Category Archives: 4.3 Reflection on Practice

Candidates analyze and interpret data and artifacts and reflect on the effectiveness of the design, development and implementation of technology-supported instruction and learning to enhance their professional growth.

EdTech 543 Final Reflection

Because this semester was a shorter summer term, and because I was either out of the country, or visiting family for the majority of it, it feels like it has all gone by in a blur. I feel like all of the assignments have helped me to grow and have given me new information or questions to consider, but I had to really think about what I have learned and what I plan to use.

The idea of a personal learning network wasn’t new to me, although I hadn’t necessarily called it that in the past, but some of the social media we used for our PLNs was new to me. Or, I hadn’t used it enough to consider it a learning tool. I was already using Facebook as my primary news source, but I hadn’t really ever used Twitter. I enjoyed being able to track education hashtags, and participating in love Tweet chats. I will probably continue my participation in those in the future. However,  I probably will not use Twitter with my students. Since I teach 7th grade, my students are generally 12 years old when the school year begins. By the end of the school year, there are still some students who are only 12, which means that they are not old enough to have a Twitter account. If I were to teach older students, I may have them use Twitter, though.

One assignment I learned a lot from was the first curation assignment. I had no idea that tools like PearlTrees existed. I love Pinterest, and will continue to use it for article “clipping,” but PearlTrees is on a different plane. I like the ability to move my clips around so that I can make meaning within a board as well as the ability to create separate boards. I like that I can put annotations directly in an article so that my comments have context. I will continue using content curation as a professional as well as in other aspects of my life. I will also use this tool with my students. It makes research more engaging and forces you to think about why a resource is important.

Another tool I will use is PLNs. I appreciated knowing that a few people would give feedback on all of my assignments, and that I knew who those people were. In most of the EdTech courses, we have been required to give feedback to at least two other people on each assignment. Unfortunately, people would submit their assignment and then give feedback to whoever had already submitted their work. The first few people to turn the work in would receive feedback from half of the class. The last person to turn the work in rarely received any feedback because people didn’t want to have to check back throughout the week. Because we had specific people to whom we gave feedback, we kept checking back, looking for each person’s work. I feel like the feedback was more useful, and more sincere as a result of this method. I will probably have my students create similar types of groups for each unit.

Finally, blogging. This is my EdTech learning log, so this summer’s posts were a continuation of a blog in progress. One requirement of this post is that I analyze my blogging efforts for this class. Here goes.  I don’t love blogging my reflections. I don’t love the idea that anyone in the world can look at my blog and see what I think. But, I do it. I try to cover each assigned topic completely and I try to be sincere and thorough. My learning log is a useful tool to me, even if I would prefer to keep it private. This semester we have had a few assignments that were simply blog posts to be graded later. As far as I can tell, I have completed all of the required blog posts and I have fulfilled all expectations. I would give myself a 75/75.

EdTech 504 Module 3 Reflection

Over the past three weeks, I have begun exploring theories of educational technology in conjunction with general learning theories. What I have discovered is that educational theory has its basis in the primary learning theories, but it seeks to explain not only how we can learn using technology, but how technology is changing the very nature of our learning.  De Castall, Bryson, and Jenson (2002) indicate that we currently have  a theory of educational technology which “takes for granted…the integration of education and technology,” but that we do not have an educational theory of technology which would “investigate technology from the standpoint of educational values and purposes.” An educational theory of technology would rethink “educational epistemology” and look at how technology is changing our learning. Lankshear, Peters, and Knobel (2000) argue something similar and show how the Internet has changed how we learn.

Lanshear, Peters, and Knobel reference Gilster who has described a five-step process for knowledge assembly using the Internet. These five steps include: subscribing to a news service, subscribing to newsgroups and mailing lists, searching the Internet for background information, accessing other Internet sources to “verify or disconfirm” (p. 30) information, and relating the information obtained to traditional non-networked sources such as television, conventional newspapers, library resources, etc. To me, this process of learning is similar to discovery learning. The learner takes a topic in which she is interested and approaches it from as many angles as possible to gather accurate, credible information. This is a process I plan to have my students follow with a project I designed recently. Students will construct knowledge through extensive research, learn to write a proposal, and present their proposal with limited direction from me. I will offer support materials, but students will approach and assimilate the information on their own. However, because I have studied Bruner’s explanation of discovery learning, I realize that before I put students on this path, I will need to ensure that they have the foundational skills necessary to learn on their own.

An additional item I learned from De Castell, Bryson, and Jenson is that in the new media world, information has become a commodity and due to a lack of an educational theory of technology, schools have become glutted with mass-produced instructional delivery systems that do not necessarily take into account learning theories or actual student needs. In the drive to be the best, or to add value to a student’s education, schools purchase these systems without really evaluating their claims. I have seen this in my own school. We recently purchased a reading intervention program because of the hype surrounding it, and we have found that is meets the needs of very few students. It was not created for the complexity of issues our students face in reading comprehension. I have been guilty of this as a teacher, I see a program that sounds like a panacea for all my students learning issues and I investigate. Unfortunately, these packaged, mass-distributed programs only benefit the technology industry.

Resources

  • Bruner, J. (1979). The act of discovery. In Bruner, J. On knowing: Essays for the left hand (pp. 81-96). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press (Original work published 1962).
  • De Castall, S., Bryson, M. & Jenson, J. (7 January 2002).  Object lessons: Towards an educational theory of technology. First Monday, 7(1). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/923/845
  • Lankshear, C. Peters, M. & Knoel, M. (2000). Information, knowledge and learning: Some issues facing epistemology and education in a digital age. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 34(1), 17-39. Retrieved from http://michaelbatie.com/papers/information_and_knowledge.pdf

EdTech 504 Module 1 Reflection

This is my 12th year teaching. For the first four years, I taught Drama, so my use of technology involved DVD players, body mics, a sound system, spotlights, and stage lights. I often used an overhead projector and an LCD projector. Since I began teaching English, 7 years ago, I have gradually included more technology in my teaching. Until a couple of years ago, that technology was almost entirely used by me. I hosted a class website, and projected notes, and occasionally presentations or videos, from my computer. However, I rarely had the students use technology. Part of that was because I didn’t have any computers in my classroom, and we shared one computer lab between the 47 teachers at our school. It seemed pointless to even try scheduling the computer lab for anything but research and typing essays. For the past 3 years, however, I have used technology somewhat more. For instance, I have tested out Edmodo and MyHaiku class and decided that they are not for me. Google Classroom, however, I like, and I have been using Google Docs for 3 years. Since starting my Edtech Master’s, I have realized even more how little I truly use technology for instruction or student products. I have had glimpses over the years, insights about how technology could be useful in certain situations, but when I tried to act on those insights, classroom management became a nightmare. This past week, for instance, I tried to create centers for my students so that they were all occupied and could rotate through using my 9 classroom computers to finish enrolling in Google Classroom and Newsela and to complete an assignment in Newsela. Every center, regardless of how easy I thought it was, required my help and I spent most of my time racing between helping students work on a literature assignment or assemble portfolio folders, and resetting students’ passwords so they could logon to my Chromebooks. I have tried for years to differentiate my instruction, and I see how technology can help, but my classroom management has not caught up with my instructional vision.

For several years, I have wavered between accepting/merging a couple of educational theories. I’m not sure to which I subscribe most right now. One of the changes I wish to see as a result of my experiences in EdTech 504 is to decide what I actually believe about educational theories and arrange my students’ classroom experiences accordingly. While I don’t love direct instruction, I do feel that it has its place, but I feel like it takes over. I feel the same way about student constructed learning activities. Neither seem to get to the core of what I feel my students need. My feelings about technology use go along the same lines. I waver between wanting students to use technology as much as possible, and wanting students to do many things the “old” way with physical books and paper and pencil. I hope that this course can help me decide a path to take and allow me the peace of mind to stick with that path once I begin down it.

Because I am one of the few teachers who has tried several different technologies and web 2.0 capabilities, I am often looked to as someone who “knows” technology. As a result, the office staff and administrators often recommend teachers to me when they have questions or problems with their computers or with the software we use, especially if those teachers use a PC. This reputation has allowed me to influence some of the decisions my school has made about purchasing subscriptions to online programs, as well as to convince my fellow ELA teachers to try new assignments using technology. Last spring, I was able to convince my school to subscribe to Newsela as a result of my experiments with it. I hope that my experiences in the EdTech program and with my own experiments with technology in the classroom will lead others to test different technologies in their instruction as well.

Managing the PBL process

As I include more project-based learning in my classroom, I will have to change the way I teach. I have always enjoyed having my students complete projects to learn, and I have required them to work in groups, but I haven’t always adequately prepared materials in advance of projects. One thing I will have to change about my teaching is that I will need to prepare far in advance. Rather than creating a rubric days before a project is due (or just grading without one), I will need to create, or include my students in creating, a rubric that spells out the requirements of the project, and I will need to create the rubric before introducing my students to the project through the entry event.

Another change that I will need to make for effective PBL to occur in my classroom, is that I need to be a better facilitator. In the past, I have over-helped student groups while moving around the room to check on them. Or, I have gone to the other extreme and completely ignored the students and graded papers while they worked. I will need to move around the room with purpose and be prepared to steer students in the right direction without over-directing or making decisions for them.

