<![CDATA[ E.K.B. Instructional Technology - Blog]]>Fri, 20 Nov 2015 13:42:59 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Cake Pops! - Final NLP Post (ED7714)]]>Sun, 09 Aug 2015 11:36:36 GMThttp://ekberthold.weebly.com/blog/cake-pops-final-nlp-post-ed7714
The memes above represent nearly every conversation I have had about this project over the last six weeks.  After I explain the purpose of building and using a personal learning network in order a master a new skill, I get, “So you must have a lot of extra cake pops lying around, huh?”  I usually just nod and say, “Yes.”  I don’t bother going into all I learned, which is much more than how to make pretty balls of cake on sticks.

I have been using personal learning networks long before I ever knew there was such an official name for it.  I belong to several Facebook groups which are specific to teaching special education and primary grades.  I have been an active member equally asking for and giving advice on a nearly daily basis.  However, while attending a workshop this summer, I thought about PLNs and created another Facebook group for the teachers in my section.  I was proud of myself for putting my course content into immediate action.  I love Pinterest and am a “pinning” addict for both professional and personal advancement.  Before this assignment though, I never considered the importance of etiquette when gaining knowledge from another person’s pin, post, or page.   I now realize the importance of leaving a “thank you” comment or linking back to a helpful site.  I always say thank you in person and I write personalized notes all the time, but it never occurred to me to do this online.

I used the basic principles of Understanding by Design (Wiggins and McTighe) when planning this project.  I started by establishing my goals, determining how I will assess myself, and then creating my learning plan.  My goals were to bake round cake pops, get them to stay on the sticks, and produce an even candy coating.  After meeting these goals I extended my learning to more advanced decorating techniques which you will see in Animoto video below.  Determining formative and summative assessments was easy as making cake pops is a skill-based and sequential task.  Therefore, I either demonstrated mastery or not.  As the project progressed, I set additional goals for myself in relation to posting comments and extending my online connections.  I probably would never have done this without the accountability factor from public proclamation.  I created my learning plan by curating an online space using Pinterest.  This allowed me to customize the descriptions of pins I found particularly helpful and delete those which did not pan out.  In an age of information overload, curation is important.  Collecting information, links, and apps without weeding out those which are not helpful can lead to what I call, “data hoarding.”    
Throughout the project I was also learning about blogging, branding, and finding my voice as an author.  Branding was the easy part as I have a background in graphic design.  I knew I wanted all of my posts to have a similar look which was visually appealing in relation to the look of the overall blog.  Finding my voice was a fun experience.  I thought about the lifestyle articles in newspapers I enjoyed, and television shows which feature a character’s running internal commentary, in order to develop my own sound.  The hard part was maintaining the levity and “fun” nature of cake pops while also writing responses to content-rich technical readings.  This required a lot of internal gear shifting.  I started writing in two rooms of my house, one room for cake pops and one for content, as I am very much an environmental learner.  Blogging was a bit of a challenge for me.  Do I write my content on the blog?  What if it gets lost in the web?  Should I write in a word-processing software and then copy and paste?  That didn’t feel like a blog, it felt like a paper, which affected the outcome.  Do I use Google Docs as a hybrid between the two?  I tried that, but I am not a big fan.  In the end which mode I used depended on the day.  I also found creating my visuals first, and then writing with them as a guide helped me stay in “Cake Pop” mode.  Knowing my classmates and total strangers would access my blog put a lot of added pressure on me as well.   

In the end this project was pretty clever.  I learned how to blog, how to network online, and how to curate information, all under the guise of cake pops.  These skills directly related to the readings from class.  Putting the knowledge into practice through a self-directed project was very effective.  This really hammered home the importance of academic choice and learning by doing, in order to create an authentic learning experience.  As public educators we all want to provide our students with these opportunities, but we sometimes lose focus as the school year gets underway and we feel the pressures of standardized testing and teacher evaluation.  Maybe I should make cake pops once a month for my students as a reminder of the importance of knowledge construction through personalized learning.

If you are thinking of exploring the world of cake pops, I suggest you proceed with caution.  They seem like fun, but are a lot of work for a little bite.  I suggest going to Starbucks and paying the (absolutely reasonable) $2.50 a pop, and enjoy the labors of someone else while playing with this app.

