Mrs. Ryan's Class

A Digital Learning Hub for students and parents

Final tweaks to my hub…for now.

Since my last blog post I have made more changes to my hub. I was inspired to make these changes after more personal reflection, review of my classmates hubs, and feedback from colleagues at work. I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but it is finally ready to share!

My hub can be found at here at nicolelryan.wordpress.com (the same site that this blog is housed.) I have chosen to include information for students, parents, and colleagues. There are multiple pages (Students, Parents, Read Alouds, Curriculum, Teachers, About Mrs. Ryan, and Blog) most of which have pages linked to provide additional content for each specific area.

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Though I am proud to share my work with my colleagues there are still more changes that I would make if I had an infinite amount of time.

 

In my last reflection, I set a goal to add more images to break up bulky content. I did integrate more images to various pages in my hub, but not specifically in the curriculum page as I originally intended. I have many pictures of my students engaging in learning that I wanted to include on this page of my hub. I specifically wanted to include one image of kids doing work in each content area. Although I have plenty of photos to choose from, I am still hesitant to share photos of my students publicly. None of these students are on the photo-opt out list, but I am still not completely comfortable with posting their images publicly online. Maybe sometime down the road I will be able to snap some photos of my students that do not show their faces. This would make me more comfortable with sharing.

I also created a section in my hub called “iPad Tips” in the Teacher section. My school has 3 iPad carts, and iPads are the primary tech tool that we use in the classroom, simply because they are the most accessible resource. I searched online and found three articles from Education World and Edutopia that I thought would be helpful for teachers who want to use iPads to support their daily teaching and student learning. They are, Education World: iPad Management TipsEdutopia: Resources for using iPads in grades K-2, and Edutopia: Resources for using iPads in grades 3-5.

The articles are straightforward, simple, and provide honest and realistic suggestions for teachers. The teachers who reviewed my website to give me feedback also found the articles to be useful and interesting. It is my hope that my colleagues who are not comfortable using iPads with kids can use these resources to find realistic ways to integrate technology into their existing curriculum and content areas. My school just purchased two Chromebook carts, so I would eventually like to find similar resources to provide support for teachers who are interested in integrating Chromebooks.

The last addition of content to my hub was two more read-alouds that I have read with my class, and a brief summary for each text. I anticipate adding to this section throughout the year to provide more information to parents who may be interested in reading the book at home with their child.

I also decided to change some aesthetics of my hub to provide easier access for students. First, I separated my multimodal tutorials in the student section and created one page for each tutorial. This way, my students don’t have to sift through lots of content to get to the tutorial they need.

My colleagues were a bit thrown off by the phrase “multimodal tutorial” which was on my site multiple times in the student and parent sections. I decided to change the names of the pages that house my tutorials from “____________ Multimodal Tutorial” to “How to use ___________.” I hope that this simpler naming scheme will help parents, students, and teachers navigate the site and find what they are looking for.

I also decided to change my static home page from “About Me” to a generic welcome message. I included the “labeled for reuse” image of a sun that is posted in my classroom and on all of my labels in school.

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This bright, happy, sun is a common symbol in my classroom and will be easily recognizable for students to let them know that are on the right website!

I moved the content about my background and philosophy of education to a new page called “About Mrs. Ryan” for people to access if they choose. I anticipate that most people will come to my site to access content, not to review my credentials and read my musings on education. I do, however, still think it is important to include information about me somewhere in my hub.

Overall, I am generally pleased with the digital learning hub that I have developed, refined, and changed throughout this course. I hope it is a place that students, parents, and colleagues access and use regularly. I anticipate my hub being an ever changing resource that I improve and edit with experience and time.

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Developing my Digital Learning Hub

My digital learning hub has undergone quite a transformation. This hub on wordpress.com started as my blog for the IT/DML Program, but after extensive research and experimenting I decided to morph this blog into a more developed site where I could share content with parents, students, and colleagues.

I added pages, made some of them parent pages, and added content to each of those pages. For now, my blog is public, but I do eventually plan to make this portion of my hub password protected so I can have more control over who can access my reflections and content shared here. I do intend to keep the rest of my hub public and open.

After receiving input from my colleagues last week, I have decided to make some changes to the pages I have created so far. My colleagues pointed out that some of the pages that I currently have may be redundant, or might contain information that really belongs (and probably already exists) on my school’s website.

