By:  J'aime Holderbaum
K-5 Technology Teacher
Master of Educational Technology
2010
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    Although technology has always been a huge interest of mine, about three years ago I discovered that somewhere along the way I had let it slip away from me and my instructional techniques.  Upon becoming an elementary teacher, I had promised myself that I would always be a lifelong learner and keep current in new instructional methods.  After teaching for about ten years, I had obtained my Master’s Degree in Education, and I thought I was keeping on top of things educationally.  However, one Sunday afternoon as I picked up the local Swartz Creek Sunday News, and read an article about how a teacher had published a podcast with her class, I thought to myself, “I do not even know what a podcast is.”  I started wondering how this type of project was related to student learning and educational experiences.  Around that same time I overheard some other teachers discussing a webquest.  Again I thought, “What in the world is a webquest.”  At this moment I decided that it was time to figure out what these new technologies were and start integrating them into my teaching. 

    My thirst for learning led me to decide I would take a few classes to learn some basic methods for integrating technology into my classroom.  At the beginning of my journey into learning about educational technology I saw that many teachers and administrators valued the integration of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint into the educational curriculum, however it seemed to stop there.   Some of my thoughts prior to beginning the Master of Educational Technology program included, how could I create a webpage for my classroom, how does one create a podcast,  what is a webquest, how could blogs be integrated, and what other technologies could be used for instructional purposes.  At this time I didn’t even know about the vast array of Web 2.0 technologies and the endless possibilities.  After completing the first three courses in the program, I developed a passion for educational technology and came to the conclusion that I would obtain my Master’s in Educational Technology and change the way I teach forever.  Over the past three years I have developed and grown as an educator in many exciting ways.

    My learning experiences have taken me beyond the basics of technology and taught me how to be a self directed learner as I have explored and applied technology in the educational setting.   Not only can technology be used for motivating student learning, but it can be repurposed to provide students with meaningful educational experiences that will prepare them for the future.  Through understanding aesthetic qualities of technology, students can become creative and innovative in their cognitive abilities.   Communicating through a functional website enables teachers to provide information to parents, provide links to students, and publish student work samples.  The numerous free web based applications that are available enable educators to provide experiences for students that allow them to create unique presentations and create collaborative projects.  These same applications provide educators with essential tools in delivering engaging interactive lessons through digital media.  All of my experiences have led me to develop a belief that it is essential to incorporate technology int o the curriculum  in order to enable students to be prepared for real world experiences.

Motivation and Purpose

    One of the most important aspects of utilizing technology in the classroom is the huge motivational factor connected with it.  Students connect with digital media and thrive on publishing material for real audiences.  They learn through collaborative methods that are made easily available through technology.  I have learned that I need to guide students to understand their learning so that they will be able to share their knowledge and understandings in creative ways.  When students learn material, if they can make a connection to their lives or understand how they will apply their knowledge in a real world setting, then their learning experience will stick with them.

    As I have implemented numerous lessons that integrate technology and have allowed students to publish work online, I have come to see that that having an authentic audience motivates students to become more involved in their work and produce high quality products.  Their peers as well as parents will have the opportunity to view their work, when it is published online.   Knowing that they have an authentic audience motivates students to display their best work.  Alan November (2001) states, “The Web represents an audience extraordinaire.  It is virtually limitless and allows for connection…Teachers who have never had a chance to challenge their students to present their work for authentic review now have almost unlimited capacity.  The impact on student motivation can be awesome.  Knowing when to tap into this potential is the goal of creative teachers” (p. 34).

    Explore!  Create!  Share!  These three words will stick in my mind forever as a result of my summer experience in the Master of Educational Technology program at Michigan State.  Thinking about exploring, creating, and sharing in the context of education has helped me to make connections between these words, educational practices, and student learning.    It is important for educators to explore and understand various educational theories in order to apply those theories in the classroom and give students purpose in learning meaningful material.

    Technology has always been a huge interest of mine and I have found that incorporating lessons that integrate technology into the curriculum always motivates students to learn and engages students in the learning process.  “If educators are to repurpose tools and integrate them into their teaching, they require a specific kind of knowledge that we call technological pedagogical and content knowledge (TPACK) (Mirsha 2009).”  Knowing that students are highly engaged by the use of technology in the classroom, as a teacher I need to creatively repurpose technology because, “most technologies that teachers use typically have not been designed for educational purposes (2009).”  For example the use of blogs in the classroom can be used to help develop writing skills as well as encourage class participation.  A student that is shy and never speaks up during a class, may demonstrate a large amount of participation through the use of a blog.  Even in the elementary classroom blogs could play a role in developing writing skills.  Some ideas for using a blog are using it as an online journal or possibly a portfolio, showcasing student poems and various writing samples.

    One important reason for integrating technology into the curriculum is because of the globalization of our world and the creation of more right brained individuals.  In “Emotional Intelligence:  What is it and Why it Matters,” Young Zhoa illustrates that a “person’s ability to perceive, identify, and manage emotion provides the basis for the kinds of social and emotional competencies that are important for success in almost any job.  Furthermore, as the pace of change increases and the world of work makes ever greater demands on a person’s cognitive, emotional, and physical resources, this particular set of abilities will become increasingly important.”  Zhao states. “Today, we are in the midst of a significant transformation.  Globalization, the multitude of forces that have made our world smaller and more integrated, is likely to turn the world into a global village where geographical distance matters little, and our lives are affected by as much as, if not more than, our next-door neighbors.”  He suggests that in order to develop Americans with valuable talents, we acquire more right brained skills.  We also need to inspire creativity.  Zhao lists some ideas for promoting globalization in our schools.  At the present time schools can develop international partners by using epals and offering foreign languages through technology.

    A common theme that has run throughout my learning is that because our world is changing, that we need to prepare our students to develop varied intelligences that will help them to succeed in our global world.  We need to inspire creativity as well as develop emotional intelligence.

Aesthetic Qualities of Technology and Education

    “The aesthetic becomes a casualty in American education.”  This line from “Learning and Teaching the Ways of Knowing,” illustrates that American education lacks the appreciation for aesthetic learning.  It is questioned, “How do we help students experience the aesthetic aspects of language?” Especially in a society in which it is required that each teacher covers numerous Grade Level Content Standards, do we neglect the arts and integration of aesthetic appreciation.  The arts seem to be considered luxuries. 

    If educators begin to integrate technology into lessons that evoke emotion and feeling, then students will be able to make connections and “see how each piece is a part of a larger whole.”  Bringing attention to the aesthetics in school curriculum also allows students to develop sensibilities about our world.  It is necessary for schools to provide students with experiences that move students to feel compelled about what they study.  Passing state mandated tests does not always demonstrate a student’s understanding of a subject as well as an emotional connection to a feeling that was created through a student’s learning.

    In what ways can schools effectively provide experiences that evoke emotions, feelings, and cause the students to connect with the subject matter on a different level?  I do believe that if a teacher is truly interested and compelled by the subject matter that they teach, then they will be able to create more lessons with aesthetic connections.

    In the article “Learning and Teaching the Ways of Knowing,” it states, “Are students aware of the aesthetic aspects of mathematic, and if not, what can we do about it?”  There are a number of thoughts that come to my mind about how to integrate the arts, math, and technology at the elementary level.  Photography could be used to teach students about various mathematical concepts such as shapes, lines, symmetry, congruence, and patterns.  Students could either take photos of these concepts or analyze photos taken by others.  Students could create films to explain their understanding about various methods in which one math problem was solved.  Many times students are encouraged to draw a picture to solve a problem, but what if they went a step further and created something from their drawing such as a podcast or a video?  When students create something that is aesthetically pleasing that demonstrates their learning,  they will have the chance to feel the compelling experience that evokes feeling and emotion in  their learning.

Website Development and Online Experiences

    I think that most important element of my learning experience in the Master of Educational Technology program was learning about website development for educational purposes.  At the beginning of my journey, one of the main components of technology that I was interested in was creating a classroom webpage.  Throughout the Master’s of Educational Technology program, I have obtained skills and knowledge about how to publish websites in a number of ways.  My main classroom website has been created through the use of free publishing software, NVU and Filezilla.  I have purchased the domain educationextras.com for professional use. 

    I use my website to provide information to parents including my teaching philosophy, important classroom events, lesson plans, the educational technology standards, student products, teacher resources, tutorials, and student links. I have found that the most accessed part of my website is the Student Links page.  For students at the elementary level it is easy for them to click on links from this site rather than type in a whole website address.  I have placed video tutorials on this page that students can access to view directions for specific assignments.  I also use the Student Links page to place documents such as Word or Excel files that I need to share with them.  In a sense I use my webpage to bring online learning experiences to my students.

    There are also a number of free online website publishers that allow one to create professional websites easily.  I have used Weebly and Google Sites to create websites as well.  One benefit to using an online publisher is that a website can be easily updated from any location.  Because I have had so many teachers approach me wanting to learn how to create their own websites.  I have created a number of online tutorials for teachers in my district to use to create classroom websites. 

    Creating a website has allowed me to easily share information with parents, students, and the community.  Students love having their projects displayed on my website.   One of my favorite parts of the MAET program was the design element that went hand in hand with website creation. 

Web 2.0 in Education

    The possibilities of integrating Web 2.0  technologies into the educational curriculum is ever changing and endless as new and emerging technologies are introduced daily.  Many technologies provide a platform for collaboration.  Collaborative projects can now take place through the use of wikis, Google Docs, Google Presentations, and Google Sites.  There is also the possibility to deliver instruction through social networking sites such as Facebook and Ning.  Teachers and students have the ability to use a variety of multi media to present information.  Numerous sites enable us to upload video such as YouTube, SchoolTube, and TeacherTube.  We can upload slideshows to SlideShare.  The ability to share and bookmark important websites is now simple through the use of social bookmarking sites such as Delicious or ikeepbookmarks.  Some other Web 2.0 applications I have expllored include Scratch, Prezi, Wordle, Voki, Jing, Voicethread, Ning, ManyEyes, Google Earth, Scratch and Pixton, just to name a few.

    The use of collaborative Web 2.0 tools make it possible for teachers to create a rich physical and social learning environment. “To support children’s learning in science, teachers must be willing to try to understand the ideas and formulations children have made and are making and to guide their instruction accordingly.  This means the teacher accepts and supports a wide variety of views and encourages real dialogue and debate among the children.  This also means creating a rich physical and social leaning environment in which new questions, explorations, and investigations can arise, and in which every step is not dictated (Worth).”  

    I have explored learning and teaching with cognitive tools on the web.  In one of my courses, my group explored Scratch, which is a programming language that allows students to create animations, stories, or games.  This activity required us to be very self-directed in our learning, because we had to research the software and teach ourselves how to use the programming language in Scratch.   Because of the method in which we learned about the program, I feel that I have a deeper understanding of Scratch.  In my classroom I want to create lessons that will encourage students to be self-directed in their learning as well.  This type of learning leads to a deeper understanding of material.  “Outside of school, learning almost always takes place within the context of purposeful activity:  people learn because they need to know how to do something important, and they can see examples of what it looks like to accomplish those tasks (Levstik and Barton 1997).”  I believe that purposeful learning causes one to become self-directed in their learning.  Therefore I believe that it is important to make learning purposeful in the classroom in order to instill this value in students.

My Educational Technology Philosophy

    My experiences have led me to develop my educational technology philosophy.  I believe that incorporating technology into the classroom is critical.  Today’s students need to become productive members of our society and in order to function, live productively, and learn effectively.  In our digital world it is of utmost importance that students learn about gathering and presenting information with the use of technology.  As students communicate and collaborate with various technologies, they will develop interpersonal skills as well as become educated individuals.  The use of technology in the classroom is a huge motivational tool as well.  If students know that their work will be published on the internet for a real audience, it encourages them to display higher quality work.

  • In the classroom students should be learning about various methods of conducting research and gathering information using the internet. 
  •  As students evaluate and select information to conduct research, they will simultaneously develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision making skills.
  • Many applications inspire students to use creativity and innovation in their work.  There are many presenting tools available for students to use when presenting information such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.    Students can create podcasts to broadcast information gathered.  Google now offers a number of free applications that students might use as well to present information such as Google Docs (which is similar to a word processing program) and Google Page Creator (which allows one to create web pages).  Incorporating technology into the curriculum encourages students to think “out of the box,” when designing various publications. 
  • Integrating communication and collaboration technologies into the classroom enables teachers to expose students to a wealth of information that otherwise could not be possible.  
  • Exposing students to technology in the classroom, prepares students for experiences that they will encounter as adults.  In order to compete in our global society we need to give our students appropriate technology skills as well as encourage creative thinking.
    Throughout my teaching career I want to bring lessons and experiences to my students

that will prepare them for the real world as well as develop creative critical thinkers.  When

they look back on their learning I want them to remember the compelling experiences that

took place and use their knowledge to move forward.

Click here to read "Teacher, Technology, Tomorrow."
This article demonstrates my thoughts regarding my future
 as an educator and life long learner.

 

Works Cited

Barton K. and Levstik L. (1997). "Doing History:  Investigating With Children in   Elementary and Middle Schools." (9-13).

Eisner, Elliiot.  (1985).  "Learning and Teaching the Ways of Knowing."(23-35).  The University of Chicago Press.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2009, May). "Too Cool for School? No Way! Learning & Leading with Technology", (36)7. 14-18.

November, Alan (2004). "Empowering Students With Technology. California:Corwin Press

Worth, K.  "The Power of Children’s Thinking."

Zhao, Young.   “Emotional Intelligence:  What is it and Why it Matters.”