Monthly Archives: January 2014

Technology Alone Not Worth the Hype

By Brian Cooper

No doubt more technology is coming soon to a classroom near you. But is educational technology worth the hype?  No, not if the emphasis is business as usual with a few more bells and whistles. In the current culture of technology, many of my students spend hours every day gaming in an online world of epic wins and instant feedback.  My next-door neighbor says her daughter is in constant communication with her friends through technology.  A room full of cramped desks and textbooks is a primitive place for many students, however technology alone is not an answer to our greatest challenges in education.  All stakeholders in education are tasked with reconciling our youths’ engagement with technology and their disengagement in the classroom.

In Stratosphere, author Michael Fullan makes a compelling case for the use of technology in education, but with the understanding that it must be partnered with high-quality pedagogy and change knowledge. He believes we are in a once in a century window of opportunity.  Education should instigate curiosity, collaboration and experimentation.  The use of technology can individualize learning for every student, while even a master teacher has difficulty differentiating lessons for 30 students.  Technology also provides students with real-time feedback, whereas it can easily take me a week to score and return math tests to my five classes. With the right teacher and adequate training with technology, students will have unprecedented learning opportunities.  With the right systems of implementation and access to technology, there can be a learning revolution in our schools.

Sir Ken Robinson and Tony Wagner are excellent sources of change knowledge in education.  These guys get human potential.  Let teachers assist students in four ways: (1) recognize their interests and talents, (2) encourage collaboration and creativity, (3) facilitate meaningful learning opportunities, (4) stretch students in new directions to promote deeper learning.  I agree with Wagner that knowledge is not much more than a commodity in our world.  Albert Einstein wasn’t talking about rainbows and unicorns when he said imagination is more important than knowledge.  What we do with knowledge is the juicy part.  Whether we use pencils and paper, or iPads and Internet, students must be called on to use information in creative ways that provide opportunities to solve real world problems for the benefit of their communities.   Technology alone is not worth the hype, but technology along with innovative pedagogy and applied change knowledge can transcend the hype.

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Is educational technology worth the hype or not?

When I started working as a middle school math and science core teacher fifteen years ago, not many of us had computers in our classrooms, for that matter not many of us had cell phones. In fact it was a time when only 36% of American households owned a cell phone (The Wall Street Journal, 2009) and only 26% of American families had personal computers (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2001), and those that did used them for business purposes primarily.

 

Times have changed, I now work at an elementary site. And 91% of American households have cell phones (Rainie, 2013), with over 75% of Americans owning personal computers (File, 2013). As educators we have an obligation to teach children to be computer literate, to be knowledgeable and critical consumers of online information and media, as well as to prepare them to be responsible digital citizens.

 

In my mind the poignant question is not “is it worth the hype?” but rather, “why would we not want to incorporate technology into our classrooms and schools?” I do believe that technology needs to be brought into our educational institutions responsibly and consistently in order to meet the needs of the current generation and future generations.

 

How can we as educators help to facilitate these changes? Well, luckily there are many websites and blogs geared towards making the task of integrating technology easier for the administrator, educator and parent, such as Edutopia. The ongoing discussions at these websites are very useful. Some schools are integrating technology in very innovative ways utilizing SmartBoards, iPads, Chromebooks, and students computers while using Open Educatioanl Resources, as well as implementing educational programs aimed at helping students work individually at their own level in math and/or reading. Some particularly popular programs in our district are Successmaker and IXL.

 

How can we do this with the least amount of strain fiscally? The financial piece is a very real obstacle for many school districts across America that are already cash poor. At my own school the Parent Teacher Association is currently footing the bill for much of the equipment and upkeep, and a partnership between teachers and the PTA has been established to assist when technical difficulties arise. Another solution is the use of personal devices which the students bring in.

 

There may be a lot of  hype regarding technology, but it is worth the investment for the future.

