Technology? Communities? Learning Environments? Analyzing Data? Presentations? Games? Virtual Environments? Mobile Learning and Mobile Technologies?
With so much knowledge and so many resources, where does one even start?
Over the past 8 weeks, I have finished another year teaching, visited different states, completed (almost) 2 more classes towards my M.Ed degree, and overall, I have learned so much not only about designing learning environments and integrating learning and technology, but also about myself.
At the beginning of this eight week journey, I had to decide what my personal learning philosophy was. I made the decision that as a Family and Consumer Sciences educator, I like to look at teaching like a chocolate chip cookie recipe. There is a basic recipe that you can use but there are numerous variations and sometimes the recipe does not always come out the way you would like. If that happens, you make another batch and fix your mistakes, learn for next time, and move on. Learning is also like a chocolate chip cookie recipe. The basic recipe is your classroom with students as the chocolate chips and the teacher as the batter. Depending on the nutritional needs of others, a variation of the recipe needs to be used, this being differentiation in the classroom. When the chips and batter are carefully combined and baked, the end product is a mouth-watering, delectable delight. In my classroom, I see learning happening all the time when I am working with my students as a whole group or on a one-on-one level. I also see learning happening when my students are working with each other. I feel so fulfilled as an educator when I see the connections that my students make and the recollection they have from 6th Grade to 7th Grade and from 7th Grade to 8th Grade. It makes me realize that all of the hard work I have done with my students is paying off.
Has my learning philosophy changed? No. What has changed though are my thoughts about how to plan learning activities involving more technology. My first thought when planning lessons and various learning activities is, “How can I make this even more interesting for my students and what technology can I use that can help them even more?” I strongly believe that the more technology that I incorporate, the greater skills my students will gain.
One of the key issues of using technology to actually enhance learning is the fact that the technology is always changing. Maddux and LaMont Johnson (2011) state that, “predicting the future in any field related to technology is a difficult task” (p. 87). With technologies always changing, I believe that nothing is ever set in stone. Something is always being changed, something is always being added and as educators who want to integrate technology, it is our duty to stay on top of our game and be “in the know”.
The positive, however, is that when you become “in the know”, the possibilities are endless. Maddux and LaMont Johnson (2011) write, “We continue to believe that (a) gaming, (b) social networking and Web 2.0 applications, and (c) mobile and handheld computing will continue to gain in popularity and continue to find their way into educational programs at all levels” (p. 89). There are many positive implications for these technologies that Maddux and LaMont Johnson (2011) write about and I know that I am going to continue using those in my classroom and coming up with new ways to do so.
One of my personal greatest challenges related to technology and learning in my classroom is handling my administrators. We have had some issues with improper use of electronics so administration is very weary of using technology in the classroom. I also do not always have access to websites that I need to have access to because many sites are blocked. If I wanted to download a program on the computer to use, I would need an IT password, so in that case I have to put a work order in and cross my fingers and hope it gets done in a timely manner. Sometimes I have to wait 2+ weeks before my work order is taken care of which can be frustrating when you want to plan a lesson using a program that you need.
One of the main “next steps” that I need to take in order to become more prepared to effectively integrate technology into my learning activities is to do it more frequently. With the school year coming up, I am excited to start using all of these technologies but I feel a bit overwhelmed knowing the challenges I am up against when the school year starts. I am excited to begin EDU 627: Managing Instruction and Technology because I believe I will learn the strategies that will allow me to take all of the new knowledge that I have and make it work for me so I’m not so overwhelmed. I also need to come up with a strategy in order to communicate with my administrators the need for technology in our building. Right now I feel like I am at a stand still because I do not know how to effectively and successfully communicate with my administrators without being shut down.
How would you approach the conversation with your administrators if you were in my situation?
Maddux, C.D. & LaMont Johnson, D. [Editorial]. (2011). Future trends in information technology in education. Computers in the schools, 28: 87-91. doi: 10.1080/07380569.2011.577399