Discussions from Teaching with Technology

Week One - In my classroom learning is a personal event. I feel that I am the facilitator of learning in my classroom. I show students what I expect and give direction. According to the author of Learning as a Personal Event, A brief introduction to Constructivism[1], the teacher launches student exploration. I love the spark I see when students are assigned really fun projects. One that they love is creating rollover effects. JavaScript is not easy; those who teach it know this. If there are any errors, the code simply will not work. This is challenging, especially for special needs students. I have to "ensure that learning is occurring" and when projects are fun, learning does occur. I try to create a classroom that supports students' ability to learn. The article points out that we must lure students to capture their interest. To capture their interest in creating a rollover, I showcase rollovers on my Website created by students the previous year. I also let them know that if they create a great rollover, I will place it on my Website. I always get so many great creations that it is hard to choose the ones for my site!
FINAL WORD. This weeks readings and videos have been very interesting. The readings reinforced what I already knew, that learning is not a passive process. Students must be involved in their learning. I do have a problem when it comes to notes and note-taking. I have been trying several things to get students to actually read lessons. It is easy to complete the step-by-step activities and skim the lessons. I welcome ideas to ensure students are reading. My class is project based; they know what to do, I also want them to know why they do. :~)

[1]Learning as a Personal Event: A Brief Introduction to Constructivism Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, (1999). Learning as a personal event: A brief introduction to constructivism. Retrieved on October 4, 2009 from http://www.sedl.org/pubs/tec26/intro2c.html

Week Two - Nontraditional students make up a large majority of all of my classes. As a matter of fact, nontraditional students make up a large percentage of our campus, according to our AEIS report. According to Michael S. Page in the article Technology-Enriched Classrooms: Effects on Students of Low Socioeconomic Status, "Computers appear to be especially productive with children designated as nontraditional." He went on to define nontraditional as including "those who have been labeled as being low achieving, at risk, learning disabled, of low socioeconomic status, educationally disadvantaged, language minority, or reading instruction with English as a second language.[1]" This covers a vast number of students enrolled in our school. As I read the article, I had to agree with the findings. Our students, especially those "labeled" special ed, thrive in computer classes. This is especially true if teachers take time to help them. Most need a lot of one-on-one assistance. With the needed attention they can produce some of what we do. But, besides that, they feel confident that they are doing what their peers are doing. The article noted that students gain self-confidence when engaged in instruction involving computers. I can attest to this. I do have a few special needs students who cannot keep up with our tasks and are truly working at the frustration level. I try to encourage them to do what they can and let them know that I will help them when they get to an impasse.
FINAL WORD: Our students are our business. And, as the adage goes, "business is good." Students love computers. It is our job to ensure that students do well with technology. They are the people who will be bankers and businessmen and women, doctors and lawyers, and teachers. It is impressive to know that technology levels the playing field. We can not fail or students by not giving them the tools to play the game. All students benefit from the use and exposure to technology. I see this everyday in my class. I must admit, some days I have students who just cannot get it. They sit looking dejected until I walk to their computer to ask if they need assistance. I have one special needs students who will put his head down if the work gets too hard. And no matter how much I encourage him, if he has made up in his mind that he cannot not do something, he will not do it. I usually just walk away and tell him we will try the during next time class meeting. He is content just doing vocabulary. So, I let him. I now know, according to UDL, I am using flexibility by giving him a different way to express what he has learned. [2]

[1]Page, M. S. (2002). Technology-enriched classrooms: Effects on students of low socioeconomic status. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 34(4), 389–409. Retrieved October 5, 2009 from the International Society of Education at http://www.iste.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Number_4_Summer_20021&Template=/MembersOnly.cfm&ContentFileID=830
[2]Lessonbuilder.cast.org. (nd). Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning. Retrieved on Oct. 5, 2009 from http://lessonbuilder.cast.org/window.php?src=videos