<![CDATA[Where Do We Go From Here? (ED7710 Week 6)]]>Sun, 09 Aug 2015 05:16:52 GMThttp://ekberthold.weebly.com/blog/where-do-we-go-from-here-ed7710-week-6There is a great deal of research and therefore many differing opinions about the future of education in regards to technology integration.  Where do ICTs fit?  Is online reading comprehension a separate or embedded skill?  What avenues of online communication should be employed for educational use?  Who is responsible for teaching online inquiry and safe Internet use?  To put the connection between education and technology in terms of a Facebook relationship status, it's complicated.
Rick McKee, Cagle Cartoons, The Augusta Chronicle, 8-4-13
Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship in a Digital Age:  Web 2.0 and Classroom Research:  What Path Should We Take Now?, by Greenhow, Robelia, and Hughes (2009) views the future of education as dependent on the “participatory media” and “relationship” technologies known as Web 2.0.  The authors advocate using social media practices for educational purposes as today’s students already know how to use them for personal interactions.  I do not agree with this idea.  In fact, it took me several tries to read this article in its entirety because I questioned so much of what was presented.  While I agree with the use of Web 2.0 tools to teach students content creation, remixing, and inquiry skills, I am not comfortable with endorsing the broad publication of these endeavors by children without further information and consideration.  I am an adult, so I question the safety and longevity of online content construction.  I do not believe students, whether elementary or high school, possess the maturity to understand the gravity and vastness of online publication.  Throughout this semester of the IT&DML program I have blogged, posted videos to YouTube, Tweeted, and been put in circles on Google+.  If you had asked me to do any of these things outside of this program I would have emphatically said, “No.”  However, teachers are the best students and want to please, so I went along with these assignments.  I felt a lot of pressure while blogging knowing anyone could find my posts and form an opinion on who I am based on only one-side of my persona.  I am not comfortable being “favorited” by people I don’t know and I don’t enjoy people I have no connection to putting me in their circles.  I prefer the reciprocity of Facebook relationships and the use of closed groups on Google+.  Perhaps my views are jaded due to bad experiences with putting myself out there on the web, but having nasty personal comments made about you on an Amazon product review and being the target of threats from a group of co-eds in Australia for simply sharing a similar web address, will do that to a person. 
Social Media Cake Pops by Rosanna Pansino. Click on the image to visit her YouTube Channel, Nerdy Nummies.
What I do agree with is the importance of teaching online reading comprehension skills as presented in, Comments on Greehow, Robelia, and Hughes: Expanding the New Literacies Conversation by Leu, O’Byrne, Zawilinski, McVerry, and Everett-Cacopardo (2009).  This is where I see the future of technology and the use of online learning in education.  The Internet is a vast source of ever-changing knowledge.  A person can learn a lot through the use of a personal learning network, as I just did while learning how to make cake pops.  This required me to find the information I needed, evaluate the usefulness of the content I read, and produce a final product given the knowledge I acquired.  More and more we turn to the Internet for answers.  For instance, I ask my Amazon Echo what the temperature is rather than checking a thermometer, I rely on Google Maps when travelling rather than using a printed map, and I recycle phone books before they even make it inside my home because the Internet has made them antiquated.  We know children are going to use the Internet, and they should, but they need to be taught how to use it effectively and safely.  Therefore I agree with the authors’ views on integrating technology standards into all subject matter, and charging all content area teachers with teaching online information and communication use.

Hopefully the relationship between technology and education will become clearer through the course of the IT&DML program.  It is a fluid relationship as both members are changing via their interactions and on their own.  Maybe this is as good as it gets.  Maybe technology will take education to a more global endeavor.  Maybe government standards will be put in place to regulate students’ use of Internet technologies in school.  I wish I had a more concrete answer to the question, “Where do we go from here?”  However, the rapidness of the advancements in technology and the element of the unknown are what make being an educator in an age of heavy regulations, exciting.
<![CDATA[Who am I?  Well, That Depends.  Who's Asking? (ED7710)]]>Sat, 08 Aug 2015 11:34:56 GMThttp://ekberthold.weebly.com/blog/who-am-i-well-that-depends-whos-asking-ed7710
Caterpillar:  Who... are... you?

Alice:  I- I hardly know, sir. I've changed so many times since this morning, you see... 

Caterpillar:  Who... are... you? 

Alice:  Well, don't you think you ought to tell me who you are first?
  - From Walt Disney's "Alice in Wonderland"

I think Alice answered this question perfectly, as we are different versions of ourselves within a single day.  The persona we display is contingent on who is asking the question.  Alice is correct to question the caterpillar on who he is, for she needs to know her audience before she can answer appropriately.

Just like Alice, in deciding who I wanted to be in my one minute commercial, I had to consider who would be my intended audience.  My commercial is geared toward my future students and their parents.  I wanted to showcase what it is like to be in the classroom with me, what I see as my professional strengths, and also who I am when I am just Erin, not "Mrs. Berthold."  I am going to show this to my students on the first day of school and to their parents at back to school night.  After watching my commercial, I hope students are excited about spending the year in my classroom, and parents feel at ease with me as their child's teacher.

I chose to make a remix rather than shoot all new footage for my commercial.  This required going through video and image files in order to choose the ones I felt best represented the goals I listed above.  I had to edit the videos down to a mere few seconds in which a glimpse of who I am is still present.  Next, I played with the order in which I would present these files and how I would caption them.  I created the components for this commercial using Movie Maker and iMovie.  Following this, I used Stupeflix to put the whole thing together.  After several edits, I am finally happy with the finished product.  Stupeflix is a free video editing web app, although there are paid memberships which allow for better quality downloads and more options.  I applied for an educator account which allowed me to upgrade to 720p definition for free, and will allow me to create accounts for my students.  This project would be really fun to replicate with my first graders!  

In addition to this blog post, I also embedded my commercial on the "About" page.  This will make it more accessible as the blog grows.  I am also going to add it to my classroom website to make it easily available to my students’ families.

<![CDATA[Everything is Better with Sprinkles - Cake Pop NLP Update (ED7714)]]>Sat, 08 Aug 2015 01:54:23 GMThttp://ekberthold.weebly.com/blog/everything-is-better-with-sprinkles-cake-pop-nlp-update-ed7714Today I faced my Mt. Summit of baking, the third and final goal of my cake pop network learning project, getting an even coat of candy on the cake pops.  I was nervous, what if all I had learned up until this point just didn't come together?  What if I choked when I was up at bat, er, stick?  I was the most nervous to attempt this step because even if you have baked perfectly round cake pops and gotten them to stay on the sticks, a bad dip could ruin it all.  As one Pinterest commenter said, "cake pops shouldn't be chunky."  Check out the "Cake Pop Fails" below to see my worst nightmare regarding how this could all end.  It is nice to know others have struggled with these as much as I did, as I found many "pins" titled, "How Not To Make Cake Pops."       
1. Meet My New BFF (Baking Friend Forever), Candy Melts EZ Thin
The Wilton course on Craftsy has become my video bible for cake pop making.  Valerie Pradhan, the host, knows her stuff.  She suggested using melted vegetable shortening to thin the candy melts before dipping.  In the past I have used vegetable oil to do the same thing, but the results were less than desirable.  So I set out to the grocery store to get myself a tub of Crisco, but ended up at the craft store first.  Maybe it was divine intervention that lead me astray, because as I was (spending way more time than I should) in the baking aisle at the craft store, I saw the holy grail of cake pop making, Candy Melts EZ Thin.  It was like a beacon shone down on it and I swear somewhere in the background there was a choir singing, "Ahhhhh."  I figured this must be a new product or Wilton surely would have featured it in the video.  Seeing how I had a 50% off coupon I decided to fork over the $2.24 and try it out.  Best. Decision. Ever.  Seriously, if you want to make cake pops (if you have been reading all of my blogs I am pretty sure you probably don't), you need this.  After you melt your candy (follow the directions on the bag, they work) add in two tablespoons of EZ Thin.  You can add more if you need to throughout the process.    
2. Take the Plunge
I had to work quickly as I didn't know how long the EZ Thin would be able to hold off the candy melts from hardening.  Homemaker Chic gave sage advice for this step, "Get in and get out."  The cake pop should be completely submerged in melted candy in a single straight up and down dip.  Next, you must tap the stick on the side of the container to remove excess candy.  This is a really important step.  I found rotating the stick as I tapped helped to keep the candy layer even.   A word of advice I probably should have mentioned earlier, choose your container carefully.  You need depth here, not width.  My favorite mug was just the right size for this.  Also, be sure to use chilled cake pops straight from the fridge.  Frozen cake pops will cause the candy to harden, yet warm cake pops may fall off the stick.  Cake pops are the Goldilocks of dessert; everything needs to be just right.
3. To Decorate or Not to Decorate, That is the Question
I decided to get bold and try some of the decorating techniques involving sprinkles.  Sprinkles must be added immediately after dipping so they will adhere to the melted candy.  I happened to have a bunch of leftover colored sugar from the marshmallow flower cupcakes I made my mom for Mother's Day.  Making your own colored sugar is a much cheaper way to go than buying colored sugar sprinkles.  It is also really easy.  Just put some regular sugar in a ziplock bag with a little food coloring (I used neon gel food coloring), close the bag really well, and squish it around to mix.  That's it.  Regardless of the kind of sprinkle you choose to use, coat the cake pop well, tap off any excess, and return to your cake pop stand of choice.  
4. Candy Apple Style
I used my "less lumpy coneheads" for the traditional lollipop style shown above.  I was saving my "lumpy coneheads" to test out what Karyn from Pint Sized Baker refers to as "Candy Apple Style" cake pops.  For these, shape isn’t as important to the final outcome.  To start, lay out some candy melts flat side down; these will be your base.  Next, dunk your first cake pop.  You don't have to worry about tapping off too much candy melt as it will flow down and pool around the base.  Place your cake pop on top of the base and hold it there for a few seconds to allow the melted and non-melted candies time to mingle.  If you want to add sprinkles (really, why wouldn't you?) you can do so now.  I did my sprinkling two pops at a time to speed up the process a bit.  I think I might like these better than the traditional style!  This method is a bit more forgiving and will hide any previous faux pas.  Plus, these will be much easier to serve and display as they don’t require a special holder to stand them up.  
5. Clean Up Time, Clean Up Time, Everybody Do Your Share
Anybody else get this little ditty in your head when it is time to clean up?  Must be a repercussion of my day job.  As you can see, the more you decorate, the more dishes you will have to clean.  It is amazing how such a tiny confection can cause such a big mess!
Networking Update
I got my first reply!  I have left several messages on blogs which helped me throughout this project.  Kim from The Partiologist is the first to reply.  Therefore, I now like her on Facebook, follow her on Pinterest and Twitter, and have her in a circle on Google+.  This week I left a message for Karyn at Pint Sized Baker.  Let’s see if I can double my replies by next week!  

