<![CDATA[Ariel Flinn - Electronic Portfolio - Blog]]>Wed, 27 Jan 2016 13:44:27 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[ITEC 7460: Professional Learning and Technology Innovation]]>Mon, 08 Dec 2014 23:59:56 GMThttp://aflinn.weebly.com/blog/itec-7460-professional-learning-and-technology-innovationI was eager to take this class, because I am very interested in coaching teachers in the use of technology. In fact, one of my major goals in completing this degree program is to be able to coach other music teachers in technology use that is specific to our content area, because much of the professional development we receive in our schools is not applicable in our classes. Completing this course was a major milestone towards being able to fulfill that role. 

One of the major takeaways from this class is using the instructional coaching model for professional development. This model is centered around the Partnership Approach, which, according to Knight (2007), is "a dialogic approach to professional development built on seven principles of human interaction: equality, choice, voice, reflection, mutual learning, dialogue, and praxis" (p. 14). Knight (2007) quotes his own research when he reports that teachers who learn from the partnership approach "learned more, were engaged more, and enjoyed themselves more than in the traditional sessions. Additionally, they were four times more inclined to implement teaching practices they learned during partnership sessions than those learned during traditional sessions (Knight 1998)" (p. 39). I was able to learn first-hand how effective this approach is to professional learning through the completing the Coaching Journal assignment. In this assignment, I was able to hold five different one-on-one sessions with the same teacher to help build her capacity for technology implementation in her class. Through these coaching sessions, I was able to watch her enthusiasm and knowledge blossom; something I'm certain would not be as prominent from a stand-alone workshop. I plan to combine my knowledge of the partnership approach to instructional coaching with Learning Forward's Standards for Professional Learning in order to ensure that my future professional learning endeavors are as effective as possible. ]]>
<![CDATA[ITEC 7480: Introduction to Online Learning]]>Fri, 18 Jul 2014 22:10:29 GMThttp://aflinn.weebly.com/blog/itec-7480-introduction-to-online-learningI was somewhat apprehensive about this course at the beginning. Knowing that the virtual schools I was familiar with did not offer courses for the elementary level, I was unsure how online learning and teaching would work for my circumstances. Additionally, being a performing arts class, I wasn't sure how I was going to facilitate student performance in an online setting. However, I quickly began to realize that it is completely feasible! I also began to realize that many of the requirements for quality online instructional design are similar to those of traditional teaching. After all, quality teaching is the same in any platform! The major class assignments - creating a syllabus for a online course, creating a unit plan for an online course, and creating a sample online learning module - all helped tremendously in applying the knowledge I gained about quality online learning and quality online courses and putting them into practice. As the saying goes, "Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand." This was certainly true for me in this course. I was also able to measure my growing competence for online and blended teaching throughout the course thanks to the iNACOL pre-, mid-, and post-assessments. The results from these assessments show that both my competence and confidence in myself grew throughout the course. While I recognize that there are still many things to learn in order to become a completely effective online instructional designer, instructor, and learning coach, I know now that I at least have the preliminary skills, knowledge, and dispositions towards that goal.]]><![CDATA[ITEC 7305: Data Analysis and School Improvement]]>Tue, 29 Apr 2014 02:44:44 GMThttp://aflinn.weebly.com/blog/itec-7305-data-analysis-and-school-improvementI will walk away from this class with three major lessons in mind. First, I learned how to dig deeper than surface level to identify strengths and weaknesses in teaching and learning. This partly means looking at disaggregated data on the major tests like CRCT to identify achievement gaps within groups and within various skill sets. It also means using a wide variety of data to illustrate student achievement; data from the CRCT should only be one part of the puzzle. Second, I learned how to use data to identify a student-learning problem that is within the control of the school, and not to simply blame outside factors such as family background or transiency. Finally, I learned how to actually use that data to collaboratively design, implement, and monitor an action plan that will drive improvement, rather than just think about where to improve instruction on an individual surface level. 

I would say that the Data Inventory field experience was extremely valuable in applying this new knowledge of data analysis to my own school situation. Often, my school only looks at the results of statewide tests such as the CRCT to gauge student achievement. The Data Inventory helped me realize just how many different sources of data exist to fill in the holes left by the CRCT data and complete the picture of student achievement. I solicited the help of my school's administration in order to identify these various sources of data, and even they were surprised at the amount of data sources we have when they were all written down in one place. The Data Inventory also afforded an opportunity to not only look at how we are using that data now, but how we can make even better use of that data in the future. This was very enlightening for me and for my administration as well. 

