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Here we are the end of the 2011 spring semester.. time continues to fly by without me even realizing it. EDT400 quickly became more important that I ever thought it would. I have said many times and I will say it again that upon entering this class I didn’t see how there was going to be anything I could learn about technology that I didn’t already know or that I could use in my future classrooms. My idea of technology in education was very skewed thanks to being a part of the first class receiving laptops through the State of Maine Laptop Initiative. I was lucky enough to grow up with a computer in my house starting when I was 5 years old and the Windows 95 came out. What I didn’t realize though growing up and even when I began this class is how important technology is to incorporate for students.

I have learned more through this class than I have in any other class this semester and it still boggles my mind that it isn’t a required class for education majors. The information that I have learned in EDT 400 I will carry with me into the field and I am eager to use all of the resources I have learned about in the classroom. The thing that set my learning in this class apart from my learning in my other classes is that I wasn’t listening to a lecture or reading out of a textbook for homework. I was engaging in group discussions in class and using that along with articles and videos to post blogs about my opinions and research. I was allowed to control my own learning for the first time in my college and even educational career. I wasn’t forced to complete things by a certain date or read 2 chapters in my book for the next class period. I could do my research and post my blogs and do my assignments when I wanted to and when I had the time. Contrary to what you may think this made me want to do it before any other work for my other classes. I found myself in the beginning very engaged in this class and wanting to work on it more than anything else. I quickly realized that was not the best idea considering I still had 4 other classes to focus on.. but I was shocked to see that when I was allowed to be in control, I learned so much more and not because I had to, because I wanted to.

Throughout the semester I have explored various tools and these have been the ones that have helped me the most in this class and that I can see myself continuing to use in the future and in the field.

My twitter account has allowed me to follow people already in the field and using technology. I have collected a lot of resources from these people as well as my peers. It has been a good way for me to keep track of my peer’s blogging and also for me to put myself out there with resources and blog updates.

Classroom 2.0 and Edutopia have been essential to the creation of my networked teaching and learning project. These websites have amazing discussions, articles, videos, wikis, blogs, and so much more. If you are looking for something relating to education and technology you can find it there.

Google alerts, docs, and reader also were an essential resource for the development of my project and also for resources for my blog.

Netvibes and tweetdeck have been incredible for keeping myself organized. All of these tools kept me very overwhelmed throughout the semester but the organization has been the biggest factor in me keeping my sanity.

Flickr and Youtube have been the two sites that I used for any photos or videos on my blog or my project.

I have learned about and used dozens of new tools this semester, more than I thought I would use in a lifetime,but those have been the most critical to my growth and development. I can’t say enough how important this class has been to the development of myself as a learner and a teacher and I will encourage every education major I know to take it. I want to thank all of my peers and especially Thomas Steele-Maley for being a part of this semester and helping to learn all that I have learned. It truly has been an incredible experience.. farewell.

Technology has expanded to the point that it has become the number one element in our everyday lives. It is used everywhere and for everything. This expansion has led to the introduction of technology in education. There is copious amounts of evidence that technology has expanded student’s learning. It is imperative thatchildren understand all of the different uses of technology and how to take advantage of these tools. Without this knowledge it will be difficult for them to live and work in our society. Technology has broadened education in ways that makes it possible for students to communicate and collaborate with students all over the country and all over the world. They can learn to research information, make judgements on it’s validity, and find even more resources of information to back it up. They can expand their imaginations to develop hypotheses and then research these hypotheses to either disprove or validate them. These types of skills are critical to have in any job that is out there today.

I value that children working with technology in education can foster their own educational growth and development. It allows them to use their imagination and lead themselves through their learning. Rather than sitting back and waiting to learn they become a part of the process and take control of their learning. Creativity and imagination is something that all children are born with but throughout education it slowly dwindles and they are taught to think the same way as everyone else. If everyone had the same thoughts and ideas than this world wouldn’t be where it is today. Technology allows children to use their creativity and imagination in a way that they won’t lose sight of it. I think it is so important for children to use their imaginations because that it was makes them unique.

My theory is that children are born with this innate ability to use technology. I’ve seen children as young as 2 playing touch screen games on an ipad, ipod, or phone and they are learning! They are learning more than just rote memorization skills they are learning through exploration. What happens when I hit this button? Or when I try doing this? They are teaching themselves, which to me is an amazing trait for human beings to possess. Rather than banning technology schools should be taking advantage of the fact that students can learn more through technology than they can through an encyclopedia. Let them open up with technology and use the skills that they already possess to grow even more as learners and individuals. Technology can open so many doors for students in so many different ways and ignoring that fact is not going to get us anywhere. There are so many resources for teachers and students and they need to be taken advantage of. My philosophy of education is to teach students to the best of my ability in a way that allows them to use their uniqueness and individuality to learn as much as possible. The only way to do this is to fully incorporate technology in the classroom.

Google apps is a free website with tools in communication, collaboration, and customization. It is starting to be seen more and more in education throughout the country. The explanation is simple: it is a web based program that is accessible anywhere, anytime with internet access. It benefits teachers, administrators, parents, and students.

Calendars can be shared so that if there is a last minute change in the schedule everyone can see that the change has been made. Students can write papers, work on spreadsheets, or do a powerpoint presentation and rather than turning them in and waiting for the teacher to grade every student’s piece of work before they get feedback, the teacher adds comments right to the original document and the student can see the revisions immediately. Teachers and students don’t have to worry about losing papers or trying to stay organized because with google apps everything is organized for you.

Schools that use google apps often set up every student with a gmail account. If a student has a question on an assignment they can email the teacher or even email their peers.If the teacher uses a powerpoint presentation during class, the students have access to it outside of class to help them on assignments, studying for tests, etc.

Google groups can be created for teachers to keep in contact with one another as well as parents and teachers. It is often hard to work around the schedules of both teachers and parents to fit in times for conferences. With google apps they can choose to do video conferences, conferencing through groups, or discussing back and forth through gmail.

Here is a video I found on youtube about how one middle school in Dorchester, Massachusetts utilizes google apps:

Social media in education

Reading Henry Jenkin’s piece on Confronting Challenges of Participatory Cultures: Media Education for the 21st Century really got me thinking about why it is important to include social media in the classroom and how best to do so. There is evidence that media opens up amazing opportunities for students. Here is one example from the article above:

“Blake Ross (McHugh,2005) was 14 years old when he was hired for a summer internship at Netscape. By that point, he already had developed computer programming skills and published his own website. Frustrated by many of the corporate decisions made at Netscape, Ross decided to design his own web browser. Through the joint participation of thousands of other volunteer youth and adults working on his project worldwide, the Firefox web browser was born” (Jenkins P.5).

Often a student’s favorite thing to do on the computer is banned from the classroom. Social media is frowned upon in schools because it is often seen as a waste of time and irrelevant to what should be taught. The truth is that it can’t possibly be a waste of time when students and teachers alike engage in it on a daily basis. Instead of saving social networking for after school why not find a way to incorporate it in school? Students will enjoy it, they will get involved because they want to, and there are so many ways to make social media relevant in the classroom.

I found a blog on Classroom 2.0 regarding “How social media saved winter break.” This blog post lists 10 ways to incorporate 5 different social networking sites into learning including facebook, twitter, youtube, wordpress, and flickr. One of my favorites is to create a facebook group for your class where you can post homework assignments and students can ask questions. You could create notes asking questions about a topic and students could do some research, respond to the questions, and discuss them. Students are going to use their social networking sites whether it is banned in schools or not. They are experts at finding loopholes in the system.. so give them a way to include something they enjoy!

In Howard Rheingold’s article about building a Personal Learning Network he refers to Shelly Terrell who is an English teacher that is a strong advocate of helping students develop their own “passionate learning networks.” She instills in her students the idea that within a virtual learning community any question they have can be answered by an expert in the subject. Rather than just having the peers sitting next to them in class they have an entire web of people to go to for help.

When I started developing my personal learning network it was with the basics by posting blogs and commenting on my peers’ blogs. Then I opened up in twitter and start following people who were big advocators of technology integration. Through twitter I was discovering blogs, videos, and articles of local educators, education advocators like Sir Ken Robinson, George Siemens, Daniel Pink, and so many more. I am following the classroom 2.0 twitter, I have joined google alerts, groups, and reader. My peers are posting relevant links where I am getting even more relevant links and resources and my personal learning network is no longer that but it is instead a passionate learning network. Here is what my PLN looks like today.

This is what needs to be taught to students. The resources that they use and the people they choose to communicate with are personal to them because they got to choose them. That is what also makes those same resources passionate to the students.

Shelly Terrell does a great job of explaining the importance of passionate learning networks and how to introduce them to students and even administrators in this video:

As the end of the semester approaches I find myself engaging in my project more than anything else. It is approaching quickly and I can’t believe how fast time is passing! My PLN has grown tremendously since my last benchmark. I have gone from just the basics of blogging and tweeting to putting myself out there in the virtual learning community. I have created accounts on various useful websites such as Classroom 2.0, Google Reader, Google Alerts, and Evernote. I am following more and more people on twitter which has opened me up to some pretty incredible resources like this blog on technology for teachers. Another resource that has been very useful to me in the creation of my project is edutopia. All of these resources have really opened up my personal learning network.

There are however some areas where I would like to see myself improve. I’m still having trouble with Mahara and putting my project together so that is something I need to play around with more and figure out. I would also like to figure out how to use Evernote because I just signed up for it so I haven’t been able to use it to my advantage yet. Once I get the hang of it I think it will be perfect because I need something to keep all of my project ideas and resources organized.

I think that my blog posts are well supported with videos, pictures, and other resources. I not only respond to the mandatory weekly readings but I also explore the web for ideas for other posts. In class I always ask questions when there is confusion and I think that is a strength of mine. Discussions with peers have improved a lot since my last benchmark! More people are talking in class and sometimes we get really good discussions going.

Going into Asa Adams for class and seeing the technology integration was a tremendous opportunity! I had fun and it was really neat to see how technology is incorporated right here in Orono. I have grown quite fond of Sir Ken Robinson and I still LOVE his video Do Schools Kill Creativity? Listening to him is not only interesting and educational but he is humorous as well. I love videos like this one and I would like to see more!

Google alerts and google reader are going to by my most important resources when building my project. New stuff is added to the web everyday and with these two places I can see exactly what is new without tracking it down. My peers are going to be my biggest resource for getting help in using things like Mahara and Evernote. Everyone really wants to help one another and thats what makes a virtual learning community so great. I look forward to seeing what the next few weeks in EDT400 has in store!

The field experience at Asa Adams was a critical piece to my development in EDT 400. For months we have been discussing all of these different ways to incorporate technology into education but I had yet to see what that would play out like in a real classroom.

The morning began in a second grade classroom where deb was

using the smart board to work with students during their math lessons. As pointed out by Deb, there are many advantages to this tool. The board itself is magnetic so she can take it off the wall and move it to any classroom she wants. The students are engaged by using the pen to solve problems themselves up on the board. When asked who wants to solve a problem on the board almost every student raised their hand showing how eager they are to use this technology. Deb can also hook her laptop up to the board so that students can see her screen. She pointed out how useful this was because she can use the calculator on her computer rather than having students struggle with their solar powered dollar store calculators.

We were also introduced to a device called the ladybug which is a small projector that can not only project images onto the board but can also record voices. This is beneficial to students who may have missed school because Deb can record the lesson and post it on her website for that student or parents to access.

The remainder of our time at Asa Adams Elementary was spent in the computer lab with a group of 4th graders who were doing some research on Maine. We were able to walk around the room to see what students were working on and sit down and ask them questions. The child I talked to mentioned how much she enjoyed using the technology. Her favorite thing to do with the computers is to use the paint application because she enjoys art. She said in previous years she had been given the opportunity to work with twitter and a class blog.

I was amazed by how independently these students were able to do research and stay on task. They seemed genuinely interested in the topics they were researching. By doing this work independently they are able to explore their own interests and curiosity and they aren’t forced to learn about a specific topic. They are learning so much more about themselves, and their interests, and what they have the ability to do on their own, which is such a tremendous aspect of growing up.

