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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Course Reflection for Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work, and Society



I am just finishing a class at Walden University called Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work, and Society.
This course has helped me develop new technology skills as I have learned to create this blog and to participate in the larger educational community by reading and contributing to other
educator’s blogs. I have also learned to create both a wiki page and a podcast; two 21st century skills that many of my students already possess, and something they will enjoy as relevant instructional tools in my classroom. Additionally, I now understand how to use RSS feed subscriptions to gather information and to manage all the blogs I am interested in, and to use social bookmarking to share my resources; which are skills I look forward to teaching my students. Finally, the most meaningful learning, for me, is my new awareness of the potential improvements in learning and teaching that the thoughtful integration of technology offers our schools. I am convinced that integrating Web 2.0 tools into public schools is necessary to prepare our students for the future they are facing.

Wikis in the Classroom

Designing and contributing to a Wiki with my Walden classmates led me to see how collaboration can result in the development of a dynamic and useful learning tool. In our case, we were able to share resources, ideas, and opinions about educator websites. This ability to “coconstruct” (Richardson, 2009, p.61) is so important to share with students, because the workplace of the 21st century demands a sense of personal responsibility combined with the ability to contribute productively to team projects.

According to Hof (2007) “It's an emerging dynamic variously dubbed mass collaboration, peer production, or crowdsourcing. Whatever the name, collective efforts are exploding online—from the volunteer-written reference site Wikipedia to Google's search engine” (p.1). This concept of collective efforts extends to the workplace, as well. “New social computing tools such as wikis and blogs put unprecedented communication power in the hands of employees” (Tapscott and Williams, 2007, p.1). As the workplace demands increasing collaboration and communication skills, so should the classroom.

By experimenting with this technology tool in my course, I now know how to present and monitor a wiki with students in ways that encourage individual accountability as well as cooperative learning. I am able to set up a password-protected Wiki site for students, and (my favorite feature) to track all the contributions and edits performed by each student on the site. Students can now write for a genuine audience on their wiki sites, can learn from and question each other in ways they previously could not, and can experience “a very democratic process of knowledge creation” (Richardson, 2009, p. 61) rather than viewing me as their primary source of information.

One of the long-term goals I have set for myself in my own classroom is to integrate the use of Wikis into my ELA instruction. Thornburg (Laureate, 2008) describes how 2.0 tools like wikis can be integrated into the curriculum to create “cooperative and engaging learning experiences for students.” For example, I have designed a lesson plan requiring groups of students to design wiki spaces devoted to the Jazz Age, to complement their reading of The Great Gatsby. This allows them to better understand the setting and the characters of a novel that is often quite foreign to today’s students.

I foresee using this tool regularly during other literature units, as well, to allow students to learn from each other and to interact within an environment I can view and guide. I will demonstrate that I have met my goal of utilizing Wikis by compiling digital artifacts created by students throughout these units. As Richardson (2009) points out, “all of those collectively assembled artifacts could serve as a starting point for future classes to then edit and add to” (p. 61). They will also serve as models for future classes creating wikis on new topics, and for colleagues who wish to use this tool.

I will integrate wikis into my instruction while meeting the Maine Learning Results standards that remain my teaching objectives, since they allow students to explore the themes and resources their writing assignments have required before, but in new ways. I will now also be addressing the National Educational Technology Standards for ICT literate students; which include: “Creativity and Innovation, Communication and Collaboration, Research and Information Fluency, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making, Digital Citizenship, and Technology Operations and Concepts” (ISTE, 2007).

Teaching in the 21st Century

Even more important than the specific tools I have learned to use, my studies within this course have helped me see how integrating technology into my lessons can improve my instruction and assessments as an ELA teacher, and how it can increase student engagement and improve learning. Students who grow up in a digital age, and who will work in a future that values creativity and technological expertise, need teachers who are willing to face the challenge of updating our practices and making the classroom more student-centered.

My second long-term goal for my classroom, then, is to focus on the NETS standards listed above, along with my current Maine Learning Results standards, in order to adapt my lessons to the needs of today’s students. By connecting new ways of doing things to methods students are already familiar with, I will ease them into using these 21st century skills. For example, while my students are accustomed to writing reflectively in reading logs as they complete a novel, the skills involved in doing so through a blog are new to them. By transferring the reading logs into a blog format, students are able to do new things, such as viewing and responding to the work of their peers more readily, and constructing an understanding of the literature collectively.

Over the next couple of years, I envision myself making changes such as collaborating globally with other teachers when designing English lesson plans, and asking students to do the same as they create literature projects. This certainly incorporates the standards of communication and collaboration, and digital citizenship, and I believe it will also lead to greater creativity and innovation, and improved critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making skills.

One of the most exciting aspects of this new mind-set in teaching is that technology can aid me in differentiating for each of my students’ learning needs. When I can communicate with students online, it provides more time to guide their learning, direct them to necessary resources, and answer individual questions.

I will demonstrate that I am meeting this goal by recording the NETS standards I cover in each lesson plan, just as I currently record the Maine Learning Results standards for each lesson plan. This allows me to reflect on my instructional strategies and make adjustments accordingly, so that I am addressing all the standards I feel are most important for my students.

I will continue to expand my knowledge of technology integration to improve student achievement through the new resources I have learned about, including several websites for which I now receive updates through RSS feeds I subscribe to. I have just ordered Freidman’s 2005 book The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century because so many of the resources I read in this course made reference to this work. I am only a beginner in this process of integrating Web 2.0 tools in my classroom, but I believe the process will ultimately empower students. Gradually, schools will adapt to societal changes, until students will eventually have more flexible schedules and more individualized instruction and assessment, thanks to technology. They will also have more connections with the “real world” of work as they learn to utilize these tools, which will make schools more meaningful and engaging for learners.

References

Hof, R. (2007, August 20). The end of work as you know it. Businessweek.com. Retrieved from
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_34/b4047426.htm?chan
=search

ISTE.Org: Profiles for Technology (ICT) Literate Students. Retrieved from
http://www.iste.org/Content/NavigationMenu/NETS/ForStudents/
2007Standards/NETS-S_2007_Student_Profiles.pdf

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008). [DVD]. Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work, and Society, “Spotlight on technology: collaboration through Wiki.” Baltimore, MD. Featuring Dr. David Thornburg, PhD.

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Tapscott, D., & Williams, A. (2007, March 26). The Wiki workplace. Businessweek.com. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/mar2007/id20070326_237620.
htm?chan=search

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