I believe that the project I am currently designing will be a good project for students to learn the skills they will need to complete other assignments. The purpose of the project is for students to practice research and writing skills, which are basic skills they would need to complete any future projects. I am hoping that this project will prepare my students for the rest of the school year. I plan to begin this project about 3 weeks into the school year, so my students will be well-prepared for future writing assignments. This project will also introduce my students to the themes of Need and Choice which we will use to examine literature throughout the year.

The main change I will need to make as a teacher, is to prepare ahead of time for projects. I often have an idea, usually of epic proportions, and I jump right into it the next day (or later the same day) without taking the time to prepare materials, decide upon final products, or determine its requirements. To be successful in using PBL as an instructional strategy, I will need to slow down, organize, and prepare in advance. Once a project is up and running I am usually adept at mentoring students in completing it, if it has been properly designed. So, the real change will be taking time to completely design projects in advance.

Here is the website for my current PBL, (currently titled) What do You Need?

Reflection on Learning in EDTECH 501

Looking back on this semester in EdTech 501, I feel like I face two challenges. One challenge was time. I have managed to keep myself quite busy over the past several years without attending school and because I had made prior commitments, it was difficult to fit everything in. The other challenge I faced was application. It was difficult to apply what I was learning in my classroom, because of the lack of resources at my school.

One of the less effective ways I dealt with the lack of time was to sleep less. This made it harder to concentrate while completing assignments and made me a little bit less pleasant as a classroom teacher. I will not be losing sleep over my assignments next semester. I managed to deal with both the time issue and the application issue by discussing my assignments with my grade level team. They were helpful in suggesting ideas for how I could create an artifact that would be applicable in our classrooms. This was a useful technique for a couple of the artifacts. I also realized that time worked better for me if I prioritized myself first, work second, then school. I plan to prioritize better in future semesters so I don’t burn out half way through.

My best artifact was the digital divide voice thread. I feel like I did the most thorough job on that artifact and learned the most. I was able to spot problems at my school that I had not noticed before. I was also able to see potential solutions.

One thing I plan to do at my school as a result of this course is create a school technology plan. As a member of the technology team, I plan to push the team to create a plan before purchasing anymore wasteful technology. We have so much technology that goes unused because teachers are not trained, or because it is not the best choice for the subject they teach. I want my school to make more conscious choices when purchasing new hardware.

Thanks for coming along on my journey.

The Digital Divide and Digital Inequality

The Digital Divide and Digital Inequality Voice Thread

For this assignment, I learned about the digital divide and digital inequality. Although I had thought about the issue of “haves” and “have-nots” as it relates to my classroom, school, and district, I had never considered the global issues. It was interesting to see how quickly internet access has spread, especially in developing countries, since the development of mobile technology. Even as a classroom teacher, I had not considered the issues of digital inequality. I had a vague notion in my mind that since my students were using social media and researching online, they were “haves” when it came to access and skill. However, after reading about digital inequality, I recognized that my students really don’t have any technological skills. They know how to play with technology, but not how to utilize it to move ahead in life.

In the future, I plan to incorporate technology use more heavily into my instruction. For a few years, I have had a fuzzy plan rolling around in my mind to use student blogs in my classroom. Although I still have not figured out how to maintain security for my students, they are 12 and 13 years-old, I plan to have them blog about their experiences at school, both academic experiences and extra-curricular experiences.

To complete this assignment, I used Google Docs, Google Slides, and Voice Thread. Although I don’t love Google Slides, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to use it. At home, many of my students do not have access to PowerPoint, so it is useful to know how to use Google Slides. I can have my students use Slides at school and then convert to PowerPoint at home if they wish to embellish their presentations further. I enjoyed using Voice Thread. I have never used anything like it before. I liked that I could record more than one comment for each slide and that Voice Thread would stitch them together for me. It allowed me to catch my breath and advance my presentation notes to keep up.

If I had more time, I would solicit suggestions from my coworkers for how to deal with the digital inequality issues at our school. As a part of my school’s tech team, I would like to find workable solutions to our school access issues as well as encourage teachers to incorporate more technology use into their curriculum. When people are part of creating the solution, they are more likely to buy into changes, like incorporating student technology use into their lessons.

One difficulty I had completing this assignment was the sheer volume of reading material. The reading wasn’t the problem, but finding facts I had marked was. Several articles were only available as html pages, so I could not download them to my computer or iPad and highlight as I read. I tried importing them into Diigo, but that didn’t help either. Normally I don’t have a problem finding information I am looking for because I remember where it was located on a page and how far through a document or book that page was located. However, without the visual clues to rely on, it was very difficult to find statistics and quotes I thought I remembered. Interestingly, as I was working on this assignment, a friend shared an article on Facebook that addresses this very issue: Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books. Unfortunately, the author of the article did not include a link to, or citation of, the original study.