Thursday, October 18, 2012

Final Reflection


FINAL REFLECTION
      As an educator I feel that it is necessary to constantly evaluate my teaching practices and take steps to continue to evolve and change along with the changing technologies and techniques that are prevalent in the teaching world today.  This course gave me a great deal of insight and practice in using technology to increase student engagement as well as improving my own research and technology skills.
The main two goals of my GAME plan were to increase project-based projects that were supported by technology and to improve communication with students and parents through the use of online technologies.  I learned a great deal about project-based learning through this course and I now have a much larger toolbox and set of resources from which to draw examples on different project-based lessons and activities.  The GAME plan helped me stay motivated to include more projects and since beginning the GAME plan, I have already implemented and completed four project-based activities.  I have also learned a great deal about other technologies available for communication with students and parents, such as Class Parrot and Edmodo.  Although I have not used either of these much as of yet, I think they hold great potential.    A great deal of what I learned during this course will help improve my teaching practice and will give me a point in the right direction to create more relevant and authentic learning activities for students.  Overall, I do not think I would change much in my GAME plan because I think that it gave me something to strive toward concerning both my goals.  This GAME plan model could also be used for students in my classes, especially when it comes time for a major project.  For example, students in my Economics classes read a book this past quarter and had to present their book’s contents and connections to their world.  The GAME plan could have helped them set goals for pages read each week, make plans for how they would monitor their progress, and evaluate if they were meeting their goals or not.

     I think that I will have some immediate changes taking place in my classroom because of this course.  I have already begun planning more project-based lessons and plan to have students use technology a great deal more as a working tool and also a means for them to collaborate and present information to each other.   I am too late for this semester to plan a capstone project but I plan to include a capstone project that is problem-based that will ask students to find and research a major economic problem that has either recently occurred or is occurring now.  Students will then create a digital story to tell other students about what they found out about the problem and a proposed solution to the problem.  I have no doubt that this course has given me the kinds of tools I need to create more engaging, holistic, and authentic projects and lessons that will require students to use skills that they will need to master when they are in the workplace.  And for me, that is the whole point of education; preparing our students to meet the challenges they will face in whatever future they chose.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


 

Monitoring My GAME Plan


            Looking back on the previous two weeks, I actually feel like I have made some significant progress on one of my GAME plan goals while the second GAME plan goal has remained somewhat stagnant.
            My first goal of trying to incorporate more project-based learning activities and assessments in my classroom has been fairly easy to pursue.  I have found a great deal of resources concerning project and problem-based learning from websites, educational journals, and advice from colleagues.  For this particular part of my GAME plan, I feel like I am right on track when it comes to taking action.  I have already incorporated several project-based activities in the last few weeks and while monitoring the learning of the students, I have come to the conclusion that these activities are worthwhile and meaningful.  Probably the most important thing I have learned so far concerning project-based learning is the fact that it cannot and will not fit into every single subject or content area.  Rather than forcing a project-based activity on students for the sake of just doing it, I have looked for other ways to tackle some other content in my Economics classes.  The biggest question I have concerning this part of my GAME plan is how many projects or problem-based learning activities do my colleagues use for their classrooms?

            The second goal of trying to increase parent and student communication through technology has no progressed as quickly as I had hoped.  This is despite finding some good resources through research and colleagues, such as Edmodo and Class Parrot.  Because this goal has progressed slower, I think I need to modify how quickly my plan will move forward.  At first I thought transitioning into instant digital communication would be easy.   I found out that even parents who do have computers and internet available do not always know how to use all the digital technology for communication purposes.  This does not mean I will give up on digital communication but rather I will be more patient and sparing in using computer technology.  I am going to try to work on getting parent cell phones linked up to a system like Class Parrot because I know for a fact that more parents and their children have cellular devices than computers and this may be the bridge I need to carry some parents into the digital communication arena.  For sure I have learned that even though technology is all around us in society, not all people can use it effectively and that can be frustrating.  If I keep being patient and use a combination of different communication tools, then I can still reach the goal of increasing parent communication with some use of technology support.  My question for my colleagues on this goal would be “what other communicative technologies do you use to help increase your parent, student, and teacher communication?”  Overall, I think that I am making some good strides in my GAME plan and I will continue to work toward achieving my goals so that student learning and communication improve.

