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I’m at the end of another grad class and with this class it’s the end of my Master’s program. I’ve enjoyed the challenges, research and discussions associated with all of my classes. I’ve had to read articles with words I didn’t understand and had to read with a dictionary on one side of me. I’ve read articles that confirmed ideas I had about teaching and I’ve read articles that made me question some of my teaching practices. With every class I’ve learned about myself, my colleagues and developed my philosophy of teaching.

For my last class my instructor has posted questions for us to think about and reflect on. At the beginning of the class we had to think about where we were on our learning curve but the funny part is every time I embrace a new experience I’m right back to the bottom of the curve.

What new understandings of the role of educational technology to support learning have you gained, acted on or perhaps strengthened?

I’ve been searching for articles, websites and blog posts that describe the integration of technology in subject areas. I’m looking for exemplars, case studies and information about the impact technology integration has on both the student and the teacher. I’ve been scouring state and provincial education sites to look for guidance on what other groups are preparing for their teachers as the teachers tackle the ISTE standards for themselves and the students. I’ve been reading information on the State of Florida’s education site, looking at the Province of Manitoba’s Curriculum Navigator and checking out the Galileo site. I want to be able to ‘show’ teachers what technology integration looks like.

Technology in Our Class.

What has had the most influence on your horizon of understanding?

My network continues to have the most influence on me. My network has expanded once again through the use of digital technology in this grad class. I’ve connected with more teachers in Regina Public Schools, I’ve chatted with teachers around the province through email and comments regarding the challenged they are facing in their schools and I’ve received great feedback on my blog posts. The network that I’ve already been working with provides with links and blogs to provoke thinking, my network offers me support and my networks expands my knowledge. When I’m lacking an understanding about a concept or theory I can approach my network, ask a question and receive information through blog comments, emails or Twitter posts. My belief in George Siemen’s Connectivity Theory is demonstrated by the support from my Web network.
What new questions have emerged for you?

There are questions that I continue to think about. What is stopping teachers from integrating technology? How can I convince teachers that technology integration isn’t difficult? But as to new questions I’m thinking about how Regina Public Schools can create technology integration , resource pages along  with links to outcomes and indicators that will allow teachers to integrate technology into their everyday teaching. I wonder how I can make a difference and help teachers overcome whatever barrier is stopping them to integrate technology into lessons. I often think where our school division will be in five years or ten years and what changes will occur.

Digital World.

I just read an interesting post that discussed what are the most important interview questions that should be asked when Hiring a Director of Technology.

In her post Jean Tower made a list of information that would be important to know before hiring a Director. A few of her questions are:

Tell us about your vision of technology in education.

Describe the role of a technology director in an educational environment.

What would be your most important priorities for your first week on the job? first month? first year?

How would you work closely with curriculum and instruction department and how would you develop that relationship?

Michael Gorman added his thoughts:

1. How do you evaluate the success in the programs that you oversee?

2. How do you answer a teacher’s concern that states “I have no time for technology because I have to much curriculum to follow?”?

3. What is the role of technology in a 21st century school program?

4. How do you differentiate the idea of technology and curriculum?

5. What steps do you take to insure that technology serves the student?

6. How do you decide on technology purchases for a building?

7. In what areas should you be involved in professional development and how can you use technology to sustain teacher growth?

Liz Davis added her thoughts: I would definitely also want to know how they are personally using technology. What are their favorite technology tools? Are they blogging? Do they use Twitter? I would ask them to describe their personal learning network. I would also ask what blogs they read? Who inspires them? Who do they follow on Twitter? Why?

I would like to know what the Director candidate thought about filtering in schools. Does the person think that filtering is necessary? Do they think there are sites that should be blocked? This information would tell me a lot about the person.

So, what would you ask? What would the most important question be?




Curriculum, pedagogies and practice with ICT in the information age

Nicola Yelland, Chapter 14: page 225

Critical Issues in Early Childhood Education
Edited by Nicola Yelland

This is an reflection that I wrote for a previous class that has relevance to the discussions that I’ve been having with colleagues and supervisors in my school division.

