Texas Title 1 High Schools Lose in Technological Resources and Class Webpage Availability

This excerpt from my 2015 dissertation which researched the contextual factors that impacted teacher-created classroom website design in Texas high schools is startling and sad! “Research shows that students in Texas high school Title 1 schools were exposed to only 25% of the website components that research found were essential in creating academically supportive classroom websites for students.” ~Carolynn Mortensen, Ph.D. Title 1 designation was found to be a significant contextual factor predicting the number of website components related to the teacher information section of a website designed by a teacher employed at that campus. Texas high school teachers in schools with Title 1 designations, indicating a high percentage of low-income families (U.S. Department of Education, 2004), were predicted to have 16% fewer teacher information website components on their websites. While students in lower socioeconomic situations need exposure to technology (Kidd, 2009; Tondeur et al., 2010), the findings of the study of this study indicate students in these situations in Texas high schools have less opportunities to access resources through a class website. Title 1 designation and the digital divide. This data found reflects evidence of the new digital divide that is defined as the inequity of exposure to new technologies (Hargittai & Hinnant, 2008; Stewart, 2009). For all schools, the availability of teacher information components was 41%. However, schools designated as Title 1 are predicted to have an even lower number of these items available on a class website.   This supports the research that shows that socioeconomic status is a factor that contributes to the new definition of the digital divide (Reinhart et al., 2011; Warschauer & Matuchniak, 2010; Wei & Hindman,...

The Class Website’s Overlooked Motivator: Sharing Page

The truth is that if we think about it, we will all likely know that sharing student work is a huge motivator.  What we tend to do is forget how we can use the class website to take that motivation to a whole new level.  With a little help from their teacher, students can enjoy the wonderful sense of being “internationally published!”  After all, isn’t that what it means to be published on the Internet? This page is a real favorite with students and parents.  Most teachers post students’ work in their classrooms and hallways. However, there is real excitement for the kids when work is posted on the web. Remember, items posted on rhc web are visible worldwide.  Let your students know that their work was so great that you are going to publish it on the web site and that people in Brazil, China, and Taipei will be able to view it.  Let them know they will be <internationally published! Use this to motivate them! Post a variety of formats for student work on the sharing page.  Scan pictures that have been drawn, copy poems that have been written. and post up multimedia projects that have been created.  Remember, only you know what belongs here and you choose it the same way you choose what to hang in your classroom. There are a few guidelines that I always follow. Some of these are ones that I’m comfortable with and some are legally required: never post the last names of students never post information such. as e·mail addresses or home addresses never post grades provided for the assignments always ask the students’ permission to post their work always check that the parent...

How Symbaloo Took My Work and Claimed It As Their Own!

My experience with Symbaloo has been a long one.  For many years, I was passionate about them and I poured hours upon hours into developing educational webmixes on specific content.  I was with them through their growing pains and there were many.  I remember when they first had a Pro account and I was the first one to purchase one.  It was a nightmare and my webmixes were separated, mixed, and put under a different name.  At the time, Daniella who worked with them, kept trying to help me with the large amount of problems it caused.  Daniella was kind enough to let me know that they would provide my Pro subscription at no cost because of the amount of help I provided and trouble that the brand new system had caused.  I thought that was kind and I really wanted them to be successful, so I agreed.  Daniella left the company and things were never the same.  I was using it so frequently and with large groups of people, the situation was nightmarish.   The problem was that they were a company who had no real understanding of the education world and their role in it.  They needed educators for that purpose and I was glad to help.   If only I had a crystal ball to see the future.   By August of 2014, I had created more than 80 webmixes designed to help educators under the name of MyWeb4Ed.  Many of them are referenced in these pages.  They attracted visitors to Symbaloo and to me. They included topics such as this one found at http://dashboard.symbaloo.com/mix/publicdomainimages1 which provided links to...