 

U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration. (2001). Home computers and internet use in the united states: august 2000. Retrieved from: https://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/p23-207.pdf

 

Rainie, Lee. (2013). Cell phone ownership hits 91% of adults. Retrieved from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/06/06/cell-phone-ownership-hits-91-of-adults/

 

The Wall Street Journal. (2009). Cellphone ownership soared since 1998. Retrieved from: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2009/11/27/cellphone-ownership-soared-since-1998/

 

File, Thom. (2013). Computer and internet use in the united states: population characteristics. Retrieved from: http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p20-569.pdf

Educational Technology Review – Flipped Classroom

What is “Flipped Classroom”?

“The flipped classroom inverts traditional teaching methods, delivering instruction online outside of class, and moving ‘homework’ into the classroom” (Knewton.com).  Essentially the flipped classroom model gives students a chance to learn course material at home at their own pace and frees up class time for students participate in activities that will enhance the student’s understanding of the material.   Students are free to learn through teacher-led activities in the classroom instead of subjected to lectures that often do not allow for comment or discussion.  Educational technology is essential for the flipped classroom to work as teachers must record their lectures and put them online and students must have the technical ability to watch these lectures and post on discussion boards at home.  There are many different platforms and programs teachers can use to implement the flipped classroom model.  Some of these include Google and EdMoto.

Positives:

The flipped classroom model is great for students who can sit down after school or when they’re finally home from their various extra-curricular activities because it does not require a student to tune in at a specific time for their lecture.  They can watch the lecture at their own pace and re-watch if they missed a concept.  The online forum component of the flipped classroom model allows for students to dialogue about the lecture material outside of the classroom essentially forming an online study group.  Class time is now freed up for enrichment activities that will improve student understanding of the lecture material and/or present it in a different way.  The flipped classroom model is also very useful for students when they miss class as they do not miss any lectures and can ask questions on the online forum or in class if they do not understand part of the lecture.

Negatives:

The flipped classroom model may not work for all students.  What does the teacher do about the student who refuses to or does not have the time or technology to watch the lecture at home?  A chief complaint of students and parents today is that students have too much homework.  Students may not have physical homework that they are taking home, but they will still have the task of watching the lecture.  Some students are not motivated outside of class to watch the lectures.  Also, teachers must have activities planned which engage students in the classroom to the content they are learning about at home in the lectures.  This can sometimes be difficult with every lesson.  Some lessons need to be taught via direct instruction so students can ask questions.  For this reason, I believe the flipped classroom model is a good idea, but must be well planned and/or used in conjunction with other traditional teaching models.

For more information: http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/

Technology Blog Review-Edutopia.org-Technology Integration Blog

By: Heather Burns

For the past three weeks I have been following the Edutopia Technology Integration blog funded by the George Lucas Educational Foundation. The vision behind this site is to “inspire, inform and accelerate positive change in schools and districts by shining a spotlight on evidence-based strategies and best practices that improve learning and engagement for students; collaborating with researchers, teacher leaders and curriculum experts to advance the field and increase understanding of how strategies, such as project-based learning, can improve student learning” (edutopia.org).

The Good: This website provides many different topics in education along with different grade level ranges, and also position focused.  I appreciated how the user has to option of selecting grade level range to find information pertinent to what they are doing in their classroom.  I also appreciated there are blogs for not only teachers, but also teacher leaders, administrators and parents.  I feel like this blog offers information for most school constituents, which is important since we all share the role in educating children.

In regards to the integration technology component of this blog, each of the authors mainly included information that teachers or administrators can read about  the new trend of integrating devices into classroom learning.  In reading the blogs I felt they addressed common fears and problems teachers face when thinking about integrating technology into the curriculum, and how those fears and problems can be overcome.  Many blogs also share the benefits of technology, and provide information and ideas about how devices can be integrated into current practices and curriculum.

The Bad: The Technology Integration blog authors contribute about once a week.