 

 

Some resources I have discovered for my goals for both project-based learning and communication”


http://www.udel.edu/inst/-  Project-based learning

http://pbl-online.org/-  Project-based learning

https://www.remind101.com/-  parent/student communication

http://classparrot.com/-  parent/student communication

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Carrying Out My GAME Plan


After reading and listening to this week’s resources about Universal Design for Learning (UDL), it is clear that there are a great deal of tools and resources available to teachers in order to reach all students in the classroom (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2009).  Just to refresh my colleagues, my GAME plan is focusing on increasing project-based learning through the use of technology and increasing parent communication and involvement through the use of technology. 

In order to carry out my GAME plan, I will need a great deal of resources, many of which are already at my disposal and the disposal of my students.  For my first goal of increasing project-based learning, I have almost everything I need for resources because my students each have their own laptops for 1:1 classroom learning capabilities.  In the budget project example I gave in my last post, students are now able to communicate with experts and conduct research to find out how much they could expect to pay for items such as rent, food, clothing, insurance, and daycare.  The only information I need is more research and development from continued inquiry and dialogue with colleagues at work and in my Walden community.  As mentioned before, I am already involved in an authentic and realistic project with my students and I have several other “real-world” projects in the work such as a stock market project that involves students buying and selling stock on a virtual stock market site.

The second part of my GAME plan involved increasing parent and student communication using technology.  Again, students have many of the resources they need to help carry this plan forward, especially through the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) that my district now has.  For parent side of communicating with technology, I would like to have more training and dialogue with other educators about how they communicate with parents through digital mediums.  I do have a Facebook page and email for just school but not all parents have those available.  After some informal conversations with colleagues, the suggestion of Edmodo was given as another means of communicating with students and parents.  I am going to continue to pursue more ways of connecting with parents using technology and I feel I have made some progress as I get more additions to Facebook and I do still get emails from parents.  However, I feel I have a long way to go even though I have taken steps to dialogue with parents as much as possible.

One question I have for my Walden colleagues:  Some of my students and parents do not have wireless internet at their house.  How do I maintain communication with them using technology?  In this case, I have resorted to phone calls but are there some other ways I can communicate using the latest technology?  I have thought about using data and texting through cell phones but that would mean giving out my cell phone number freely.  My phone number will not work on Google Voice.  I feel like I am on the right track but I wanted to see if there were any suggestions that I may be missing or forgetting.
 
Resources

Cennamo, K., Ross, J. & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach. (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Developing a GAME Plan for Technology

by:  Scott Embrock


In today’s educational world it is essential for teachers to incorporate digital technology in the classroom.  Technology can support and enhance learning for students and help them reach both content and skill goals (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2009).  Because technology support is so important in the classroom, teachers should continue to grow and develop their skills in keeping up with the latest tools and methods that can enhance student learning experiences.

The first standard from the NETS-T that I would like to improve upon is facilitating and inspiring student learning and creativity (International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), 2008).  The one big goal that I have for improving myself in this standard is to incorporate more project-based learning activities in my Economics class that are supported with technology.  Because of this, I plan to implement at least two new project-based learning activities per semester so that my students can experience real and authentic learning with technology support.  One project I have in the works is a budget project where students use Microsoft Excel to create a budget worksheet and use online collaborative tools to communicate with each other about information they discover about mortgages, loans, and other expenses.  I plan to monitor the goal for this standard by keeping track of what projects and activities I have created that used technology as a support for authentic learning.  If I am not working hard enough to make sure that technology is used to support content rather than using technology for the sake of technology, then I have not met my goal.  I plan to do quite of bit of reflection on what type of activities I created with the use of technology and also plan on getting feedback from students on what they thought of the activities and projects that were supported by technology.  If students felt the activities were fun but not content rich, then I need to go back to the drawing board and make new goals.  However, if students felt like the projects and activities were meaningful to them and were also enjoyable, then I have met my goal and can then extend my learning by looking into new ways to improve content learning with the use of technology.

