Tecknologic. Retrieved from

PBL- Week 6

Week Six:

Here is the link to my final project:

Here is the link to my self-evaluation of my final project:

This course has been a great introduction to Project Based Learning. I came into this class having a very basic understanding of PBL as an opportunity for students to work on a real-world project in order to master grade level content. I expected to deepen my understanding of what PBL is and hoped to come away with a useable unit and the understanding of how to create future PBL learning experiences for my class. At the close of this class, I can confidently say that I came away with a much deeper understanding of PBL, specifically all of the working parts and steps that go into creating a PBL unit. That being said, I also met my other goal for this class because I have a teachable unit – I taught part of it to my current fourth graders and plan to use the entire unit next year. In addition, I now feel much more confident using what I learned to create future PBL units for my students.

I think I best understand why PBL is important and effective because throughout this course I found myself wondering how to best convince my colleagues, administrators, and parents that this was an effective teaching model. As such, my enthusiasm for PBL caused me to delve into additional research and thought surrounding the justification of PBL. I think I also best understand the idea of the driving question, but at the same time, I think this is the skill that I will continue to develop the most. To me, it is the trickiest part of PBL unit development because it is so all-encompassing. I think another aspect that I understand the least is the facilitation of a PBL unit. I feel confident in my understanding of how PBL works, is developed, and how it can benefit students, but as I am still new to actually facilitating units in my own classroom, this is a large area of future growth for me, especially when I think about coordinating with community and school experts.

With what I have learned this semester, I am excited to continue developing PBL units for my students and collaborating with other teachers at my school or in other communities surrounding this work. I think PBL has such transformative teaching implications. I am enthusiastic about the ways in which what I have learned will play a role in my classroom as soon as the start of next year!


PBL- Week 5


Week Five:

This week, my learning was focused on wrapping up my PBL site and reflecting on the PBL process. I have updated the following pages on my site:

Products & Performances and Reflection Methods:

Differentiated Instruction in the Teaching and Learning Guide:

Technology Support/Resources Needed:

At this point in the PBL process, I have been thinking a lot about how to sell PBL and specifically this project to parents, administrators, and colleagues. Potential criticisms they might have is that the project will take a lot of time away from tested content areas like reading and math. I would counter that criticism by explaining that through this project, students will be reading and engaging in critical thinking about high level texts. In order to be successful, they will need to read a variety of sources and texts about a subject matter. As such, even though it is not a direct reading lesson, students will be getting reading practice.

Another criticism I might receive is that it allows for a lot of student directed time and exploration, which is difficult to measure success and maintain teacher control. To this, I would counter that in a PBL environment, students are definitely in the driver’s seat of their learning, but that does not need to be a bad or scary thing. Instead, we can change the culture of classrooms to support teachers as they relinquish control and support students as they explore and try new things. I think supporting colleagues and creating a culture of teachers in my building who are willing to collaborate about how PBL looks and works would be an important step towards helping other teachers and administration jump on board with PBL.

A final criticism that I might receive is that this project is too “fun” or too hands-on, are students even getting the content knowledge they need? In response to this, I could show naysayers my CCSS and NGSS aligned standards and detailed plans that match grade level content standards. As PBL becomes more of a prevalent classroom philosophy and style, hopefully this conversation will fall to the wayside because parents, colleagues, and administration will recognize that within these types of units the learning students are doing real-world, hands-on, experiential learning that prepares them for their future lives and careers.


PBL- Week 4

Week Four:

This week was focused on the development of the bulk of my PBL site and project components. I developed Student Learning Guide, Project Timeline, Entry Event, and added to the Tools and Resources page. I also spent time planning the assessments for this unit- both formative and summative.

My main takeaway from this week’s work is that planning a comprehensive and fully developed PBL unit is a time intensive process. Earlier this semester, we had a forum discussion about the challenges of implementing PBL, even with all of the research supporting it. To me, as I have been planning this unit, the challenge of teacher time has become apparent. Ultimately, I think schools and districts that want to make PBL a reality need to provide teachers time to collaborate and plan together. With this time, these units could be developed with great depth and purpose.


PBL- Week 3

Week Three: 

This week, I spent most of my time researching what makes a great driving question. This is the question that drives the project forward, so it is really important to the PBL process. Lots of articles I read cited the creation of this project as the most challenging aspect of PBL for teachers. This tutorial really helped me understand how to create a question that focuses my project and engages my students. You can read more about my thoughts about the important aspects of a driving question and read my driving question and sub questions here.

After creating my driving question and sub-questions, I spent some time thinking about the scope of my project as a whole. I developed an outline of the main lessons of the project and created a visual organizer to outline the learning targets and goals of each lesson.

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 5.25.57 PM


PBL- Week 2

Week Two: 

During this week, I really established my project idea. At school, we have a 3D printer and I have really been itching to come up with a project that would allow my students to use this interesting technology. We are finishing the school year with a structure and function science unit, so I decided to use this PBL project as a way to further develop that unit and bring out the 3D printer. For my project, students will first be learning about animal adaptations and habitats. Then, they will use what they learned to create a new animal that is well suited to a specific environment. Finally, they will 3D print a model of their animal in order to showcase its structural adaptations.

I developed the overview for my project and outlined the learning targets I hope to hit with this unit. You can view the Overview here. I also started working on the website that will present and share my project with other teachers. You can view this work in progress here.


PBL- Week 1

**Originally, I had a page on my website for these posts, but I wanted to redesign my blog to be more viewer friendly and allow commenting on individual posts. As such, I deleted the PBL page and instead created a category for the blog called EDTech 542: PBL. It is my hope that this will increase readability and ease of future use of this blog with other courses. The category reflects my exploration of Project Based Learning through EdTech 542: Technology Supported Project Based Learning.**

Week One:

This week provided me an introduction to PBL. I watched this video to gain an introduction to Project Based Learning (PBL) and its basic tenets. I also registered with the Buck Institute of Education’s PBL website, which was so interesting to explore. The site provided an excellent overview of PBL and the key elements of PBL environments. From my research and my exploration of PBL, I recognized a couple of things:

  1. I have already begun creating PBL experiences in my classroom. I love creating authentic ways for my students to engage with our content. Through this course, I look forward to acquiring more ways to engage with my students in hands-on, inquiry-based, real-world Project Based Learning.
  2. There is a lot more evidence and support for PBL than I expected– especially when I consider how much push-back this type of innovation receives from most schools and how few schools implement this model on a large-scale. My research and class discussions made me quite interested in school and district level PBL transformations and what it takes for teachers, students, families, administrators, and community members to get on board with this successful model.

Check out my post about What is PBL? to read more about my musings and learnings from the week. I have lots of potential project ideas bouncing around in my head– I look forward to fleshing them into real-life learning opportunities for my students!