DON’T TOUCH THE TECHNOLOGY!
I must admit that I dread using technology in September. The hours spent logging on. The “what if?” questions that seem to rattle on for hours after watching the AUP. The fact that none of the 4th graders have ever used their individual sign on, and despite my best efforts always seem to lose, forget or mistype their passwords. All of these things make for a very grumpy teacher! But then we turn the corner and October arrives, bringing with it a focus on digital citizenship and a basic understanding of how and why we use netbooks in the classroom. Slowly, I move from asking the kids to keep their “paws off” to asking them to interact with the technology, with each other and with me. It becomes a powerful tool that is central to my classroom culture. This week, I was asked to complete a self-reflection on the ISTE-NETS. It is apparent that the greatest area I will work on this year is to provide a space for my students to “use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.” This goal brings me back to my grumpy September self to a certain extent. What I am realizing is that while it’s great (and oftentimes easier) for me to dish up digital resources to my student in organized little “digital resource kits”, I’m actually doing them a digital disservice by not teaching them the process of collecting and analyzing their own data and information. This is my starting point, and I look forward to gaining new skills for this standard as I complete my growth plan.
COMMUNICATION IN THE TECH CLASSROOM
I looked closely at some of the elements of a Flipped Classroom. While this is not my primary method of teaching my students, I believe that it can play a key support role in (and out of) the classroom. One of the most helpful resources that I have found for this is the LearnZillion website. Here are a few of the reasons why it gets my vote:
- It is easy to use! You can quickly set up a class roster and easily assign students usernames and lessons. They also make it easy to track your student’s progress as they view the lessons.
- Lessons are taught in a friendly format that is easy for students to understand. Students can view the lessons as many times as they need to “get it”.
- Is CCSS aligned! Honestly, as I grapple with some of these new standards, I have found myself watching one of these videos for ideas and resources to teach.
- It’s free! Need I say more?
If you are looking for a way to start dabbling in Flipped Classrooms, I would highly recommend you check it out!
PROMOTING DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP
I’ve really been thinking about some of the ways that I promote digital citizenship in my classroom. As a 4/5 teacher, I am in many ways my students’ first experience with technology in the classroom outside of word processing and QWERTY. This makes for some great adventures as well as some big growing pains. I find that with each consecutive year that I teach I am better able to foresee areas of difficulty and temptation for my students. The first major tool for communication, which requires coaching and support, is teaching students how to be good digital citizens when using school e-mail. I have my students rewrite an email etiquette contract and send it to me and their parents on the first day of log in. This helps us to establish positive norms for communication. Students are eager and excited to have access to e-mail so they are motived to follow our established norms so they don’t run the risk of losing this privilege. Next week, students will begin earning their “Digital Passport” in my classroom. Moving through this process will help kids to collaborate around several activities that address important aspects of digital citizenship. I’m excited to begin this work and collect feedback from parents and students! As I evaluate my practice and use of technology in the classroom, I have set a goal for myself this school year. I would like to work more intentionally not only to teach students HOW to access information online, but also how to give CREDIT for information that they find there. I’m excited to ponder this more and explore additional resources to support my work in this goal.
In the classroom, my class continued plugging along on earning their digital passports. Students learned about the importance of privacy online. They considered what information is appropriate to share online and what information is not. They logged into their e-mail addresses and agreed to an email etiquette contract. My professional learning centered on presentation with a clear reminder: the technology should act as a vehicle or tool for learning and not the learning target itself. I explored Glogster (which if I’m being honest I found to be very frustrating and would rather not repeat) looked more closely at how students could use InfoGraphics to share their learning. I also learned about the GRASP instructional strategy, which I am eager to try at some point! I also took time to consider my technology growth plan and to formulate plans for the way that I will begin using Haiku in my classroom. RESEARCH! I was most pleased about the work and learning that I did this week around technology. I believe that this was mostly due to the fact, that just like my students, learning seems to be the most fun when it is mine, mine, mine. Last week, I was asked to reflect on my current practices around technology in my classroom and to make a goal. This week, I got to research this topic, looking for helpful sources that would launch me into the application of this goal.
I found three gems that I have bookmarked and plan to revisit often:
Another big learning that I had this week was getting my class logged onto Haiku for the first time. It was fantastic! Students are working in groups to research national parks and create a promotional map for their park. I created a digital toolkit that they used to access creditable sources. This made for much smoother sailing as kids completed their research!
