First Real Post

I’ve always wanted to blog, but something has held me back. Perhaps it has been lack of motivation. Perhaps it has been the fear of having my thoughts scrutinized by the public. Well, the way I see it, the best way to overcome both of these obstacles is to dive right in.

Does this thing have spellchecker? asdfjiwvksl

Yup! Good thing. People have horrendous enough English with the use of spellchecker. Dare I even imagine how much more infinitely hideous the Internet would be without its presence at all?

So, what is the purpose of this blog aside from berating the spelling of others? As an education major, I may very soon be surrounded by youths who have grown up with computers at their fingertips. I will be surrounded by students who could run technological circles around me. My response: don’t let this factor intimidate you from using technology in the classroom. After all, don’t most people go into teaching for the love of learning? Therefore, how can I call myself an education major if I’m not willing to eat some humble pie and learn from the students?

Perhaps an even better question is: how can I incorporate this technology to help students learn? I’m not trying to belittle the teaching methods my generation was raised with. On the contrary, one of my education teachers told me that teaching methods don’t really change. The teaching terminology, tools, and attitudes of the teachers – these are the things that are always changing! So, incorporating technology into teaching is just mastering an idea as old as humankind in a new environment.

Enough abstracts, on to practicals.

Q:  How will technology change the classroom layout?

A:  Classrooms have already changed in layout since my high school graduation. SMART boards dominate the front of the class in place of projectors. Classrooms with SMART boards are still teacher-centered, though, so the overall orientation has remained the same: students sit in rows and columns facing the teacher at the front of the classroom.

What about classes where all the students get their own piece of technology? I’ve noticed that these classrooms tend to be more socially oriented. The students sit in groups or circles, or perhaps cluster around a single table. In this classroom the students pair off with iPads. It’s interesting that the teacher is still facing the entire class, but he is no longer the center of attention. Mr. Mitchell is the director of the show, who lets the students take their own initiative. He is the source of feedback, inspiration, and correction, but he is not the source of the show in and of himself. All life is a stage, no? I wonder how effective his teaching method will prove to be in the world of mathematics.

Q:  How would I describe the students’ attitudes toward technology in the classroom?

A:  Across the board, the students were excited to interact with technology in a learning environment. Don’t all of us like playing with new toys? Once the initial luster of the technology wore off, though, the students were still enthusiastic. In Mr. Mitchell’s class, the students were not looking forward to the fact that next year’s class wouldn’t have iPads. They thought it would slow them down, both as individuals and a class. I find this particularly interesting, as most teachers hesitate to incorporate technology for the fear of slowing the class down. Many of us have been in that situation where the lecture was supposed to start half an hour ago, but the teacher doesn’t know how to get the projector system hooked up.

I think the teachers also fear that the technology will become a distraction. Laptops can be used for Facebook and games instead of following along with the lesson. I can personally attest to the fact that I’ve seen laptops used more for goofing off than for lesson enrichment. However, the teachers didn’t incorporate the laptops, but merely tolerated their presence and left the students to their own devices. Perhaps the first role of teachers should be to teach the students how to learn with technology. They should teach them time management, learning applications, and self-control. (e.g., the students in this  classroom were taught to close their laptops whenever the teacher needed their undivided attention.)

There are concerns that the upcoming generation will not know self-control or patience in the immediately gratifying world of virtual interaction. Perhaps, if properly wielded, technology can begin to reverse problems it creates.

Q:  How would I describe the teachers’ attitudes toward technology in the classroom?

A:  The teachers were rather a mixed bag. Some, like the coordinator in this Alaskan school had almost a burning zeal for technology. They had a vision for the future of the school and its students, and that vision would be dimmed without the use of technology. Others were initially skeptical, yet warmed up to the idea once they saw the technology in action. In that same Alaskan school the teachers voiced their initial apprehension towards individual laptops. Would the students goof off? Would they care about class anymore? Would the class fall hopelessly behind and the investment fail miserably? However, the teachers were no longer apprehensive towards the laptops after a few years. Some even praised the technology for making their lessons more applicable to the real world.

In another school, the teacher chose to coordinate a class project with a teacher in Australia. The teacher seemed highly enthusiastic about the entire project. However, I wasn’t sure what the students themselves got out of the entire project. Was the coordination an unnecessary burden? Was the correspondence inspired by the novelty of communications like Twitter rather than a desire to enhance the learning experience of the students? Personally I still remain skeptical of projects like this one, which merely seem to exist for their own sakes. 

Q:  Did you observe differentiation of instruction in these classrooms? Support your views.

A:  I think Mr. Mitchell alluded to differentiation in his classroom. He said that the students sent him emails of their answers, and that he sent them emails right back with his comments and corrections. This kind of teaching method would be more beneficial to struggling students who need more feedback in order to stay on par with their peers. Furthermore, the near immediate response to student submissions can help with differentiation. Students with attention disorders might benefit from the speedy feedback more than their peers, but everyone likes a speedy response. I was actually getting rather jealous watching that video segment. If only my professors would respond to my work submissions like that! Nobody likes receiving back a bad test that they hardly remember taking.

Q:  How did this use of technology differ from my expectations and experiences?

A:  The use of technology differed in a few ways. First of all, the teachers in these videos embraced the use of technology. Not every teacher is so willing to make the transition.

Furthermore, I’ve never seen teachers communicate with others across the globe. That sounds more like an online class type of environment. In workplaces today, employers still sneer at diplomas from schools like Phoenix. This doesn’t add up. Are the employers behind in the times, or are the teachers so eager to expand that they’re spreading their resources too thinly? At the present, my opinion leans toward the latter conclusion.

Q:  Discuss my comfort level in this kind of environment. What are my concerns?

A:  Well, I voiced my major concern in the last answer. I’m also concerned that the students’ adeptness with technology will allow them to take advantage of teachers. Haven’t we all switched tabs just as the teacher is approaching to make them think we’re actually working? Furthermore, what difference will restrictions and protocols mean if the students can easily hack the devices?

That’s not to say that I don’t support the incorporation of technology in the classroom. I believe that trust abuse and protocol breaking will happen whether or not the teachers embrace technology. However, I don’t think we will be able to realistically tackle these issues until we look them in the face.

I can’t wait to redesign the page in my spare time. Maybe I can even use this blog to begin learning HTML (or XML, whatever this site uses). Thus, I conclude my lengthy blog.

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