EdTech Final Reflection Project

Reflections on Main Themes

X-Based Learning

I think the greatest proof of our new knowledge concerning X-based learning projects is the lesson we developed and taught to the second graders. In out lesson, our roles as teachers were simply to guide the students, ask them questions to help them explore and discover what they were supposed to as well as help them when they were stuck, and provide the basic structure and activities. The second graders, however, led the experience and their decisions affected the outcomes. They were the masters of their own knowledge and what they discovered was a result of their own exploration. The activities were authentic because learning how to work with a digital map is something we do every day; it is a real life skill. For example, our students wanted to find their houses on the map, though we explained it was only a map of campus and attempted to keep them on track with the lesson. However, this shows the great breadth and application abilities of the skill they were learning by using the digital map, and their willingness to explore and expand its capacities. I could very easily incorporate these same concepts into the school curriculum within which I teach. The idea of developing skills and knowledge through interactive problem-solving can be applied to any content area and all learning styles. When students learn through self-guided discovery and development of skills through actions, as they did here, then they are the owners of the knowledge their decisions and processes create. This lesson then, I feel, is a definitive result of x-based learning application with real students, and (almost) real teachers. I learned a lot from this project, and feel comfortable now in my application of x-based learning in the classroom. The idea was already one which I strove to base my teaching in, but seeing how it can actually be applied was invaluable.

Assistive Technologies

Our discussions of assistive technologies this semester not only introduced me to many tools I had no knowledge of before, but allowed me to formalize my thoughts more concerning their use in the classroom. I am of the opinion that involving assistive technologies and modifications in curricula and lessons today to meet students needs is much the same as involving technology and meeting student needs in every other aspect of your teaching. All things should be considered when teaching and developing curricula and assistive technologies is just another facet of this. Modifications to include assistive technology could range from as simple as allowing a student to use a different keyboard to having a student go through a completely different program to achieve the goal of the lesson. As with any considerations like this, during the process of involving assistive technologies a teacher might stumble across better ways to do the lesson as a whole, or creative opportunities they could give all students. I might make informed instructional decisions regarding technology use through knowing what assistive technologies are available to my students (such as switches) and allowing my students to use them, or through developing technology use for the lesson as a whole (such as the use of word processing instead of writing by hand) that might benefit all students regardless of abilities or disabilities. Within our PBL inquiry project, for example, we met the needs of all learners through the integration of adaptable technology and by creating a student-driven activity that allows students to discover their own learning in the ways that best suit them. Lessons such as these, suitable for all learners and providing assistive technologies when needed, are those which I will strive to create in the future.

Desktop Publishing

One of our first tasks was to create a Desktop Publishing artifact, and it was one of the first times I thought about the true breadth of technology- not only using it as a tool, but as a way to communicate, something that can be expanded upon, and a mixed-media platform. Through Desktop Publishing (DTP) I could incorporate videos, sounds, and hyperlinks as well as pictures and text in a dynamic, interactive setting. I believe that DTP activities can encourage meaningful learning in classrooms by redefining what is possible, particularly in terms of word processing. For example, a child who creates a dynamic presentation incorporating links to outside resources and using multimedia resources is going to be more involved and have a much better grasp on the content than the student who makes a presentation using nothing more than a word processor. Students may use desktop publishing in a variety of ways; like much technology, it is practically limitless. This project, and the artifacts we have created since using similar DTP platforms, opened my eyes to the breadth of possibilities technology creates in the classroom- not only for students, but for teachers as well. Desktop publishing as a concept was key to my realization concerning technology integration in the classroom, and itself can be a part of many of the other themes we discussed.

HOTS/LOTS

Higher order thinking skills (HOTS) and lower order thinking skills (LOTS) are concepts that base themselves in other major themes from this semester. They can, and should, be considered in every lesson regardless of technology integration or student involvement in the learning; when combined with these ideas, however, higher order thinking skills can become even more valuable to student exploration and learning. Good lessons, so I learned this semester, facilitate the development of higher order thinking skills by starting students at a low level of thinking skills (processing information) and gradually pushing them to create their own ideas and projects, by considering all the factors in a given situation and problem-solving using their own experiences as well as the information given to them. In developing such a project or “artifact” students are thinking on multiple levels, and applying their thoughts to a physical concept. A simple example of this was our adventures in coding this semester, which necessitated higher order thinking skills by having students apply problem-solving and discover knowledge and skills, rather than the use of previously memorized processes.