I got the opportunity to collaborate online using a wiki space called PB works. There was an initial learning curve, but eventually I got the hang of it and found it fun! The funny thing was that I still used e-mail as my primary mode of communication to collaborate with my partner, which I believe would disappoint the creators of Wiki. I guess sometimes you just can’t teach this old dog new tricks. We also used Google Docs to create a collaborative presentation. This was fantastic! I could see using the later in my classroom. As a teacher, I have used OneNote before to encourage collaboration in the writing process. This was a very neat experience because it allowed me to be a “fly on the wall” as my students worked around editing. In the OneNote notebook, each child had their own tab, which was their primary workspace. Each child used a pre-writing template in OneNote and then drafted their essay in Microsoft word. The drafts were uploaded to the workspace and then the students partnered up to “track changes” and peer edit and review. One of the neat benefits of using OneNote is that work was not lost. I don’t care how many times we teach 4th and 5th graders to save to their USB properly, work always seems to get lost. This was a great benefit of collaborating using OneNote. At the end of the project, students posted their final work to a shared space and students gave each other kudos. It was a really neat way to add technology and collaboration to the writing process! As I work on my goals for the integration of technology in my classroom there are a few things I would like to try in the future to increase collaboration:
- Use Haiku discussion boards more frequently
- Create spaces where the students can contribute to shared resources
Use OneNote again with this group of students, perhaps for keeping track of their data for the science fair? CREATIVITY! When I think about being creative what comes to mind is my Pinterest board, which is endlessly filled with creative things that I aspire to do and never seem to find the time to. It’s a long list of wishes and “should” and “if onlys.” When I think about creativity in the classroom, sometimes it feels the same way. If only I had more time I could let my kids be more creative. I know that I should make spaces for them to create. I wish that I didn’t have to give so many assessments, then I could be more creative with my students. The reality of the situation is just like my Pinterest board, there are always going to be millions of reasons and excuses that get in the way of getting these things done. Ultimately, it’s up to me as the teacher to make spaces for my students to be creative. If it’s going to happen, I have to make it a priority! Even more daunting than carving out time for creativity in the classroom is the task of integrating creativity with technology. Despite the fact that so much could go wrong, a lot can also go right. This week as a student, I was given the task of creating a short film about a day in the life of me. Using WeVideo I created a short film about my Friday. It was surprisingly fun, easy to use and resulted in a semi-polished product in a short amount of time. Because of ease of use, I could see using the technology with students. I can guarantee their products will be more creative and inspired than mine! As I think about moving my classroom towards a 21st Century space, this quote stuck out to me: “The core aim for technology should now be instilling creativity in the classroom, he surmised, adding that technology had formed the contours of the teaching and learning process.” (Phneah, 2013) Our goal as educators should be to move beyond word processing and e-mail with our students (as we have been so constantly reminded the quarter) and we should be moving towards meaningful work that will prepare our students for the types of jobs that await them in the real world!
THOUGHTS ON TECHNOLOGY: MOVING FROM “DON’T TOUCH THE TECHNOLOGY” TO “COLLABORATION” This quarter I was given the little nudge that I needed to grow as a 21st Century Teacher. I learned new tricks and tips and I was given the space to apply my learning directly into my day-to-day teaching practice. At the beginning of the year, I have to admit that I approached technology cautiously in my classroom. Between CCSS implementation and a new ELA curriculum, I simply felt that there was not space for ONE MORE THING in my plan book. The greatest takeaway of the quarter for me came in the form of a reminder of what the purpose of technology was and wasn’t in the classroom. It looked a little like this, and was constantly reinforced by my professor in each task we completed through out the quarter:
With this new mindset, I was able to approach the integration of technology in my classroom with a sense of openness and truly view it as a powerful tool instead of another thing. Throughout the quarter, my goal was to try to modify the strategies I was learning directly into my classroom practice. This included a unit on Digital Citizenship, learning the Big 6, trying new presentation platforms (like Prezi) and creating spaces for my students to synergize through discussions and collaboration. I successfully used Haiku and was thrilled with the results of my students. Collaboration within my students and among my colleagues seems to be the greatest fruit of this labor. Not only was I able to collaborate and learn from other like-minded educators throughout the quarter, but also I was able to engage my students and create a digital place where they could collaborate. In teaching, the learning never ends, but for me, this was a very successful start to a new approach and attitude towards integrating technology in the classroom
The more that I have worked with this standard, the more I recognize and appreciate the importance of integrating technology into meaningful lessons. As a teacher leader, I also need to support my teammates in this process. Some ways that this can happen is buy providing times of structured support to teachers, where they can collaborate with their PLC about how they can integrate technology into what they are doing instead of thinking of it as “something extra”. Leaders can also support instruction by having clear processes for the use and storage of technology as well as systems for troubleshooting as needed. Programs like Dyknow that allow teachers to monitor student use of technology are incredibly helpful for supporting teachers as they teacher their students to be model digital citizens. Leaders can encourage excitement around the use of technology by promoting Hour of Code school-wide and can increase student buy in by choosing games that weave together fun and content. If we are helping each child to be future-ready, we simply must work to incorporate technology into our daily practice!
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