Sunday, July 29, 2012

"Exponential Times" Call For Technology in Education.....Convinced yet?


Technology Professional Development Plan

Staying completely up to date on technology is an impossible task.  From day to day technology changes.  The rate at which this phenomenon is happening is both amazing and frightening.  As an educator it is my responsibility to do my best to keep up with modern technology.
 My professional technology plan begins with my attitude.  I commit to remaining open minded and motivated to try any new technology that will benefit my students.  It is easy to get frustrated or feel ill equipped to take on some of the current trends in technology.  I feel it is important to call on fellow teachers with all levels of experience for technological guidance and support. 
At a time when most districts are financially distraught, many professional development opportunities are being been cut to save money.  Technology professional development opportunities are non-existent in many districts.  So what can educators do when the districts they work for do not provide technology professional development?  Teachers and all other support staff have to see each other as valuable resources.  Each staff member possesses specialized knowledge about something.  Many have high skill levels regarding technology.  I plan to develop a monthly technology share where staff members are encouraged to show or teach a technology component they are currently using or have used in the past.  Community members could also be involved in this initiative.  For example, my brother is very familiar with   Garage Band  He would be more than happy to come in for an afternoon and teach our staff how to use the program.  Most importantly the staff would be encouraged to take what they learn from these technology workshops and apply them in the classroom.    
Additionally, I plan to use more things in the classroom that I use at home.  Some examples include photo shop and graphics tablets.  I am in the process of purchasing a graphics tablet.  Many of the visuals I provide during instruction are my own creations.  By digitalizing my sketches, I will be able to use them over and over again.  At first I was thinking that my personal use of the graphics tablet would benefit students purely based on the images I would be creating using the device.  Now I realize that my knowledge of how to use the device is a gift in itself that I can give to my students.  I plan to teach students how to use a graphics tablet to assist them as they complete projects.  In addition I have considered writing a grant to acquire a set of tablets for the school. 
            In conclusion, being an educator today comes with the heavy responsibility of preparing students to survive in a highly technological world.  There is no longer a question of if technology should be part of the curriculum.  Technology has to be seamlessly integrated into almost everything we do throughout the school day.  When students walk out of school at the end of the day they are thrust into a world laden with technology.  It only makes sense to provide the same and in many ways better opportunities to utilize technology during the school day.

Some WONDERFUL professional websites for teachers interested in technology…….

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Differentiating Instruction Through the Use of Technology and Universal Design for Learning

Most teachers will tell you that the most difficult part of their job is providing instruction that meets the needs of today’s diverse student population.  Large class sizes, varying skill levels, and different environmental circumstances are just some of the challenges present in many classrooms in The United States. 
            One solution many schools are entertaining to make learning more accessible and individualized is Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  This concept regards how schools approach both physical and instructional design challenges.  UDL, as stated in the text Transforming Learning with New Technologies , considers the recent discoveries about neurological processing when planning the physical layout of a school as well as the curriculum.  The goal of UDL is to create a learning environment that accommodates a vast spectrum of student needs. 
            A key component of UDL is the use of technology in schools.  Due to technology’s flexible and malleable nature, teachers can tweak digital resources to meet student needs.  When designing a classroom curriculum, teachers can make high, mid, or low tech changes to their classrooms to meet the needs of the students.  Low tech is the easiest and most inexpensive change and it does not include the application of any electronic materials.  Mid tech refers to a shift in the planning and implementation of curriculum that includes some technologies.  High tech is a more forceful shift that includes the integration of technology into the classroom curriculum.  For example, the use of post-it notes is a low tech change.  Word processing would be considered mid tech, and a high tech example is the use of a tablet with a stylus. 
            Specifically, assistive technologies are especially useful to accommodate all learners. Assistive technologies make materials more accessible to the student.  Some assistive technologies include electronic spellers and dictionaries, handheld calculators, speech recognition software, text reading software, and interactive electronic storybooks. 
            As an elementary school reading teacher, there are many assistive technologies that I would like to use with my students.  Many of the students I work with are English language learners therefore electronic dictionaries and spellers would significantly help students increase vocabulary and become more familiar with English spelling patterns.  Another assistive technology I would like to utilize more is speech recognition software.  Many students are very reluctant writers because they believe they have no good ideas.  Often times these students are quite verbally expressive and have great potential as writers.  Perhaps if students could record their thoughts and witness them transferred into text, they would be more confident and motivated writers. 
            Due to the variation of reading levels among students, text reading software and digital storybooks make differentiation easier.  Not only does text reading software make texts more accessible to students of lower reading abilities, they are also great models for fluency.  Many second language learners have difficulty with phrasing and pronunciation.  They need repeated experiences hearing fluent readers.  Text reading software provides endless opportunities to hear fluent reading.  Digital storybooks offer a similar accommodation with the added bonus of being stimulating and of high interest to the child. 
            Finally, technology plays an important role in the writing process.  The biggest challenge when teaching writing is convincing students that they are capable of producing quality texts.  The trick to producing good writers is getting them excited about a topic and giving them the support they need to successfully produce writing regarding that topic.  Unfortunately each student works at their own pace in the writing process.  Technology can provide individualized instruction every step of the way.  Prewriting can be done use recordings, Smartboards, and interactive story writing software.  Drafts can be created through word processing, tablets, and text to speech software.  Revisions are more easily made with the use of editing software such as spelling and grammar check.  Emails and discussion boards can also provide a way for students and teachers to give suggestions, support, and feedback.  Finally, the choices for publishing formats are greatly increased with technology.  Students can create websites, PowerPoints, digital portfolios, movies, and digital art work to name a few. 
            As you can see, technology is a tremendous help to any teacher struggling to meet the needs of his or her students.  Hopefully in the future all students will have more access to technology so they can reach their full academic potential. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Project Based Learning

