Week 10: New Technology in the Classroom

November 4th, 2012

Using technology within the classrooms is something that is encouraged and even evaluated by our administrators. I don’t think we are being evaluated with the expectation that we should be using some of these newer technology programs that are so interactive. Usually we are being evaluated on if we are incorporating any technology into our lessons and classroom environments and if we are using that technology appropriately and effectively to promote learning. The programs we explored this week would definitely fit this description!

I was very intrigued by the River City Project. What a great way to encourage students to use real life problem solving skills and applying them to historical environments. The students have to listen closely to the problems and then think about what we have now that they did not have back in time that could be used to solve the problem. It is a good way to get the kids thinking about so many different areas of their prior knowledge and learning new information as they are essentially engaging in a role-playing game that is interactive and appealing. Many students are playing these types of games outside of school so why not have them do it in school while they are learning?

The NASA @ Home and City website was like taking a tour through EPCOT center at DisneyWorld or something very similar. Teachers could just have this site available to students on the computers in the back of the room to be accessed during any down time and I am certain the students would be interested in exploring the site. They would learn so much just by clicking on pictures and listening to explanations. This is much more interesting and fun than reading a chapter in a textbook!

I didn’t care for the Storybricks website very much. I understand the learning benefits such as creating believable characters, having a good story line, giving the characters dimension by providing motivation or feelings, setting the environment, etc. I think there is a large population of students, especially in the higher grades, who might enjoy this concept very much but I think it is somewhat tedious and I am concerned that the details may be too distracting from the educational value.

These type of educational environments are referred to as “multiuser virtual environment, or MUVE” and is described as a type of software games that are meant to encourage and support students to learn a variety of content areas, especially math and science (Olsen, 2012). They are designed to encourage a complete engagement in an environment in which they must utilize problem solving skills and social skills actively. Since many students are comfortable navigating online, MUVE’s seem like a logical way to guide students’ learning while allowing them the pleasure they derive from playing online games.

References

Olsen, S. (2012) Are virtual worlds the future of the classroom? Retrieved November 3, 2012 from   http://news.cnet.com/are-virtual-worlds-the-future-of-the-classroom/2009-1041_3-6081870.html

Week 9 Reflection Blog Post: Mini Projects

October 28th, 2012

The tools we explored this week were very interactive and engaging. I think the TimeToast website to create a timeline is a great tool for elementary school-aged students (which is the level I currently teach) but it can also be used at all levels of education. Students can be given guidelines to create very detailed, complex timelines or more simplified ones for younger students. I chose to create a timeline to support a history SOL for kindergarten:  AMERICAN LEADERS {SS1.2}. The standard states that the student will “describe the stories of American leaders and their contributions to our country, with emphasis on George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver, and Eleanor Roosevelt.” (Spotsylvania County Schools Curriculum Maps, 2012).

My timeline focused on George Washington. According to the standard, I needed to include the following information: He was born in Virginia, he was a farmer,  he became a brave leader of soldiers, he was the first President of the United States, and  he is known as the “Father of Our Country”. I really enjoyed making the timeline. I did have some difficulty finding enough images but I think it turned out okay. Also, I felt that it was somewhat challenging to keep the focus on those important facts that the SOL covered. I found that I was adding too much information and had to keep reminding myself that it was a kindergarten standard. I was concerned about making the timeline too detailed while following his biography instead of focusing on the main points and making sure the vocabulary I used was correct and age appropriate. Here is a screen shot of my timeline:

 

I think the Google Maps tool for students to create maps of specific locations that are realistic and useful. Alice Christie’s  website, Google Treks, is a very helpful tool. I like how the tutorial is formatted as a step by step table. Students of all ages would be able to use this tool to satisfy specific guidelines for an assignment. Elementary school students could use it to learn more and explore their neighborhoods or local towns. They could create one about Fredericksburg to highlight a family trip or to indicate important places. Older kids could use it to explore Fredericksburg also but in a way that highlights more of the historical relevance of the town. I have often used maps such as these, but never gave much thought to how they were created. I began to think of other ways to use them and wish I had learned about this a few weeks earlier. My husband just had a big event last week and both our families came to Fredericksburg to help us celebrate. I could have made maps for everyone to show them the routes from each of their hotels, to get to the graduation location, to highlight places of interest or need (stores, etc.) for the duration of their stays. I will try to keep this in mind next time we have a lot of out of town visitors.

