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!