dgjm03

Archive for April 2011

This is a blog I have created to showcase my work for a M Ed, IT course at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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TECHNOLOGY AND CULTURE MATRIX

Technology Culture/ Sustaining Learning growth

 

Technology Culture/ developmental Prerogatives

  • Learning has become more context and student specific (Kukulska Hulme)
  • Enrichment or IPP’s as needed

 

Technology Culture/ Social responsibility

  • Facebook groups
  • Podcasting
  • Twitter (word gets out fast)

 

Technology Culture/Perceptions of Individuals


 

Technology Culture/ Personal Motivation

  • Technology can increase student engagement (Attwood) 
  • Allows students to be better organized – email reminders, school / teacher web page for reference, etc. 

 

Culture In Technology/ Sustaining Learning growth

  • Allows for inclusion
  • “Every child can learn (HRSB)

 

Culture In Technology / developmental Prerogatives

  • Want things fast, choose the fastest/easiest way (Attwood)

 

Culture In Technology / Social responsibility

  • Global village – help others
  • Can see the strife of others more vividly

 

Culture In Technology /Perceptions of Individuals

  • Focus on expressing oneself makes for customization of apps, programs,  etc.

 

Culture In Technology / Personal Motivation

  • Hindered personal motivation / perseverance for extended activities because everything online  is instant (Attwood)


 

Learning In Technology Culture/ Sustaining Learning growth

  • Using media to aid in subject learning not just using a media for the sake of using the technology (Puffenberger)
  • Better prepares students for an unknown future (Kessler)

 

Learning In Technology Culture / developmental Prerogatives

  • Students felt they best learned when a course was delivered 50% and 50% interactive classes (Roberts)
  • Students can choose the way to best show their knowledge
  • Makes learning ‘real’ Kessler

 

Learning In Technology Culture / Social responsibil

  • Can see real life examples of socially aware topics (i.e. Skype with kids around the world)
  • Can organize projects from the other side of the world (Kiva, Sopar, etc.)
  • Can more vividly capture the teachable moment

 

Learning In Technology Culture /Perceptions of Individuals

  • Customized programming for students
  • Greater opportunities for extended reflection and student centered growth (Terrell)

 

Learning In Technology Culture / Personal Motivation

  • Helped with learning because students excited to bring ‘ their world’ into the classroom

 

Learning Without Technology/ Sustaining Learning growth

  • Learning more strongly relies on the teacher’s experience (Roberts)

 

Learning Without Technology / developmental Prerogatives

  • Doesn’t allow diverse learners to do their best
  • Doesn’t allow students to develop and familiarize with skill skills for a modern workplace

 

Learning Without Technology / Social responsibility

  • Allows for traditional academic expectations and research skills to emphasized (Attwood)

 

Learning Without Technology /Perceptions of Individuals

  • One size fits all thinking

 

Learning Without Technology / Personal Motivation

  • Not waste time ‘playing’ with interesting features
  • Focus on content
  • Technology as a  gimmick may be motivation in and of itself  for  some students

“Time” to say good bye to analog time?

                The new math! The current focus is on understanding and explaining not simply doing.  Once named cheat machines, calculators are now a welcome part of any math class. There are even software programs dedicated to the most basic of math concepts.  Technology has infiltrated and changed so many areas of ours and our children’s lives perhaps we should be thinking not only of new curriculum but of our “new world” as well.

                In our connected world that we live in today, many of our students (especially at the upper grades) and adults in our world live in constant contact with their phone, IPOD, monitor, etc. all vividly displaying the time  in a digital format. My question is this? Should we bother to still teach students how to read analog time?

                Think of all of the technology you access in a day…IPOD, watch, cell phone, TV, monitor, laptop, digital camera and any other number of things.  How many of these devices display the time in digital format?  If we are focussed on using our teaching time to explore and illustrate the best, most valuable skills and information; Do we really need to even teach analog time anymore?  I know, I know, it seems wrong to even ask such a question!  I myself immediately think; Yes! Of course we have to teach analog clock reading. What a great disadvantage our students will be at if they don’t have this skill. But when I delve a little deeper into this thought I’m no longer convinced of the analog clocks importance.

