Digital Equality and Social Learning

                        Digital Equality


What did I learn?

This course, so far, has been my greatest challenge.   I was challenged to think outside of my comfort zone.  The peers in my class were some of the best colleagues that I have had the pleasure to work with.   At each turn, I learned how to improve on areas that were a block for me.   I examined ideas that I had read in passing and really dug deep on how they could apply to me and my classroom.  I looked at how my classroom had become stale and uninventive.   Just today, I had two students tell me how they were excited to see the new changes I had brought to my room.  Their excitement was contagious.   I feel reinvigorated to teach, a hard thing to do eighteen years in!  While I am still not comfortable in front of the camera, I see the need for it.  I think the biggest challenge that I overcame was the sense of perfection.  The weekly videos that we received from our instructor were informal and very informative.  I watched as my peers adopted the same approach and it helped me to recognize the value in them. I recognized the student and the teacher that I am.   I love the idea of self grading, but struggled (and still do) with its concept.   As a parent, I so see the value in this kind of structure, learning for the joy of learning.  Making the material your own and not attaching a grade to it.   My children go to a very structured school and this course made me question its value.   I was able to see myself as the indoctrinated student that I am and the struggle I had when I was given freedom.  That is not an easy pill to swallow.  While I can not say this was my favorite course, it was the course, I believe, in which I learned the most.  I say it is not my favorite not due to any of the material, but because of my struggles, my inability to deal with imperfection.  This class clhallenged me and will stay with me for many years to come.

Interview with an expert

I have included my interview with Stacy Weiss, Deaf Science teacher at my school.  She is an expert on the need for internet language equality, not only is she a teacher with over ten years of experience, she is also Deaf.  She has seen it from both sides of the coin.

**N.B. Captions are in all caps to indicate that it is the English translation of American Sign Language, ASL.  As there is no written form of ASL, English was used.**

Games in the Classroom

This week I looked at three games.  The first is ClassDojo, the second is Quizizz  and the third is Mission US.  I will be honest, I am not much of a game player nor do I really encourage it often in class, for the simple fact that games require much accommodation.   So many times, we take for granted what students can do and not do while other times, we assume as well.  My first experience with gaming was Mission US, back when I taught Middle School History.   It was not a fun experience.  It was not an independent game, it was a classroom game in which the students needed to depend on me to advance.   I went back to see what changes, if any, we there.   As a hearing person as well as self proclaimed nerd, I liked the interaction of the game and being able to make choices and “seeing” how they played in history.  I was happy to see that they have updated it and that there are other missions to be had.  Diane Murray reports on the successes in her classroom using Mission US on YouTube.  She explains that using a game in which students are invested makes the learning more engaging.   The material, the facts and the vocabulary are more meaningful.  


I use Quizizz often in my class.  I use it as homework as well as for quizzes.   The immediate response and intervention aspect is imperative.  It is the silly things that make the game engaging.   My students live for the competitive nature and believe it or not, the memes are the biggest draw.  Students have reported that that really enjoy practicing at home and being able to check their answers.  They find it beneficial as a means to study and self correct.  As a teacher, I like that I can use previous quizzes, adapt and modify as well as pull  from quiz question banks.  There are not a variety of ways to “win” unlike Mission US, but it is a solid tool that works well with my students.

The final game I selected was Classdojo.   I had heard of this before, but never used it.   For this review, I am using the lens of a parent.  My daughter’s started school on Monday.  While my 2nd grader is still using the clip up and down system (do not get me started), my 3rd grader is using Classdojo.  While this is not a “game” in the traditional sense, it is a motivator like a game.  Students get to create a personal avatar or monster.   The students can then earn points which they can exchange for rewards in the classroom.  My daughter’s goal is to sit in the teacher’s chair during AR time.  This management is easy and cheap to use.   As a teacher, I see the benefits.  As a parent, I have to agree with blogger, Alesha Bishop in her review, the privacy issue is a concern.   Kids know.   A close pin with a number is not really anonymous.   Kids know.  I hear on a daily basis who is on red (clip down) and who is on purple (clip up), so monsters are no different.  Making sure that the management game are being used to help support and not drag down, I am in support.

