EdTech 541 Reflection

What have you learned?

In this course, I’ve learned that the creative use of technology tools to meet student needs is more important than finding the “right tool” for the job. This can also be said for using technology tools in ways other than their intended purpose. An example of this would be the use of Twitter for analyzing social and cultural reactions to current events. Twitter represents the here and now of attitudes toward culture, economics, politics, fashion, technology, education, and other global topics. Leveraging the very recent and very pertinent communications of millions of people can assist in the creation of authentic learning experiences for students.

How has your coursework demonstrated mastery of the AECT standards?

The majority of assignments completed this term focused on the following AECT Standards: 1: Content Knowledge, 2: Content Pedagogy and 5: Research.

The lessons created for this course demonstrate the use of technology to enhance instruction and support student learning with a focus on inclusion and leveraging student multiculturalism and multilingualism. Lessons were also guided by research-based practices to create constructivist and connectivist learning environments to facilitate learning.

How have you grown professionally?

I chose science as my content area focus this term even though I’m a language teacher. I wanted to be able to create technology-enhanced science units so that I could provide examples for science teachers in my own school. The last three modules dealing with interdisciplinary learning were especially difficult because choosing science as my focus already forced me outside of my comfort zone. However, creating interdisciplinary units with other subject areas that I don’t teach pushed me even farther outside of my comfort zone. This required a lot of research into MYP criteria for other subject areas to ensure that i was creating lessons and units that fit within the requirements of the MYP program.

How have your own teaching practices or thoughts about teaching been impacted by what you have learned or accomplished in this course?

In line with the previous question, being forced out of my comfort zone and creating lessons or units in other subject areas taught me a lot about how subject teachers approach content and concepts in their respective areas. I was able to discuss the lessons that I created with science teachers in my own school and research lessons from other schools to gain an understanding of how these teachers approached the topics for which I was designing lessons.

Creating lessons for a subject area that I don’t teach also allowed me to be a lot more creative with my lessons because of the freshness of the content and concepts. I was essentially having fun with the lessons I created, which has helped me to bring new learning strategies into my own subject area.

How did theory guide the development of the projects and assignments you created?

 

The activities that I created this term were guided by constructivist and connectivist learning theories. In each module, I incorporated opportunities for students to engage in real world problems, socially negotiate meaning and solutions around those problems, and then create and share their products with an audience beyond the classroom.

In student-centered learning environments, voice and choice  is an idea that I have held onto very closely and is front and center to many of the lessons and units that I develop for my own classes. For the learning activities created this term in EdTech 541, I gave students opportunities to incorporate their personal interests into the lesson activities, such as in this interdisciplinary lesson involving science and the arts or this activity in which students gather, prepare and identify plant specimens in their to create an herbarium of local fauna.

 

 

Obstacles and Solutions for Integrating Technology

It’s election season, so dare I quote a politician on educational technology. Political affiliations aside, Nancy Kassebaum nicely packaged the main obstacles facing educational technology:

“There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails.”

Commitment

I’m about to enter my last term in the EdTech program at BSU, and thus far every course that I’ve taken has provided explosive pathways to novel uses of technology to support learners and learning. In this course (EdTech 542), I’ve chosen science as my subject area for classroom technology integration and demonstrated how a variety of tools can be used to support learning, collaboration, problem-solving and authenticity in science.

As I’ve progressed through this term and the BSU program as a whole, I find myself becoming more jaded toward the monetization practices of technologies for learning. Many of the tools I’ve used this term are fun and engaging, but students and teachers who use these tools will quickly reach the limitations of their free accounts.

This is where the first obstacle in Kassebaum’s quote hits the mark. Are teachers able to bring these technologies into the classroom? When I’m looking to purchase technology tools for my classroom, I have to first consider the impact versus the cost: Will this be a tool that my students will or can use often? Will other teachers and students benefit from this purchase? Are there other tools that could have a greater impact for less cost?

Noise

Kassebaum highlights a second obstacle facing teachers aiming to integrate technology tools in the classroom: Can teachers “make it work”? When teachers decide to use technology in the classroom, they are faced with a lot of noise from the number of tools available to tech buzzwords.

Barry Schwartz’s ‘s TED Talk about the paradox of choice points out many of the shortcomings, specifically the impact on happiness, related to having too many choices. Schwartz suggests that more choices lead to greater dissatisfaction and unhappiness. For teachers seeking a tech tool for a lesson or unit, this impact on happiness often translates to frustration as teachers must decide on which technology tool best facilitates students reaching learning objectives.

The keyword is “best”. As Schwartz points out, even if a person makes a sound decision, the presence of choices leaves the chooser feeling as though there was a “better” choice. Schwartz says that this feeling can lead to not making a decision at all as the number of choices become overwhelming.

teaching-with-technology

Pick a tool.

Solutions

Open communication and cooperation among staff should ultimately lead to better decision-making. When budgets allow for new purchases and new technology tools present themselves, schools should first request to trial the software for a month. As an example, last school year we trialled several online systems for a month and received staff feedback about the tools before making a final decision. We were working with a limited budget and couldn’t afford to allocate money to a specific tool that focused on one subject area, such as science. Of the four trialled, we decided to only allocate money towards one that was perceived as having the greatest impact across subject areas.

Because money was an issue for us, we had limited options, but there are an abundant of free technology tools available, creating ample choice for teachers. This is where educational technologists become necessary in schools. An educational technologist can review a teacher’s unit plan and learning objectives and then work with the teacher to incorporate technology tools into the unit. The teacher saves time (and experiences less frustration) and the students benefit from tools that allow them to collaborate with others or publish and share their work online.

Conclusions

The budget constraints faced by schools, educational technology pay models, and frustrations of too many choices aren’t going away any time soon. One point that I didn’t touch on is edtech companies who target teachers, and not schools or districts, to purchase their products. As this article from TechCrunch points out, companies have found success with individual teachers purchasing their products for their own classes. While this alleviates the issue of catering to larger groups within a school, it doesn’t make choice any less of a problem, especially when teachers are spending more of their own money on classroom resources.

References:

Kovalskys, G. (2016). It’s time for EdTech entrepreneurs to throw out stale business models. TechCrunch. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2016/02/20/its-time-for-edtech-entrepreneurs-to-throw-out-stale-business-models/

Nagel, D. (2013). K-12 teachers out of pocket $1.6 billion on classroom tools. The Journal. Retrieved from https://thejournal.com/articles/2013/07/01/k12-teachers-out-of-pocket-1-point-6-billion-on-classroom-tools.aspx

Schwartz, B. (2005, July). The paradox of choice. Retrieved from  https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice?language=en

 

Social Media in the Classroom

Please click HERE to view my VoiceThread on using social media to create authentic learning opportunities in the classroom.

Works Cited:

Derla, K. (2015). Parents’ fears over use of social media, cellphones in teens may be exaggerated: Study. Tech Times. Retrieved from http://www.techtimes.com/articles/108894/20151121/parents-fears-over-use-of-social-media-cellphones-in-teens-may-be-exaggerated-study.htm

Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, social media & technology overview 2015. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/

Newsroom America Staff. (2015). Parents’ fear about teenagers’ heavy use of social media ‘may be exaggerated’. Newsroom America. Retrieved from http://www.newsroomamerica.com/story/531170/parents_fears_about_teenagers_heavy_use_of_social_media_may_be_exaggerated.html

IBO. (2015). Technology Literacy. International Baccalaureate Publishing. Retrieved from https://ibpublishing.ibo.org/server2/rest/app/tsm.xql?doc=g_0_iboxx_amo_1512_1_e&part=2&chapter=3

 

 

Acceptable Use Policies

An acceptable use policy is an essential document for every school or district and should clearly communicate the aims of technology use and the expectations for all stakeholders, including teachers, students, administrators and parents.

Oftentimes acceptable use policies will be accompanied by a long list of DON’Ts.  In order to avoid confusion and demonstrate a well-defined link between all school policies, any restrictions set on teachers or students should also be clearly linked to teacher and student handbooks. As an example, unless otherwise stated, the consequences for bullying and cyber-bullying should carry the same weight.