The Bottom Line: The Edutopia-Technology Integration blog is worth reading.  I find that the authors address misconceptions about technology, and have a positive outlook on why integration is not only important, but also how it will help students AND teachers over time.

Definitely Worth the Hype! – Michael Zozos

Technology in education is certainly worth the hype, even though many technophobes might not necessarily sing its praises.  From YouTube to Twitter, in today’s society, technology is ubiquitous and unavoidable.  It is important that we, as teachers and educators, take advantage of this unique time in history, as our students are part of a generation immersed in technology on a scale unlike any other.

From touch screens and SmartBoards, technology is at our fingertips, literally!  Internet access has never been faster which allows for streaming HD video while computers can process material at unbelievable speeds, making content information easily accessible.  Web-based programs such as Google Drive, Prezi, and Dropbox make collaboration between students easier than ever.  Shared-work between teaching colleagues using these, and other programs in the like, increases rigor in the classroom.  Unlike a “stuffy” and less than engaging textbook, Webquests, e-readers, social media sites, and instructional tools such as the Khan Academy engage students in the digital environment that they are used to and feel comfortable in.

All of these educational tools, rooted in technology, do have some drawbacks however.  For one thing, our students are adept at using newer technologies and shift from program usage seamlessly.  On the other hand, teachers generally struggle with newer technologies, especially as the speed of updates increases exponentially.  Without proper training and professional development, these tools will be lost on the older generations as they fall further and further behind the techno curve.

A second major hurdle that educators will need to overcome as we go deeper into the 21st century is the “Googlefication” of our students.  Most teenagers today are accustomed to the instant gratification that comes from using the Internet to do research, checking Wikipedia or IMDB for information about their favorite movie stars, or immediately seeing when someone “likes” their photos and posts on Facebook and Instagram.  The problem is that most students are not doing “real” research.  Typing a prompt into the Google search bar, word for word, and then clicking the first search result that pops up, is not research.  But unfortunately, our students think that it is.  The massive amount and rapid speed at which information is shared via the web, handcuffs students by inundating them with an abundance of information.  Instead of sifting through this material, our students take what is written on the Internet as gospel, instead of doing their due diligence as researchers.  In order to make the Internet an effective teaching tool, we need to teach our students techno literacy – to be Internet readers with a critical eye.

Above all else, technology, from Twitter to PowerPoint, has an effective use in education regardless of the drawbacks that some critics might cite.  The speed and access to information, and the ability of interconnected collaboration, far outweighs the challenges technology might pose.

Educational Technology Tools-Taskstream Review

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The good: Taskstream is an online cloud based software that offers many options to “empower educators to document, organize, and manage assessment processes; systematically address accreditation requirements, develop, assess and manage e-portfolios; manage field placements, internships and other remote educational experiences; easily and reliably administer surveys; use outcomes-based assessment data to demonstrate effectiveness and effect change; to ultimately promote continuous improvement throughout their organization.” (taskstream.com).

The bad: Minimum cost of $25 per semester.  However SMC purchases this for our program.

The bottom line:  TaskStream is an established online portfolio, assessment, and accreditation platform that should help us generate a high-quality culminating project for our SMC leadership program.

 

