Tuesday, October 25, 2011


In the beginning of this class I felt that students learn best when they can relate to their learning and are able to be actively involved in the process. After reading and learning more details about different learning theories and strategies, my belief still holds true. The only thing that has changed from my studies is my perspective about the use of technology devices more for learning tools and less for instructional tools. Students of today are wired differently than those a decade ago. In order to produce effective, successful students, educators must adapt classroom instruction to fit this changing world. Students today are accustomed to working with computers and other digital devices which give immediate feedback and they expect the same from their classroom assignments. Therefore, successful teachers are willing to learn about these new devices and modify their strategies to incorporate them into the curriculum.

I have had strong feelings about the use of technology in education for several years. As an educator I have made it a point to try to learn at least one new device or strategy to incorporate each year since. This course has helped me to improve even more as an educator. In the past I generally used these devices as instructional tools instead of learning tools (Laureate Education Inc., 2011b).According to Dr. Orey, if educators expect today’s students to be motivated during the learning process then they need to ensure that the student is actively involved. One way to achieve this desire is to allow students to use technology as they are learning. It becomes a tool for learning and not just for teacher demonstrations.  Smart Boards are more than projectors; they are tools that get students engaged in the learning process when used properly.  Like computers, the tax payers’ money has purchased them and they must be used to improve the education of our children, not just a toy for teachers to play with.

A second aspect of my teaching strategies that has been affected by recent studies is the use of dual coding (Laureate Education Inc., 2011b). I have used many Power Points and other Word documents as instructional tools in past years. Understanding the impact of incorporating more pictures into these tools will make the use of these tools more effective. Students will be able to relate the text to the accompanying picture. As Dr. Orey suggested when he described the difference between constructionist and constructivist theories (Laureate Education Inc., 2001a) students have different experiences that they bring into the classroom. These experiences can have an effect on how they perceive new information. When educators are able to include pictures, it enables the student to connect accurately to ensure they are able to visualize the concept. Using visual learning strategies within curriculum helps the student structure their thoughts and make connections to content (O’Bannon, et.al, 2006). It also helps overcome the obstacles caused by language barriers and reading ability in subjects that are not dependent on reading comprehension.  As I work to use more technology within my instruction I plan to modify old presentations to not only be more student friendly but also to include more pictures to aid in the learning process.

There are multiple instructional strategies that have proven to be effective in the classroom. Incorporating technology into these strategies makes them more successful because it helps prepare our students for the competition of the twenty-first century workforce. Two strategies I plan to work to enhance in my instruction this year are: cooperative learning and summarizing and note taking. In order for students to become effective leaners, they need to be able to summarize their learning by being able to delete unnecessary information while focusing on the important facts (Pitler, et. al., 2007 p. 119). This is a new skill for my third graders. However, teaching them to effectively summarize their learning will help make them more successful in the future. It will help them be able to organize their learning. This strategy is difficult for them to accomplish at this age therefore I am also working to improve the effectiveness of cooperative learning within my classroom (Pilter, et. al., 2007 p. 139). While using cooperative groups students must understand the expectations of each individual learner. Students also learn when they have to “teach” another student. Using cooperative learning activities within the classroom will help improve the learning process.

As I work to improve my classroom instruction I have set two personal goals. I want to move from a more direct instruction classroom to a more student centered classroom. I not only want to move from using technology as an instructional tool to a learning tool, but I also want to hold my students more accountable for their learning. I want to become more of a facilitator and allow the students to learn more through doing and sharing amongst themselves. In order to accomplish this I must learn how to use technology tools more efficiently. That means taking time to practice and learn how the tools work. One tool I plan to use more is virtual field trips. Due to budget cuts, taking trips has become a difficult task.  A second goal I have set is incorporated into the first: use more variety of technology in the classroom. I have used a few different tools in the past. Now that I have increased my knowledge in the types of technology available and how to use them within the curriculum, I plan to share them with my students. Students today have no fear and are willing to experiment on the computer freely. When they do so without adult guidance, it can lead to its misuse. I believe if I can at least give them some directed instruction in a wide variety of technology tools and how to use them to create an artifact, then they will have a heads up in the right direction. They will have an experience to relate to the next time they have to choose a method to present a project.  By setting personal goals I will be able to improve my classroom instruction in order to produce more effective life-long learners.

