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Educational Technology Tools Review – By Martha Lopez

Google Apps for Education

Purpose and Description

There is a constant digital shift in educational technology, and classic educational practices have to catch up with digital demands.  The shift is happening mostly in digital media and the way  students learn online.  As educators, we should harness and welcome the new learning methods instead of continuing to insist on providing scaffolding that will navigate our students from a simple subject matter to a more rigorous one.  Instead, we should allow students to challenge real-time problems and find solutions that would spark their curiosity to challenge their own thinking.  Creative solutions are everywhere online and we as educators should also adopt new digital learning strategies.

Google Apps for Education is a suite of collaboration and communication applications.  Students can develop 21st century skills that they currently lack to be successful in college and most careers.  One of the most powerful tools in GAFE is the ability to collaborate on many levels.  Students have access to traditional tools, but GAFE is innovative and new features are constantly released.

Google Apps can host policies for the students and easy-to-use management systems for teachers to use in the classroom.  This gives the teacher the opportunity to expose students to content rich technology.  With Google docs, students still have access to traditional word processing, presentation and spreadsheet tools, but students can learn to collaborate in real-time with Google Docs.  Google Sites can be used to personalize classroom activity or they can be used as a tool to build professional sites.  Google apps can be used interactively by many students and tools are intuitive enough for elementary grade level students.

Challenges

As we focus on working collaboratively to do joint research projects, we learn at a faster pace with other online communities or OPLC’s Online Professional Learning Communities.  Such a community is supported and maintained by GAFE, but product demands and system demands are not always compatible with one another.  A common challenge is upgrading network capacity to maintain all the new mobile devices coming into the classroom.  Unless the training for teachers, admins and support staff is constantly provided, communities can continue to be challenged by innovation.

Benefits

Google enterprise has found a solution with cloud computing and by students having common hardware and software products  Managing the systems can be easier but the support staff still needs to be readily available to solve  daily challenges trying to make everything compatible.  School communities, administrators and tech support personnel can focus on academic rather than troubleshooting systems.  Online computing avoids having to update and install regularly.  With Google Apps for Education, a local management system or LMS can easily deploy applications used by the teachers in the classrooms.  Google Apps for Ed or GAFE is systematic and replaces complex environments that can be managed by Google apps.  Using Google Apps for Education, teachers can use screened applications that are aligned with Common Core State Standards without having too many concerns about pedagogy.  These applications can be hosted by data centers and can be accessed by any devices that can use the internet.  This way, teachers can focus rigorous curriculum.

Cycles of Learning

Educational Technology Blog Review

by Martha Lopez

What is “Cycles of Learning”?

“Cycles of Learning” blog was created by Ramsay Musallam’s. Musallam is a  teacher who uses technology with his students, colleagues, parents, administration and educational technology community. His blog “Cycles of Learning” has a wealth of instructional technology posts and inspirational practices on many creative processes that he uses to teach pedagogical strategies.  His blog depicts a forward-thinking culture where he explores many different instructional tools to enhance student learning.  Musallam gathers new technology developments from many teachers in the field who are well-known and recognized.  The blog posts several innovative ways to integrate technology in the classroom using all types of media and for many grade levels.

Positives:

Musallam focuses on high school students who have smart phones and encourages students to use them regularly to spark higher thinking.  He constantly challenges them to prove theories with digital tools against traditional educational methods and encourages his students to use video, web tools, digital collaboration, and instructional applications.  He also provides screencasts, podcasts, and tutorials produced from his students to show the power of learning in real-time.  The myriad of ideas for digital learning is what keeps me coming back to his blog.

Negatives:

The only negatives I could identify is that many teachers have not had the opportunity to own devices to integrate the technology into their classrooms.  Technology and tech readiness plans are in their infancy in most districts, and the recommendations that are posted on this blog serves best to districts that are already 1:1 or have adapted BYOD.

Ramsay Musallam: 3 Rules to spark learning

Worth the Hype or Not? By Martha Lopez

Recently I had to review board policies that had to do with filtering library curriculum, and I realized that we soon had to pass a new process review for digital readers.  More and more books were disappearing from the bookshelves being replaced by e-readers.  Our district recently purchased 1600 Chrome Books to use for the SBAC Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and invested additional funding in applications that would increase students’ depth of knowledge.  With all these e-readers available to students on multiple devices, students are quickly replacing books with kindles and smart phones.

At a recent conference for digital educators, I attended a workshop where students understanding of the curriculum is now being measured instantly via a digital formative assessment tool.  Traditionally, students were asked to raise their hands or give a signal for checking for understanding; now students can “check-in” digitally and anonymously via their device of choice.  The teacher can simply assign accounts to different classes and allow students to display their understanding of any content immediately.  I think students today are so used to receiving instant feedback on anything they search for, so teachers have to conform to the new learning methods that this generation has grown up in.

Although I don’t agree with texting as the most popular form of communication, it has become the communication avenue of choice for students.  Effective and dynamic teachers have learned to tap into the world of texting by having students sign up to multiple smart phone services.  Teachers that frequently use technology have captured the attention of their students by assigning them homework on social media and tapping into forums that are permitted by their LEA, Local Education Agency.  At the risk of breaching policies, some teachers take the risk and use social media because they foresee that students are not going to easily give up participation in this digital culture.

Digital learning is not a trend.  As we learned in Fullan’s book Stratosphere; the integration of technology is aligned with the pedagogical practices that educators have to adapt to.  Although there is still a challenge on integrating technology into the classroom and convincing educators to use technology just like we traditionally use a book.  Teachers are still unfamiliar with a “flipped classroom” and the great onset of a learning revolution.  Simply navigating Common Core State Standards and all the digital devices and applications coming into the classroom setting is overwhelming. The educational professionals fail to see  that managing digital tools is easier than it is believed.  DuFour describes PLC or Professional Learning Communities that have changed how teachers deliver instruction.  For many years, school districts followed a factory model where they ruled how teachers needed to teach in a classroom lacking collaboration and student engagement.  Today, OPLC’s, Online Professional Learning Communities, exist where students engage one another in a peer-to-peer setting to collaborate in different content areas.  Tutorials, videos, chat rooms, learning forums and blogs have outpaced the traditional classroom and most teachers see the need for a change.  Standardization and uniformity continue to be characteristics of a learning environment, but teaching professionals realize the need for training in instructional technology.

Is technology worth the hype?  Definitely!  I have personally had to disseminate statistics on studies done on student’s learning progress and the eminent impact instructional technology has on them.