Course Reflection

As I reflect over the last 7 weeks in this course, Integrating Technology Across Content Areas, I am excited to have discovered and learned many new multimedia tools and internet applications that infuse technology into my current curriculum, making learning experiences more real-world centered and interdisciplinary.  This in turn makes lessons more effective, collaborative, engaging, and meaningful for students.

I have appreciated the GAME (Goals, Action, Monitor, Evaluate) plan approach for life-long learning and now that I have experienced its effectiveness for myself, I am eager to take my students through the process on one of our next units of inquiry.    I am thankful that I chose to focus on student blogging for my course of action, as it has so many practical uses in the classroom as a way for students to practice communication skills, share their thoughts, and work through cognitive processes and understanding.  I had wanted to try to find a good, secure blogging site for some time, but the structure provided with the GAME model helped make this goal a reality.

Before this course, I had been working on several problem/project based learning units and have been experimenting with online collaboration tools, but through the assigned resources and class discussions, I have learned about several more tools that are available to me.  I have also been reminded that for students to be thoroughly engaged in the learning process, the activities and lessons should be focused on the learners’ interests and there should be an element of choice involved.  Having students self select their area of inquiry or culminating product promotes learner autonomy, a component of authentic instruction, where learners initiate their own learning experiences and their interests are supported as they pursue meaningful content and acquire critical thinking skills (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2009). By merging creative thinking, authentic learning situations, and technology use into lessons, I can help students explore, understand, and apply content knowledge in meaningful ways.

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Capitals, Periods, and Spelling… Oh My!

This week, I am moving along in my GAME plan and have done a little more of the Action piece and some early Monitoring of my progress and Evaluation of the usefulness of the blogging site I have chosen.  As communicated earlier, I have to seek administrative approval for each collaborative website that is used with my students as privacy and security is paramount in my district.  I filled out the necessary paperwork this week and gained approval for the use of Kid Blog (kidblog.org).  I also sent home notification of our use of the site along with a brief description and short explanation of its educational purpose of it to my student’s parents.  I have decided that if parents wish to view our blog, I will enroll them as a guest user and their privileges will be to view (not comment) on the blog at this time.

I gave my 3rd graders a basic introduction to our blogging site and was surprised at how easily they were able to log in and get started.  The site is very simple and kid-friendly, without distracting pop-ups or confusing sidebars.  Our first discussion was in answer to a general response question (What are your plans for the weekend?).  Sixteen of my twenty-six students were able to craft a response during our time in the computer lab.  I would have liked to have seen all of them respond, but many ran out of time.  This week, because I will not have to spend so much time explaining and guiding individual students, we should have enough time for all students to respond.  If this continues to be a challenge, I will need to re-think how best to use the time we have in the computer lab (about 40 minutes once a week).

My student’s responses were all on-topic and thoughtful, however I was surprised that, despite vocalizing my expectation that sentences be written using correct conventions, students paid little to no attention to capitals, periods, or spelling in their responses.  I think this part of our blogging will take more modeling and direct teaching to be successful.  However, I was delighted to see that I had the ability to moderate comments and send them back to students for editing before making them public.  I have created a poetry lesson for our next blogging activity and am excited to try it with my students tomorrow!

In this week’s resource, Chapter 6 of Technology Integration for Meaningful Classroom Use, I found the section about Developing Assessments interesting and applicable to my GAME plan.  I see how the use of this blogging tool can provide formative data as it helps give me a glimpse my student’s thoughts, thinking processes, and growth in skills and understanding in a variety of content areas (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2009).

Cennamo, K., Ross, J. D., & Ertmer, P. A. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: a standards-based approach. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth.

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Action!

            This week I was able to review my GAME plan (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2009) and get started on the A (Action) piece.  I was specifically looking for a blogging site that had high level of security, but was also age appropriate for 3rd graders.  Finding and utilizing a blogging site with my students will help me reach my professional goal of developing learning experiences that incorporate digital tools to promote student learning.

            I have had several colleagues, both from Walden and from my school site, suggest that I take a look at the blogging site kidblog.org to see if it would meet my needs.  I did that this week and was impressed with the security features:

  • Teachers have complete control over all student blogs and accounts.
  • Students’ blogs are private- viewable only by classmates and the teacher.  I can moderate all content.
  • The site is fully COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and does not require personal information from parents

            I was also impressed with the ease and efficiency in the setting up of student user accounts.  It only took me about 15 minutes to enter student user names and passwords and I was able to use previously allotted district login information so that my students don’t have to remember several codes.  This will save us much time when logging on and getting started on the blogging site!

            So far, this experience has been a positive one, but the true test of its usefulness will be when my students actually experiment with the site.  I will need to plan a few tutorials on the use of blogs and explain my expectations of language usage (correct conventions, grammar) and respectful, thoughtful comments.  I am thinking of having my first lesson be a general discussion question (What did you do this weekend?) and just have students practice replying.  I am also thinking of incorporating poetry analysis into one of my first blogging activities, as I need to meet content standards in that area and it will also give students practice in thinking, analyzing, communication via writing, and collaboration skills.  Before that lesson, I will need to find a good piece of poetry that I think all of my students will be able to gain access to (I have a diverse group in terms of reading ability) and yet be meaningful on different levels so that it elicits good conversation and dialogue.  Any suggestions?

 Cennamo, K., Ross, J. D., & Ertmer, P. A. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: a standards-based approach. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth.

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My Personal GAME Plan

             I have recently begun a new class in my Walden Master’s program called “Integrating Technology Across the Content Areas” and the focus of this class is on the integration of technology resources into daily teaching practices.  The course text is titled Technology Integration for Meaningful Classroom Use: A Standards-Based Approach and the authors present a step-by-stop approach to self-directed learning that assists teachers and students in reaching the national (ISTE) technology standards (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2009).  They call this a GAME (Goals, Action, Monitor, Evaluate) plan.

            After studying the NETS-T standards, I have chosen two that I would like to focus on and strengthen:

2a Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.

5c  Evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning

            A goal I would like to accomplish that would help to strengthen my teaching practice in both areas is to integrate student blogging in my classroom as both a collaborative discussion and journaling tool.  I have set this goal because I believe that by integrating blogging into my classroom, it will increase student learning in many areas, but especially in writing content and skill.  In my experience, students who write to an authentic audience write more, write in more detail, and are more likely to take care in using correct conventions, an important 3rd grade skill. During the last school year, I  experimented with blogging through our district web-host site and saw its value in evoking authentic, meaningful responses from my students.  However, this school year my district switched to a new web-host and this new site no longer supports blogging.  I would like to find an alternative blogging site that is suitable for 3rd grade students, but the challenge is that I must make sure that the site is not only user friendly, with useful features, but is also safe for young children.  My district is hesitant to approve collaborative website use without sufficient evidence that it will be safe and secure for students.

            To accomplish this goal, I will need to take action by researching, finding, and experimenting with several blogging sites to see which I think will be the most effective tool and one that I will be permitted to use.  I will need to seek authorization from my administration before using it with my students.  Then, I will set up the blogging tool and begin to create lessons and activities that support learning in all content areas, but with special attention to writing skills.

            As my students use this tool and I integrate it into my classroom practice, I will also strengthen my practice by monitoring and then eventually evaluating the blogging tool and its value in supporting and extending student learning.  As my students are blogging, I will need to monitor the discussions and writing closely to see if my students are practicing and applying their writing, critical thinking, and discussion skills in a way that encourages creativity, but shows thoughtfulness and growth in understanding.  If I decide that the blogging site is not meeting the needs of my students, I may need to reteach expectations, find an alternative site, or another method or collaboration tool.  If I decide that it is an effective tool, I will then be able to create a series of lessons that utilize more functions of the blogging site and are more specific in content and skills.

            I am looking forward to this next “3rd Grade Adventure in Cyberspace” and am ready to get started on my GAME plan!  Any suggestions on blogging sites that are user friendly, suitable for young children, and have a high level of security and anonymity would be greatly appreciated!

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Reflection

I am nearing the end of the fourth class in my Master’s degree program, “Bridging Learning Theory, Instruction, and Technology,” and have learned much in the last seven weeks about theories of learning and effective instructional strategies, employing technology tools in particular, to use in the classroom.  My personal theory of learning has been developed over 15 years of classroom experience and is a combination off all of the learning theories that have been discussed in this class.  Though I have not made dramatic changes in my personal learning theory, I would say that I have reprioritized some of the learning strategies that I will use in my classroom in the future.  There are several strategies that I see the need for increased use of in my classroom to enrich and deepen my student’s learning experiences.