This course has been very enlightening for me. I have learned more than I know what to do with right now. Focusing on one or two methods to improve on at a time will help me become a more efficient teacher. I want my students to not only experience success within my classroom but also in the real world when they leave. Incorporating more technology into the classroom is a step in the right direction.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011a). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011b). Program thirteen: Technology: Instructional tool vs. learning tool [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1

O’Bannon, B., Puckett, K., & Rakes, G. (2006). Using Technology to Support Visual Learning Strategies. Retrieved from http://www.hawthornepres.com/web/CITS.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Social Learning Theories

Voice Thread:

Have you ever sat through a lecture and walked out knowing nothing more than when you walked in? Often times our classrooms are a lot like this for students. Teachers fail to engage them in the learning process.  Due to the ever changing nature of students today it is crucial that teachers modify their instruction to accommodate the learning styles and preferences of the students currently in the class. This means incorporating various techniques to help students learn. There are many ways to accomplish this in the classroom.

Social learning theories believe students learn best when they are able to work with others to process new information and move it from their short term memory to their long term and be able to retrieve it when called upon (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). Students tend to be able to share information and experiences when they work together to enhance the learning that takes place. Students also become responsible for other members of their team and not just themselves. They must help each member comprehend the objective in order for the team to be successful. There are a ways teachers can include activities within the classroom that promote social learning.

One such method is the use of cooperative groups. Cooperative groups tend to improve student motivation and increase skill levels. Last week we discussed project-based and problem-based learning. Teachers can create projects that require students to work collectively to complete; this is termed social constructionism (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). When students work in groups to achieve a common goal, everyone becomes responsible for each other’s’ learning. Using peer teaching they must make sure each member understands the skills and objectives being discussed therefore improving on their own understanding.  Generally tasks that fit under cooperative grouping assignments are too difficult for a student to complete independently and requires students to work together to accomplish the goal (Orey, 2001). Before establishing groups students must understand the expectations of working as groups. Depending on the teacher’s style, students may all receive the same grade in the group; this makes them realize their effort will affect all members of the team. When choosing students for groups it is important to recognize the length and desired outcome of the task. Sometimes students should have the freedom to choose their partners but realize the expectations remain the same. Other times the teacher may choose the base groups according to their ability; though this should rarely be the case (Putler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007). Groups should be small in size so that students have the opportunity to participate in the process. Using cooperative groups allows students to build their knowledge together rather than independently through their social interactions.

There are many ways teachers can incorporate cooperative groups into their lessons. Web quest is one mentioned in this week’s readings. When using web quests, students are given tasks to complete. Usually the template also has the resources students can use to complete the task. Web quest lessons are usually too in depth to be assigned independently which makes them great for cooperative learning groups. Teachers can create their own web quest or there is a template found at http://webquest.org/ that helps teachers save time when generating one. Another activity discussed this week is the use of blogs. Students are often familiar with Twitter and Facebook social network programs. Blogs are similar in nature because they allow students to respond to each other’s posts. They are different however because they usually have a specific topic to write about and discuss. I currently use blogs within my writing class. I attempt to include a new post weekly that relates to that week’s reading assignment. Students then are able to write their response to the topic. Students are engaged during both types of lessons because they incorporate the use of the computer and they know their work will be visible to show friends and family through the class web site.

Another new technology I am working to incorporate for the first time this year that promotes social constructionism is the use of a class wiki. We are beginning a study of explorers to our state. In order for students to demonstrate an understanding, I am going to use the jig saw method to have individual groups research countries that sent explorers to the New World. Each group will be responsible for certain aspects about exploration at that time. They will input their findings into a class wiki. After each group is finished gathering their information they will share their portion of the wiki with the class. The wiki will have a link on our class web site so that students will have a resource to use for future reference. This activity lends itself to cooperative learning groups because it is too much to ask for each student to individually research and learn about the many explorers to our state. If I were to do the research for them and create a Power Point presentation it might reach some of the students but creating a lesson where the students are responsible for the learning helps create the life-long learners every educator should strive for.

