5 articles Tag technology

Tech Integration VS Tech Classes

Currently I teach at a school where we have dedicated technology lessons for all students from kindergarten through to Grade 7. Each class gets 40 minutes a week in a lab with a technology teacher, me!I know of other schools that address technology the same way. Some schools have this approach and I guess it’s down to the schools philosophy on education as well as it’s philosophy on technology as to how technology is used in and out of the classroom.

Another way to approach technology, that I see a lot of the leading institutions now doing, is to give every student a laptop. Running a 1:1 programs means students have their own computer that is used by students not only at school, but also at home. A lot of these schools see technology as a tool for learning and as a result, don’t have any specific technology lessons. The technology is embedded and integrated into the curriculum and used when appropriate. They employ technology coaches to help the teachers implement this across the curriculum. I see this is a much more meaningful way to use technology. But it is not without flaw.

I believe in using technology as a tool, but I think the stand alone classes are great at making sure that all students are receiving access to technology, no matter their homeroom/subject teachers ability with technology or what technology they have at home. With a 100% integration model, the students use is limited to their teachers willingness to use technology. You could argue that time should be mandated for each class to use technology, or say that each class must do at least one project incorporating technology per unit of work. And I’m sure that some schools do place expectations on how much technology should be used, but this would go against the ‘technology as a tool’ philosophy. It would be used for the sake of it, which I don’t think is how it should be approached.

I can see other positive aspects of standalone technology lessons too. One would be that the same (hopefully correct) message is being expressed to all students about technology or it’s use. Be it about Copyright or being a responsible online citizen or how to organize your email account. All students are actually taught these concepts explicitly so a student can’t simply ‘slip through the cracks’ and not get the important lessons on technology and it’s use.

On the other hand, the benefits I see of an integration approach is that with the use of a coach to guide the teachers learning, teachers are developing their own ability instead of ignoring technology and passing on that responsibility to the person teaching the stand alone class. With an integration approach, technology needs to be taught by all teachers and therefore needs to be used by all teachers. At least used enough to meet their professional responsibilities. Some teachers might take this freedom and run with it, developing outstanding, interactive, engaging lessons that incorporate technology. Some might do the bare minimum. But at the end of the day, the teacher is learning along with the students. And with the integration approach, the technology is being used as a tool, not a subject, which I think is the most important aspect.

In weighing up these pros and cons, I don’t think any one approach is ‘correct’, it is simply a different approach. There are upsides and downsides to both models. I think the model that needs to be chosen comes down to how the school sees technology and it’s educational vision.

Ideally, I see a combination of both models as the best approach. An integration model where students and teachers use technology as a tool and are guided by a tech coach. There is a shared responsibility with all teachers to embed technology into the curriculum. As well as some time with a specialty technology teacher touching on responsible online citizenship, organization, how to make their workflow more productive, etc.

Obviously this is my opinion at this point in my career, I’m very excited to see if it will change in the future and what experiences will make me change my mind. The future seems bright!

Are Standards Needed If Technology Is Used As A Tool?

In 1998 the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) released National Education Technology (NET) standards “for the purpose of leveraging the use of technology in K-12 education to enable students to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly digital society.” Today the standards are widely accepted as the benchmark for educational technology. There are standards for students, teachers, administrators, coaches and computer science educators, which makes them very broad and encompassing. These standards are excellent for when you have a stand alone model of technology education, much the same as at my current school. I see every class from kindergarten to grade seven for their own technology lesson once a week. In this session, I can spend time creating learning experiences for my students that help them meet the NET standards. However, what happens if your school has an integration approach to technology education? Maybe your school has a coach and that person works with teachers to integrate technology into the class. So who is responsibility for the NET standards in a circumstance like that? Is it all the teachers of a specific grade? Is it the coaches role to make sure each class is meeting the standards?

A Swiss Army Knife, like a computer is a versatile tool for many applications. So should it have it's own learning standards? Or should we use this tool to helps us meet other goals?

To answer these questions, I think you have to think about the school and it’s philosophy regarding technology. If technology is seen as a set of skills that each student must learn before they progress onto the more complex skills, with each skill requiring the previous to succeed and progress, then I guess you will need to rely on a detailed map of where, how and when each skills is taught. This could be compared to a senior Mathematics class, you can’t learn algebra if you don’t know basic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This style of addressing technology education is much more suited to stand alone technology lessons as there is one teacher that is responsible for the teaching of the skills and standards. The problem I find with this model is that modern computer skills are rarely the type of ‘build upon’ skills that they used to be. Sometimes you need to know how to use a mouse and keyboard, but sometimes you don’t. You may have a trackpad or a touch screen device which makes the mouse lessons taught earlier on irrelevant. The same thing applies to software. One example is keyboard shortcuts, what you learn in one piece of software may not work in another. And these two examples, hardware and software, are constantly changing. Skills we learn are usually stand alone, or need to be modified significantly to be transferred over into other applications. Or these skills change with a new software update or the integration of a new tool. So I believe teaching specific ‘skills’ and not seeing technology as a tool make the use of technology irrelevant to the 21st century learner.

If, like many schools, technology is expect to be integrated and used as something to supplement lessons and the curriculum, then chances are you have a tech coach that helps teachers develop learning experiences that incorporate technology into their classrooms. Some would say this person should be responsible for students meeting the NET standards. However, I think if your philosophy is that technology is used as a tool, then possibly the idea of technology standards needs to be rethought. We don’t have curricular for other tools we use at school such as pencils, base ten blocks, books, etc. We use those tools to help us help the students meet other standards. Isn’t technology supposed to be a tool that we use to help students learn content in other areas of the education? Just because it is an expensive, sometimes daunting tool, highly sophisticated tool, doesn’t mean it should have it’s own curriculum does it? Or am I way off?