Free K-12 PowerPoints To Add To Class Websites

There’s really no reason it has to take lots of time to find great resources for your class website.  Here’s a fast, quick resource that is awesome no matter what grade or content you teach.  World of Teaching offers free (yes, FREE) PowerPoint presentations for K-12!  The entire collection includes Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English Language, English Literature, Classical Studies, Science, Math, Physics, History, Geography, Geology, French, Spanish, French, German, Religion, Other Languages. Grab one, modify it, help your students have an additional resource that can help them understand the content by placing it on your class website!  It doesn’t get any easier than that and it can do so much for your students...

Background Burner Removes Backgrounds from Class Website Images

There are many reasons that Background Burner by bonanza is a useful tool for your class websites.  First, you can take any image and, for free, remove the background to focus on specific figures in a math problem, for example.  Or, maybe you want to focus just on a certain continent and would like to remove the rest from the map!  And, of course, it can be used to remove extra people from images which is very valuable with student confidentiality such a safety and legal concern.  So, in order to recommend this to you, I tried it to see how it work.  For our trial, let’s say that we want to give our students the “How Many Triangles Can You Find?” problem.  Here’s the original image that I’m working with which I cited below which was a CCO Public Domain graphic found at Pixabay.com with permission to modify:     I want to remove the background, the light greenish-gray color so I’m going to try Background Burner.  I am following the images on the site in the “Try it!” field.  I used the upload file browse button and as soon as I did, it opened a new window and began to modify.  It’s quite an interesting process because it’s animated and I saw a little animated fire-breathing dragon pushing the original picture.  Very quickly, I received two images to choose from as shown below:   Note, the first one is exactly what I want but I clicked on “Touch up” on the second image to see what I could do.  I was presented with the option to modify...

Changing Class Website Announcements With Google Drawing

One of the things that I promise happens when you begin to use your class website as the hub of your classroom activities is that you notice you begin to save time.  Yes, I said SAVE TIME!  It doesn’t take longer to do all the classroom routines, it becomes an organizational tool for your classroom routines!  It streamlines activities and creates opportunities to cut down on time-consuming tasks yet receive the maximum benefit for your efforts.  Here’s one example… Easily Update Home Page Class Website Announcements With Google Drawing First, Google Drawing allows you to create a graphic and then gives you an embed code to place it on your website.   Once you place the embed code on your website, you’ll never have to complete that step again.  Instead, you can simply update the graphic in Google Drawing and it will instantly change on your class webpage.  No more embedding and you don’t even have to log into your webpage to do this!  Below, you’ll see a Google Drawing (really a graphic) that I created and embedded here using Google Drawing welcoming students to the first day of school. Steps to complete the initial setup: Log into Google Drive at drive.google.com.  If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to sign up for one at google.com. Choose New>More>Drawing Replace “Untitled drawing” with a title like “Daily Announcement” or something similar. To do this, just click on the words “Untitled drawing” once a window will open where you can enter a new drawing name in the field.  Click “OK” when done. Resize the announcement you will make by choosing File>Page Setup>Custom...

Free ChatterPix App Creates Awesome Class Website Resources

When you are working on a class website and building resources, there are some really great things you can do to make the content easier to learn and, yes, fun and engaging!  Here’s a free app called Chatterpix made by Duck Duck Moose, Inc.  You can find the app on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chatterpix-kids-by-duck-duck/id734046126?mt=8. Here’s one I made providing researched facts about class websites in Texas high schools.  Aren’t the facts more interesting this way. http://myweb4ed.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Class-Website-Facts.mp4 You can then embed it on your webpage as it creates an MP4!  So, imagine you are preparing students for a test.  How about creating a table and importing a picture of each student’s pet into the app.  Draw a line on the pet’s mouth and then record the test practice material or question.  Wouldn’t that make learning the test material more fun and encourage students to visit your class website?  And, since the students’ own pets are used, they may just have their parents sit in which gets them visiting your class website!  Perfect “marketing” which is such an important part of making your class website valuable!  Students don’t have a pet?  Well, hey, then have them bring a pet rock, a pet football, a pet tennis ball, whatever will work!  Everyone can be included!  And, even though I’ve created a sample quiz below out of the simplest Practice Social Studies Quiz Directions:  Listen to the video and select the best answer.  Wait until the end to check if your answer is correct.  If you have any trouble, please review the information again!  Good luck and have fun!    ...