The second standard from the NETS-S that I would like to focus on is modeling digital age work and learning (ISTE, 2008).  A goal that I would like to accomplish for this standard is to communicate better with students and parents using digital technology.  One action plan I have in mind for achieving this goal is to give parents multiples ways to communicate with me.  I understand parent phone calls are still important; however, I would also like to use email, social media, and cell phones to be able to communicate with parents and students.  I have set up a Facebook account for parents and students to get updates about what is going on in my classes and I already have parents and students checking the site for new pictures, videos, and updates (parent permission slips were signed and returned, which relates to NETS-T standard 4).  As for students, my district has a new Learning Management System (LMS) and email server that allows for excellent, fast communication with students about a myriad of issues and topics, including grades and attendance.  Monitoring my goal of communication through the use of new technology will be done through call logs, email archives, and message or wall posts on my class Facebook page.  I do allow students and parents to have my cell phone number as well and some parents find it more convenient to send text messages as well, in which case I archive and keep track of text messages as well.  When I evaluate my goal for this standard I will look at what impact this is having on student attendance and learning as well as parent comfort and confidence in both me as an educator and the high school where I teach.  By having different means of communication for students and parents, students are developing communication and collaboration skills that will serve them well in their future after their high school career is over.

One big question I have for my colleagues is what types of projects and activities do you implement differently now than before because of new technology and what new projects and activities do you now have for students because new technology supports are available?  Also, are there any communicative methods or strategies that I have left out in trying to reach my second goal of communication and collaboration?  I think if we as teachers can help each other grow and develop then all of our students are set to reap the benefits in the long run.

Resources


Cennamo, K., Ross, J. & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach. (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). National education standards for  teachers (NETS-T). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/Libraries/PDFs/NETS_for_Teachers_2008_EN.sflb.ashx
 
For some great tips and ideas, watch this video.  Some really great ideas to help all of us teachers!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Final Reflection: Learning Theory and Strategies in Action

     At the beginning of this course, my personal theory of learning mainly focused on project-based learning and cooperative learning.  While I still believe that real-world experiences and group collaboration are extremely important, this course has taught me that there are more ways of approaching teaching and learning.  Through the learning resources and discussions with Walden colleagues, I have learned an approach that includes a variety of different theories of learning can be very beneficial to student engagement and learning.  While I have not made any major changes to the way I approach learning, this course has enhanced my understanding of the learning theories I support most, which include both cognitive and social learning theories.  Also, a variety of different instructional tools and strategies that support researched learning theories were presented and are not at my disposal to use to enhance student learning.
               
     One of the most immediate changes I plan to make to my instructional practice is to take a step back to play a more dominant role as a teacher-facilitator rather than a teacher-lecturer.  While I do try to engage my students in many experiential learning activities, the main way students obtain required vocabulary and other essential information was through lecture.  I will use more technology to guide students to the information so they are able to discover new information rather than obtaining it from me.  One technology tool I want to use with my students is Microsoft Excel for a financial budgeting project.  If I have a spreadsheet set up for the students, they can focus more on the collaborative budgeting process rather than crunching numbers, which supports their learning.  Another tool I want to have students use is VoiceThread. There are so many ways to use this website that it is hard to know where to start.  I would like to have students use VoiceThread to enhance their understanding of managing credit and debt.  Students could set up a VoiceThread that goes through the steps of obtaining and maintaining good credit and have classmates comment on their ideas.  Overall, this course has greatly enhanced the amount technology skills at my disposable, both in the form of technology tools and instructional strategies.

     One long term goal I have for changing my instructional practice is to have almost no lecture in class as an instructional tool.  I know lecture is needed sometime but if I can reduce this strategy a great deal it will leave more room for collaboration and discussion among students and open up more time for learning other concepts.  I plan to take concepts that I have taught in the past and figure out ways to have students access the information in different ways using technology.  The second long term goal I have is to increase the amount of group sharing and students acting as
both teachers and learners.  One skill that students will need in the 21st century skills is communication and many students have gotten used to “sitting and getting” information and memorizing it for a test.  If I can get students involved in the process of teaching each other, then it will increase their ability to learn the information.  Information presented by peers often times means more coming from them rather than a teacher.  I plan to use more strategies, such as digital storytelling, VoiceThread, concept mapping websites, and other multimedia presentation formats, to involve students even more in the teaching and learning process in various content areas in my Economics classes.

     The amount of information I have learned in this class is mind boggling.  I will take most of the information and strategies in this course and be able to apply them immediately to enhance the learning of my students.  I truly understand how different learning strategies and tools are connected to research-based learning theories.  One of the most important things I learned is that technology needs to be used as the helper, the tool that allows students to learn
information in a new and unique way.  It has become very clear the impact that technology has on student learning and in
the development of essential 21st century skills needed to be successful in today’s world.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Being Social is the Name of the Game!

