In the beginning there was the Internet
As a teacher, I have always been one to readily adopt technology in my classroom. The Internet has offered an essential means to get the outside world into my French classroom. I had used WebQuests to help my students experience the French language and culture, but I knew that there was so much more that I could do to engage and connect them.
In 2010, my youngest child was born, and I decided that it was finally time to earn my graduate degree. After researching Master’s Degrees, I seemed to continuously return to technology. I was intrigued as I watched how technology was changing so many facets of education from the way teachers were presenting material to the way students were demonstrating their understanding. In 2011, I came across a YouTube video that changed, forever, the structure of my classroom. Two chemistry teachers from Colorado introduced me to the idea of running a flipped classroom, where students take notes or gain the required information outside of the classroom and spend their class time reinforcing the material. The flipped classroom idea would require that I try new things, learn how to use technologies that I had never attempted before and change the culture of my classroom. A Master’s Degree in Educational Technology would help me to bridge that gap from having the knowledge of tech “tools” to the best practices to put those tools to use.
Each program in my course of study has offered a new perspective for my teaching methods. I have been challenged to examine my current practices, including the way that I presently use technology, and identify whether or not my students are involved in meaningful learning and appropriate assessment. I have learned skills to make what I do with my students more effective in many ways.
Creativity, Cropping and Coding
One of the most unexpected gains from this program is my ability to create and manipulate many different forms of digital media. Not only did I learn how to manipulate images to suit my needs for classroom activities, as well as for my website, but I also learned that I enjoy creating different mediums from images to audio. I have truly found a passion in taking ideas and making them a reality by creatively putting together video, audio or code.
Prior to this program, I had a basic class website that was primarily used for students and parents, to access our assignment calendar, as well as documents such as vocabulary lists and test reviews. I relied on my husband’s knowledge of web-coding if I wanted anything changed or added to my site. After taking two coding classes, I can proudly say that I am now able to maintain my class website. High school students today are inundated with media. Media is all around them, every minute of the day. In order for my class website to be a tool that students would find engaging, and be willing to use, I needed to create an attractive, professional site that would be easy to navigate. Introduction to Web Development, and Intermediate Web Development helped me use the skills that I learned to create such a site. Additionally, I learned how to perform a Usability Test, to insure that what I had created was meeting the needs my students.
As I have continued to successfully run a flipped classroom, I have been active in promoting the idea. After presenting at several conferences, and being represented in several publications, I began to receive emails, on a daily basis, from other teachers who also wanted to change to the flipped format. The website that I created for Introduction to Web Development has served as a valuable resource for those teachers. I have been able to explain the process, as well as provide opinions of the different tools available to anyone who is interested.
One of the most effective learning tools that the Internet offers is collaboration. Through collaboration with my classmates in my program I have seen that the active learning that takes place when students work together cannot be substituted. For an educator, collaboration is two-fold: collaboration should take place with other teachers, and collaboration should take place between students, as well as between students and “authorities” in the field in order for first-hand knowledge to be shared.
Teachers can take advantage of the knowledge and experiences of other educators by sharing stories and ideas through social media outlets. There are hundreds of places where teachers can become “connected” with other educators in order to create an effective Personal Learning Network. Teachers are doing wonderful things with their students every day; we should rely on each other to encourage us as we try new things in our classroom. I have adapted lessons for use in my classroom from teacher-leaders through connections on Edmodo or Twitter. Likewise, I have received feedback, as educators have read my blog and adapted my ideas for their students.
The need for teachers to provide opportunities for students to collaborate with others is another important aspect that I have learned to incorporate into my classroom. With programs such as Google Docs, collaboration between students has never been easier. Just as teachers can learn from each other, so too, can students learn from each other. I enjoyed creating a learning activity in Learning with the Internet, with which students collaborate with other students in the US and around the world in order to learn about their similarities and differences.
Using technology efficiently means choosing the correct technology for the job. That same idea is essential with assessment. Technology and Assessment caused me to question current assessment practices. I found myself assessing just to assess, but not necessarily in the most appropriate way. After teaching for more than a decade, I have come to the realization that I want my students to gain an understanding of the material, even if it takes several tries at assessment. I have progressed from students either “get it” or they don’t “get it” to “getting it” is really a work in progress. I now offer students choices in how they show me their understanding of the material by presenting information in whatever way their talents would be best used. From drawing to creating a video, students can demonstrate their understanding in different ways. In this multi-step project students chose the format to demonstrate what we had learned.
The teacher that I am today is quite different than than the teacher that I was three years ago. The culture of my classroom has changed from me as the single provider of content to me facilitating the discovery of the content through different avenues. The structure of my learning units, from the presentation to the assessment, has improved to encompass the idea that learning happens best when it is an ongoing process.
Pulling from knowledge gained from Instructional Systems Designs, Technology and Assessment and many other courses that I have taken, I understand that more effective learning takes place when the learning is authentic and directed by students. I strive to move everything that we do to be a more authentic situation for my students. By working with native speakers through collaboration through the web, my students are gaining first-hand knowledge about the language instead of being told by me or a textbook. Assessing student knowledge has evolved from a single test at the end of the unit to a series of assessment tools that allow students to correct mistakes and change previous work in order to demonstrate their understanding in various ways. Instead of a “one-size” fits all assessment, the choice of assessment allows students to demonstrate their understanding in creative ways. I now have students who are enjoying more success and less failure.
The coursework through the MU Master’s program emphasizing Technology in Schools has challenged my way of thinking and introduced me to new ideas regarding learning. Although technology has been a regular part of my classroom instruction, the way that I have used technology has greatly changed. Today I strive for technology use, as defined by Grappling’s Spectrum of Technology Use, to transform what we do in the classroom. My students’ roles have “expanded to include explorers, producers of knowledge, and self-directed learners”. Furthermore, this learning is taking place at any time, not just within the four walls of my classroom.