Edtech 541 – Final Reflection

Edtech 541 – Final Reflection

As I reflect upon this final week of Edtech 541 – Integrating Technology into the Curriculum – I am amazed at how much I have learned in just 14 short weeks.  I have always had a passion for technology and how it can enhance classroom lessons, but I now have a greater understanding of the purpose and relative advantage of true technology integration.  While technology can, and sometimes should, be simply a substitution for standard classroom activities it is optimal that technology bring the learning to a new level.  In Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model of technology integration, students and educators receive a much greater benefit when the modification and redefinition levels are attained.  In my vision statement written at the start of this course, I stated that the overarching goal of technology should be to bring experiences and innovation into the classroom in ways that could not have previously been accomplished with traditional teaching methods. Edtech 541 has helped me to understand how that can be accomplished effectively.

According to Roblyer (2016), technology integration should be based on sound theories of learning. The use of technology in the classroom should align with the needs of the curriculum and the students. Just as a carpenter would not go to the hardware store and buy a tool just because it was his favorite color and shape, an educator should not implement a new technology just because it seems fun and exciting.  Teachers should “also recognize how to integrate technology into pedagogy to achieve greatest impact on desired outcomes.” Roblyer (2016). As a middle school social studies and science teacher, I have been able to use projects created in this course to help my students connect the lessons to real-life applications. I have been inspired to investigate new technologies and their application in the classroom. In addition, I have encouraged my teaching partners to incorporate some of my projects into their lesson plans.

Two of the greatest takeaways I have gained are the idea of relative advantage and the use of assistive technologies. It is important for educators to evaluate the advantage of using technology tools over the standard pencil and paper lessons. With the effective use of technology, the teacher becomes the facilitator of learning (constructivist theory) rather than the dispenser of knowledge. When deciding when and if to use technology tools, educators must first and foremost look at how the “technology allows for the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable” (Puentedura). Our final project of the course involved assistive technologies.  Understanding that all children, regardless of their learning needs or disadvantages, deserve a level playing field. Assistive technologies such as screen readers, talk-to-text devices, and guided access can support students and provide them opportunities to learn along with their peers.

Demonstration of the AECT standards has also been a focus of my project creation. Through the projects created in this course, I believe I have been able to use, evaluate, and create “appropriate educational technologies and processes based on appropriate content pedagogy”. Reflecting upon solid pedagogical practices has also been a key component of learning in this course.

As a member of the technology committee at my school, I have been inspired through this course to encourage my colleagues to review and evaluate our teaching practices regarding technology tools.  I will continue to use the primary text of this course, Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (Roblyer 2016) to guide my teaching practices. My goal as I continue the M.E.T. program at BSU, is to grow as an educator and inspire both my students and fellow teachers to reach beyond the walls of the classroom.  I believe technology can allow us to do that in new and exciting ways.

As a second part of this reflection, we have been asked to self-assess our blogging performance in this course.  I believe most educators are harder on themselves than others, but I will do my best to complete the assessment in an objective manner.

Content – My weekly blog posts were well-thought out,  insightful, and meaningful. I was able to connect my posts to the current modules and provide meaningful content. I was also able to connect the content to my personal teaching.

Readings and resources – I used the required readings each week to guide both my blog posts and my projects. I found the readings to be both valuable and inspiring.  I will continue to use the primary text by Roblyer as a guiding resource as I progress through the program. I believe I used correct APA formatting in all of my citations and references.

Timeliness – I posted early each week to allow my fellow students time to comment on and assess my blog.  

Response to Other Students – Each week I enjoyed reading and conversing with the other students through their blogs. I commented on at least two other blogs each week with thoughtful and meaningful responses. When the other students commented on my posts, I did my best to respond in a timely manner.

General – I feel I have gained valuable insights through this course that I will continue to explore and build upon. I believe I did my best throughout to demonstrate a solid understanding of course content and create impactful lessons. I would reservedly evaluate my blog posts as a 70/70.

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Pearson.

