EdTech Definition Graphic

For the final assignment in EdTech 501, I analyzed the current definition of Educational Technology.  As part of the analysis, I created a graphic representation of the definition using PowToon.  I began by reading the expanded definition of EdTech and examining its key parts for understanding.  To me, the definition had four main parts: study, ethical practice, facilitated learning, and performance.  

Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.

All other elements of the definition fit into these four main parts.  The most important of these four parts, however, proved to be facilitating (or facilitated, as I called it in my PowToon) learning.  This notion of learning as something facilitated by the teacher seems to be crucial to the definition because it tips the idea of education on its head toward constructivist thinking and away from the “Sage on the Stage” teaching method.  This idea of “facilitated learning” really spoke to me as a teacher.  It supported my previous idea that the students should be in control of, or invested in, their learning.  EdTech, as defined in our assigned chapter, allows students to claim ownership of their learning through active, learner-centric methods and authentic audiences/situations.  

Following the “facilitated learning” aspect of the definition, “study,” “ethical practice” and “performance” seem to be equals in my opinion.  The reading described “study” as an idea beyond simple research.  It explained it as a “cyclical process” of reflection and practice that led to improved performance.  This idea of a “cyclical process” stuck with me and visually explained the importance of study to this definition and the interconnectedness of the definition’s elements.  I found the “ethical practice” element to be important because the AECT standards are the framework from which we design and instruct.  Without these standards, as stated in the reading, success is not possible.  As teachers, we cannot be sure that we are addressing the “needs” of our students without the AECT Ethics Committee and its standards.  Finally, the idea of “performance” jumped out of the definition as the learner’s ability to use and apply new capabilities in authentic environments.  This performance includes the three major functions of the field: creating, using, and managing appropriate technological resources.

At first, I thought I wanted to create an infographic for this assignment.  (I still would like to learn how.)  But, when push came to shoveScreen Shot 2016-06-21 at 5.37.58 PM, I decided to use PowToon to create an animated visual rather than a static one.  I first learned about PowToon in a Tech Tools seminar, where I starred it in my notes as a potential tool for student presentations.  PowToon was so fun and easy to use that I am really quite obsessed with it now.  The only issue that I had was exporting the visual.  It turns out to do some of the “fancier” things (like, I don’t know, download it as a file) you have to pay for a membership.  Other than that, PowToon was fun to use, and it is definitely a tool that I can use in my classroom or assign for students to use for presentations.

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School Evaluation Summary

As an online instructor, I was initially concerned about this assignment.  How am I supposed to evaluate my school’s technology use when all my school is is technology?  I was worried that if I evaluated my non-traditional school that I would not get the full effect of the assignment.  After investigating the assignment more, I decided to evaluate a local school that I admire because of their dedication to outstanding academic achievement through technology integration.  I knew this school would be on the advanced side of the Maturity Model Benchmarks but I was not sure how advanced it was.  This assignment required me to analyze the school’s technology use and policy by ranking school behavior and resource/infrastructure into the stages of maturity outlined below.

  1. Emergent Stage
  2. Islands Stage
  3. Integrated Stage
  4. Intellectual Stage

Despite my chosen school being seated firmly in either the Integrated or Intellectual stage consistently (Not going to lie… I looked for ways to throw a wrench in this consistency), I found that students were exposed to technology in every lesson but were not using their resources to the absolute greatest potential.  That said, they are using technology in incredible ways that any school would love to imitate.  My newfound knowledge of emerging technology and technology-supported instruction makes me realize how much more Birmingham Academy could be utilizing their resources.  As someone who would love to teach at this school one day (please, oh, please, oh, please) and has viewed this school as the crème de la crème of local private schools, I was surprised to find that there were areas of improvement.  To name a few, Birmingham Academy could easily incorporate the flipped classroom model, blogging, or digital badges and other gamification techniques.  My research did find, however, that Birmingham Academy has plans to purchase a 3-D printer to add to their STEM programs.    

Maturity Benchmark Survey: Birmingham Academy

Maturity Benchmark Analysis: Birmingham Academy

Digital Divide / Digital Inequality

The Digital Divide – It sounds like a Ray Bradbury novel, right?  Another future predicting dystopian novel explaining how the future will be full of powerful, mind-numbing technology set to consume society and rid the world of basic human interaction.  Well, maybe I read too much.  The idea is about the separation between those with technology and those without and as a result, those with the ability to use it and those without the ability.  It is not merely a game of have and have not, though our research showed the effect of technology in a person’s or community’s life is large.  Our research also revealed, to my great surprise, that despite massive improvements in the last few years, the divide is actually increasing.  The focus of our project was to counteract that increase and provide solutions that could increase the presence of technology.

digital-divide

Photo Cred: Lane Terralever

In this project, my group and I studied the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality as a whole and as it related to a specific state, Idaho.  We were asked to act together as a task force to rank six proposed solutions and provide three additional solutions for bridging the Digital Divide.  In our research and discussions, we found that though we may disagree on ranking the provided solutions, we all agree that the solution to the Digital Divide is not in one step or even six.  It is about acting to integrate and encourage technology use at all ages, in all communities, and for all purposes.

This project opened my mind to how great the divide is in the world, not just the least developing countries.  The divide is everywhere, and even though technology is becoming more affordable and more common, it still has a ways to go.  I think it is especially easy for me as an online instructor to forget the breadth and depth of the divide, so this assignment was an excellent reminder for me.  My new information about the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality also demonstrates the value of what I am trying to do as an EdTech major and what one of my priorities should be as a future “techie.”  A girl can dream, can’t she.  🙂

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Photo Cred: Normand Theriault

We formatted our findings in a Prezi consisting of an overview of the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality, six ranked solutions plus explanations, and three additional solutions.  I was incredibly excited to see that we were using Prezi as our presentation format.  Prezi is something I have heard about and seen my students use; however, I have never had the opportunity to use it myself.  This project gave the drive to learn how.  And now, it’s official.  I’m hooked.  As a curriculum designer for an online ESL school, I make PowerPoint presentations all day.  All day.  I repeat – all day.  With my constant use, I’ve grown bored with it, and now, I am over-the-moon excited to have a new toy, so to speak.  Likewise, as a curriculum designer, it is easy to get bogged down with the same templates and lesson formats, so I enjoyed reading the two articles about design.  Many of the principles I knew and implement already in my day-to-day activity; however, I found the idea of using decorative fonts for headings to be a bit surprising.  I try to avoid decorative fonts because I have found that no matter where they are on a slide, they distract readers.  Most of my presentations, for my classroom or designer needs, include only clear, stick fonts so that students can easily and quickly read the information.  Perhaps, I judged too soon though.  Fontspace here I come!!

I love being a curriculum designer.  There is something refreshing to me about getting paid to fret over the small stuff.  My nit-picky, detail-oriented personality is finally paying off! That being said, given the time, I could change a thousand things about our presentation.  Not because I dislike any of the content or design, but because this was my first time using Prezi, and I feel like each time I edited my frames, I learned something new.  I would love to learn more about the animation features and use some of the other templates.  Even with my limited experience, it looks like a resource that my students would enjoy.

 

Using RSS Feeds in the Classroom

There is so much information on the the web, so it is nice to have a tool like Digg Reader that can bring it all to you.  I suppose that I have always known about RSS feeds but had never embraced or acknowledged it.  Well, now I am changed.  I have spent the last 3 days setting up subscriptions, reading articles, and watching videos.  All my interests in one place — Why would I not use this in the classroom?

When I first thought about utilizing RSS feeds in the classroom, my brain immediately went to the three courses that I have had the most experience teaching and, in turn, the three courses that I love teaching the most: English, Creative Writing, and Public Speaking.  How can RSS feeds enable or transform learning in these classes?  Outlined below are my thoughts.

English

Research papers are the bane of my existence.  I hated doing them as a student, and I hate assigning them as a teacher.  One of the main reasons that I feel so passionately against them is topic selection.  What 15-year-old boy is well versed on the subject of obesity or the pro-life/pro-choice conflict?  None that I have ever met or taught.  RSS feeds to save the day.  Using RSS feeds, students can subscribe to websites that will provide background knowledge and different viewpoints of a topic.  Students can choose a topic early, in preparation for the looming, evil that is a research paper, and build their background knowledge throughout the year.  This way, students can easily evaluate a source, chosen closer to assignment time, as to how it relates to the topic and works for their viewpoint.  For example, a student may be interested in alternative energy or fuel sources but not have a lot of background knowledge on the subject.  That student can subscribe to the U.S. Department of Energy website, other BBC News feed, or the Twitter feed of an advocate in order to understand the issues and viewpoints out there and to create their own.

Other exciting uses for RSS feeds in an English classroom include using online reviews, articles, and fiction as mentor texts.  Students can subscribe to sources like the New York Times Sunday Book Club or The New Yorker to read, review, and critique texts before completing their own assignments.  These sources also provide ideas for independent or summer reading assignments that are vital to success in the English classroom.

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Subscribe to sites like The New York Times for mentor texts.  Students can read, review, and critique book reviews.

Creative Writing  

Creative Writing can be difficult to teach, because, in my opinion, it is one of those things that is easier to do (to show) than to teach.  That being said, I like to use a lot of mentor texts in my Creative Writing classes.  Students can use RSS feeds to subscribe to sources full of mentor texts like Poetry 180.  Also, in my creative writing courses, I usually assign students to memorize a poem once a quarter to expose them to more poetry and force them to study other writer’s language and technique by vocalizing their words. (I’ve noticed that my creative writing students are usually very quiet.)

