Course and Self Reflections

Part 1

This class (541) has really improved my understanding of how to specifically implement a variety of technologies into the classroom.  What I really appreciated was the all-encompassing aspect of how technology could assist a teacher. Before this course, I thought of technology integration as a student centered component of the classroom.  I thought it was all about providing students with the opportunities to do projects using computers or the Internet.  Now I see that it is also includes tools for the teacher to plan, collaborate, grade, and assess students as well.

I follow the Constructivist theory.  I believe that scaffolding tasks is essential.  I believe that every student is different and there is not a single model that can serve all students. I believe that students learn best when they learn from each other.  For all these reasons, I know that this educational theory fits my teaching style best and that technology really aids this model of teaching.

I have thought a lot about the concept of relative advantage, and making sure that the use of technology in the classroom is really the most beneficial to the teachers, students, and the school (i.e. cost and implementation). I do believe that in the past I used technology for the sake of using technology, without clearly thinking about its relative advantage to the classroom or curriculum.  Because of this, I think I wasted curriculum time that would have been better spent utilizing other technologies or choosing a more traditional paper and pencil activity instead.

Every week was a like a personal professional development workshop.  I learned so much about different applications (Prezi, Glogster, Google Docs, website creation, document sharing) that I immediately began implementing into my classroom and sharing with other teachers and colleagues.  I found this aspect of the course the most rewarding, because it is was so practical and relevant to the classroom.

Part 2

Content – (70)Outstanding – I feel that I met the requirements for Outstanding because I always made sure my posts were on topic, connected to real life teaching, and provided details and discussion that provoked thought and reflection in others.

Readings and Resources – (20)Outstanding – I feel like this was probably my best category.  I worked very diligently to scour the assigned text for relevant and pertinent insights to connect our weekly readings and assignments to my blog entries.  I also did extensive research online and made a consistent effort to utilize outside sources to add extra information and examples to my blog entries.

Timeline – (15)Proficient- I do not feel that I met this category at the Outstanding level.  Even though on average I submitted earlier than the majority of the class, my posts were not always posted early in the week.  I often did not get posts up until the weekend, which only left a few days for others to review.

Response to Others –  (25)Proficient+ – Though I usually responded to at least 2 other posts per week, I know that there were a few occasions when I did not meet this standard.

130/140

Accessibility on My Computer

I am using a relatively new Toshiba laptop with a Windows 7 operating system.  The standard Microsoft “East of Access Center” is part of the programming with tools for: disabling the display (for blind operators), optimizing visual displays through contrast control or magnification, disabling mouse and keyboard (through onscreen keyboards used with joystick or voice commands), keyboard and mouse optimization for speed of use or dexterity, and visual notifications for sound (for the hearing impaired). 

The display disabling is a nice feature that save battery life, but unless it is being used in coordination with several other tools it is basically just turning your monitor off.  The innate accessibility tools I found the most useful for use with students with special needs were the mouse and keyboard tools.  Slowing down the mouse movements or clicks for a student with dexterity control issues would be a great feature to help decrease frustration I often see when students are asked to double click or maneuver across the screen.  Likewise, the “sticky key” option was great.  At my school every student is required to hold and click CTRL+ALT+DELETE upon starting the computer and logging in.  This is a difficult task for some students requiring them to ask other students or a teacher to open the computer for them, but the “sticky key” function would solve that. Another great tool was the magnifier, which enables a visually impaired student to magnify a screen for better reading when not on the internet. Internet Explorer and Google Chrome both have native magnification tools within their programs. 

The Microsoft tool I found the least useful and the most upsetting was the Narrator function.  Basically, it is a text to speech screen reader application.  However, the setting functions leave much to be desired.  After several attempts I had to just turn it off, because it was just reading everything: web addresses, buttons, key strokes, everything. I did a few more searches online and found several reviews with similar complaints regarding its lack of user control.  This is really a shame, because I feel that this tool of all others, could have added accessibility to highest number of students: visually impaired, low readers, and ELLs. 

Another feature pre-installed on my laptop was Voice Recognition software. O’Connor (2011) suggests that “For students who struggle with the writing process because of physical access difficulties, vision impairments or specific learning difficulties, this software is a possible assisitive technology solution.” After a quick tutorial, I was able to enable the software and began using it right away using only the microphone installed on my laptop.  I even typed several sentences in this essay using the voice recognition software.  The only problem I had was with my children talking in the background; however that problem would have been solved by a headset microphone.  The major downfall of voice recognition software are the long lists of varying commands.  It certainly would not be accessible to a young child.  O’Connor (2011) recommends vetting a number of other options for students with special needs “before tackling the challenge of learning how to use speech recognition.”

Though my computer came pre-installed with many accessibility tools, they were all very generic.  Obviously, schools will need to think more specifically to the needs of their special education students.  Roblyer and Doering (2013) discuss the two types of technology that districts need to consider: assisitive technology and instructional technology. Where “no-tech” solutions are possible, that is the clear advantage.  However, some students’ needs are so great that “high-tech” solutions must be considered, and sometime they must be considered specifically for the individual students.  The goal is to “make the curriculum accessible, [so] students with disabilities have the same opportunities to learn as their peers” (Roblyer and Doering, 2013).

 Sources: 

O’Connor, G. (2011, February 27). Speech Recognition Software – An Assistive Technology Solution for the Classroom | The Spectronics Blog. Retrieved April 21, 2013, from http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/web-links/1796/

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

Adversity in Technology

Technology Adversity                          

The 21st century commands that technology and teaching be synchronous.  Language Arts teachers especially have been encouraged to incorporate a slew of technologies in an effort to increase skills for various reading and writing standards.  The stress of raising achievement through the assessment of standardized tests have led districts to find avenues in technology to increase their abilities to collect data on student achievement as well as to bolster the effectiveness of classroom instruction.  Language arts curriculums have changed in recent decades to include new forms of literacy that essentially require the use of technology by teachers and students.  Digital literacy, as described by Roblyer and Doering (2013), is the need for today’s students to not only understand text of a variety of genres and formats but to understand the devices and technologies used to house them.  This requirement is in a continued effort to increase informational literacy.  Informational literacy can be described as a skill set students use when doing research for projects and papers (Roblyer and Doering, 2013). 

 Robyler and Doering (2013) relate the opinions of experts who “agree that adequate funding can determine the success or failure of even the best technology plans” and therefore must implement strategies for “optimizing available funds.”  However, too often schools focus their attention on purchasing the technologies or licenses to use technology and fail to reserve funding for proper training.  Burns (2010) summarizes a report from Walden University which determined: “Despite access to technology and despite the fact that novice teachers are entering the classroom with far more advanced technology skills than their counterparts of an earlier age, only 39 percent of teachers report ‘moderate’ or ‘frequent’ use of technology as an instructional tool.”  Burns (2010) goes on to discuss findings by the NEA that teachers feel “that the instruction they receive in technology integration, whether online or face-to-face, is still too focused on learning how to use the software versus integrating it into the teaching and learning process.”  Burns (2010) suggests that what teacher technology trainings lack is the emphasis on integration into the classroom.  Though teachers are trained on the equipment and software they are being asked to incorporate into the classroom, they are not being trained or provided time to properly plan and coordinate with their colleagues

Schools might consider reevaluating their strategies when attempting to incorporate new technologies.  To receive the highest level of relative advantage, it might behoove schools to consider less technology. When creating interventions to raise scores within the language arts classrooms, cooperative planning days for their language arts teachers should be considered rather than new technologies.  Teachers can design ways to utilize current technologies or even research free resources that can be used online.

Sources:

Burns, M. (2010, September). elearn Magazine: How to Help Teachers Use Technology in the Classroom. Retrieved April 18, 2013, from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=1865476

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

Literacy Education’s New Frontier: Gym Class

There has been a shift in education – a shift that has changed an American tradition in education. Students must now read in gym class. “Spurred by an intensifying focus on student test scores in math and English as well as a desire to incorporate more health and fitness information,” school districts and physical education teachers have had to recreate the American gym class in a way that no longer resembles the nostalgic view of gym class most Americans hold (Rich, 2013).</p

Computers can hold a huge relative advantage for p.e. teachers looking to increase literacy activities into gym class. Khun (2001) explains that “computers can be extremely helpful in providing learners with opportunities to explore information across the curriculum in a highly motivating manner.” The National Physcial Education Standardsf have moved their focus from sports education to health literacy, “the capacity of individuals to obtain, interpret, and understand basic health information along with the competence to use such information to enhance health” (Roblyer and Doering, 2013).

Introductory activities or homework assignments that include reading, researching, and writing, about sports and health related topics online are only a few of the ways that technology can be integrated into the gym curriculum. There are a multitude of programs out there including calorie trackers or exercise and fitness programs that students can be asked to use to track and understand their own fitness levels. “The interactive nature of these sites has the potential to engage students with their research to a greater degree than would usually be the case with more traditional methods” found in gym class like pen and paper journals or exercise check lists (Khun, 2001).

This shift in physical education curriculum is an effort to extend literacy objectives and skills into non-core classrooms. The relative advantage technology brings to the table cannot be overlooked.

For additional resources on using technology in gym class, check out this site: http://www.internet4classrooms.com/links_grades_kindergarten_12/physical_education_pe_health.htm

Resources:

Kuhn, M. (2001, April). Taking computers out of the corner: Making technology work in the classroom. Reading Online, 4(9). Retreived April 13, 2013. Available: http://www.readingonline.org/electronic/elec_index.asp?HREF=/electronic/kuhn/index.html

Rich, M. (2013, February 18). Gym Class Isn’t Just Fun and Games Anymore – NYTimes.com. Retrieved April 13, 2013, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/education/gym-class-isnt-just-fun-and-games-anymore.html?_r=0

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

Traveling the Information Highway with CARS

Most modern educators would agree that integrating the Internet into classroom learning activities is important when planning for today’s digital native students.  However, not everything on the Internet is valuable and worthwhile for students to see or use while working on an academic activity.  Even with the revised Children’s Internet Protection Act (2008) that requires schools and libraries receiving e-rate funding to have filter and monitoring software in place as well as curriculum initiatives designed to educate students on appropriate online behavior and cyber bullying, keeping students safe on the Internet is still a concern (Capital Area Intermediate Unit 15, 2013).  The problem lies in the fact that “students frequently accept as authoritative any information they find on the Internet” (Roblyer and Doering, 2013).  There are considerations and steps teachers can follow to minimize the danger online as well as help students to become savvier Internet users. An important aspect of Internet safety and responsibility is the accessibility of inappropriate content available online to students.

Even with the best school web-filtering websites students will still have a chance of stumbling onto inappropriate content.  Pornographic sites are always a big concern, but the reality of that is students recognize immediately when they are on a pornographic site and that it is inappropriate.  Every classroom, if not school or district, should have a policy in place for reporting such websites so that they can be added to the filtered list.

A more dangerous example of inappropriate content is the use of websites that present highly biased or purposely false information.  Schools and teachers should be presenting students with neutral and factual information and teaching them the necessary skills to become lifelong learners and reasonable arguers.  To do this either the teacher must comprise the list of all Internet resources for the students, which doesn’t really teach the student to be self-sufficient; or the teacher must teach the students to properly evaluate web resources for usefulness and validity.

Publisher McGraw-Hill (2001) describes on their Higher Education website a very useful source evaluation tool by the acronym CARS (Credibility Accuracy Reasonableness Support).  This checklist can be used to assess “the quality of a source,” though the instructions point out that not all sources will meet each criterion they can still be a valuable source.  Teach students to ask questions about their sources.

Credibility:

–       Is the evidence presented sufficient (is there enough)?

–       Are the arguments and information rational?

–       Can a logical conclusion be made from the information presented?

Accuracy:

–       Is the information up to date?

–       Is the information specific (not vague)?

–       Is the information unbiased (not emotional or filled with sweeping generalities)?

Reasonableness:

–       Is the language calm and factual (or is it inflammatory and immature)?

–       Is the information believable (or does the site make exaggerated claims)?

–       Is the information presented with relevance to importance (or does it overstate its importance)?

–       Is the information presented by a neutral party (or is there a conflict of interest)?

Support:

–       Does the website present a list of sources?

–       Is there a bibliography or other form of documentation?

–       Is there contact information for the creator/poster?

–       Can the information be verified through other sources?

Teaching students to evaluate their resources before using them on a project or information gathering activity can decrease the dangers of the students absorbing false or fraudulent information.  This evaluation method is a useful life skill that the students can impart into their own passions and interests, not just school projects.  It is better to teach responsible Internet usage than to block the Internet.  There will be no filters on their computers when the students are adults after all.

Resources for more information on evaluating sources online:

EDSITEment – http://edsitement.neh.gov/reference-shelf/tips-for-better-browsing/evaluating-online-resources

OWL at Purdue – http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/553/04/

YouTube – www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlqZSg5ER6A

Columbia University Library – http://library.columbia.edu/indiv/undergrad/evaluating_web.html

References:

Capital Area Intermediate Unit 15 (2013, March 10). CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act). E-rate In Pennsylvania. Retrieved March 24, 2013, from http://www.e-ratepa.org/PDFs/CIPA.pdf

McGraw-Hill (2001). Source Evaluation Tutor: CARS. McGraw Hill Education: Higher Education. Retrieved March 24, 2013, from http://www.mhhe.com/socscience/english/allwrite3/seyler/ssite/seyler/se03/cars.mhtml

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

Tear Down the Garden Walls: Bring Social Media into the Classroom

To access my VoiceThread presentantion click this link (transcript and resources provided):

https://voicethread.com/share/4312128/

Transcript:

Filled with misinformation, sexual predators, and explicitly inappropriate content the Internet can be a dangerous place for children.  The fear that many educational entities have for allowing students free-range of this powerful but unpredictable tool is understandable.  However, the idea that that educational institutions can somehow create safe little walled-gardens of Internet access for their students through a controlled and, quite frankly, censored form of the Internet is both socially and educationally irresponsible. 

In today’s modern world, social interconnectivity through virtual technology is the standard.  In December of 2012 Topsfield reported that “one billion people use Facebook” and that “if Facebook was a country, it would be the third-largest in the world.”  Picardo (2010) suggests that “social networking online has rapidly become the principal means of communication for the current generation of teenagers.”  Teaching practices should “reflect these social changes and conform to the needs and expectations of today’s students” (Picardo 2010) instead of blocking access to the Internet and insisting on maintaining past practices of teaching and assessment of students that do not take into account the changing nature of the students themselves. 

It would be more responsible of educational institutions to incorporate social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest into classroom activities and teach students how to utilize these tools for educational purposes and utilize them responsibly than for schools and teachers to ignore them.  With sufficient guidelines and monitoring, “social media can become a valuable and interactive teaching tool” (Osborne 2012) that can be used to “encourage communication and inquisitiveness among students, with the overarching objective of enhancing teaching and learning by improving both teacher-student and student-student communication” (Picardo 2010).

The use of social media does not have to be restrained to a local use within and among the students of one classroom.  The Internet can and should be used to provide students with access to global resources and interactions. Cofino (2009) suggests that “adding a global component is not only possible, but necessary to prepare students for our increasingly connected world.” 

A variety of resources are available online for creating global projects in the classroom:

-ePals is a great resource to help students connect to other students around the world.  It is completely secure with internally monitored e-mail accounts!

-Facebook Groups can be developed to link students with other people interested in similar topics you are discussing in class.  Teachers can create the groups and selectively invite users from global networks or other classrooms to participate or share in discussions and posts.

-Flat Classrooms is a global network used to connect middle and high school classrooms.  This teaching project encourages global collaboration and helps create students who are competitive and globally-minded. 

A commitment by educators to teaching 21st century skills including social media responsibility and global connectivity will ensure a more well-rounded student who can function within the the wall-less plain that is the World Wide Web.  Rather than limiting access to the web, schools should be seeking out Web 2.0 tools to aide them in the classroom.

 

 

Resources:

Cofino, K. (2009, October 4). How To Connect Your Students Globally | always learning [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://kimcofino.com/blog/2009/10/04/how-to-connect-your-students-globally/

Osborne, C. (2012, April 2). Ways to use Facebook effectively in class | ZDNet. ZDNet | Technology News, Analysis, Comments and Product Reviews for IT Professionals. Retrieved March 13, 2013, from http://www.zdnet.com/blog/igeneration/ways-to-use-facebook-effectively-in-class/15269

Picardo, J. (2010, February 16). Technology and Education | Box of Tricks. Box of Tricks – Technology and Education. Retrieved March 13, 2013, from http://www.boxoftricks.net/2010/02/microblogging-making-the-case-for-social-networking-in-education

Topsfield, J. (2012, December 1). T is for teaching. The Age – Business, World & Breaking News | Melbourne, Australia. Retrieved March 13, 2013, from http://www.theage.com.au/national/t-is-for-teaching-20121130-2amd9.html