Before next year I plan to bring these ideas back to my administration to suggest using this process throughout the next school year to see if we can close achievement gaps and identify and act upon a student learning problem in a new way. I will describe the major lessons I've learned and how to apply them to our own school situation. I may run into a problem of simply getting the administration and/or other teachers to hear what I have to say, since I have never before participated on a formal data team. I may also have a problem with buy-in, since teachers may see this as yet another initiative that will add onto their plates. Luckily I have already created an Elevator Speech that will help me in pitching this alternative way of looking at data. 

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<![CDATA[ITEC 7430: Internet Tools in the Classroom]]>Mon, 28 Apr 2014 14:44:47 GMThttp://aflinn.weebly.com/blog/itec-7430-internet-tools-in-the-classroomThis course was a great learning experience with me. I came in with what I thought was an adequate idea of what "Web 2.0" meant, but now I realize my former definition was pretty insufficient. Through this course I learned not only what constitutes "Web 2.0" tools, but I also got to reflect on how to best incorporate them into classroom learning. I was already familiar with some tools, such as blogging, podcasting, and YouTube, and others I had never thought to use for educational purposes, such as screencasting, social bookmarking, and Google Docs. I also learned about how to implement lessons responsibly and also how to teach my students about online responsibility, including internet safety, equitable access, Creative Commons and fair use, and cultural proficiency. 

I think one of the most valuable modules I completed in this course was about evaluating Web 2.0 tools. More and more of these tools are being created and used in schools every day. However, not all Web 2.0 tools are created equally. Throughout this course I learned about some specific tools that are currently popular and effective in classrooms. The module on evaluating Web 2.0 tools to determine their value and potential use in the classroom, though, will help me for several years after this course, and indeed this degree program, is over. When new tools come to the market, I will be equipped to determine whether or not my students can benefit from their use. 

The Web 2.0 Lesson Plan Project was also a wonderful experience for me. I was able to create an immersive experience for my students in which they got to use a variety of Web 2.0 tools, some of which they had never seen or used before, to demonstrate their knowledge and creativity. I had a great time designing the project for my students by applying many different skills and knowledge sets I acquired in this course. I had an even better time implementing the lesson with my students. Even though there were some bumps in the road, my students thoroughly enjoyed their experience and I got to see a creative side of them that I don't usually get to see. I am excited to take what I've gained from this course and apply it to my classroom for years to come. Not only that, but now with everything I have gained in this course, I am also closer to being fully equipped to coach others in their use of technology in the classroom as well. ]]>
<![CDATA[ITEC 7430 Lesson Plan Project]]>Sat, 26 Apr 2014 22:26:07 GMThttp://aflinn.weebly.com/blog/itec-7430-lesson-plan-projectThe following screencast is a description of the Web 2.0 lesson plan I wrote and implemented as a culminating project for ITEC 7430.
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<![CDATA[Narrowing the Digital Divide]]>Sun, 13 Apr 2014 19:56:56 GMThttp://aflinn.weebly.com/blog/digital-equityThe digital divide is an issue among students of various socio-economic, racial, and ethnic groups. The term digital divide can refer to both physical access to digital media such as computers, smart phones, tablets, etc. as well as the quality of interaction with those devices and the skills and knowledge needed to use those devices to their full potential. The digital divide could have consequences for students starting at a very early age. As the authors of one study pointed out, "To the extent that early learning on computers is important for children's later success in school, this divide could be important" (Common Sense Media, 2011, p. 20).  

One issue of the digital divide is simple access to digital media devices. For example, a study conducted by Common Sense Media (2011) found that "there is a large digital divide in home computer access among young children...access ranges from 48% among those from low-income families (less than $30,000 a year) to 91% among higher-income families (more than $75,000 a year)" (p. 10).  The same study found that this divide is also visible among the parents of these young children: "More than a third (38%) of lower-income parents don't have any idea what an "app" is, compared to just 3% of higher-income parents" (p. 21). Another study by Hohlfield, Ritzhaupt, and  Barron (2010) found that community stakeholder involvement in the technology planning process was greater at schools with a higher SES population (p. 398). Community and family involvement is important because, as part of the "spheres of influence" framework, the more that these spheres interact with the third sphere, school, the more positive the outcomes are for the student (Hohlfield et al., 2010, p. 392). 