I agree with many points of the behaviorist learning theory.  I have seen, as Dr. Orey (Laureate Education Inc., 2011) states, that positive reinforcement is crucial in creating a successful classroom environment.  I already intentionally teach and model successful learner attributes and attitudes, but would like to incorporate technology tools in this area to help me better organize data and results related to growth and achievement in academic and behavioral areas.  One website that I plan to use this fall that will help me achieve this goal is Class Dojo (classdojo.com).  It looks to be a highly visual program that will help me track desired behavior.  It also provides instant recognition to students that exhibit model work habits.

Throughout this class, I have learned a number of strategies that correlate with the cognitive learning theory and help to increase learning retention.  I have used a number of graphic organizers in the past, but as a result of this class, I have learned the importance of making this an interactive process, having students construct these on their own or with other students.  I have investigated several web tools that facilitate this strategy and are referenced in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007).  I have also found a few new tools on my own or by communicating with my colleagues.  Spiderscribe (spiderscribe.net), Exploratree (exploratree.org), and Microsoft Word’s charts are all excellent resources that I am planning to use as advanced organizers to activate prior learning and to organize new information.

I have also explored the constructivist/constructionists learning theories in more detail and am committed to reaching the goal of making every lesson I teach have students constructing knowledge for themselves and making connections to what they already know.  I am also looking forward to having my students apply what they have learned in practical, meaningful ways.  There are many online websites that support student endeavors in impacting their community and world and I am currently researching the web tools that would be most helpful in the units that my students learn throughout the year.

Of all the learning theories, I have found the social learning theory most intriguing and see its direct relevance to my classroom and teaching practices.  I am convinced that cooperative learning is a valuable strategy to help students process information and make connections through conversation that they might not have made on their own.  I am eager to use blogging tools and VoiceThread (voicethread.com) next school year to encourage collaboration, not just among my students, but also with an online community outside of the school building.

References:

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program four: Behaviorist learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory,  instruction and technology. Retrieved fromhttp://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007).  Using technology with classroom instruction that works.  Alexandria, VA:  ASCD.

 

 

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Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

One of the readings I explored this week was a chapter entitled “Cooperative Learning” from the book Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007).   This chapter integrated well with other resources I have studied this week relating to social learning theories.  Social constructivism, as defined by Dr. Orey (Laureate, 2011), is the theory which speculates that students learn best when they are actively engaged in conversation and making connections with others around the knowledge being learned or better yet, being put into practice through projects or meaningful activities.

This chapter recommends the use of several technological tools to facilitate cooperative learning.  Among them are:  multimedia projects (iMovie), web collaborations (JASON project), keypals (e-mail pen pals), WebQuests , website creation, collaborative organizational tools (calendars, etc), online learning communities (Moodle, Blackboard), multiplayer simulation games, and communication software (Skype).  All of these tools look intriguing to me as they seem like valuable tools to get students engaged in collaborative learning.  I plan to do further exploration of them over the summer holiday for possible use in my classroom next year.

A site that I have heard positive reviews about from friends and colleagues, which was also referenced in this chapter, is moodle.org.  Our school is planning to switch from SchoolFusion to another website program this summer and if the new site doesn’t meet the collaborative needs of my classroom, I may switch to this software.  Does anyone have experience with it?  Another program I have heard much about that incorporates the social aspect of learning via the virtual world is Quest Atlantis (questatlantis.com).  It is an online 3D multiuser learning game that incorporates inquiry tasks and social action.  It requires educators to complete training, so I haven’t had a chance to explore it.  Has anyone heard of or participated in this program? If so, what are your thoughts?

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011b). Social learning theories [DVD]. Bridging Learning Theory, Instruction, and Technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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VoiceThread

This week I have learned about a wonderful teaching and learning online tool called VoiceThread.  Here is a description of the site (taken from voicethread.com):

VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holdsimages, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in 5 ways – using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). Share a VoiceThread with friends, students, and colleagues for them to record comments too.  Users can doodle while commenting, use multiple identities, and pick which comments are shown through moderation. VoiceThreads can even be embedded to show and receive comments on other websites and exported to MP3 players or DVDs to play as archival movies.

This week my assignment was to use VoiceThread to communicate with other graduate students and colleagues about a need confronting my classroom or school.  I chose a recent dilemma that my school staff has been debating and discussing:  paper vs. electronic portfolios.

Here is the link:  http://voicethread.com/share/3141863/

 

Please join in on the discussion!

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