Addressing the Essential Questions….

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At the beginning of this course, there were two essential questions that were meant to guide our learning in this class. Those two essential questions were, 1) What do we mean by the 21st Century Classroom, and 2) How do we apply technology tools in ways so that we can more easily achieve meaningful teaching and learning in the 21st Century?

I  am going to attempt to answer these questions based off my understanding of  the class as a whole. For me, these two questions rely upon each other. Without the use of technology, a classroom cannot be defined as being 21st century. Technology is so rampant in our, and our students, everyday lives. It is sad to say, but the majority of us could not go an entire day without using technology. As a result of a growth in technology, everything is changing. This change includes education, and both the way we teach, and the way we learn. For students, and even us, access to information is readily available with the click of a button. Students no longer need a teacher to lecture on and on about the literary elements expressed within novels, they can access this information through their laptops by watching videos or reading blogs.

A 21st century classroom is an environment in which technology aids in the learning process. It is important to note that the technology does not do the work for the student. Rather, the student is able to utilize the tools available to help them draw conclusions and facilitate their learning experience. The focus of a 21st century classroom is on the student’s ability to use this technology, but this does not mean that the educator loses importance. As educators, we need to make this technology available to our students. We need to teach them, from day one, how to properly use these tools to their advantage. Many teachers argue that their districts do not have the funding to supply technology to all of their students. It is important for 21st century educators to understand that it is not about the amount of technology available, but rather the use of technology. Teachers decide, that because they only have four available computers, they should not use them in their lessons. This thought process only deters the ability of the students to learn .Rather than shunning technology, this teacher could use groups to allow time on the computers. It is not about availability, it is about usage!

After overcoming initial concerns regarding use of technology in the classroom, teachers can apply models such as SAMR and Webb’s DoK to maintain meaningful learning. The SAMR model allows educators to implement technology within their lessons in order to increase collaboration in learning. As the use of technology is increasing, teachers can then apply Webb’s Depth of Knowledge levels to assess student understanding and learning. As I mentioned above, just because students are using the technology to learn, it does not mean that the technology is doing the learning for them. It is up to educators to create effective interaction between students and technology. This is done by applying the depth of knowledge levels. If educators apply this model effectively within their classrooms, then meaningful learning can occur within their students minds.

So, to sum up all my ramblings, a 21st century classroom places an emphasis on the interaction of, not only students and technology, but students and teachers as well. Teachers must demonstrate effective use of this technology within the classroom. From here, teachers are able to implement technology using the SAMR model and Webb’s DoK to maintain meaningful learning experiences.

A Global Classroom: Is it possible? And how does it work?

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Recently, I watched a TED talk on Education. The speaker of this particular talk was Salman Khan, the analyst who created Khan Academy. The talk focused on using videos to reinvent education. In the beginning of his talk, he gives an overview of how this academy came to be. He posted some videos on Youtube explaining problems in algebra. He expected nothing to come of this, but was surprised by the results. People actually started watching these videos and were giving him feedback; they were thanking him for teaching them concepts that were previously confusing to them. From here, he created a virtual classroom, where “students” could view videos on anything from basic math principals of addition and subtraction to harder principals like Calculus. He then asks the question, “How do we take this to the next level?”

Khan Academy is now proposing the idea of a Global Classroom. Khan talks about how teachers in Los Altos School District began using his videos within their classroom lessons. This use of technology is known as a flipped classroom. Traditional classrooms are based on lectures. Students are expected to sit in class, and listen to teachers give 40-80 minute lessons on concepts. They are then given homework and tested on the subject. Despite the scores on these tests, teachers move on to the next lesson. Khan raises the question as to what happens to those students who have not grasped the previous material? Without the proper knowledge of basic foundations, students will continue to struggle throughout the entirety of the class. So, students who were once doing well, are now failing.

