Saturday, February 2, 2013

Why Aren't We Using the New Stuff?

Everyone likes getting something new.  It has a smell, feel, provides the owner with a specific emotion.  Yet, when it comes to technology, everyone wants to hide behind their PowerPoints throwing their hands up at the thought of learning a new way to present information.  Why?  If we all like new things, why aren't we devouring the new technology our world presents us with annually?

In many classrooms today, smart boards are as common as a dry erase or chalk board. Wait, chalk? What's that?  Anyway, despite having this grand new device that can do so much more than write and erase, I have found in my experiences that many teachers don't even know how to use one.  How can this be?  Why is this not part of their orientation into teaching?  I'm simply baffled at the fact that the board gets covered by a pull down screen to project a powerpoint onto. 

Furthermore, why aren't teachers required to implement a new technology annually? Many schools desire to have a well known reputation for their scholarship and academics.  Perhaps in this day and age, however, school's should also be considering becoming technologically advanced.  So many schools now offer Ipads to their students during choice times throughout the week.  With all the new apps out their, I would think that these Ipads can be used for a lot more than just choice time.  I see students scribbling with their finger or playing Angry Birds, but what about using these devices for actual instruction?  The teacher could be using one at the front of the room, porjecting its image with the ELMO doc cam, and the students could be following along on their own Ipad.  I have learned a new app every other week in my reading course that I would love to use in a classroom.  Schools should really consider attending conferences, classes, or holding a session of their own to familiarize teachers and staff of the endless possibilities to implement a very common technology in their classroom.

Lastly, I struggle greatly with the complaint of not having age appropriate technology.  In today's world, toddlers know how to use the remote, computer, and their parents' cell phones.  To complain that their is not a developmentally appropriate technology out there for little ones is false.  As previously stated, there are Ipad apps that are appropriate for youngsters, but there are also many good lessons on the internet that incorporate technology, smart boards, ebooks  and much more that would suit a Pre-K through 2nd grade environment perfectly.  I think that once again teachers must look for these resources to familiarize their students with new technology so they are not afraid to use it themselves.  Kids love doing things with thei hands, so giving them the opportunity to create is always special!

For more information on smart board lessons and games, visit SMART Exchange.

Technology in the Classroom- Ways to Make it Your's

Due to the ever increasing world of technology teachers are able to incorporate many new teaching tools and learning devices in their classrooms.  Education has moved beyond simple computers and laptops to smart boards, Ipads, podcasts, and many other useful technologies to make learning more interactive and up and coming!  But before a teacher can implement these new tools, he or she must make administration and sometimes legislation aware of the usefulness and opportunities of them.

One method for choosing new technologies for use in a school or classroom is the ASSURE method, discussed in the text Instructional Technology and Media for Learning, written by Sharon Smaldino.  ASSURE is an acronym to help teachers decide on whether or not a technology is right for them or their classroom.  It stands for: Analyze learners; State standards and objectives; Select strategies, technology, media and materials; Utilize technology, media, and materials; Require learner participation; Evaluate and revise.  With these six steps, any teacher can make an educated decision about a certain piece of technology.

Also important to helping teachers choose technology is the higher levels of thinking in Bloom's Taxonomy.  For example, as teachers strive to get students to tap into their higher level thinking skills, such as analyzing, evaluating and creating, students can use technology to do so.  A great example from an online textbook discusses a teacher asking students to plan a trip to Italy and maintain a budget.  There are plenty of online resources, calculating devices, and budget tools that a student could utilize in the project, then later educate their class about.  The goal of every teacher should be moving ahead and higher up on Bloom's Taxonomy, and by utilizing technology to do a project, rather than just having students research technology and talk about what makes it useful, teachers are able to help students achieve those higher levels of thinking!

Finally, there are now technologies that can connect students globally, providing a way for students to learn about the rest of the world and share their ideas without barriers.  Such technologies include, but are by no means limited to, wikis, blogs and podcasts.  Students can complete entire projects by communicating with a student on the other side of the world simply by having access to the Internet.  Teachers should definitely consider ways to integrate subjects, and what better way than to provide links to social studies, technology, perhaps English, and many others through the resources the Internet provides in connecting people globally.  Choosing the right media for these types of projects can be left up to students, or can be decided upon by the teacher following the ASSURE method.