                When are these students, young people, and later adults ever going to be without access to a digital clock? Sure my cell phone has the ability to display the time in analog but I very much have to ask it to do so, digital is the default. And yes, there is an analog clock in my classroom but with my cell phone, TV (no longer analog itself, of course!) and 4 computers nearby, I would certainly be able to find the time even if I couldn’t read an analog clock. In preparing our students for a digitally sophisticated future of unknowns, if we have the ability to let a machine do the work for us (in this case the telling time), why not? Why waste valuable learning / teaching time on an antiquated topic? The sun dial had its heyday and then we developed more precise and reliable technology. Is it  now the analog clocks time? Are times tables really the be all and end all? Or is knowing what makes sense and how to use a calculator/ program more efficient?  Does every child absolutely need to know how to do and read cursive writing? It’s a nice idea but… our world now functions from a keyboard, not a feather topped calligraphy pen! Why do we value the immediate response of yes we need to teach our students these traditional topics so much? Is it really worth our valuable learning time or is it simply us (the educators and decision makers) sentimentally thinking that’s the way it’s always been so that’s the way it should be ?

Food for thought!! Enjoy the taste of debate!

http://www.explainthatstuff.com/analog-and-digital.html

http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2010/11/of-time-and-technology.html

http://open.salon.com/blog/catherine_forsythe/2011/01/20/its_cursive_writing_and_im_not_that_old

 

Using Technology to Live Math!

Many of us have often heard the expression,” You go to school to learn the three r’s: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.” As out of date as that saying is, so does the notion that the only effective way to learn math is by repetitive, non- contextual tasks. Not only can students learn an immense amount of information from discussion with their peers but also from the many ways we can incorporate technology into our math classes.

 As a community of educators we seem to have accepted the idea of multiple intelligences http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_multiple_intelligences as valuable and we seem to have better understanding of how some students need to have information presented and acquired in a non- lecture format. I feel that this is even more the case in the area of math where many students do not ‘buy into’ the ideas that math literacy is just as important as language learning and that math is everywhere.  I think the technologies that we have available to us today can greatly help us rise to the challenge of meeting the diverse learning needs of our students.

Of course time constraints play a role in every teachers plan.  It seems that more and more is placed on us with less and less time to teach effectively.  So that means we should be embracing the best possible way to reach our students.  The internet, software and collaborative online opportunities can help us to do this. We are preparing students for a future that has challenges that are completely unknown. So why do we resist using what we already have to help them get there? Teachers need valuable ongoing professional development in order to more effectively spark deep mathematical learning.

So, what could we use to help our students “live” math? Wikis could allow for collaboration, group problems, learning from one another, it also provides a record to teachers of what their students have done over time.  http://www.suite101.com/content/using-wikis-in-math-classes-a67900 . Using Kurzweil or the Read Text function within Inspiration to do something as simple as read text for a language challenged student allows that student an equal playing field to show their math thinking and not be held back by reading skills.  Finding real life numbers and events help to bring the math into a context for learning (http://www.nctm.org/resources/content.aspx?id=16263 ). Much math software only advances to the next level of skill after the student has demonstrated mastery of a particular subject matter (Mathville, one of many great math learning software packages out there, does this in a rather clever and motivating way.  http://www.mathville.com/demoMathvilleMS/ ). Mathville is a ‘game’ that keeps track of students’ progress for you. This could help with your assessment of learning and for learning all wrapped into one, a readymade, time saver! The visual learners in your class could use websites to manipulate shapes and images and create models to add to their problem solving abilities. Those who need practice with clearly communicating mathematical thinking could be challenged to do so through a blog and have comments from their internet audience to add another dimension to the opportunity. http://misterteacher.blogspot.com/2005/01/using-blogs-as-portfolios-to-increase.html . The shy and quiet students or those intimidated to speak in front of a group now too have a way to have a voice and participate in online discussions. 

Perhaps with a greater focus on individualized math learning and giving a variety of entry points to math learning through technology, whether it is through online activities, more effective presentation of materials or software that is interesting to our students hopefully, we can allow our students to become mathematically literate as well as maybe even, GASP!!!… Enjoy math!

Open Source

          It seems to me that open source software and hardware is yet one more thing in our world that has so much potential but once human nature takes over and greed enters the picture, it is it hard to decide if it is a blessing or a curse.

          The idea of grassroots programmers making these community minded programs for students or small businesses is hard to argue against.  It seems to be a great idea in a passing glance and we are a world who needs such things. Think about limited access to expensive programs for students, non for profit groups and those in developing areas. Also, think about businesses being able to use a low cost, customized program for their company that works efficiently for their specific business. The source of the controversy seems to come into play once individuals or groups start to want to benefit monetarily from using open source code to create a new/ improved program.

          The idea of not being able to claim your own work after you have created it because you have developed it using open source code seems to go against everything that open source was created to be in the first place; a place to share info and make advancements and further develop seedling ideas. Again, money seems to be the driving force behind the ethics of open source code. If the code is there for the sharing then once one changes it into something new, it seems fair to reason that it indeed becomes the creator’s own.  We all use the same alphabet and the same words but the ways in which writers put them together to make a book that is their own, is celebrated. Using open source to create a new or improved program could be seen as much of the same. Is the concept of personal gain from using open source code perhaps immoral given its grassroots beginnings? Perhaps. Is personal gain simply the nature of our capitalistic world?  Definitely!

          Open source certainly seems to be a cost effective route for non – profit, specialized industry and any other groups who would be interested in a unique program. I can for see many businesses and groups using this, if they have access to a programmer, they could easily customize a program for their company. These open source based programs wouldn’t need to have all of the unnecessary features found in many propriety programs for the masses and they also wouldn’t have the large price tag that comes along with a ‘do everything’ program.  I recently was the recipient of three netbooks for my classroom, all installed with Open Office on them.  I’m told all new computers going into the schools in the future will have Open Office as a money saving effort. In our world of purse tightening and cutting the fat it seems to me that open source products may very well be the way to go.

          I and many others enjoy the idea of supporting the ‘little guy’ or the underdog rather than supporting the large monopolizing groups such as Microsoft and Mac however, as a non – computer specialist, I also like the comfort and ease with which I can use these products. I think open source certainly could have applications to my life but I am not of the time or interest (or quite possibly ability?) to use and change open source material into something useful for myself. I like being able to turn on my computer and having it do everything I need it to do with the click of a mouse. I think this sentiment is echoed by many but there are certainly those who have the knowhow and interest who seek out open source material specifically so they can customize and use it to their full needs. Is this customizing practical for many or user friendly for the non- computer specialist? I’m not sure.

          The review and sharing nature of open source makes it seem more secure perhaps that closed source material where no one can see any hidden code or bugs. However, the flip side of open source is that perhaps a creator did embed a bug that is right out in the ‘open’ but unless one is a programmer, finding such a bug is impossible. For users such as financial institutions, health care users and other confidential matters this would be a concern if they were using open source code whereas at least with a propriety model there is some security in a well-known name or at least the front of perceived security. Until open source code programs become more user friendly and less intimidating for the computer novice, I don’t think we will see a huge change in the arenas that these sorts of products will be used. I think there will always be those who believe open source is the only pure use of code unaffected by the ‘establishment’ but that remains a niche pocket of programmers until open source code is less of a mystery to the average consumer.

          The current trend in cyber image creation seems to follow the old adage of less is more. Many websites seem to be opting for a more clean and simplified, and perhaps more user friendly version of a webpage as opposed to webpages of the past that had every counter, sound effect, and every option attached to it.  User friendly has become what is expected with easy to use and find back buttons that return you efficiently to a menu if you navigate to the wrong web destination.

          I’m not sure what technology is most engaging for developing cyber imaging but I have had most of my personal experience with Front Page and a dabbling in Dreamweaver.  Nowadays there seems to be many websites that you can simply plug your information into and your ‘customized’ site is prepared for you.

          In order to insure limited deterioration of ones cyber image contast updating is required. Our school ‘s web page is actually managed by our office assistant and she does a great job adding the new newsletter, quick messages to parents and any changes in the schools schedule. Most teachers have class webpages but these seem to be updated at varying levels of recent activity. For some teachers at my school they are using their class web pages to not only assign homework and post student samples, some are using this as a tool to post reminders to parents, using student assigned numbers only of outstanding work items. As far as using students‘images, work and names online, a media release form that needs to be signed by the guardians of the child is necessary. As well teachers could assign a student a number that only the student and his / her family recognize as their own to identify work samples. If photos/ video appear, perhaps the names do not accompany the images. Often it may be useful that when names are used online that only the student’s first name or initials are used.

 

Why is Teacher Professional Development (PD) for technology use important?

          Having computers in classrooms is pointless if teachers do not have the time to experiment with the programs and implement new practices in the classroom. (Cunningham, 2003) It is a waste of time, money and resources if the technology is placed in classrooms without the PD to support effective use of such PD (Carlson and Gadio, 2002). 

          There is a need for teacher Professional Development (referred to as PD for the rest of paper) on technology because without the PD teachers may continue to use the new technology in the same manner as the old, just with newer equipment. I have encountered several teachers who simply use their LCD projector / smart board as a high tech projector by simply typing the notes that they would have used for their overhead projector. Without proper info or training, teachers are left to their own devices and for some, this does not positively impact or improve student learning, the whole reason for using technology in the classroom in the first place.

          In our increasingly busy world, we as teachers are faced every day with the daunting task of trying to prepare our students for the unknown future. We are trying to teach our students skill sets that can be applied to new situations and the ever changing workforce. As school boards and departments of education implement programs for students to use and have access to technology, it is all too often forgotten that teachers, those who are introducing and continuing the students’ education on this new hardware, software or concept, are the ones who also need to have the confidence and the ‘know how’ to effectively use the technology.  It is difficult perhaps for policy makers and budget makers to envision the importance of teacher PD but while the purchase of ‘x’ amount of dollars may look impressive to the public, the end result is that without proper instruction and preparation to use the technology, the funding has been wasted.         Verdisco & Navarro (2000) suggests PD funding should equal half of every dollar of hardware/ software that is brought into the schools.  This amount can be further adjusted once those teachers who received the initial PD pass on the information to others in their school or implement small group sessions. In Verdisco & Narvarro’s Costa Rican Experiment, it was interesting to see that how over time, the cost of providing PD to teachers became more and more feasible as more teachers were trained.  Participant schools in this well- funded experiment (half of the technology funds went towards PD) were able to very successfully integrate technology into their students’ learning.

          One of the biggest problems for effectively incorporating technology into a teachers’ everyday practice is the lack of teacher knowledge (Fatemi, 1999).  PD can quickly and efficiently address this problem and make it no longer an obstacle to teaching with technology. We have to remember that our teachers, unlike are students have not always lived in a world that is connected 24/7. For some of our teachers, texting, web 2.0 and blogging are foreign languages! In order for teachers to see the potential in these and other forms of technology we need to educate our entire workforce. At an in-service recently through the Halifax Regional School Board, it was said that our teaching population in the schools spanned across four decades of teachers. That is a vast difference in exposure to technology. This is not to imply use or knowledge of technology is solely based on age but it does shed some light on the need for common PD and experiences in order for teachers to have an equal opportunity to learn how to use technology and to keep current with new equipment and advancements.  

          The whole point of using technology to teach is to improve students’ performance in skills acquisition as well as content. This can only be done with effective use of technology by a well prepared and comfortable teacher who knows the technology well enough to adjust and use the key features of said technology to reach all of his / her students (Carlson and Gadio, 2002). We want teachers to be able to put the technology to use, not for the sake of using the technology but to help all students have an opportunity for genuine learning in the most efficient and effective way. Self-taught methods and reading a user manual may not lead to these outcomes. If a teacher is not seen as confident in the technology use, it is safe to say their creativity in using the technology to tailor to individual students’ learning needs will be limited.

          It is also imperative that students see all teachers; male female, younger, older using the technology confidently and effectively. As role models to students, this could create some unintended biases in our students and their thoughts about who can and cannot use technology.

          According to Cunningham (2003), one of the most important ways to ensure that incorporating technology into the classroom is a success is to make sure that there is a ‘culture’ of technology fostered throughout the school, the school board and amongst any other key players such as a Department of Education or State District.  A technology culture is something that needs to be developed through long and short term goals that are mapped out clearly for all to see. The details of how technology will be implemented, a timeframe for the placement of technology  and the learning goals this technology will meet is all included in the vision map from the beginning.  Also, the support and focus on technology cannot be limited to a few selected pockets or people. For the culture of technology, and therefore the technology use and integration of the technology to be successful, everyone throughout the board, from the most senior administration to the teachers and support staff must be ‘on board’ with the initiative.” In my personal experience of 10 years of teaching in a variety of schools, I can agree with this statement wholeheartedly. If the current administration of the school does not view technology use as important, then the technology that is present is often underused and acquiring new technology is often an afterthought.  