References

Spotsylvania County Schools Curriculum Maps (2012). Retrieved October 25, 2012 from http://www.spotsyschools.us/instruction/CurriculumMaps/Elementary/tabid/4574/Default.aspx

Week 8: Mini Projects

October 21st, 2012

The technology tools we used for this week’s lessons for very interesting and fun to use! I spent a lot of time exploring Alan Levine’s  50+ Ways to Tell a Digital Story . So much of the information and the tools were all new to me. I clicked on so many websites and began exploring that I lost track of the time really. Each time I checked out a new tool or website, I immediately began thinking about if I could use it in my current classroom.

My favorite tool for this week was Wordle! I played around with this one for quite some time. I created a wordle as an example for my lesson that I wrote about parts of speech. Mine focused on adjectives. I showed my daughter, who is a senior in high school, and she was immediately hooked! She made one for her high school marching band with the name of the band written in large letters and the first names of each of the students who are members of the band. She then took a picture of it on her phone and sent it to some of the kids. They were very impressed with her creation. And, obviously, she is much more skilled with technology than her mother! She figured it out in seconds. Though, I did show her while verbally telling her about it so I am going to take a little bit of credit. Oh, okay, she learned it much quicker than I did and jumped on her laptop and had one done before I was finished with mine. I admit it.

Here is one version that I took a screenshot of to save. I made several versions because I loved the random button that changed the whole layout each time.

I opened a Voki account and began to make my avatar. It was very similar to making a Mii for the Wii game. I was able to perform this task just fine. But, when I went to save it to come back to finish my lesson, I lost it. I do this all the time. I work so hard on something and then I leave the site or screen and lose my information. You would think that I would learn by now to be more careful. Actually, I think sometimes I am trying to be too careful because I am uncertain and then I mess up. It is so frustrating sometimes! But when I go back again to work on it, I won’t have to think it through since I already did all the steps one time.

I began to explore the comic page website that was suggested we try, Comic Life. I looked at the ones already made in the gallery. I was having a little bit of difficulty thinking about how to tell a story this way but I think it was because I was stuck on thinking about telling an historical story. I need to go back to that one with fresh eyes and a mind that is not tired to give it another shot.

References

Levine, A. (2007). 50+ Ways to Tell a Digital Story. Retrieved October 21, 2012 from http://cogdogroo.wikispaces.com/50+Ways

 

 

Week 7: Brainstorming, Planning, and Pre-Writing

October 14th, 2012

I loved the hands-on activities this week. They were interesting and fairly user-friendly for me (for a change?). I know that brainstorming before beginning to write is an important step so it is important for teachers to expose students to this concept. By allowing them to practice a variety of formats to brainstorm before writing, students are given the opportunity to figure out what helps them the most. I truly believe that prewriting activities eventually become a personal preference. What works best for some will not be effective for others. That is why providing students with several choices and teaching them how to practice with each choice is important. The more they practice the skill of thinking before writing and reflecting on ideas that they generate, they more they will learn about their own personal style of writing.

Saying that, I want to write a few sentences about my experience with QuickWriting. I can see the benefits of this method. It is a great way to break through the uncertainties of what to write in the beginning. Because it was timed, I spent that time writing down my thoughts because I figured that the time would run out soon and I still had some thoughts left. Overall, I did not feel that this method is a good fit for me. I prefer to use paper and pencil when I do prewriting activities. Even if I do decide to create a Mind Map, I prefer to draw my own. There is just something about making the pen move on the paper that helps me stay fully focused. I might even doodle a little picture or design while I allow my mind to wander around the topic. I am able to recall what I wrote better, even when I do not have the paper in front of me, because I can picture my own handwriting. I remember writing certain words or sentences, especially if I added them in the margins sideways or something. I am an artistic person in several other ways and perhaps that is why I find pen and paper more effective for me. So, a quick writing activity is valuable but I think teachers need to remember that each student learns and interacts with writing differently.

