Educational Technology Reflection

At the beginning of this blogging process, I can say with reflection that I was mostly just uninformed. I thought I had a good grasp of technology within the classroom, however now I see how very, very basic this grasp was. What is the most troublesome to me is how this is exactly how a lot of educators feel. They feel that they have a good grasp of the basics, but aren’t exposed to how much more is out there for us to use. The one trepidation I have leaving this class is how can I possibly keep up now that I won’t have a 2 and a half hour scheduled block dedicated to it? I don’t want to slip back through the cracks into being uninformed, but at the same time I don’t think that is a possibility as long I keep certain questions with me.

The question is not do we incorporate technology into the classroom, it is how can we incorporate technology into the classroom in a way that is engaging and meaningful? As I leave this class I am taking one phrase with me: intentionality. I will use technology within my own classroom with this word as the guiding force. As I said in my paper, it is up to us as educators to filter through the vast amount of technological everything that is out there and select the ones that are most conducive to supporting the learning of our students. 

Skype Session with a Technology Integration Professional

Lorraine is a technology integration teacher for K-6 at a small private school. She graduated with a B.A. in fine arts followed by a M.S. in reading. The school at which she teachers has a small class size of about 13-17 students at most. Previously, Lorraine worked at a private school for three years. As a technology integration teacher, Lorraine models for teachers how to use technology in the classroom in a variety of ways. She also takes content from the classroom and transforms it into some kind of technology component that can be done in the lab, but parallels what is being learned in the classroom. She meets each class once a week for 40 minutes. 

Lorraine’s emphasis in technology integration is primarily global collaboration, which is her concentration when developing curriculum. Lorraine says that while teaching can get boring, technology allows her to be able to expand beyond her classroom walls, and this is what stimulates her. To her, global collaboration is is essential. She also shared that the more you develop a relationship with a colleague, the more likely they are to be dependable and willing to help carry out any idea that you have in mind. Often times she finds that she and her global colleagues strike a balance with their individual strengths that they can bring to a project.

Lorraine shared many of her projects with me. At the kindergarten level, for peace day, she had the students create a voicethread of them singing the song “Peace of My Fingers” and then shared it with and skyped the writer of the song. For Fire prevention week in October, she had the students Skype a Firefighter in Arizona who had dalmations. Through Skype, she spoke about fire safety, read a story, and did a pledge while pulling her dalmation, Tango, into conversation to keep the children enticed. 

In another project, one of Lorraine’s first grade class worked with a woman in Antarctica who was taking care of and following 8 penguin nests in Antarctica. Along with following the progression of Jean and her penguins through Skype, the children created postcards using a software called Kidpics and sent their postcards to Antarctica where they were postmarked and returned to them. They also made a flag that flew in Antarctica. Lorraine says this technology allows the children to experience things that they otherwise never would. 

In another activity, Lorraine skyped one of her colleagues in Russia who had apple trees in his backyard when the Kindergarten class and first graders were learning about apple picking. This way, the children could make connections and broaden what they were learning about to other parts of the world. The colleague spoke in Russian, but would also incorporate Russian words.  With this same colleague, children made a voicethread of them singing happy birthday to the penguin chicks and combined it with a voicethread of the class in Russia performing the same thing in their own language. This demonstrated how the project was used in other places and expanded the students’ thinking. 

Lorraine says the layout of her classroom is based around a responsive classroom. Rather than having all of the students face away from each other on their computers, Lorraine begins each class with the students sitting in a circle on a rug to promote interaction. 

A three-way synchronized song was also performed entitled “The Inscription of Hope” among Lorraine’s class, a class in Germany, and a class in Australia. The link to this project can be found here

Another tool that Lorraine introduced me to is scratch.mit.edu. This website promotes logical thinking skills and allows programming such as graphics, voice, etc. 

Some other global collaboration projects of Lorraine’s include the World Friend Project, the World Museum project, and my personal favorite the World Lunchbox project. In this one, Lorraine’s class took pictures and made animations describing what was in their lunchboxes as did a class in Germany and a class in China, all of which were compiled using Scratch. The students were able to find out that in Germany most of the students have very elaborate lunches while in China lunch is not eaten in school at all. 

Lorraine says technology can be used in simple ways as well. For instance, she will often have her collague from South Africa call in and do a 5 minute brain teaser with the kids to introduce a lesson.

My absolute favorite part of the Skype session was when Lorraine introduced me to her colleague, Yao dong, a secondary teacher in China. I was able to ask him many questions and hear about his experiences with collaborating in Italy. He was very enthusiastic about keeping in contact for projects and questions in the future. After speaking with Yao dong, I met another one of Lorraine’s colleagues from Germany, Mikhail. Mikhail shared his experiences and I was interested to learn that he teaches at a school of only 40 students with 14 teachers. The class size is generally 2-3, with 5th grade being the largest class size of 8. His school is 1-11. Mikhail uses Skype specifically as a tool for his special education students. For Mikhail as a special education teacher, he says that the state pays for his internet. Mikhail introduced me to The Global Coalition.

