And so it ends…

Technology is an incredibly useful tool. I’ve learned so much about the different tools that are out there and how to incorporate them into my classroom this semester. It’s exciting to see all the possibilities that are out there. I’m looking forward to implementing some of these tools in my own classroom when I start teaching.

In today’s time if you want to know something what do you do? You Google it. I’m guilty of this too. You can Google anything from a math formula to a historical figure and everything in between. How do teachers fit into a world with knowledge so readily available? It is my opinion that teachers will still be needed. However, the role of teachers will change. Teachers will become more of a guide to find the knowledge rather than the “giver” of knowledge. When you think about it though that’s what we want anyway. At least I do. I want my students to be able to learn on their own. The teacher will provide the tools (such as the ones I’ve learned about this semester) and then allow the student to work with and learn from them.

The main point though is that technology is a TOOL. It does not make the lesson it should enhance the lesson. You shouldn’t find technology and then build a lesson around it. Instead you should have a lesson and find technology that would make it better.

Check out my mash up of clips of my semester. It summarizes some of the key points that I have taken away from my semester in EDU 451.


Jetsons’ Classroom

Classrooms, like a lot of things in education are constantly changing. The way things must be taught as well as the environment change. It’s not surprising that the classrooms you see today are not the same as the classrooms that you would have seen 20 years ago. What you see today will not/should not be what you see 20 years from now.

Classrooms should look drastically different 20 years, or even 5 years, from now. I see the following things in a “futuristic classroom:”

  • One to one technology programs throughout the school/system.
  • 90% student work/input with 10% teacher input.
  • Project based learning.
  • Students actively engaged in learning.
  • Teachers who are willing to let their students take responsibility for the classroom.

To some these ideas might seem far-fetched, or even ridiculous. Can you really have a classroom where the teacher only has 10% input? I say, why not?!? One of the reasons students mentally check out is because they have to sit and listen to a teacher talk at them for a class period. This benefits absolutely nobody, hence the project based learning. Giving the students projects, with some guidance/support, will allow them to take responsibility for their own learning as well as keep them engaged. It also means that the teacher doesn’t have to lecture the class or simply give notes.

Does this seem strange? To some it might. To others, perhaps pre-service teachers, it seems like the perfect kind of classroom to teach in; a classroom where students and teachers look forward to coming and learning each day.

Technology and Pre-Service Teachers

Teachers are expected to incorporate technology into their classroom routine. But how do they learn to do this? I am blessed to be a part of Lenoir-Rhyne University where we have a specific class designed for this. We focus on different tools that are out there which we can incorporate into our classrooms. This is what universities need. They need to expose pre-service teachers to the technological tools that are at their disposal.

Is it possible for pre-service teachers to find these tools on their own, yes. However, there are so many other things that they are focusing on that it might be difficult to worry about technology; unless there is an emphasis placed on it. That leads me to my second thought. School systems are placing an emphasis on technology, so universities who are preparing teachers should have this same emphasis. Without this emphasis on technology and it’s uses teachers will be left on their own once they leave the university walls.

Changing Times

Technology is always changing. At times it seems hard to keep up; in fact it is hard to keep up. I know in my personal use of technology that I find it hard to understand the current trends and apps. For example, it took forever for me to understand Twitter because I was used to Facebook. However, I learn about new apps, games, and social media from my friends. That encourages me to explore new forms of technology.

As far as technology in schools goes there are many ways that I can learn about this. One of the easier ways is by talking with my fellow teachers. They might have ideas that I’ve never heard of, or know how to work something I don’t. I can also attend technology seminars/conferences when they are available. I was able to attend Newton Conover City School’s Digital Days this week and it was incredible. I learned about different tools that Google has to offer. It was great to see there are so many things out there that are at the tip of our fingers. Another person that can be helpful is the school or district’s technology director. They would be a good resource when trying to understand a new tool or seeing if something will work how you want it to.

Technology is always changing and new educational tools are emerging regularly. It’s important to keep up with these changes so that technology can be integrated into the classroom in the most effective way possible. Technology is changing; changing the way we teach and ultimately we must change with it.

To Game or Not to Game

Should games be included in our classrooms? My answer: ABSOLUTELY!!! Now, let’s take a minute to think about this a little more. I asked myself the following questions which I encourage you to ask yourself too.

  1. When do students learn best? Students learn best when they are actively engaged. They need to be doing more than just sitting and taking notes from a PowerPoint presentation.
  1. What kind of things do students actively engaged in? Students are most engaged when they are interacting with their friends. They are also actively engaged and interested when doing something they like to do.

  1. What kind of things to students like to do? Students love technology. They are all the time on Twitter or Facebook connecting in various ways. They are also interested in video games and gaming.
  1. What is something that will allow students to work collaboratively and is something they like to do? GAMES!

This thought process worked for me. Like I stated above students learn best when they’re engaged in something they like to do; such as games. Does this mean that games are included without any educational purpose? No way! Every game that is included needs to have a strong tie to the standards that are being covered. As long as that is an element of the game, then I think it is a strong tool that should be included in every classroom.

Country to Country

As a future teacher there has been a big push for us to learn about multicultural education.  This is pretty much a fancy way to way to say “learning and accepting other cultures.”  The actual definition of multicultural is found here.  To me this is more than simply understanding other countries, or learning about other countries.  Experiencing another culture is by far the best way to have even a shallow understanding of it.  However, we cannot simply pack up our classroom and travel to another country.  Instead we can travel virtually, through technology!!

Technology is an amazing tool for the classroom.  I’ve heard so many times that technology is more than using a PowerPoint presentation, or simply writing on the smart board like a white board.  I’m learning that this is absolutely true!  There are so many ways to use and incorporate technology into the classroom.

There are so many ways to connect with other students in other countries.  One website that I found was epals.  This site allows you to connect with classrooms from around the world.  Perhaps it is a Spanish class in the USA that is connected with an English class in Mexico.  Students then can learn from each other without ever leaving the classroom.  Another way to do this same type of thing is through something even simpler, Twitter.  It is easy to conduct and participate in a Twitter Chat with people from across the country and the world.

Basically, the tools are out there for students to make learning meaningful, we just have to take advantage of them.

A Plate, a Bowl and a Spatula

This week I’ve been studying the TPACK (Technology Pedagogy and Content Knowledge) Model.  This model is all about using and integrating technology not only into the classroom, but into teaching strategies and content.  The idea of TPACK is not to create all new technology to use, but to find new ways to use what already exists.  An example of this is Microsoft Excel.  It was not originally designed to teach students about calculations or to perform simple tasks, however, it is now used in many math classrooms. 

To demonstrate this idea of re-purposing what you already have I was assigned “cooking with TPACK.”  Basically I had an “outsider” (my roommate) bring me a plate, a bowl and then a cooking utensil.  She had no clue what I would be doing with these objects and I left the specifics up to her.  She then drew a number from a hat, each number corresponded to a different task; which had to be performed using the supplies brought previously.  The following video is a result of my experience. 

Now, cutting vegetables is definitely not what a spatula was designed for, but I re-purposed it to suit my needs.  That is exactly what teachers are having to do with technology.  Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel by coming up with new technology they should instead be utilizing what is already before them.  They just need to re-purpose it to suit their needs, just like my spatula.