I connected with the challenges that educators are having integrating technology into their classrooms. Yelland comments on the concerns being raised about the amount of time young children spend on computers and whether that time is time well spent. The concerns are not support by research or data. In fact, research is showing that home use of computers support learning. In Jackie Marsh’s article Digikids: Young children, popular culture and media she finds that research supports computer use. On page 189 Marsh quotes “The relationship between literacy learning and computer-game playing is complex, but nevertheless significant” (Gee, 2003; and Pahl, 2005). Many people who object to computer use are focused on violent games, inappropriate web sites and questionable content but are not using research to support their beliefs. I believe as educators we need to teach students responsible use of  computers, software and the internet because we see the value of computers for students. I recently read a blog post about filtering of internet in school and how we as teachers need to teach our students what sites they are to use in school and what sites aren’t appropriate. Will Richardson, who wrote the blog post, thought that filtering was a form of classroom management so that teachers didn’t have to teach responsible use. 

Yelland’s article also looked at the value of ‘authentic activities’ that students can experience using computers and the internet. In my own case, my students have gone on virtual field trips around North America, dissected a frog, examined and commented on art in museums, visited Auschwitz and collaborated with students around the world. My students also have personal blogs which allow them to post their writing on-line and have an authentic audience to provide feedback. I find it hard to understand that people could not see the value in the experiences students have using technology. Students become excited when they have visitors to their blogs that read their writing or leaving comments. The visitors or their audience provide motivation to continue writing and posting to their blogs but perhaps the biggest factor is that students begin to want to write ‘for’ their audience. Students become better descriptive writers who become more aware of the mechanics of their writing so that they can provide their audience with interesting blog articles to read.  The goal is that the blogs can provide authentic audiences, rich discussions, feedback and interactions for the reader and the writer.

On page 226 Yelland states “Children are exposed to computers and a vast range of new technologies in every aspect of their lives. It is impossible for any of us to avoid technologies since they are integratal to everything we do.” Leonie Rowan and Eileen Honan in the article Literaily lost: the quest for quality literary agendas in early childhood education explores the various types of literacies that young children engage in. Young children are already participating in “media literacy, computer literacy, technological literacy, visual literacy or emotional literacy” (page 195). If young children are already exposed to these various literacies why wouldn’t we as educators embrace these opportunities to build upon them as we teach the children? Yelland continues this thought “If schools ignore this (the prevalent use of technology in our society) they cease to be relevant to life in the twenty-first century “(page 226).

On page 227 Yelland questions the new curriculum “there has been an increasing recognition that curriculum decision-making needs to take note of children’s out-of-school experiences and build upon them.” I agree that these questions need to be asked and educators need to be the ones to make changes in their classroom. I also think there should be changes made in teacher education programs that weave technology use throughout the content classes to show pre-service teachers how use technology in the classroom. Yelland quotes Dede who has “called on educators to ‘reshape children’s learning experience in and out of school to prepare them for a future quite different from the immedate past. Meeting this challenge involves teaching new skills, not simply teaching old skills better” (2002, p.178).

These are questions that the articles raised:

1. We can’t avoid technology in our lives so why do we want children to avoid technology in schools?

2.  Why is using technology relevant in the twenty-first century?

3. Why doesn’t provincial curricula recognize the value of technology? Does the curricula give teachers any incentive to integrate technology into subject areas?

4. How do you use technology in your teaching/school?

5. What type of technology use do you feel has the most value to students?

6. We can’t avoid technology in our lives so why do we want children to avoid technology in school?

7. Why is using technology relevant in the twenty-first century?

8. What future are we preparing our students/children for?

9. Why doesn’t provincial curricula recognize the value of technology?

10. Does the curricula give teachers any incentive to integrate technology into subject areas?

11. Why do educators have to prove that use of technology is beneficial to students?

    Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have a prep when Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach of the Powerful Learning Practice was hosting a session on “Evaluating Digital Resources.” Once again I fired up Elluminate and logged in for a session. There were a few people I recognized attending the online session including Alec Couros. Alec is one of my former professors at the University of Regina and introduced me to many of the online tools, groups and collaborators that I work with now.

