Category Archives: reflection

Final Reflection

I can’t believe it, but this week was our last class! This semester has really flown by. It’s hard to believe that this was my last semester of regular classes- I’ll be student teaching in the spring!

After this semester is over, I will have officially completed my IT Certificate! I’m so glad that I decided to do this program. I’ve learned about so many valuable technology tools that can be used in education, and I can’t wait to try them out in my future classroom. Making engaging lesson plans is something that I enjoy doing (and not to toot my own horn, but according to my professors, it is something that I excel at as well!), and incorporating a variety of Web 2.0 tools will enhance my lesson plans and make learning more interesting, engaging, and relatable for my students.

FAVORITE WEB 2.0 TOOLS

My favorite Web 2.0 tools that we have used in Webpage Technologies are:
Pixlr
Animoto
Voki
Amara
Tackk

All of these tools are engaging, vibrant, free, and easy to use. I can use these tools to create educational materials for my lessons, and I can also give my students assignments and projects where they need to use these tools as well.

I also really enjoyed using WordPress, both to run this blog and create my digital accessibility website, Digital Accessibility Now.I had heard of WordPress, but had never actually used it, and I like how easy it is to use and how professional it makes the blogs look. And I had no idea that WordPress could be used to make a website, so I thought that was pretty cool!

I’ve enjoyed all but one of the Web 2.0 tools that we’ve learned about and used in Webpage Technologies. Which brings me to my next point…

GOSH DARN GOOGLE SITES!

A picture of a man with a frustrated expression.
Frustrated by Kay Kim is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Come on, Google! I really expected better from you, especially since your other apps are so efficient and useable. This seems to be the one thing you haven’t gotten right yet.

Working with Google sites was a lot more frustrating than I thought it would be. I found it confusing to navigate, and I was annoyed that there wasn’t really an autosave feature, unlike Google’s other apps. At first, I couldn’t get my pictures to show up, and when they did, they would randomly disappear. The spacing between sections on a page seemed to change every time I opened the page. Sometimes random things would go missing, and other things wouldn’t go away. I couldn’t control the page order or embed my Voki.

My list of complaints is seemingly endless, I know, but I just plain don’t like Google sites. WordPress is much easier and more straightforward to use, and I find the WordPress templates more visually appealing and professional looking as well. My suggestion for this class in the future is to have Google sites be optional to use for the final project. A lot of us seemed to have trouble with it and would have preferred to use WordPress.

I did eventually get the hang of using Google sites when making my final project, Adopt, Don’t Shop, which is a website all about why you should adopt a pet from an animal shelter or rescue group instead of buying from a pet store or breeder. I’m pretty proud of it, so feel free to check it out!

If you’re trying to use Google sites and you’re having a hard time, the below tutorial might help!

SO LONG, FAREWELL…

Overall, this class exceeded my expectations. I learned how to do basic code, create my own website, and use a variety of awesome Web 2.0 tools. I also learned about important issues such as digital accessibility, copyright, and making online content interesting. Coming into this class, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and my knowledge of Web 2.0 tools was limited. I had never made a webpage before, and Tumblr was the only blogging experience I had. Now I have a lot of new skills under my belt, and plenty of ideas that I’m excited to try with my future students. These skills and the IT Certificate that I’ve earned will make me a more marketable teacher as well, which is definitely a must in this economy.

I’m much more excited about incorporating technology into my classroom, and I feel like a whole new world has opened up for me!


And with that, I’m afraid it’s time to say goodbye. Now that this class is over, I will no longer be posting on this blog- my plate will be full with student teaching next semester! Thank you to everyone who has followed this blog for the past few months! See you on the flip side.

Web Accessibility: Empowerment, Not Exclusion

Our topic for this week is web accessibility, which essentially means that people with disabilities can use the web. This includes people with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities- any disability that effects web access. Web accessibility is important because…

  • The web is becoming increasingly important in many aspects of our lives.
  • All people need equal access and equal opportunity, and an accessible web can help people with disabilities to actively participate in society.
  • Now that the internet is such a large part of our lives, it needs to be held to the same standards as the offline world when it comes to accessibility.
  • Rather than forcing people with disabilities to fix themselves and adapt, accessibility fixes the world and makes it more inclusive.

Reading the various articles in this week’s module taught me a lot about web accessibility and how various disabilities affect how people use the web. I was surprised at how many disabilities affect web usage; for example, I had no idea that anxiety and depression could cause a web user to be distracted easily while browsing a site.

It was also interesting to learn how web accessibility benefits everyone, including people without disabilities. Older people, people with health conditions, people with temporary disabilities (such as a broken arm), people with low literacy or who do not know a language well, and people with a slow internet connection can all benefit from accommodations on the web. Even people experiencing situational limitations, such as being in a loud environment or in bright sunlight, benefit from web accessibility.