Make Your Class Website’s Resources Engaging And Easier To Use With Embed.ly

When posting resources for your students, there are many ways to provide them on your website.  One of those ways is with embed.ly. Cards are a clean, responsive, and shareable way to display any embed. | Embedly Here is one I did for this website, www.myweb4ed.com. MyWeb4Ed | Developing and Using a Class Website to Improve Learning   As you can see this makes for a nice, visual entry on your class website for students.  So, if I’m recommending they use the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives, I can simply add this to my class site so they can find the resource easily: National Library of Virtual Manipulatives   It’s a very smart way to share those resources in a eye-catching way with students.  And, it couldn’t be easier with the Embed.ly bookmarklet.  I just dragged it to my bookmark toolbar and whenever I’m at a site, I just click the +Embed icon on my toolbar and I’m  instantly presented with the html embed code to include on my website.  Simple! It’s so much better than a list of resources that get lost in a sea of text.  And, it gives a little information to the students and their parents so they can know a little about the resource you’re providing before the click on...

Third-Party Apps That Increase The Quality of Your Class Website

What does a third-party app have to do with class webpages?  Well, the answer is that everything helps you to create the content you need to support your student classroom needs on the class site.  Take a look at the apps listed below: The first app, Accompli, is an email program.  Depending on what time of class site you are using, you may be able to add content to your site using email.  But, even if this is not true, many of your educational content may come from your email.  Perhaps you subscribe to a great RSS feed (like for MyWeb4Ed, for instance) and found a great idea that you think would benefit your students!  Or, maybe you have an interactive message board on your class site and you use your email to be notified of posts so you can respond to your students in a timely manner.  Email is a critical piece of maintaining your class site.  In fact, email is likely the way you’ll get notices of down times for your class site or important upgrades.  Therefore, having a great email program is a huge benefit. Of course, browsing the Internet is one of the best ways to find great new ideas to enhance your content and meet your goals for support student learning.  A program like Stream will allow you to do that and share your finds with Evernote where you can later add them to your class webpages. My third recommendation was Penultimate!  This one is simple to relate to creating the best class website available.  With Penultimate, you can use your finger to write down...

Don’t Forget These 5 Gold Standard Technology Integration Tools

In our quest to find new and innovative tools for technology integration that truly supports positive student outcomes, we can forget about the amazing tools that made us realize just how powerful technology integration can be to facilitate learning.  These amazing sites and resources are still available today and still just as positive in supporting learning!  Take some time and revisit some of these “old” favorite!   They are tried and true tools that make learning interactive, fun, and meaningful! National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (NLVM) – This resource for Math in grades Pre-K through 12th grade provides interactive tools for math.  Geoboards, graphing tools, balance scales for algebra, clocks for learning how to tell time, algebra tiles, venn diagrams, and so much more is available here and in three languages:  English, Spanish, and French.  With each manipulative, there are instructions for the teacher and the students along with lesson ideas and plans.  It always works and never goes down! QUIA – Quia is a paid subscription  (but the best $49 I ever paid in my teaching career).  Even if you don’t sign up, you can use any of the thousands and thousands of activities that have already been created by teachers in virtually any content area.  At QUIA, you can create educational games, activities, and quizzes.  The computer will grade the quizzes, record the scores securely, and you can then export them.  You can then create reports based on the results.  Finally, you can have a professional webpage in about 5 minutes with their extremely easy interface.  The students love the activities and the effort by the teacher is...

