Monthly Archives: February 2016

Coding to Write Stories & Gaming to Express Comprehension for EDET 637 Differentiating Instruction through Technology

Coding to Write Stories & Gaming to Express Comprehension

Please click on the link; wait for it to download to your computer. This is a PowerPoint Slideshow presentation: Click the slide show tab on the top, then click the green loop arrow that says “From Start.” You should see a digital transition between slides (8 seconds per slide; 13 slides) with wordless music added in.

Why Our Students Need to Learn Coding and Programming Skills and Who Benefits from Such an Education as This?

Differentiating Instruction through Technology

with Dr. Lee Graham

by Aleta May

Essential question: How are games providing new opportunities for differentiation in the classroom?

Please click on my February 28th Link to see a PowerPoint Slideshow presentation I created: “Coding to Write Stories & Gaming to Express Comprehension for EDET 637 Differentiating Instruction through Technology”

In Edison, New Jersey, the district got the opportunity in 2015 to pilot a a program that connected gifted students with students who have significant academic and social challenges. The connection between these students was four NAO (now) robots. Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) need to develop social language skills by reading cues that they do not naturally pick up on. The robots have “human-like body movements. The clean design lessens sensory information, which helps avoid overstimulation and makes social tasks easier, especially for children with autism” (PaperClip Communications Staff, 2015). A speech and language specialist stated that since these robots do not have various facial expressions, an unwavering voice, and are not judgmental, students who may not be willing to talk, will respond to the robots. In the robot programs, students learn turn taking behaviors, how to follow directions, and more. When students were coding these moves and responses, they experienced more challenges with defining the project than they did with the actual coding.

There is an app called ScratchJr that young students can use to learn coding; while has tutorials for older students where they can build a galaxy with code (Jacobson, 2016). Students learn to program codes to get their robot to a preselected place. At the ASTE Conference in Anchorage this weekend, a teacher explained how his students were learning to program codes for avatars to build walls several bricks at a time instead of the slower method, thus allowing them to create a scene from a book they are reading much more quickly. According to Welcome (2015), advises that teachers new to this skill, like myself, should go to and start with just leaning the coding lingo. Since I realize a technology company will not be sending people to our school, we could invite company community service project representatives to teach us by Skype or Google+

Since I did have the opportunity to work with teachers experienced with during my practicum, this seems like a great starting place for me to learn coding. The free-form structure encourages students to design projects where gaming in the classroom becomes a collaborative project. Designing in the multi-player mode leads students to have “profound discussions about topics that were notoriously challenging for teachers to communicate effectively” (Granata, 2016). Minecraft has become more popular than any computer game and educators are tapping into this opportunity to “use their creativity to design projects, free from the kinds of limitations they would face using traditional methods (Granata, 2016, p. 2).

Greg Hamley teaches technology to students in an elementary school. I was so encouraged when I saw his picture with a student as he use a program like crunchzilla or to draw students into coding, or just to use math games to build their math skills (Stiff, 2015). Greg was willing to learn how to teach programming skills to students and states that he has the best teaching job in the school. Students need to be prepared for the new and upcoming careers where programming skills will be needed. as an organization has “lobbied in 13 states to make computer science courses qualify as math or science credits that can be applied toward high school graduation” (Shueh, p. 43). I am also encouraged by the idea that I can teach coding, because I can Learn as I go. This has been the mantra of my life in the special education teaching field anyway. Teaching in innovative ways and differentiating are challenges I have every day.


Gow, P. (2015). A new culture of coding. Independent School, 74(2), pp. 64-70.

Granata, K. (2016). Teachers Take Advantage of Minecraft (Joel Levin interviewed) in the Classroom, Posted on Feb. 6, 2015 extracted 2-26-16

Jacobson, L. (2016). Coding’s finest hour. School Library Journal, 62(1), p. 11.

Shueh, J. (2014). Advocacy groups push coding as a core curriculum: Students must learn how to create technology to prepare for a computer-driven workforce. Government Technology.

PaperClip Communications, Inc. (2015). High school students change lives of special needs students with their coding skills. Curriculum Review, 55(2).

