Sunday, December 2, 2012

Educational Mashup Example

Educational mashups can be a creative and fun way to engage students. One of my assignments for EDT 6440, which I'm enrolled in this semester is to create an educational mashup and then create a narrated PowerPoint, podcast, or video explaining the educational mashup. This is a reflection upon that assignment and its outcome.

So, first of all, I think it's important to define  "mashup"; not everyone has heard the term before. I hadn't really heard it much before a couple of years ago when I started to get involved in Educational Technology. The term mashup is the "combining of two or more sources of data to form a new data set." (Freedman, 2010). The term originated within the music industry to describe a combining of two or more soundtracks into a new one. This term has carried over to represent the combining of two or more of Web sources to create something new. Educational mashups just refers to the use of mashups for learning and creativity in education.

One article I read on educational mashups discussed the various levels of mashups where it can be as simple as someone using iGoogle, NetVibes, or Yahoo as their browser home page, which "allows users with no (or minimal) programming knowledge to mix, match, filter, and repurpose data from various resources." (Wiliarty, 2008), or it can be very involved requiring programming by a developer. Obviously, most students and educators would not be at the level of a developer, but they may still want to create something that catches the imagination.

Creating educational mashups is much easier today than it used to be. Many of the Web-based tools such as Google Maps, Flickr, Twitter, RSS feeds and many other api gadgets allow for a combining of data to create something new.

My idea for an educational mashup is a common one of combining Google Maps, photos on Flickr, and videos on YouTube to create a picture map of one of my favorite spots. A teacher could easily use something like this with their students to teach geography, visual arts, mapping, and could also include writing a reflection, such as I'm doing. Additionally, I will be combining a couple of different photos and videos to create a video explaining my educational mashup idea. Doing a project such as this combines the teaching of traditional skills of writing, speaking, and presenting, along with non-traditional, technology skills of using a blog, using a mapping program, embedding photos and videos, along with making a video, podcast, or PowerPoint. These are all important skills for today's students to be learning.

Below you will find the educational mashup I created from using Google Maps, Flickr, and YouTube. Although many times the students may not have their own photos and videos to use with the map they are creating, the videos and photos used in the mashup I created are all photos and videos I've taken and uploaded to Flickr and YouTube respectively. If the students do have photos or videos the have taken that they can use in the mashup, it may spark even more interest in doing the project.

Educational Mashup Example: Plainwell's Riverwalk - Sherwood Park to Hicks Park

View Plainwell's Riverwalk - Sherwood Park to Hicks Park in a larger map

I've also embedded the video I created to explain my educational mashup. Unfortunately, my computer and my headphone/microphone were having issues so the audio track isn't the greatest, so I apologize for the audio quality, along with the audio blast when the video within my Google Map starts playing. I'm not great at creating videos yet, but I'm sure I'll get better with practice.

Educational Mashup Example Video


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Project-Based Learning...

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I will be teaching as a GA this fall. The textbook we are using is the book titled, Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss.

I have just begun reading it this week. I'm reading a chapter a night so I can get through it prior to semester starting the first week in September. At the end of each chapter, there is a section called, "Your Turn." Authors, Boss and Krauss, suggest that readers may want to "work your way through these chapters, use this book as your own learning project." Along with reading I'm going to try and work through the chapters as suggested. Currently, I'm a couple of chapters behind in working through the questions and end-of-chapter suggestions, but I'm hoping to catch up tonight.

The first "Your Turn" section I want to reflect upon is the Introduction. Questions asked by the authors are:

  1. Where are you starting your journey? Why?
  2. Think about your own experiences with project-based learning. If you have already used the project approach with students, what did you like or dislike?
  3. What would you like to do better in the future?
  4. Do you have regular opportunities to collaborate with colleagues?
  5. Where do you turn first to sound out new ideas for your classroom?
I'm starting my journey into Project-Based Learning or PBL as someone who has experienced PBL as a student, but have never taught before, so this will be my first experience at teaching PBL. I'm very excited to be teaching PBL, as I've always felt the real-world projects make sense and brings about a more effective learning experience.

I don't know that there is anything in particular that I don't like about PBL, but I do know that they take more planning and require more time. In many respects this is a positive, but as a teacher I expect it can be a challenge to find the balance between keeping things manageable and timely while providing engagement-rich experiences for students.

As I begin teaching using PBL, I hope to share the excitement and difference using technology with real-world problems can make in the students' experiences. From my own experiences, learning how to use various technologies, learning to search for information, and applying knowledge gained to solve problems has given me a true sense of achievement and a confidence to try things I would never had tried before. Hopefully, through the PBL activities we will be doing this semester, the students will become as excited as I am about the possibilities PBL offers.

Currently, I don't have opportunities to collaborate with colleagues, but this will definitely be a part of the experience this fall and next spring. The projects are already in place, but I will have the opportunity to talk about what is working and what isn't working, as well as what I need to do to better teach or share the concepts. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to work with my mentor and other instructors. 

Boss, S., Krauss, J. (2007). Reinventing project-based learning: Your field guide to real-world projects in the digital age. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Creating a Digital Story...

This fall, I'll be teaching as a Graduate Assistant (GA) for the first time ever, which is very exciting to me. I've wanted to teach for many years and finally the opportunity has arrived. While working with my mentor to review and prepare for fall, she noted that we needed to replace the digital story examples and she suggested that maybe I should develop the non-fictional example and she would create the fictional example. 