Best Practices By Educational Technology Leaders

This blog is written in honor of those leaders who have developed a style that furthers educational technology and improves academic outcomes for students. Build leadership. Look for leadership in those around you from administration to students and build their capacity.  Guide them to further understanding and development of technology integration skills and encourage their growth.  These leaders will be your voice when you aren’t available and will carry the message of the power of technology to support learning to those they work with. Concern yourself with growth. Have confidence that your own accomplishments will serve as models for those you lead.  Focus not on ensuring you are recognized but rather on the growth of technology as an educational tool.  Support others in their own accomplishments in the field and know that, in doing so, you have furthered the goals and likelihood that educational technology will be advanced. Nurture others. Educational technology development often requires a nurturing approach.  Recognize even the smallest accomplishments in the field for those just learning how to integrate technology and be sure that these folks are aware of their growth.  Encouragement is a key approach as many educators feel intimidated by technology and lack confidence in their own abilities.  Like a good teacher with their students in the classroom, acknowledge, share, and have pride in your coworkers and teachers as they reach milestones in their ability to integrate technology. Model best practices in educational technology. As you use technology in the educational setting, model best practices in even the seemingly small areas to the most obvious areas.  Email duties are often the nemesis of...

Use Your Class Website To Prepare Students For Online Testing

Online testing is growing and students are impacted by it daily.  Whether it’s a state standardized test, a test in an elearning environment, or one you’ve created and added to your class website, here are some great tips to maximize student success with online testing! Familiarize Students With The Test Formatting Format classroom presentations in the same format of the test. Use classroom projectors and document cameras to display formatted problems and passages to students.  This is a tried and true test preparation step and is similar to the same step used in preparing for paper-and-pencil testing.\ Improve Student Skills in Reading Online Directions Use your classroom website to provide practice following online directions Include assignment and project directions on your classroom website. When students use your classroom website to find lesson and project directions online, they are practicing the important skill of reading and interpreting directions for online testing at the same time. Display these instructions on the projector while students are working on independent practice activities. Facilitate during these activities to support students as they gain this critical skill. Provide practice activities that require students to follow written online directions without teacher assistance. This can be accomplished whole group by displaying the instructions on the projector. Teach Students How To Use Scratch Paper Provide instruction and set expectations for students throughout the year on using scratch paper to complete their tests Establish classroom expectations for students that includes work on scratch paper. Collect, evaluate, and provide feedback regarding the use of scratch papers throughout the year. Provide guidance and strengthen skills for those students who struggle with...

My Best Tip Ever: Student Participation Sheets For Teaching With A Class Website!

These Student Participation Sheets are one of the most popular teaching tips that I share when I present locally or at other districts. I can’t take credit for creating it as it was something I picked up along my 25+ years of teaching. I used the Student Participation Sheets whenever a class came to my lab.  However, after a while, teachers who were in the lab with me while I was teaching began to ask about them and started using them with their students in the classroom, as well.  I worked very well for class management and allowed them the same ease of management when working with technology.  Of course, the idea is that you would have you website displayed on a screen while you were beginning your class day.   I taught my students to pick one of these sheets up when they entered the room and fill it out and have it  placed in the same section of the desk daily.  It truly became self-sufficient.  I then had them place them in a basket as they left the room. By the way, I taught my students that if one wasn’t turned in, that would result in a grade of 1.  Therefore, even if they thought it best to hang on to a less-than-perfect Participation sheet, they quickly got the idea that it was going to benefit them to turn it in! It is a cinch to manage and record but the biggest benefit is that it really works with the students. Here is how the Student Participation sheet works: Instructions: Print out the sheet and print copies....

Find Great Interactive Websites Quickly For Your Class Website!

Have you ever done a search online hoping to find a site that would be great for your students to support what you are doing in the classroom? Usually, you type what you are looking for in “Google” or some other search engine and what you get in results is hundreds, thousands, or even millions of results! Feeling overwhelmed, some might shrug their shoulders and reach for those handy dandy (but so boring) worksheets in the binder. Hey, I understand! You’re a busy teacher with a million things to do and you also have family and other responsibilities and spending hours wading through lists of links hoping to find the right one is just not practical! When I was in the math classroom, I always used my website as an instructional tool and my assignment page was projected to the class at the start of every period. On the page, I always had at least one resource to support the concept I was teaching. And, I had a criteria for that! In order to make it to the page (sort of like it was an honor, lol), I required that the resource site had these three components: Teaching, Guided Practice, and Independent Practice. (Sound familiar? Like a good lesson plan, right?) After doing this for many years, people would often ask how I found the time to locate the resources. It never took me more than 10-15 minutes and those asking would have a hard time believing that. Finally, I decided I should write my steps so that others could try them and see if they were able to...