The idea of cooperative learning has been around for awhile but with the advent of new technologies, cooperative learning can be even more powerful than before.Cooperative learning is directly related to social learning theories in that students work collaboratively in groups to construct new knowledge (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).Social learning is a very active process where students are involved in the creation and building of something.This is why cooperative learning fits in perfectly with social learning theories because students are actively engaged in the thinking and collaboration process while working toward a common goal.

Technology can greatly enhance the effectiveness of cooperative learning.Today, students have the ability to connect with each other any time and anywhere due to many social media sites and collaborative web resources such as blogs, wikis, moodles, and voicethreads.Cooperative learning, with the enhancement of technology, gives students the ability to become both the teacher and the learner, and many students will learn more through teaching others in their group than from being dictated information from a teacher’s lecture (Orey, 2001).The ability of students to work together to create large and complex multi-media projects, such as videos, websites, and prezis shows the real power of technology integration into cooperative learning, which supports the essential role of social learning theories.

One of my favorite cooperative learning activities when I taught American History was the webquest.I chose to use webquests specifically for the level of inquiry and engagement required by students.As supported by social learning theory, students were asked to research and construct new knowledge based on the directions of the webquest.Furthermore, webquests with new technology can be even more powerful as teachers now have the ability to create their own customized webquests for students to use that are tailored to students’ needs in the classroom (Pitler et al, 2007).Ultimately, cooperative learning is effective because it teaches students to work together in a way that is meaningful and practical for them as future citizens and leaders.

Link to my Voicethread:   https://voicethread.com/share/2902688/

                                                                      Resources

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

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom
instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Added for a little bit of humor...this is NOT what collaboration is all about!

I prefer a Dell...just saying!



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Under Construction...Building Meaningful Learning!

     All of the different technologies presented by the learning resources this week had one thing in common:  they all engaged students in creating something authentic to share with others.  Whether the activity is labeled Learn By Design, Project-Based, or Problem-Based, technology can be used to enhance student creation and construction of knowledge.  One of the most practical technologies used in conjunction with constructivism was the spreadsheet created to compare possible saving and investment plans for a family inheritance (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenosk, 2007).  Students were to hypothesize which investment plan would make the most money in the long run and they were able to use technology to test their hypotheses.  The generating and testing of hypotheses in this activity directly relates to constructionism in that students create their own ideas because they are engaged in creating something interactive and useful (Orey, 2001)
 

     Another fantastic example of constructionism taking place in the classroom is that of gaming simulations.  Hundreds of simulations exist for a myriad of subject areas and create very fun and interactive learning experiences.  These types of simulations allow students to construct their own understanding and ideas about a particular topic while being immersed in an interactive learning environment.  The example used in this week’s learning resource dealt with a World War II game that asked students to make complex decisions as a nation’s leader during the war (Pitler et al, 2007).  This type of strategy asks students to use prior knowledge to construct new ideas and hypotheses about what decisions to make in the game and what possible consequences could occur given certain decisions.

 
     I also use a simulation game in Economics where students must invest virtual money in the stock market and make investment decisions (http://www.marketwatch.com/game/).  This project is fun, challenging, requires critical thinking, collaboration, and engages students in a real-world task, all very important aspects of constructionism learning theory.  At the end of the project, students write a reflection and share with classmates the results of their investments.  This is a good example of a technology rich, project-based learning activity that correlates with constructionism in that students develop skills and knowledge in an engaging fashion while creating their own ideas about how a real-world institution like the stock market actually works.


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

Two additional points beyond my "academic" blog post:

1)  I love webquests and used them often in American and World History.  I did not write about them because I did not want to write too much and bore people (again, they are awesome and are absolutely constructivist)


2)  I know we all have a lot on our plates, BUT is anyone interested in playing a Walden EDUC 6771 virtual stock exchange game just for fun.  Let me know and I will set it up (I will post to classroom also)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cognitive Learning Theory: How Can It Help?

The basic idea behind cognitive learning theory is information processing (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  All learners process information in slightly different ways.  Because of this, we as educators need to vary the strategies used in the classroom to try to make as many connections as possible to the content being taught.  
 