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Access to 180 poems?  What English teacher is going to say no?  Use RSS feeds to access the daily poem.  Creative Writing students can use this database to increase their understanding of poetry and writing.

RSS feeds can also help to build student vocabulary, which is very important in creative writing.  Students need to constantly be learning and using new words in order to understand their style and to avoid overused/clichéd words.  I like to have students create notebooks full of word lists (i.e. list 25 words you can use instead of “great”).  Initially, students find it tedious, but after a few lists, they begin to see their vocabularies strengthening and their creative writing benefitting from it.  Therefore, students can subscribe to Word of the Day sites like Dictionary.com or Merriam-Webster.com to expand their vocabulary.

Public Speaking  

I would have never imagined making this next statement 5 years ago: I love teaching Public Speaking!  As a first year teacher, I was thrown into it without a textbook, a pacing guide, or a clue.  I personally struggled through Public Speaking in college because I am naturally quiet.  However, teaching Public Speaking has been one of the highlights of my career.  Most of my students feel the same way I did as a student toward public speaking; however, I include something in my Public Speaking course that my teachers did not — laughter.  Laughter naturally brings down inhibitions and nervousness that prevents students from feeling confident and comfortable in front of a group of their peers.  

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Ground control to Major Tom — Use RSS feeds to get some “out of this world” current events.  (Yeah, I managed to make David Bowie corny.  #winning)

One assignment that I do on a weekly basis is presenting a current event.  This weekly assignment helps students to feel natural at the front of the room with 20 sets of eyes staring at them. RSS feeds would work amazingly for this assignment.  Students could subscribe to news sources around the country and world, like The New York Times, National Geographic, BBC News, NASA podcasting, and more, to find their article to synthesize and present.  Using RSS feeds would also save me from listening to the same article from the local newspaper 10 times a week.  (I cannot tell you how many weeks I heard about the latest on Whitney Houston after her death in 2012.  Maddening!)  

Other Thoughts

As I continue through this program, I think about where I want this degree to take me.  My specialization is in Classroom Technology Integration, but I am also interested in School Technology Coordination.  On top of the previously outlined uses for RSS feeds in the classroom, I can see using them as a source of continuous professional development and conversation among a school faculty.  My experiences as a teacher at Russell County High School support this idea.  My colleagues in the English Department were constantly collaborating and sharing research/ideas to benefit our students and “spice” up our classrooms.  As I stated in the introduction, I have been obsessively reading my Digg Reader since I set it up, and I cannot help but think that I could use RSS feeds as a School Technology Coordinator to continuously develop fellow teachers.

 

Sources:

Information Avalanche Rescue: RSS Feeds in the Classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2016,

from http://eduscapes.com/sessions/rss/

Flipped Classroom: An Annotated Bibliography

For my annotated bibliography, I focused my research on the flipped classroom model.  Choosing a research topic was more difficult that I thought because I am also interested in 1:1 computing, blended learning, and problem-based learning.  Additionally, I learned a great deal about flipped and blended learning at the iNACOL conference in Orlando, FL last November, so I already had a bit of background knowledge to inspire my research.  (It was the iNACOL conference that inspired my decision to get my master’s degree in Educational Technology, after all.) After some research into all of the topics, I settled on the flipped classroom because I found its implementation and methodology to be most interesting and comprehensively covered in Google Scholar and Albertson’s Library database. 

During my research, I found 5 articles, each having its own merits, that outlined the method technology-supported instruction.  The majority of the articles focus on implementing the pedagogy and other best practices, but some focus on the learning theory that contributed to its popularity and how to implement an instructional module for teachers interested in implementing the flipped classroom model.  One of the most interesting articles related to a professor’s use of the flipped classroom in an upper level history class.  He used a “half-flipped” approach to supplement and enhance his face-to-face lecture time.  As a history professor, lecture was a large part of his course, though the flipped classroom advocates for other instructional practices, so he found a way to keep his lecture time and incorporate some collaborative activities in out-of-class online sessions.  He presented primary sources for students to discuss in peer-to-peer interactions as well as instructor-to-student interactions.  Overall, the “half-flipped” approach worked well and encouraged students to use critical thinking skills in collaboration with their peers.

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As you can see, I couldn’t make up my mind.  I found a lot of awesome sources for the flipped classroom and other technology-supported instruction. 🙂

Research aside, this was my first experience with APA.  I have worked with MLA since high school, and I felt a little bit like I was betraying a childhood friend.  That said, I think I executed the style well, though I found myself drifting back and forth in my in-text citations. I look forward to learning more about the formatting style throughout my graduate school experience. This assignment was also my first experience with Zotero.  I absolutely love this resource.  The idea of making a playlist of research references is genius!  (Why didn’t I think of that??)