I have been experiencing some Twitter action lately.  Cake Recipes and Cake Art have "favorited" my tweets announcing cake pop blog posts.  
Moving Forward
I have officially completed my three Network Learning Project goals.  I even went a step further and added decorations!  So, what’s next you ask?  Maybe I will attempt some more advanced decorating styles, maybe I will show the entire process in one fell swoop, or maybe I will pack up my cake pop maker and never do this again.  You will have to wait until next week to find out!

<![CDATA[This is the Remix – Content Construction in the Age of the Internet (ED7710 Week 5)]]>Fri, 07 Aug 2015 03:43:23 GMThttp://ekberthold.weebly.com/blog/this-is-the-remix-content-construction-in-the-age-of-the-internet-ed7710-week-5What classifies something as being a creation?  When are we allowed to take ownership of something we make?  Are true "creations" only composed from raw materials?  Or is it the idea and design decisions regardless of the source of materials which makes something a "new" creation? These are the thoughts which ran through my head after watching Kirby Ferguson's TED talk on "remixing." 
Let's look at some of my favorite contemporary artists.  Several of Félix González-Torres pieces are piles of candy in the corner of a room which viewers are invited to take from.  The candy represents the process of dying as the pile slowly disappears.  Gonzalez-Torres did not physically arrange the candy at each location, nor did he make the candy himself.  In 2005, Christo and Jeanne-Claude's The Gates opened in Central Park.  The 7,503 fabric and vinyl gates were installed by 750 employees and the fabric was sewn in several locations along the east coast.  Christo and Jeanne-Claude were the minds behind this endeavor and footed the bill, but never actually made the materials.  Daughter, Sept. 13, 2001, by my sister, Colleen Mulrenan (MacFarlane), was featured alongside the work of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in an art exhibit entitled, riverrun.  This powerful piece paired her own captured video with audio from FDNY film footage of Ground Zero.  She did not capture the audio; she edited it, and made a mash-up with her video footage.  While these four artists displayed enormous creativity, not one of them used entirely original or raw materials.  It is how they used their content which elevated it to "Art."
So how does contemporary art relate to education?  The answer can be found in David O’Brien’s article, “At-Risk” Adolescents: Redefining Competence Through the Multiliteracies of Intermediality, Visual Arts, and Representation.  In this piece, O’Brien describes a student archetype I have come to know all too well, the struggling reader who is labeled “inept, unresponsive, lazy, obstinate, and lacking in intellect.”  In an age when educators have so much information regarding multiple intelligences and learning styles, I find it abhorrent that so many of the tasks used to measure student achievement fall back on the good ole reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic.  His description of Dan, a struggling reader and reluctant learner who was able to create a multimedia documentary by remixing photos, text from magazines, and narration, is proof of the need for an expanded view of what quantifies student learning.
As Ian O’Byrne says in, Online Content Construction: Students as Informed Readers and Writers of Multimodal Information (2012), “The nature of literacy is rapidly evolving as the Internet and other communication technologies emerge.  These changes demand an expanded view of “text” to include visual, digital, and other multimodal formats.”  O’Byrne also claims the “Internet has become the dominant text for their (students’) reading and writing activities.”  I agree with these statements, but I feel they can apply to any content construction which draws upon technology and multimedia sources, not just online content construction. 
For the upcoming school year I would love to have my students blog, but teaching elementary school students means I face a lot of red tape when it comes to online publications.  Therefore, instead of OCC (online content construction), my students will create MCC (multimedia content construction).  A program I like to use with struggling or emerging readers and writers is Clicker6 Find Out & Write About.  These computer-based programs offer three levels of text, and sentence constructing grids which allow students to build paragraphs on non-fiction topics.  Students are essentially remixing the information presented in the text using the sentence grids to create their own knowledge.  Last year I used Find Out & Write About - The Human Body in conjunction with Chatterpix Kids, an iPad app by Duck, Duck, Moose to create multimedia presentations.  After creating a brief paragraph about an internal organ, my students searched the web using an iPad to find a picture of their organ.  Next, they imported their pictures to Chatterpix where they created talking cartoon versions of their organs using their own voice!  Rather than upload online, they were shown on loop at the entry to our school’s literacy night celebration.  I hope to complete a similar remixing project with my future first graders.    
Screenshots of Clicker6 Find Out & Write About - Dinosaurs
Mark Twain professed, “All ideas are second-hand.”  Henry Ford stated, “I invented nothing new.  I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work.”  Could we think of these two visionaries as remixers?  If so, we should certainly accept as such from our students.  I leave you with a slightly edited version of George Carlin's thoughts on innovation, “If you can nail together two things that have never been nailed together before, somebody (edited) will buy it from you.” 
<![CDATA[Seesaw Multimodal Tutorial (ED7710)]]>Wed, 05 Aug 2015 02:10:59 GMThttp://ekberthold.weebly.com/blog/seesaw-multimodal-tutorial-ed7710Picture
Seesaw is a student driven digital portfolio tool available for Apple devices, Android devices, Chromebooks, and any computer with Firefox or Chrome installed.  It is free for an individual teacher to use for one year.  After that, a school-wide account must be purchased.  A quote for this level can be requested online.  Seesaw allows students to safely upload their work via a shared classroom QR code login system, eliminating the possibility of a child joining the wrong class.  This is one of many student safety features provided by Seesaw.  Teachers can review student work and provide immediate feedback while building a year-long portfolio sortable by class, subject, or student.  If a teacher chooses to invite parents, they can see their child’s work and leave comments via the Seesaw Parent app.  Seesaw offers many supports to teachers including a help section and fast customer service.