Teachers today need to be on the same page as the rapidly changing world around them. If teachers want their students to be successful as adults, they need the skills that will help them compete against students from around the world. These countries are moving ahead at a much faster rate than America.  For American schools to keep up, teachers need to learn how to integrate technology throughout the curriculum and use it frequently and effectively. This means teachers need to stay abreast of the many new programs and tools available to include within the lessons. Prior to using them in the classroom teachers must learn how to manipulate and work the program/tool enough to introduce it to the class. We do not have to be efficient in it because the use of technology itself acts as a stimulant to most students encouraging them to learn and they will generally teach the teacher new aspects about the program/tool as they are learning. Technology also supports the idea of creating a student centered class. Technology encourages students to research, practice using trial and error or create a product that is based on given objectives that makes them responsible for their learning. This leaves the educator to become the facilitator and not the lecturer.

As students evolve with the changes around them the classroom must also evolve. This means educators must learn to use more technology based activities and when appropriate create social learning experiences for the students. Humans are known to be social creatures and the school environment should be a place where proper socialization is taught.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program eight: Social learning theories
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. 
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Constructivism in Practice

According to Dr. Orey (Laureate Education Inc., 2011) constructionism is a learning theory where students learn by creating an artifact as they go through the learning process. Students are building their knowledge as they progress through planned learning experiences. During this process the teachers becomes the facilitator and motivator to encourage students to explore and solve real-world problems. Students then become the teacher as they create artifacts that show their learning and can be shared with their peers to increase or enhance their learning. This changes the atmosphere of the old classroom. It has its challenges but also advantages.
During constructionism lessons, students are responsible for gathering information to solve a problem or complete a project. They are expected to generate some form of artifact or finished product to share with the class. There are multiple venues teachers and students can explore to create various types of artifacts that promote constructionist ideas. This week as we studied the strategy “Generating and Testing Hypothesis” we learned two programs students can use to generate their finished product: spreadsheet software and data collection tools.

When students are performing tests on hypotheses they must gather data. Using spreadsheet software is one way to gather and analyze information. Depending on the desired learning, this information can be made readily available or students may be required to gather the information themselves. Students gather their information and plug it in to a spreadsheet template. This can be teacher or student generated, depending on the learning goal. The program will perform the necessary calculations and display the results. Students can then visually see the impact of each stimulus. When students are able to manipulate the data the program becomes interactive (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn and Malenoski, 2007). They can change numbers around to see its effect on the outcome. Regardless of the format used for the process, students are able to create a visual that displays their results. This demonstrates the constructionists’ view for learning.
Students can also use other data collection tools on the computer to generate a display of their results from tested hypotheses. Programs such as Graph Club allow students to place the results from their tests into labeled tables and then the program generates different types of graphs from the data. Students can then print out the table and graph for their artifact. This is the proram many teachers in my school use with science fair projects. However, we have seen that students can generate and test hypothesis in other subject areas.
Social studies is one subject area students are able to create and test hypothesis. Over time stimuli can affect the population on an area. In studying the effect of manufacturing on population, students can create their own theory. Then choosing towns across the country, they can access information about the population of cities before and after new manufacturers have entered the city and compare the results. A data collection tool can be used to create an artifact that displays this effect on populations. This project displays the use of a constructionist idea in social studies that integrates the use of technology.
There are so many technological tools students can use to create artifacts of their learning. Power Point, publisher, and blogs are a few examples. Students can have the freedom to choose a format that fits their personality, once they are taught how to use them. As a third grade teacher I try to use multiple programs for whole group projects so students have the opportunity to see various tools they can use in future presentations to avoid redundancy in the class. Power Point allows students to use text, pictures, video and audio in their presentation. This allows them to format their artifact to fit their learning style. It helps the teacher overcome the challenge of planning class projects that are biased to her preferred learning style (Orey, 2001). Teachers can also use blogs to help students share their learning. One way is to create a class page and have students blog during projects. Students can start their own posts or respond to classmates’ posts. This is a product where they are sharing their knowledge and collaborating while using a technological tool that will prepare them for the modern workforce. Whichever tool teachers choose to use with students they can use web sites to share their data collection; www.globalschoolnet.org is one such site.
Creating a constructionist environment takes time and practice. It requires detailed planning from the teacher and patience in allowing students the time to learn the information on their own. Classrooms become student centered and activities become projects with products for display of the learning that is taking place. Students work on these projects “as” they are learning instead of “after” the learning has taken place. They are building their knowledge through various experiences. The teacher must motivate the students to learn. When they are motivated to learn then achievement will take place.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. 
Constructionism, Learning by Design and Project Based Learning. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Main_Page
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom         instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cognitive Learning Theories

This week we heard from Dr. Orey about how students need to process information in order to be able to move knowledge from their short term memory to their long term memory. Students are able to store information in their long term memory by connecting it to their prior knowledge. Information can be classified into three categories: declarative, procedural or episodic (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). When teachers are able to take the concept they want students to comprehend and apply it to an activity students will be engaged in then they are more likely to store it and be able to retrieve it as an episodic memory.
We looked at two strategies teachers use in classroom instruction. In order to make them more effective and engaging, teachers are encouraged to integrate technology. The first strategy discussed was cues, questions and advance organizers (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  Teachers are encouraged to use cues and questions to engage students’ prior knowledge but not to be too vague. Be specific and tell the students what is expected of them. Teachers need to elicit critical thinking skills through the types of questions they ask. Watering down a lesson does not stimulate deeper thinking and understanding. Moving questions down Bloom’s Taxonomy will deepen their thinking. Using advance organizers help students organize information to enhance their learning. They are able to make sense of lessons and use the organizer to help study for tests. They are several ways teachers can enhance understanding by using technology instruction with their cues, questions and advance organizers. One method is creating concept maps. Here teachers are able to give the students an essential question along with bits of information to stimulate their prior knowledge to create a base to apply their new understanding. Then students gather information to connect their new learning to other concepts. Teachers can also incorporate videos, pictures and audio clips with the map to reach all learners. Having students apply their learning to complete advance organizers carries them through a process which helps them move the knowledge from their short term memory to their long term memory.
The second strategy studied this week was summarizing and note taking. This strategy requires students to learn how to take new knowledge, summarize it for their own understanding and create a visual they can use to study for assessments. They are several ways students need to practice taking notes to find which works best for them and it is important that teachers demonstrate these various methods (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). Students need to learn that the more notes they take the better. There are ways teachers can use technology to teach these strategies as well. The newest one is found in Microsoft Word. Students can set up the software to delete repeated information or help summarize typing. This creates a visual of how they need to change their writing to fit the concept being taught. Another method can be used in Word or Power Point; it is the idea of combination notes. Here students record facts, pictures and then a summary if information gathered. This method seems better suited for teaching third graders. It also reaches both the linguistic and visual learners as well as some kinesthetic learners. The strategy of note taking engages students to focus on what is important. They can delete unnecessary information; replace words they do not know with synonyms; and keep only the important information new to them. They can reflect on their prior knowledge to connect the new facts, procedure or episode. Having them create a visual outline of their notes or summary using one of several typing software helps stimulate the learning process to create permanent relationships among the new material.
Students are generally eager to learn when they can relate the information to something they already know. They become engaged when the lesson involves them using some form of technology. Effective teachers are able to create stimulating lessons that engage students in the learning process.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom         instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Behaviorism in Practice

Behaviorists believe students learn as a result of positive and negative reinforcements and punishments. They believe that all behavior is a result of environmental stimuli. Some people believe this theory is outdated however most schools have adopted some form of behaviorism in their classrooms. Teachers use positive and negative responses within their classroom to obtain desired behavior from the students. Behavior is learned (Orey, 2001). However it can also be unlearned when undesired actions are responded to effectively, routinely and immediately and desired actions are rewarded. Some teachers implement behavior contracts (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). The response may be a positive or negative reinforcement where the students get rewarded for the desired behavior. This holds the students responsible for their behavior within the classroom which also teaches them a life skill that will make them responsible adults one day.
Strategy one discussed reinforcing effort. In this strategy students need to see the correlation between the amount of effort they put forth and their achievement. This is truly behaviorism because the students will see the more effort they put into an assignment or task the higher their score will generally be; positive behavior results in positive reactions. According to the reading, achievement is a direct result of effort (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007). Some students may not easily see the relationship between the two; therefore creating a visual will help them realize the more effort they put forth, the higher their grades will be. The spreadsheet presented in the reading helped students see the relationship. This demonstrates the use of positive reinforcement in the classroom.
Strategy two, homework and practice, explains how students need to practice skills in order to achieve more success. According to Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn and Malenoski (2007) students need at least twenty-four practice periods with a new skill before achieving 80% proficiency. Practice can be accomplished in class or at home. When students are doing homework, it should be similar to the classwork where they can practice the learned skill with little or no assistance from guardians (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007). It is important to make sure students understand the skill being reinforced through homework and that it is addressed the next day in class to check for misconceptions. If students are allowed to continue to practice using an inappropriate method, it becomes more difficult to unlearn the skill. Repetition is important if learning is to take place. According to Smith (1999), a skill cannot be developed unless there is adequate practice.  Using computer programs is another way to have students practice skills. Many computer programs allow students to perform a task multiple times to get an answer with immediate feedback for accuracy. Some programs actually explain how to solve problems when students continually miss them. This feedback is a behaviorist response. When they get the correct answer, they are praised with applause, fireworks or other response. When it is incorrect, they get another chance, lose the game or may have the problem explained to them. Either way the student is building knowledge through the positive or negative response.
Behaviorism can be seen in today’s classroom’s Teachers may not always see how they are using it, but when they smile or complement a students for a job well done, they have given a positive reinforcement. When they give homework passes to students who continually turn in work on time, they are giving negative reinforcement because they have removed an assignment because of the desired behavior. Students today may learn differently because they need more hands-on, physical activities to stay motivated and attentive, but they still respond to the behaviorists’ theory.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program four: Behaviorist learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from 

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom       instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Smith, K. (1999). The behaviorist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/biblio/learning-behavourist.htm

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Seven weeks ago I thought I was doing good integrating technology into my classroom; now I see I was doing the same things as other teachers just using a computer. After studying and reading about true technology integration I know I must approach instruction with different strategies if my students are to be prepared for the competitive workforce. I never realized the progress other countries were making in the area of technology and I cannot believe how far behind American schools are. I believe I can make a difference beginning with my classroom. When others see the difference in my students it will open a door to educate colleagues and improve student achievement school wide. As an educator I must never stop learning about new technologies and strategies that will benefit the education of my students. They are depending on us to train them to be prepared to succeed after school. With the advancement of other countries it is imperative that they learn how to communicate globally and it all begins in the early school years. Even though I am gaining the knowledge to teach my students 21st century skills, there are obstacles I must overcome as I progress through this journey.
This course has expanded my knowledge and view of technology. In the past I have used blogs in my classroom for students to reflect on an activity. Even though students were using the computer it was the same as if they had written in their journal; the only learning taking place was using the keyboard to type a paper. If I want to use blogs as a learning tool, students need to use it repeatedly to respond and read other students’ responses and reply to them. It teaches them that their writing is important and they need to pay attention to spelling, grammar and such because there is a live audience reading their responses. Creating personal blogs for this class has allowed me the opportunity to learn how to establish, maintain and add links so that I have the competence now to take it into the classroom and use it effectively with my students to open the world to them. The same fact holds true with the wiki. A fellow teacher has been asking me to help create a wiki for some time now but neither of us knew how to manipulate it. I now have the skills necessary to carry over this technology into the classroom. I plan to use the wiki this year with my students. The podcast was another experience I will eventually incorporate into instruction. It was fun to create, modify and fuse the threads together. This class was not only full of information but also experiences that were both enjoyable as well as beneficial.
I have always had a teacher centered classroom; I felt as though elementary students were not capable of being free to learn on their own. However, after reading and playing with new technologies I realize it is possible to allow them freedom with guidance to explore and learn on their own. Students today are more independent than ever. They like to do things on their own at home; learn new computer/video games, MP3s and other technology devices. If they can accomplish this without adult super vision, I can only imagine what they can do with a little guidance. One goal I am setting for myself to accomplish within the next two years is to turn my class from a teacher centered to a learner centered where I work more as a facilitator. This is something that is going to take time; I cannot accomplish this in one year. There are more strategies I must grasp as well as obstacles I need to overcome in order to achieve this goal.
Several obstacles are currently a hindrance from implementing some of the new technology skills in the classroom. One is the blockage of websites that students need to learn and share their knowledge; my blog site is currently blocked from the district. There are ways to request sites to be opened but it takes time. Another obstacle is the lack of classroom computers. We have a single computer lab with about 25 computers for instruction but the entire school shares the one lab. There is a wireless laptop lab educators can check out for two weeks at a time but it does not connect to the school server. I have an interactive whiteboard and am learning new hands-on activities to use with it. However I would love to have the clickers to go along with it so students could take assessments and get the instant feedback they enjoy. I am currently trying to locate a grant to help purchase a set but even then I must get the districts approval and their technician must install them. We are not allowed to download any software to our computers. Like our wireless network, everything is password protected. I cannot even bring in my own laptop with the plans I make and use it with the Smart board in my room because I cannot connect to the school server. I believe the district wants to improve but they are afraid information may be released and they will be held liable. They do not see the advantage in the achievement of the students. These are a few problems I will encounter as I work to integrate 21st century skills and technology in my classroom.
As I work to incorporate technology skills into instruction I have set another goal; one I hope to accomplish this year. As I begin a new school year, I plan to create more tasks for students to complete using 21st century skills. The first I plan to use is collaboration. This is a skill my students often have difficulty with. They want to work with their friends so they can communicate about what they did last night and not stay on topic. I still plan to allow them freedom to choose partners at times but hope to teach them that sometimes working with friends can impede their learning and cause them to have incomplete assignments. Using collaboration I hope to instill a skill they can use throughout their lives. Along with collaboration, I want to teach them to be creative, be able to communicate successfully and to become critical thinkers able to solve problems. This is something that will take time. Now that I have a foundation of knowledge from this class to build on, I will accomplish this one step at a time.
This class has been very educational and the hands-on activities have given me practice to learn how to use these programs in my class. Thank you for a wonderful experience!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Partnership for 21st Century Skills

The Partnership for 21st Century (P21) is an organization that is working with other companies to put together a plan to better prepare students with what they consider 21st century skills. They believe these skills are essential for students to be ready for the future workforce. Their web site provides some tools and resources for educators to use to integrate more technology into the classroom. They encourage teachers to infuse the 3 R’s with their 4C’s (critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity). P21 has built partnerships with educators, businesses, and community and government leaders in an attempt to get the information out there for educators to use to improve classroom instruction.
What amazes me about this site are the numerous companies that have joined in the partnership for the education of American students; Dell, Apple, Microsoft, LEGO and even Walt Disney have had input into what they believe is crucial for students to be able to do by the time they graduate from high school. They believe educators need to integrate these “new” skills into the core curriculum. The part I found most useful as an educator are the 21st century skills maps for the content areas. It gives the standard and an idea of how to incorporate these standards into each subject area. I plan to use these as I attempt to include more of the 4 C’s into my curriculum.
In looking at the standards P21 discusses blending into the curriculum, I believe it will lead to more rigorous and higher order thinking lessons. Students will be more engaged and will create more individual projects that demonstrate their understanding of the content using more technology and other innovative methods. Integrating these standards into the curriculum will take time, training and money. Only a handful of states have bought into the program. I am surprised not to see my state. Hopefully as its program expands it will span the entire country so that we will see it across the board, even in our state assessments. If the world is really changing at the rapid rate I keep reading about, then we must change the way we are educating our students if we are expecting them to succeed as adults. This partnership is working to get America there.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Using Blogs in the Classroom

I have used blogs in the past but after reading how several teachers have used blogs in their classroom I realize I have not used it to its full potential. I have used blogs occasionally to have students respond to a question or activity they participated in but their responses were short and not well thought through. Seeing how it can be used more effectively has made me reconsider how I might use it next year in my class.

I like to do a lot of novel studies in my fourth grade reading class. Students often create small journals where they respond to various questions throughout their reading. Next year I believe I could use blogging as a way for students to respond to their reading. Posting a general question each week (or every couple of days) for them to respond to will allow them time to reflect on their learning. Questions like: how is plot helping to develop the character? Or how does the author’s writing style affect the tone of the story? The questions will require them to think about their response and will not be just an answer they can pick out from the reading. What I like to most about blogging is the idea that they can read each other’s posts and also respond. Once they realize that others will be reading their responses they will put more thought into their writing and become more critical thinkers. This not only will improve their reading skills but also their writing abilities. I know students love to use the computer and I believe they will enjoy this. The biggest problem I see with using blogging is getting all students to the computer. We have a computer lab which I can sign up to use but the time will be limited. My idea is to have the students prewrite and edit their response before going to the lab or allowing class time for small groups to respond each day (I do have four computers in my classroom). Either way I want my students to be exposed to blogging and see the true nature it is meant for. I intend for them to become more aware of their writing and become responsible learners.

One other way I may use blogging in my classroom is through my math class. I love to present students with challenging word problems (you know the ones that have multiple steps to solve). I will post a word problem on Monday morning and the students have all week to work on it and submit their responses. The key is when they submit their answer they must be able to explain and/or show how they arrived at their answer. I realize they can read other students’ blogs and figure out how to solve it, but I believe when they have to write their response they will soon realize they must figure it out. It is okay if they use someone else’s reply to help them understand how to work through the problem because it will be just like a peer tutor, and they generally enjoy that! Blogging will allow them time to see multiple ways to solve a problem and also give everyone a chance to participate.  I believe my students next year are going to enjoy blogging and I am going to use it to increase their level of learning.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Begining Post

I am working with my first public blog for my Master’s class in Integrating Technology in the Classroom through Walden University. I have posted blogs for students on my classroom page where they respond to questions about what we are doing in the classroom. Through this blog I plan to share what I am learning, my feelings about technology in the classroom and hope you can share any insights, opinions or links that may help me as I learn how to improve my teaching strategies.
Many students enter their classrooms with more knowledge about modern technology than their teachers. I have had students ask me about using various websites, programs and other devices within classroom instruction. Unfortunately there have been times I had to tell them I did not know about it and have them share their knowledge with me. They became my teacher. To some this is embarrassing but it should be an eye opener to our education department. They are working to improve the situation within schools but it is a slow process due to the lack of funding. The Smart board is an ingenious tool for a teacher with limitless possibilities. Every classroom in my school received one this year. Many of the teachers at first could only use it to show videos, slideshows, or as a regular white board. They were limited in their knowledge of interactive lessons. The district then integrated short mini-lessons within the school day (during our planning period) once a month with our technology specialist to train them in Web 2.0 activities they can integrate into their lessons. This has been a huge step in the right direction. Incorporating technology into lesson plans motivates students and reduces behavior issues. Schools are gradually migrating toward more integration and attempting to get the tools in the hands of teachers. This is not going to happen overnight, but with people truly dedicated to the cause it can happen.
I am researching and exploring new technologies while on summer break so that I can pick a few to learn to use well and include in my instruction next year. I would like to share a website I found that has numerous interactive websites available for multiple grade levels. I found it on Kathy Schrock’s web page when doing some personal research. Hopefully you will find it useful in your classroom. (https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0Anw3Hl3DL4wfdHR2M0oxOElkTGN0S2ZvV3hvclptcnc&hl=en#gid=0). I am also looking for grants to apply for to be able to aid in purchasing some various technology devices for my classroom. If you have any suggestions, please share them with me. I eagerly want to learn how to use some of the new technologies I am learning about within my classroom instruction. Let’s tackle this issue together!