The featured video is an incredible example of project based learning.  Project based learning is student centered thematic instruction in which a topic is investigated thorough a series of authentic learning opportunities.  Project based units are based on high interest themes often chosen by the students.  Children are naturally inquisitive, and teachers use their curiosities to drive learning.  The teacher integrates all content as well as skill and strategy development into the unit.  Students are deeply engaged due to the authenticity of the tasks.  Motivation comes from the desire to solve a problem or complete a project related to a topic that the students are interested in.  All tasks have a recognizable purpose and place in the real world.
          Technology is an integral part of today’s project based classroom.  Part of project based learning is finding information and solutions.  The internet provides an infinite amount of resources.  By navigating the internet students are becoming resourceful and critical, thus improving their internet literacy.  They learn how to distinguish useful resources and creatively apply the knowledge they gain from a variety of media such as videos, audio files, photographs, and documents.  Through project based learning students learn the life skill of how to solve problems independently and creatively.  As students actively participate in the process required to complete authentic projects, they are doing planning, decision making, problem solving, creative thinking, and cooperative learning. 
Virtually everything and anything can be covered during a project based unit.  The curriculum is no longer divided into subjects and taught through isolated instructional practices.  Instead math, science, writing, reading, and social studies occur in the natural and connected fashion that they would in the real world.  For example, if deer are chomping away at my garden, I have a problem.  To solve the problem I have to brainstorm possible solutions.  Then I have to make a decision.  I decide to build a fence.  Next I use the internet to research the best fencing materials.  Then I consult the owner of the local hardware store for some tips on doing the project myself.  He directs me to a website that has videos and step by step instructions.    Next I have to measure the area to determine how much fencing I will need.  I ask my grandfather to help me with the project because he is skilled at making precise measurements. Finally, to ensure I get the best deal I have to shop around on the internet to compare material prices.  Upon completion of the fence project I have identified a problem, brainstormed possible solutions, made a decision, used technology as well as people as resources, worked cooperatively with others, compared prices, made measurements (math and life skills), and followed directions.  Chemistry could be involved as well to determine which paint has the most suitable chemical make-up for outdoor use.  Social studies or history could be integrated by researching the historical structure and style of my home or neighborhood to choose a suitable style of fence.  The possibilities for integrated learning opportunities are truly endless.
We need to look no further than everyday problems and events to drive our instruction and motivate our students.  Children are not interested in fancy flashcards or jazzed up worksheets.  They want something real and meaningful to them.  Project based learning provides just that!

Friday, July 13, 2012

bloglovin.......I'm in love

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Here is goes.... I am trying to figure out how to add my blog to bloglovin to branch out to more followers.  Hopefully it will force me to write more instead of posting every couple of months!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Where we love is home............

 When people come to visit our new house, they all ask the same question, "Does it feel like home yet?"  Honestly, the very first time I came to this place, I knew it was "home".  It was an early April morning.  There was enough chill in the air to make the tip of my nose cold, but the sun was rising with the promise of a warm spring day.  We were early, so we took our time getting to know the property before the realtor arrived to let us inside the house.  The home sits on 5.8 acres-about 3 acres of pasture and the remainder is timber and ravine.  I noticed a trail worn through the brush.  Deer tracks dimpled the path beneath me making the ground uneven as I meandered through the forest.  Suddenly the trees opened up and a small thicket was before me.  I grazed the top of the waist high grass with my finger tips as I proceeded.  I stopped only for a moment to look skyward and let the warm sun come over me.  In that moment, my heart exploded, sending love for this place to every part of me, and I knew I was "home".