A Flipped Classroom: Deaf Style

One of the biggest drawbacks of working with students who are Deaf is the fact that they often have been exposed to so much less than their hearing counterparts.   While I read this and it made sense, I never really understood it until I had my own children.   I am still in awe at the things that my children say, most of it simply because they heard it (mommy had to learn to control her trucker mouth really fast)!  I have been a teacher ten years longer than I have been a mom, so I still work on the belief that explicit instruction/direction is how children learn, because that is how my students learn.  That is not the case for most, just my small population of students.   To give you an idea, most of my 12th grade students can not fill in a job application independently because they do not know their basic information.  So, needless to say, the thought of a “Flipped Classroom” in the way that I understood it, made me nervous.  I found this wonderful video on Youtube from a Deaf teacher who explained how she uses it in her classroom and the benefits she has seen.  Here is the link, but warning, it is in ASL and not voice captioned.  This search led me to do some more research (which actually led nicely to my final topic) where an itinerant teacher of the Deaf (these are the teachers you see in public schools) discusses how a flipped classroom presents a challenge that many forget, the Deaf student.   Many times the videos are not captioned, they go to fast, require skills that a Deaf person cannot do (watch an interpreter and take decent notes) or miss gaps of information that are assumed. Check out the Minnesota Hands and Voices blog here.  3Play Media also discusses the importance of captioning in the flipped classroom.

So, needless to say, I was a little leery.   However, like most things in education, I needed to look at it from a Deaf perspective.  Most of the time, my lessons are styimed by the fact that half of the class is able to keep up while half is struggling.   I created a video through VoiceThread that I will use in my classroom.   I consists of 4 slides of the same article.   Each slide has a different requirement for the student.  Slide 1 asks them to remember to use pre-reading strategies we have discussed in class.  Slide 2 asks students to read the article independently, Slide 3 is a teacher interpretation of the article while slide 4 focuses on questions related to the article.   Each slide is signed and voiced.


I really like VoiceThread because students can send a video reply to me directly on the thread.   I do not like that it is more costly to use these days 🙁  Since I am making some changes this year, I do not want to bite off more than I can chew.   This may something that I attack at a later date, however, I could see this being used when I am absent.  I see it being much more effective than a worksheet and bust work.





My Dream Classroom


A $1000.00 for my current classroom is like winning a million dollars!  Prior to this week’s lesson, I probably would have looked to making cosmetic decisions rather than educational decisions. Being a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, I am limited as to what I can and cannot do with the placement of my students.   Unlike their hearing counterparts, I need to make sure that all of the students have a direct line of sight of me as well as each other.   My classes are smaller than a typical class, but the classes are also smaller.  Additionally, access to a light switch is crucial.

Upon reading this week’s assignments, I was intrigued by two ideas: flexible seating and adding a “genius bar” to my class.   Flexible seating was not a new concept to me, but after reading Kelly Almer’s article, Top 3 Reasons to Use Flexible Seating in the Classroom, I learned that I really did not know as much as I thought I did. Students have always been allowed to sit where they wanted in my classroom.   But I notice that students tend to sit in the same place all of the time and IF someone makes the bold move to sit elsewhere, there is usually backlash.   Additionally, my classes use DEAR (drop everything and read) time in class for personal reading.  Students usually remain at their desks.  Despite access to floor pillows, students do not take advantage of them.  In examining my classroom as it is now as well as completing this week’s assignment, I have been thinking about how I could re-design my classroom.  While my students usually sit in a “U” formation, it is not really conducive to teamwork.   Students sit near one another, but rarely engage.  I would change out the desks for tables.  The desks could be separated for group work, set in the “U” form for a standard Deaf classroom or “T”, there are more learner friendly options when tables are used.   Tables also allow for more floor space, where students can walk, stand or sit on the floor if they choose.

The second idea that I read about that was really intriguing to me was the “genius bar”.  Andi McNair discusses adding a Genius Bar on her blog, Engaging Their Minds.   While her view was more from a teacher of advanced students, I find that this idea has the potential of be beneficial for all students.   As a teacher of the Deaf, many of my students are well below the progress of their age/grade level peers.  Yet, they all have areas of expertise to share.   I like the idea of questioning each other and looking for answers among themselves without always depending on the teachers. Many times, my students have become dependent on the adults in their lives to give them the answer.  A Genius Bar forces them to think outside of their comfort zone.

Now that I have a revised classroom, I have $1,000 to spend.  I would spend the majority of the funds creating a reading area for my students.  These mobile materials would be flexible enough that students could use them in other parts of the classroom as well.   Purchases would include a large rug to lay/sit on, several bean bag chairs as well as “husbands”.  I would also purchase several lamps, this way a variety of brightness could be accessible. Additionally, I would purchase dry erase paint and supplies to paint the classroom tables as well as the Genius Bar.  I like the idea of students being able to write their ideas directly on their desks and collaborate immediately with one another.   I would purchase one Rocketbook Everlast Notebook for each table and Genius Bar (per period) allowing for all collaboration to not only be available to the class, but to the teacher as well.  The new Everlast appears to be longer lasting than its predecessor.  I would include storage for iPads and cameras over by the video corner, for easy use.   The video corner is used to create signed video blogs, lit responses, portfolios and interactive vocabulary. I would also include an adaptor that would allow me to control the lights from a distance (flashing lights is how I get student attention), allowing me to move around the room more easily.

Even as I type this, I know there are some barriers that I will face.   I work a very “inside” the box kind of thinking, so it may be an uphill battle.   But, I think it will be worth it.  In speaking with my colleagues, many of them have adapted a more flexible classroom.   A majority of them state that it is a good procedure, it just needs to be thought out well, planned and with set ground rules.  I hope to make little changes, like a reading nook, this year….but I WANT that classroom I have designed.   Maybe not next year, but little by little, I will get there 🙂


My Curation Tool/Magazine

EDIM 516 Pinterest link


What tools have I explored and what make me choose this one?

I went back and forth on what tools to use.  I am a big Diigo fan, but I wanted to try something different. Many of my friends and colleagues use Pinterest.  I have had an account for a while, but to be honest, I was not that thrilled with it.  It seemed like a really good way of wasting time, especially for the crafty or want to be crafty, neither of which decribes me.  But, I wanted to challenge myself as well as trust that these people that I respected were doing more than pinning DIY projects.

When I’m thinking of sources, what influences my decision?

When I first jump into research, I will be honest, I go whole hog.   I think that is why I liked Diigo so much.    I used to one of “those” people who hogged the copy machine, making tons of copies.   I like to get as many resources as possible and then cull from there.   I am never sure which way my research will go and I want to make sure that I have all avenues.   After that, I try to practice what I preach.   I teach my students to use the CRAAP test and I try to do the same.  I want current and relevant sources when I am completing research.

How many of my sources are teachers or practitioners, how many are considered experts, do I have a balance?

The board I created has an equal number of experts and practitioners.   I think at times, because of the topic I picked, it is hard to see the “expertise” of one person over another, yet it is there.  I tried to see the perspective from other viewpoints, especially from the Deaf and hearing sides.

Who else is using this tool and what do you like about they way they use it. What techniques/approaches will you include in yours?

I am introducing Symbaloo to my students this year.   I already have the “Lorentz Classes” page setup and ready to go.   I just added Pinterest to it.   While I am still a bigger fan of Diigo, I see the  benefits of other tools.   While I only have these two on my page at present, I am not unwilling to add others!

How will I look and find sources that will challenge me?

By my general dislike of Pinterest, I would say that all sources challenge me.   I was honestly expecting no resources of worth.   I was pleasantly surprised by the resources and the access I had to them.  I do have to say that I did start another board-for Halloween-so I was a bit more distracted than I would be on Feedly or Diigo, but it was more fun!


Board Builder in the Classroom

Board Builder is a web based tool that allows students access to digital media related to academic material.   Board Builder allows for visual connections to the material.  Additionally, it allows for the student to work at his or her own pace within the determined timeline of the teacher.  The potential for Board Builder is great and limitless.   


As an instructor, I appreciate how it is a gateway not only to the flipped classroom, but to post secondary expectations.  As a teacher of special education seniors, many of whom are going to college, the potential for Board Builder is fantastic.  Many times, my students are not given the same opportunities as their hearing peers.   Teachers often see them as lacking the skills needed to complete work independently.   While they may think they are protecting, they are actually enabling a misconception.  Board Builders are a building block to creating a respectful mind within this setting.  Students are treated just as their non special education peers.  Students are provided an opportunity to grow and learn as a typical student.


In regards to the ethical mind, Board Builder allows students to reach outside of their comfort zone.  They are able to work on teacher created but student driven assignments.   Students can use a variety of methods to make connections on a great plain, accessing more than just what exists in their world.   This opportunity gives students the opportunity to acknowledge those around them, to collaborate and share minds.

All in all, I like Board Builder and can see the benefits of it in my classroom and for my students.  The only downside is that it requires a paid subscription.   Since I am one teacher in a pool of many, I am not sure how likely it would be that my school would head in the direction of adopting it.  However, should it become available to me as a teacher (once this program is completed), I will jump at the chance to use it.

My Board Builder is available on the Discovery Education Website under the name “Cinderella Across Cultures”.