Stiff, H. (2015). Monforton teacher instructs coding to kids; Posted Friday, February 6, 2015 Retrieved on 2-26-16 at:

Thompson, G. (2016). THE Journal: Transforming Education Through Technology (Interview with Latta) Posted on 2-18-16; Retrieved on  2-26-16 at:

Welcome, A. (2015). Crack the code: Creativity, problem-solving, and teamwork abound when students are introduced to coding. Principal.

Reflecting from ASTE in Anchorage

EDET 637: Differentiating Instruction through Technology

with Dr. Lee Graham

Week 6 Reflection

After attending Lee’s gamification presentation today at ASTE, I went to a presentation by Jeffery Blackburn, with the primary subject being about coding, which also included a section on the He gave us permission to use the Teaching Framework plan he put together as he chunked the information on how he actually taught using with his students. This is very helpful to me.

Teaching Framework

Phase 1

~~Students must learn system navigation

file creation, copy, movements, saving their programs, etc

~~Create/Edit Programs


(this self documents their code—this is the code that opens my door, ..

and teaches communicating)

~~Write a program that prints text on the screen

~~Loops (don’t have to write hello world 10 times, it will write it for you)

Phase 2


~~Place Blocks (they can write a robot that can build them a house when

they are away)

~~Mining Blocks (robots can mine to the bottom of the earth and bring it

back up)

~~Functions (allows kids to reuse these tools over and over again—helps

you to make sure your tools …)

~~Robot is called turtle (turtle.up) every single line ends with a parenthesis

The box is a robot

Phase 3

~~Continue developing functions (code “turn around” functions)

~~introduce Variables & Math

~~Pastebin (put code in this to share with others)

Phase 4

~~Conditional Statements

~~If/Then (using if then statements

While loops …

~~Variables in loops

~~Introduction of another language

~~Video of variables in math–

~~If spelling isn’t right, you have to fix it or the code won’t work

Phase 5

~~Challenges that combine all of the above

~~YouTube Project (students create a how-to video) makes them in

YouTube style, but not posting it into actual YouTube

Phase 6

~~The choice is yours

~~Xcode—apps for iPad and iPhone are written in Xcode

Going to both sessions for really helped me put it all together better in my mind. Jeffrey also talked to us about delayed gratification and how middle school students need to see coding work quickly and easily so that they can then see the benefit of using more advanced coding. He recommended GUI types like; scratch,, and hopscotch for getting students started; before moving to the more advanced types like: gui/cmd, Kahn academy (middle of road), Terminal Based,

codecademy,, xcode . Jeffrey got me interested in digging deeper into using code to create movements for the avatars, and robots to complete the wall building without having to do so single bricks at a time.

When Jeffrey talked about Computercraft, he said Computercraft is included in now.   Some benefits to writing their own code for these games is that the student gets a code for sharing with other students making it inviting for students to collaborate. Another benefit is that the language syntax is extremely transferable (Python and Swift may be even better than Java; there is LUA). Coding is new to me, but our presenter did make us feel like we could go out on the web and teach ourselves through YouTube video clips. I did do this in my practicum last semester. I am also interested in using Minecraft to help students with math. They can immerse themselves into “real world” situations to learn how to navigate, build, and collaborate. I found this site today as I explored the web:

When I attended the Visual Literacy and the ACRL Visual Literacy Standards session on Sunday, 2:30, there was discussion about equipping the student to interpret todays bombardment of visuals, they not only need to learn how to read the message(s) from advertisements, and more, they need to learn to read different visual representations across the content areas. Reading flow charts, diagrams, scientific illustrations are examples of visual literacy focus that I can use more often as I differentiate instruction for all learners. Going the next step would be to create graphs and charts, pictograms and pictographs, infographics and maps.

I also attended a session where Trevan Walker (Principal) spoke. Here is the URL to his and Martha Fleming (Counselor):

(Shorter URL: What is important here is that they have a hybrid high school in Seward (part of the Kenai Peninsula School District). They are still developing their program to meet the needs of the students and to work with the community, of whom many members are steeped in traditional ways of doing school. Here are some things they include in their program (a program without a particular model name or label): distance delivery, dual credit through Kenai Peninsula College; internships, on-the-job-training, independent study, (mentorship/on the job training). They use a Learning Management System (LMS), as a digital parallel. The district adopted a LMS called Canvas. Teachers have been asked to create digital parallels to what they do (for example; a class wiki for discussion). Digital parallels for their school start with single platform; Canvas LMS.