A flipped classroom opposes this traditional view of the classroom. In a flipped classroom, students are able to view the lecture online at home. They are able to pause, rewind, and repeat the lesson. Once they have completed the video, they are given activities which test their understanding of the material. If a student is struggling, they cannot yet move on to the next concept. This allow students to work at their own pace. This also allows for more student-teacher interaction within the classroom. Teachers (with this technology by Khan) are able to view their students’ progress. Khan proposes that we arm our teachers with data. They can do one of two things; 1.) work one-on-one with the students who are struggling in the class or, 2.) allow other students, who have grasped the concepts, to tutor those who have not. Not only does this allow for more teacher-student interaction, but more student-student interaction. AND, students from all over the globe can interact with one another as well. Khan refers to this as “humanizing education.”

What Khan suggests would have been very helpful when I was attending high school. I struggled to grasp basic concepts in math courses, and when we were done being tested on one concept, we would immediately move on to another no matter how well students performed. Sometimes I wonder if math had been taught to me in the style of a flipped classroom, would I be a math scholar rather than an English scholar. This begs the question, having we been teaching everything wrong from the beginning? Maybe, if we had taught in this style, would we be performing better on standardized tests? Why don’t we implement these strategies within our schools and our classrooms? Are we too afraid to admit that we have been wrong all along? If this is the case, why should our fear be holding our students back? Do we not want them to succeed?

I Want to Be the Kind of Teacher

I have failed as a teacher many times, mostly in small ways, but there have been epic ones as well.  I think so many of us have.  Yet, what we do with our failures is also what defines us and today, after two weeks of rotations that simply were not working, I was reminded again of what kind of teacher I want to be.

I want to be the kind of teacher that doesn’t give up.  The kind that finds a new solution even when it seems like I could just stay on a path because it would so much easier.  That knows when to hold them, when to fold them, and yes, even when to walk away.

I want to be the kind of teacher that keeps the students in mind at every moment and with every decision I make, even the ones where my own pride may suffer…

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Teaching the iStudent: Google Hangout

Today, I had my second group Google Hangout. It was a lot smoother than the first time. We had a better handle over how to set up the Hangout.  There were no technical difficulties (other than a group member not being able to log on to his computer). In these two sessions one of our members was using his ipad? and for half the time we did not see his face, just his blue wall. But! We were still able to communicate with each other. I was also able to see (for a short period of time), my other two group members faces’ in smaller screens in the bottom right corner.

We also knew exactly what we were going to discuss. Mark Barnes’ “Teaching the iStudent: A Quick Guide to Using Mobile Devices and Social Media in the k-12 Classroom.” We were able to discuss the fact that this book focuses on using technology in the classroom. Not just how to use technology in the classroom, but how to teach the appropriate use of these technologies. A lot of concerns today center around the issue of cyberbullying. We (as educators) become afraid of using technology and social media in the classroom because students can use them in negative ways. One way to possibly negate this issue, Mark Barnes supplies, is that we should be using these technologies from day 1 and teaching them how to appropriately use these technologies. Rather than ignore distractions in the classrooms, we should use them as “teachable moments.” We, as educators, need to be able to take something away from this in addition to teaching our students.

Another interesting thing that Barnes explains is the different forms of use of technology in the classroom. This incorporates blended learning within the classroom. If your school does not have an ample amount of technology to use, then this should not stop you from using technology in the classroom. You can apply the rotation model and break the students up into groups. Each group works on a “station” for a set period of time. After this time is up, the students are able to rotate to the next station. This also allows for differentiated instruction. Some students may need one on one direct instruction from the teacher. One station could be you (the teacher) teaching the small group, allowing for questions. Another station could be peer group discussion, while the final group could be on the computers researching or blogging.

After reading and discussing Mark Barnes’ “Teaching the iStudent,” I will be able to use technology more efficiently in my future classroom. He described several websites that would be useful in an English classroom. For instance, Kidblog.com. I can use this site to create and online blog that will allow students to create and share blog posts in order to discuss material discussed in class.