One of the most beneficial uses of Seesaw is organizing student work and preparing for meetings.  Teachers spend a lot of time organizing work for data purposes and attending meetings, which takes away from their planning and personal time.  Preparing work samples for parent-teacher conferences and IEP meetings can take teachers hours both before the meeting and after.  Seesaw eliminates the need for teachers to gather paper assignments from their filing cabinets, organize them into folders for each student, arrange the folders in order of the meetings, and refile assignments afterward.  This is a huge time saver!  Instead, teachers can flag individual student’s assignments and display only those work samples on a tablet, computer, or even a phone.  In large IEP meetings teachers often have to prepare copies of student work so everyone has a chance to view it in a timely manner.  Using Seesaw, a teacher can share work samples with the entire room via a projector.  This cuts down on a lot of paper waste.  Below is a link to a video tutorial demonstrating how to approve student work, provide feedback, and use folders to manage work samples.

To view the complete multimedia tutorial, including how to set up your own Seesaw account, links to student activities, and a detailed list of benefits, click on the image below. 
<![CDATA[Cake "Pop Culture" - Cake Pops NLP Update (ED7714)]]>Mon, 03 Aug 2015 18:21:43 GMThttp://ekberthold.weebly.com/blog/cake-pop-culture-cake-pops-nlp-update-ed7714Picture
I know, attaching cake pops to sticks is not very exciting.  Still it was one of my original goals and the second step of my personal assessment plan.  (Spoiler Alert!  I totally crushed it.)  Last time I tried this, the cake pops kept sliding down the sticks.  However, the tools, ingredients, and method I used may not have been the best choices in retrospect.  After watching the Craftsy video (several times), I understand where I went wrong.  

So, to make this a bit more interesting, 
I want to play a game.  In honor of my cake pops, there are pop culture references scattered throughout this post.  How many can you find?  Think you know what they are all from?  Leave a comment with how many you found.  On Sunday (08/09/15), I will leave a comment revealing the references in order and where they are from.  Have fun playing! 

P.S. You already encountered the first one. 