Perhaps a more serious issue of the digital divide is the disparity in the quality and sophistication of tasks with which these devices are being used among various groups of students. Indeed, "examination of the 'digital divide' has increasingly gone beyond the study of differences in physical access to computers to focus on individuals' use of technological tools for empowered and generative uses" (Barron, Walter, Martin, & Schatz, 2010, p. 178). For example, Barron et al. (2010) explain that while students of low SES backgrounds may have spent more time on computers in Math and English courses for drill activities, students of higher SES backgrounds use computers in courses like Science for more advanced computational tasks like simulation and research (p. 179). 

There are, of course, some aspects of the digital divide that are beyond the reach of the school. However, schools do have resources at their disposal to address some of the issues of the digital divide. Some schools allow students to check out equipment, such as laptops or iPads, to bring home to ensure equitable access for online assignments. Schools can make a more conscious effort to give students more in-depth experiences with technology, no matter the subject or class make-up. Lastly, schools can offer outreach to parents, families, and the community to educate the larger population about technology use and its important impact on the success of these students living in a digital age. 


Barron, B., Walter, S., Martin, C., & Schatz, C. (2010). Predictors of creative computing participation and profiles of experience in two Silicon Valley middle schools. Computers & Education, 54, pp. 178-189. 

Common Sense Media. (2011). Zero to eight: children's media use in America. Available from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/zero-to-eight-childrens-media-use-in-america

Hohlfeld, T., Ritzhaupt, A., & Barrona, A. (2010). Connecting schools, community, and family with ICT: Four-year trends related to school level and SES of public schools in Florida. Computers & Education, 55, pp. 391-405. ]]>
<![CDATA[Diversity and Technology]]>Sun, 06 Apr 2014 18:39:39 GMThttp://aflinn.weebly.com/blog/diversity-and-technologyThe term "diversity" covers a wide array of meanings. It can be used to refer to groups of people with different racial, ethnic, economic, religious, political, intellectual, ability, and achievement backgrounds and profiles, among other things. As Lyn Hilt describes, "Sometimes [people] consider the alternative views of others to be wrong, not just different. From an educational perspective, this is downright dangerous." It is important, then, for educators to foster an understanding of and respect for diversity and cultural awareness among our students and the larger world. Technology can be used not only develop this understanding and respect within our students, but also to facilitate those varying needs within our own diverse student populations as well. 

Skype is one such example of using technology to build students' cultural awareness. Teachers can use Skype for whole-class discussion with another individual or class somewhere else in the nation or the world. Students can also communicate on a more personal level with their very own "Skype pal."
Another option is for students to share their learning on a class or individual blog to communicate with others around the world. They are excited to learn where their commenters are from and learn more about them since they are personally invested in their own blog posts. The comments they receive may also represent varying opinions or perspectives from their own. The lesson here would be that there can be more than one way of looking at a particular topic, and that this does not have to come down to someone being right or wrong. Through connecting with others around the world and building their cultural awareness, students become more engaged in their learning. For example, Lyn Hilt describes her students' heightened interest in the tornadoes in Alabama or the earthquake in Haiti after making personal connections, either through Skyping or blogging, with people directly involved in those events.

Technology can also be used to meet the varying needs that come from the diversity within our own classrooms. This is known as differentiation, which is "a way of looking at instruction that is centered on the belief that students learn in different ways" (Smith and Throne, 2009, p. 30). The concept of differentiation is not new. Smith and Throne (2009) point out that it has been around since the days of the one-room schoolhouse, in which a single teacher had to tailor the learning for students in a range of ages and grade levels (p. 30). Luckily, today's technology has the power to make this differentiated instruction (DI) much easier to accomplish. Edyburn (2006) lists modern examples of assistive technology, such as text-to-speech software, dictation services, fact recall websites, and online math computational tools (p. 22). He explains, however, that there is a cultural shift that must occur before assistive technology tools such as these can be fully used without consequence. He explains that there exists a bias called "naked independence" in which our culture "exults the performance of able-bodied individuals and devalues the performance of others who must rely on external devices or tools" (p. 22). He concludes with this powerful statement: "The long-term consequences of academic failure must motivate the profession to intervene with carefully designed learning activities that ensure success from the onset" (p. 23). Whether or not our culture is ready to accept it, technology can certainly help with this type of intervention. Students can create different artifacts of their learning and teachers can use technology to offer a variety of assessment strategies. We can use technology to go beyond differentiation to truly personalize learning for each student. Technology makes it possible to have "the ability to learn what we want, when we want, with whomever we want as long as we have access" (Richardson, 2012, p. 23). One fascinating example comes from the foreign language program at the Trinity School in Atlanta: 
Students choose to study one of 23 world languages offered in Rosetta Stone's online classroom. Each student can work through the curriculum at his or her own pace under the guidance of a world languages instructor at the school who may or may not know the language but who is an expert in facilitating language learning, goal setting, and personalized practice offline. According to teacher Megan Howard, the personalized nature of the program requires teachers "to meet each child where he or she is and differentiate support and curriculum on the basis of language and learning style rather than grouping or whole class. That's a necessary shift in the role of the teacher." (Richardson, 2012, p. 25)
To me, the last statement is very telling. Just as we need to make a cultural shift away from the bias of "naked independence," teachers also need to be willing to make a shift in their role to facilitator of student learning. Teachers should be willing to "transform [the] classroom through the use of technology, not simply layer technology onto traditional instructional practices" (Smith & Thorne, 2009, p. 29). 