One of the strategies discussed in this week’s resources concerns the creation of advanced organizers.  There are several different types of organizers that can be used to help students process information and, naturally, every advanced organizer will yield slightly different results (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  One of the most effective ways to use advanced organizers is through the creation of cueing and questioning organizers.  These types of organizers give students a preview of what they are going to learn in both a linguistic and visual manner.  Most organizers of this nature will have an essential question that students are trying to answer as well as some sort of visual representation of what topic is being discussed.  This type of organizer supports cognitive learning theory in that it creates more connections through the use of text and pictures, which is aligned with the dual-coding hypothesis mentioned by Dr. Orey (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). An advanced organizer using cueing and questioning also asks students to access prior knowledge and make predictions, another important piece of information processing.

Another excellent strategy that supports the cognitive learning theory is that of combination note taking strategies.  Although students should practice many types of note taking strategies, the combination note taking strategy involves written notes, drawings, graphs, concept mapping, and pictures, all of which can create an increased number of connections to the material for students (Pilter et al., 2007).  Combination notes can be created in a variety of mediums, including word processing programs and multimedia programs such as PowerPoint and Prezi.  These technologies offer new ways for students to process the information in a way that is meaningful and unique to their own learning style or preferences.  I offer an example of a combination note taking template at the end of this blog post for everyone to view.

Both of these strategies are very useful in teaching for understanding in that they offer different ways for students to access and process the information.  With combination note taking, students they can customize their notes to fit their particular learning style and still meet the learning objectives.  However, without the learning objectives guiding the information processing, students will have nothing pointing them in the right direction.  Similarly, cueing and questioning organizers will help teach for understanding by having students preview what they will learn and make cognitive predictions about what they need to understand at the end of the lesson or activity.  These strategies and many more are essential in helping students process and understand information in today’s digitally driven classroom.

Resources
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast].
Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
=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
video


This is also another link to a sample combination note taking strategy:
http://interactive-notebooks.wikispaces.com/Combination+notes

This is a link to more information about cueing, questioning, and advanced organizers.
http://www.netc.org/focus/strategies/cues.php

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Behaviorism and Technology in the Classroom

The behaviorist learning theory is one that is often looked down upon because it based on concrete, observable behavior.  It pays little attention to what is happening inside the brain of students and focuses on what behavior patterns can be repeated.  Despite this, there is a great deal of behaviorism based strategies than have proven useful in the classroom setting.

One instructional strategy that is related to the behaviorist learning theory is that of reinforcing effort.  The goal of this strategy is to get students to think and behave a specific way that will enhance their overall confidence and learning (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  If students acknowledge the fact that the effort they put towards certain learning activities directly correlates with their scores and grades, they will hopefully modify their behavior in a way that is beneficial to them (such as studying harder).  Technology can also help with making the process of reinforcing effort quicker and easier with various programs and software, such as Microsoft Excel.  The concept of reinforcing effort is to create positive reinforcement so that students realize that an increased effort can increase their performance in all areas of their academic life.

Another instructional strategy that is related to behaviorism is that of homework and practice.  Homework is often seen by students as boring and meaningless, one of the true negatives of being in school.  However, if it is assigned properly and given a purpose, practice and homework can be quite enjoyable and effective in creating meaningful learning.  Practice and homework, to be considered behaviorist-driven, must work toward certain behavior goals (as cited in Smith, 1999) so that students can all derive the same general meaning or skills from the homework.  Hartley (1998) said that practicing certain skill sets over and over are critical for learning to take place.  However, practice and homework must take place using several different approaches and in different contexts in order to keep students interested and focused (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  Technology is also very useful in terms of practicing skills.  There are thousands of websites and tutorials available to help students hone specific skills they need to be successful in the classroom.

The role of technology today in regards to the behaviorist learning theory is essential.  Most of the technology available to students is easy to use.  Technology can also make it easier for teachers to help students of all different learning styles and levels.  Through the technology and behaviorist-driven strategies aforementioned, richer and more meaningful learning through various methods ranging from math e-flash cards to online learning games can take place.  On top of that, students enjoy using technology as part of their learning so it only makes sense to use it in reinforcing effort and in practicing skills they need to be successful in life. 