    The session was hosted by Nussbaum-Beach but the presenter was Ira Socol. Socol posed the question “How do we know something is true?” He then discussed news stories that have been published before the information has been checked and questioned. His example was the New York Times Airbus A380 story that was published but contradicted information from a story the Times had published two weeks earlier. Socol  discussed the old way of establish information: look at the author’s credentials, the publisher’s authority and whether the library or school distributed the text. The reason the old way is no longer as relevant is that by the time text is published there has already been changes in the information presented.

    squidoo.com

    Society now looks at information in a much different way. They don’t look for information authority but at perceived authority. Our students may look at an author’s reputation, what someone else recommends, if there is previous experience with the source, who the author and site are associated with and the findability of the information. Most of our students are most impressed by the findability of information or which information had the most hits on Google. The students are equating most hits with the best quality as a way to rate information.

    Socol posed discussion questions;

    How do your students “know” something is true?

    Is it the same way the you (teachers) “know”?

    Is it the same way your Board of Education “knows”?

    What is true is that students don’t “know” what is true. My example is that earlier this week as my students were researching wonders of the world, one of my students showed me a picture of The Great Wall of China as a water slide. I questioned whether the picture was real or fake. The student hadn’t thought anything about it other than how cool that would be. I sent them back to check. As Socol states we need to teach our students to ask questions and train them in “information intelligence.” We want to ask our students to find the information in other places to verify it is reliable information. We want students to look through the site’s information and question whether the other things the source says are believable. Students also need to know what the author’s perspective is to understand if there is a bias behind the information. According to Socol the  most important technique we can use when we’re teaching our students to evaluate digital resources is to demand of our students “Show me why you think this is true.”

    This morning I was checking my daily updates from one of my Diigo Groups and I was excited when I checked out this Myths and Legends Story Creator site. I can already imagine how I can use this with my students. In a myths and legends unit or integrate it into some project based learning this would be a fabulous way for the students to create stories. I can think about the discussions and planning that will happen then once the students start using the story creator their stories will come alive.

    The site has free membership which is a bonus. Each year I create a class email account for my students to use for sites like this that allows me to create a class account on web sites. It’s so much easier if all of the students are using the same password. Occasionally this creates a problem if the site has difficulty managing so many users on the same account but then we adapt. I would want to see if we could embed the story on our blogs but if not we could probably using screen shots to post the story. I could also envision using the screen shot pictures and using iMovie to create a movie. I think I might be getting ahead of myself here. I’ll have to play around with the site then introduce it to my students. We could have used it for our Solar System unit to tell stories about the constellations, hmmm…maybe I can incorporate it into my current project “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.” I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    I just finished viewing and reflecting on Steve Wheeler’s slide presentation on New Pedagogies for the Digital age. As Wheeler states “The future of education will be premised on what students need – and that will include creative solutions, flexible, personalisable tools, and device responsiveness that is culturally relevant. It’s going to be exciting and challenging!” It occurred to me that there is much discussion about what type of education students need and what pedagogy is best to prepare students for an unknown future.

    In Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and Delivering E-learning Helen Beethem and Rona Sharpe argue that there is nothing new about using technologies for learning. From the beginning of time every tool that has been introduced to enhance learning and teaching has been a new invention. Beethem and Sharpe continue with “The networked digital computer and its more recent mobile and digital are just the latest outputs of human ingenuity that we have at our disposal.” Beethem and Sharpe contend “that these technologies represent a paradigm shift … on the theory of learning.” Beethem and Sharpe question how digital technologies constitute a new context for learning and explore this in their book.

    In his paper How has pedagogy changed in a digital age? Hayat Al-Khatib concludes that “The full potential of ICT support should be explored in learner-centered strategies to shift pedagogic orientation to cater more for the role of the learner in the learning process, taking advantage of the resources and tools made available in the digital age.”

    Our goal as educators should be to develope a curious, flexible and creative student who is able to work cooperatively in group situations. Whether that group is within that student’s classroom, school, city or even country depends on the student and teacher’s ability to connect to a learning network outside of the student’s building. The biggest change since I started teaching is that type of tools and technology available to me. I still remember learning how to use a gestetner machine and how exciting a photo copier in the school was. The difference now is that we live in a digital age and as educators, digital tools are what we have to use with our students. In Block 5 for my EC&I 832 class we’ve been exploring various web tools and questioning how they can help us in our teaching practice. If we consider the cartoon sites, movie makers, digital story telling and social networking applications as technological tools we can use them wisely to enhance learning in a digitally relevant way.

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