Final Course Reflection

Course Reflection

I revisited my very first blog post on my vision for educational technology. I still stand by my belief that technology enhances student agency. However, the depth of my understanding about how to accomplish a sense of agency with all learners has greatly deepened as a result of taking this course.

Examining the relative advantages of instructional technology taught me to pause and consider how technology can be an enhancement or distraction from the learning task. I was familiar with the benefits of tutorials and drill and practice, but I learned more about the role that simulations and problem solving software can offer.

One of my biggest stretches in learning was when we explored the benefits of spreadsheets. Not only did I learn how to use them as an educator and with students, I also discovered through conversations with my colleagues that spreadsheets are a primary tool for organization.

I really enjoyed learning to use screencasting tools. I’ve spent the last few years trying to improve my video communication, and overall presence on camera while planning, creating, and editing with multi-media teaching tools. I believe in the power of this learning option when done well. The more you practice, the faster and better you get!

Another aspect of this online course that was eye opening was hearing from other educators from across the United States about their district’s stance on walled gardens. I would not have had the same perspective if we discussed this topic in a college course within my state. The field of educational technology is so wide and uncharted that I can see why some teachers feel scared to even dip their toe into the water to get started. I’m learning in my role of working with adult learners that adults are not always that flexible or open to new ideas or trying things out as I am. Using technology in the classroom, for the long haul, has more to do with helping others adopt a certain mindset then it has to do with giving teachers technology and apps to try out and expecting it to take off.

Finally, it was a good challenge to take one subject matter and look at it through three lenses: interdisciplinary, technology and accessibility.  There is so much to consider in teaching that I have a new appreciation for the learning curve of our new teachers or even our veteran teachers who are trying to keep up with the times.

This course has made me realize that I need to observe and listen a lot this year. Teachers will provide me with all the information I need about how to take next steps based on where each teacher is and their willingness to move forward with technology. Even though I feel like my understanding of educational technology is light years away from where my staff is, I bring a level of calm and confidence about where we are going having been on this journey myself in the classroom and through graduate coursework.

Thanks to the The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) standards, I feel I have grown the most in content knowledge, content pedagogy, and professional knowledge and skills. I am now better prepared to create, use, and assess effective use of technology in the classroom. Due to the depth of the course blog work and content project, I am more reflective about the implementation of educational technology. Most importantly, I continue to develop my professional skills in this field by working in a supportive and collaborative online environment with other educators willing to share and learn with each other.

Self Assessment: Blog

blog-rubric

Content: 70/70

I put a great deal of time and thought into each blog post and project assignment. I frequently sought out new research which is included in my resources page and references for the related post.

Readings & Resources: 18/20

I cited the course textbook as well as other research and used APA formatting on all but one blog post.

Timeliness: 20/20

I always completed my blog posts prior to completing my project assignment which provided classmates at least two days to read and respond before the next module.

Responses to Other Students: 30/30

I always made sure to elaborate on one response and point out positives or connections in the other.

Ease of Access: Windows 10 and More

As an educator with experience in the fields of special education and technology integration, I connected most strongly with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) terminology of multiple means of representation and multiple means of expression (Roblyer, 2016). All students should have a diverse set of ways to access information and a diverse set of options to show what they know. This is even more true for students with impairments. The table below lists some accessibility features built into my Windows 10 operating system as well as other features available online to assist people with various impairments. Some of the accessibility options will be further explained after the chart.

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Narrator Function

Once you turn Narrator on, you can choose a voice (David, Zira or Mark) and adjust your narrator’s speed, pitch and even intonation. You can also pick which types of sounds (characters or words) you want to hear (Purewal, 2016, para. 3).

Magnification Function

You can magnify or reduce your screen and choose what type of magnification view you want to see such as full screen, lens, and docked (Purewal, 2016, para. 4).

Closed Captions

You can change the color, transparency, style, size, background color, background transparency, window color, and window transparency of your captions (Purewal, 2016, para.6).

As I think about the various accessibility features built into Windows 10, I was reminded in the internet document, Cognitive Disabilities and the Web: Where Accessibility and Usability Meet, by Mariger that accessibility and usability are two completely different concerns. “Usability considers how easy a site is to use and understand. Accessibility is concerned with whether you can get there at all” (Mariger, 2006, para.12).

When designing a website there are universal principles the designer should take into account. According to the US Census Bureau, 14.3 million Americans age 15 and over have a mental disability (Mariger, 2006, para. 1). The principles of good design for all center around these key areas: navigation, functionality, content and text, layout, and multimedia.

Resources

Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.).       Massachusetts: Pearson.

Purewal, S. (2016) Windows 10 Setting  Menu: the Ease of Access Tab, Retrieved from: https://www.cnet.com/how-to/windows-10-settings-menu-the-ease-of-access-tab/

Mariger, H. (2006) Cognitive Disabilities and the Web: Where Accessibility and Usability Meet. Retrieved from http://ncdae.org/resources/articles/cognitive/

Obstacles and Solutions relating to Integrating Digital Literacy and Opinion Writing

Obstacle 1: Teachers’ responsibilities for teaching new literacies

Teachers require training about the multi-modal nature of reading, writing, and researching online.

Solution: Students are already seeking information from the internet on their own time. They need to be taught how to seek meaning across a wide range of media such as text, video, images, sound and oftentimes they encounter all of this media in a very short time. This requires teaching students how to decipher relevant from irrelevant information and how to use reputable sources of information on the web. Once they have found all the information they need then it is important to teach them how to organize it with tools like diigo.

Obstacle 2: The debate about the importance of teaching cursive vs. keyboarding

Common Core standards in grades 3 on have specifically written objectives around using the keyboard to complete written work. Some argue for dedicated time to teach the QWERTY keyboard and others argue that it is a waste of time.

Those in favor of cursive writing feel that it is valuable because it allows children to develop fine motor skills and knowledge of cursive allows them to read historical documents.

Solution: There are so many embedded benefits of learning to word process: built in editing tools, spelling and grammar resources, peer and teacher ease of sharing feedback throughout the writing process, and sharing writing with a more authentic audience which can improve the initial motivation to write.

Obstacle 3: Challenges relating to working with diverse learners

Many English Language Learners and students in Special Education have obstacles with writing.

Solution: Word Processing provides such students with access to better word choice through the online thesaurus or dictionary. As mentioned above, they also benefit from the computer making suggested edits along the way. Voice to text is getting better and better and this is providing a huge benefit to those who are able to verbalize their thoughts, but the thoughts get jumbled in the process of moving from brain to paper.

Resource

Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.).     Massachusetts: Pearson.

Relative Advantages of Integrating Technology within Cross-Curricular Lessons

I’ve always enjoyed cross-curricular lesson planning. Not only does it make sense because it enhances the learning process to be looking at subject matter in multiple ways, it also frees up time to pursue class interests or activities that don’t perfectly match the common core standards. When teachers are experienced enough to blur the lines away from a rigid subject matter schedule, cross curricular lessons can be magical for both students and teachers. These are the lessons when my class and I have experienced learning without any attention to the clock. Usually there is always one student every year who was a clock watcher, for better or worse, and reminded us that recess was half over.

The new challenge within this module of study was to look at cross-curricular planning with an eye focused on the benefits of technology integration. I focused on integrating technology enhanced arts, health, and physical education with my sixth grade opinion writing unit. This unit originally integrated health which is why you see health covered so heavily below. Here is a link to my Buncee which supports the chart below.

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I have a personal teaching story to share about the benefits of technology in music programs. Last year my fourth grade teaching partner and I decided that our students would benefit from a half day field trip to the Oregon Symphony’s Young Peoples Concert. When I announced the field trip they moaned and groaned about how boring it would be. I worried a bit about this myself, but I was assured by my teaching partner that the conductor does an excellent job tailoring the experience for kids. Fortunately, the conductor did and the experience changed some attitudes about remaining open to  new experiences for about half of the students. In order to build anticipation and some familiarity with the music, each teacher was provided with a cd of the music that would be played. I turned it on as background music. Nothing. I tried having the students act out how they felt while the music was being played. Aha! I had complete skits without words and too little time for all the volunteers to perform. Now that I had found a way to connect them to music that was originally foreign to them, I could rest assured that I now had data from them in order to finalize plans for our time together after the field trip. I told them that I had a secret activity planned and it involved the iPads. When we returned I introduced them to Beatwave which is a free music composing app. I helped them connect the dots that music doesn’t happen without a composer and they would get to be a composer for the afternoon. They were asked to share their best one minute composition with the class by day’s end. As stated in Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (2016),

Today, the desktop music production software industry is helping accelerate a trend away and from reliance on printed sheets and toward an audio artifact. This means that many students who are discouraged by a requirement to learn notation theory can now participate as composers and performers. (p.356)

It’s time our music programs get updated and meet the needs of the learners in front of them. Despite having an amazing music teacher at our school, music class, presented in the traditional way, isn’t holding students’ attention which creates a frustrated teacher and ill-behaved students. Technology can help address many of the same issues across the curriculum. (p. 356)

Resources

Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.).

             Massachusetts: Pearson.

Digital Games

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/kjarrett/15611702891

Relative Advantages of Digital Games

Game based learning has proven to be a useful learning tool in military training and in specific areas of career training (Squire, 127). However, it has not taken off in the educational sector. The core of game based learning is about “designing experiences that stimulate new ways of thinking, acting, and being in the world” (Squire, 108-109). Studies conducted about game based learning are in their infancy. As well, those who develop games for learning rarely take into account learning theory. Therefore, it is difficult to gauge the learning that results from these games beyond the fact that learner engagement and motivation increase. Much of elearning to date has championed the ability to layer in all sorts of content for the learner to choose from. However, those interested in bringing game based learning into schools are more interested in situated learning. This means that rather than content being king, “it is the context in which learners develop knowledge that is king” (Squire, 110).

According to Root Learning, these are embedded components within digital games:

Creating context- Good games connect with the player emotionally and are an invitation into the world that is to be learned.

Intellectual and Emotional Engagement- Critical to most games is that they both establish challenges and goals for learners to meet. The learner is invited to construct the learning environment.

Problem Driven Activity– Game-based approaches are organized around situations, roles, activities, and practice. Learners are tasked with solving problems.

Challenges that Confront and Build on User’s Preexisting Knowledge and Belief- Good games should give you contexts to practice failure while recovering safely. They are environments where learners can and do take risks, trying on different learning strategies which has the potential for learners to question their old schema and alter it.

Knowing through Practice- Players must combine and use knowledge in a variety of settings which is the kind of practice that is useful in generating transferable knowledge and skills.

In summary, one of the biggest advantages of digital game based learning is in the “shift from caring what the person knows or can store in the head toward a concern for what the person can do, given access to a full set of tools, resources, and social networks that is consistent with the situated view of knowledge (Squire, 114).

So, how do we get educators to care about the relative advantages of game based learning? I read an article titled, Integrating Game-Based Learning Initiative: Increasing the Usage of Game-Based Learning Within K-12 Classrooms Through Professional Learning Groups, by Denham, et. al. This study proposed that in order to get teachers to see the value of game based learning in the classroom then involve them in trying out thinking like a game designer in this way:

Session 1Repurpose commercial-off-the-shelf games for learning

Participants were divided into groups in which they were tasked to locate a commercial, non-educational game, map the game to state and/or national standards, and develop a lesson around the game. Then they were asked to try out the lesson based on the game in class.

Session 2 & 3Teacher as Game Designer

Teachers were placed in groups and they were asked to modify one part of the analog game that they had chosen in session 1. The expectation was to continue to tie the game to a learning standard. The game was then tested within the group and later with the classroom. Teachers learned that game design is an iterative process.

Session 4Learner as Game Designer

Teachers were asked to take what they learned about game design and teach the process to their students. This requires the learner to think critically about the concepts being taught and provides them with an opportunity to construct their own knowledge (Denham et. al, pp 72-74).

It is the authors’ hope that this type of professional development structure will equip teachers with the pedagogical, content, and technical knowledge necessary to effectively integrate games within the classroom.

I like this non-tech approach since many teachers have yet to learn how to effectively use technology in the classroom. This game based learning without technology connects teachers with a positive experience, playing board games, to learning. From this starting point we can build the bridge to helping teachers embrace the advantages of game based learning in all its forms.

My content area covers sixth grade writing, but I am also responsible for providing professional development for teachers in all content areas. The advantages listed above are mentioned to help others tackle how to create an adult learning environment conducive to digital games and the same advantages are present within the health simulation that my opinion writing unit revolves around.

References

Denham, A. R., Mayben, R., & Boman, T. (2016). Integrating game-based learning initiative: Increasing the usage of game-based learning within K-12 classrooms through professional learning groups. TechTrends, 60(1), 70-76. doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.boisestate.edu/10.1007/s11528-015-0019-y

Squire, K. D. (2013). Video Game-Based Learning: An Emerging Paradigm for Instruction. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(1), 101-130. doi:10.1002/piq

Acceptable Use Policies in School Districts

Acceptable Use Policy in School Districts

Currently, my state’s education department does not have guidelines for schools to use concerning acceptable use policies (AUPs). The digital technology tab on the Oregon Department of Education’s website is currently under construction. Fortunately, districts across Oregon have already responded to the needs regarding acceptable use of technology in schools.

According to Common Sense Media, an acceptable use policy for school districts outlines, in writing, how they expect their community members to behave with technology. Often the policies are written to include appropriate and inappropriate technology use and related consequences. Finally, parents and children are expected to sign off that they agree to the terms and conditions in order to use technology for school work.

I liked this summary of recommendations about what should be included in any school district’s acceptable use policy. (Virginia.gov)

An AUP must address (1) access to and transmission of data and information within the K-12 environment and (2) any technology-based device in the school or personal device brought into the school. It must include the following components:

Description of the instructional philosophies and strategies to be supported by Internet access in schools

Statement on the educational uses and advantages of the Internet in a school or division

Statement that the AUP complies with state and federal telecommunication codes, laws, and regulations

Statement regarding the need to comply with fair-use laws and other copyright regulations while accessing and utilizing the Internet and other network materials and resources

Disclaimer absolving the school division, under specific circumstances, from responsibility

List of the roles and responsibilities of division personnel, community stakeholders, parents, and students for using the Internet and other electronic-based resources

Description of the safety measures currently in place and those measures planned for emerging technologies not currently deployed in the system

Description of the methods by which the division ensures data and network security

Description of prohibited forms of technology-based applications and hardware use by employees and students in addition to details of associated penalties (including clear definitions of acceptable online behavior and access privileges—reflecting any circumstances unique to a specific school or division)

Description of the procedures to address breaches of Internet and intranet security and safety, including legal actions to be taken

Description of the ongoing professional development opportunities for each stakeholder group and associated needs assessments and evaluations

Description of the community outreach activities and associated needs assessments and evaluations

Description of the procedures for evaluating and revising the AUP

Signature form for teachers, parents, and students indicating their intentions to abide by the AUP

Acceptable use policies are important because they protect students. As well, they provide students, teachers and parents with a base level understanding about expectations for responsible use of technology within and outside of school.

Out of personal interest, I decided to compare four examples of AUPs from designated locations around the world.

Four examples of Student Focused AUPs

HSD Elementary Handbook, USA see pages 14-18

Summary: This AUP outlines the basic responsibilities and guidelines related to the appropriate use of technology within and outside of schools. It is written in legal language and would require interpretation for most K-12 students in order to truly understand. The opening statement includes:

hsd_opening_statement

Acceptable use in Australia

Summary: This AUP is written in positive language rather than punitive language. The site also states that it is not intended to be a legal document. Instead, it is a compact to be understood by the child, parents, and teacher. It also includes a child-friendly page to demonstrate in pictures and/or in writing that the student understands important elements of responsible technology use. A page is designated to show that the entire team (parent, child, and teacher) agree to the conditions set forth.

austr_aupAcceptable use in United Kingdom of Great Britain

Summary: This AUP is written for students in the form of “I will…” statements. It is standard and includes broad expectations at first. It ends with examples of appropriate and inappropriate use of technology as a guideline. Parents and students are expected to sign the document and it appears to be a legal document based on the opening statement included here:

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Acceptable use in Singapore

Summary: This AUP is written in positive language and is intended to be easily understood by students. The AUP favors the benefits of technology over the disadvantages of use for school related work. Instead of “I statements” this AUP uses “We statements”. I like how the use of “We statements” emphasizes the importance of holding each other accountable since many technology related school work is completed in a collaborative way.

singapore_aup

In conclusion, I believe these acceptable use policies reflect the litiginous nature of the particular area of the country these AUPs are from. I am attracted to the AUPs that are written positively and in a non-punitive way. However, I do realize why guidelines are written in a legalistic way so that school districts can avoid lawsuits in order to focus on using financial and human resources to support learning.

References

Retrieved from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/safety_crisis_management/internet_safety/acceptable_use_policy.shtml

Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/1to1/aups

The Basic Suite

The Basic Suite is composed of three software tools: word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. Two of the three tools have been integrally important to my teaching and the learning experienced by my former elementary school age students. Those two being word processing and presentation. Due to the amount of writing and speaking experiences that I provide for my students, word processing and presentation software tools were a staple choice in my classroom across multiple subjects. Below is a summary of the relative advantages of these three tools.

Word Processing

Teacher Productivity

Relative advantage: I created most of the documents for my families and students. My Back-to-School letter and questionnaire were modified slightly every year. All of my lesson plans were archived in Google Drive for easy access. Comprehension worksheets, graphic organizers, and sentence frames that I created for some favorite lessons were useful over and over again thanks to word processing software.

Student Productivity & Collaboration

Relative advantage: When students have access to word processing, it automatically provides some built in modifications such as spell check, and with the internet, the ability to consult a dictionary or thesaurus to help students get to the heart of their ideas instead of laboring over handwriting and limited word choice which can lead to rudimentary sentence formation due to playing it safe when they do not have access to these tools.

As well, the sharing feature in Google Docs is great for peer and teacher editing. I value the revision history tool so that I can provide feedback to the writer and editor.

Research cited in Roblyer (2016), states that students with access to word processing software are engaged in a greater quantity of writing throughout the year as compared to students without access to word processing. I also found this to be true.

Spreadsheets

“Spreadsheets are programs designed to organize and manipulate numerical data”, (Roblyer, 2016, p.121). Because of my former role as an elementary educator, I did not use spreadsheets ever. This class is my first experience using this software tool. However, in my role as instructional coach now, I am discovering that spreadsheets are a preferred way for some teachers when it comes to organizing information.

Time Saving Tool

When it comes to basic calculations in order to do higher level thinking, then spreadsheets offer a great advantage. Mathematics research states that it is more important for students to know how to approach a problem than to get bogged down in calculations that can be done for them.

Roblyer (2016) states that teachers are more accustomed to processing words rather than numbers and therefore student exposure to spreadsheets has been limited. Due to the recent focus on eliminating negative feelings about math, it seems that exposing students to spreadsheets would be a good thing.

Presentations

Teacher Organization of Ideas

Relative advantage: Creating presentations forces any learner to prioritize the information that is to be learned or taught. As well, presentations enhance spoken word when created with an emphasis on visuals (Roblyer, 2016).

Student Demonstration of Learning

Relative advantage: The process of creating anything is the highest form of thinking according to Bloom’s Taxonomy. Therefore, I always include a creative option when assignments lend themselves to it. I prefer to grade student presentations over handwritten work. When visuals complement another person’s ideas, it is easier to determine what level of understanding a student achieved. Presentations are also a great option for those with fine motor challenges. For once in their life, they can create something visually appealing and communicate their ideas without worry that they will be judged on their handwriting or lack of drawing skills.

Research cited in Roblyer (2016), states that presentations are effective if the creator has a specific background in visual design principles and related pedagogy. Otherwise, overuse or improper use of certain presentation features can have a negative impact on the viewer.

My teaching and how students learned in my classroom changed significantly because of the basic suite. Once I fine tuned teaching students how to create using these tools then I just needed to introduce how to use an electronic turn in system. Our district promotes the use of Schoology and Google Classroom to manage teaching and learning in new ways.

References

Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.).     Massachusetts: Pearson.

Instructional Software

5 Types of Software

 

Description Uses in 6th grade writing Relative advantage(s)
Drill and practice This software is designed to be a motivating option for repeated practice in order for low level skills to become automatic so that a student can move on to higher order skills. This software is often a replacement for what could be completed on worksheets, flashcards, or notes for test preparation. Conventions and Grammar practice: mobymax.com and frontrowed.com Students receive immediate feedback on responses and can also view graphs of their progress.
Software allows students to work at own pace and level due to a built in placement test.
Tutorials This software is designed to present a complete sequence of instruction. When unaccompanied by a teacher in close proximity, the student benefits from being a strong reader and someone who is self-motivated. Teach a sequence of instruction on opinion writing: learnzillion.com Tutorials are great options within centers when a teacher is not  available. As well, students benefit from the ability to replay or pause the tutorial as many times as needed to understand.
Simulations This software is designed for two purposes: to teach a learner about something or to teach how to do something.
Physical simulations allow the learner to manipulate objects on the screen.
Iterative simulations allow the learner to speed up or slow down processes that would be hard to see otherwise.
Procedural simulations teach the steps to a procedure.
Situational simulations provide the learner with hypothetical situations in which the learner must respond.
Classroominc.org provides simulations based on topics related to environmental concerns and community based organization.
Simulations like these would be a great way to launch an opinion writing unit.
Simulations provide engaging, real world content and real time decision making. As well, simulations allow for student interaction for the otherwise passive task of opinion writing. They also involve a complex idea and break it down into manageable pieces for students to do some critical thinking prior to writing.
Instructional Games Instructional games are appealing and motivating at the same time as they are instructional. Many  should be used sparingly to keep students focused on the learning rather than just the game-based factors. Topmarks.co.uk could be used as a remedial tool for students who need assistance in understanding paragraph formation. Some students in special education might benefit from a concrete game about paragraphs since they will be writing a multi-paragraph essay. It is engaging and could be used as a reward tool to continue the writing process.
Problem Solving This type of software is designed to either assist the learner with steps to solve problems or provide content area situations in order to apply solutions using previously learned problem solving skills. None that I could find that would be pertinent to writing in particular. Other than providing content as food for thought, I do not see any other relative advantage. Opportunities to use problem solving software would likely improve a student’s ability to provide a rationale for their opinion.

The description and relative advantages section ideas are referenced in:

Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Massachusetts: Pearson.