Recalling what my beliefs and attitudes were eight weeks ago in regards to technology makes me feel a bit embarrassed. If you were to have asked me, at the beginning of this course, what my impression of my technology integration into the classroom was I would have told you that I was a super star tech whiz that utilized innovative programs daily. Truth be told, I was using versions of Web 2.0 that were useful, helpful, and beneficial for students and employees worldwide, but far from innovative, far from exciting, and far from anything that really engaged students in lessons, discussions, and meaningful communication. Don’t get me wrong, not all of my technology efforts were dull and fruitless in terms of education, or in terms of preparing my students for their futures in college or their chosen careers. In fact, I was right in line with Dr. Thornburg’s interpretation of what 21st century employers are looking for in their employees as he stated in his video The Changing Work Environment. I was teaching students to use Microsoft Office 365 as a tool for collaboration with peers, much like Dr. Thornburg mentioned when he stated that “collaborating with peers at different field offices around the world at a very informal process is going to amplify their capacity.” (Laureate Education, 2015j) Students were showing me that they could amplify their ability to work on assignments, to include others who missed a day of class, they even went so far as to work on assignments outside of class because it was fun. However, this wasn’t really enough, this wasn’t really technology integration at its most innovative and useful integration in a classroom.
True technology integration in my classroom could not be experienced until I had that moment in my teaching when my mind shifted, my fears subsided into excitement, and my desire to introduce new products outweighed my concerns that they may not work right out of the gate, and I may look stupid standing in front of 25+ middle schoolers with judging teenage eyes. True, I had spent time as a computer lab para-educator teaching 18 classes a week to students in kindergarten through sixth grade, but nothing really prepared me for the classes I could, and would end up teaching after I allowed myself to realize that technology is an opportunity for both students, and myself to explore, expand our knowledge, and learn from moments that were not as well executed as planned. Similar to the teacher who spoke on her experience with technology in Making the Shift, I had to adjust the approach I took to integrating technology, by first using district approved sources and products, and then slowly introducing in new products for classroom use. I first began with the blog posts on Canvas, which is a district approved product, however, with little buy in from students, I chose to utilize a classroom email, and ‘instant messaging’ style program that got us off on the move towards using more innovative technology. I had to begin slowly, introducing the new technology in a way that wasn’t overwhelming for students, and much like the teacher in the video, did not cause frustration that would ultimately end our use of products in the classroom. I would like to use more Web 2.0 products like Twitter, blogs, and even Instagram, but few of my students have access to computers outside of the school, which makes products of this nature more difficult to use as our district blocks those sites from use on school computers. In the future, if cell phones are allowed in the school, and in classrooms, I would consider implementing programs that could be downloaded onto cell phones. For now, I will stick with introducing blogs more regularly, and continuing our efforts via messaging and email.
Preparing students for work outside of middle school walls is a valuable part of my classroom, one that requires continued learning on my part as an educator. One area that I feel I have deepened my learning is in the understanding that I must also be a lifelong learner, and that I have to view myself as a co-learner with my students, not just as the master of all within my room. Richardson (2015) discusses moving from master teacher to master learner by recognizing areas that we are strong, and areas that we are weak. I firmly believe that this course provided me with the opportunity to recognize that I am still learning the intricate dynamics of resources available for teaching students. An element of technology that I was uncomfortable with using was wikis, mainly for the fact that I was fearful that I wouldn’t have the information needed to put one together. Wikis, however, turned into an aspect of the course that provided me the chance to connect with absent students, providing the same instruction in a format that was more accessible for some students, and more enjoyable for many. I also found that by deepening my experience by using wikis in a variety of ways, and having students use them as well, that we learned together, creating a bond that exists only between those that struggle through something and come out successful. I have treated wikis much like a blog that Michelle Lampinen would use in her class. Through her use of blogs, Michelle was able to create enthusiasm, and buy in from her students, I also noticed that much like Michelle, my students were engaged in writing that was improving. Beyond improved writing, I also saw students that my more private students were actively engaged, desiring an opportunity to share, and to not be the focal point, or center of attention with all eyes on them. In fact, as Michelle stated, “introverted students tend to share more online than they do in person,” and this is proven in the use of wikis in my classroom. (Lampinen, 2013) I am in continuous pursuit of technology products that can even the playing field for all students, and engage the masses in my classroom.
Pursuit of technology has its ups and downs, especially in a public education system that is dictated by policy designed to protect the innocence of students. While I am seeking opportunities to engage in meaningful learning through the use of Twitter in my classroom, I am overruled by the policy that prevents social media from entering the classroom. One way that I am implementing this web 2.0 product, without stepping on any toes, is through the use of exit tickets that require student to summarize lessons using 140 characters or less. I often include hashtags that represent what we are learning, or are inclusive of our learning targets, so that student can connect a real world trend item to what they are learning. My goal was to “design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tolls and resources to promote student learning and creativity.” (ISTE, 2008) I ‘post’ the tweets that some student create as a means to support the notion that each student has a social identity, online or otherwise, that they must uphold. Students do not know which tweet I will post, and therefore must adhere to the ISTE standard of becoming a digital citizen in that they “Students cultivate and manage their digital identity and reputation and are aware of the permanence of their actions in the digital world.” (ISTE, 2016) It is a slow start, but one that I feel will have power if, and when, it is permitted in the classroom in its full glory.
Long term pursuit of technology integration comes in the form of two goals: The first is within two years, advocate for the use of social media, like Twitter, to be used as a means of documenting formative assessment responses via 140 characters that are generated after being given a prompt. The second is within two years, create, and actively use a district wide theater blog to recruit, promote, and engage student participation in the performing arts. I plan to seek approval from my principals for use of Twitter, and then have them advocate for me at higher levels within the district, using my classroom as the model for which we will get baseline data to support the use of social media in education. I plan to accomplish the blog by introducing it at the district PLC meetings, and then ‘pushing’ it at each professional development, as well as in staff meetings to garner readers, and followers.
Laureate Education (Producer). (2015j). The changing work environment [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Laureate Education (Producer). (2015a). Making the shift. [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Richardson, W. (2015). From master teacher to master learner. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Lampinen, M. (2013, April 8). Blogging in the 21st-Century Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/blogging-in-21st-century-classroom-michelle-lampinen
International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE). (2016). Standards for students. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students-2016
International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE). (2008). Standards for teachers. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-teachers