Cultivating the Ethical and Respectful Mind

As I watched and listened to the presentation, Julie Lindsay & Vicki Davis on “Flattening Classrooms”, I could not help but reflect on how their flattened classroom really presents an opportunity for students to develop and broaden their respectful and ethical minds (Gardner, 2008).  I also realized that the “Brick to Click” theme discussed in the presentation allowed for others to examine the abuses of the respectful and ethical mind.  Earlier this year, my students threw a curveball my way and I honestly was not able to think of an answer.   We were focused citing and making sure that the appropriate people were given credit for their work, and a huge plagiarism scandal hit the news.  My students were angry.  They wanted to know why this person was exempt from the “rules” that they had to work so hard to maintain.  We talked about integrity and pride in your work as well as a job well done, but it was challenging.  In a world that seems to increasingly try to push the limits on what is acceptable, we need to focus on what is right, respectful and ethical.  


Presenters Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis  (2014) discussed how flattening the classroom really leads to a global experience.   I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to several countries in my life.   I also have had the unique pleasure of traveling as a hearing person in the Deaf world when I attended an international conference of Deaf Education in South Africa.   While I was there, I not only learned about the world around me in which I was unaware, I also learned more about the Deaf world and culture.   Additionally, I learned how this small part of the world viewed me as an American.  I was asked more than once by students what Michael Jordan was really like in person.   Students did not understand I did not know him, they thought all Americans knew famous people.  That really touched home when they discussed how a young student from the southern United States addressed her  teacher as “sir”, a huge sign of respect, but to the teacher, it was a sign of disrespect.  I have attached this Youtube video showing how “BATHROOM” is signed in American Sign Language (ASL) and in Japanese Sign Language (JSL).  While ASL is the most commonly used and understood of the world’s sign language, due to the fact that the only university for the Deaf is in the United States and all students must sign ASL to attend, the sign for “BATHROOM” in ASL is considered a vulgar sign in most countries, therefore the “WC” sign is more acceptable.  I learned this the hard way, but it was a lesson that has stayed with me.  Every aspect of the flattened classroom is pre-planned, but these moments of global misunderstanding and understandings occur and are learning experiences.  If we stay in an isolated bubble, does true learning really happen?  As educators, we need to prepare our students for the global experience, the jobs of tomorrow.   Working across cultures is one way to do it.  The more I listened to this presentation, the more intrigued I became.   I know that I need to start out small, but this idea of joining one of the programs is of great interest to me.   I know what I will be looking into this summer.  My students are already behind the eight ball, they need all the help they can get.   Not only does a “flattened classroom” provide for worldly access, it presents language in a meaningful way, which in turn provides access to a greater ethical and respectful mind.




Gardner, H. (2008). Five minds for the future [Kindle]. Retrieved April 12, 2017.


Jslvideodayo. (2012, May 09). Lesson 28/ bathroom/ Japanese Sign Language 日本の手話. Retrieved April 12,

2017, from (2014, January 16). Julie Lindsay & Vicki Davis on “Flattening Classrooms. [Video

File]. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Spotlight on Strategies: Thinking Maps

Spotlight on Strategies: Thinking Maps

My Spotlight on Strategy addresses Thinking Maps and the need for a common language for written expression, especially in relation to special education students and English Language Learners.  As a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, my students often struggle with written expression as English is not their native language.  Unlike non-English speaking students, Deaf students have no native written language.  The language that they are expected to use is grammatically and syntactically different from their everyday expressive language. This poses quite a conundrum.  Students are often hesitant to even try to use written language.  They are aware that language is out of reach for them and do not want to even try.  Thinking Maps provide a common thread in which students and teachers can speak.  Students are no longer expected to learn and maintain new expectations for each class.   Graphic organizers are the same in each class, the language and the vocabulary are all the same.  Students need to master one set of concepts which are applicable in all areas.

As technology becomes more and more available, the use of Thinking Maps also allows students to connect with one another more easily.   I often encourage students to use Google Docs or Google Drawings to complete their respective Thinking Maps.  This way students are able to make it their own yet they are able to collaborate with one another in an immediate manner.  As an example, I have a student who is sixteen.  Prior to entering my class, he literally had not written one word in two years.  He was terrified to write.  He would sign a story, he would retell, but he would not write.  Once given the option to complete his Thinking Map on a Google Drawing, he was willing to try.  He had immediate access to sign language dictionaries to locate vocabulary he wanted to use.  He was also able to immediately see mistakes and change them.  Probably the biggest plus for him was that he was able to see that his work had value.  He tested the system, but in the end, his work earned him full credit, something that he had not earned in a long time.  While he is nowhere near writing at grade level, he is writing.  When presented with Thinking Maps and access to a computer, he will attempt to write.  All in all, I believe that Thinking Maps provide access to concepts that were previously limited to students, especially those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing.