Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reflecting on Integrating Technology in my Classroom

Even before students come to school, they are using technology!

This course, Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work, and Society, has been a very exciting one for me. I had been looking forward to it ever since I got Will Richardson’s book “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms” in the mail. I have always been very interested in technology, and when it came time to create a blog, wiki, and podcast, everything else came to a standstill for me, and these activities consumed my life. My students saw the excitement in my teaching when I introduced these Web 2.0 tools to them, and they became energized to use them with me. Before this course, I had no idea how to create these Web 2.0 tools, let alone integrate them in my lesson plans. I have already made a fundamental change in my teaching methods by integrating technology. Firstly, I have started using a classroom blog on which my students are assigned homework every Sunday, and have a week to finish their work. I read all the blog comments to them every morning and students have told me that it is the best part of their day. Last week students collaborated with each other on their social studies words and created a podcast that helped them do very well on their test. They are using the 21st century skills in their learning.

Since the social studies podcast was such a success, I have taken on another endeavor with my students. Grammar is an integral part of the third grade curriculum, and I plan to make a podcast of grammar words and post it on our classroom blog for students to access all year long. Every student will be assigned a word to research and then they will collaborate with each to compile it into one document, and create a podcast for the blog. This course has provided me the tools to take on these technology-oriented efforts and helped me immensely to develop my technology skills as a professional teacher.

My teaching and learning process has transformed and significantly enhanced since I started this course. I have started to look at my lessons closely and make sure that I am including technology with my instructions. By using a classroom blog, I feel my students are learning beyond their classroom walls. The 21st century skills require students to focus on creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, to prepare them for the future (P21). By integrating technology in my classroom, I plan to infuse all these qualities of P21 in my students.
As the course ended, I realized that I have changed my perspective from being teacher-centered to learner-centered. Earlier, I was uncomfortable about a noisy classroom and wanted students to do their work independently. More recently, I have recognized the importance of students interacting with their peers to gain knowledge. Now I assign partners when students do their math journal pages, and upon finishing their writing piece, they meet in a group to discuss each other’s work. In this manner, I am moving my teaching from teacher-centered to learner-centered. I make a conscious effort to do this and have printed out guidelines from the National Capital Language Resource Center that remind me to teach with a learner-centered focus.
One way that I will continue to expand my knowledge of learning, teaching, and leading with technology with the aim of increasing student achievement is by always keeping my focus on the well-being of my students. I plan to constantly take the extra step, educate myself, and learn the skills required for my students to succeed with the 21st century skills. After completing my graduate degree, I plan to take refresher courses in technology to always remain current, and implement this knowledge in my classroom.
I have two long-term goals for transforming my classroom environment. First, to integrate technology in my classroom by writing lesson plans that include technology based lessons, and second, to make sure that technology is used as a learning tool instead of an instructional tool for project-based activities.
At this time, I am fortunate that I do not have any real institutional or systemic barriers to overcome since my school and the district have made the integrating of technology in the classroom a mandate for this year. My only concern is that budget cutbacks or other factors in the future may adversely impact the continuation of this support that we currently have.
In order to ensure that my lesson plans reflect my teaching practice of integrating technology in my classroom, it is imperative that all content standards included in the lesson are supported by the use of technology. I have started blogging and podcasting with my students and this has been a huge success. This is a big deal for my third graders, and gradually I would like to introduce them to the creation of a class wiki. I have to make a conscious effort to ensure that I am successfully integrating technology in my classroom.
My second goal is to make sure technology is used as a learning tool. While doing a lesson on a smart board, I sometimes do the interactive activity myself instead of asking the students to come up and touch the smart board, especially when I am time constrained. From now on, I will make a conscious effort to involve them with the technology instead of doing everything myself. By making technology-based lessons more student-centered instead of teacher-centered, students will become more enthusiastic about their learning.
I have reviewed the self-assessment checklist from Week 1 after completing this course, and reflected on the improvements in my teaching strategies. In the first section of this form, “Practices to Support 21st Century skills,” most of my answers have changed since I have improved in all the categories. In the second section of “Developing Technology Skills for the School and Workplace Environments,” not too much has changed so far. In the next year or so, I will work on becoming more proficient in teaching with technology integration in my classroom, and then venture out to be a leader in developing technology skills in my colleagues.
My outlook on integrating technology into the classroom has changed a great deal after completing this course. Earlier I had mentioned that I used PowerPoint, Smart board, Brain Pop, and YouTube videos in my class. Just doing all these activities did not translate into integrating technology in my classroom. These activities are for the most part teacher-directed and not student-centered. This course has expanded my horizons and taught me different ways to help students learn. Introducing them to a classroom blog, assigning work for the students on the blog, and helping them create a podcast of their social studies vocabulary words are examples of integrating technology. Students are collaborating to learn from each other. I am now definitely “doing different things” rather than “just doing things differently,” and moving my students towards 21st century skills is very rewarding.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Profiling Students of Today

Technology is a part of culture for our students these days. These generations of students are considered Digital Natives because, right from the time they are born, they are exposed to technology. Due to this exposure, these students relate better to lessons taught with the aid of technology. I teach third grade in a suburban community and have 25 students in my class. The cultural demographic of my class is:

Asian Indian: 52%
African American: 20%
Middle Eastern: 12%
White: 8%
Hispanic: 8%

I gave my students a survey to see how technology affects their lives. After looking at the results of the survey, I came to realize that almost all my students were involved in some aspect of technology on a daily basis. Only two of my students do not have a computer at home. Both of these students wrote on the survey that they miss not having a computer, and that their parents are getting them one for Christmas.

Since I have started the classroom blog, I see the enthusiasm students have every day about posting comments on their blog and doing their homework. I have seen a drastic difference in their attitude towards homework assignments. They are very proud of themselves because we are the only class in the entire school that has a blog, other than one maintained by the computer teacher.

I plan to capture this enthusiasm and start podcasting material before every unit test. Next week, my students will be recording their social studies vocabulary words. I will upload these words in a podcast and attach this to the classroom blog. Students can listen to the words on their iPod (most of their parents have an iPod). They are excited to work on this project and almost every one of them took their social studies book home this weekend to practice vocabulary words. I feel the passion for learning in my students and this is due to the technology I am using in the classroom.

I interviewed three of my third graders to see how technology affects their daily lives. I hope you enjoy the podcast!
The URL to my podcast is: