Tuesday, December 13, 2011

811 Reflections

Photo Attribution:
Original image: "6th Graders working on infoflyers"
By langwitches Released under an Attribution, noncommerical, share alike
For the past eight weeks, my mind has been consumed with educational technology. The course objectives for CEP 811 (Adapting Innovative Technologies to Education) were simple in wording, but quite complex in practice. The objectives consisted of understanding ways in which interactive computer technology may be employed in direct support of independent student learning and the roles that Internet-based tools and resources may be effectively used in classrooms in support of educational goals. I can say that this objective was mean; however, a full understanding could not be achieved as the technologies are every evolving. Some of the ways that I enjoyed having the chance to explore were webquests, stand-alone instruction resources (StAIR), and web creation. As a result of these technology explorations, I had a chance to try a webquest with my students. Although the lesson was still mostly teacher directed (due to the needs of my students and their limited abilities with utilizing a computer independently), I felt that they experience of using the webquest was as good for the students as myself. The students were able to see the entire lesson organized upfront. Even though they may not be able to read to content, they still were able to see the organization and the activities for the day. For me, the organization also helped in pacing of the lesson and creating needed adaptations. The StAIR project was truly an experience. Although it was quite time consuming, I see so many applications for creating one to use within the classroom as well as use online. One of my goals is to start creating lessons available for parents to review with students online, such as name practice, letter practice, or sight word ‘flashcards’. My StAIR project using PowerPoint as well as the other examples from class, have given me several ideas in which to make this happen. Lastly, the website creation project was a perfect building block from the blog creation. This also gave me exposure and practice with various website services which will help me when I begin to explore creating my own ‘tech’ website over the next 6 months or so.

Photo Attribution:
Original image: "21st Century Skills"
By langwitches Released under an Attribution, noncommerical, share alike
Choosing and using technology within the classroom is often a tricky task, especially when you are new to the curriculum, new to technology, or both! This course help me develop a foundation for being able to assess a technology for value and then assess whether the technology adds value to the curriculum. One of my ‘pet peeves’ is teachers saying they are using technology when they are (a) using a new technology, but an old purpose; such as using a SMART Board only for projection and saying you are using a SMART Board (b) using technology, but the technology doesn’t match the lesson or add value to the lesson being taught; hence, using technology to say you are using technology. Through the TPACK exercises, webquest evaluation, and the classmate comments in MERLOT, I feel that I have a better understanding of what technology integration should look like as well as the pedagogy behind the appropriate integration.

The section of this course that most interested me was the session on online learning. Living in Ohio, the commercials seem to inundate me with information about all the online schools available. My own school district has started a Moodle site (yes, exploring this will be my “self assigned” homework over winter break) in order to incorporate more online learning for students and staff. I was intrigued by the information regarding Michigan’s online requirements and I wonder how long until these are found in other states, such as Ohio. Although I enjoyed this session, I think it may have left me with more questions than answers.

Lastly, this course allowed me to explore and experiment with technologies I was familiar with, but did not know the full possibilities of using these technologies to create amazing educational resources for students. My main goals have not changed. I want to explore the various technologies and figure out ways to use ‘mainsteam’ web 2.0 technologies with ALL students. I want to be able to make curriculum and instruction more accessible though the use of these technologies and have the UDL framework become more of a part of ‘best practice’. I want to continue to be a resource for other educators for how technology integration can work in ALL classrooms and benefit ALL students.

As I continue this technology journey, I will let this quote provide a framework: 
"Technology is a tool that serves a set of educational goals, and if we don't think about what we want the technology for first, we end up with technology-driven solutions that have very little impact in the lives of children and in our educational system.“ 
- Linda Roberts, Director of Education Technology, U.S. Department of Education

Monday, November 28, 2011

811 Online Learning

Teaching and learning in an online environment has its PROS and CONS. I did not truly understand what these could be until taking these classes through MSU. I have taken many other online classes over the past 10 years (via Blackboard). Although these classes were online and had some level of interactive, the level of collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity was nowhere near what I have experienced in these past few months with CEP 810 and 811.

If I look at my current teaching assignment, on the surface, integrating technology seemed to be something of a daunting task. However, through the course sessions, I realized I already incorporate some technologies and there are a few that could easily be included. The biggest obstacle for my students is actually physically accessing the technologies (assuming internet and computer access is a given, which isn't always the case). Many of them are still developing the fine motor and visual motor skills to use a mouse to activate the computer. If the student has alternate computer access, often the online technologies do not support the adaptations (e.g., switch use). My students often have to rely on someone else to assist with utilizing the technologies.

With that said I believe that although my students are challenged by the access, it doesn't mean that they should not be exposed to some of the technologies and online learning opportunities. Access to these just needs to be a little more planned, structured, and adult facilitated, but the students can still explore these tools. Currently, I utilize email to communicate with [some] parents in forms of emails specific about their child and classroom related news. I have created a classroom blog which highlights technology information and classroom activities. My weekly lesson plans are available online as well as a link to the school/classroom calendar. With a SMART Board in my classroom, I often structure my lessons around an interactive component. We also have an iPad in the classroom. I try to incorporate this both in individual work (choosing apps that focus on IEP objective) as well as group work (using apps to develop turn taking skills as well as using it to create a "collaborative" project). For the future, I there are several online learning opportunities that I would like to explore with my students. First, I would like to explore the use of Skype in the classroom. I think that is important for students to see other students that are similar to them as well as give them the opportunity to experience other classrooms around the world. Next, I would like to begin to develop simple screencasts, SMART Notebook recordings of skills that would benefit from repeated practice, as well as create a video to share to practice basic skills (such as sight words, colors, numbers). Lastly, I would like to set aside dedicated time to properly assess and teach the students in their technology skills.

In addition to student online learning opportunities, I see some of the online tools to be great resources for the paraprofessional who work with my students. I am considering creating an RSS feed bundle of special education/technology sites that could service as a professional development resources for them. I also intend to use a session of online webinars relating to special education and assistive technology to provide them with up-to-date information about these topics.

I am excited to see what the next 5 years holds for education!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

811 Wikipedia and Wikispaces

Wikipedia and Wikispaces offer great potential for collaboration and information sharing. In this lab, the objectives were to:
  • Understand how technologies like wikis offer collaborative advantages over other technologies
  • Edit, add or delete content within Wikipedia
  • Create your own wiki using a free web service
After completing this lab, I would have to say that my knowledge of these collaborative tools have exceeded the objectives. My understanding of the benefit of Wikipedia was increased as well as an increase in the options within Wikispaces.

For the Wikis lab, completed the editing task on my school district's Wikipedia article as my individual school was not listed. On the Princeton City School District's Wikipedia page, a list of the schools within the district was displayed. As my contribution, I created a link to the Evendale webpage and added information about the school. The graphic below documents my contribution to the site.

For the Wikispaces section of the lab, I began a tech Wiki (Evendale Tech) to be utilized by my school as a resource for teachers as we begin an initiative to introduce teachers to the web 2.0 tools available and the uses within the classroom. This Wikispace will compliment my StAIR project which will be dedicated to introducing Web 2.0 tools to educators.

~ Melanie