Sunday, February 2, 2014

Reflection: Technology 101

Whereas the Introduction to Blended and Online Learning course gave me a lot of tools to use in the classroom, Technology Integration 101 has been the perfect course for me to take my first year as technology integration specialist.  This course has provided many eye-opening articles and discussions that have given me valuable information to take back to my corporation.

The Special Circumstances module gave me the opportunity to look at the challenges that substitute teachers face in our 1:1 settings and guided me toward creating an informative handout to put in our substitute teacher folders.  I will also be sure to continue the discussion with elementary teachers this spring as they prepare to go 1:1 next year.

I was also excited to be exposed to the Technology Integration Matrix rubrics.  These couldn't have come at a better time!  Between the discussions that I am continuously having with principals as they try to find a way to voice their expectations to teachers and the continued focus on RISE and teacher evaluations, these rubrics spell out clearly what true technology integration looks like.  If we are going to expect teachers to do it, we have to be able to tell them what "it" is exactly.  These rubrics will definitely come in handy during those discussions.

Finally, the project focus on Stakeholders is a very authentic assessment idea.  Although I am struggling with what I want that final project to be exactly, it is the perfect assignment to help me put what I've learned together and use it to bring others on board.

Once again, I feel like this course has helped me shape my own philosophy of technology integration and given me the tools to guide others toward defining their own philosophy.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Making a Shift

        Students are so used to us giving them step-by-step instructions for everything we have them do, that they don't know how to act when they are given a little educational freedom.  When we are having conversations at home and someone doesn't know the answer to something, one of my kids will immediately pull out an iPad, Touch, or iPhone and Google it.  I can almost guarantee you, however, that in the classroom those same kids will sit there and wait to be told.  Why? Because that's what they've been taught to do.  My kids typically don't get into trouble at school for doing something that they aren't supposed to do, because they are rule followers.  And so far, the rule has been that you wait to learn something when the teacher tells you it's time to learn...and you learn it in the way that the teacher guides you to learn it.  

        Taking a traditional classroom and turning it into a student-centered one is not going to be an overnight process for the students or the teachers.  Just as kids are trained to wait for the teacher's instructions, teachers feel that they always have to instruct.  I'm not sure what the overall answer is, but using baby steps, teachers have to learn to loosen the reins, and kids have to learn to grab hold of them.  Maybe we should begin by assigning one open-ended project a nine weeks.  This project might have a general question attached to it, but the final product will be determined by the student.  Maybe we daily/weekly pose some type of question and challenge kids to find a fact to support their answer on the internet.  Maybe we give kids an argument, and they have to find one piece of reliable information to support their own point of view...then find a piece to support the opposing side.  These activities aren't totally student-centered, but in order to get kids to automatically look for their own answers using technology, we have to first encourage them to use it for something besides an electronic worksheet.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Same Old Problem, New Tool

One of the complaints I hear from teachers now that we've implemented a 1:1 environment with iPads is that students are playing with their iPads instead of paying attention in class.  The truth is that we've all had trouble with kids not paying attention to our lessons at one time or another, but the iPad is offering them a new reason to be distracted!  Whether students are talking to the person beside them, reading a book, writing a note, daydreaming, or playing on an iPad, the situation is still the same.  Whenever students aren't paying attention, teachers need to have some classroom management strategies in place.  Some of the classrooms I have been in try the following:
A.  When the teacher is giving directions, all iPads are turned over or are on the rack under the desk.
B.  Most directions are given before students begin using the device.
C.  The teacher walks around the room during the activity to monitor progress and engagement.
D.  Consequences are posted for students who get off task.
Overall, although iPads can be distracting, I think our teachers are handling the situation in a manner that keeps problems to a minimum.  For the most part, if you can control your classroom, you can control your classroom with iPads.


One of my strongest memories from student teaching (22 years ago) is sitting in the faculty meeting when the principal was telling teachers that they were going to be adding 5 computer stations to each classroom the following year.  Teachers were appalled!  "Why would we need computers in the classroom?" they complained.  I remember sitting there quietly (like a good student teacher), wondering how they couldn't be excited at the idea.  Times have sure changed...or have they?

Yes, we have computers in our classrooms, and our teachers probably can't imagine life without them at this point.  Now, however, we are moving to a 1:1 environment, and the general resistance is still there.  Not only do some teachers wonder why every student needs a device, parents and other community members are wondering too.

For those of us who can't fathom NOT wanting to bring technology in whenever possible, it's important to take a step back and see things from a digital immigrant's point of view, and communicate three important concepts:

1.  I think the strongest argument for technology is the world we live in.  If our goal is to prepare students for the real world, we have to expose them to the tools that they will be expected to use when they get there.  These days most people assume that others have a basic understanding of how technology works...copy/paste, web searching, download/upload, etc.  Although many of our students are very comfortable navigating a program, even a new one, other students are not.  We have to give them exposure to technology to help close that gap.  It is important to show stakeholders ways in which our students will be expected to use technology when they leave our corporation so they can see the importance of us stressing it now.

2. Another point we need to make is that in our days of information overload, there is no way for the teacher to be "all-knowing" as they were assumed to be in the past.  If we want our students to have the most current information possible, then they need to be connected.

3.  Last, but certainly not least, we need to assure stakeholders that we are aware of some of the dangers out there, but like every other danger in society, we can't stop living because of a "what if."  Instead, it is our goal to educate teachers, students, and parents on the issues relating to digital citizenship, and give everyone the tools necessary to navigate technology safely.