Reflection on Google Hangout

Okay, so tonight I participated in my first Google Hangout with members from my EDUC140 class at Moravian. Boy, was it a trip!! At first we had some technical difficulties that were determined to not let us participate in this activity. But!!! We were eventually able to work out the difficulties and we are set to go for our next hangout on Tuesday! Can’t wait!

As we discussed Will Richardson’s “Navigating Social Networks as Learning Tools,” we were simultaneously Tweeting and looking up Youtube videos. It was a major distraction and it seemed like I could not focus on one specific thing! It was absolutely overwhelming!! This surprises me because, at work, I learned to be a multi-tasker, but tonight, that was not the case! I hope that as we go forward with these hangouts, I will be able to “navigate” (yes, that was intended!) this crazy social network!

I can only imagine what this must be like for my future students. How can they so easily navigate these technical “waters?” Is it something that is now instilled at birth?? Maybe they feel the same way that I do. Maybe, they also feel overwhelmed with the amount of information that surrounds them in this technological society. Maybe they just feel overwhelmed by all the information in general?? Then, this leads me to pose questions like, how can I make this less overwhelming? How can I teach them to utilize these networks to their advantage?

These kinds of questions, posed now, will allow me to become a better educator. They will allow me the opportunity to gain new insights into what it is like to be a 21st century student, and allow me the opportunity to become a 21st century teacher. Thus, I will be able to create a 21st century classroom for my students!!!

The 21st Century Classroom: Education in Today’s World

As an educator, you learn that Bandura created the Social Learning Theory which basically states that students learn by observing or direct instruction. And we learn that Vygotsky developed the Social Development theory that focuses on the influences within a student’s life. This is what we picture as a 21st century classroom. I used to think that most 21st century classrooms had a focus on developing students’ learning needs. One thing that I used to think, and now I know is that the 21st century classroom finds a basis in focusing on the student (student-centered), rather than the teacher.

Now, I think that the 21st century classroom is completely different from classrooms of the past. Technology has overwhelmed our society and now plays an important role in everyday life. Think about it. Most of us have Twitter, Facebook, or even MySpace accounts that we check every day. If we have them, then you can pretty much guarantee that our students have them! And if we check them every day, why would we not think the same of our students? The 21st century classroom needs to find ways to incorporate these technologies into every day learning. The 21st century should not be focused on testing, but rather developing the student as a whole. The 21st century classroom needs to be able to produce an individual capable of handling and navigating the world around them. This is possible through leadership development and exploration and creativity, not from standards based testing!

Questions I still have regarding the 21st Century classroom are:

What actually is digital literacy? Is there a definite definition? How do we accomplish this in our classrooms and can we guarantee that students are digitally literate?

How do we negate things like cyber bullying in the 21st century? Is this possible?

How do we teach students to become culturally aware? How do they use this in the world today?

How can we use technology in the class without it becoming a major distraction?

Twitter: An effective educational tool?

I am definitely considered a novice when it comes to Twitter!  I once set up an account (back when it was fairly new), and I never used it again. I mainly use Facebook in order to post statuses about my day, or even to connect with friends through messaging. I was concerned about using Twitter because I used to think that it was mainly used by celebrities. I thought that it was very similar to Facebook in its applications and usages. I also used to think that it could never be used in any professional manner. But, now those ideas are changing! I check my Twitter account almost every day. It may even overcome my Facebook addiction.

Now that I am more familiar with Twitter, I know that it is not just used by celebrities. It’s not just about “tweeting” out a quick post. I love that Twitter can be used by groups to post entries, as well as individuals. This gives it a more professional feeling. I can follow important “players” in the education department and stay current on issues. I think that this technology will allow me to stay connected and up to date on a lot of current issues. I would often read the newspaper every day, and now, all I have to do is log on to Twitter in order to see the news! This is certainly an effective way to connect to the rest of the world without even leaving your house!

I still have questions regarding Twitter though; mainly concerning its uses in the classroom. Like, how could I use this amazing tool within a classroom setting? Would this even be allowed in some school districts? Why don’t schools use it today? Are there schools/teachers that use it? Is it an effective learning device?