Educational Technology Review: Open Educational Resources

Michael Flosi

Open Educational Resources, or OER, are documents, lessons, activities, and other forms of media that can be used in a classroom or at home that can assist in a students learning, assessment, and research. For the most part, Open Educational Resources are freely accessible; however, there are some online sources that require a fee. OER allows equal access to information and a wide rang of knowledge that will ultimately increase educational culture.

Open Educational Resources is worth the time and investment, because they allow any person to access a mass amount of information at a push of a button. As stated before, OER are either free or cost a small fee. This would save school districts and colleges millions of dollars. Districts use an incredible amount of money on educational resources such as textbooks, reusable activity books, and other resources used in the classroom. Recently, Antioch Unified School District requested that the school board authorize an expenditure of $3.2 million for textbooks, which will most likely be out of date by the time they are used in the classroom. Open Educational Resources would eliminate a majority of the cost. Types of open educational resources include: full courses, course materials, units, open textbooks, open licenses (streaming videos), quiz/ testing sites, materials, lessons to support and facilitate learning.

Open Educational Resources ultimately sponsors high-quality open content for teachers and students, which can remove barriers and stimulates learning. Another positive aspect of OER is that content can be used, re-used and shared among students and teachers. Ultimately, Open Educational Resource creates equal access for all learners.

Educational technology worth the hype…

Michael Flosi

Is Educational technology worth the hype? In this educators opinion it is; however, for technology to have an impact educators need to learn how to embrace these tools rather than hide from it.  It is hard to disagree that technology is becoming the centerpiece of the 21st century classroom. Do to the rapid embrace of technology by students at all levels, educators are at a point where they must adapt to their lessons to their students, where before students had to adapted to their teacher. Many teachers have begun to slowly incorporating various types of media, technological equipment, and technological resources to deliver instruction. Even though most educators know how to use the technology many, if not all, are still behind the curve. It seems teachers are always playing catch up and there are multiple issues that contribute to this, like the lack of user-friendly programs and proper training.

Many educators are “techno-migrants,” who have an understanding of technology; however, they do not use it for a majority of their daily task. Ideas like “tweeting”, “blogging”, and “the cloud” are relatively new concepts to educators, and many don’t know how to use it or access it.  Sure a teacher can play a video from You Tube on their digital projector in or use a document reader, but many don’t understand how to use social media, resources provided by Google, and other technology that uses data to drive instruction.

School districts need to invest time and money to give teachers the proper training with new and future technology. If district continue to give poor or no training then a major obstacle will occur if technology is to gain steam in the classroom. Teachers will not use tools or resources if they are not taught how to use it. This could be seen at my school, where the district has bought new technology like data driven programs, open educational resources, and technological hardware expecting teachers to use it on a daily bases. Teachers, especially the older ones, are becoming frustrated by the issues they encounter with technology and feel it makes their jobs harder. If the time and resources are used to train teachers properly, then more would be willing to use it in their classroom.

Once educators are properly trained, then educational technology will have larger impact in instruction. There are a wide range of activities and lessons teachers can do in their class, which includes research, educational apps, and other online and open educational resources. Ultimately, teachers will find the ease when delivering their lessons and those who once saw technology as a nuisance, will now find it as a helpful tool.

So, is Educational technology worth the hype? Of course it is, only if the teachers are given the proper training.

Technology Certainly Worth the Hype!

Worth the Hype or Not?
On technology in the classroom

To determine whether technology is worth the hype or not, one need only ask themselves what type of world they live in now and what type of world the next generation is going to live in should present trends continue. As it is, our educational system is set up in the classical model of industrial education; or to have students learn as much as they can in the standardized day. As educational leaders, it is incumbent upon us to realize that this is not how the world works; we see that changes are abound and it is our responsibility to make our schools relevant not only to the world our students will enter, but also to the learning process.

The system we have now does not work. As far back as 1934, prominent Stanford educational researcher Ellwood Cubberly described American educational as a “manufactury” where students were prepared for a life of efficiency. DuFour et. al. wrote that uniformity, standardization, and bureaucracy became characteristic of school districts in which a small number of “thinkers” decided what was to be taught in every classroom and that those “directives” would be disseminated from school boards down through the educational bureaucracy. Teachers, like factory workers, would need strict supervision to ensure they were teaching what was mandated and that the finished products (students) were correctly moving along the assembly line from subject to subject. Observing the typical American classroom now, one would find many similarities to this stark description.

What we need now is a total revolution in how we educate our current students. Fullan presented the case in Stratosphere that integration of technological tools, in concert with sound pedagogical practices, would produce the results American educational leaders desired; a closing of the achievement gap when compared to students from other industrialized nations. This type of integration has been attempted in the past by many schools across the nation. However, absent the proper pedagogical structuring, almost all attempts have been doomed to failure. No matter how effective a technological learning tool is at teaching a skill, ultimately all electronics are supplements to an effective teacher who guides the learning process. Used properly, these technological tools become enhancers of the learning process and expose students to the types of tools they will be using both in the post-secondary educational setting and the professional setting. If the goal of public education is to prepare students for success in the world they enter as young adults, then surely we can adjust how our course of preparation such that it actually sets up our students for success.

On the question of whether technology in the classroom is worth the hype or not: I believe our world is increasingly technology-centered as the mobile age expands. Should trends continue, this is the world that will exist when our students become functioning adults. Therefore, the headlines, platitudes, and added workloads of any educational technology integration is certainly worth the hype.

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.

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.