While a list of DON’Ts is typical of a technology use policy, it can and should be balanced, or even replaced, by a list of DOs. When a long list of DON’Ts and their consequences accompanies a technology use policy, a message is sent to staff and students that technology is a tightly controlled privilege that can be revoked. While this may be true in many schools, is this the message that we as educators should be sending to emerging digital citizens?

A school or district should instead aim to foster concepts of netiquette and digital citizenship in both faculty and students. Everyday social situations, for example, have a very long list of (oft unspoken) DON’Ts because people tend to follow social norms. An acceptable use policy should have a similar aim. By fostering concepts of netiquette and digital citizenship and creating a “digital norm”, schools communicate a much different message to staff and students.

Consider the language used in the following excerpt from Cupertino High School’s “Student Technology Use Policy” (2016):

  • You will not use obscene, profane, lewd, sexually oriented, vulgar, rude, inflammatory, threatening, or disrespectful language.
  • You will not use, access, transmit, or download information that is hate-motivated, fraudulent, abusive, or racially offensive.
  • You will not knowingly or recklessly post false or defamatory information that could cause damage or a disruption to your school or any other organization or person.
  • You will not use a camera phone to record or take pictures of students or staff anywhere on campus and post on the Internet (e.g., YouTube) without the school’s permission.
  • You will not engage in personal attacks, including prejudicial or discriminatory attacks, or harass or bully another person.
  • You will not use, access, transmit, or download information that relates to or encourages the illegal use of controlled substances or other criminal conduct.

Did you catch the repetition there? You will not. You will not. You will not. The word “not” appears nearly 40 times in the policy, and the document is weighed down by legalese that makes it difficult to comprehend.

Now consider the same message but different language used by Roblyer (2016, p. 178):

  • Respect others’ privacy
  • Use appropriate language

The message is simple, concise and effective. The question then is: How do we as educators encourage appropriate use of technology without a long list of DON’Ts. Common Sense Media’s “Turn Down the Dial on Cyber-Bullying” (2016) is an excellent demonstration of how to approach proper use of technology with students. In the lesson, the word “not” is never used to discourage behavior. On the other hand, the lesson encourages appropriate student online behavior by looking at the causes of cyber-bullying and how situations can quickly escalate. The lesson then prepares students to effectively approach cyber-bullying by having them reflect on what to do and how to react.

When students become aware of concepts such as online safety, cyber-bullying, and plagiarism and how others might be impacted, they are developing as digital citizens. Now imagine if an acceptable use policy received a DON’T for every time a student did something online that was inappropriate or non-academic. The list would grow ever-larger and the acceptable use policy would become too cumbersome to be an effective document. Rather than providing students with a long list of DON’Ts, isn’t it more effective and efficient to prepare students with the tools they need to be constructive and productive digital citizens?

Common Sense Media. (2016). “Turn Down the Dial on Cyber-Bullying”. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/lesson/turn-down-dial-cyberbullying-and-online-cruelty-9-10

Cupertino High School. (2016). “Student Technology Use Policy”. Retrieved from http://www.chs.fuhsd.org/cms/page_view?d=x&piid=&vpid=1225554324619

Roblyer, M.D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Education.

Science Language Support Using the Basic Suite

According to Roblyer (2016, p. 109), the “Basic Three” (or “Basic Suite”) of software support tools include word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. Roblyer (2016, p. 109, 115) offers quite an extensive list of relative advantages of using software support tools to enhance student learning, such as improved efficiency, document sharing and collaboration, and language learning. In this blog, I will discuss the ability of the Basic Suite to support language learners in science. However, I’m not a science teacher. I teach Literature and English language acquisition. I chose science as my focus this term because I’m passionate about working with subject teachers to use classroom technology integration strategies to support language learners.

Deconstructing Text Types

One of the ways that science teachers can use word processors to support language learners is by deconstructing text types. Let’s take the lab report for example. A lab report will often have headings to indicate a section and is clearly distinguishable from the paragraph format of an essay taught in English or humanities. Each section of the lab report has its own purpose and unique language to communicate information. For example, in a physics lab report, the data section may need language to discuss acceleration, velocity or time while the materials and methods section requires language to discuss measurements, tools, and procedures.