Capture The Potential Of a 5-Computer Classroom And Your Class Website

Capture The Potential Of a 5-Computer Classroom And Your Class Website (MyWeb4Ed) Classroom Management:  Best Practices Preparing and Setting Expectations Use whole-class presentations to demonstrate the scheduling process you have developed for computer use and what is to be accomplished when the students use the computer.  If possible, show the whole group a completed project to help them visualize your expectations. Before assigning an activity, work with your students on the skills required to work collaboratively.  As you know, this is a process and must be taught and practiced.  Assign jobs and responsibilities. Demonstrate to the entire class the software that will be used to complete computer projects. Scaffolding – Begin with a simple project with a lot of structure and build to more complex projects with less structure. Before assigning an activity try completing the assignment yourself, or even better, find a student to test the activity for you. This will let you know if the activity can be completed in the time you’ve allotted and if your directions are clear. Check your web links the day before the assignment begins. Post computer rules clearly visible at each computer and ensure that you have presented them during a whole-group presentation before students are allowed to work on the computers. Classroom Rules Sample Make it a class rule that students can help one another but cannot ever touch another student’s computer. That way, you can be sure that learning occurs even when students help one another. Don’t change desktop backgrounds.  This can cause confusion and impede completion of projects. Always have a backup lesson in case the technology fails....

The Facts About Teacher Websites In Texas High Schools: The Findings

I completed my PH.D. studies last month.  My dissertation was a study designed to determine what contextual factors influenced the choices Texas high  school teachers made when creating their class websites.  The hope was to determine if predictions about website design could be made based on the following factors: geographic location; Title 1 identification; school size; campus self-reported technology readiness on the Texas mandatory STaRChart report completed by all Texas public schools annually; grade level taught; and content area taught. What I discovered was heartbreaking!  Until now, I could find no research to truly give educational leaders and educators an idea of how Texas was doing in regards to providing online lessons and resources to students, an area highlighted on the Texas STaRChart  report under Teaching & Learning Focus Area TL6.  With the hope that I could discover the current status of the use of classroom websites in Texas high schools, I set out to provide the missing data and provide Texas educators the facts so that critical decisions could be made. Why Does This Research Matter? Teachers can provide their students a 24/7 virtual classroom that supports student learning both at home and school by creating a class website.  The teacher-created classroom site has the potential to provide learning resources to students that correlates with the content curriculum throughout the school year (Cebi, 2013; Dunn & Peet, 2010; Friedman, 2006; Hill, Tucker, & Hannon, 2010; Unal, 2008).  In addition, the teacher-created classroom website can inform parents and the community of critical class and school information so that they can more actively support the students and the school (Friedman, 2006;...

Help Students Use Your Class Website With Apps That Support Learning

We all know that all of our students are different!  They have different learning needs that we need to consider when creating a classroom website!  Luckily, there’s a whole host of apps available to help us ensure that all of our students benefit from the content of our website! Today, I’m going to focus on an app for your IOS devices (so you can use it on iPads if you have them in your school), Voice Dream.  Voice Dream, currently listed for $9.99 on the iTunes store,  will read most anything by translating from text-to-speech.  Not only will it read PDF, ePub, DAISY, Word, and Text files in Dropbox, Google Drive, or on your device, it will read web ages on Pocket or Instapaper.  You can also download books from Gutenberg and Bookshare.  In addition, you can optimize Voice Dream to be completely auditory or completely visual, or a combination of both.  And, there are voices to select from (though some are premium) for listening preferences. So, let’s think about what this means to your students (and their parents): A student could have your class website read to them to support any special needs or just to give them a boost in understanding Students can listen to your downloaded project and assignment instructions as many times as needed to help internalize their understanding Students could use the program to have their own text documents read back to them. It’s amazing how this helps them edit and organize their own thinking. ESOL students can benefit from the practice of reading the written word while listening to the audio version at...