Week Three - Technology can be a two-headed monster. On one hand we have our digital native students who came into a world with technology everywhere they look. On the other hand we have teachers who have to instruct them and help them be safe, despite the fact that many know more about computers than most of their teachers. What is worst, these monsters cannot see eye-to-eye on technology and especially the Internet. Internet safety is a big issue for our campus. Yes, we need to help students understand that personal information should not be shared on the Internet at home or school. We have to shield them from the real-world of online bullies and predators. We also have to help them be technology savvy in creating and publishing work to and for the Internet. Sometimes administrators and designers forget about the lay-out of labs. "The set-up of a classroom or computer lab goes a long way in helping to monitor appropriate and inappropriate online behavior. Computer screens should be visible to the teacher. (Pitler, et.al., 2007)" The authors go on to say that workstations set up in a ring are more conducive to monitoring than those set up in a row. As we work to make sure technology works for all students we also need to make sure that students are safe on the Internet.
All computer labs on campus were set up in a row. Along with computers in a row, the teacher is situated in the front of the class. To add insult to injury, our tech director refused to put monitoring software on the computers. I, along with another colleague, bucked the system and changed the set-up of our labs. We thought there would be orders to return them to the former configuration, but none came. Internet safety is our main focus. As I walk around to see what students are doing, I do find a few on blocked sites that they have accessed via a proxy. They do not understand that proxies can open up the network to disasters.
Final Word: Technology is so important for the success of all students. When we incorporate technology we greatly expand the pool of resources, means of instructional presentation and support and modes of creation available to all our students. (Pitler, et. al., 2007) We must make sure that technology accessible to all students. This class has challenged us to prepare a lesson to include blind and hearing impaired students. When we create lesson plans, we create it with the masses in mind, not necessarily those who need a little more support. Also, when computer labs are designed, handicapped students are not considered. Success for all is a mandate. It is up to us to make it happen. Technology is just on part of this very big puzzle.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Planning for Technology. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 224.

Week 4 - In Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski, 2007), you find the following quote: "Cooperative learning is not so much learning to cooperate as it is cooperating to learn (Wong & Wong, 1998)." Today's students are savvy on many levels, but I find that many do not like cooperative learning. This is especially true of students who are very shy. I have also noticed that when students get beyond the barriers, be it color or handicap, they can learn from each other. Case in point, I have handicapped students in most of my classes. In one class in particular, I have a student who is in a wheel chair. He is helping me update the campus Web site. He likes to work alone. I have to encourage him to work with his peers and not ask me for all the answers. I hope that by the end of the school year that he will be more assertive with what he requires from others on the team. I also hope that he will share his vision with others on the team. He is still at the point where he wants my input; I want him to tell me what he thinks is best. He has designed the site for the library and we are waiting for it to go live. He also collaborated with a peer on the site for the counseling department. I want to see more collaborations and less solo work, not only on the campus Web site, but in all classes. My classes are a little noisy because I want students to collaborate with peers so that they can learn.
Final Word: Cooperative learning IS cooperating to learn. I like the idea of 'positive interdependence.' I want students to understand that individual success means nothing if others in the class do not succeed. Students are encouraged to ask and offer help to others. The computers are so close to each other that it is impossible not to help the person next to you. I try to sit students with learning disabilities next to students who do not mind helping them. The students are not even aware of this; but, the interdependence becomes a problem when students gel and then a schedule is changed. So, in my class cooperative learning looks more like assistive learning. Students assist each other. Many times another student can see an error that I just cannot find, no matter how hard I look for typos, when dealing with codes. That is my idea of cooperating to learn; not necessarily group work, but all working together create great Web sites.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Planning for Technology. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 224.

Week 5 - My classes are expected to prepare electronic portfolios, so I enjoyed reading Helen Barrett's article Authentic Assessment with Electronic Portfolios Using Common Software and Web 2.0 Tools (as cited in Solomon and Schrum, 2007). She states that: "An electronic portfolio provides an environment where students can collect their work in a digital archive." I feel that portfolios are a great form of assessment. I use electronic portfolios as assessment of learning and assessment for learning. Barrett's Comparison of Electronic Portfolios by Type of Assessment gave me valuable insight in how I grade student portfolios. For example, when grading as assessment of learning, I grade portfolios at the end of the school year. When grading as assessment for learning, I expect portfolios to be maintained on an ongoing basis. I feel that I use electronic portfolios more as assessment for learning because students do have intrinsic motivation to create something they an show to family, friends, peers, and anyone else they choose. My students also like the idea that if the work is awesome, I will put it on my Web site for students in other classes to view. They enjoy viewing the creations of students who took the class in previous years. Because they must submit to me often, I can post really good projects prior to our final portfolio is completed. Students do understand I cannot embed entire sites because the files are rather large; I hyperlink some of the smaller projects to share.

Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0 new tools, new schools. International Society for Technology in the Classroom.