Recently, I’ve worked with one of our science teachers to deconstruct a lab report for a physics experiment in which students created a parachute canopy and hypothesized how the size, shape or material would impact the time it takes the parachute to reach the ground.

After introducing the different headings and general structure of the lab report, we created a file with questions under each heading to guide students, especially language learners, in the construction of each section. Each question and its answer would create a small chunk of information that could be added to other chunks to form a complete section. We also used sentence frames to assist English language learners with answering the questions.

Below is an example of the sentence frames that we used to assist students in writing their aim:

Sentence Frames.png

Once the students were finished writing the aim, they were asked to highlight each section to show the answer to each question. The frames allowed for the English language learners to construct an aim using language in context. After a few revisions, the students were able to experiment with the language to expand on the frames provided.

An example of a student who experimented with the sentence frames to expand the aim:

Sentence Frames - Student Example

These are just some of the ways that word processors and the “Basic Suite” can be used to support English language learners in mainstream science classrooms. The strategies can work for any text type or study of language conventions. Some examples include:

  • Annotated bibliographies: Have students highlight the different sections of their or a peer’s annotated bibliography (Purdue, 2016).
  • Short Stories: Have students highlight the different areas of dramatic structure (Freytag’s Pyramid).
  • Grammar exercises: Have students use different colors to indicate word forms, phrases, or clauses.

How will you use word processors in your subject area to facilitate language acquisition?

Works Cited:

Purdue OWL Writing Lab. (2016). Annotated Bibliographies. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/01/

Roblyer, M.D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Education.

 

Relative Advantage of Instructional Software in the Classroom

Instructional Software

According to Roblyer (2016, p. 75), instructional software is defined as software specifically designed to support learning and instruction. Instructional software should not be confused with “software tools”, such as word processing software (Google Docs). Software tools may have implications for learning but were not designed specifically for delivering instruction. The most common categories of instructional software are drill and practice, tutorials, simulations, instructional games, and problem-solving software. As technology has become more advanced, instructional designers are finding ways of incorporating several types of instructional software into one package. While this may seem advantageous for learners, teachers must ensure that instructional software aligns with lesson objectives and meets student learning needs (p. 77).


Drill and Practice

Drill and practice software requires students to answer questions after which students are provided with immediate feedback, typically in the form of “Correct” or “Incorrect”. When evaluating drill and practice exercises, teachers must ensure that feedback in meaningful. For instance, if a student chooses an incorrect answer, does the instructional software provide a reason why this is not the correct answer?

There are several relative advantages for using drill and practice software. One relative advantage is that students are allowed to practice and progress at their own pace. When drill and practice takes place in the classroom, there are students in the class that have already demonstrated understanding alongside students that are having difficulty. Nevertheless, the class is required to move at the same pace. Drill and practice software, on the other hand, provides opportunities for self-pacing and individual mastery of content. English language learners in science classes can benefit from drill and practice software to support concepts and language inside and outside of class.

Drill and Practice Example

Quizlet is one example of drill and practice instructional software. Quizlet is a flash card web app that also allows for images and audio recordings. This tool would work well in a science classroom with English language learners because of the support offered by the audio and visual components. Quizlet allows teachers to create lesson-specific flash cards to ensure that students are acquiring language necessary to meet learning objectives.

Tutorials

Tutorial software is defined as an instructional series through which students learn about a topic. The software is meant to be a standalone learning tool and is not meant to supplement classroom instruction. Therefore, practice exercises as well as feedback should be included in the tutorial software (Roblyer, 2016, p. 83).

The relative advantages of using tutorial software in science classes include self-paced instruction and intelligent tutorial systems (p. 85). Students complete the tutorial software at their own pace, receiving feedback from the software based on their answer choices, and revisiting instruction where needed. Intelligent tutorial systems also provide learners with instruction and questions based on learners’ needs. For instance, if learners  answer consecutive questions correctly, the tutorial software may make the content more challenging and vice-versa for incorrect answers.