Assistive Technologies

All children exhibit differences in both physical characteristics (in regards to abilities)  and learning abilities, however, these differences are usually small in scope and the majority of children find success in the general education classroom. Some children, however, display differences that are significant enough to label them as “exceptional”. The educational needs of students identified as “exceptional students” are wide and varied. “The physical attributes and/or learning characteristics of exceptional children differ from the norm (either below or above) to such an extent that they require an individualized program of special education and related services to fully benefit from education” (Heward 2013, p.7).  The term exceptional children encompasses everything from children with learning and/or behavior problems, children with physical disabilities or sensory impairments, and children with superior abilities. When we refer to children with disabilities, we do not include those considered gifted or exceptionally talented. Furthermore, students identified as at-risk may be those who are not identified with a physical disability but may have learning needs stemming from attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students must be identified as having a disability in or to receive special education services. “People with disabilities have a fundamental right to live and participate in the same settings and programs – in school, at home, in the workplace, and in the community – as do people without disabilities.” (Heward 2013, p.1). It is with this in mind that we can explore what assistive and adaptive technologies are available to people with disabilities or impairments.

I use a MacBook Pro laptop computer that runs on the Mac OS Sierra operating system. Various technologies are available under the system preferences on the accessibility tab .  These assistive technologies are:

  • Vision: for blind or low-vision users
    • Display – Options to invert colors, use grayscale, differentiate without color, increase contrast, or reduce transparency
    • Zoom – Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom, smooth images
    • Voiceover – provides spoken and Braille descriptions of items on the computer screen and provides control of the computer through the use of the keyboard
  • Media: for deaf or hard of hearing users
    • Descriptions – Video descriptions provide a spoken description of visual content in media
    • Captions – Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing or closed captions will be used instead of standard subtitles
  • Hearing: for deaf or hard of hearing users
    • Audio – flash the screen when an alert sound occurs, play stereo audio as mono (for deaf or hearing impairments in one ear)
  • Interacting: for users with physical disabilities
    • Keyboard – Sticky keys allow modifier keys to be set without having to held the key down; Slow keys adjust the amount of time between when a key is pressed and when it is activated
    • Mouse & Trackpad – Mouse keys allows the mouse pointer to be controlled using the keyboard number pad; Double click speed can be adjusted from slow to fast
    • Switch Control – Allows the computer to be controlled using one or more switches. These can be mouse, keyboard, gamepad buttons or dedicated devices.
    • Dictation – Dictation commands allow you to edit text and interact with your computer by speaking to it.

  

According to apple.com Special Education, “We believe that technology can provide great learning tools for all learning abilities. Every Mac and iOS device comes standard with innovative accessibility features.” These features built into the Mac and Apple operating systems can help students with various disabilities or impairments to be on a level playing field with students who do not have disabilities. As stated above, it is the right of every child to have the opportunity to learn.  Assistive devices and tools can help all students have these opportunities.

Apple – Education – Special Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.apple.com/education/special-education/

Heward, W. L. (2013). Exceptional Children, An Introduction to Special Education (10th ed.). The Ohio State University: Pearson.

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Pearson.

Obstacles and Solutions for Integrating Technology in a Selected Content Area

In The 10 Barriers to Technology Adoption, authors Norris and Soloway examine ten obstacles schools face when attempting to implement new technologies into their curricula. I believe that teachers frequently run into these obstacles and many schools, especially private or small school districts, struggle to effectively overcome them.

  1. Lack of vision: Schools fail to set up an effective technology plan or, if a plan is in place, it is not always communicated well to the teachers and staff.
  2. Lack of leadership: Similar to #1, school administration may not effectively communicate the technology plan or have a clear way to implement it.
  3. Lack of money: Many schools face the digital divide, a separation between those that have access to technology and those that do not.
  4. -6. Norris and Soloway combine obstacles #4-6 together into one problem: curriculum. “As schools now move to one-to-one via BYOD—bring your own device—administrators can’t expect to be successful on the backs of teacher-generated curriculum materials. Teachers are not curriculum producers; teachers are, well, teachers” (Norris & Soloway, 2011). Effectively integrating technology into the content area is perhaps the greatest challenge for teachers and administration. The amount and variety of available applications can be overwhelming to many in the education field.  Evaluating the usefulness and relative advantage of each program also adds to the difficulties. It is often left to the teacher to find an application that works well with their curriculum, obtain permission to install it, get adminstration, IT, and parents on board, and then successfully weave it into an already packed curriculum.
  1. Infrastructure – School must update servers, wi-fi, and Internet access.  All of this may be too costly for many schools and districts.
  2. Parents – Parents, often unfamiliar with educational technology, may resist what they believe are just games or toys for their children to use in school.  Communication with parents is crucial to gaining their support.
  3. Time- Finding the time to research, learn, implement, and support the integration of new technologies will take patience and commitment by teachers, administration, IT, and parents.
  4. Assessments- Many argue that technology is not effective in raising test scores and to some extent, I would agree.  When technology is sporadically and randomly sprinkled into the classroom, it is futile to expect test scores to suddenly rise.