When I first began reading the information about sticky notes, I was picturing a simple feature that is on my computer at work. It literally is pictures of single sticky notes that I can choose to place on my desktop and write a reminder note on. I seldom use this because it’s easier to use my actual sticky notes and stick it to my computer. But Wallwisher is much more useful and interactive. I went to the wall built for our class and added a few sticky notes and spent some time reading everyone else’s contributions. It was a quick, easy way to see everyone’s thoughts. And it’s fun, too! I built one that I hope some of you will visit and contribute to. I am currently doing some research about improving reading comprehension for students with autism through the use of electronic books so that is the topic of my wall. I placed only a few sticky notes on there to get started. The title is Electronic Books.

I made a game at the the Jeopardy Labs website! It is called Mathematical Terms and Concepts for Elementary Students. This was so easy and fun! I am glad we were informed about this website. I especially love that you don’t have to open an account. I spent some time exploring others’ games and playing them. That always helps me to see what is possible and how to more effectively use the programs or tools.

References

Literacy Support Strategy (2006). PCG’s Center for Resource Management.Retrieved from  nrhs.nred.org/www/nred_nrhs/site/hosting/Literacy%20Website/Literacy%20Strategy%20Templates/Quick_Write__description.pdf

Week 6 The Classroom: To Flip or Not to Flip

October 7th, 2012

This week’s focus on the concept of flipping a classroom was very interesting. I have heard this term before and had a vague understanding of the concept. I enjoyed the different resources that were provided for us to review. As I read through the information, watched the videos, and viewed the pdf’s, I could not settle on a decision regarding how I felt about this concept. I can see the value of it but on the other hand, I cannot fully embrace it either.

I conducted some further research on the topic and found that I am not alone in the middle ground. Many professionals, administrators, and educational experts also can list both pros and cons for this instructional model. While I am sure that this is not a unique situation with a somewhat newer approach to teaching, I feel that the cons are almost equal to the pros. And now that I said that, I am not sure it is accurate to dub flipping a classroom a newer approach. It is very similar to online education classes, which have been offered at the high school and college level for many years. It is also similar to classrooms that use interactive teaching lessons and that provide independent and group work time (which is what most elementary level classes do).

I am reminded of the debate about technology vs core curriculum. On that topic, I feel strongly that it cannot be one or the other. In order to provide effective instruction that sparks students’ interests and learning, there should be an approach that combines both. The discussions about flipping classrooms seem to me to be dividing instructional models of mostly lecturing or mostly independent classwork. I don’t think either of those teaching models should be implemented. Instruction should always be informative, interactive, varied, and allowing for independent practice of the skill.

The idea of students viewing videos of their teachers providing informational lectures at home so they are prepared to discuss and practice the skills within the classroom is a good idea. But when the lecture videos are combined with additional requirements or activities, such as doing a web quest or writing a blog about the topic, then I think more learning will take place. Just like I don’t think that instruction should be a lecture in class, I don’t think it should be a lecture in video form either.

But then we have to consider if each of our students is able to access this type of technology and how many hours are we expecting the students to be on the computer each night? In rural areas, many students still have slow dial up connections to the internet. Their phone service is spotty at best so using the more popular devices may not be possible. There is always the possibility that financial situations will not allow for students to own these devices. Mary Beth Hertz, who is a technology teacher and a certified technology integration specialist in a Philadelphia school, wrote a concise blog post on Edutopia that focuses on the pros and cons of flipping a classroom. If you are interested, read her blog, The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con, to further see some of the obstacles that one may encounter when trying to flip a classroom.

In this blog, she also discusses the pros of flipping a classroom and they are many. As I believe, she mentions that this approach would be effective for motivated students. So, what about the at-risk students that we will be teaching? I found a video that shares the results that a Michigan school, Clintondale High School, obtained by flipping every one of their classes. This school had a high percentage of students failing multiple subjects. This video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2QgtPyk_Gk&list=PLB4C7262E8DBEF24D&index=4&feature=plpp_video . This school had great success in significantly lowering the failing rate of their students with this approach. I wonder how that would look for those students on a nightly basis though. If each of their classes used this approach, then did they sit in front of their computers for hours each night? That is one aspect of flipping classrooms that I did not find information about. How long are these videos?

Flipping classrooms is a great idea that has many benefits for students and their learning. I personally feel that it needs to be used as a tool, not as THE tool to teach students. There are plenty of effective teachers who are able to provide all these benefits with a varied instructional method that includes interactive lectures either in person or online. Many schools now use educational discussion boards and programs, similar to Canvas for their students to access additional information at home to support their learning.

References

Image of Shakespeare’s Ghost retrieved October 3, 2012 from http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_ycA73a6SkPU/SZSRvbA9lKI/AAAAAAAAADQ/_RJllDeSz4U/s400/Shakespeare+Ghost+01.jpg

Taking a Risk on At-Risk Kids retrieved October 3, 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2QgtPyk_Gk&list=PLB4C7262E8DBEF24D&index=4&feature=plpp_video

The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con retrieved October 3, 2012 from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/flipped-classroom-pro-and-con-mary-beth-hertz

Week 5: Creating a Video

September 30th, 2012

I enjoyed this week’s assignments because I found some very useful tools, such as LinkedIn and Animoto. I opened a LinkedIn account and began to explore the site. I was able to immediately see how this tool can be beneficial for resources and information. I found a group that provides updated articles, books, and resources for autism teachers. I love that these resources are all listed in one place with a short description. There were several others that caught my attention too. Previously, I had thought of LinkedIn as being more geared toward the business world and a place to post a resume and look for a job. Since I am not currently looking for work and have not been for several years, I assumed it was not a tool for me.

I am glad that we had to use this site because now I see that it absolutely is something that is useful to me in my current position. I was struggling a little bit with setting up my account because I always worry about who sees my information and how I am viewed on sites. I do not feel comfortable on public sites yet and this class has really made me live in my zone of discomfort. I do not like to openly share my thoughts without knowing the audience but I enjoy learning new information and accessing resources.

Animoto is so much fun! I spent so much time exploring the choices and thinking about the video I want to make. I still have not decided on what to focus on though I have many thoughts on the topic. I love the idea of using a short video to introduce a topic to catch the attention of students. It makes it an enjoyable experience without putting the students into the “learning” mode. I have never heard of Animoto before and I am so glad that I know about it now. I have already shared it with several of my colleagues and encouraged them to check it out!

I am still trying to figure out Twitter so that it becomes a useful tool for me. As an elementary autism teacher, it is not something I can use in my classroom with my students but I would like to become more adept at using it to become a more informed educator. I don’t have an Ipod or Iphone so I have to use my computer for all of my social media experiences, which I think deters me a little bit.

According to Solomon and Shrum (2010), 60% of students who use social networking sites spend time discussing education topics and school work specifically. This information was determined in 2007. I think the number will be even higher if this study was conducted again today.

My daughter is a senior in high school and she has does have these devices because she saved her money to purchase them. She has two teachers who are using Twitter this year. She received a tweet earlier today from one of her teachers with an update about a class assignment and a suggestion of a website to check out that is applicable to what they are learning. My daughter loves this form of communication from her teachers! She said that she is so glad she got that tweet and she immediately began to contact her friends on Twitter (on her phone) while she was on her Ipod checking out the extra information. I know that she does not get on Facebook as much as she used to but she and her friends use it often for discussions with her friends about content they are learning in class or clarification about upcoming assignments, and to share information and pictures from marching band. They are not able to use any of this type of communication during school though because they are not allowed to have any of those devices during the school the day and the county has blocked access to many of these tools and sites on the server.

References:

Solomon, G. & Schrum, L. (2010). Web 2.0: How to for educators. International Society for     Technology in Education.