1. Poke
Using the two holders I chose in the last update, I first lined up the cake pops in each making sure the light side was facing up.  The dark side is much harder to poke through - you will need to apply a lot more force which could squish your cake balls into cake donuts (D’oh!).  I learned a valuable lesson during this step: Do not leave the cake pops in the holder when making your pilot holes!  It is hard to tell how far in the sticks have gone.  Hold the cake pops in your hand one at a time instead.  This is especially true if you use the tray from Babycakes.  The sticks will go straight through the top of your cake pops because there are holes in the bottom of each cake cavity.
2.  Melt
Melt a little candy for this step.  I did a few wafers and it was just enough to get two dozen lollipop sticks adhered.  Be sure to follow the package directions when melting candy.  Too high of a temperature or too long of a cooking time will result in burnt candy wafers.  For this small amount I did not follow the recommended thirty seconds (I know, I am being a hypocrite).  Thirty seconds is for the whole bag which would burn such a small amount.  I did two intervals of ten seconds at half power, stirring after each.  The candy melted nicely after thoroughly stirring.  I have to say, I've seen the difference and it's getting better all the time, when it comes to using the proper cake pop techniques.
3. Dip
Speed is definitely a factor in this step.  If you have friends or family around make this an I dip, you dip, we dip event.  The candy will harden up quickly since it is a small amount.  Some tutorials, including the Wilton Method course on Craftsy, suggest smoothing out the ring of candy that forms around the stick.  There really isn't time for that, and in my opinion leaving it helps the cake adhere to the stick better.  Make sure you chill your cake pops long enough after this step. Thirty minutes in the refrigerator is recommended.  DO NOT PUT THEM IN THE FREEZER!  You cannot speed up the process by putting them in the freezer for fifteen minutes.  If you dip frozen cake pops in melted candy it causes the candy to seize up and it will be unusable.  Trust me, I speak from experience.
4. Stand
I left my cake pops in the fridge for much longer than thirty minutes before I checked on them.  If thirty minutes is sufficient then two hours must be even better, right?  When I turned over the cake pops in the egg carton they were perfect!  No sticks poking through and no bits of cake stuck to the tray.  The same cannot be said for the Babycakes tray.  Therefore, between the two stands, I would recommend the egg carton over the actual cake pop tray.  If you decide to try this method, be sure to thoroughly clean the egg carton before using it to avoid any contamination from salmonella.  Seeing how well the cake pops came out makes me want to attempt a double cake pop!  However, there is a little voice in my head telling me, "No, no, no.  Stick to the stuff you know.  Don't mess with the flow.  Stick to the status quo."
Moving Forward
I am starting to feel like I can go the distance with these cake pops.  Although at each step of the way I find myself waiting to exhale until I see my results.  One more step and I will reach my third and final goal!  In addition to these initial goals, I have been challenging myself to make connections with the bloggers I am learning from.  This week I came across a really cute decorating idea using mini ice cream cones and began searching for the ingredients online and on foot.  However, I am not having much luck.  Amazon has them, but I don't want to spend twenty three dollars, nor do I need 84 mini ice cream cones.  I left a comment on The Partiologist’s blog and asked where she found the required products.  Hopefully, I will hear back soon.

Alright readers, the game is through.  Leave a comment below with how many pop culture references you spotted in this post.  I will reveal what they all are on Sunday in the comments section.  
Remember, you don’t gotta catch 'em all, just hit me with your best shot!
<![CDATA[Personal Learning Networks - Curating Our Own "Digital Classrooms" (ED7714)]]>Sat, 01 Aug 2015 02:55:50 GMThttp://ekberthold.weebly.com/blog/personal-learning-networks-curating-our-own-digital-classrooms-ed7714Picture
Third Grader:  I can't wait until I graduate from college because then I will know everything I need to know.  I won't have to learn stuff all the time.

Me:  I graduated from college and I learn new things every day.

Third Grader:  Well then you must not have been a very good student.

I love to learn.  I find it exciting to know we all have the potential to be better versions of ourselves at the end of the day then we were when we woke up.  I believe you can learn something from every experience you have, and every person you encounter.  However, too much learning can result in information overload.  In today’s connected world where anyone with an internet-enabled device can have their own broadcasting channel via social media, this can occur quickly.  Therefore, we cannot just be collectors of information, we must be curators.  Curation is the process of taking in information and deciding what is important, according to Robert Scoble.  This requires us to determine what information we want to take in, who we want to listen to, and what we are going to contribute.  In making these decisions we are creating our own personal learning network (PLN).  Below is a mind map of how my personal learning network appears today.  PLNs are ever-changing as we curate information and form new connections.
Click on the banner below to experience a larger animated version of my PLN mind map.
PLNs allow us to surround ourselves with others who possess the knowledge and skills we want to learn in a globally-connected environment via the internet.  In a TEDx talk on curation of information, Steven Rosenbaum boiled it down to three key points.  While I value his descriptions of the points, for the purpose of this post I am going to strip them away and repurpose the titles as the three steps of creating a PLN: 1) Choose your digital clothing, 2) Listening is more powerful than speaking, and 3) In a noisy world, customers embrace clarity.