Brian Cooper and Heather Burns

Educational Technology Blog Review

Educational Technology Blog:  by Rajnesh Naicker

            I chose to follow the Edutopia Technology Blog because all the topics are very relevant to what I do in my classroom. The technology integration helps to discover blogs fresh ideas for using technology in the classroom and at home to improve learning and increase student engagement and achievement. It’s great because different teachers and people who deal with technology in education are able to share their own experiences with their new technological tools. Teachers are able to share their rubrics, lesson plans, assessments and the training tools with others. As I read these blogs, it reenergized and excited me for new ideas for my students. I think the real goal of this site is to improve the way in which students learn by sharing ideas. It provides the inspiration and information for what really works in K-12 education. The really cool thing about this blog site is that it is linked to Twitter, You tube, Facebook, P Interest and Google +. Their webinars provides the audience with the opportunities to learn about the latest research, tools and ideas from experts in the field. Technology is the future for education. If we teach our students as we taught them yesterday, we will rob them of tomorrow. I will continue to follow and read the blogs because I have learned a lot reading different blogs. I have learned different practical classroom strategies, tips from real educators as to what really work in the classroom with all these technology around us, different lesson ideas, personal stories and more fun and innovative approaches to improving my teaching practice. I have also introduced this concept of following the blogs to my spouse. She absolutely loves it.  

            Android Apps: Math, ELA and Video Streaming by Monica Burns is a very fascinating read. I would recommend all educators to read this. It discusses the power of google apps. The google play store for Android is full of wonderful apps that can be used to support learning in your classroom. There are also apps in different content areas that can help the students to master skills. No doubts there are apps for every content area and grade level that can be very easily accessed. I really liked the Pic Collage App because it is a wonderful tool for children to create posters and tell their own stories. They can also add texts and pictures. 

            Options Increase as Google enters the education market by Andrew Marcinek was another fabulous blog read. Google’s foray into the educational arena is starting to make sense in the educational context. Google’s Chrome books are getting very popular. Student’s like the ability to take notes on Google drive or Evernote. Other common apps for students are Edmodo, Notability and Explain Everything. Digital Technology should focus on learning goals and outcomes and using the best technology available to reach them. As we enter 2014, it’s safe to say that the costs of devices, like tablets or chrome book are making it easy for schools to provide access to digital learning opportunities for more students.

            All schools should support the development of a student’s technology fluency. This will help prepare them to become digital learners so that they able to construct new tools and objects communicate ideas and solve new problems. Edutopia is a fantastic educational blog site with a potential to train a lot of teachers.

Educational Technology Review

Educational Technology Review – Flipped Classroom

By: Rajnesh Naicker

            This is about changing the instructional model so that students can receive more instructional support in the classroom from their teachers. The availability of online videos and increasing access to technology has paved the way for the flipped classroom model. In a flipped classroom, students watch short video lectures at home. The class time is devoted to solving problems, discussions, debates, interactions, collaboration, labs and projects. The teachers are coaches or advisors, encouraging students in individual inquiry and collaborative effort. Collaborative projects can encourage social interaction among students making it easy for them to learn from each other.

            Good teaching can come in many forms. With so many different tablets and gadgets, the ability to record videos, assign videos from utube, vimeo and the Khan Academy can help teachers use this instructional strategy. The use of videos puts the lectures under the control of students. They can watch, rewind, fast-forward as needed. Teachers can also ask students to summarize the video and give them some questions as a follow up and to ensure they actually watch the videos.I use this model once or two times a week. Flipped teaching technology is a tool for flexible communication that allows educators to differentiate instruction to meet individual student needs and spend more time in the classroom collaborating and interacting. As educators we should strive to be facilitators, mentors and guides for our students. Any teaching model that amplifies this role is step in the right direction. Anything that gives teachers more face time with the students is a good thing.

            Using flipped teaching in the classroom is a great opportunity to engage our students in taking more responsibility of their own learning. There is a distinct shift in priorities – from merely covering materials to working toward mastery of it. While flipping your classroom is a good teaching, I also think good teaching cannot be reduced to one technique; therefore I don’t think this tool is worth the hype. The real issue for this tool is the inequity of resources. If students do not have the means to access these online videos at home, they will not be able to learn the skill. Therefore watching videos should not be seen as a viable substitute for good learning. There are different ways we can flip the classroom. It’s about technology as well the pedagogy. There are so any misconceptions and misunderstandings about flipping. We should also be using drawings, cartoon strips, texts plus the videos. Flipping has great potential and rightful place in education. It’s really about who owns the learning.