Getting stakeholders on board with technology is not always as easy as one might think.  Some people feel that as soon as you unwrap the shiny, new devices, people will be hooked; however, that is often not the case.  We need to share with parents and other stakeholders what our mission actually is and how we plan to get there, safely, with our students.

Friday, November 1, 2013

My Technological Journey

          I am fascinated by technology.  I'm interested enough to seek it and comfortable enough that I'll push the buttons and figure it out, but I'm no expert.  In my personal life, I wouldn't say that I'm ahead of the game by any stretch of the imagination. We live in the middle of nowhere so our wifi is limited, meaning everything else is limited too.  We don't use Netflicks.  My son doesn't do XBox Live.  We rarely Skpe or Facetime.  All of those uses are too costly.  Probably the one tech piece that I couldn't live without would be my iPhone.  I always say if I ever lost it, I wouldn't remember when I was supposed to breathe!  Siri enters all of my kids' sporting events in my calendar and reminds me when I need to buy dog food.  I use my phone to check my Twitter account...sometimes, and I burn up my ShopShop app each week when I make the trip to Walmart.  My photos are digital and so are some of my scrapbooks.  I use email and texting often to communicate, collaborate, and share.

          Like many educators, the lines between my personal and professional lives often blur.  I use Twitter, but I probably use it 10 times as much for my educational PLN rather than keeping up with local gossip.  My professional email and texting far outweigh my personal, and most of what I search on the web is somehow related to education.  Because I enjoy it, I've now entered the world of TIS which means technology has changed everything for me.  I now spend most of my day communicating with teachers, planning PD, researching apps and websites, troubleshooting, all in the name of technology education.  

Some of my personal/professional goals include the following:

  • increase my PLN through Twitter, MBC, and this course
  • complete EVSC's 30-Day challenge 
  • create a system to help myself organize all of the resources I find
  • find more ways to get inside others' classrooms to work with students and model for teachers
  • help a few change the way they use technology
  • get teachers to try something new
  • start a tech team with students
  • maintain a professional blog to share with my corporation
          Mostly, I'm just hoping to continue to bring new ideas to teachers and help them find ways to use technology to enhance what they need to do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Philosophically Speaking

     At some point early in my career, I labeled my philosophy of education as “constructivist.” Although I’m better at it now than I was 21 years ago, I've always felt that students should be actively involved with their learning to truly learn. I strongly feel that a teacher’s pedagogy should involve methods of teaching that encourage kids to discover, discuss, analyze, and verbalize new information. I've experienced many lessons over the years that kept students excited and engaged merely because they “owned” their learning.
     In a constructivist classroom, the teacher’s role is as important as ever. The teacher must plan lessons and manage the classroom in ways that allow students to take charge, yet still be productive. Teachers in this type of classroom must train themselves to ask the right questions, and lots of them, while encouraging students to work out the answers for themselves or with partners. Teachers must find ways to activate students’ prior knowledge and help them make connections to new information. Most importantly, the teacher needs to constantly foster good relationships with students so that all of this interaction is possible and productive.
     After twenty-one years of teaching, I am sure that there are some things about my philosophy of education that have changed. Much of the basic foundation, however, has remained intact. The biggest changes are not related to the philosophy itself, but the tools available. I vividly remember about 19 years ago when another teacher and I were so excited to find a student project on the internet which required students to track the migration of monarch butterflies. To access the internet was such a complicated process that involved no pictures, just text and lots of computer language. The same process now is so much simpler and engaging. Kids can not only access the project but take and share pictures, video, audio, etc. of whatever information they gather. They can create their own blogs and websites, email or tweet results, and Skype with others around the world working on the same project. Technology isn't really a new part of my philosophy; it’s just an always-changing tool that makes the constructivist’s philosophy even more of a possibility.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tech Integration 101 - Pre-course Reflections

     A LOT of changes have taken place in my career since I finished the Blended and Online Learning course that I took last spring, all stemming from my switch from classroom teacher to integration specialist.  Now, more than ever, I need a forum that will not only introduce me to new ideas, but encourage me to put them to use along the way.  If the previous course is any indication, this course will do just that.
     Overall, I most excited about taking this course from a different point of view.  Each of the modules I was assigned the last time were completed through the eyes of a teacher.  I was constantly considering how I would implement each tool in a 7th grade language arts classroom.  This time around, I will definitely have to broaden my connections.  I'll need to be able to look at each tool and not only decide how the tool can be used, but also for what subjects and grade levels it might be most appropriate.  Now I'll be looking at each idea through the eyes of every teacher in our corporation - enthusiast or critic, math or language arts, preschool or AP chemistry.  What a challenge!
     I feel like 21 years in the classroom has given me something to bring to the table.  I'm pretty good at managing a classroom with any tools, including technology.  I've taught all basic subjects in both middle school and elementary self-contained classrooms, in three different grade levels, so I feel that I know enough about the pedagogy that works in a variety of settings.  I recently completed MBC coach's training (with other's in the group) and have a pretty strong understanding of how to do most of the basics.
     During this course, I hope to:

1.  broaden my perspective on what it truly means to integrate technology
2.  find ways to turn critics into enthusiasts...or at least get them to try something new
3.  walk away with some new ideas/tools to share with my colleagues
4.  add to my PLN
5.  try something new
6.  solidify my purpose as a TIS

     Let's get started!