The first page that I decided to revise this week is “Curriculum.” At first, I decided to write a brief introduction to each subject area that I teach, but then thought the information was not specific enough to help parents who may be wondering what is coming up. I decided to replace the less specific introductions with a list of the topics that are covered in each content area throughout the year. I realized though, especially after reflection with colleagues last week, that pages with lots of words (especially ongoing lists) are not especially pleasing to look at. In the next few weeks I hope to find some images or take photographs that I can include on this page to make it more visually appealing. I was also concerned with copyright issues, so I decided to provide links to company webpages for each of the resources that we use for our curriculum.

I also decided to eliminate the “News from Mrs. Ryan’s Class” page. When I originally included this page I hoped that it would replace the weekly update emails that I send out to the parents of students in my class. Now that I think about the public nature of my hub, though, I realize that some of what I share in my communication to parents contains information that could be considered private. I often share the locations and dates of upcoming field trips, or specific school and community events. I also use teacher names (especially if we are working on a special science or library project in collaboration with another teacher). I’m not sure that my colleagues would like to be featured on my public digital hub. I think that the private nature of the “news” section should be kept to direct emails to parents in our private school network that requires a login and password.

I added content to the Parent section of my hub, and since i am in the middle of parent-teacher conferences this week, I have been thinking a lot about ways to involve parents more into my hub. I added a “child” page in my parent section called “What we mean when we say…” I borrowed the idea for this page off of an exemplar site that I studied earlier in this course, and I added acronyms and phrases that are specific to my school community.

I also updated the Teacher section and added links to my unit and lesson plans that I created in my EDUC 7720 class and ORMS MOOC, but again the plain text is visually unappealing. Over the next few weeks I hope to find images or other content to spice this page up a bit. After reviewing the rubric for the EDUC 7720 class, I think I am lacking in the ORMS presence in my hub. I would strive to earn 5 points in the relevance category, but as of now I am far from a hug that “supports and engages students in online collaborative inquiry, online reading comprehension and online content construction.” I need to do some thinking and learning, and find some exemplars (maybe even from my classmates!) to help me further develop this piece of my hub. I would also like to add content for teachers to use any day, not just when trying out and ORMS lesson. I am considering adding an advice page on ways to integrate technology into classroom teaching.

I am grateful that this project is all about the process, and refining and revising. It seems that every time I visit my site I want to make changes! I appreciate the “work in progress” nature of this assignment and I hope that I can nail down some ideas to stick with, knowing that a part of this hub will be ever-changing and evolving.

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Starting Up My Digital Learning Hub

I have used wordpress.com to create this blog for a few months. As I have said in earlier posts, I enjoy the design, features, and flexibility that wordpress.com offers, and I like how customizable it is. At the beginning of my research into Digital Learning Hubs, I became interested in wordpress.org, so I did some more research into the possibilities that this resource would allow. I was impressed by the vast amount of creativity and flexibility that this resource offers, but I was a little overwhelmed and did not know exactly where to begin.

imagesI found and article article, WordPress.com and WordPress.orgon a support page that compares the benefits of WordPress.com and WordPress.org. It was very helpful and definitely laid out the pros and cons of each resource in a digestible way. I also read The $64,000 Question: WordPress.com or WordPress.org? which helped me to see that although WordPress.org really has endless possibilities, it seems to be more complicated and difficult for a novice to use.

I have to admit that I felt nervous about the idea of hosting my own page and diving into the world of coding and publishing a website from scratch, especially at the beginning of what promises to be a busy school year!

Finally, I discovered the article, Make the Grade: Build an A+ classroom site on WordPress.com which answered lingering questions I had about privacy, customizing, and embedding resources on wordpress.com. I decided to start here with my free blog, but I am open to splurging on the premium membership to be able to customize my hub even more down the road.

privacy copyIn my last post I shared an example of a Digital Learning Hub created on WordPress.com, so I spent some time revisiting that resource to use as inspiration. My first step was to figure out how to create separate pages on my blog to make it more user friendly for the intended audience of my learning hub: parents and students.

I changed the look of my site to be more kid friendly with bright colors and fun fonts. I also added pages to the vertical sidebar and changed which widgets I wanted to be displayed. I created a separate section for my blog, edited the content of my about page, and added a text in a welcome section.

The look of my blog before the conversion to a Digital Learning Hub

I was frustrated for a while because the new pages were being displayed in alphabetical order in the sidebar and I wanted the student page to be first for easy access. After about 20 minutes of poking around, I finally found where to edit the order!

I have a feeling that I will be celebrating small successes like this throughout the creation of this learning hub. My next steps will be to add content and to really flesh out the purposes of each of my pages. Down the road, I anticipate adjusting the privacy settings on certain pages, especially those that have content specific to my district or students. I don’t plan to share this hub with my students or families yet, but when I do I’m sure the question of privacy will come up – my priority is to make this a resource that everyone will be comfortable using.

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Exemplars of Digital Learning Hubs

This week, I set out to find an exemplar Digital Learning Hub that I can use as an inspiration and model when creating mine. Since I would ultimately like to create my hub on wordpress.com or wordpress.org, I started there and found this found this classroom website, https://crs5thgrade.wordpress.com. It is designed almost exactly like I hope mine will be.

pages The menu to navigate the site on the left is where I envision the links to different pages for students and teachers on my site. I also got some new ideas about content to include in my own Learning Hub. I especially like the “Specific to G5” page that defines the lingo that teachers use with parents. What a helpful resource!

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I also reviewed some of the Learning Hubs created by graduates of the IT/DML Program and was impressed by the design and content. After browsing each of the sites, I decided to include the following pages in my Learning Hub based on their examples: Read Aloud (https://sites.google.com/site/tflanagan214), Tutorials (https://sites.google.com/a/avon.k12.ct.us/aps—digital-instruction-specialist/home), Curriculum (https://sites.google.com/site/mrds1stgradeclass/home), and Newsletters. I also like the “More” tab on http://www.mrsd4ece.com that shows links to personal information like the teacher’s blog, resume, and philosophy.

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My next step will be to get started on creating my own Digital Learning Hub. I anticipate some growing pains, but ultimately the benefits that this resource can provide will be worth it.

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Digital Learning Hub: Coming Soon!

I began this Instructional Technology and Digital Media Literacy program with no real professional online presence. I had a website provided through my school and some personal social media outlets, but I was lacking in the area of a defined and well developed online representation of myself as a professional. Throughout my coursework this summer, I designed and maintained my first blog using wordpress.com. I like the freedom that wordpress allows and although I anticipate a continued learning curve using this platform, I would like to begin to design and develop my Digital Learning Hub using wordpress to create a website. I hope this will help me to align my blog and website into a seamless, one-stop-shopping type of resource.

While planning for my Digital Learning Hub, I need to consider the elements I want to include (including digital text and tools), the purpose of my website, and the intended audience.

In Researching New Literacies: Web 2.0 Practices and Insider Perspectives, Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel write, “Almost anything available online becomes a resource for diverse kinds of meaning making.” I intend to design my Digital Learning Hub for the audience of my current students and parents. I hope to provide my students and their parents with the opportunity to create meaning and purpose from a variety of helpful resources available on my website. I envision different pages on my website for students and and parents. My goal is to create a Digital Learning Hub that is easy to navigate for my young students, so a clear and easy to find area for students is essential.

In the student section I plan to include elements to practice and extend classroom learning (Math and Language Arts IXL, Math Magician, Spelling City, Math Playground, Sheppard Software-USA Games), as well as classroom information including homework assignments, resources and due dates for ongoing projects, upcoming field trips, and celebrations of student success. As I add resources to my website, it will be critical to spend a few minutes in class to share the resource with my students and teach them how to access and use each online tool or text. This class time will allow me to help clarify the connection to school and build excitement for the website and online resources. I am also considering including multi-modal tutorials for how to use each resource in the student section so students can access the directions at home.

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created on piZap.com

In the parent section I plan to include a brief explanation of each online resource/game in the student section. I think it is critical to explicitly state the purpose for online games so parents are supportive and aware of the academic purpose. I would also have some content overlap from the student section and include resources and due dates for ongoing projects, upcoming field trips, and celebrations of student success for parents. I think it will be important to provide parents with easy access to important district and school information such as the district and school calendar, reminders of upcoming events, lunch menus, and important policies and procedures.

Once my website is ready for student and parent view, I would like to change the settings to private so only people with the link to the site can view the content. I feel this is important to protect the privacy of our school and students. I am eager to begin work on my website to help my students and their parents easily access resources and tools, and to further establish a school to home connection.

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