Trevan Walker stated that, “A diploma should not be based on a students willingness/ability to conform . . .” I have agreed with this for a long, long time.

After attending a session at the end of the day called “How Should Universal Design for Learning Look in the Classroom?; I could see how much more opportunity there is now for us to accommodate the needs of all learners in the classroom. Differentiated Instruction (DI) certainly includes the Special Education law as the presenter displayed for us: Assistive technology enables children with disabilities to participate more fully in all aspects of life…and helps them access their right to a free appropriate education in the least restrictive environment   CPIR, 2015

Office of special education programs U.S. Department of Education

But it is simplified too when we just think about education technologies that are available to us to support students with disabilities. Here are a few he listed for writing:

Google translate app —presently it depends on wireless; will later be; type in autodetect and type in dog and it will acknowledge it is English to English

claropdflight app

snapntype app

After writing this, I can begin to sort out how much I learned about the why of using technology in the classroom along the pathway of learning and practicing how. This has been a busy weekend. Tomorrow will provide yet more information. It is very timely for me, as I am in two Educational Technology courses right now; and I had the great opportunity to meet and listen to my professor in person; Dr. Lee Graham.

In the meantime, I have been adding my explorations to a group wiki project as each of five students have been researching Assistive Technology for this Differentiation class. I felt so proud of myself when I could upload a pdf graphic organizer from a site I found, and make it interactive on the computer by the iAnnotate app I located.

Next, I will go through and view those of my group members, and make the changes one group member advised for me to make.


Parent Involvement and Differentiation Pursuits Reflections

Differentiating Instruction through Technology, EDET737

Reflection for Week 3

Posted on WordPress on 2-7-16

Parent Involvement and Differentiation Pursuits Reflections

by Aleta May

What are some ways I can involve parents in understanding differentiation in my classroom? What is next for me in this pursuit?

As I reflect back on this week, the topic of communicating with parents regarding differentiation really made me think about how there are many different ways to reach out to parents. When we were in a class Twitter Session, the topic of involving the parents of middle to secondary school students came up in that it is more difficult to get parents to come to the school. I wonder if part of that is that parents, especially at the high school level, feel that their older child does not really want them to come. As I recall being a middle and high school student in Anchorage, parents only came to things like the middle school concert. I was in band, then orchestra then. I don’t recall parents walking around the halls of the school, maybe rarely. Maybe as an educator now, I can consider that this non-participation is still part of the school culture and help drive plans to reverse this.

When I read Kate Mullin’s blog, I was really impressed to see the 4C’s we read about; Collaboration, Creativity, Communication, and Critical thinking; set up so creatively in her post. I have a very inspirational wall décor in my home that presents the words as a sort of pictogram. Kate’s presentation would look great as an inspirational word wall for older students. She also presented an example letter to parents about what differentiation will look like in her science class. I think what inspired me so much about this letter was the specific/professional yet as a teacher who truly understands the need to reassure parents that differentiation just means an appropriate challenge for every child in the class.

Catherine’s blog inspired me to think back on an event I encountered when parents have felt ignored for many years. I was folded into this as a new teacher and had been given no prior warning that these parents felt the way they did. The way it affects me in the present, is to think about how to some parents, I represent many experiences they have had either as a parent speaking with other teachers or principals, or even events that occurred when they were in school. This is a reminder to me to remain compassionate and to always realize that when our paths cross, we tend to make unfounded assumptions about each other.

Bringing in teacher made games from the internet is something new to me; with the exception of participating in a Givercraft experience last semester where students expressed their reading comprehension from a novel by building in a game. During our Twitter Session on Wednesday, our instructor provided a link that I want to pursue:

From here I found a gaming link I want to try with one of my students: The student becomes a two-year old gray wolf born in the Northern Range of Yellowstone National Park. It will cost $10. but I’ll put it on my iPad for future use as well. I believe that the more I participate in these types of quests, the more creative I will be in creating my own quests.

In this fast paced world with family members going in so many directions, It is more important than ever to keep parents connected to the school lives of their children, across the grade levels. Parents need to receive acknowledgement for their contributions of time and involvement, no mater how small or how big. Families go through many stages and situations over time. There may be times where involvement is easier than at other times of their child’s school career. When parents are reached out to through multiple ways, they can be made to feel important to the teachers and school community.

Differentiating Classrooms With Parent Involvement

Week 3 Blog for Differentiation Class

Aleta May

Essential question: How do we prepare parents for differentiation in the classroom?

A game to come–still wondering how to create a game for this blog post; I’m thinking maybe a web quest.

After reading Chapter 7 from Tomlinson’s book (2001), parents need to know and understand why their child is taught at a different level of work from their classmates. Teachers communicate this in several different ways. One way is to communicate with parents at a parent night that just as every child did not learn to walk, speak, or ride a bike at the same age, they will not progress at the exact same rate as their peers in reading, writing and math at school. When looking at where students are at the present time, in most cases, they all can speak, for example, now that they are in middle school. Mr. Wade, in a case example, according to Tomlinson, said “He helps the parents realize that school is a progression of life . . . He cannot force them to match the kid at the next table” (2001, p. 41). It is so important that students start from a point that is challenging to them, growing from a point determined from ongoing assessment! It may be necessary to “systematically show parents how a differentiated classroom acknowledges and bulds on children’s strengths, provides opportunities to bolster weaker areas, keeps track of individual growth, and promotes engagement and excitement” (Tomlinson, 2014, P. 167).

I am not completely (only partially) sure how to answer the question of how do we do this when teachers are told they must teach at the students’ grade level. However, I do know, and agree with Tomlinson, that “. . . learning is impaired when students feel overtaxed, afraid, and out of control” (2001, p. 43). Parents need to understand this concept, and we as teachers are obliged to determine ways to teach students at their personal point of challenge (instructional level); without either teaching at their frustration level (where they are likely to act out or withdraw into a corner) or at a level that does not provide enough challenge to students accustomed to hearing repeats of information they have already learned.

The article, Wonderful Wednesdays (2004), not only brings out the importance of involving parents in the education of their child, but described an excellent way to accomplish this. When I return to Oregon two times a year, I have been invited to participate in my grandchildren’s classrooms. Last spring I went to both classrooms (Rheylene was in 2nd grade and Van was in 1st grade at the time). In Rheylene’s class, I walked into the classroom, and the teacher did not even acknowledge that I was there; although I walked right past her desk and spent about 30 minutes in her class. Students were working at their desks independently, and I was unsure if it was okay to sit near Rheylene to encourage her or not—the atmosphere felt tense to me. In Van’s classroom, I was quickly put to work folding and stapling leveled reading booklets. Definitely, I did not feel I had a choice in how I spent my time in class, and would much rather have participated with students learning their vowel team sounds chorally. So this quote resonates with me when the author speaks about parents dropping in on Wonderful Wednesdays, however frequently they wish, and at any time of day on the schedule already sent home ahead of time: “I keep these days structured around workshop-type activities and ask parents to join us as full participants. They’re not there to be helpers or passive observers. . . to see a show or to be the show. . . Rather . . . to experience day-to-day life in our classroom in a safe and comfortable way” (Responsive Classrooms, 2004, p. 1).

Sometimes teachers may believe that parents are “indifferent to educational issues” (Zurcher, 2016, p. 368). And like Tomlinson (2001) states, parents have many reasons for not coming to the school, but rarely is it because they do not care deeply about how their children are doing in school. Along the lines of the Wonderful Wednesdays (2004) article, Melinda Zurcher sees great value in inviting parents to be involved in their child’s education by participating in a more natural way (2016). For example, students in her elementary writer’s workshop class were connected to home writing projects. Parents were also gently instructed in ways they could encourage their child to write with three rules: “(1) Focus on the meaning. (2) Offer help when asked. (3) Extend the learning in one or two ways” (Zurcher, 2016, p. 370). The children had an authentic audience to share writing with at home. Parents understood that their children were developing writers and how important they were in helping in this process.