Edyburn, D. (2006). Failure is not an option. Learning & Leading with Technology, September 2006, pp. 20-23.

Smith, G. and Throne, S. (2009). Differentiated instruction and middle school learners. In Differentiating Instruction with Technology in Middle School Classrooms (pp. 29-39). ISTE.

Richardson, W. (2012). Preparing students to learn without us. Educational Leadership, February 2012, pp. 22-26. 
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<![CDATA[Internet Safety]]>Sun, 23 Mar 2014 23:13:10 GMThttp://aflinn.weebly.com/blog/internet-safetyWe have been learning about many different Web 2.0 tools throughout this semester, both for teacher and student use. However, it is important to take time to think about how to make sure that these tools are being used safely and responsibly. Internet safety "is about more than not publishing children's names and pictures on the Internet or permitting students to access obscene content online...safety is now about responsibility, appropriateness, and common sense as well" (Richardson, 2010, p. 12). Two major aspects of Internet safety are simply interacting with the web and the more interactive task of publishing online. 

When interacting with the web, there is always the potential for students to come across inappropriate content. Some schools and districts try to solve this problem by putting in place various filters and blockers that prevent students from accessing a large amount of inappropriate content. However, this simultaneously prevents students from accessing pertinent and useful information and tools that happen to be lumped together with the bad. It is also not a fool-proof way to avoid this inappropriate content - sometimes the bad stuff has a way of sneaking past these filters, despite best efforts to prevent this from happening. I think it is better to teach students how to seek appropriate information and what to do in the event that they accidentally come across inappropriate content, rather than taking it upon yourself to protect them from everything. Although I do not yet have any children of my own, I believe the same can be said for many things regarding child safety. As the saying goes, give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. Likewise, if we teach our students how to be responsible members of the Internet community, then they will be much more successful as they grow and become more independent.

When students publish to the web, the first matter of importance is protecting students' privacy. As Richardson (2010) explains, "Most states now have laws that require parents to decide on how much personal information about their children may be published on the school Web site" (p. 13). Our school has a similar form, although we have found that this permission form is not specific enough. Called the "Student Publicity Release Permission Form," it simply gives parents the option to allow or forbid that pictures of their students be published, without specifically stating where they may be published or why. Some parents interpret this to mean that their students' pictures can be published in the yearbook, some parents believe it means their students' pictures can be published in a local newspaper, and even others understand it to mean that their students' pictures can be published to the web. We already have a plan in place next year to make this form more specific and to include the safety precautions that will be in place for each level, e.g. not using students' last names and using pseudonyms for students with unique first names. This can help balance protecting the students' anonymity with the sense of pride and ownership that students feel when they publish to a worldwide audience online (Richardson, 2010, p. 14).

As I stated earlier, I think that teaching students about online responsibility is a better strategy for ensuring Internet safety than trying to take on the task of protecting students behind the scenes. Luckily, there are many resources available that help teachers in this venture. For example, Common Sense Media has created a K-12 curriculum for digital literacy and citizenship, including topics such as Internet safety, privacy and security, relationships and communication, cyberbullying, digital footprint and reputation, self-image and identify, information literacy, and creative credit and copyright. This goes hand-in-hand with a second strategy for keeping students safe on the Internet, which is professional development. In addition to their digital literacy curriculum, Common Sense Media has also created several resources for professional development in the area of Internet safety, including training on their curriculum, a MOOC (massive open online course) for digital citizenship, webinars, in-person trainings, online communities, e.g. Edmodo, and even a certification program. ReadWriteThink has also created professional development materials for Internet safety, including strategy guides, a professional library of resources, meetings and events, and convenient online professional development. Some schools or districts such as mine may also have a subscription to the online professional development powerhouse known as PD 360, which has countless articles, videos, courses, and other resources for Internet safety professional development. Another strategy for teaching Internet safety is parent outreach to help parents and caregivers understand how to discuss these topics with their children and reinforce what is being taught in the schools. Common Sense Media has once again provided materials for parent outreach, as has the FBI, the National PTA, and many other organizations. 


Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful Web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Publishers.
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<![CDATA[Screencasting]]>Sun, 16 Mar 2014 16:00:13 GMThttp://aflinn.weebly.com/blog/screencasting Screencasting is a way to capture anything that is happening on your computer screen while adding audio narration. This simple idea can have great implications on teaching and learning, both for students and colleagues. For example, a teacher could use screencasting to easily guide others through an otherwise unfamiliar computer program with a running narrative that describes what is happening and/or how to use that program. This is a major step up from the countless screen-shots-with-annotations-tutorials I have seen over the years, both because of how easy screencasts are to create and how easy they are to consume. In some ways it is also better than an in-person demonstration of computer-based tools and software because it can reach a much wider audience at any time, rather than a small, live audience at a particular time. In this way, screencasting is much like podcasting

As a music teacher, screencasting can prove to be very helpful for introducing various tools to other music teachers in remote locations, i.e. different school buildings. It could also be helpful for guiding students through tasks within a particular application. In this way, screencasting can be used to aid pacing and differentiation. For example, if a project contained several steps both on and off the computer, students could watch a screencast of the computer-based tasks without having to wait for the rest of the class to be ready for a demonstration at the same time. Teachers can also create screencasts of various resources within a Webquest to help students navigate through the those resources. Because of its ease of use, students could create their own screencasts as well, perhaps to explain a computer-based project they created or to help other students with a particular tool they enjoy. There are also other ways to use screencasting beyond just the computer screen. In this blog post, Richard Byrne explains how he created a screencast from his iPad. This can open up even more possibilities of guiding students and colleagues through various instructional apps as well. 

There are many websites and applications that can facilitate screncasting, but the two I used were Jing and Screencast-o-MaticBoth make screencasting very simple, but I think Screencast-o-Matic has a slight edge over Jing. First, it can be used directly from their website without the need to download an application (however, the Jing application is free). Second, it allows users to easily turn their screencasts into embeddable videos, rather than just embeddable links. I used Screencast-o-Matic to create the following demonstration of a program called Finale Notepad to guide my students through setting up their first document. 

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<![CDATA[Google Docs]]>Sun, 09 Mar 2014 22:43:31 GMThttp://aflinn.weebly.com/blog/google-docs My first experience with Google Docs came a few years ago when I was a co-maid of honor for my best friend's wedding. The other maid of honor established a few spreadsheets and documents to keep track of guest list information, reception ideas, etc. Every time she, the bride, or I would need to make a change, we didn't have to worry about finding the most recent version of the document, because Google Docs automatically saves any changes in real time, even if more than one person is working on the document simultaneously. The first time the bride and I were simultaneously working on a document and saw her making changes in real time on my computer screen, I was blown away! I had to call her to make sure I wasn't making it up in my head! Since then I have created and shared several Google Docs in different formats (spreadsheets, presentations, word documents, etc.) both for professional and personal purposes. I sometimes convert my documents to Google Docs simply to have access to them on two different computers, without having to keep emailing attachments to myself. 

Although I am familiar with Google Docs, I have not yet used them with my students. One of the easiest and most useful ways to incorporate Google Docs with my classroom teaching is to create a form. I could design a form to act as an assessment, in which each student enters in his/her name and responses to various questions. The responses are then represented in a spreadsheet that generates results for the whole class. With 700+ students, this would make data analysis a much more efficient process. Another idea is to have students use Google Docs to collaborate on a report. I could create and share documents with small groups of students, assign each group a topic, e.g. different composers, and monitor their collaboration. This would be especially effective for out-of-classroom use, as we only have 45 minutes per week for Music class. If the students could collaborate on a music report outside of the classroom, we would be better equipped to maximize in-class instructional time. This report could be in the form of a word document or a presentation. I have created and embedded an example below. 

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