How to Build Your Own Personal Learning Network

1.  Choose Your Digital Clothing.

We all wear many hats and play different roles throughout the course of a single day.  Choose one of these roles to build a PLN around.  The PLN diagramed above is only for my career in education.  I also have PLNs for my other roles in life such as being a gluten-free vegetarian and most recently, a cake pop maker.  In short, choose one hat and build your outfit around it.

2.  Listening is more powerful than speaking.

I often tell my students, “You have two ears and one mouth.  This means you should listen twice as much as you speak.”  This holds true in reference to personal learning networks as well.  As you collect sources and build connections you take in a lot of information.  Hence, before sharing information with others, you must evaluate which are the best sources and synthesize the information within them.    

3.  In a noisy world, customers embrace clarity.

People are bombarded with information all day long.  Therefore, it is important to say what you have to say as clearly as possible.  I think people who talk a lot (and by talk I mean post, update, tweet, favorite, like, etc) are often ignored.  News feeds become cluttered by the same people and it becomes annoying.  I know I have unfollowed people for this reason.  If you want your voice to be heard, you must think about what you want to say before you take to the keyboard.  My high school yearbook quote applies here, “It is often the softest spoken who have the most to say.”

As I stated at the beginning of the post, I love to learn.  I have been learning from my personal learning network for quite some time, I just didn’t realize it had an official title.  Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers have been amazing sources of teaching material, and I don’t know what I would have done this past year without the knowledge and advice I received from teachers in my Facebook groups.  I also did not realize how important what I post, tweet, or pin may be to others who are learning from me.  Creating the mind map of my PLN really brought this to my attention.  In Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips (2012), Dr. Mark Wagner perfectly summed up the importance of PLNs for educators,  “All educators (and learners) can benefit from extending their own personal learning network online – beyond the walls of their schools, the boundaries of their districts, and the limits of their experiences.” 
<![CDATA[A Look at Online Reading Comprehension Through the Eyes of a Special Education Teacher (ED7710 Week 4)]]>Thu, 30 Jul 2015 16:23:22 GMThttp://ekberthold.weebly.com/blog/a-look-at-online-reading-comprehension-through-the-eyes-of-a-special-education-teacher-ed7710-week-4
In the 2012 article, Reading Digitally Like a Historian: Using Multimedia Texts to Facilitate Disciplinary Learning, Michael Manderino, discusses the need to support disciplinary texts with multimedia components.  He suggests students should access multimedia sources such as audio, video, pictures, and animations though information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, as they are already used as sources of information by today’s students.  This requires teachers to change their definition of text from printed words on a page to multiple presentations of information.  In short, educators must be open to abandoning black & white boxed-in thinking, and dive into the amorphous “gray” a bit more. 

The idea of using multiple presentations of the same, or related information to support a challenging document/source/topic is nothing new to special education teachers; we call it multisensory learning.  It is my job to find ways to expose students to content through multiple formats until it finally “clicks.”  This is similar to utilizing online reading comprehension skills in the general education setting where students have access to content through multiple multimedia presentations of information.  However, in this model students are also making choices regarding the information they use.  This requires students to take ownership of their learning.  Allowing students to have some control over their content makes the experience meaningful, and is a proven motivator which leads to greater success (see RSA Animate's
video featuring Dan Pink).  This also allows special education students a chance to participate in a classroom activity in the same manner as their nondisabled peers, which in and of itself is a tremendous motivator for inclusion students.
In the Handbook of Research on New Literacies (2008), Kuiper and Volman describe teachers as support tools during the learning process as students interact with ICTs.  Too often students are left to interact with ICTs unaided because they “know how to Google.”  As with all things, there is a difference between knowing how to do something, and knowing how to do it well.  Most students today know how to navigate the internet and multimedia sources for personal gain, but are not as adept at using it for educational expansion.  Educators must realize this and provide students with instruction rather than assume they know how to find credible sources and search with a purpose.