Tutorial Software Examples

Achieve3000 is an online instructional program. The program offers engaging materials with appropriate visuals as well as materials of different lexile levels to support English language learners. The lessons provide necessary vocabulary and explanations to successfully complete the comprehension quizzes. If a student marks an answer wrong, then the program will provide feedback explaining why the chosen answer is incorrect. Based on the criteria set by Roblyer (2016, p.84), this tutorial software may be considered well-designed.

Simulations

Simulation software is defined as software that models real-world or theoretical systems to support learning (Roblyer, 2016, p. 87). Simulation software may be used to facilitate the learning of laboratory, medical, or engineering procedures. Flight simulators may be used in pilot school, or stock market simulators in business schools. The key to most successful simulators is that they are as closely linked to real-world systems as possible.

The relative advantages of using simulation software in science include safe experimentation, repetition, and cutting down on costs and resources (p. 90). Safety is of major concern when conducting science experiments, especially when using chemicals. The ability for students to repeat simulations without using resources saves money over time. Using simulations before an experiment will familiarize students with the procedures beforehand and better prepare them for performing the real-world experiment. Finally, for English language learners, simulations offer a low-stakes and safe environment to practice procedures and familiarize themselves with concepts. Though language demands may be high, the visual cues offered by most simulation software will balance the cognitive load placed on language learners.

Simulation Example

The PhET simulations provided by University of Colorado Boulder provide learners with realistic interactives to teach physics. The interactives are not visually stunning, but provide realistic interactives with simple user interfaces to support concept learning. This are excellent tools for allowing English language learners to construct meaning and demonstrate understanding of physics concepts learned in class. Many of the simulations’ elements can be manipulated to show or hide mass, velocity, and force to increase complexity.

Instructional Games

Instructional games are defined as instructional software that include game-like mechanics and/or include competitive elements (Roblyer, 2016, p. 92). Students tend to be more engaged and motivated by instructional games compared to more conventional instructional software. One of the many drawbacks to instructional games includes the costs of developing games for instructional purposes (p. 93). Due to these drwabacks, teachers have found unique ways of incorporating tradtional games into the classroom, such as Minecraft, Simcity, Second Life and Microsoft’s Project Spark.

The relative advantages of using instructional games include fostering healthy competition and collaboration among students. Students are also more engaged as “learning” has been transformed to “playing” (p. 94). In science classes, instructional games provide English language learners with engaging visual content to support learning of content and concepts. Learning language (and many would argue learning in general) is a social process, and games, especially online games, provide English language learners opportunities to collaboratively learn language and content alongside their native English speaking peers.

Instructional Game Example

Release on April 14, 2016 on Steam, Tyto Ecology gives students the opportunity to build their own ecosystem and populate it with various animals and plants. The game allows users to choose different biomes and track their health, including updates on recent events within specific biomes. The game overall seems very useful for students to learn about ecosystems and the interdependence of living and non-living things. The game comes with a price tag of $6.99.

Problem-Solving Software

Problem-solving software is defined as software designed for “achieving a goal when the solution is not obvious” (Roblyer, 2016, p. 97). Problem-solving software can be subject-specific or for the general purpose of enhancing problem-solving ability (p. 97). Many of the subject-specific problem-solving software packages are geared toward learning math and science.

Problem-solving software has several advantages for English language learners in a science classroom, such as visualization of complex concepts, increased interest and motivation, and application of content (p. 98). For English language learners, authenticity increases motivation and problem-solving software creates learning environments that are more authentic than rote learning methods in teacher-centered learning environments. Visual support systems provided in problem-solving software packages can also assist English language learners in understanding concepts and demonstrating understanding to teachers, greatly reducing language demands in situations where conceptual understanding is more critical.

Problem-Solving Software Example

Kerbal Space Program at first appears to be a game, but it’s quite literally rocket science. The KerbalEDU branch of Kerbal Space Program includes teacher resources and standards alignment. The program requires students to design rockets, attach payloads and send them off into space while accounting for an array of technical specifications that can and will cause problems at launch. Students must go through the design cycle and problem-solve in the hopes that their rockets will one day make it to space. This program is especially useful for English language learners as the language demands are very low relative to the amount of concept knowledge attained through trial and error. KerbalEDU offers educational licensing.

Works Cited:

Roblyer, M.D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Education.