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Integrated Curriculum

July 14, 2013 Leave a comment

My students have an alarming tendency to compartmentalize their classes.  They aren’t prepared to discuss science in English class or math in history class.  Some of them are quite uncomfortable when asked to do so.  I think this is partly because teachers don’t integrate curriculum so students are out of practice with it.  Also, they walk in to English with a set of expectations that do not include being graded for math.  So, educators do need to break down some barriers and stereotypes to get the students on board.  It doesn’Jigsaw Geographyt usually take me long to get them to understand how English and history are related.  But why is this important?  Because life is not compartmentalized.  If school is about teaching the skills students need for life, then they should expect to use those skills in ways they would in life.  This means that educators need to teach students how to recall prior knowledge regardless of discipline when the knowledge is needed.

Integrating curriculum seems so important and, yet, is so rarely done on purpose.  Why is that?  Maybe because I have Aug-May to teach skills that will master a set of standards, and I could easily take twice that time.  Also, I am unsure how math or physics is going to enhance the English curriculum to meet those standards.  So, I am a bit gun shy about turning over my time to another discipline.  That being said, I have always thought that integrating curriculum was a must.  I cannot teach English without engaging with history and language.  Perhaps some teachers can do this, but I feel that we need to have a solid idea of the time in which literature is set and when it was written.  Authors are a product of their environment like everyone else, so we should know what that environment was like.  It’s fairly easy to integrate English and history.  The harder part is to integrate other subjects that don’t seem as involved, science and math come to mind.  However, when I think about it, the scholars and writers of the past were also the philosophers and the scientists.  They knew how to write and speak multiple languages.  So perhaps the disciplines are more closely tied than I first thought.

I think the biggest challenge of integration is to get an entire group of teachers and administrators to see the benefits of interdisciplinary projects.  There is much at stake if the project fails and students can’t perform on standardized tests because the curriculum failed them.  I dislike using the standardized test as the benchmark of success, but that’s what’s done whether I see the value or not.  So, the challenge is to get the teachers to discuss and find value in an interdisciplinary project and then propose an integrated project to administration.  This means that much work has to be done before going to admin.  However, this is a crucial step to ensure that all the teachers are on board with a project and plan to contribute and work through it in their own classes.  If even one teacher drops the ball, the project could die.  I am currently working on an integrated curriculum project with the AP history teacher.  I see where I can and should do more, which means that I need to make some plans and add some activities to enhance the project.  It takes planning!  I think that’s the issue.  Teachers are all so busy that no one wants to add to the amount of planning we all do daily.  Using some success stories as inspiration should help everyone see that the planning is worth it.  The way to get the interdisciplinary project started at my school is to start it!

EDTECH 541: Relative Advantage of Spreadsheets in the Classroom

October 8, 2012 1 comment

As an English teacher, I don’t use spreadsheets for their traditional purpose in my classroom.  We don’t normally perform calculations that require the formulas and graphs used in spreadsheets.  However, I have found that teaching spreadsheets is very important.  I find that one of the relative advantages of teaching and using spreadsheets is building the skill of working with spreadsheets.  Students will need this skill in college and beyond in their careers.  My time in the business world showed me that workers frequently encounter spreadsheets in the workplace.  Thus, developing the skill to work with spreadsheets is important for students of all ages.

For my classroom, the relative advantage of spreadsheets is their organizational power.  Roblyer and Doering (2013) note that “whenever students must keep track of data from classroom experiments or online surveys, spreadsheets help organize these data and allow students to perform required descriptive analyses on them” (p. 126).  For English, I find that using spreadsheets to create graphic organizers for writing is very useful.  The built-in organization of columns and rows allows for easy creation of graphic organizers and sorting information by topics and themes.  Also, my students use spreadsheets to collect, organize, and sort data related to English projects.  While the calculation tools aren’t always used, the organized layout and sort capabilities are wonderful.

I confess that I don’t use databases in the classroom.  From the reading that I have done, I see that databases are larger repositories for storing and organizing information than are spreadsheets (Joan 2010).  Since my classroom doesn’t use large amounts of data, spreadsheets suit our needs.  Although, I can see how using online databases that work with spelling, grammar, and ebooks could be very useful for students.  This is technology that I need to examine more closely for inclusion in my classroom.

I take for granted that my students know traditional computer software.  They grew up with computers so I assume that they are proficient with Word and Excel.  This notion couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Students can access these programs on their home computers; they may even be able to perform simple functions.  However, my last class essay has proven to me that students need guidance in the nuances involved in programs like Word and Excel.  Learning to aggregate and sort data is an important skill that will transfer to non-classroom situations.  Students have to know about the ideas behind data sorting before they start thinking about sorting on a larger scale.  This is one of the advantages of using spreadsheets.  Students begin to think about data sets, sorting, and configuring information in new ways.

Reference:

Joan. B. (2010, Dec. 25). Difference between spreadsheet and database. Retrieved from: http://www.differencebetween.net/technology/difference-between-spreadsheet-and-database/

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

EDTECH 543: My Positive Digital Footprint

October 1, 2012 2 comments

As I prepare to write my plan for a positive digital footprint, I feel I must make a confession.  I don’t share.  I am an intensely private person, which has made social networking a bit of a challenge for me.  I just don’t feel that people I don’t know need to know so much information about me.  I subscribe to a private Facebook page that I’ve had for years, but the privacy is so tight that even my friends with my email address can’t always find me.  Time for another confession; I like it that way.

One of my goals in taking this course was to help me see more value in sharing and connecting over social networking channels.  I realize that I have a valuable voice in the education field but I am the only one who hears it now.  To that end, I need to change my attitude toward social networking.  My plan for developing a positive digital footprint and managing my online reputation is more about getting started than it is about management as I feel that the starting point is my biggest hurdle.

My plan is to:

  1. Completely fill out the profiles on my various sites.  I have profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google + that are in various states of completion.  However, there is quite a bit of information missing from them.  People can’t know me if I don’t let them.  I need to fill out my profiles to link “me” to the accounts I have online.
  2. Ensure that the profiles that I build are positive and flattering.  McGinnis (2012) notes that I should also link to positive assets on other sites.  So, I will make sure that I link my positive aspects from one site to another.  I tend to be most active on Twitter and Facebook, so I will link activity there to my profiles and pages on Google + and YouTube.
  3. Create a Google Alert on my name to alert me to any searches done on my name.  I need to see when others search for me to establish trends and patterns in searching.  Also, Zupek (2009) warns that we need to be aware of “cyber twins.”  So, I will make sure that I keep track of other people with my name so that I can defend against anything negative others do.  While I can’t change what is written online about other people with my name, I can ensure that I distance myself from them through information on my profile like city, schools, affiliations, etc.
  4. Keep information current.  I am more of an online lurker than anything else.  I rarely post on Facebook and Twitter though I check them regularly.  In order to brand myself positively, I need to participate.  I will not be able to build a brand and become known for my name and my platform if I don’t participate.  This is a big step for me.  While those who know me can attest that I am far from shy, I don’t always feel that my information is worthy of world recognition.  I now understand that part of making my presence known is letting those who don’t know me see my personality and my strengths through my online contributions.
  5. Avoid following and making relationships with people and institutions that will reflect poorly on me.  I don’t want to be judged by my association with an unprofessional or immoral person or group.  Avoiding those associations should reflect well upon me both professionally and personally by showing that I carefully consider those whom I associate with online.  This adds to my online presence and builds integrity into my brand.
  6. Create content that reflects who I am professionally and socially.  As a student in an Educational Technology program, I have plenty to say about education, teaching, and learning that would contribute to my positive image as a valuable member of my online community.  Zupek (2009) suggests to “make your content useful.”  As a teacher, I do have knowledge that I can impart to others.  Instructional information builds my brand as a person who has knowledge and shares it willingly in a spirit of community.
  7. Build my personal brand by using my name.  I need to tag images and content with my name to help increase my online presence and showcase my affiliations.  This also credits me with the good participation that I perform online.
  8. Make online content public.  I know that everything on my YouTube channel is listed as private.  This is for several reasons.  I don’t check this channel frequently, so I didn’t want to have information online that others would comment upon and require my input.  I now see that this action isn’t helping my brand, so I plan to ensure that all my presentations and online information is public and tagged with my name.
  9. Consolidate my accounts under the same name.  For some reason my Twitter and Facebook accounts are named differently.  I don’t think this was a conscious choice by me.  My Twitter account is my first and middle initials and last name.  So, it’s not too far off; however, the difference in names doesn’t help me become recognized as a personal brand.
  10. Search for myself regularly to see what data is returned.  Once I get my profiles established and begin to post meaningful information, my online presence will increase.  I will need to begin actively protecting my online image.  I need to search for myself to ensure that my information is correct and that it reflects the professional person that I want to the world to see.  If negative information is found, I can take steps to eliminate or mitigate the damage.
  11. Ensure that I am visible on the sites that rank highly with Google (Ensha, 2009).  By creating accounts with the sites that return higher in Google, I can ensure that I am driving the positive information to the top of the search.  Admittedly, I don’t participate much online.  This means that there isn’t any negative information out there about me.  So driving the positive information isn’t about covering up past damage; it’s about creating an online persona that I can be proud to call my own.

References

Ensha, A. (2009). How to manage your reputation online. Retrieved from: http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/how-to-manage-your-reputation-online/

McGinnis, S. (2012). Online reputation management: A how-to guide. Retrieved from: http://spinsucks.com/communication/online-reputation-management-a-how-to-guide/

Zupek, R. (2009). Build a digital footprint you can be proud of. Retrieved from: http://msn.careerbuilder.com/Article/MSN-2045-Job-Info-and-Trends-Build-a-Digital-Footprint-You-Can-Be-Proud-Of/?cbsid=f3e15c07ff4941689640905d8b03cc68-310638335-x3-6&sc_extcmp=JS_2045_home1&ArticleID=2045&SiteId=cbmsnhp42045&cbRecursionCnt=3&gt1=23000

Relative Advantages of Instructional Software in the Classroom

September 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Admittedly, I am seeking a Master’s degree in Educational Technology.  It can be inferred that I find value in technology in the classroom.  In today’s technological world, the real question is why wouldn’t a teacher want to integrate technology?  There are many studies that indicate that financing, access to technology, and administrative pressures prevent teachers from incorporating technology.  Perhaps some of those stopgaps would be eliminated if those in power knew the relative advantages of using instructional software.

Instructional Software in the Classroom

For instance, drill and skill software offers unique advantages over manual skills practice in the classroom.  Without software, the teacher has to monitor each student and check for understanding individually.  The advantage of drill and skill software is that students get immediate feedback on their progress.  Additionally, students are able to work at their own pace and move as quickly or slowly as they need.  This approach offers differentiated instruction for those students who need it.  In my AP Literature and Composition class, I have incorporated the use of software for vocabulary drills.  My students use Quizlet to test vocabulary that they may encounter on the AP Exam.  Here’s a quiz that we used recently.

While there are many different types of software available including tutorials, simulations, games, and problem-solving software; teachers need to be aware of what software is available to them.  Success stories of how other teachers use software can provide inspiration for teachers to incorporate their own technology.  Education Week did a special report on Multimedia Transformation that includes wonderful success stories.  Some of the technology doesn’t qualify as instructional software, but it’s a great place to start looking for inspiration.  I also like Glencoe’s online tips for integrating technology into Language Arts classrooms.

I don’t have statistics to support my claims that instructional software works in the classroom, but I can speak from experience saying that software engages students.  They are excited to be on computers in a room when they are normally not allowed or able to access technology.  Student enthusiasm rises enough that complacent or withdrawn students engage with software much more than they do with other classroom activities.  If I had to list the main relative advantage of instructional software, it would be that software motivates students to paricipate by engaging them with the content.

For more information on the relative advantages of software integration, click this link to see my SlideRocket presentation.

Darla Grant: EDTECH Learning Log

September 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Hi there. I am Darla Grant. I am getting my Master’s degree in Educational Technology to support the three years of curriculum development experience I have at the college level. Sadly, I had to leave my curriculum job, but the love of instructional design has stayed with me. I am seeking my education technology degree in the hopes that I can add more technology to my English classroom as I am now a high school English teacher.