The experience was wonderful. I spent close to 2 hours communicating with not one but three teachers all around the world who were so enthusiastic about sharing their experiences and keeping in contact for the future. It provided me with numerous ideas for my teaching practice and demonstrated the importance of Global Collaboration. A special thank you to Lorraine for sharing so many valuable resources, people, and experiences!

Observations in the field

I have been conducting field work at one of the Rochester city schools, and for my most recent visit decided to approach it through the lense of technology. I went to my field placement this day specifically looking for ways in which technology was incorporated in the classroom, and was pleasantly surprised with the results that I found.

Every morning before morning announcements to make constructive use of time, the teacher allows the students to log out an iPad. Every iPad is numbered, and if they want to use one they must write their name down along with the number of the iPad. On these iPads are different educational apps available for students to practice their math, reading, and writing skills. I found this a good way to provide students with free time with choice but also to minimize negative behaviors by not giving too many choices.

For morning meeting, everything is done through the SMART Board. The students do their own attendance by finding their names in one square and dragging them one by one individually to the “here” square. After this, students take turns filling in missing components of the day of the week, month, and date. Then, the date is broken down into “ones,” “tens,” and “hundreds” to relate it to math. Following this, there is something called  the money shelf where students are able to drag quarters, pennies, nickels, and dimes, to make the number of the day. A word problem is usually solved on the SMART board in whole group before they break up and do individual work back at their desks. 

There are two computer stations set up so that students are able to practice a phonics program as well.

The one other use of technology that I found unique involved YouTube. On this day, it was too cold to go outside to the playground so the teacher decided to do indoor recess. Basically, the teacher played many different YouTube clips of songs from  “Just Dance Kids 2″ and let the students dance for a half hour in the classroom. I found this to be a creative way to get physical exercise in and the students loved it!

Assistive Technology and Autism

I recently composed a research paper on Assistive Technology and its benefits in the classroom for students with Autism.

Individuals with Autism experience core deficits in communication and social interaction, and often demonstrate repetitive behaviors, all of which are factors that can significantly affect a child’s ability to learn within a general classroom environment. In this case, we as inclusive educators need some kind of vehicle through which our lessons can be differentiated to all ability levels. This is where assistive technology comes into play.
While conducting research, I found that assistive technology mostly eliminates negative behaviors that can manifest throughout lessons in the classroom. Assistive technologies are capable of scaffolding a student throughout a routine, without the presence of a special education specialist or adult, that has the potential to hinder social interaction among students with Autism and their typical peers. Most of all, it presents children with Autism to participate in a mainstream environment where they are able to model and view their typically developing peers.
Assistive technology comes in all forms today, whether it be computer-aided, video, handheld, or even something that can be used for a whole group and has specific features beneficial to a student with special needs such as a Smart Board.
Unfortunately, the articles pertaining to the topic of assistive technology in general I found to be very limited. Perhaps it is because the idea of implementing the devices as a means of facilitating learning in an inclusive environment is relatively new. It was extremely difficult to find published journal articles on the benefits of the iPads in the classroom unless I wanted an individual case study. Virtual reality was another technology I was interested in but was disappointed to find that there was very little published research. Because these ideas are so new, I assume that the process thus far of journal publishing added to the newness of technology is just incompatible at the time.
I am curious to extend my research to find out more about iPads specifically as a use of assistive technology, and the use of animated tutors. One of the most interesting softwares I found was an assistive technology software that allowed for activity schedules to guide a child along through his or her routine. For instance, a girl named Emily had a PECS like powerpoint with slides that incorporated her teacher’s voice telling her how to go about a certain activity, showed her two different pictures for generalization, and then timed her.
I find assistive technology in general to be a wonderful argument for incorporating technology into the classroom. It is not just something that is beneficial for students with special needs, but I find it beneficial for everyone. If there is something that can offer a better, more enjoyable, and understandable experiencing, then why shy away from it? If a student is going to sneak glances on their iPhones during class, why not give them something purposeful to do with it and utilize it in a way that can enhance their academic understanding? If this was the approach taken, not only would a lot more students feel less resentful of school and their teachers, but then special needs students who already require some kind of extra form of assistive technology may not feel so isolated. I think our focus as inclusive educators should be the root of the very term, to include. Technology is a wonderful way to include everyone in a collaborative and interactive way, often in ways that can go above and beyond what can be offered in an ordinary classroom with ordinary materials.

Virtual Manipulatives

The days when the use of computers within schools was limited to a 40 minute computer class are long gone!

I recently came across an interesting concept – virtual manipulatives. 

Remember using linking cubes in math? Or coins and candy to solve basic equations? While tangible manipulatives without a doubt still hold value, so do virtual manipulatives.

The above website contains endless Java applets for mathematics instruction for K-12. The website quotes, “Learning and understanding mathematics, at every level, requires student engagement. Mathematics is not, as has been said, a spectator sport. Too much of current instruction fails to actively involve students. One way to address the problem is through the use of manipulatives, physical objects that help students visualize relationships and applications. We can now use computers to create virtual learning environments to address the same goals.”

The Library contains manipulatives such as money and fraction games, number lines, charts, and the list goes on. If you are teaching a lesson and don’t have access to something that you need to demonstrate a concept, this website has just about everything you can think of. There are many possibilities of incorporating these manipulatives into a lesson, whether it be individual work or projected on the Smart Board and made into an even more interactive activity. 

 While I think the website is helpful and would definitely engage students, I can’t help but think that holding physical manipulatives may still be of more value in a learning process. What do you think?

Reggio Emilia Schools and the Use of Technology

Recently I came across one of the most interesting uses of technology at the preschool level in a wonderfully effective way.

Founded in Italy, Reggio Preschools are available for children aged birth to six regardless of economic level and disability. The preschool is grounded in the ideas of Bruner and Vygotsky’s recognition of the child’s natural problem solving capabilities and the role of culture in developing the mind. He also aligned himself with Dewey’s principle that education should stimulate a child to conceive himself from the standpoint of the group’s welfare.

The Reggio curriculum is fluid and without prescribed outcomes as it is not under government regulation. In the program, the environment, or the third teacher facilitates exploration. Every center has an art studio and art corners connected to each classroom. There is a professional artist on each staff who helps children to communicate in their hundred languages, or ways of self expression.

One of the most relevant and interesting things that I found about this program is the extensive documentation of the children through notes, videos, and pictures that serve to guide the child. Most often these documentations panel the walls evolving into a year by year history. The Reggio environment mirrors a city in which there is a central plaza that is representative of the traditional Italian town square. In the plaza, students can mingle. There are no hallways to interrupt continuity so that the children can observe the cooks or whoever else might pass by. There is freedom of movement between areas, including outside so that children can see all activities unfolding.

Teachers engage in great family engagement as they provide parents with notes and photographs of the day and invite them to linger on the couches that provide kids’-eye views. Children are seen as fourth teachers themselves, born with the ability to be learned from, listened to, and respected. The teacher’s role is of listening and guidance. The program benefits the students’ creativity as it provides all of the outlets necessary for self-guidance and self-expression.

Documenting the child’s development through videos and pictures, and then decorating the entire school with them so that children feel that they are a part of it is one of the greatest uses of technologies that I see fit for Preschool. Using pictures and videos fosters self-importance and reinforces that the students are a part of a larger community. I found this to be an out of the box kind of use for technology, that incorporates many of the greatest theorists and philosophies of Early Childhood. What do you think? 

Augmented Reality

 

The augmented reality demonstration that we witnessed in class this past Tuesday encouraged me to look further into the capabilities and uses of augmented reality. Augmented reality takes computer and television graphic and enhances the way we see, hear, and even smell them. It takes what we see and applies informative graphics by superimposing them over our natural environment. Pretty cool. All it takes is a smartphone, mirror, small projector, or camera.

Augmented reality is being used widely in the field of education in some amazing ways. For instance, one teacher developed an AR experiment called Reliving the Revolution, in which her students are able to assume historical roles in the Battle of Lexington and walk throughout a real life map of Massachusetts. Physics Playground was developed to immerse students in a three dimensional environment for experimenting with how the universe works and drives itself. MIT”s Teacher Education Program has developed an AR in which real life locations are experienced by virtual individuals seeking to solve problems or mysteries, such as the source of a toxic spill. New Horizon, another AR, is a smartphone app that students can pull out to hear and see animated character conversations in their language textbooks. Other educational uses of AR are:

  • Driver’s Ed: Toyota developed the cleanest, safest, most effective method of testing driver ability
  • QR code Scavenger Hunts: Librarians have been sending students on scavenger hunts with virtual AR tours to help them find things in the library
  • Parks: Students are able to use AR to enhance experiences in the San Diego Zoo an Balboa Park
  • Field Trips: AR museums utilize the technology to guide students through interactive digital media.

Project Glass, currently being developed by Google, is in the works to create glasses the provide AR experiences everywhere you go. It involves placing users in first person athletic experiences with the ability to snap photos as well.

The possibilities of AR are only just getting started with much more in store.