An idea for involving parents in creating a successful, differentiated learning environment at the high school level is to partner with the school in allowing students to “bring your own device” (BYOD) for the purpose of having access to school internet on their own phones or tablets to help them find resources for assignments at school (Kiger, 2015). In order for there to be by in with, parents need to be involved in policy making. Further, it is vital that parents are continuously kept informed if we are to bridge over to them for involvement in our endeavors to reach each student. Parents are actively sought out for feedback through emails, surveys and school-sponsored websites (Alcena, 2014). This may involve “teaching adults about technology” (Schorr, p. 7).

The overarching theme is that teachers need to engage students to learn at an appropriate level of challenge to each. We need to partner with parents in order for this to happen. In busy lives of parents today, parent-teacher partnerships will need to be developed through multiple avenues and in more inviting, relaxed, and individualized ways.


 Alcena, F. M. (2014). Parental involvement and its impact on student achievement

in florida virtual school. Distance Learning, 11(2), pp. 25-32.

Kiger, D. (2015). Bring your own device: Parental guidance (PG) suggested.

(Association for Educational Communications and Technology).  

                Tech Trends, 59(5), pp. 51-61.

Responsive Classrooms (2004, November). Wonderful Wednesdays. Responsive

            Classroom Information Library. Retrieved from

Schorr, J. A. (illustrator). A parent’s guide to 21st-century learning (2012).

  Retrieved from The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

 Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms,  

            2nd ed., pp.39-44. Association for Surpervision & Curriculum Development

(ASCD), 16-26.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2014). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the

            needs of all learners, 2nd. ed.  Alexandria, VA: Development

Association for Surpervision & Curriculum. (ASCD).

Zurcher, M. A. (2016). Partnering with parents in the writing classroom.

          The Reading Teacher, 69(4).

Mind Maps and Learning From Classmates

Aleta May

Reflection for Week 2 EDET 637 Differentiating Instruction Through Technology          with Dr. Graham

January 31, 2016

This week we added a mind map to our blog. I tried both sights listed: and I found to be easier to navigate and use, however, I found much more versatile. After posting a mind map from, I went to to create another style of mind map. I did upgrade my account, and had much fun adding in pictures.

Sally’s post inspired me to try to post my mind map directly onto my most rather than just having a link to it. I tried doing the same thing with my mind map that as well. I was not successful in either, but I did edit my blog and add another mind map, this time from

This was my week for experiencing technology glitches in both classes. In my Ethics class, I went to “Ask Lee” to figure out how to edit my blog to add in a reference I had left out inadvertently. In the WordPress blog for this differentiation class, I clicked something that left my reply to Sally saying– Your comment is awaiting moderation. And my comment to her posted to my blog! Was this when I clicked the “reblog” button?

Regardless of these issues, as well as spending much time navigating to learn how to create a mind map there, I learned how to use tools for organizing information for myself, for organizing ideas I want to teach my students, and for summarizing my thoughts much like I would by using Twitter. Also, I would use to start with for teaching students to organize their own thoughts.

It is really rewarding to receive responses. Tessie quoted me! We have common ground as special education teachers, so she could relate what I said about including students in groups where they can participate, even if it is partial participation.

As I wrote this blog, I was able to gather my thoughts on how the strategies we have been taught in professional development trainings over the last three or four years are so important for differentiating learning for students. What struck me too is that teaching and learning online is very much the same in that we need to use best practice by selecting strategies that best suit the needs of all of our students. There are benefits to both online and face-to-face learning environments, as well as drawbacks in both. By using strategies we learn for face-to-face learning environments, we are using these same principles in web 2.0 environments; such as discussion groups. Our students need to learn to use both so they can collaborate both in person with peers (and future coworkers) and with coworkers across the continents. Businesses are becoming more and more global each day. We need to add to this experience direct teaching of how to recognize differences and respect people across a variety of cultural environments. Otherwise, our students may misread the intensions of peoples with different beliefs, values and traditions. I am still working on communicating with people from my village; listening more than I speak is definitely important here.