Sunday, October 30, 2011

810 Technology Plan

“If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
-- Ignacio Estrada

My Personal Technology Plan

My vision for technology in education is when educators, students, and parents do not see technology as a separate entity, but rather just a part of solid educational instruction no matter what the student’s ability. My vision for technology in education is when all stakeholders become responsible digital citizens and parent and teachers are role models for the students. My vision for technology in education is when educators can learn from each other and be willing to share educational and classroom resources.

Photo Attribution:
Original image: "21 Century Skills"
actionhero Released under an Attribution, noncommerical, share alike
The future of technology in education starts with educators understanding and living out the 4 C’s of a 21st century learner: critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration with colleagues and exploring how technology can support these skills within their own lives. Educators need to see the benefits of thinking critically, communicating effectively, being creative, and openly collaborating with others before these skills can be appropriately integrated into the curriculum. Once educators understand and see the connection between these skills, implementation and teaching of these skills within the classroom is the next step. Educators need to begin embedding technologies within all classroom tasks. This will make the lessons more meaningful for the students and start preparing the students to be a part of the global community who will be leading the future.
As a special educator, my vision for technology in education can be interpreted a little different than that of other educators. Assistive technologies (AT) are the most frequently thought of “technologies” in relation to special education. Assistive technologies allow the students to have increased access to the curriculum. I envision AT becoming an even more important component examined when creating a plan for a student as well as incorporated more within the IEP through proper assessment as exploration of technologies. Within special education, I would also like to explore ways to use the “mainstream” technologies to enhance the lives of the students. I would also like to see “mainstream” technologies offer accessibility features that make the technologies more appropriate for the students. I think that the teaching of the 4 C’s is also possible (and imperative) to teach to the students with disabilities. The last change that I envision is the way special education offers the option for home instruction. Currently within my school district, if a student is unable to attend school, instructors are sent to the home for 5 hours a week. With the use of current technologies (especially, video conferencing, podcasts, and screencasts), the home instruction for these students can be more aligned with what is going on within the classroom, possibly even allowing the student to view his peers and teachers at school.

The promises and pitfalls of technology in education sometimes go hand in hand. I think the true understanding of the promises will not be fully known until all generations working with technology have embraced into every facet of their lives. Looking at some of the current educational discussions right now, technology in education promises a deeper understanding of world (global citizenship), devices that can give children a “voice” (iPad and apps), and ways to connect and share with other people (social media). 

 The pitfalls can be looked at in relation to students, teachers, and schools districts with some overlapping characteristics. Some student pitfalls when looking at utilizing technology in education are the possible inequities with access to devices and Internet as well as the different technology backgrounds for parents and students. To combat this pitfall, schools need to educate students and parents of the community resources available to gain access to the technologies. Most libraries offer computers and Internet access free with a library card. School could also offer “open lap” times when computers would be available at school for student use. Another option would be to offer parent trainings about technologies and web resources available.

For teachers, time is always as issue. Teachers never feel like they have enough time. With the introduction of new web 2.0 tools, teacher lack the time to explore these technologies and appropriately integrate them into the classroom. Proper amounts of professional develop opportunities as well as time to share what they learned from these experiences are also time issues. The last pitfall (but also could be seen as a positive in the technology sense) is that with all technology changes, teachers find it difficult to stay up to date on the technologies and how to effectively incorporate them within the classroom. One way to combat this pitfall is to schedule small chunks of professional development opportunities throughout the year, such as a 5 minute tech tip during a staff meeting or a monthly “Tech Tuesday” where teachers can share what they know. 
School districts are also plagued by the pitfalls of educational technology. Even when they understand and have witnessed some of the promises, money is always as issue. Currently, the school budget is the main focus in many school districts. Not only do the districts not have money for the physical technologies, they struggle with finding the funds to support teachers with professional development. Lastly, school districts lack the time to adequately plan and implement technologies in the mist of data collection and analysis, high stakes tests, and state report cards results. One way to save money on professional development is too look within the school district and utilize the talents and knowledge of staff. I think this would also be beneficial and meaningful for the staff when the professional development is chosen by the staff so that it can be more individual and meaningful. This is where I think that district professional development opportunities could be enhanced by following the edcamp model (“unconference” model).

My Experiences with Technology in {special} Education

As an intervention specialist, I have most of my technology in education experiences with students with multiple disabilities. As mentioned before, my goal is to develop ways to use the mainstream technologies with ALL students, especially the students with disabilities. Current  technologies utilized in my classroom are listed below with a description of how I use them within the classroom.