Information Literacy and Creativity

September 23rd, 2012

This week’s assignments were slightly overwhelming for me. It was just so much new information and new experiences all at once.  I admit that I threw my hands up in frustration more than once, but I pushed through it and took it one step at a time.

I understand the purpose and usefulness of the tools for our Personal Learning Network. I was not aware of most of these tools and websites prior to this week’s assignments. I set up a Twitter account but honestly, I do not understand it completely yet. As I use it throughout the rest of the semester I feel that I will come to enjoy it and find it a source of useful resources. I also joined Classroom 2.0 and spent some time searching on that website. I browsed through some of the information and I found several blogs about using ebooks and audiobooks in the classroom, which will be helpful for my research course this semester. I am conducting research about the use of these resources to help support literacy for my students with autism.

I went to the Technorati website and spent quite a long time looking for topics that were meaningful to me. I spent much of the time reading about topics that did not truly interest me but I was trying to find the five that we were required to locate. I was able to finally find some interesting pieces but I’m not sure I would have found them that helpful if I were searching just for my own knowledge, instead of as a requirement. The experience was a good one though because it showed me a whole world of topics, people, and a way to get one’s thoughts heard. I am not familiar with this world because it does not really appeal to me to interact with others in this manner. It seems time consuming more than productive.

That being said, I found an interesting blog offering reviews about books, technology, and articles by Patricia Faulhaber. She is well-published author of many articles, books, and newspaper articles so I feel that she is a valid source of information. Her blog can be found at What’s Write Today . I also found one other blog written by Lorraine Esposito, who is a professional coach. She coaches people from parents to White House staff in all areas of their lives. I think it’s an interesting and helpful life that she leads. She helps others look at their situations with a different perspective and then gives them the tools and insight to make changes in their lives for the better. She offered good advice about parenting, discipline, and children’s behavior in the blog I read. She can be found at Delay Gratification?  NO WAY!  These two were my favorite authors because I could relate to the topics and because I felt confident that they were reliable sources of information, even when I realize it is still mostly their opinion on matters. But I tried to keep Kathy Schrock’s advice about usability, authorship, and content validity in mind when evaluating sources (Schrock, 1998).

Making the Scratch game was very challenging for me. I enjoyed it but I think it ended up taking me much longer than it was supposed to! Several times, I created the game but then somehow I deleted it or lost it. It was pretty frustrating but definitely an operator error. Here’s a picture of my final product:

If I could get the hang of this so that I would be able to create games quicker, I think this would be very fun to do for my students. It is fairly similar to creating a game on SMARTBoard. I feel that SMARTBoard is easier to use but that may be because I am more familiar with it. The advantage to the Scratch game is that it is an online game that can be played at home or anywhere else. SMARTBoard games need to be played in my classroom.

References

Schrock, K. (1998, March). Separating the wheat from the chaff: How to tell the good sites from the bad. Internet Trend Watch for Libraries, DOI: http://kathyschrock.net/eval/pubs/chaff.pdf

 

 

 

Copyright and Fair Use for Educators

September 16th, 2012

I am always concerned about copyright laws, especially for images I find online. Often, I will just not use an image if I am not sure if I am legally allowed to use it. I was excited to learn about this topic this week so that in the future, I will not have so many doubts. It is my understanding now that if I search for images by using a search filter that specifies that an image was labeled for reuse, I am allowed to use it. This picture of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. was found by using this stategy. Some sites, such as FLICKR, have collections of  images available for reuse.

Using copyright laws correctly is often a concern for educators, as we search for materials that are more up to date for our students. The video which can be found at http://youtu.be/2lUPiYvHsJc and titled, “Copyright for Educators (Fair Use),” presented by Mr. Davidson, is a wealth of informatoin about this topic. This presentation focuses on the Fair Use of material for educational purposes. This was enlightening for me, as I was not aware that teachers were able to some materials that others were not allowed to use. Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 discusses this topic in further detail, stating that copyrighted material may be used without the need to ask permission if it is being used for educational purposes (U.S. Copyright Office, 2012). The material should still be cited and using whole pieces of work is not allowed. Usually teachers will use an excerpt or short video clip to help support their lessons and to make a concept more concrete.

The guidelines for the fair use of copyrighted material must still be followed by educators. They do not have a free pass all together. Videos cannot be shown to students as entertainment or as a reward. This is not an educational purpose. If a teacher wishes to do this, she must contact the author of the material and pay to use it. Also, the fair use of material applies to single teachers. A whole school district cannot decide to use some material as a teaching instrument, but a teacher may decide to use material in her personal lesson plans and in her classroom.

There is still so many guidelines and rules to follow that I feel it is quite overwhelming. In the video, Mr. Davidson provided a link to a website where information such as charts and graphs can be downloaded to help the classroom teacher quickly see what she can and cannot do (CopyrightEducation.org). I will be referring back to this website often, I think.

References

Copyright for Educators (2011). Retrieved September 14, 2012 from http://youtu.be/2lUPiYvHsJc

.U.S. Copyright Office (2012). Copyright law of the united states of america and related laws contained in title 17 of the united states code. Retrieved September 15, 2012 from http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

21st Century Skills vs Core Knowledge

September 9th, 2012

This week’s readings focused on two opposing ideas about what students should be taught in school and how the instruction should be presented. One side believes in a more traditional model of instruction that includes direct teaching of content information for each subject area in a sequential order. These people believe that the most important education is the one that focuses on a core curriculum and that the use of technology in the schools is mostly a distraction that uses up time that should be spent on learning content information. Those who support other side of the argument believe that the use of technology in schools is a necessity to ensure that students are fully engaged in their learning while using tools of the world in which they live. Those who support technology use in schools argue that students learn to interact with content information more effectively while they build critical thinking skills, lifelong skills, and collaboration skills.

The Core Knowledge Foundation website proudly offers free downloads and resources for parents, educators, and advocates while it explains that there is specific information that students need to be taught in order to progress and learn the next level of content information (Core Knowledge Foundation, 2012). The foundation’s founder, E. D. Hirsch, Jr., has developed a sequence of content information that should be followed from preschool to twelfth grade. He is a former professor at the University of Richmond. He began the foundation when he repeatedly met students in college who were lacking an adequate knowledge base which negatively affected their ability to comprehend reading material. As an educational reformist and author, he urges schools and parents to return their focus on instructing students on common information in order to create a cultural literacy. He expands on this concept in his book, “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know”.

For more information about this book, visit:  http://books.coreknowledge.org/product.php?productid=16156&cat=0&page=1

Interestingly, on the foundation’s website the address of the foundation is located in Charlottesville, VA and there was a vague mention that the sequential curriculum may be aligned to local or state standards.  None of the content in the Core Knowledge curriculum included any use of technology, but the Virginia Department of Education has developed computer/technology state standards of learning for each grade level from kindergarten through twelfth grade (http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/index.shtml). Below is a list of the kindergarten through second grade standards found on the VDOE website:

Computer/Technology Standards of Learning

 Grades K-2

Basic Operations and Concepts

C/T K-2.1              The student will demonstrate knowledge of the nature and operation of technology systems.

  • Identify the computer as a machine that helps people at school, work, and play.
  • Use technology to demonstrate the ability to perform a variety of tasks; among them turning on and off a computer, starting and closing programs, saving work, creating folders, using pull-down menus, closing windows, dragging objects, and responding to commands.

C/T K-2.2              The student will demonstrate proficiency in the use of technology.

  • Demonstrate the use of mouse, keyboard, printer, multimedia devices, and earphones.
  • Use multimedia resources such as interactive books and software with graphical interfaces.

Social and Ethical Issues

C/T K-2.3              The student will practice responsible use of technology systems, information, and software.

  • Know the school’s rules for using computers.
  • Understand the importance of protecting personal information or passwords.
  • Understand the basic principles of the ownership of ideas.

C/T K-2.4              The student will use technology responsibly.

  • Demonstrate respect for the rights of others while using computers.
  • Understand the responsible use of equipment and resources.

Technology Research Tools

C/T K-2.5              The student will use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.

  • Identify information in various formats.
  • Identify available sources of information.

Problem-solving and Decision-making Tools

C/T K-2.6              The student will use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions.

  • Recognize that technology can be used to solve problems and make informed decisions.
  • Identify and select technologies to address problems.

Technology Communication Tools

C/T K-2.7              The student will use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.

  • Identify the best tool to communicate information.
  • Use technology tools for individual writing, communication, and publishing activities.
  • Demonstrate the ability to create, save, retrieve, and print document. 

The state of Virginia recognizes the importance of educating its students about technology skills but the Core Knowledge Foundation ignores its native state’s guidelines.

I don’t outright disagree with Hirsh about students needing to gain a broad knowledge base through their education but I disagree that this goal needs to be achieved through rigid, sequential core content information. I think part of an education is to learn to think and learn independently, as well as work with others to achieve a common goal. The use of technology in schools is a great avenue to reach this goal of an educated person. It allows students to access their prior knowledge base and do something with it. When a student is actively engaged with information in a creative manner, they begin to take ownership of their own learning. Final projects become creations and forums for them to express their level of understanding and perceptions of the material. Teachers can gain a much more accurate assessment of their students’ grasp of the information through guiding and observing students as they interact with various technology tools to create culminating projects. But I am in favor of having a strong knowledge base and using technology to further reinforce that knowledge and to build on it with new information obtained through the implementation of technology in the classroom and schools.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills website discusses this same topic of combining core subjects and 21st century themes (The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2011). Their focus is on integrating a complete curriculum around four major categories:

1. Core Subjects and 21st Century Themes
2. Learning and Innovation Skills

3. Information, Media and Technology Skills

4. Life and Career Skills

http://p21.org/overview

According to this curriculum, core subjects are only one-fourth of what the focus is on. And within each core subject, those who adhere to the P21 philosophy will incorporate global awareness, financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy, civic literacy, health,  literacy, and environmental literacy. This appears to be a lot of information all at once with too many demands on the instructor and students. I feel that the core subject information will get lost somewhere in the process of trying to do everything at once.

I teach special education-autism at the elementary level. I use technology with my students all through the day. Some of my students use voice output devices that are fairly simple and two of them use communication devices that are somewhat involved. There are multiple pages that they can access, with each page set up for a specific topic or lesson (for example: there is one page for outside play, one for eating, and another for naming actions, nouns, or people). There are up to 20 pages that one of my students utilizes at this time and he is in third grade. I am the person who is responsible to set up these pages and make sure they are accurate and accessible to him. Then I spend some time teaching him to use it functionally. I also use an Ipad in my classroom for communication purposes, for fine motor and reflex practice, handwriting, identification of various categories, etc. We use the interactive SMARTBoard daily for math activities, calendar, science, and reading. I also use pencil and paper activities, hands-on experiments, math manipulatives, flashcards, books, and many other non-technology tools in my classroom. I teach multiple grades. Technology helps us to work in groups for some activities even though the students are in different grades and on different developmental levels. It makes it a fun, interesting, interactive lesson for everyone to participate. They also use the computer independently at different times of the day and that activity I am able to individualize for the students as well. We have a regular keyboard and mouse, but I also have large switches (buttons) and the monitor is a touchscreen for those children who do not have enough motor control to use the keyboard or mouse.

I think my staff and I implement technology in a way that enhances my students’ learning and their overall educational experience every day. I do not think that there should be opposing sides to this topic. Information and technology work well together and it can become a great learning experience for all students of all ability levels.

References

Core Knowledge Foundation (2012). Retrieved September 6, 2012 from:

http://www.coreknowledge.org/

Partnership for 21st Century (2011). Retrieved September 6, 2012 from:

http://www.p21.org/

The Virginia Department of Education (2012). Retrieved September 6, 2012 from:

http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/computer_technology/index.shtml

 

 

 

 

 

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September 3rd, 2012

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