Well its finally May 1, and we made it! Congratulations to all my fellow seniors on graduating and making it through student teaching!!
Graduation aside, I think in reflecting on this course, I can see that I have made a large amount of growth in my attitudes towards and comfort with educational technology. Before this course, I saw it the way that many of the other teachers at my school viewed it, as a substitute for traditional pen and paper work, that was now to be done on a tablet or computer. While that is fine if that is how you want to run your classroom, I have discovered that it is much more my style and my preference to have the students guiding the learning with the technology being the avenue through which they make discoveries, rather than me leading the instruction and them doing work on the computer.
I think I also gained more resources that I can pull into my practice going forward, and it has helped me feel more comfortable with experimenting and trying something new that I couldn’t have thought would work in the past. Overall, I have found this course to be rewarding and a valuable experience to have during this hectic, but wonderful semester.
Since I am already pretty familiar with many of Google’s most used features, I thought I would try and create something that I have wanted to set up for my class in the future – a blog! Unfortunately, Google hasn’t progressed that far yet, and they don’t have an option for a class blog that can be built into Google Classroom. I decided to play around with Google Sites, and I created a relatively simple class website that I could share with parents and students to give them access to what is going on in school, and to get easier access to a calendar where students can see what is going to be due soon. I also envision having a place where students can download copies of homework assignments so that if they lose them, they can print them at home or submit them to me online. I feel that this website could contain many features, such as a place for students to post or to comment on things, but I did not see anywhere that that could be an option.
The other thing that I found that I want my students to install on their Chromebooks is this app called “Google Cast for Education” which allows students to cast whatever is on their screen to my computer so that I can display it on the Smartboard which is connected to my computer through a wireless AppleTV connection. Often students will be researching something, or will want to display something on their screen to the class, and rather than sharing it with me or having me find it on my computer, it would be useful for students to have this installed on their Chromebooks.
I see a future where there are no more desks or pens and paper in a classroom, and all there is are places for students to sit and work on their Chromebooks, and all the learning and assessment is done on their computers. I see furniture that is flexible and easy to move to make space for collaboration between students and the teacher, and I think Google is the leader in getting us towards this future.
The other thing that I found super cool while exploring some of the “Hipster Google” apps was the Google Trends app. It allows you to see in real-time what people all over the world are googling, and what popular Google searches are happening in countries all over the world. I’m not sure how it would be beneficial in an Educational context, I just thought it was a cool feature, and a cool way to see what people are interested in in this specific moment in time. I also set it as my screensaver.
In fifth grade, the social studies standards generally cover the founding of North America, the lead up to the Revolutionary War, and the war itself. In some exploring of these data visualizations websites, I think I would want to use the US News Map website to help students visualize what attitudes different populations of people had regarding the Revolutionary War and the separation of the American colonies from Great Britain. This website would be a great way for students to see where exactly different groups of people lived based on their political opinions expressed in newspapers of the day. They can search for key words such as “Loyalist” and “Patriot” and this website will show them where the terms were used most heavily in newspapers in different regions. I think this would be a great resource to just let my kids explore and discover different patterns for themselves instead of me telling them something like: “Most Loyalists lived in New England…” With this, they can discover that for themselves, as well as get the opportunity to read some primary source documents from the time period.
Luckily in my student teaching placement, we have a lot of access to technology, but students are not able to take that technology home with them that would be necessary for a truly flipped approach to be successful. The lesson I would have students do is this Google Slides presentation that is also interactive! The best part of this Slides presentation is that it is interactive, and has places for students to type and move arrows around on the screen built into the presentation, making it much more engaging than a traditional PowerPoint presentation. You would somehow have to share this presentation with students, with Google Classroom or a class blog of some kind being the best option for sharing a Google Slides presentation.
This lesson has five stages: Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration, and Evaluation. The first part of the lesson, Engagement, has students watch 2 videos that that explains how energy moves in a food chain. This is a good way to introduce new material to students in this flipped format because they can go back and re-watch any parts of the video that they missed, or did not initially understand. Following the video, there is a place for students to record any words that students did not know when they watched the videos. These are both good videos for introducing a new topic to students, as they put the academic vocabulary that goes along with Ecosystems and food chains into very kid-friendly language and the videos are interesting and engaging for students to watch on their own.
The next three parts of the activity, Exploration, Explanation, and Elaboration all have students doing a variety of different activities that have to do with Food Chains. The one that I like the best that I would want to use as an evaluative tool instead of the test at the end of the presentation is the choice board that comes with the Elaboration section of the activity.
This has students show me in a way that works best for them what they learned about Food Chains during this lesson that they completed on their own. This activity would also be a good way to tell me where specific students’ misunderstandings were, and would be a good way to plan how to differentiate instruction when students come into class the next day.
For the in-class part of this flipped lesson, I would plan some sort of extension activity that has students work together to build their own food chain or food web, and I could help individual students with misunderstandings surrounding the topic for those who need that individual scaffolding.
Instead of Screencasting for my students, since earlier in the year my kids did a Screencasting activity for social studies, I thought I would screencast something that teachers could use in their practice that is related to technology. Earlier in the year during a PD on Smartboard activities, I was introduced to this great website called Nearpod, which is a website that allows you to create interactive PowerPoint presentations that students follow along with on their own devices. The one major hindrance for this resource would be that students would need their own device, like a Chromebook or an iPad in order to be able to participate in the lesson.
Nearpod is a great tool for increasing student engagement because there are lots of interactive slides that you can build into your lessons, while also teaching students any concept that you might come across in your curriculum. I just thought I would share it with you guys, especially those of you who are secondary and may use PowerPoints a lot and are looking for a way to get your kids more engaged. In my Screencast, I show the viewers what a Nearpod lesson looks like both from the perspective of a student going through a Nearpod lesson, as well as what a Nearpod lesson looks like from the perspective of a student.
As for Screencasting, like I said earlier, the tech coach at our school came in earlier in the year and taught our kids how to use Screencasting to talk about these PowerPoint presentations that they all put together on Google Slides that showed what they had learned about the Revolutionary War up to that point. They then posted their Screencasts to some website that they all had access to using their district Google accounts that were then accessible by QR codes that their parents could scan with their phones during a Tech Night that the school hosted in December. I would love to do another Screencasting activity with my students, I just don’t know when we will have time before I’m done student teaching.
Currently in my placement, there is a heavy emphasis on technology in the classroom. Due to a series of grants that the teachers at my school got together and wrote, each student is fortunate enough to have their own Chromebook, every classroom has a Smartboard, a microphone system, and a document camera, and for the teacher’s own professional development, the school has a Swivl for the teachers to use to film themselves teaching. They have had PD’s where the teachers have worked on building Smartboard lessons, and putting together Google and BrainPop classrooms.
I have definitely seen many different ways of integrating technology throughout the building, across grade levels, and curriculum. Some teachers are not sure how to use it, or due to technical difficulties, are wary of planning to use it, because if it does not work, they feel like they cannot rely on it the same way you can rely on a piece of paper and a pencil and a book to teach students math and reading. I think that’s one thing that I want to get out of this class – more reliable ways to use technology than the ways that have been given to the teachers thus far that we can begin to integrate into our classrooms. Unfortunately, there are some barriers that we just can’t overcome, like subscription fees, or unexpected wifi outages, but I want to be able to push through those barriers and show the other members of the faculty the valuable resource that technology can be for our students.
I would love to begin using technology to network with other professionals in the field of education, and to build those connections that I can keep using throughout my career as an educator. I think my goal for EdTech for the next three years would be to overcome my fear of using it, and to know the ins and outs of the technology resources that the various curriculums we use are giving us.