Integrating Technology Effectively

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I have a confession to make: I am a perfectionist. No matter what I do, I strive to make sure that every minute detail has been addressed. For example, a few weeks ago I was hanging  pictures on a wall and in true perfectionist form, I sketched out how I wanted my pictures to be arranged, practiced hanging them on the wall, and ultimately used a wall leveler to make sure that each picture was aligned with the others. My tedious work was proving successful until I was ready to hang the last picture. No matter how my sketched look, or how many times I used the leveler to check my alignment, one picture did not blend in with the rest and it stood out among the others: my wall was lacking balance.

The analogy of a misaligned picture is an excellent example of why effective technology integration in classrooms is critical for creating an environment where technology aids student-centered learning. Technology usage should be interwoven into the culture of the classroom to the point where its use is second nature, or as an Edutopia article examining what successful integration looks like, states that technology integration is most effective when students and teachers are using technology without thinking about it; its usage is seamless. In a class that meets for one semester, 90 minutes a day, five times a week, time is precious.  Teachers do not have time to sacrifice to using technology in a way that will take away from coverage of content knowledge or time that students could spend investigating how the content plays out in the real-world.

So what does effective technology integration look like in the classroom? Once again, Edutopia provides us with a look in the video below:

Effective technology integration in todays classroom uses technology as means of accessing content knowledge and as mentioned in the video, students using technology to create and take ownership of learning. Tools such as podcasts and video-editing tools are being used to create and share with real-world audiences. These tools are allowing students to share what they know in ways that are relevant to them using formats that mirror the actual ways we share information outside of the school context. Additionally, as we talk about differentiated learning and authentic contexts in the classroom for our students and how to address these concepts in instruction, effective technology integration (such as in the classroom used in the video) shows us that in the effectively integrated classroom rich with various tools, these questions almost answer themselves (in addition to teacher support and students own exploration of tech-tools).

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Of the two models discussed in class this week, I prefer the TPACK model. In many classrooms, teachers are well-intentioned in their desire to use technology in the classroom, they want to engage their students and allow them to be creative in completing assignments but all too often, content knowledge is sacrificed in the name of bringing technology into the classroom. I like the TPACK model because it examines the intersection of content knowledge, general teaching knowledge, and technology skills that will be needed to be productive learners in the 21st century. Bob Wise in his post for a U.S. News blog provides three tips for technology integration that align with the ideals of TPACK: plan ahead, be adventurous, and start thinking about creating tools versus being consumers of tools. Finally, Dave Guymon provides five steps for teachers to follow regarding integration of technology tools (these also serve as excellent questions for personal reflection).

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In my own educational experiences, I have not had a teacher that truly integrated technology effectively in the classroom environment. Most of my K-12 educational experiences used technology to replace the role played by other tools, such as overhead projectors replacing chalk/dry erase boards, LCD screens replacing overhead projectors, and word-processing/presentation software replacing hand-written assignments and poster projects. Most of my experiences reflected the Substitution component of the SAMR model. This, along with losing time on task, and de-emphasizing course content occur when technology integration is not effective. Technology must be the means to the product demonstrating student learning, not the product itself.

Works Cited:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d59eG1_Tt-Q

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Why technology…

Being born in 1994 and entering kindergarten in the fall of 1999, I have never known a world where the Internet did not exist nor have I ever not been in a classroom that was not connected to the World Wide Web. To think about a time in which individuals did not have access to endless amounts of information one click or Google search away is difficult for me. However, there was a time when the Internet did not exist and teachers managed to educate successful students with only a chalkboard and overhead transparency, but times have changed. With the arrival of the Internet age and the rapid evolution of computing devices and software, physical boundaries and distance no longer separate people and accessing up-to-date information without the Internet (although not impossible) has become inconvenient in our “in a second” culture.

To answer the question “why have technology in schools?” anyone could generate a list of valid answers. Technology in schools allows students, teachers, and the school community to be more connected than ever before. From any device with Internet capability, school events, lesson plans, and student progress can be shared with all involved stakeholders. With data analysis tools, word processing software, and presentation software, students can engage in real-word research and present their findings in professional formats identical to the tasks students will be expected to perform in the workforce they will enter as adults. Having technology in schools allows teachers to connect their students to the world and allows them to move from questioning possibilities to making possibilities reality. Technology use in the educational context allows students to prove  that they have the skills to be productive citizens in the world.

In the course of my education, I have witnessed the era in which classrooms only had one computer (which was reserved for the teacher only) to the transition from chalkboard to dry erase boards, overhead projectors to document cameras and LCD screens, and when I graduated in 2012, all of the above giving way to smart boards. As I watched these changes take place, and now looking back, I can recognize another significant change: as the technology changed, student access to technology increased. When new technology was first introduced into the classroom, it was mostly reserved for use by the teacher but as technology changed, and more devices become available, students finally became eligible to use technology in the classroom. My experiences with technology, along with its evolution have been positive and negative; positive in finding the completion of school assignments became easier and having the means to be creative in my work but negative in dealing the frustrations that naturally emerge from working with new technology (frozen screens, not understanding  the “how to” of different programs.) Knowing what I know now, I would not change anything about my experiences, the easy successes and the initial struggles that resulted  in failures and a few surprise success made working with technology beneficial and they serve as reminders of how far we have come.

As both teachers and students continue to move forward with using technology in the classroom, it will be important that both teachers and students collaborate with regards to what tech-tools are used and the perceived benefit of selected tech-tools. What one teacher may believe to be innovative and creative, one student may find dull and meaningless. When doing research on technology in the classroom, I found an article from the Huffington Post in which a high-school student provided her insight into the benefits of technology in the classroom and her observations reflect the new reality that teachers must accept:  technology used in today’s classrooms must be relevant to students and easy to use all while showing that the teacher is mindful of students personal preferences.

Huffington Post Citation:

Shockley, S. (2015, May 19). A teen take on ed tech. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/youth-radio-youth-media-international/a-teen-take-on-edtech_b_7336854.html

Welcome!

This blog will be dedicated  to assignments for the the ECI 201 class: Instructional Technology for Teachers. Here I hope to share what I am learning in the course as well as my attempts to find tech-tools that can be used in the foreign language classroom focusing on Spanish Language and culture.