As I read the article “Shaping Tech for the Classroom,” I could not help but feel that Marc Prensky was writing a war cry for continued evolution of technology in the classroom. The article attempts to encourage others to continue to support technology in the classroom, however the author hinders his argument with the way he describes teachers and administrators. While I agree with Prensky that education needs to change, to resort to name calling with those who are resistant does nothing to help support his cause.
I believe that Prensky’s article and “Living and Learning with New Media” both convey the same message: educators and administers need to learn how to integrate technology successfully by modifying how they approach their teaching. This is of course on top of all the other demands that are already placed on educators. One key component that the COTAIL program and the workshops The Networked Educator and Create the Future keep reinforcing is that in order make the integration of new technology less daunting and (hopefully) easier for everyone, we need to learn to share with each other.
While I feel nervous about sharing my work, I know that I must do so that I can continue to learn from others and others can learn from both my successes and failures. It is in this light that I share with you some of my success and some of my failures with using technology in the classroom:
Last year I created a VoiceThread account for my students. VoiceThread allows users to upload slideshows, videos, documents, and other materials. Others can then comment using their voice, typed words, or drawings. Since this was new for me, I decided to restrict the creation of threads to me only. One thread that I created was a series of pictures that showed the class doing various things. When I demonstrated how to use it, the class immediately took hold loved it. I asked them to go home and place a comment on a slide explaining what International Baccalaureate Learner Profile was been shown.
One of my students, who was incredibly nervous about oral participation in class (more than once I saw her break down in tears when I asked her what she was thinking), went home and produced the most lovely oral comments. I was so happy that this student was able to find her voice in a way that she was unable to in class.
To support my use of VoiceThread last year the school purchased several sets of headphones for the computer lab. I took responsibility numbering them and putting them into plastic bags. When I took my students to the computer lab I gave them explicit instruction on how to use them. My class was fantastic with the headphones, however it was not long before cords got tangled and people stopped putting them back properly. Both my students and I became frustrated when it cam time to use the headphones. Based on this if you must use headphones, I would encourage each class to have their own set. This will help ensure that you have control over how they are maintained.
Over the summer I began to think about using Dropbox with my students. The IT staff at my school were kind enough to create a class Dropbox account and install the program on all the computers in the lab. Once that was done I created a folder for each class that contained all the students and synced it with my personal folder. Thus, I will have access to their work from anywhere. When I introduced it to my students this week I received several “ooh’s” and “ahh’s.” One student was elated at the fact that if she gets it installed at home, then she no longer has to worry about having to carry around a USB stick.
The examples presented above would mainly fall into the “Doing old things in new ways” category of Mark Prensky’s article. However as I continue to evolve in my own understanding of technology and how to use it in the classroom I have goals:
This is a scary proposition for me but as I become more comfortable with technology I want to open up the world to my students. I want them to interact with others so that they can learn from the knowledge of others. I want them to find people who share their passions so that they can follow it even when there’s no one geographically close to them with the same interests. I want them to demonstrate their learning in a way that interests them using tools that are easy for them to use. Most of all I want them to continue to evolve as people and leave at the end of every day feeling good about themselves and that they have contributed to the global pool of knowledge.
Tests have their place; I believe that. However, as I gain more proficiency with various technological tools, I want my students to explore these tools and use them to further their own understandings. On Monday I texted my co-teacher and told her that I wanted to open up the next assignment and get away from the idea of posters, essays, speeches, and tests. I want them to be creative. I want to push them to try new ways of expressing themselves by opening up the project to permit the use of technology beyond research, Word, and Power Point.
Headphone Mess by Brendan Lea
Image Sources, Creative Commons Licensed, Found on Flickr
Blue Marble (Planet Earth) by woodlewonderworks
Taking a Test by peruisay
VoiceThread use in classrooms by ericdvid2
Dropbox Demo by theragax