Monday, September 3, 2007

What if technology is not readily available?

By our enrollment in this class I think we all agree that technology is important and is a very useful tool in the classroom. We will be learning how to use technology so that our students can benefit from our knowledge of the topic. By getting absorbed into the content of the class, I think all of us are thinking about how we can apply what we are learning to our future classrooms. But have we stopped to think about the chance that our future classrooms and schools may not have the resources to provide the very technology we are learning to use? This may refer to (and I hope it is) a decreasing number of schools, but what are the options for a teacher that teaches in a school of need? There may not be an up-to-date computer in every classroom, or projectors, or adavanced software. I honestly would just like to know what you think of this situation and what you as a teacher would do. Is it feasible to raise some money, or to petition the state? What are a teacher's options when his/her students are not able to benefit from technology that most other students take for granted?

Working with RefWorks

This is my first experience using RefWorks, and from the sounds of it, it is a new resource for many people in the class as well. I enjoy having a place to compile useful articles in a specific area of study. I was definitely overwhelmed when we started using it though. It's great that the program has so many useful tools, but I really needed the tutorial from Thursday's class to navigate and use the program to my advantage. I really like that RefWorks allows the class to share articles with each other as well. I feel that this class, and the resources that it'll provide for us will be truly beneficial for both the remainder of my college career, but also in my future classroom. I was looking at the calendar for the course and I look forward to what this class has to offer. For example, I'm really looking forward to learning how to use Excel, it may be simple to other people but I've never had to use the program before so I feel that it will be very helpful for me. I think this class will provide some great opportunities for me that will make me a more organized, creative, up-to-date, and sustainable teacher.

Browsing for Articles

Browsing Articles on Technology

While browsing many databases for articles about instituting technology in the classroom I found it more difficult to find information about integrating literature with the use of technology. Looking back into my education path, I have never had a class establish a use of technology in any language art classrooms. I feel there is much that a teacher could do to incorporate the advances in technology.

While reading an article called “Integrating Literature and the Arts into Technology-Based Instruction: A New Model for Educators” the author even states, “…the importance of reaching students using all the paths to learning, regardless of the curriculum standards that are in place. While technology is certainly a tool to help students master content, it also offers higher-level experiences that allow students to apply their learning in meaningful ways”.

I found this quote moving because I think some educators forget that technology can enhance a students ability to apply themselves in that subject matter. Most students are aware of the information they can obtain from the uses of technology, however I feel that teachers underestimate the ability students have in furthering their education by applying it through the use of technology.

I remember working with my seventh grade classroom last year and the teacher incorporated the use of video. She had her class divide into teams and had them create a project in reference to a book they read. The only requirement was to use the video camera and the editing skills they learned to do the project. This allowed the students to develop their own understanding of the book and further their education by producing something rather original. This also incorporated another form of learning; which was a change of pace from the typical book report.

It is important though to recognize that some classrooms do not have all the opportunities as others when it comes to the use of technology. I know that my small rural school did not even have a computer lab until I was a sophomore in high school. This is when teachers need to get creative in how they use the resources available, but still is possible to help students use their own resources to not only incorporate technology in their education but apply what they have learned in new ways.

Just some thoughts…

Technology in the Classroom

After reading the article Technology and English Studies: Innovative Professional Path edited by James A. Inman and Beth L. Hewitt and reading other peoples posts on using technology in classroom, I think that technology can definitely enhance the learning process or lessons. Lessons can be made more interesting and appealing to students of all abilities and capacities. Students can gain multiple understandings of a given topic as a result of incorporating technology as well.

The problem that I have seen with technology in the classroom from both the teacher and student perspective is that sometimes technology can be overused. Constantly using power points instead of lecturing will cause students to become tired and bored with the power point technology. Also, focus is often directed away from the lesson and onto the specific technology that is being used in the lesson. For instance, if a teacher played music from the Civil War to help create an 1860 American aesthetic, students could become more interested in what is on the ipod rather than the reason for using the ipod: to establish the 1860 atmosphere.

The solution to focus problems are simple: enforce strict rules when applying technology and do not overuse it. This will make sure students focus on the lesson rather than the technology. It will also assure that the reason for using technology, to enhance the lesson, is maintained.

Technology and English

Searching for the articles was more difficult than I imagined. Using the data bases, I had a hard time finding relevant articles about technology and English classes. I found articles about using technology to teach english language learners, but not many about using technology to teach literature. In high school, my AP English teacher incorporated much technology into our course. One of our main assignments was to write on the message boards for Blackboard.com. This site was used to make about 3 posts per week about what we were reading and also comment on other people's posts. I found it to be a lot of work, but it was a great way to share ideas with everyone. It also left time in class for other discussions or continuations of our online discussions. I would definitely use Blackboard.com in my classroom. We also used the basics- word, powerpoint, etc. for projects and presentations. It would be interesting to see what other ideas people have for incorporating technology in the English classroom.

The Cognitive Tutor

I'm not sure if I put my review of the article on refworks in the correct spot, so I am just going to use this free-write blog to reiterate what I said for my review:

“Technology-Based Math Curriculums” is about how a high school in Pennsylvania collaborated with a local university to create a computer program called Cognitive Tutor to assist in math lessons. The high school teachers and university professors each used their own observations and ideas as to help create the program.

Based on what I read, I think that using such a computer program to aide and foster the learning of mathematics is more than just appropriate, but a superb idea. The article mentioned how the program uses real world problems that students will encounter in the work world. I think that this is important because, as the article also mentioned, students, who are tired of contrived problems, are much more interested in calculating the life span of a threatened rain forest, or how many trips a Medevac helicopter can make on a set budget, than in solving meaningless equations with no context. Furthermore, the program also presents problems in such a way that the students have solid numbers for their starting point, but do not know the ending point, instead of starting from an unknown point to reach a known goal. This is because the researchers at the university believed that students were more successful in solving problems in which they had solid numbers for their starting point. As it turns out, the word problems were easier, and students were more comfortable knowing their starting point.

I also thought it was very advantageous that the Cognitive Tutor was programmed to build a profile of the learning patterns of its users. The program tracks a student’s learning style and pinpoints flaws in reasoning. As mistakes are made, the computer gives the student clues for rethinking the problem so that he or she can get back on track. However, if a student still cannot solve a particular problem, the Cognitive Tutor does not simply tell the student the correct answer. Herein lies where the teacher comes into play. The student must ask for extra help from the teacher in order to solve the problem. I think that this component of the computer program is very important. The teacher must still be involved in the process; we do not want technology to completely replace the role of the teacher because then it would get too impersonal. However, I think it is great that a computer can provide such individual attention to each student. That is one of the difficulties that teachers face, especially now as class sizes continue to grow.

I would definitely like to see this computer program at work, not because I doubt it, but rather because I’m sure that there were plenty of details left out of this article. I have always been a big fan of integrating technology into the classroom, especially considering the fact that technology has become such a big part of our everyday lives. However, I think that teachers who do use technology like the Cognitive Tutor in their classrooms need to remember to not solely rely on the technology to do all of the teaching. I don’t think that anything can ever replace the personal teaching that comes from an actual human being. As we get more and more technological developments to aide in the learning process, teachers need to integrate those technologies while still remembering that they are the teachers and at the end of the day, they are responsible for what their students will learn.