With all the new technology out there, I definitely will strive to provide my students with an experience they will never forget utilizing tools they hopefully will store and use again in the future.  I also hope to tap into higher thinking levels, not just play a game of memory every day.  I want my students learning, using tools that were developed to help them, and encourage them to explore on their own and teach me about new technology as well!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Clearly too much technology for today's youth is a hot topic. Even Time Magazine is talking about it!

So where do we go for help?

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology has tons of useful tools to help teachers, parents, and students like me in the quest for the balance between old school and new technology.

Western Michigan University offers an entire master's program developed to help understand the benefits and usefulness of developing classroom and school use of technology.

Finally, a website called Teachability offers a forum for discussion, questions, and sharing between teachers about good use of technolgy, tech support, and other questions, concerns, or concepts linking teachers through the web.

While I sit on my laptop to finish my homework, I have no distractions around me. Pandora is no longer running, my phone is in the other room, and I am reading passages over again, sometimes out loud, to ensure maximum retention. Despite growing up in a technologically advanced world, I have had to characterize my learning style and make adjustments to my environment to help myself perform to the best of my abilities.

Unfortunately, many of today's youth do not have the will power or perhaps the know-how to commit to such an exclusive approach to learning and studying.

I can remember back to the time when my home did not come with a room designated for a computer, often called a den or office. I can remember a time when I was told to go play and it didn't mean picking up a controller. I can remember a time when my hands and fingers would cramp up from frantically writing a note to pass to my best friend between English and science, not because I was frantically texting underneath my desk so my professor wouldn't see me.

But the student's of today, the K-12 generation that knows nothing of Super Mario Brothers but instead Angry Birds and Call of Duty, have no idea how to power down the devices, curl up in a quiet place, and focus on things like homework with a textbook, paper and pencil, or reading a novel for sheer pleasure, turning pages that smell of an old dry library instead of clicking their way through a Kindle. After reading an online article by the NY Times, I was stunned to hear of students disregarding their GPAs to stay up late posting statuses on their Facebook, regaling "friends" of their daily routine.

Furthermore, teachers and principals claim that in order to reach these technologically crazed kids, the classroom must incorporate technology. Where did the lines get blurred from using technology as an exciting new way to impart information to only using technology just to get the kids interested?

My concerns for tomorrow's generation, as I venture off into the world of becoming a teacher, are that my students will have to process everything digitally. I foresee a time where Ipads will go home with students every night, containing all their textbook material, and they will submit their homework online straight from their device to mine. Perhaps the interaction between a teacher and student will become completely obsolete. I feel that it is the job of all parents and educators to develop a way to expose children to technology in a healthy way, rather than unloading all information in a digital manner.

That being said, I am aware of the ever growing industry of educational technology. I find it helpful that there are more interactive, clean, fun ways for students to display presentations that don't require cutting and gluing onto poster board. Also handy is the cost effectiveness; writing a blog or creating an online video are often free, and can be picked up anywhere that has Internet capability.

Interesting to me as well is the funding given to schools to help advance their technology. Offering grants to help build media centers is an amazing privilege public schools are given. I think that making educational technology available is a large obstacle the public schools face due to low funding, so it is nice to hear of the opportunities being given to help offset costs.

I hope to become more tech-savvy as I work my way through a technology course, but I also love hearing that college students still prefer textbooks to e-texts. Perhaps it is the fact that they are college students, and can remember the time when a book was just that, not something that could be downloaded and read on the go through a phone, tablet, or laptop. For me, I need the balance of both new and old, and I hope to be able to use both in my future classrooms in the most effective ways possible. I want students to be excited to flip through pages as well as scroll through screens.

I will continue to grow and develop my toolbox of ET tools, but as I do so I will be forced to think back to the AECT's definition, especially words like performance, appropriateness, and ethical practice. I appreciate having those guidelines in place so that when I am considering implementing technology I will have a sort of checklist before doing so.