Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Final Reflection

As I reviewed my “Personal Theory of Learning”, I realized that it has not really changed throughout this course. I still believe that a student’s personal experiences and environment influence how new concepts are interpreted and applied. I will continue to consider multiple intelligences and learning styles as I plan and implement lessons. Technology makes differentiation easier and also provides a greater variety of assessment methods than the traditional paper and pencil work. Each year of experience increases my understanding of how my students think and learn. As I become more adept at identifying the differences in my students, I will be able to modify the lessons so that each student has the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the content.

This course has also helped me understand the differences between using technology as an instructional tool and using technology as a learning tool. I try to avoid treating my Promethean board as a glorified overhead projector. However, I could do a much better job of creating interactive, student-centered lessons and activities that will utilize the full functionality of this tool. One of the new technology tools that I have used in this course is VoiceThread. Since one of my goals is to give my students more opportunities to experience the “outside” world, VoiceThread could be the right tool for the job. District guidelines on instant messaging and time zone differences make it almost impossible to provide live communication with students in distant places. VoiceThread would provide that audio/visual contact without requiring a live connection. To connect with students in another state or country, I have also set up a class profile on ePals. This site provides the ability to collaborate with students around the world. Together, these two tools will allow my students to connect, communicate, and collaborate with students they would otherwise never meet. These interactions will help them grow as citizens of a global community. These tools will also make implementing a collaborative online project much easier!

Finally, the two long-term goals I have set regarding technology integration in the classroom are as follows: 1) Increase my students' media literacy and 2) focus more on student-centered activities, so that I use technology for learning, instead of just instruction.

"Media literacy is the ability to sift through and analyze the messages that inform, entertain and sell to us every day. It's the ability to bring critical thinking skills to bear on all media— from music videos and Web environments to product placement in films and virtual displays on NHL hockey boards. It's about asking pertinent questions about what's there, and noticing what's not there. And it's the instinct to question what lies behind media productions— the motives, the money, the values and the ownership— and to be aware of how these factors influence content. Media education encourages a probing approach to the world of media: Who is this message intended for? Who wants to reach this audience, and why? From whose perspective is this story told? Whose voices are heard, and whose are absent? What strategies does this message use to get my attention and make me feel included? In our world of multi-tasking, commercialism, globalization and interactivity, media education isn't about having the right answers—it's about asking the right questions. The result is lifelong empowerment of the learner and citizen."

(Source: Jane Tallim, Education Specialist, The Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario)

Secondly, by creating more student-centered activities, technology becomes a learning tool, rather than just an instructional tool. As students take more responsibility for their own learning, they also develop a deeper sense of ownership of the educational process. When learning is real, relevant, and engaging, students find more worth in completing assignments and accomplishing goals. Without their "buy-in", we are just spinning our wheels in the classroom.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Voice Thread

Check out my first voice thread. This is a completely new technology for me, but I can definitely see the possibilities it offers.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Social Learning

Our school is in a small, rural community in South Carolina. Our student population is fairly homogeneous. With limited resources, many of our students rarely travel far from home. Opportunities to meet and learn from students in other states and other countries are virtually nonexistent. However, the Internet provides a way to create these opportunities...virtually. In my personal mission statement, I acknowledge my responsibility to help my students become responsible, ethical citizens of their school, their community, and their world. One way to accomplish that is to provide opportunities to participate in distance learning with students around the world.

Web resources are a wonderful addition to the instructional tools available to teachers today. Our text lists resources such as webquests, wikis, email pen pals, and collaborative organizing through calendar services (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K, 2007). This week, I was notified that a cooperative learning project I proposed has been funded. In this project, my students will investigate issues related to the availability of clean, safe drinking water. As they research and test local water sources, I would like for them to collaborate on this project with students in a distant location. Our text mentioned email pen pal services as a way to make the necessary contacts. Another resource that is highly recommended is the Flat Classroom Project ( ).

Cooperative learning projects are an important part of our curriculum, yet the opportunities for exposure to new or different ideas are limited. My hope is that virtual collaborative projects such as this will make global issues more real and relevant to students who have little knowledge of the world outside of their county or state. Social learning will then be a much more powerful experience for these students.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.