So how do we, those of us who see the great value in improving our schools through effective technology integration, address these barriers? How do individual teachers go about effectively integrating technology into their specific content area?  “Professional development, the human infrastructure, needs refurbishing; it shouldn’t consist of random workshops or lectures that teachers suffer through on specific PD days. Rather, just as professionals in other industries are constantly honing their skills, PD needs to be an ongoing activity that is focused on helping teachers adopt essential one-to-one technology” (Norris & Soloway, 2011).

In the area of social studies, there are numerous ways to easily integrate technology, but quite often teachers are not taught how to do this or given clear expectations. Google Earth, Google Maps, and IWitness videos are just a few of the programs available to social studies classrooms. Teachers can find primary sources on websites like cia.gov and the National Archives.  Students can read about current events on sites like Newsela, which adjusts the articles based on a student’s reading level. Online encyclopedias offer updated information for research and essays. Many social studies applications are free and can easily be installed on school hardware or accessed through the Internet. Virtual field trips can also offer students an opportunity to learn about places and sites they may not otherwise have the chance to experience. Creating social studies lessons with technology enhanced curriculum can help the lessons to be more exciting and engaging for the students.  I believe it will take both skilled and trained teachers who are passionate about bringing classrooms into the 21st century and technology integration specialists who can bridge the gap between the available technology and effective implementation.

Bernard, S. (2009, May 27). How to Teach with Technology: Social Studies. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-social-studies-lessons

Norris, C., & Soloway, E. (2011, November 16). The 10 Barriers to Technology Adoption. Retrieved from https://www.districtadministration.com/article/10-barriers-technology-adoption

Integrating Technology Into the Content Areas

Some of the most oft heard comments from history and geography students are, “Why do we have to know this stuff?” “It happened over 100 years ago!  It’s so boring!” And yes, ancient history or even history from just a few decades ago can seem dull to the younger generation. Engaging young historians can be quite a challenge for teachers, but the effective use of technology can make history come alive.

Clearly, helping students to understand the world around them and make global connections requires the opening of classroom walls.The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has determined ten themes related to social studies standards. One of the themes, science, technology, and society, directly addresses the integration and implementation of technology. Social studies instruction is designed to help us discover and better understand our world and its people, and technology-based strategies have become integral to this instruction (Diem & Berson, 2010).

Thankfully, educators now have a wide variety of technology-based tools to enhance the social studies curriculum. Some of these tools include simulations and problem-solving environments, access to primary sources, electronic research strategies, timeline generators, virtual field trips, digital storytelling, and geospatial technologies. I have used a few of these tools in my geography classroom and have found the students much more engaged in the lesson.  Recently, prior to a field trip to Ellis Island, I introduced the students to the immigrant experience through the Scholastic website Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today. The students were excited to hear the audio recordings of immigrants who had made the long and perilous journey from Europe to America.  We then viewed the digital timeline and used the data to compare the number of immigrants who came to America from 1820 through 2009. The students were then able to “meet” young immigrants who have recently come to the United States.  Through the website, my students were able to watch videos, listen to audio recordings, and explore a historical timeline.  The students’ engagement increased as these technology tools were implemented.

Geospatial technologies can also increase student motivation and interest.  Teachers no longer need to purchase expensive GPS devices. Today’’s smartphones and mapping software such as Google Maps provide all the information a class of budding geographers need.  Geocaching, the recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website, has become a popular classroom activity. Students can go on a geocaching treasure hunt around their school grounds.  While discovering small “treasures”, students learn mapping, GPS, and navigation skills, all vital to the geography curriculum.  Google Earth has revolutionized the task of plotting locations on a map.

Blogging about history, creating “virtual” battles, and social networking with students across the globe are a few more of the ways we can teach our students to become global citizens. With today’s technological advances, the opportunities to make history come alive for our students are only limited by a teacher’s and the students’ imaginations.