Technology Integration

Overall, this class only served to strengthen and reinforce my currently held perspectives about teaching, learning, and technology integration. I have always believed in X-based learning inside and outside of the classroom, though I may not have known the names of its various forms or the specifics of how to use it. This class, especially opportunities like engineering a lesson with the second graders, showed me that those types of lessons do engage students, and that students will drive their own learning if given the opportunity. Not only that, but they will be excited about it, and want to do more. Also I am of the opinion that technology integration should seem natural within the lesson and enhance student learning, which was the main focus of most of what we learned concerning technology integration. In the end I am quite happy with what I learned through this class, and the way in which this class gave me the tools and skills to successfully integrate technology in the classroom and enhance the learning my students receive (or rather, discover for themselves).

Using Frameworks as Tools for Technology Integration

TPACK

TPACK, or the technological-pedagogical-content framework of integrating technology in lessons, certainly helps re-conceptualize technology integration in classrooms and content areas. It drives the creation of lessons that include technology as a crucial, non-negotiable part. In doing so it fosters creativity in technology integration and the creation of the lesson to begin with- by being forced to consider technology, often the lesson itself is reformatted and made better or more creative in the process. It gives us the most basic framework to incorporate technology into our lessons, and is easy to use and remember. It necessitates the integration of technology in an instructional context, as opposed to simply a reward system or a tool for a few to use on individual projects unrelated to content or pedagogy. In this way it is an extremely useful tool for educators who aspire to integrate technology more effectively in their classrooms.

SAMR

SAMR is a similar framework and, like TPACK, inspires educators to effectively integrate technology in meaningful ways through their lessons; it develops and defines the role of technology in the lesson at the planning stage, thereby allowing the educator to think through and decide upon the most meaningful use of the technology available. This results in the students getting the most out of their instructions through meaningful use of technology. Changes in pedagogical approach from substitution to redefinition are aspired towards by the educator, with the result that the students move from being passive learners to active learners and creators in their own right. The role of the teacher then moves from a giver of information to a supporter of student-driven learning, and the role of the student moves from passive learner to creator and discoverer. Through this framework technology is not only integrated into the lesson, but leveled through its efficacy in creating a meaningful experience for students. When used in conjunction with TPACK I feel that SAMR is the next step in making technology a natural part of your classroom.

The Future of Technology Integration

How far have we come?

Huge steps have been taken in schools across the country as far as technology integrations goes: many schools have adopted iPads, one-to-one systems, have moved from computer labs to classroom or students computers, or have made better use of the technologies already available to them. Projectors have evolved from clear plastic slides to computer-driven broadcasts or even Smartboards. Students are no longer simply using computers for word processing or looking at a single website, but instead are investing themselves in numerous applications, websites, databases, and functions that can be provided and have been by educators and distributors of products and information across the world. Many classrooms have become truly international in their connections and authentic learning experiences, and technology is the one to make this possible. Teachers, too, have found benefits in the sheer number of helpful, educational resources available for both educators and students. Effectively used technology can, and has, renovated education. Unfortunately it is not always effectively used; in fact, in many schools, and even entire districts, technology is only substituted for traditional methods. Or, worse, it isn’t used at all. Which brings us to the next question.

Where do we still need to go?

Technology is not important to learning on its own- in other words, technology’s impact on education depends not on the “stuff” you have, but the way in which you use it. Effectively used technology, used to promote student-driven learning, enhance lessons, and redefine what is possible in education, can make a real difference. But we have to get there first- otherwise, the technology we already have might as well be that of thirty years ago. Our learning in this class is the first step to effective, authentic technology integration in our classrooms. If we as teachers feel comfortable using technology in ways that differ from traditional learning, that enhance lessons and drive students to become owners of their own knowledge, then our students will follow our example. They will be able to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by technology so long as we let them. That is where we go from here- we go forward, to a different type of learning and teaching that is student-driven and fueled by effective technology integration.

What will I take from this semester?

I will take many things from this semester and this class, the least of which is greater comfort in integrating technology into my lessons and classroom. I feel much better prepared to use technology with my students after learning all of the ways in which it can and should be effectively integrated, as well as being introduced to a large number of the resources available for students and educators out there. Not only that, but I will take with me a greater knowledge of the concepts and theories out there concerning technology integration, the digital divide, and the pioneers in technology-based education that have formed the ideas which will impact the way we teach and use technology in our classrooms. With an understanding of what should happen when technology and education meet, I will be better prepared to make that happen in my classroom. In the end, I take with me preparation and knowledge, the two best tools to help me in my future career. The skills I gained from this class will not only help me, but will help my future students as well.

Online Artifacts From This Semester: