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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Course Reflection: Integrating Technology



My most recent Walden University course, Integrating Technology Across the Content
Areas, provided me with opportunities to set and work toward te
chnology objectives, goals for increasing student creativity and critical thinking, and plans for integrating technology with ELA content. I learned that technology objectives and ELA content objectives go hand in hand,
and they support each other as overall learning objectives for my students. For instance, the Maine’s Learning Results (2007) ELA standard G. states “students will use stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing and speaking to explore ideas, to present lines of thought, to represent and reflect on human experience, and to communicate feelings, knowledge, and opinions” (Dept. of Ed., online). It goes on to say, “writing and speaking for various purposes and for different audiences requires rhetorical skill and stylistic competence” (Dept. of Ed., 2007, online). Students master these standards when I also teach to meet the NETS-S standard 2., which says students “interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media, communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats, develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures, and contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems” (ISTE, 2007, online).
I also learned that because of the ever-changing nature of technology in education, developing self-directed learning skills is essential to remaining current in this field. One of the strategies I adopted for independent learning is following a “GAME plan” (Cennamo, Ross, and Ertmer, 2009, p. 3). My plan throughout this course was as follows:
G. Goals:
a. "Model Digital-Age Work and Learning"
Indicator: "collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation" (NETS-T, 2008, online).
b. "Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility"
Indicator: "develop and model cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with colleagues and students of other cultures using digital-age communication and collaboration tools" (NETS-T, 2008. online).
A. Actions:
i. Exploring resources about digital storytelling and digital citizenship, and compiling a resource link list for both topics.
ii. Following a Digiteen blog and a Flat Classroom Projects blog on Twitter to learn about the educational uses of digital storytelling.
iii. Designing a digital storytelling project myself, to use as an example for students and to familiarize myself with the digital tools necessary for digital storytelling.
iv. Planning a digital storytelling lesson for an ELA unit about the fantasy genre.
v. Designing a problem-based learning activity requiring students to email an author, comment on an author’s blog, or participate in an online dialogue about an author and his or her work.
vi. Participating in online communication with teachers and students of education to learn collaboratively by joining the professional learning communities National Writing Project and November Learning Connect, and by creating a wiki with Walden classmates.
vii. Developing a wiki for Odyssey of the Mind students to use for collaborative problem solving.
M. Monitor
I discovered that my two goals complemented each other, and I decided to combine lessons about digital citizenship and responsibility with lessons about digital storytelling. I designed a fantasy genre unit that requires students to collaborate online to practice digital-age communication skills as they develop a wiki, and then to share their digital stories online and to provide each other with comments and suggestions online. This unit requires students to communicate online with an author or with other fans of an author, and to invite students from diverse classrooms to view and to comment on their wiki and their digital storytelling project.
I learned that I need to schedule time each day to work on my learning goals, to monitor my use of time carefully, and to keep a checklist of due dates for pieces I am working on; because I tend to spend a lot of time exploring resources and I need to use my limited time effectively. I also learned that I can use these digital learning tools I am exploring to improve my ability to differentiate instruction and assessment for each of my students. This is a new challenge for me in my diverse ELA classroom, and digital learning tools allow me to connect with students of different learning styles through various forms of media, and to scaffold students’ learning activities individually by providing resources and comments digitally as needed. I am able to increase student choice in my assignments and assessments as I learn to use more tools.
E. Evaluate and Extend
As a result of my learning from this course, developing a GAME plan and following a schedule when working on self-directed learning activities are strategies I will share with students as I integrate technology in my ELA content area. Students will become empowered learners when they can proficiently set goals, plan the actions needed to meet their goals, metacognitively monitor and evaluate their own learning, and select appropriate learning strategies as they work. As I discovered, students will most effectively meet their goals if they develop a checklist and follow a timeline.
Additionally, I did learn to model digital-age learning through collaboration and the use of creativity and innovation. I learned to use email, blogs, wikis, and digital storytelling for authentic purposes in my ELA classroom. All of these learning activities mesh with my content area objectives regarding communication skills, self-expression, critical thinking, and writing and speaking for various purposes and with various audiences in mind. Further, all of these activities help promote and model responsible use of digital tools and the use of digital-age communication and collaboration tools. Therefore, I met my own learning goals while also improving my understanding of the independent learning process.
Conclusion
My students will benefit in several ways from my newly developed skills. I am learning to use technology effectively, to improve learning and to promote creativity. I am now more likely to plan collaborative instructional activities both online and face to face, because the ability to work collaboratively is an important 21st century skill that I have benefitted from as a learner. I am now better able to differentiate within my classroom, because I can use digital communication tools effectively to connect with students and to monitor, support, and assess students. Perhaps most importantly, I am planning more student-centered, project-based learning activities for my ELA students. Cennamo, Ross, and Ertmer state “authentic instruction is based on active, experiential learning” (p. 31) because students learn best by doing, rather than by simply listening. I can now teach students to set their own goals, engage in active learning about topics that truly interest them, collaborate with peers and connect with experts using reliable online resources, and to publish quality products online for authentic audiences.
In ELA classes, we will continue to meet the content area objectives we have always worked toward, such as to “participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities” (NCTE, 2010, online). However, students can now do so through more memorable, meaningful, and relevant means. They can research authors online instead of in print libraries, create interactive web pages instead of book posters, and discuss texts in online forums instead of through double entry reading journals in notebooks. I have also learned to teach students how to compile online portfolios reflecting their learning processes and demonstrating their proficiency in these standards.
My final thought on my latest course is that technology integration makes learning more collaborative between teacher and student, as well as among fellow teachers and among fellow students. As we are all working toward the same goal…the highest quality of education for every student…this makes a lot of sense to me.
References:
Cennamo, K., Ross, J. & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom
use: A standards-based approach. (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Belmont,
CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Department of Education. (2007). Maine learning results. Augusta, ME: State of Maine.
Retrieved from http://www.state.me.us/education/lres/ela.htm
ISTE. (2007). NETS for students 2007. ISTE: online. Retrieved December 15, 2010 from
http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-students/nets-student-standards-2007.aspx
ISTE. (2008). NETS for teachers 2008: Standards. ISTE: online. Retrieved November 10, 2010
from http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-teachers/nets-for-teachers-2008.aspx
NCTE. (2010). NCTE / IRA Standards for the English language arts. NCTE: online. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/standards.

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