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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  Student enthusiasm rises enough that complacent or withdrawn students engage with software much more than they do with other classroom activities.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.

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EDTECH 541: Acceptable Use Policy

September 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Like many people, I have been required to sign my employer’s Acceptable Use Policy statement, sometimes on a yearly basis.  The nature of human beings dictates that some people can and will use resources poorly.  In response to the poor use of technology, institutions have had to implement policies that dictate the proper use of their resources.

My understanding of the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is that it simply contains the rules and/or guidelines for using computers and networks belonging to a certain entity.  In my lifetime, I have signed AUPs for several of my employers stating that I will use their technology responsibly, for business purposes, and I will not use resources that might lead to harm.  Harmful resources include visiting sites that might contain viruses, sexually explicit content, or sites where I can make personal judgment statements that my conflict with those of my employer.

AUPs should contain a section that clearly explains the policy to the user.  This includes highlighting consequences should the policy be violated.  The AUP should link back to the general behavior policy of the school or business to show that technology use is linked to expected behaviors.  Also included in the AUP should be a definition and example of use that is approved and acceptable.  This section should also include examples of what is not acceptable use.  For instance, it is not acceptable to visit pornographic sites or sites that contain foul language and inappropriate images.  It may be unacceptable in some institutions for people to visit sites that allow music and movie streaming or even social media sites.  These rules should be clearly stated so that there is no confusion on the part of the user.

In the interest of writing a AUP for a school, students need to know exactly what they can and cannot do.  The AUP should link technology use to the student code of conduct, list acceptable behaviors, and enumerate the consequences for students who do not follow the AUP.   Also, schools need to keep in mind that “media have no intent…people do and the policy is made for people. Real people with real language that can be understood by parents, students, and teachers” (techlearning.com, 2012).  Students generally respond positively to a positive and friendly tone, so writing the AUP in this manner is advisable.

The AUP should simply advise users about their role in using technology responsibly.  Regardless of who the user is, the tone, word choice, and syntax of the document should be easily followed and friendly.

Here are some Acceptable Use Policies that I have become familiar with:

Boise State University Acceptable Use Policy

Google Gmail Acceptable Use Policy

Flickr Acceptable Use Policy

Arizona Department of Education Acceptable Use Policy

Reference:

Tech & Learning. (2012, June 3). Looking to create a social media or BYOD policy? Look no further. Retrieved from: http://www.techlearning.com/Default.aspx?tabid=67&EntryId=4355

School Envrionment Evaluation

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment

I must confess that I am a bit disillusioned after completing this School Environment Evaluation (embedded below).  Prior to this process, I thought I had it better than many other teachers.  This survey has actually helped me to see that my school needs much more in the way of technology planning that involves teachers and curriculum.  We do little long range planning.

This assignment addresses several AECT standards starting with 4.1 Project Management.  Technology planning requires both planning and managing current and future resources while identifying necessary projects for future integration.  The assignment also covers most of Standard 5:  Evaluation.  In conducting the survey, I had to gather information regarding my school in order to determine the parameters present in my school for technology maturity.  The evaluation included an analysis of the school’s current processes and a suggestion for solving the problem.  This meets standard 5.1 for Problem Analysis.  The assignment also addresses 5.3 Formative and Summative Evaluation and 5.4 Long-range Planning.  As part of this project I used summative evaluation to gather date and make decisions regarding the technology maturity of my school.  I used formative evaluation to determine steps for future improvement.  I employed standard 5.4 to discuss the school’s own long-range planning for technology and how it can be better improved using more faculty support and curriculum integration.

Technology Use Planning Overview

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

The term “technology use planning” can best be described as an ongoing, fluid plan for how to use technology in education.  The planning includes the budgetary and spatial requirements for technology as well as the plan for implementation of those technologies.  The idea of technology use planning assumes incorporation of technology but also a careful analysis and plan of how that technology will be used.  John See makes a good point that effective technology plans should be output based starting with the goals or competencies that we want to accomplish rather than the actual technology needed.  This concept is the “planning” part of the process as it assumes a broader knowledge of both the curriculum and the desired learning outcomes (1992).  The technology becomes a vehicle for arriving at that outcome rather than an outcome itself.

The National Educational Technology Plan 2010 can be very effective for technology use planning because it acknowledges several important facts.  One such fact is that students have completely different technology experiences in and out of schools.  There is a disparity between the technology they are allowed to use in school and what they freely use outside of school.  We need to plan for better integration that includes technology that students will encounter in their daily lives.  The NETP also recognizes that faculty need training and support for integrating technology.  It reads, “The best way to prepare teachers for connected teaching is to have them experience it. All institutions involved in preparing educators should provide technology-supported learning experiences that promote and enable the use of technology to improve learning, assessment, and instructional practices.”  We cannot forget that our technology use planning should be focused on the users of the technology.  Anderson notes that a technology plan should be less about computers and more about people (1999).  This is for both planning and execution purposes.  Finally, the NETP includes specific goals and recommended actions that institutions can put into place to help them with their own planning.

I agree with See that plans should be short; however, I think there should be long-term evaluations built into the plan.  For instance, as See mentions, a five-year plan would be completely obsolete five years from now as new technology emerges so quickly that we cannot conceive today of what will be available five years into the future (1999).  However, I believe that we should also have a long-term goal of continually evaluating our technology use plan and making changes to it to address both emerging technologies and the efficacy of the current plan.

I couldn’t agree more that effective plans focus on applications.  I see this daily in my own school.  Our technology is monitored by a person who doesn’t teach and is mostly concerned with accountability for the hardware.  As a result, we have computers available, but we have so severely limited the access to them and their access to applications that they become merely, to use See’s word, keyboards.  As I said above, if we could design our desired outcomes and then plan how to achieve them using technology, education becomes more about the learning and less about face or seat time in front of the technology.

Other than my own teaching, I haven’t had much use with technology use planning.  However, I am constantly amazed and dismayed at the narrow-minded thinking that goes into using technology in education.  I recently had to restrict my students from using electronic devices to access e-books for my literature class. Teachers are not to allow students to use any form of technology except the laptops that we check out on a cart.  I wasn’t told if this was due to bandwidth issues or viruses introduced into our network from outside devices.  Because there was no explanation, it seemed like we are just trying to limit exposure to these devices.  I have students that use electronic dictionaries and thesauri during writing assignments, e-books for in class reading, and i-pads to write papers.  These are devices the students bring with them, and they want to use them!  It’s hard for me to plan for technology use when I am discouraged from allowing students to use technology.

Anderson, L. S. (1999, February). Technology planning: It’s more than computers. Paper to accompany keynote address in Singapore.

See, J. (1992). Developing effective technology plans. The Computing Teacher, 19(8). Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/html/john_see.cfm

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2010). Transforming American education learning powered by technology. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010

Horizon Report Tech Trend

October 10, 2011 Leave a comment

This week I researched various technology trends.  As my classroom isn’t as technologically savvy as I would like, I made use of a technology that we can use.  My lesson plan (linked below) has students using Kindle for PC to read and analyze a literature text.  In a previous lesson, I demonstrated how to access and create an account on Amazon, download Kindle for PC, and “purchase” a free book.  The lesson below makes use of the Kindle for PC as we read and analyze the text in class.

This type of lesson is very important to show students that technology is evolving with books.  Many students think of books as old and tired because there isn’t anything flashy about them.  Incorporating lessons that use books and technology together can help to show students that books have a relevant place in today’s technology.  This makes teaching an learning more interactive and fun for students and teachers.

I would really like to do more of this type of lesson in my classroom, and it has given me ideas on how I might accomplish this type of lesson in a technologically stunted environment.

Tech Trends Assignment