I have PBS/WXXI on my Facebook because, well, I think they’re awesome. The other day, what popped up but a link to a new article, “How to Get the Most Out of Tech Tools for Teaching“. Susan Currie Sivek gives her personal account of using various technologies from the perspective of a teacher.
The majority of technologies she used with an iPad and/or Mac (neither of which I actually own), such as the Attendance App that let her take pictures of her students. I thought this was a great feature because it can help on a number of levels. It makes attendance easy because you can run through the list visually see that all of your students are there, and it’s a great way to learn students names.
There were some that really struck me as a “why didn’t they think of this before”. Caffeine, for instance, keeps screens lit during presentations and movies.
My new favorite, which is not necessarily just for teachers, is Unsubscribe.com. You download it for your inbox, and it actually sends an unsubscribe e-mail for you to the places from which you indicate you don’t want e-mails.
These tools seem pretty simple to learn. For me, at least. The article is part of a series, and also links to Professor Sivek’s personal blog.
I recently researched distance learning for a paper. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into the research, but I came away with some valuable insights, as well as some issues to ponder.
One of the major ideas I came across is that resistance to distance learning often comes about because teachers want to keep the traditional classroom format while integrating new technologies into the process. I think it’s a common occurrence that teachers (or anybody, really) are used to the “old” methods. So instead of looking at the new technologies as ways of changing some aspects of their classroom that aren’t successful with students who work best in alternate modalities, they try to substitute it in. Oftentimes, that means that they’re not taking full advantage of the capabilities of the educational technology. I’ve recognized the same tendencies in myself. It’s easier to work from a place of comfort. When you’re familiar with a way of doing things, it’s obviously difficult to change.
There’s also the wariness of the new technology. As I think everybody knows, it can be intimidating when you’re encountering something new. What’s more, frustration can get the best of anybody.
I think back on Dr. Ransom’s advice to try to master one new thing at a time. I think it’s important to try out one piece of educational technology, get a feel for it. If it’s not something you’re comfortable with, it’ll be difficult to use it with your students. Once you’ve mastered it (or since technology is changing all the time, once you’ve reached a good comfort level with it), try out something new.
There’s one resource that I keep forgetting about, and that’s the students. I’m becoming increasingly aware that there are certain technologies that I won’t know about, but my students will have been exposed to. I’ve often found that children like to be able to teach adults, as well. I think it’s a good lesson when kids learn that adults are educating themselves all the time, too. Learning is a lifelong process that never ends. When you share your excitement to learn, you have the ability to teach your students that learning is exciting.
Last semester, I was observing in a first grade classroom. Now, I should mention that it was my first semester of grad school, and I’d just been introduced to the SmartBoard during my first grad class. (I’m from the age when being able to use powerpoint was impressive. ) The SmartBoard was well-utilized in the observation classroom. The students used it to make their lunch choices and to play educational games. The teacher used it for attendance and to teach lessons. Well, one day I was trying to help a student find a webpage so he could do some activities. After a few minutes of watching me struggle, the student looked to me and said, “You could just use the computer to do that.” It’s a scary moment when a first grader is more knowledgeable about technology than you are. I started to feel a bit like my grandma when she first learned to open attachments on e-mails. Now my grandma’s on facebook, so I guess there’s hope for me, too!
It’s not really that I have a great deal of difficulty understanding technology. I am the one my family usually goes to for questions about anything related to it. I’m pretty sure my sister has no idea how to use iTunes because I’ve loaded every iPod she’s ever had. That being said, I really only upgrade when absolutely necessary. I’d still have my old flip phone if I had the choice. I’ve discovered, though, that technology is convenient. Now that I have a smart phone, I accomplish some things a lot faster. If I decide I want to see a movie, I can go to movies.com and look up movies playing near me at a specific theater, or I can look up a movie and find the nearest theater. No need to go to call the individual theaters or go to the store and buy a newspaper. I’ve also discovered a new addiction: when I hear pop culture references I don’t understand, I can look them up right away. It’s cool to be able to have information at your fingertips.
One of the things I’ve realized from looking back at my own education is that things are often most fascinating when they’re new and exciting. The idea of being able to use technology to reach students is kind of intriguing. When we were looking at the digital post-it slideshow in class, I thought it would be great to incorporate it on a number of levels. The one that struck me was the review of what students had learned or still needed to learn. I thought it was a great way for individuals to show what they had learned, and it served as a review for classmates. I thought back, too, on those awkward moments in class when you were too afraid to share your thoughts or questions. Technology provides a certain kind of anonymity that I think could be useful in these situations.
Overall, I think I’m excited to learn about ways to bring technology into the classroom that will help students to become excited about learning and maybe find ways around some of their fears.