I’m Future Ready – Are We?

I was recently exploring the website medium.com/bright, and came across some great articles about technology and education.  One article in particular caught my eye, “I’m Future Ready – Are We?”.  This article was written my Matt Head and in this article he talks about how school districts claim to be “future ready” but Matt is not convinced they are.  Many school districts claim they are ready for technology because they have bought quality devices.  However, just having the quality devices is not enough.  More steps need to be taken to prepare teachers, families, and students for the use of technology in the classroom.  This includes developing a culture of digital learning where families have reliable access to high-speed internet, have quality content available, and where students, families, and teachers are taught how to use that quality content.  It’s more than just giving students devices, it’s giving them the tools necessary to use those devices.

I agree with Matt and that we need to give students the proper tools to use technology.  It is not enough to just give students computer and send them on their way.  A lot of preparation needs to go into getting the community ready for technology in the classroom, way before any devices are sent home.  If the appropriate steps are not taken to create a digital learning environment then the technology becomes useless.

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Digital Equity

In today’s day and age having access to the Internet is seen as a right that should be available to everyone.  However, for many that is not the case.  Today, many teachers are requiring more and more assignments to be completed using computers and the Internet.  The Internet is a great tool for students to use and opens students up to a great deal of information.  Students say that by using the Internet for assignments they feel more connected to their teacher and have the opportunity to learn more than they ever thought they could.  This is great for the students that have access to computers and the Internet on a daily basis, but what about the students who do not have that access?

This is known as the digital divide, where there is a gap between students who have access to modern technology and those who do not have that access.  Students who do not have access to technology or the Internet must rely on others in order to keep up with their classes.  This is difficult for many families because they must take time out of their day to find places that offer free Internet and sometimes even places that offer devices for them to use.  This can create a strain on students and their families.  Michael Mills referenced the Matthew Affect, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  The students with access to technology have the opportunity to gain more information and to excel in school and beyond.  While the students without access to technology tend to fall further behind.  This is not fair to students because everyone should be given the proper tools to succeed.

One solution many schools have in order to close the digital divide is to give students their own devices.  This is a great solution, however, with access to computers students should also be given the proper tools on how to use them.  You can give someone a fishing pole, but without teaching that person how to use it they will not catch any fish.  This concept can apply to the use of computers and the Internet.  We must give our students the proper tools to succeed, or the computer becomes useless and will be used for ways that are not educational.  A lot of this responsibility falls on the teacher, where it is their job to act as a guide for the students and to teach them the proper way to use the computer and its resources.

As a future teacher, to help close the digital divide, I can ensure that students have access to computers and the Internet.   One way I can ensure this is to allow students to stay after school on certain days, where they have access to these tools.  This will allow students to complete assignments which they may not have been able to complete otherwise.  Another strategy I can use is to only use the Internet and computers as a tool for in class assignments, which completely eliminates the need for them outside of my classroom.  It will be interesting to see how the use of technology will change in the coming years and if more access to technology will be given to students.

Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up 2014 Student Survey

Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up 2014 Student Survey was a very interesting read which focused on the impact technology has made both in and outside of the classroom.  Due to technology, the traditional classroom is changing, as well as the way teachers present information and the way students learn.  Blended learning environments are becoming more popular with approximately one-quarter of middle and high school students learning in them.  Blended learning is an environment where there is supervised learning in a traditional classroom and self-paced learning that is online, where students have more control over their learning.  VirtualSpeak Up learning environments allow instructional materials and interactions to be facilitated over an Internet connection.  So far, blended classrooms and virtual learning environments appear to be a positive change, because students who have technology in their classroom or who participate in a virtual learning environment say the use of technology has increased their interest and engagement in what they are learning.

As technology becomes more available, I believe we will see a continued increase in the use of blended learning and virtual learning environments, and the traditional classroom will be forever changed.  The use of technology in my classroom will allow for students to have more opportunities to interact with their classmates as well as more opportunities for them to ask questions.  It will also allow for interesting ways to convey information, such as through a flipped classroom.  By having students watch a flipped classroom for homework, they will be able to come in the next day where they can immediately ask questions and as a class we could have a longer group discussion.  The use of technology will also allow for students to participate in activities such as discussion boards, blogs, and digital stories.  Through these tools, students will hopefully become more engaged in learning.  Overall, I believe the use of technology in the classroom will make instruction and the planning process more interesting.

Ted Talk – Education is Broken

In the Ted Talk Education is Broken, Chris Lehmann opens with the simple fact: High School Stinks.  According to Lehmann, high school stinks because students are constantly being told what to do over and over again.  When students ask why they need to learn something, they are given the response “because you need to know it”.  Students do not know why they need to learn certain things and if they are ever going to use that information in the future.

Lehmann compares school to a factory where students simply move from class to class and that their job is to simply know their place.  Students are not being challenged to learn and apply that knowledge through means that are interesting to them.  Too much focus is being placed on testing, and not on opening a student’s mind to ideas and critical thinking.  This is why Lehmann encourages learning by allowing students to do things that they are good at, instead of restricting them to the traditional ways of teaching.

Schools should be teaching students how to live and become better than who they are today.  The purpose of school is to help students realize who they are and what they are good at.  In order to achieve this students need to be challenged and given more freedom so that they are able to showcase what they know.  If students are working on a project that is important to them, they are more likely to retain that knowledge and are going to be more excited to go to school, and to share what they have learned and created with the world.  If we allow students to build things that matter, high school won’t stink anymore.

It is important as teachers, to encourage our students to do work that is important to them.  If we can allow students to create meaningful projects in class, it presents the students with the opportunity to be creative and share their ideas with the world.  As teachers we have no idea the impact that we will have on a single student’s life.  It is therefore our job to allow students to build things that matter, and tell  students their ideas are important, and that with those ideas they can help change the world.

Bam! Radio

This week we are focusing on podcasts!  Our assignment was to visit Bam! Radio and explore the various podcasts they offer.  I decided to explore the EdTech Radio channel.  The purpose of the EdTech Radio channel is to introduce teachers to various education technology tools and how those tools can be integrated into the classroom.

I decided to listen to An Edtech Minute with ClassCharts.  This was a very brief three minute podcast which discussed the use of the website ClassCharts.  This website allows teachers to have an active seating chart and a behavior tracker all in one website.

The behavior management software allows teachers to monitor student achievement and behavior through a few clicks and can be personalized to meet preexisting school policies.  By actively using the behavior management software, teachers can create seating plans based on a student’s individual needs and abilities.  Students will be seated next to people they work well with, thus improving grades and student behavior.  All of this information can be shared with colleagues, parents, and the students themselves.

ClassCharts is free for individual teachers to use, however, there is a whole school version that can be purchased.   By keeping track of who students work well together with and by creating seating plans accordingly, the whole school version can allow for continued success as they progress in school.

Podcasts are definitely something I would consider using for professional learning in the future.  The use of podcasts allow for quick learning of material and also engage learners.  I was able to learn about an awesome tool in the span of three minutes…you can’t beat that!  There are thousands of podcasts that can be utilized in the classroom, and will allow learning to occur in a new way.  It is important to find a podcast that is going to intrigue learners and not bore them. I believe with the right balance, podcasts can be another effective tool for the classroom!

Creating Word Clouds

Our assignment this week was to explore different visualization resources that can be used to help enhance our lessons.   I chose Tagul to create my very first word cloud.  Using Tagul, I was able to upload a picture of an American flag, and then import the words to the National Anthem.  Tagul is a very simple website to use and allows you to to customize your cloud and be as creative as you want!  Below is the finished product!

Tagul - National Anthem

Extracurricular Empowerment

For class this week we were asked to view the TEDx video Extracurricular Empowerment.  In this particular video, Scott McLeod begins by discussing the negative headlines and issues that are typically seen when dealing with teens and technology.  McLeod, however, takes a positive approach and introduces us to a nine year old named Martha who lives in Scotland.  Martha was not very fond of her school lunches, so she started taking pictures of them and posted those pictures on her blog.  Along with the pictures she included ratings of the overall food and health, and she even added how many pieces of hair she found…GROSS!  Martha’s blog started gaining recognition from famous chefs and other children around the world.  In the end, Martha used her platform to raise over $200,000 to give to Mary’s Meals, which built a kitchen in Malawi to help with the food insecurity.  This is an amazing thing that Martha was able to accomplish through the use of technology.

McLeod continuesextracurricular empowerment to discuss how we have millions of “Martha’s” in our midst, who are doing great things through the use of technology.  He describes these youth as curious, confident, disciplined, self-directed, enthusiastic, passionate,critical thinkers, and problem-solvers.  So what’s the problem then?  The problem is, all of these positive things are happening outside of school when they need to also be happening in school, as McLeod states, we need to bring the extracurricular into the curricular.  In order to do this we need to get beyond our fear and overriding control.  If we want more of these technological things to happen in school, we need to give students access, something meaningful to work on, and most importantly get out of their way and let them be great.

As teachers it is important to give our students the opportunity to work creatively with technology.  The fact is that technology is only going to become a greater aspect in our lives and it is our job as teachers to make sure they know how to use this technology effectively.  I’m not saying that we should have a free for all when it comes to technology, students should be monitored when using it, but we do not need to limit it to the extent we currently do.  For example, the school I work at now blocks wordpress.com, the website we use for this class.  Blogs can be a useful tool for students and should not necessarily be blocked from a student’s view.  I believe that as technology becomes more prevalent in our lives, schools will allow for more opportunities to use technology in the classroom, therefore giving students the opportunity to become great!