There are also pitfalls in using the internet as a source of information.  In Watch IT.  The Risks and Promises of Information Technology for Education (2000), Burbules and Callister group the negative side effects of using the internet under the headings: Misinformation, Malinformation, Messed-Up Information, and Mostly Useless Information.  I think these heading can be applied to printed texts as they also display variances in credibility.  For example, The National Enquirer and The New York Times share a shelf but are certainly not equals.  Lawless and Schrader (Handbook, 2008) bring the discussion on open- and closed-media into the mix as well.  While closed-media sources cannot be altered and have some governing body prior to publication, open-media is ever changing and anyone can alter the information.  Again, there are pros and cons of both.  Closed-media is already dated once it is in the hands of the reader, where open-media has the potential to stay current.  Closed-media is often a physical object which can be manipulated.  A book with missing pages and crossed out text, or a scratched CD-ROM which skips could cause both to fall under one of the headings described above. 

While planning lessons and IEP goals and objectives for students in my life skills class, I had to consider what educational skills doubled as functional skills.  Online reading comprehension is one of these crossover skills.  Whether it is locating an owner’s manual on a website, filling out a job application, finding a bus schedule, or ordering groceries, my students needed to know how to navigate to the correct place and retrieve the correct information using the internet.  People with disabilities also have talents and interests which need to be developed.  The internet is full of options for them provided they are given guidance and support through instruction in online reading comprehension skills.  I would also advise educators and caretakers of people with disabilities to employ filters and use safe search engines such as www.kidrex.org while monitoring their time online.
Despite the potential negative side-effects, the necessity to teach proper search and evaluation skills, and requiring teachers to change their views on “text,” online reading comprehension is the way of the future.   In my opinion it is a cornerstone of modern education and has the potential to greatly impact the teaching and learning of students with disabilities.
<![CDATA[Back to the Drawing, er, Pinterest Board - Cake Pops NLP Update (ED7714)]]>Thu, 30 Jul 2015 02:58:59 GMThttp://ekberthold.weebly.com/blog/back-to-the-drawing-er-pinterest-board-cake-pops-nlp-update-ed7714 Now that I ensured my ability to make round cake pops, it is time to begin research on how to keep the cake pops from falling off or sliding down the sticks, how to store the cake pops upright after decorating, and some basic decorating ideas.  At this point, I decided to take the suggestion of a classmate and search the internet for cake pop classes in the area.  While I didn't find any in-person classes, I did come across The Wilton Method Creative Cake Pops class on Craftsy.  For those of you not familiar with Wilton, they are a well-known name in the cake decorating world.  Craftsy is a website which provides online classes in cooking, baking, crafting, sewing, photography, and more.  They also have patterns, kits, and supplies available for purchase.  While there is usually a cost involved, there are a few free resources.  When I found the Wilton course on Craftsy for free I was ecstatic!  This course uses the crumbled cake and frosting method of constructing cake pops, so it really would not have been much help prior to this point in my endeavor.  However, it will be a welcomed resource going forward.  I particularly like the easy decorating ideas demonstrated in this course.
Watch a Tour of the Wilton Method Creative Cake Pops Course on Craftsy
Makin' it Stick
The Creative Cake Pops course shows exactly how to ensure your cake pops stay on the sticks.  Start with chilled, but not frozen, cake pops.  Poke a starter hole in the cake pop with your lollipop stick, dip the stick in melted candy coating, insert the stick into the cake pop, stand cake side down, and put back into the fridge for thirty minutes to firm up.  The last two steps are where I previously went wrong.  I tried to store them cake up, the way you would after decorating.  Working against gravity was not smart and my cake pops became cake kabobs.  I also did not let them chill long enough to really ensure the cake was strongly attached to the sticks.   
The Stand Standoff
I looked over my Pinterest board as I knew I had already pinned some ideas on how to stand the cake pops upright.  I also went to a local craft store to see what products were available to buy.  Finally, I perused my own kitchen to see if I could come up with anything myself.  Below are the top six methods I encountered.  Hover over each picture to see my thoughts on their usability.
I have decided to give the Babycakes tool a try.  Their recipe worked, so let’s build on this successful relationship.  There is a problem though, this tool holds one dozen cake pops and the recipe makes four dozen (three dozen in my case, you saw the fourth batch).  I feel like I will need something else to use in addition, or it will be a very long process getting these made.  I am going to give my egg carton idea a try.  I am sure I am not the first person to think of this, but I did think of it on my own so I want to test it out.  Words of advice if you decide to try it too, poke the holes in the bottom from the inside out.  Going the other way just makes large slits rather than nice holes. 
Making Connections
My comment appeared on Love From The Oven's blog today!  I decided to leave a comment on the Craftsy class as well.  You can see them both below.
Moving Forward
Now that I have a plan, it is time to take action!  By the end of my next update I hope to have my "lumpy coneheads and less lumpy coneheads" on lollipop sticks ready to be coated in candy melts!  I am going to start with my "B Team" players as I am just learning.  My third batch MVPs will get a chance to play once I have honed my craft a bit more.