          Learning technology is like many other skills. It is not something that is immediate or long lasting after one attempt (Cunningham, 2003). We need technology PD that is accessible to teachers on an on- going basis and that the teachers have access to someone with answers on technology related problems. In some cases, teachers who aren’t as excited about using technology could be even more ‘out of the loop’ because they may not even know what kind of technology options are out there for them to seek! Once teachers know the ins and outs, the limitations and the commonly used applications about a given technology, it would be less demanding for teachers to incorporate it into their daily practice rather than be one more thing added on to what they are already tasked with teaching.

          Teachers are worked to their maximums as it is. When you add together planning for lessons, communicating with their students and parents regarding various issues as well as the required Planning for Improvement meetings and Professional Learning Community meetings, that leaves little time for individualized initiatives to seek out / discover and learn to use new technology, software and the like.  According to Killion (1999) to create teachers that are confident and excited to use technology to better teach their given subject, two key components must be considered when developing a professional development opportunity. The first requirement is that the professional development needs to be established alongside of the technology integration plan. One cannot work without the other and therefore both need to be given the same amount of careful consideration. PD should be an integral part of the school technology plan or overall school-improvement plan. The second key component is that the PD needs to support best practices of teaching. Concepts such as helping students make connections, offering a variety of learning experiences, and have direct application to curriculum are imperative for successful technology PD. 

          Carlson and Gadio argue that the PD for technology needs to be implemented in 3 key stages. The first stage focuses on pre-service teachers and a strong foundation of teaching practices which would include technology, not focus on technology. The second step would include in-service teachers and focussing on new teaching skills, content and technology skills that are not simply for the teachers own use but that are linked to their certifications. The third step would involve ongoing technological and pedagogical support for teachers.

          PD opportunities allow for valuable time spent talking with other teachers of how they incorporate this technology into their daily lessons and what problems/ answers they have found with this technology.  This is a welcome time for many teachers because due to any host of reasons, teachers often are not motivated enough to seek out opportunities for PD on their own time. It has been noted that in order to aid teachers in getting excited for technology PD (albeit perhaps any PD) that there should be incentives offered for teachers, just as their often are for employees within the private sector. There has been some success in this area in the United States by using extrinsic motivators (recognition by districts, financial gain for training completed, hardware in your classroom after completing a specific course, etc.) By comparison, I have not heard of any similar incentives being available in my school board or in others throughout the province. I’m still evaluating whether or not I think this would be a positive thing.  I do worry about the public’s perception if such an incentive was offered because we as professionals should seek out what we don’t know and should try to keep abreast of the current needs to do our job. However, in some respects I do think this could be a valid initiative simply because it sometimes seems in our union driven nature of teaching as opposed to our much more competitive neighbours to the south, that there seems to be little reasoning to push oneself to become a better teacher with the exception of the personal belief that doing ones job well is important.  Perhaps this is one area that could be examined further once a ‘technology culture’ has been established in our province.

          The use of technology properly can bring learning to life for students. This type of hands on, real life, high interest, problem solving opportunities allow students to interact and gain many social skills which are highly sought after in today’s workplace (Carlson and Gadio, 2002).  The opportunities that can be captured by using technology in an educational setting are unlimited, as long as the technology is being used to its full potential.

          Whatever technology PD is to look like in the future, what has been established is that the PD does indeed need to exist. Ideally, the PD would be in a format that meets most teachers where they are, technologically speaking, and moves their knowledge to where they need to be. The PD must be grounded in good practice, be practical and allow teachers to feel validated in some way for their extra efforts. In order for the PD that is offered to not be wasteful, a more active, on-going and systematic commitment to teacher’s learning technology must be established .

References

Carlson, Sam and Gadio, Cheick Tidiane (2002) . Teacher Professional    Development in the Use of Technology.           http://www.ictinedtoolkit.org/usere/library/tech_for_ed_chapters/08.pdf

Cunningham, Joan (2003). Between Technology and Teacher Effectiveness:           Professional Development . Tech and Learning          http://www.techlearning.com/article/1110)

Fatemi, E. (1999, September 23). Building the digital curriculum. Education Week      on the Web [Online]. Available:         http://www.edweek.org/sreports/tc99/articles/summary.htm

Killion, Joellen (1999). Technology Leadership Team Institute, July 1999 in      Leesburg, VA (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory).          http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te1000.htm

Verdisco, A., & Navarro, J.C. (November/December 2000). Costa Rica: Teacher

          Training for Education Technology

          http://www.techknowlogia.org/TKL_active_pages2/CurrentArticles/main.as         p?IssueNumber=8&FileType=HTML&ArticleID=200