Bernard, S. (2009, May 27). How to Teach with Technology: Social Studies. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-social-studies-lessons

Ellis Island Interactive Tour With Facts, Pictures, Video | Scholastic.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/immigration/tour/

Integrated Learning: Broadcasting and Social Studies. (2015, May 20). Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/practice/integrated-learning-broadcasting-and-social-studies

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Pearson.

Relative Advantage of Using Digital Games for Content Area Learning

In an effort to increase student engagement and performance, our high school initiated a game based learning program in our 7th-12th grade basic skills class in language arts and math a few years ago.  What, if any, are the advantages of game-based learning?

According to a Yale study of 500 second graders, “short video games designed to activate specific neurocognitive processing systems can serve as brain warm-up calisthenics to improve cognitive performance immediately following the video game” (Banville 2016). If in fact this proves true for students of all ages, then implementing video game warm ups into any lesson could assist students in getting ready for the task ahead.  Just as an athlete stretches and completes a few warm up laps before running a race, students must mentally prepare themselves before embarking upon a difficult lesson.  Could playing a few video games assist in this warm up? “The team found that by using short, 5-minute games before the full lesson, students did not only better on the training games over time but also did better on lessons that followed, but had nothing to do with the subject matter of the game.” (Banville 2016).  According to Dr. Bruce Wexler, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Yale, the games increased focus, self control, and memory (Banville 2016) among the participants.

Focus, self control, and memory are three cognitive skills vital to learning. However, what does the research show about educational programs based solely on playing games? In the Wiki Space Gami-fied, video games are evaluated for their value in teaching problem solving skills based on real world problems or events. Students engage in thinking games revolving around subjects such as world hunger and genocide in order to foster critical thinking skills.

While thinking about game-based learning specific to my content area of world geography, the games Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? immediately came to mind.  Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? is based on a 1990s PBS television show for kids. According to the product description on Amazon, “Carmen Sandiego is up to her thieving high-jinks again. While children travel the globe to track her down they learn about geography, history and world cultures.” This high-interest game could definitely increase student engagement.  

Oregon Trail is another game for the PC.  Oregon Trail’s gamemakers entice kids to “travel the trails and make history come alive! Kids will build real-life decision-making and problem-solving skills as they choose their wagon party and supplies, read maps, plan their route and guide their team through the wilderness. Develop solutions to help your friends and family survive the dangers of the long journey including raging rivers, buffalo stampedes, sickness, and starvation. Discover a learning adventure that’s greater than fiction—about real people with real dreams facing and overcoming real challenges. Build decision-making and problem-solving skills as you experience the challenge of traveling the trail! My own children played these games growing up and seemed to enjoy the challenge of the game while acquiring some basic geography and history skills.

In his blog Free Technology for Teachers, Richard Byrne writes a post entitled Ten Interactive Geography Games and Maps. While some of these games are simple map location type games, others such as Placefy “present players with an image of a city square, buildings, and other famous landmarks. Players then have to choose the correct answer from four answer choices. Playing the game is simple, but the images as questions make it a challenging game” (Byrne 2010). Similarly, Geoguessr is a web-based geographic discovery game designed by Anton Wallén, a Swedish IT consultant, released on 9 May 2013. Geoguessr takes advantage of Google Earth’s street view locations and requires players to guess their location in the world using only the clues visible. Geoguessr can be played as a one or two player game. After students make their guesses based on the clues, a map opens with the exact location, the location of the student’s guess, and the  distance from the correct location all placed on the map.  These visual images are a relative advantage when teaching basic mapping skills.

An article on the TeachThought website, 6 Basic Benefits of Game-Based Learning (2013), lists six benefits of game-based learning:

  • Increases A Child’s Memory Capacity
  • Computer & Simulation Fluency
  • Helps With Fast Strategic Thinking & Problem-Solving
  • Develops Hand-Eye Coordination
  • Beneficial Specifically For Children With Attention Disorders
  • Skill-Building (e.g. map reading)

Clearly game-based learning can offer a relative advantage over traditional classroom instruction. Students may be more engaged in the lesson and cognitive skills can be honed. Game-based learning can also improve critical thinking and problem solving skills, both integral to 21st century education.