When I read How to Make Your Blog Accessible to Blind Readers, it really made me think about whether or not my blog was accessible to people how have disabilities. I realized that when I first started making this blog, I wasn’t really thinking about accessibility. Because I don’t have any disabilities that prevent me from using the web, it’s easy for me to take things like this for granted. I consulted WordPress’s Accessibility Support Page as well, and I realized that my blog did in fact have accessibility issues for people with visual impairments. I made the following changes:

  1. I put alt text on all of my images so that people using screen readers or who cannot see the images for any other reason (such as a slow internet connection) can get a description of each image.
  2. I changed my links so that they do not open in a separate tab. I had thought that opening a new tab would be more convenient, but I learned that this can be disorienting for visually impaired people.
  3. I switched my theme. After consulting WordPress’s list of Accessibility-Ready Themes and seeing that my theme wasn’t on there, I switched to Twenty Fourteen because it was specifically listed as fully accessible- and it’s a beautiful theme, too! This meant that I had to resize and tweak my banner as well.

So many aspects of web accessibility seem like common sense, but it can be easy to forget to include them, especially if you’re lucky enough to not have any disabilities that affect your usage of the web. This is why it’s so important to include and plan for accessibility from the very beginning, not as an afterthought or separate entity.

Web accessibility empowers people with disabilities rather than excluding them, and that is why it is so important.

Want to learn more? This video by David Berman discusses why web accessibility is important and how we all have a social responsibility to make the web more accessible:

Featured Photo Credit: Giant Ginkgo via Compfight cc 

Self Reflection

From an early age, I’ve always loved to write.

I kept diaries from kindergarten all through high school, chronicling the many ups and downs of my life. In high school, I took as many English electives as I could, and I wrote for the school paper and literary magazine. Creative writing has always been a passion of mine as well; I write fiction, poetry, and even songs, although I consider myself as primarily a fiction writer.

As an English major, writing is a bigger part of my life than ever. Whether it’s completing a short analysis of a text for homework, banging out a research paper, or creating a short story for a creative writing elective, odds are I’m usually writing something.

When I tell people I’m an English major, I usually get “Oh, so you must like writing papers.”

Actually, no. I HATE writing papers.

I hate the blank Word doc glaring at me, reminding me how much work I have to do and how little brain power I actually have to do it. I hate the tedium of finding quotes and sources and doing citations. Most of all, I hate having such a great idea in my head but struggling to put it coherently on paper (I have this problem with fiction writing too). Or worse: thinking my idea is great but realizing halfway through the paper, with a sinking feeling in my stomach, that it isn’t really going anywhere.

See, once I think of that truly great idea and really get rolling (usually with the help of lots of coffee), I can write a pretty darn good paper. But it’s the process of setting it up that kills me. My brain decides to shut off when I need it most, then I end up procrastinating and hating myself for it later. That Spongebob episode where he needs to write an essay for boating school has become the story of my life.

I’d say that the weaknesses in my writing are my organization and details. I sometimes find myself going on a tangent, or glossing over something that should be explained better, or just saying the same thing in different ways. The thing is, this is 100% preventable, and the best way for me to do it is PLANNING. If I want to write a successful paper, I need to follow a specific process:

  1. Write all my thoughts out, look over my notes, and put together a thesis from this imaginary pile of ideas that I dumped out of my brain.
  2. Make as detailed an outline as possible, including supporting points, quotes, and sources.
  3. Write the paper using this outline.
  4. Proofread and edit.
  5. Turn in the final draft and CELEBRATE! Another paper down.

If I follow this process, writing the paper seems like much less of a monumental task. And if I don’t? To put it bluntly, usually the paper ends up sucking. The aforementioned writing flaws come out in full force.

The hardest part of this process is finding the motivation to actually DO IT. Sometimes, my brain just doesn’t want to work, and writing is like pulling teeth. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to be productive in my room (the library is a must) and I can’t concentrate unless there’s a decent amount of caffeine running though my veins. It might take me a while to get going, but once I do, I can’t be stopped. I’ve worked all though the night on a paper just because I knew that if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to start again.

My brain may be a fickle jerk, but when it actually is working, I can create something great. And there’s nothing like the feeling of finishing a paper that you worked hard on and that you know is awesome. I still hate writing papers and would much rather be writing fiction, but an English major’s work is never done! At least someday I’ll be grading papers instead of writing them.

What’s your writing process like? Do you struggle with the demon of procrastination too? How do you stay motivated when writing? Feel free to share in the comments!

Photo Credit: Auntie P via Compfight cc