Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Article Review #2: Effective Web 2.0 Tools for Your Classroom

Wanago, N. (2013). Effective Web 2.0 Tools for Your Classroom. Techniques: Connecting Education And Careers, 88(1), 18-21.

This article discusses technology lesson plans that were put together by teachers from all over the U.S.  This was a project done at the University of Arizona to address the challenges that teachers have today with incorporating technology into their classroom.  The university thought that compiling an educator-tested tools list would be very helpful for teachers.  A handful of the tools that they feature in this article are Lino, Popplet, GoAnimate, Timetoast, Storybird, and Glogster.  Lino is a posting board where students can post pictures, videos, or websites about a certain topic.  Popplet is used to create graphic organizers.  Both Lino and Popplet are tools that can be used during a brainstorming lesson.  By using GoAnimate, students can insert text into an animated video where they can also create their scene and characters.  Timetoast would be a great tool to use in social studies, as this tool can be used to create timelines.  Storybird is a writing tool where students can interact with pictures to start their own virtual journals.  The last tool, Glogster, can be used to create posters online, which can then be shared to others. 

The article goes on to give some helpful tips to educators who are just starting to use these tools in their classroom.  “Start small, be prepared, keep the focus on the content-not the technology, and let students take the lead,” (Wanago 20).  The University of Arizona has also created a forum that teachers can view and connect to other teachers who are currently using technology in their rooms.  The last great piece about the tools that are described in this article is that they are all free to students to use.  There are no fees attached to any of these tools, unless you choose to sign up for certain upgrades. 

I really felt this article was helpful because it was simple.  The tools were presented with the strategies or learning targets that they could reach.  I feel the site that the University of Arizona has put together would be extremely helpful to those teachers who are feeling overwhelmed by all the different technology tools available to them.  The site was also very user friendly. 

When the article gave the reader some helpful tips about how to use the tools in the classroom I really connected with one.  Wanago discussed keeping the focus on the content-not the technology.  I think that is one of the problems we see with technology in the classroom today, and that is that teachers just try to throw the technology in without making that connection.  Students still need to be aware of why they are doing a certain lesson and how the technology is going to help them reach their goal. 

I also felt this article was enticing because I plan on looking further into GoAnimate for my final project.  I have already signed up for the free trial and am looking at how to incorporate it into my classroom.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Article Review #1: Technology in Today's Classroom: Are You a Tech-Savvy Teacher?

Hicks, S. (2011). Technology in Today’s Classroom: Are You a Tech-Savvy Teacher?. Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, (84)5, 188-191.

Reed-Swale, T.W. 2009. Engaging digital natives in a digital world.  Connect Magazine 22 (3):22-25.
Article Summary: Main Points
In this article, Stephanie Hicks describes the challenges that are presented to new and veteran teachers when it comes to technology.  She also goes on to share a few of her own helpful tips when using technology in your own classroom.

With the new advancements of technology that we are seeing today, a new job requirement has emerged-being tech savvy.  Gone are the days of letters and typewriters: teachers are now required to use e-mail, smart boards, and other technological tools in their classroom.  According to research done by an outside group, “it is estimated that the learning curve on technology doubles every 18 months” (Reed-Swale 2009).  Not only do teachers need to incorporate technology into their classroom, but they need to continue their education in the field of technology and remain lifelong learners. 

Hicks states that one of the major hold-ups in integrating technology into the classroom curriculum is teacher resistance (189).  Many veteran teachers are afraid that they will appear “stupid” to their tech-savvy students because of their inability to effectively use different technology tools in their classroom.  Other teachers consider a situation like this to make them appear unprofessional in front of their students.  Both of these scenarios ultimately lead to the teacher feeling inadequate and therefore unwilling to integrate technology.  Teacher resistance can also stem from the lack of professional development that districts provide for new technology.  “Teachers who are properly trained to use the technology and have adequate technical support are much more likely to integrate technology into everyday lessons” (Hicks 189).  The final reason that Hicks supports as being a possible source for teacher resistance is simply that teachers do not see the connection between student achievement and the use of technology (189).

When teachers accept the new wave of technology in creating their lessons, they will realize that there are many benefits to using technology in the classroom.  The consistent use of technology will actually rewire a student’s brain to respond more consistently and effectively to technology (Hicks 189).  Technology has opened many doors for students with disabilities.  Once teachers have been trained and mastered a specific technology tool, this use of technology can save them an enormous amount of time.  Hicks ends with sharing that, “if used purposefully, technology integration can have a dramatic effect on the quality of teacher instruction” (190).

Last week, during open house, I found myself sharing my new educational endeavor with the parents.  I even used the word “tech-savvy” to describe myself.  When I came across this article, I just had to read it!  I felt like Hicks hit the nail on the head when she described the teacher resistance that is seen with this wave of technology.  I think about my own district, and team, and there are a handful of teachers who have refused to incorporate the Chrome Books into their lessons.  I thought about it a little more and did question whether our district is providing enough support to train and educate our staff.  I think that the basic training has been provided, such as…this is a Chrome Book, this is how you turn it on, this is how you log on to Google Docs.  As far as the specific applications, like presentation or forms, I don’t feel like enough opportunities to take professional development courses have been offered.  So can I really blame these teachers for being resistant to this technology?

It does require a lot of guts to stand in front of an 8th grade class and say “We are going to try something new with the Chrome Books today.”  However, speaking from experience, these situations are when the best learning takes place.  Students helping students, students helping me…it doesn't get much more powerful than that.  Let’s face it kids are going to have to be familiar with technology no matter what job they get it life.  If it’s our job as educators to create lifelong learners who are career ready, then aren't we doing our students a disservice by not using the newest tools in technology?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Open House is complete!!  I always feel like I can never get through everything I need in 7 minutes.  Does anyone have a user friendly handout to share...looking for a new format.