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Carolynn Mortensen, Ph.D.

Carolynn Mortensen, Ph.D.

Carol Mortensen has twenty-six years of educational experience. She began as a substitute teacher as she worked toward her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Upon graduation, Carol began teaching middle school Math and Algebra I and served as the technology liaison for her campus. She served as a teacher for 16 years and was lucky to have taught at Hillcrest Middle School, a 1:1 campus where every student  was issued a laptop computer.  She also worked as an Instructional Technology Trainer for her district providing training and technology integration support for campus and district staff, faculty and administrators.
 Carol has served as the Campus Technology Integration Specialist at Fairmont Junior High and South Campus in Deer Park Independent School District. In this position, Carol provided integration support and training to the students, staff, faculty, and administrators at the campus and district level.
Carol is currently the Missouri State Lead and online Math and Technology Apps instructor for Fuel Education.  In this role, she supervises and supports teachers from the great state of Missouri in their roles as virtual instructors.  In addition, Carol continues to do what she loves so much – teach students.
Carol has completed her Ph.D. studies in Educational Technology and completed her dissertation, “Contextual Factor Profiling:  Teacher-Created Classroom Website Design in Texas High Schools.” The Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) named Carol the Classroom Teacher of the Year for her innovative and creative use of technology to create a 24/7 virtual classroom using her classroom website.
Carol has presented at school districts throughout Texas as well as state and local conferences on a variety of technology integration topics. Her article on the use of websites as an instructional tool was recently published in the TechEdge Magazine.  In February 2011, her article, Lessons Learning In a 1:1 Classroom, was published by TechEdge.  The article was republished in ISTE’s Learning  and Leading magazine.  She was named Fairmont Junior High’s Teacher of the Year for the 2011-2012 school year.
Carol is passionate about the positive impact that technology has on student achievement. Her presentations are packed with real-life solutions, quality resources, and humor. She has an ability to connect with her audience and motivate them to take technology integration to a higher quality level.
A Website Is A Terrible Thing To Waste!
Teachers. Technology. Magic. MyWeb4Ed.
If You Build It, They Will Come!

Philosophy of Education

It is not enough for us, as educators, to simply meet the needs of our diverse student population. Instead, we must strive to surpass meeting their needs and bring about growth. I am passionate about the role of technology to support life-long learning and help motivate students to participate fully in their own academic and personal growth.

In order to reach these goals, educators need the support which will enable them to provide the kind of technology integration that supports their content and enhances student understanding. Just like our students, our educators have diverse needs in order to accomplish this and we are responsible for meeting those so that the students will benefit. The process must be purposeful and relevant to the students’ needs. I believe wholeheartedly that a teacher will embrace any idea that will benefit their students and that one of our responsibilities as technology specialists is to ensure that administrators and educators are able to relate the benefit of technology integration to the success of their students. This connection leads to successful technology integration.

We are preparing students for jobs that may not even exist today. Therefore, we have to provide the students with meaningful learning that can be related to those future jobs. Students and educators need to understand the role of the digital citizen. They must understand how to remain safe and use technology for worthwhile endeavors. As technology specialists, we are charged with supporting students and educators in the ever-changing landscape of digital ethics and citizenship.

These kinds of changes and learning opportunities occur when the learning environment is a safe and positive place to be. Whether we are teaching in the classrooms or administrators providing professional development, learners must feel a partnership with their teacher and with each other. To accomplish this goal, a positive attitude, patience, understanding, empathy, and a sense of humor must be part of the learning opportunities. It is critical to acknowledge accomplishments whether they are small or large and recognize when a shaky, but forward-moving new step has been taken. Most importantly, high expectations must drive all learning. A belief in the learner and their ability to accomplish what they may not even realize they can achieve is a driving force to positive movement toward a goal.

As educators, students benefit when we collaborate together. Because of the many opportunities technology brings to education, we are able to work with students and build environments that provide 24/7 learning support. We can provide those same types of support for educators so that they can visit just-in-time resources that help them integrate technology. When we do this for teachers, we model to them what can be done for their own students.


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