I readily agreed, as I had never created an "official" digital story before and I felt it was important for me to work through developing one prior to trying to teach it during the semester. 

The first thing I did towards creating a digital story was to find educational digital stories already published to better understand the various types of digital stories, what they are about, and how to go about making one. Although the steps are outlined within the class lesson, I felt it was important to have a better understanding of the purpose of digital stories and what I should be trying to accomplish. Additionally, I wondered what are the best practices in developing a digital story?. And finally, I needed some ideas for a topic.

There were several sites which had examples of digital stories, but one site in particular caught my interest. The site is Creative Narrations available at: They have a wonderful collection of digital stories and one of the stories that I viewed really spoke to my heart. I felt that I would want to create mine in a similar style, once I knew the topic.

The next step was to decide on a topic. My mentor had noted that it shouldn't be on any of the current suggested topics, but it could be on a prior one or something totally different. I struggled with this decision for several days. I even prayed about it. The digital story that really spoke to my heart was a girl narrating a story about her grandma and the contaminated water in Tuscon where they lived. She spoke of how the contaminated water had been partly to blame for grandma's cancer and death, and how it was effecting her and her family that are still living. Finally, a few days later, the word, "Phill" came to mind and the words, "As a man thinketh, so is he." I wanted to tell the story of Phill and me, his thoughts and words of not living past the age of 50, and the pain I felt at his death at the age of 49. 

To be honest, I wasn't completely sure what category of "topics" my idea for a digital story fell under, so as I continued my online research for digital stories and best practices, I came across a PDF document with the title, "Digital Storytelling Topics." The author, someone at Modesto City Schools in California, identified categories of digital stories by level of competency: beginning topics, intermediate topics, and advanced. One of the intermediate topics identified was the "Memorial" topic. The author noted, "Honoring and remembering people who have passed is an essential part of the process of grieving.” ("How would you describe this person? Is there an event that best captures their character? What about them did you most enjoy? What lesson did they give you that you feel is important? If you had something to say to them, that they may have never heard you say, what would it be?"). I identified my topic as "Loss" or "Life Choices." (Modesto City Schools, n.d.). 

Along with obtaining a clearer picture of my topic and what category it fit into, one of the other tidbit of information I gleaned from the document, was the "6 Steps to Successful Digital Storytelling." I hadn't heard of the "6 Steps" before and wanted to know more. I Googled "6 steps to successful digital storytelling" and came up with several good hits, including a step-by-step description of a six-step process to digital storytelling in a document developed by David S. Jakes, an Instructional Technology Coordinator at Community High School District 99 in 
Downers Grove, Illinois. (D. S. Jakes, n.d.). It was perfect! Exactly what I was looking for and needed to round-out the instructions from the lesson plan.

The six steps identified by Jakes are: 
Step 1: Write
Step 2: Develop script
Step 3: Storyboard
Step 4: Locate resources
Step 5: Create
Step 6: Share 

And so I began to work my way through the six steps. It was actually harder than I thought it would be. Step 1 was fairly easy, because I just wrote out the story I was trying to tell. Jakes said it usually should be 3-4 pages and   the story I wrote was 4 pages. Step two was a little more difficult, as I had to cut the story back to a script. Jakes noted that a script usually should be no longer than 1 page for a 2-3 minute digital story. I'm kind of a wordy person so writing wasn't a problem, but cutting it down to a manageable script and still tell the story was difficult. I wrestled and wrestled with the script, but finally moved on to the storyboard. I figured if I kept trying to get the script perfect, I would never get the rest of the steps completed. 

After completing the storyboard, I had a clearer picture of what images and music I would need for my story. Locating the images wasn't exactly easy. I didn't have any pictures of Phill's younger years and very few of him in later years. I had a few taken of us here and there during the time we were together, but not very many. Eventually, I was able to locate and scan the old photographs I did have and found a few on various Websites that were free and I could edit or adjust to fit my needs. I knew I wanted Native American Indian flute music and thankfully, while developing a Webquest in a project early in my Masters, I had come across some Native American Indian Websites that offered free images and free music. 

Finally, I began to build my story using MovieMaker. I first added the images in the order of the storyboard. Then I added the flute music. My next step was to record the script or narration. Well, since it was my first time, I found myself having to go back several times and adjusting this or adjusting that; re-recording this or re-recording that. It took me several evenings, back-to-back, to narrate a script that would fit with the images, the music, and the timing, but eventually, I had a narration I could live with. Before finalizing the story, I reviewed the lesson rubric I would be teaching with this fall to make sure I had at least covered most, if not all points required for a decent grade, since my example should at least be a good example.

The final step was to share on YouTube and provide the link to my instructor to post as an example within the scheduled lesson plan, which I did:

This experience was a true learning experience. I used technology tools in ways that I hadn't before to create something I hadn't ever created; I learned that I was still grieving Phill's death and that this project ended up being a therapeutic part of that process; I learned some of the ins and outs of creating a digital story, which will enable me to better teach others how to work through the process of developing their own digital story this fall.

Jakes, D. S. (n.d.). Capturing stories, capturing lives: An introduction to digital storytelling. Retrieved from:

Modesto City Schools. (n.d.). Digital storytelling topics. Retrieved from: