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!