Prior to this class when I thought about incorporating technology into the classroom computers is the one thing that came to mind. Now I know that there is so much more to it than that. There are numerous ways technology can be incorporated and computers are just one. Seeing a teacher use these technologies in action was beneficial to me in several ways! Not only did I get a first hand look of what really goes on in the classroom, but I also got some awesome ideas for my project!

Teachers who are new to technology integration in the classroom may be unsure of the relevance technology has to learning or what kind of environment they should be trying to create for their students. Here is the answer… the Performance Indicators for Teachers for Digital Age Education. These are clear cut guidelines for teachers to follow when trying to incorporate technology. This is extremely helpful to me because I can look more closely at my resources for my project and figure out if they align with these indicators. I can do the same with the Standards for Students for Digital Age Education.

Looking at the standards for students I have also realized that in EDT 400 we have touched on all of them! Just by creating blog posts every week and commenting on other peers’ posts in our VLC’s we are practicing all 6 of the standards. Creativity and innovation will be clearly shown through our final projects. Communicating with peers and researching has helped me develop my PLN more than I ever imagined. There are definitely times when I feel lost and confused because this is all so new to me, but it is getting better and I am accomplishing so much in such a short amount of time.

I encourage teachers to take a look at these standards and performance indicators and use them as guidelines in their classrooms. Technology integration is so important to a child’s education and what better way to get students to research, communicate, make decisions, collaborate, and use their creativity than with the one resource that has it all.

Choosing the topic for my project was the hardest part. There are so many things out there relevant to incorporating technology in schools so it was hard to choose what I thought would be the best one. Now that I know what my topic is researching should be a breeze right?… wrong. Researching takes a lot of time and effort. Finding a resource is pretty easy, but  finding out what it is all about and whether or not it will be critical for the final result of my project is the hard part. Some of the websites I have found are quite detailed and I want to be sure I know how it works from every angle before I recommend it to other students and teachers.

I have found quite a few websites that I think are perfect for my topic. One titled Little Bird Tales is a website where students can create their own digital story! The first step is to create the illustrations. They can either draw them and scan them onto the computer, use the paint tool given on the website, or take pictures with a digital camera and upload those. Once the pictures are all in place students can do a voice recording of the words. I listened to some of the public stories and it seemed like a project that kids could really have fun with!

Since most early elementary students are new with computers I found a website for beginning computer users to learn to type. Once students are familiar with the keyboard and typing they will be comfortable enough to move beyond these beginning skills to more advanced projects like a classroom blog. This is a teachers blog with a day by day lesson plan on how she introduced blogging to her 4th grade students.

Another popular way elementary teachers are incorporating technology into literacy is through online books. International Children’s Digital Library is a website where students can choose a book to read online. It has different levels depending on the ability of the reader and there are books in 16 different languages! So it is an excellent source for foreign language students as well!

I still have a lot of researching left to do. My next step is to start looking at scholarly reviewed articles and discussion groups. My plan is to organize all of these resources into folders on my desktop. Once these are all organized I want to put them all onto Mahara at once. For me this approach will help to keep things organized. More to come on how my project is developing!

 

How NOT to motivate students

This video with Daniel Pink made me think a little bit about what teachers do to try and motivate students. I think it is common for teachers to use a ‘points system’ to motivate students. If a student succeeds on a task they will get points or stars and after a certain number of these they can cash them in for a prize. What Pink is saying though, is that these motivational factors don’t work. Studies have been done over and over again and the results continue to be the same…

individuals being offered a large cash prizes for performing a task do worse on the task than individuals offered a much smaller prize. These points systems that are sometimes used with students then, are irrelevant. Offering a student a prize for completing a task isn’t going to ensure that they do any better on it. Don’t you think if students could do something they would? Children don’t want to look incompetent and they don’t want to be wrong. If a student is having trouble performing a task we shouldn’t be trying to motivate them with an extra recess, we should be helping them work through their tangle.