What are your thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

IWB – New Technology In Old Ways?

The weekend before last I attended an amazing professional development seminar by a very switched on educator Chris Betcha who is an ICT support teacher in Sydney, Australia. Before Chris presented I quickly Googled him and found his website. One of the most recent posts on his blogs was about Interactive White Board’s (IWB’s). Here is the slide for you to go over yourself.

 

I have very strong opinions about IWB’s and I was quite surprised that Chris took a very balanced stance. Most people either love them or hate them but it seemed Chris weighed it up very concisely in his ‘Why IWB’ presentation.

What really resonated with me about Chris’s slideshow was the idea of using new technology to do old things. I believe that is what the majority of IWB’s are used for in schools, basically a digital chalkboard. I believe that the technology rarely gets into the hands of the students and the same thing could just as easily be done on a whiteboard or even a set of whiteboards for each student, at least each student would get to use it if they had one each (which is what Frank Noschese’s was trying to get at with the $2 IWB idea.)
The other problem I see is the cost. If you are going to spend thousands on a technology tool and use it just like a blackboard, then you are wasting a LOT of money on technology for the sake of technology. Let’s assume that it costs US$3000 for an IWB. If we compare that to what could be purchased as an equivalent, then that could stock one classroom with 3 Macbooks. Or 6 iPads. Or 15 iPod Touch’s, which is a class set in a lot of the classes I teach. Then if there are IWB’s being installed in multiple classrooms, which is usually the case, then four IWB’s would buy more than 1 class set of iPads. Six IWB’s could buy almost a full set of laptops. When you compare the benefits of an IWB against the benefits of technology in the hands of EVERY students, then I don’t think there is even a close comparison. Bill Ferriter, a 6th Grade teacher in Carolina, who was named regional teacher of the year in 2006-2007 sums this point up beautifully in his blog The Tempered Radical. He speaks a lot about why he dislike IWB’s, I encourage you to have a read of his thoughts.
The next gripe I have with IWB’s is that it encourages ‘chalk and talk’ style teaching where teachers stand at the front of the room and deliver. There is no guided discovery, no collaborative learning and very little Connectivism. This is the furthest from 21st century education that I can think of.
In Marc Prensky article in Edutopia named Shaping Tech for the Classroom, he talks a lot about doing old things in old ways, doing old things in new ways and doing new things in new ways. I think we as teachers, should be striving to provide 21st century education to our 21st century students. And by standing out the front of the room, not even facing the students to control an IWB, I think we are deluding ourselves if we think this is 21st century education or anything new at all.
Marking The Roll

One ray of hope is that teachers change their teaching styles and get away from the front of the classroom. Maybe, just maybe, then IWB’s could be a decent tool for the classroom. Just like this example, which I saw in a kindergarten class just the other day. This idea that Mrs. Peacock was using is a great example of how best to utilize the IWB as a tool and get the technology into the students hands. The students were clicking and draging their name from the ‘At Home’ section to the ‘At School’ section. Students do this as they walk in for the day, taking the technology out of the hands of the teacher and into the hands of the students.

I hope I see more great ideas like this that could help me change my mind about IWB’s and give me a more balanced view of them. So here is my challenge, change my mind by showing me ideas on how we can get this very expensive technology out of the hands of teachers and utilize it in a way that fosters 21st century education. Do you have any ideas?

My Big Goal For The 2011-2012 School Year

Being an ICT teacher, I am using technology in every one of my class. I love teaching children how to use technology and I get a real kick when I see students creating meaningful products that not only benefits them and helps them develop the skills used to create the product, but can also assist others either through passing on motivation or developing their knowledge. There are a range of projects I did last year with my students that would fit into this category but my top three favourite would be Grade 2’s water cycle animations, Grade 4’s video school tour and the book trailers I did with Grades 5 and 6.

Photo by Flikr user ekkebus

However, being a new year with new goals and motivations, I decided to challenge myself once again and facilitate the creation of digital portfolios for all of my students starting in Grade 3 all the way up to Grade 7. In the past, pieces of work that students created digitally had no real place we stored them or view them in an easily manageable way. With the introduction of a public digital portfolios I believe that this will help teachers display the amazing projects they are already doing with technology in their classrooms and in turn motivate others in the school and around the world to try similar projects. For teachers, it can be a bank of ideas for others and for students, a place to proudly display their work to an authentic audience. I hope to get all teachers contributing work towards each students portfolio as a way of motivating technology within all curriculum areas. I believe that this is a very authentic way to use technology, as students and teachers have a real audience, outside of the classroom. I really hope once the students realize this, that the quality of their work will also increase.

So this is my goal for the year, to create an authentic audience for my students, to motivate other teachers at my school to display the amazing lessons involving technology in their classroom, no matter what subject they are teaching and to collect all of a students work in one place, a place they can be proud of. I have already taken steps towards achieving my goals and have hit a few speed humps, but if I remain determined and I am certain I can achieve my goals for the year.

This post should be interesting at the end of the school year to look back on and reflect on.

“Oxford English Dictionary ‘will not be printed again'”

Dictionary

“The next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, the world’s most definitive work on the language, will never be printed because of the impact of the internet on book sales.”

An excerpt from ‘Telegraph.co.uk’. See the full article here.