                                                                  Resources
Hartley, J. (1998) Learning and Studying. A research perspective, London: Routledge.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom
      instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Smith, K. (1999). The behaviourist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal  
      education.  Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/biblio/learning-behavourist.htm

I also found a couple of other very helpful and interesting videos on youtube to "positively reinforce" what we have learned about behaviorist learning theory.  Although I did not use them in my blog post it relates to behaviorism.
Video #1:  embeding was disabled, so follow the link please.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-63ysqT5nu0&feature=endscreen&NR=1

Video #2:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDQ8DG-XQK8

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Teaching the teacher new tricks: A Final Reflection

Throughout this course I have learned a great deal concerning the new technologies available for use in the educational setting. Before taking this course, I had only heard about people blogging, using wiki pages, RSS feeds, and podcasts. This course was very hands-on and gave me the opportunity to take all of these new collaborative technologies for a “test drive.” Not only are these new technologies fun to work with, they provide a great deal of opportunities for students to learn in a project-centered and collaborative environment. 

Alongside increasing my technology skills in the classroom, I also have a greater understanding of the teaching and learning process. The movement toward integrating 21st century skills was an emphasis in the course and I completely agree that teachers must promote these skills and that students must embrace and use 21st century skills in order to be successful in the future. I realized that teaching the process and the means to critically evaluate information is just as important as students learning the required content. I also have gained a new perspective on how a modern classroom should look. Students should be at the center of all learning and activities in today’s classrooms and teachers should slide into a role of being a facilitator and leader. In order for students to learn how to critically think, collaborate, and create new projects and shared work spaces, teachers need to be able to give up their power to the students. In reality, educating students should be about the students not about the teachers. Teachers are in schools to facilitate learning, not to profess their knowledge that will be later repeated on an exam and quickly forgotten by students.

I plan to continually expand my knowledge in teaching and learning with technology. I have enjoyed exploring new methods and resources as guided by this course and I have found some additional resources that will be very helpful in integrating new technology and collaborative tools into my classroom. I also plan to take the knowledge and skills gained to the teaching staff at my school and try to spread the word about what the new technologies can do for student learning.

The first goal I would like to achieve in regards to transforming my classroom is to create a primarily project-based learning environment where students are constantly learning through collaboration, creating thinking and writing, and creation of authentic and relevant products. While a lot of educational research supports hands-on and project driven learning, the way schools are set up to meet federal and state requirements does not always make this easy. Standardized tests are the norm in today’s schools so I will have to infuse project and inquiry learning with preparing students for the standardized tests. The second goal I would like to achieve in regards to transforming my classroom is to ensure all students have equal access to technology and the resources necessary to collaborate effectively. For a project-based, technology driven classroom all students need to have access to the newest digital technologies available. To accomplish this goal I plan to push my school and district to find creative new ways to fund student laptops and software and to create as much computer lab space as possible. 

Looking back at the initial checklist I completed at the beginning of the course, quite a few things have changed concerning technology and 21st century learning. In my own practice I have increased the amount of project-driven, collaborative work for students and I am having them do more self-reflection on what they are learning rather than handing back a test and moving on to the next topic. I am also taking a bigger role at my school in that I am seeking out new technologies and resources constantly and sharing them with as many colleagues as possible. I have also increased the amount of technology used in the classroom to collaborate with students as well as parents and family members. I have learned an enormous amount of information from this course that will have a significant impact on my teaching practices and student learning for many years to come.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Podcasting...easier than it sounds.

I was fortunate enough to spend some time this week playing around with technology that led to my first podcast.  It certainly is a strange feeling listening to yourself talk on an audio file but I have learned a great deal about how podcasting can be an exceptionally useful tool for student learning.  My students have a very positive view on technology and all of its uses.  I have copied the link to my podcast for your listening pleasure!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

21st Century Skills: The Wave of the Future

21st century skills are no doubt the wave of the future.  The quicker teachers, administrators, politicians, parents, and all others involved in the education of our future generations latch on to the idea that technology is essential to learning today, the faster we as a society can move forward in the modern 21st century world in which we live.  After reading some of the ideas presented by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills organization, it is obvious change is coming to American schools.  In nine years of teaching I have observed several models and diagrams of how curriculum and assessment should work and the 21st century skill framework makes perfect sense.  The framework calls for schools to embed 21st century skills into coursework, curriculum, and assessment.  The framework also provides ways that schools and teachers are going to receive training and resources to support this transition for schools.  The one element of the website that surprised me is that you need to email them to have permission to use the framework and ideas placed on the website by the organization.  I would hope some day that all of this information would be made available to all educators and schools.

I also noticed a short list of states that have initiatives to use and apply this framework to their state education programs.  I was excited to see that my state, Iowa, was included on that list.  Iowa plans to overhaul state standards and curriculum to place 21st century skills at the top of their list through the implementation of the Iowa Core, which encourages financial, health, and technological literacy.  Overall, I really like this website and I agree with their mission to put 21st century skills at the center of education in the United States.  If students want to be successful in today's work environment they need to be well-versed in the new technology skills expected out of the working world today.

Here is a link to the proposed Iowa Core:  http://route21.p21.org/?option=com_content&view=article&id=148&Itemid=237

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Potential of Blogs

The available technology that is available to students is unbelievable, and most of them know how to use it better than adults.  I teach high school Economics (grades 11-12) and I have recently started using a wiki page for my students as a platform for them to get course materials and have discussions about various topics that we study in class.  This has been a fantastic learning experience for me and I find that I am excited to discover what else can come from a wiki (I have posted the link to my Economics wiki below).  Even though I am just getting my feet wet with all of the new 1:1 type of classroom technology I am very excited for the potential it holds.  The big question this post addresses is "how can I use a blog in the classroom?"


I am very new to blogging but not to the fact that students must read and write to gain knowledge.  At first I thought I would use a class blog much like the wiki I mentioned before.  However, after much thought, I would love to attempt to use a class blog to connect with students and teachers across the nation and, perhaps, in other parts of the world.  The logistics of doing this could be complicated but think of the potential rewards.  My students would get to collaborate with other students across the nation about similar topics and experiences while potentially building strong relationships with each other.  All students would get different viewpoints on certain ideas and topics and this would broaden and extend their learning beyond what I could give them in the typical classroom.  Am I going to attempt this endeavor?  Absolutely.  Will it take time and research?  Yes.  Will I start tomorrow?  I cannot answer that for sure but what I can be certain of is that blogging absolutely has its place in the educational setting.  Whether a blog is used as a class or school home page or for a space for students to voice their opinions about certain ideas it remains one of those untapped technological resources that will be hitting a classroom near you!  How about everyone else?  How would you use blogging in the classroom (and even outside of the classroom).  Does my potential idea for a collaborative class blog sound feasible and valuable?  A penny for your thoughts anyone? 

http://embrock-economics.wikispaces.com/ECONOMICS+MAIN+PAGE

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Technology and Choices

Being an Economics teacher, I spend plenty of time thinking about the choices people make.  With the emergence of so many new and great technologies, people now have so many more choices available to them on a variety of activities.  I can pay my bills online, track the location of a shipment, watch a movie online, and even talk to friends across the globe.  These choices and opportunities were not available 10-15 years ago and had led to an increased amount of data that people must keep straight.
The big question is this:  What is technology doing to our ability to focus, make critical choices, and build relationships?  Some experts would say that children growing up in our world, including my own children, are so used to technology that their attention spans have lessened.  Others argue that technology has increased children's independence and has enhanced their ability to think on their own via learning toys such as the Leap Pad, MobiGo, and Tag.  My children have some of these toys and at a younger age it has prepared them to start their formal education.  My 6 year old and 3 year old both know more than I did when I was their age, much due to learning toys.  Technology can also help and hurt relationships.  Technology does enhance the ability to speak and collaborate with people across the globe but it can affect relationships at home.  If two kids are playing learning toys, dad is checking his email, and mom is reading her Kindle, where is the family time?  My point is this.  Technology is a fabulous tool if used properly.  It should be used with certain limitations, including both children and adults.  What does technology do for your life?  Has it created less face to face time with each other or is it just another way to meet more people and learn more?  What do you think?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Technology is grand

This is my first adventure into the blogging world.  I used to consider myself well versed in technology but have recently found myself behind the times with all the new and exciting opportunities available through so many networks and mediums.  My phone has no internet accessibility, no games, or special features where many people I know can see what is going on in another part of the world in less than a minute on a device I may have a hard time turning on.  Needless to say, I enjoy all the opportunities technology offers but I have a long way to go.  Has anyone else ever been in my shoes or is anyone currently in my shoes and "feel my pain"?  :-)