My Thoughts on Project-Based Learning

June 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Ask me anytime before this class, and I would tell you that I am not a fan of projects.  They take too much class time, and they don’t support my learning objectives.  It seems that I have been doing it wrong.  I haven’t yet determined how projects can help my students in their AP Literature & Composition course, but I remain hopeful that I can learn and create a meaningful project for the AP students.

I guess it makes sense that a project should start with a leading research-type question.  This is what was lacking from my own experience with projects.  My former teachers handed out a packet and said get to work.  It was neither effective nor inspiring.  However, if we had started with a problem or a question to solve, that might have made my experience better.  What I have found so far is a list of resources that I want to keep in mind for project-based learning (PBL).

This article was the first I read that suggested the problem or question is important.

I also really like the following videos for examples of PBL:

bie.org:  PBL Explained 

and Edutopia’s PBL Introduction

I think I am still going to have a challenge with projects because I am a literature teacher.  I have always been focused on the literature itself.  I don’t want to change that focus, but I would like to create a project that helps students to discover the literature that is meaningful to them.  So, stay tuned…

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EDTECH 543: Final Reflection

December 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Final reflection upon EDTECH 543

Well, I am normally a lurker, and I, frankly, don’t have the time to spend on social networking sites.  I would far rather bury myself in a book than jump on the computer.  That being said, I believe that this class has helped me to see the true value of social networking.  In today’s American culture, the term social networking is commonly misused in my opinion.  I feel that people engage in the social just fine; however, most people aren’t truly networking.  This class has helped me to realize that there are many valuable resources to help make my life easier and help me to be more effective in my areas of interest whether they are professional or personal.

I am now active in an AP Literature forum for AP teachers.  I have already gotten valuable feedback from my peers that I have used in my classroom.  I absolutely loved the unit on curation.  I am trying to maintain my own ScoopIt regarding teaching English.  Time gets away from me when I’m grading essays, but I have been making more regular time for archiving information.  I have even offered to teach a workshop to our high school seniors about social networking for college success.  I would love them to see that there is more to Facebook than chatting with people they see at school all day.  If I can help them set up social networks with their chosen college before they even get to college, I think that would really help set them up for success.

I think the main point that I will take away with me is the idea that participation doesn’t have to be a full time job.  I can participate as much as I have time for, and if I am properly filtering my interests, I can eliminate information overload.

In terms of the coursework, I am actually not very sold on the idea of a MOOC.  I hope to do more research to be able to see the advantage for students as well as teachers.  The idea of taking a class with so many other students isn’t really attractive to me, and I can’t image how hard it must be to facilitate so many students.  I do appreciate the work on the MOOC, though, as it is such a hot topic in education.  I now feel prepared to be a part of that conversation.

As a high school teacher, I am unlikely to teach a MOOC anytime soon, so a lesson on integrating social networking in K-12 would have really been a benefit.  One thing that I would like to have done in this class is something about integrating social networking into my own classroom teaching.  I can absolutely see how social networking is beneficial based on my own use, and I don’t think I would see that as clearly without having first done it myself.

I have truly had a great experience in this course, and I plan to keep up with my social networking and my curation.  My Twitter activity has also increased, and I am following some incredible discussions about teaching Language Arts.  Personally, I find Twitter to be the most helpful resource to me in finding and disseminating information.

Thank you!

EDTECH 541: Final Thoughts

December 9, 2012 Leave a comment

I can hardly believe that the semester has come to a close already.  Then, I look back at all we’ve done, and I think there couldn’t have been time for it all.  I have learned so much in this class, but I think the one idea that I will rely upon the most is the idea of assessing the relative advantage of using technology in the classroom.  I am a firm believer in the fact that technology must have a purpose; otherwise, technology becomes time for students to play on the computer.  Assessing the advantages of using technology is an important way to ensure that the technology is both appropriate and effective to meet course objectives. Ed and Tech

I appreciate the fact that we discussed challenges to technology integration as well.  One thing I have noticed about being in a Master’s program in education is that many people want to focus only on the positive.  Unfortunately, that’s an unrealistic viewpoint as we are working with humans and with human children in particular.  Challenges and problems are going to occur whether we want them to or not.  If we are prepared for those problems, then we are also prepared to solve the problems.  So, in considering arguments against and problems with technology integration, I am far more prepared for how to overcome the challenges in my own career.

I work in a highly competitive, nationally ranked preparatory school.  I find that my teaching theory is a blend of constructivism and cognitive theory.  My students are often so highly performing that I need to let them learn through discovery and inquiry-based assignments.  They often learn more when figuring things out for themselves with guidance from me rather than lectures from me.  Through my coursework in EDTECH 541, I have located many wonderful technology resources that can support my goals in guiding my students to a deeper relationship with English Literature and critical thinking.  I have also learned to better assess the advantages of using technology in my classroom.

My work in this course and in my MET program demonstrates mastery of the AECT standards through careful design, development, and utilization of both technology and strategies to use technology effectively.  These standards provide a baseline for me to consider all aspects of technology use and integration from initial needs assessments to learner considerations to development and assessment after technology is used and integrated.  This course in particular helped me to consider learner characteristics and the ways that technology can better support the learner regardless of their needs or content area.

I find that I am more open to integrating technology that at first doesn’t seem to relate to my content area.  I am better prepared to make a case to my administration about the importance and the benefit of technology in my classroom.  I have actually used several of the assignments I created for EDTECH 541 in my current literature classes, so I am putting my learning immediately into practice.  I am increasingly more aware of the fact that learning is a social practice, and I am encouraging the social aspects of learning through group work, which is supported by technology.  I can honestly say that I have learned as much or more in this course than I have in any other throughout my MET program.

Self-Assessment:

I worked very hard on this course.  I often put in far more than 9 hours of work weekly.  As a result, I feel that my blogging efforts merit an outstanding grade.  When I review my blog posts, I see that they are rich in content and relate to my life as a teacher.  I used quite a few resources in my posts and relied heavily upon the course textbook to support the points I made in my blog posts.  As a full time student and teacher, I am so busy with life that I often didn’t post my blog early in the module, but I did always get it posted before the deadline and did have frequent responses from classmates.  I always replied to two other students trying to ask questions about their posts to increase the depth of their points with my own.  I feel that my work merits the following grade:

Content 70/70

Readings and Resources 20/20

Timeliness 18/20

Responses to other students 30/30

Total 138/140

I want to thank my fellow students for the incredible work they did this semester.  The blogs helped me to see the perspectives of other students as well as view the work of others.  I think looking at the work of other students helps to challenge me to perform better, and I plan to make peer assessment a larger portion of my classroom as a result!

EDTECH 541: Rationale for Assistive/Adaptive Technology

December 1, 2012 2 comments

Schools and libraries are struggling to meet their budgets and must still comply with the Individual with Disabilities Education Act.  It often seems as if accommodations are made and money is spent on a very small percentage of the population.  How can we justify spending large amounts of money to buy assistive technologies that might only be used by a small number of people?

My first reply to this question is that we will justify the spending because it’s the law.  Roblyer and Doering 2013 note that “special education, more than any other areas of education, is governed by laws and politics” (p. 400).  In an effort to follow the laws that govern us, educators must find a way to integrate assistive technology.  The Technology-Related Assistance Act for Individuals with Disabilities that was passed in 1988 makes provisions for this law.  Funding and services are available to provide technology to assist those with disabilities (Roblyer and Doering, 2013, p. 400).  Schools and libraries need to consult local, state, and federal education specialists to locate sources of funding to help fund resources to meet the needs of those with disabilities.assistive

As a result of legislation, students with disabilities are included in classrooms now whereas they had been previously separated.  Inclusion demands that assistive technologies be brought into the general education classroom.  Students with disabilities are finding that they can meet the same expectations as their peers.  “Between 1996–97 and 2005–06, the percentage of students with disabilities exiting school with a regular high school diploma increased from 43 to 57 percent” (NCES).  In a period of nine years, the graduation rate of students with disabilities rose 14%.  “This increase is attributed to, among other things, enhanced technology, expanded support service programs, and higher expectations of what students with disabilities can accomplish” (Gelbwasser, 2012).  As we make accommodations for students with special needs, we will see that their ability to function independently, graduate from college, and secure meaningful employment rises as well.

The Connecticut Libraries newsletter of the Connecticut Library Association featured and article about funding for assistive technology.  This article was titled: “Adaptive Technology: Not Just For People With Disabilities.”  This article brings to light the fact that adaptive and assistive technologies can be used by anyone and often people who aren’t classified with a disability can benefit and learn using these technologies.

          The most common problem hindering students, faculty, staff and

          administrators from using the adaptive technology area, or from

          taking the time to attend training sessions, is a misunderstanding

          of who can benefit from adaptive technology.  Those who have

          attended training sessions and then used the new equipment have

          already discovered that it makes the process of writing academic

          assignments easier. In some cases, students disclosed challenges

          with reading and writing that were previously unknown to the library

          staff. Overall, these students believe that the adaptive technology

          area will become even more useful to them as they get more

          experience with the equipment (Gelbwasser, 2012).

Thus, it is incumbent upon schools and libraries to understand that assistive technologies will aid more than a small population of people.  Shifting paradigms to consider all people as recipients for assistive technology can take the sting out required budgetary expenses.  Moreover, a change in thinking can help schools and libraries to secure the proper training and marketing for these technologies to target a larger audience.  Additionally, with the invention of assistive technologies, people with disabilities are now asking for more assistance.  The more that assistive technologies are included in regular school and library functions, the more demand there will be for those types of services.

Resources:

Gelbwasser, S. E. (2012).  Adaptive Technology: Not Just For People With Disabilities.  Retrieved from: http://www.webjunction.org/documents/webjunction/Adaptive_Technology_Not_Just_For_People_With_Disabilities.html

National Center for Education Statistics.  Students With Disabilities Exiting School With a Regular Diploma.  Retrieved from: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_sdd.asp

Roblyer, M.D. & Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

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EDTECH 541: Obstacles to Technology Integration in the Language Arts

November 19, 2012 1 comment

While technology has undeniably aided teaching, it has introduced a new set of obstacles to teaching language arts.  Digital and information literacies are new types of literacy that need to  be taught alongside traditional reading and writing.  Roblyer and Doering (2013) note that “like the definition of literacy itself, the definition of digital literacy has changed over the years and now means skills in using the information that technological devices carry, in addition to skills using the devices themselves” (p. 267).  English teachers now have the task of teaching students how to read and how to do it using modern technology.  The task of teaching technology is rarely acknowledged in language arts teaching.  We didn’t have to spend a lot of our time teaching students how to use a book; however, depending upon access to technology and parental teaching, students are at vastly different levels of experience when it comes to technology.  Now students are receEreaderiving information from technology sources like emails, instant messages, and blogs.  “Since teaching students to make meaning from texts is primarily seen as the responsibility of English and language arts teachers, these shifting definitions challenge teachers to constantly rethink the skills they teach in order to make their 21st century students truly literate”  (Roblyer and Doering, 2012, p. 268).

The other new literacy facing language arts teachers is known as information literacy, which is the skill that requires people to recognize when they need information and be able to find, evaluate, and use that information (Roblyer and Doering, 2012, p. 268).  Information literacy is primarily a research skill, which is generally seen as a task taught by English teachers.  So, the obstacle becomes teaching student how to know when they need outside research, where to locate reliable research, and how to write research papers.

The confrontation of new literacies is compounded by the usual obstacles to teaching with technology:  limited access to technology, restrictive administrations, and finances.  However, the new literacies themselves become great motivation and reasoning for incorporating more technology in the classroom.

English teachers can answer the problems of these new literacies by relying upon technology itself.  Using the very sources of information that students encounter will not only incorporate the technology but also teach students how to use the technology.  Blogs and wikis can easily be incorporated into learning activities that satisfy digital literacy.  Also, technology can be the best response to research-based assignments with the use of bookmarking sites like Diigo and Delicious.  Teaching students to use the internet to conduct research helps they cultivate information literacy and develop traditional research skills.

While technology has introduced a new set of challenges for teachers, technology also solves those challenges handily.  The main task is getting teachers to understand the new literacies and respond to them through integrating technology.

Resource:

Roblyer, M.D. & Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

EDTECH 541: Relative Advantage of Technology for Content Areas

November 12, 2012 1 comment

Technology is a part of life whether teachers choose to use in their classrooms or not. Teachers must start to learn that part of literacy in the modern day is digital literacy, which includes “skills in using the information that technological devices carry, in addition to skills in using the devices themselves” (Roblyer & Doering 2013, p. 267).  I know teachers who are admittedly ignorant of most technologies available.  Sadly, many of these people are tremendous teachers who would construct amazing lessons around simple technology.  Roblyer and Doering (2013) note that “to be able to teach the new literacies, teachers must become proficient in the new tools that both help define literacy in the 21st century and make possible the strategies to teach it” (p. 281).

The relative advantage of integrating technology into curriculum is chiefly one of motivation and access to materials.  Personally, I think all technology integration should be done at the content area level.  When we connect with technology for a specific content area, then we know that the technology supports that specific area’s objectives and goals.  I teach langauge arts, specifically literature.  My school doesn’t provide eBooks or e-readers, but students use them if they choose.  I use technology to conduct research, teach writing skills, and locate media sources to support books.  My students are far more engaged watching a university film regarding Chaucer’s motivation in writing The Canterbury Tales than they are listening to me lecture.  Many of the technology resources that I use are visual for students:  film, presentations, or artwork.

However, I find the most benefit for students comes when they get to be hands-on with technology.  Roblyer & Doering (2013) note that technology gives students a sense of ownership, which motivates them to learn; “Technology offers a natural setting in which students can be positioned as the experts, helping redefine the student–teacher relationship” (p. 260).  Getting students to engage with technology and literature through technology can be as simple as having them type and publish their poetry or original narratives online (using technology like Scribd, Mixbook, or blogs).  They see their writing on a website that they can share with family members, which makes their efforts seem lasting and important.  I find that writing becomes a fun process for students when they can engage with techology.  Concept mapping software can help students visually organize essays and plan out their argument.  They can use digital outlining tools to help organize writing.  Once writing ceases to be a chore, students engage with it more fully.

Additionally, technology offers access to materials that teachers can’t bring into the classroom.  This week, I wrote an assignment about integrating primary source documents into a social studies activity.  I was able to use PBS.org, Smithsonian online, and History Source Online to locate primary documents to use in my class lesson on colonization.  These documents are housed overseas where I would not otherwise be able to access them.  The only option other than technology would have been to purchase a textbook with versions or excerpts of the documents.  What I found using online resources were scans of the original documents  including the antiquated typesetting and hand-drawn images from the 1800s.  These small features contribute to the sense of history contained within the documents.  A textbook would not be able to create the same material feeling.  Technology was able to bring history to my fingertips making the history more authentic and meaningful.  It can do the same for my students.

My research shows me that technology is only getting more interactive.  Using simulations and mapping software, teachers are able to make content come alive for students.  Students are able to video chat and blog with people across the globe; “these interactions provide a tremendous multicultural benefit to our classrooms that has never existed before” (Roblyer & Doering 2013, p. 269).  The world becomes a smaller place when students can work closely with “friends” across the globe.  Teaching with techology not only creates engaged and motivated students, but also it can help them to become responsible and informed global citizens.

Resource:

Roblyer, M.D. & Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

EDTECH 541: Online Safety for Teens

October 28, 2012 2 comments

Internet Safety for High School students

Remember when you couldn’t go online without your mom or dad typing in the web address and watching over your shoulder?  Those days could return if internet rules aren’t followed.  Rules for the internet, like most rules, are in place to ensure that you are safe from harm while conducting your business online.  Teenagers are constantly bombarded with rules for conduct and behavior.  Keep in mind that the internet can be a stalking ground as well a place to meet friends and do homework.  “Internet safety isn’t about a bunch of rules telling you ‘never do this’, or trying to scare you into safe behavior.  Internet safety is about avoiding being ripped off, disrespected, bullied, scammed, or stalked while you’re just trying to have a good time online” (Lookbothways, 2008). Remember the following rules to keep you and your family safe:

  • Don’t provide information online that would allow a stranger to find you.  Remember, “predators may use this information to begin illegal or indecent relationships or to harm a person’s or family’s well-being” (kidshealth.org, 2012).  Is your safety and that of your family worth a few minutes of online conversation?
  • Protect your personal information.  Many online sites have listed in their terms and conditions a clause stating that they can use your material if you post it on their site; this includes sites like Facebook and MySpace.  Don’t post your personal photos, creative writing, and other proprietary information online if you want to maintain ownership of it.  Remember, “if [online sites] own your content and profile, and your information is ‘repurposed,’ there isn’t much you can do about it” ((Lookbothways, 2008).
  • Protect your reputation.  Your presence online reflects back upon you, and online material doesn’t go away!  Remember that “what’s funny today can embarrass you tomorrow [, and] anything you say or do can be copied, pasted, and sent to gazillions of people without your permission” (Perle, 2010).
  • Be nice.  Don’t do anything online that could be considered cyber bullying.  There is a person behind the computer; it’s not just a machine that you are speaking to in online chat rooms and social media sites.  Ross (2011) reminds us: “Yes, use your network connections to express yourself freely, explore strange new worlds, and boldly go where you’ve never gone before. But remember the Prime Directive of Netiquette: Those are real people out there.”

Using the internet safely and responsibly can open doors for you in your personal, educational, and professional life.  Just make sure that you protect yourself and others by being respectful of them and you!  Here’s a link to Netsmartz online resources for internet safety.  It includes real life stories of teens who were hurt online.  Be careful and have fun doing it!

 

Kidshealth.org. (2012). Online safety.  Retrieved from: http://kidshealth.org/teen/safety/safebasics/internet_safety.html#cat20019

Lookbothways Inn. (2008). Retrieved from: http://www.atg.wa.gov/InternetSafety/Teens.aspx

Perle, L. (Jan 2010). Get cybersmart with Phineas and Ferb. Retrieved from: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/advice-for-parents/get-cybersmart-phineas-and-ferb

Ross, S. (2011). Netiquette.  Retrieved from: http://www.albion.com/netiquette/rule1.html