            Using a variety of teaching strategies is the best approach. When students own their learning, then deep, authentic and transformative things happen in the classroom. As a Science teacher, the best form of flip for me would be inquiry and project base based learning. I believe this would incredibly powerful.

 

 

“Is Educational technology worth the hype..or not?”

The Hype will Intensify

            Education is deep in our DNA. Technology is omnipresent, touching almost every part of our lives, our communities and our homes. With technology, some remarkable things are happening. As a Science teacher, I love to find novel ways to incorporate educational technology into my lessons and my classroom. Technology in the classroom can facilitate “increased application and production of knowledge for the real world. Very soon students will not have the option of choosing if they want to use technology or not. The real question is: How well can our students use these new technologies? Technology permeates everything we do. As California adopts the new common core curriculum, the hype will continue. I definitely believe that the integration of technology improves learning for students and helps them get closer to mastery. It allows teachers and students to augment the curriculum with current information and timely study of real world events, thus making learning more dynamic, engaging, and valuable. In Science teaching, many studies have shown that students who used simulations, computer based labs, and video to connect science instruction to real-world problems outperformed students who used traditional instructional methods. Technology is the ultimate carrot for students.

The hype will continue because technology:

  1. Saves time
  2. Saves Money
  3. Teachers spend less time grading
  4. Teachers can spend more time in class designing innovative learning opportunities
  5. Increase One-on-One time with students
  6. Facilitates group work that works
  7. Communicates more effectively with all students
  8. Helps build community and relationship
  9. Makes teaching and learning more meaningful and fun
  10. Increases student motivation
  11. Reduces behavioral problem in the classroom
  12. Enhances the relationship between student and teacher

            By using technology, students are actively making choices how to generate, obtain, manipulate, or display information. Technology use allows students to be actively thinking about information, making choices, and executing skills than in typical teacher-led lessons. Moreover, when technology is used as a tool to support students in performing authentic tasks, the students are in the position of defining their goals, making design decisions and evaluating their progress. It offers educators effective ways to reach different types of learners and assess student understanding through multiple means.

            Teachers in today’s classrooms are experiencing students who are very tech savvy. Most of these students have grown up with technology and often are more proficient in its use than their teacher is. They also have no understanding of why technology would not be used in the classroom. Their parents believe that technology provides a way to enrich their children’s social lives and academic abilities. Because I believe this hype will continue, teachers must prepare for a technology-rich future and keep up with change by adopting effective strategies that infuse lessons with appropriate technologies. Educational technology is worth the hype as more teachers become the champions of Technology.

 

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Exploring Edutopia.org

By Brian Cooper

I would gladly accept a half-day of professional development to roam the landscape Edutopia.  The educational technology blog serves the vision and mission of George Lucas for the “improvement of the K-12 learning process by documenting, disseminating, and advocating innovative, replicable, and evidence-based strategies that prepare students to thrive in their future education, careers, and adult lives.”  It seeks to create an inclusive community that promotes innovative project-based learning.  Topic categories include:  Administrators, Game-Based Learning, Project-Based Learning, New Teacher Support, Social-Emotional Support, and Technology Integration, among others. 

I have visited the site frequently and read many blogs.  In Ben Johnson’s “A Teacher Perspective: Advice for Principals”, I appreciated the notion that professional learning communities (PLCs) are not meetings inforced by administrators, but rather a teacher-driven entity that allows for collaboration and experimentation with relevant interests of the teachers.  Also, he points out that elective teachers are often lead to fend for themselves but can become powerful curriculum integration allies if brought into the fray.  

A blog post on Edutopia stated that teachers are among the busiest people on the planet.  Because I agree, Edutopia is a source of both inspiration and frustration for me.  It represents a common ground with urgent forward-thinking objectives, but much of its audience has very limited time to search the ethers for ideas to practice in isolation.  For those of us who are future administrators, how we will help create the structure for thriving PLCs to explore the Edutopias of the world?