Resources:

6 Basic Benefits Of Game-Based Learning. (2013, March 15). Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/technology/6-basic-benefits-of-game-based-learning/

Banville, L. (2016, October 1). Brain Trainers May Kick Start Learning in Students. Retrieved from http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2016/10/01/brain-trainers-may-kick-start-learning-in-students/

Byrne, R. (2010, February 22). Ten Interactive Geography Games and Maps. Retrieved from http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2010/02/ten-interactive-geography-games-and.html

gamifi-ED – home. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2016, from http://gamifi-ed.wikispaces.com/

 

Acceptable Use Policies

If you teach, work, or attend any type of educational institution in the US, then you probably use some form of technology every day. In Scholastic’s Using Technology article, it is stated, “There are many benefits to using the Internet in elementary and intermediate education, but it is important for you to harness this powerful tool so that it is effective and safe for student use.” (“Why Have a Technology Policy,” n.d.) With the integration of technology into educational systems, it has become necessary for schools to write and implement an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).

An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is a formal document outlining appropriate use and maintenance of school owned technology devices, personal computers, mobile devices, and the use of the Internet for school purposes. Common Sense Media explains, “Similar to a Terms of Service document, an AUP should define publicly what is deemed acceptable behavior from users of hardware and information systems such as the Internet and any applicable networks.” (1-to-1 Essentials,” n.d.) These policies can be found in parent/student handbooks, faculty handbooks, and on school or district websites.  Students, teachers, and staff are required to sign the document each year stating that they will abide by the school’s policies regarding technology. Many school districts have safety nets such as anti virus software and web filters, but these precautions can still have gaps.  Educational institutions have the responsibility to protect the personal safety and privacy of educators and students. That is why an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is so important.

Acceptable Use Policies can vary in content but most policies contain similar rules and guidelines. Some school’s AUPs may be only a few pages long, while other’s may encompass over 20 pages.  Regardless of the length, a thorough AUP should include:

  • The institution’s mission and philosophy statement
  • A definition of technology as it applies to the educational institution
  • The school’s level of responsibility in protecting personal devices (both hardware and software)
  • Both acceptable and unacceptable use of technology
  • Specific Internet usage guidelines
  • Rules on the use of social media
  • Guidelines on digital citizenship
  • Rules regarding cyberbullying
  • Rules regarding passwords and sharing of computer codes
  • Rules regarding copyright laws
  • Expectations of behavior regarding network accounts
  • Guidelines regarding the downloading and installation of software on school-owned devices
  • Consequences for not following the AUP

In addition, the educational institution should clearly define plagiarism and the consequences for representing any other work or idea as one’s own.  Not properly citing sources is a form of plagiarism.

Some examples of Acceptable Use Policies:

Calvary Christian Academy, Philadelphia, PA (p.21)

This is the AUP for the school where I teach. It is limited to one page in the handbook and while it contains most of the components of a good AUP, it is rather general in nature.  Our IT department is extremely protective and cautious when it comes to technology use at our school. Student access to the internet is limited and BYOD is only considered under special circumstances.  I expect our AUP to evolve over the next few years as technology use becomes a more regular and intentional part of our curriculum.

Neshaminy School District, Langhorne, PA

This is the AUP for the school district I attended for elementary school through high school.  It is a very detailed 23 page document.  Internet use is clearly discussed including a section defining key terms and specific laws and responsibilities are explained in detail. It is one of the most content specific AUPs that I found.

Lower Moreland School District, Huntington Valley, PA

For a rather large school district in my area, this is a rather brief AUP. Most components of a typical AUP are included, but no detail or explanation is included.  I did note below that they have a separate BYOD policy.

Holy Ghost Preparatory School, Bensalem, PA (p.52-54)

This AUP is from a local Catholic prep school. It is included in their student handbook. It is fairly brief but clearly covers all components of a typical AUP.  Consequences for misuse are clearly defined.

Delaware County Christian School, Delaware County, PA

This AUP is from a school similar is size and scope to my own.  The AUP clearly defines the school’s values when it comes to technology use.  I did find it interesting that they do not support student owned devices at this time. They make it clear that their policies on technology are still a work in progress.

Finally, with more and more schools implementing bring your own device (BYOD) initiatives, some districts have added a BYOD document.  One example would be Lower Moreland School District in Pennsylvania.

LMSD BYOD Policy

Resources:

1-to-1 Essentials – Acceptable Use Policies | Common Sense Media. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/1to1/aups

Education World: Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

Why Have a Technology Policy in Your School or Library? | Librarians | Scholastic.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/librarians/tech/techpolicy.htm