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Meta-Reflection: Integrating Technology in Education

December 12, 2010
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I have to be honest, when I started taking this course; I was still very much on the fence about utilizing technology – especially Web 2.0 type technology – in the classroom. After ten weeks of instruction I have learned about many new things changed my mind about others, but still remain fairly reserved about some topics as well.

We began the class looking at general information about web 2.0, and an idea that is very familiar to me: social networking. I openly admit that I was one of the first hundred or so people to hop on facebook when it first came to Bridgewater State College, where I was doing my undergraduate study, back in the “good old days” when it was only for college students. The ease and convenience of facebook amazed me, and I was able to connect with new friends and reconnect with friends from years past, and stay connected with friends from across the country. At the time, if you had told me that I would be using similar technology in the future to communicate with my students and other teachers – I might have called you crazy. What this first module brought to light for me is the fact that these sorts of technology have much more far-reaching implications than simply providing students with the ability to say “what up?” online – they also have the potential to be very powerful learning tools.

I was not entirely convinced of how useful this sort of technology could be in education until the end of this course: until I had used it for myself, and seen exactly how useful it could be. By using the typewith.me documents each week, reading fellow student’s blogs and other testimonials, I was able to see for myself exactly how helpful and truly enhancing it could be to use these things with my students. In fact, after reading about it during the first week of the class, I began using the site http://www.edmodo.com with my classes. I use the site to post homework assignments and questions, and even words of encouragement to my students. The students can then post questions of their own, comments to me, or even send documents to me from their home or school computers, which is especially helpful since the school district does not allow students to access email at school. I have also had my students sign up for google accounts so they have access to google documents; an invaluable tool for saving their work online and accessing it wherever they go.

The one Web 2.0 tool that I was concerned about using the classroom was blogs. Initially, I thought that the use of blogs in the classroom would be designed to revolve around some sort of project – with the idea that the students would place their finalized work on the blog, and then “submit it” for approval or review. While this idea is certainly workable, albeit complex, it seems like the addition of a blog to the process of a project is nothing more than an extra step.  Then it dawned on me that blogs could be successfully and easily integrated into a class to aid in the process of reflection. Reflection is an important part of the writing and learning processes, and I personally tend to engage in some form of reflection on a daily basis, be it written, verbal or internal. This process helps me think about my day, the success of my lessons, and reflect upon how the students did in class and what they learned. I have found that this process, whether it is formal or informal, helps me understand a lot about my teaching, what they are “getting” and what I really need to work on. It hit me that if I could have students post blog entries – which I could monitor through the use of a feed – it would be a great tool for student reflection.

Of course, Web 2.0 technology goes much deeper than this, and the ELAR’s reflect that depth. Component 1.2 of ELAR 1 dictates that students “Communicate and collaborate to learn with others.” In order to do so, students are meant to use a variety of formats, such as blogging, creating and editing documents online, using wikis, and creating websites. While student may communicate constantly by text, facebook, twitter and other means of social networking, it’s imperative that we get them to begin doing so not just for the sake of communication, but for the sake of learning. That is where technologies like google docs, epals, wikis and blogging come in. By integrating technology like this into the classroom, teachers can allow students to use the technological prowess that they already possess to work towards a set goal.

In the end, it’s really about getting students to learn and work with the skills and technologies that they’ll need in the “real-world” of the twenty-first century. We’re teaching students who have never known a world without the internet; student who ask for new phones and texting packages for their birthday presents rather than toys and games. And yes, these students know how to USE many of these tools, but it’s our job – my job – to teach them how to learn and collaborate with them.

Like I said in my technology creed:

“I believe it is my responsibility as a teacher to  ensure that my students understand, have access to, and are prepared to use technologies that will prepare the to be productive, ethical and collaborative members of our global community.”

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