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!

8 comments:

  1. Scott,
    I applaud your effort to incorporate project-based activities into your classroom. Integrating technology into the mix is the next logical step. The budget project that you described incorporates authentic tasks with real world applications and is both technologically sound and project-based. The most difficult aspect of a project such as this would be the collaborative piece. In what stages of the project do you see your students working collaboratively? (Google Docs has some interesting possibilities for comparing results at the end of the project.)
    Looking at the second part of your plan to improve parent-teacher-student communication, I like the idea of creating a Facebook account strictly for the classroom. This is a medium that almost everyone is familiar with and has interactive capabilities. (I especially liked the inclusion of the parent permission slips in this forum.) The additional benefit of this is the auto tracking of your posts and comments from the students and parents.
    As for technologically enhanced projects, posters have now become either PowerPoints (or thanks to Walden) Voicethreads. Concept mapping software has proven to increase both the organization and motivational levels of my students when putting together flip books on topics such as the Civil War. I am still in the process of developing and honing technology into other projects that I have my students do. Hopefully this helps.

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    1. Sandra-
      The budget project is collaborative because students have to pretend they are married and are planning a budget as a family with children. They get some class work time but the rest is done outside of class so they are, for lack of a better term, forced to communicate and collaborate. Most students use email or Facebook chat to do this but others have used small, short collaborative wikis as well. I agree that technology integration is the next step but if we as teachers try to do too much too fast we will end up in a tail spin. Thanks for your comments!

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  2. Scott,

    Your GAME plan seems sound and solid. While I have implemented technology, it has been very content specific. Last year I was teaching science and used simulations and other technologies to enhance student learning. Now that I am teaching math, I am back to the drawing board. I would recommend doing Internet searches for ideas on how to incorporate technology into your specific content.

    As for communication strategies to use, I think you are doing great. I know you already give out your cell phone number to parents and students, but a suggestion would be to use Google Voice. Google Voice allows you to sync your cell phone number to a Google Voice number. So maybe next year, when you give our your number, you can still have some privacy. I am not sure if your LMS system your school uses includes a classroom website, but that would be another form of communication you could look into. Facebook is a great way to communicate updates and pictures of what is happening in the classroom, but a classroom website would allow you to post assignment due dates and descriptions along with links to resources. You could even post on Facebook when you have uploaded project information so parents and students would be aware the information is available outside of school.

    Danielle

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    1. Danielle-
      Thanks for the advice, especially the Google Voice idea. I think I will start working on that process now so I can get it up and running. The LMS system we have at our school allows synchronization with other sites like Facebook and Google Docs so I have then all flowing together. Parents can get updates via Facebook and still know what is going on in the classroom too. Thanks for your advice, I will take it all into consideration!
      Scott

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  3. Our district also just adopted a new Learning Management System and I am so excited about the new possibilities. I have transitioned my classroom website to the system and now it is more secure because students must log in to access the information. I can send announcements that pop up when students log in, which will give me a new way to communicate with them outside of class. I can also create discussion boards and even assessments using the new system. Now I wish I had focused my own GAME plan more on what I plan to do with this technology! I would be interested to hear more about the system you are using and what new opportunities you have in addition to the improved communication you described. Excellent goals and plan.

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    1. Holly-
      There are amazing possibilities with the new LMS systems that are available today. Although our gradebook and attendance are not officially linked with Canvas (our LMS) as of yet, in the next few years it will be connected for the ease of student, parent, and teacher use. Canvas allows a gradebook but it is not linked with the district grade and attendance manager software yet but the other possibilities with Canvas seem almost limitless, including discussions, assignments, quizzes, and even a Smart Grade toolbox function that will allow rubrics to imported for easy grading and instant feedback to students. Because it is new I am still learning a lot of the functions but it has amazing potential. Thanks for your feeback!
      Scott

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  4. Scott,

    I find the Facebook idea that you are going to implement in your curriculum a very fascinating idea. The idea of being able to be constantly in communication with the parents will not only help to monitor the activity on the social media website, but with also help the progress of your students. There is another great tool that you could use in your classroom that would help you accomplish your GAME plan and it is called E-page Teacher. The tool allows you to collect the cell-phone numbers from all of your students and parents and you are able to send them text at one time. This way parents will know what is to be expected in your classroom on a day to day basis. This tool was not easy to implement a few years ago, but with some many people moving to iPhones and data plans almost every student in your class has access to text messaging. Great GAME plan.

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    1. Mark-
      I like the E-page Teacher idea, I will look into using that for sure. I also like the Facebook page I have but the only drawback it that not as many parents have an account as I would like. Therefore, the E-page idea would be another great tool to add for increased communication. Do you need a smart phone for the E-page Teacher to work? Thanks for the idea!
      Scott

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