Teaching and Technology

When I consider many of the subjects that we talk about in our pre-service education, I see, more and more, the importance of using technology in the classroom. In my own education, I have learned ways to do so. I think that it is important for all educators to try and do so, because appropriate use of technology is so important for the students that we will be teaching.

In the article “Technology and Teaching: Finding a Balance,” Andrew Marcinek describes how important digital literacy is and how the professions our students will be entering will need those skills. He points out that we must do so responsibly and “[a]long with digital and information literacy skill sets, it’s still vital that we promote and encourage a love of reading across all formats — along with a facility for questioning, analyzing, discerning and synthesizing with other media” (para 4). He lists Edmodo, Google Sites, and Google Drive as helpful tools. I really relate to and appreciate the way he closes the article. Marcinek says, “Ultimately it’s not about how many apps we integrate, but about providing our students with the best access and opportunities to contemporary learning resources. As educators, we must prepare our students for their future, not ours.”

In addition to preparing our students for their futures, I believe that technology can serve as a great tool for differentiation. There is tremendous diversity in every classroom and tech tools can help reach many learners needs. There are many apps to help with literacy and numeracy. There are many apps for students with learning disabilities. Here is a list of seven apps to help students with dyslexia. Desmos provides an online graphing calculator that can be easier to read than traditional ones and also provides a visual learning opportunity. Edtechteacher.org provides many resources by subject, topic, and activity. Edutopia has a great post called “Differentiated Instruction: Resource Roundup” and another called “50+ Tools for Differentiating Instruction Through Social Media

There are so many tools available that it would be a shame not to utilize them. Technology is important for students to learn, but it can also be a tool to help them learn. It can be intimidating at first, if you’re not comfortable using technology. It is, however, important that we try to incorporate technology for these reasons.

Inquiring into Student-Centered Learning

I am making an inquiry into how I can support student-centered learning in my classroom. I want to be able to help students become active in their education. I want them to construct their learning in ways that are meaningful for them. I don’t want to talk at students and tell them what to learn and how they should learn it. I think that giving students a voice is an important part of my job. I want to learn how I can take these theories of learning and teaching and work them into my practices.

I would like to hear from other educators. I am interested in thoughts and concerns, experiences in what worked and what didn’t work, and any other words that can help me in my inquiry. I will be sharing my journey and would love to have discussion throughout.

I am starting my journey with some rough ideas and general thoughts about where I will be going. I view student-centered learning as being generally about moving away from a teacher-centered approach and allowing learning opportunities that take into account student interests, student needs, and student ways of knowing and showing their learning. I have an understanding of the constructivism, but am interested in classroom structures that can support the concept.

Any words, resources, thoughts, and/or questions are welcomed.

Lesson and Unit Planning as a Preservice Teacher

As a preservice teacher, one of the things I want feel more proficient at is lesson and unit planning. I can find my way around the Saskatchewan curriculum quite well. I have many activity ideas, especially when it comes to English Language Arts. However, I don’t yet have experience carrying out the unit plans I have constructed. I am not sure I have succeeded at creating the kind of continuity in concurrent lesson plans that I hope to. Likely, the only way to really know and learn how to improve is through doing. Luckily, I will have the opportunity to do so in my pre-internship and internship. In the meantime, I wish to learn as much theory and practice putting my ideas together.

In the blog post “Planning the Best Curriculum Unit Ever,” Todd Finley blogs about eight planning steps. In this order, he describes the steps as:

  1. Describe your vision, focus, objectives, and student needs.
  2. Identify resources.
  3. Develop experiences that meet your objectives.
  4. Collect and devise materials.
  5. Lock down the specifics of your task.
  6. Develop plans, methods, and processes.
  7. Create your students’ experience.
  8. Go!

He also notes that every lesson and unit has to be uniquely crafted to support the diversity of your students. Differentiation is important and it is important to make sure your lessons aren’t cookie cutter and adapted to suit student needs.

Ideas for unit planning and backwards design is well explained on Dr. Bilash’s website. Here there are different types of units described: “Theme based unit, Literature basedGames basedContent basedField trip basedWriting based, [and] Project based“.

Bilash also provides videos of the process of backward planning from the perspective of a preservice teacher:

Finally, “Strategies for Effective Lesson Planning” can be found on the website for Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. The site gives six steps for lesson planning: “Outline learning objectives,” “Develop the introduction,” “Plan the specific learning activities,” “Plan to check for understanding,” “Develop a conclusion and a preview,” and “Create a realistic timeline”. Breaking the planning process into clear sections can make the task manageable. Planning becomes really fun when all of your ideas can be put into a cohesive learning plan.

While these ideas are helpful, practice and classroom experience is the greatest opportunity for learning what is going well and what needs improvement. I am excited to be able to put all of my ideas together and teach a full unit of study. My goal until then is to consider the process of planning and work my ideas into clear plans.

I would like to receive any additional advice that can help me in my own learning process. What tips do you have? What resources helped you? What else can I do to be prepared to teach?

Teacher Blogging

Why blog?

I think that blogging allows me to reflect on what I’ve learned and what I have yet to learn. When I read other teachers’ blogs, I am able to get advice from other professionals. I can pose my ideas and ask questions that will help me grow as a professional. I also think being pro-active in constructing your ideal online image is important. When I share my accomplishments and growth, I sharing who I am as a professional. My blog is my e-portfolio and I think that that is a strength. Additionally, it allows me to become part of an online community of educators. It can be a form of professional development when I interact and learn from other educators.

My Experiences

My experiences with blogging have really made me feel connected with others. It has also helped me learn and, in turn, it has been a platform to show my learning. I would recommend giving it a try to other pre-service teachers and current teachers. Part of making the most out of the experience is communicating with others. Commenting on others blogs and sharing your own blog appropriately is important to get a full experience. I think blogging should be more than a one-way communication.

If you’re interested in learning more about what to do and what not to do, there is a great list of Top 10 don’ts for wannabe teacher bloggers. If you are interested in checking out other teachers blogs I also found a list of recommended blogs: Top 14 Teacher Blogs.

Questions

How have your experiences with blogging been? And what do you like or dislike about blogging?

Differentiation

What is differentiation? 

In the article A Teacher’s Guide to Differentiating Instruction, it is described as modifications to teaching that support the needs of a diverse group of learners. In Differentiation Chapter 1: One Size Doesn’t Fit All, differentiation described as a way of teaching that acknowledges that all learners are different and have different learning needs. Differentiated instruction is about making modification to lessons plans to ensure that learners’ prior knowledge, ability level, needs, interests, and all of the things that factor into their learning, are considered.

Why differentiate?

There are many things that make learners unique. Understanding and supporting learning with consideration for students’ uniqueness’s will improve learning experiences. If a student is an English language learner, considerations will have to be made for how you can teach the lesson so that they are still able to get a full learning experience. If students are at different reading levels, above or before their grade level, the type of reading will need to reflect those diversities. Different readings/instruction should help learners below level and push students above level even farther. If students have difficulty focusing, they will need to be provided material that will help them remain engaged in the lesson. Differentiation is not about giving everyone the same education, but making modifications that will allow all learners equal opportunities to learn.

Differing Opinion on Differentiation:

James R. Delisle claims that differentiation doesn’t work. Delisle says that differentiation is just a trend that is treated as a miracle answer, but indeed is not. Delisle instead says that differentiation is difficult to implement and that it won’t work for our current system. Education clumps a group of learners that are in the same age group, but have huge differences that effect their learning. He says that if students were grouped in more similar ability groups, differentiation would be more easily implemented and could work.

Reflection

I don’t believe that I could ever disagree that a “one size fits all” education doesn’t work. It is obvious that classrooms are full of diversity. People are diverse in so many ways and I believe that our education should work for us as individuals as much as is possible. I think it’s important that I do everything in my power to teach in a way that reaches and works for as many students as I can. I think that technology can help with this goal, but I can also understand where Delisle is coming from. Ability grouping is something I think we should consider. I think it needs to be done in a way that still allows for the socialization that is part of age grouping, but when it comes to learning, making arrangements that allow students to get the instruction they need to learn. I would like to see both ideas recognized to provide equal education opportunities for all learners.

Sources:

Differentiation Chapter 1

A Teacher’s Guide to Differentiating Instruction

Differentiation Doesn’t Work

Building the Foundation for Classroom Assessment

“Only when we work together can the foundation for classroom assessment – and learning – be established” (Davies 2011).

Guiding my Own Learning

A recent successful learning experience of mine was my “online learning project“. My goal was to learn how to draw, and I did succeed in getting better, but a success with the consideration that learning is a continuous process. The project was part of my ECMP 355 class, so it was conducted online. I documented my learning on my blog, found resources online, and worked at my goal in my personal space. I was helped by people who created online tutorials (people who were skilled drawers), my professors and my peers. I was able to access learning material online, because people who have learned how to draw share tutorials to help others. Without their resources, online learning would be impossible. My professors worked on the structure of the project and criteria of evidence of learning, gave me feedback, and pushed me to go in different directions that was helpful in my learning process.My peers helped in the same way. I looked online for a community of learners, which I view as an important part of learning. The feedback I received helped guide my learning and acknowledge my successes. One of my peers comments reassured me that my final evaluation showed how much I had learned. Another, “this is a great idea” helped me know that I was on the right track. Another personal on instagram, complimented my drawing success so far. One of my professors comments helped me to consider ways to get more feedback from people that could help me learn more.

This experience taught me a lot about learning, and specifically, student-directed learning. The way that I was able to learn how to draw, or at least begin my journey, helps me to understand how I can use my own successful learning experiences to help students learn. I am able to reflect on what worked for me and what didn’t work. I know how to find resources and use social media to share what I’ve learned and gain feedback so that I can learn more. I now have experience with student-directed learning from a student perspective, which helps me consider how to set up projects with my own students. Additionally, I documented the experience, so I can share it with my learners as a way of modeling a learning process. Modeling is highlighted by Davies, as well as sharing who I am with my learners.

One aspect of the text that I really connected to was the building of a “community of learners” (Davies 23). I agree that “[r]elationships are key” (23). When learning online finding a community can be difficult, but it is essential. I even made it part of my learning journey. I have also considered how using technology can help build open, networked and participatory learning communities, in which I said that “[s]elf direction, autonomy, personal interest, and inquiry based projects are my big ideas about engaging students so that we can create learning environments that encourage openness, networking and participation. Chapter two of Making Classroom Assessment Work, as well as reflecting on my own experience, has helped me see how assessment is a part building a community of learners that is open, networked and participatory.

I believe that I can move away from always being the main source of feedback by embracing these ideas. First, I have to create a safe environment (Davies 15). I also have to give students responsibility in giving help, getting help, knowing what help to get and how to use the help they receive to improve (15). I must encourage descriptive feedback, so that it is not overtaken by evaluative feedback. (16-18). I will need to make sure students have time and tools to get feedback from others and reflect for themselves. Moreover, I have to utilize the many sources of feedback available. This means, the learners themselves, other students and parental figures (19, 21). A community of learners is made more powerful by ensuring that everyone is actively engaged in the learning process.

Having students create an online presence can provide them many opportunities for feedback, students can learn how to be reflective and given time to think about their learning and provide their own feedback, feedback can be shared during conferences and check-ups, and I can support learning process that make time and are structured in a way that calls for multiple sources of feedback. Open communities and deep learning require communication, so I will make it a priority for feedback to be exchanged in these many different ways.

Davies, Anne. Making Classroom Assessment Work. 3rd ed. Courtenay, B.C.: Connections Pub., 2011. Print.

Making Classroom Assessment Work

“An event is not an experience until you reflect upon it.” — Michael Fullan

Guiding my Own Learning

Chapter one of Anne Davies’ Making Classroom Assessment Work has already gotten me thinking more purposefully about assessment. Assessment has always been something I have struggled with as a student and a teacher. As a student, although I got good grades, I was plagued by the fear of failing that constant evaluation brought on. Moreover, this seems to be a common experience. When we discussed assessment/evaluation experiences in class, there was an emotional response to sharing stories of our negative experiences. As an educator, I don’t want to make those same mistakes of creating assessment experiences that cause students to become fearful or resistant to assessment. The text has confirmed for me that there is a better way to assess and evaluate. It also confirms for me how important it is to get students to become “actively involved in their own learning” (Davies 5).

So far in my pre-service teaching and learning experiences, I have worked on taking in assessment for and of learning. I have worked a lot on incorporating modes of assessment for learning in my planning. In my EMTH 300 class, I created a lesson plan that includes a monitoring chart for me to note students’ learning. What I see will affect the way I sequence student work and connect ideas so that it is clear where students are in their learning and what the next steps will be. In my English Education classes I have worked with the writing portfolio method. This would help with assessing for learning, feedback would be given from me, peers, and their own considerations. Students would pick pieces to improve on and present as evidence of their learning. In Teaching Adolescent Writers, Kelly Gallagher says that a good way encourage students to work on their writing is to “[a]dopt a 4:1 [g]rading [p]hilosophy” (53). I think this is a good way to make sure we are both assessing and evaluating and not evaluating tpo soon as is warned against in Making Classroom Assessment Work. I am excited to work these ideas into my teaching, but I have had more opportunities to consider assessment than I have had to implement it.

Some of the things I had “forgotten” (or hadn’t consider deeply) were about creating and sharing assessment so that students are part of the process (Davies 4). I believe deeply that it is important for students to have direction and control in their education. I forgot that that could extend to assessment. How better to make assessment a beneficial aspect of the learning process than to get students involved in establishing criteria and assessment. I forgot how to make it a process that all students can get into. I think, as is described in the chapter, self and peer assessment is a crucial part of this (4,8). I think that process portfolios really work with this idea. I am also reminded that students need practice. With practice, students will build a foundation, get used to this way of learning, and feel more at ease around assessment.

I would like to learn more about developing criteria of learning with students. I am really interested in how we could begin this process and how I could approach revisiting criteria to make it more focused as we go. Should I do so as learners go through different stages of learning, or when problems arrive, or perhaps, both? Also, how could I ensure that all students are represented in the creating of criteria? How can I make it a cooperative effort, so that all needs are met. How is differentiation factored in?

Davies, Anne. Making Classroom Assessment Work. 3rd ed. Courtenay, B.C.: Connections Pub., 2011. Print.

Gallagher, Kelly. Teaching Adolescent Writers. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers., 2006. Print.