Sunday, April 26, 2009

Reflecting on Integrating New Technology and Goals for the Future

Learning in new ways that prepares students for the future workplace is an essential component of today’s classrooms (Kirschner & Erkins, 2006). Web 2.0 tools such as wikis, podcasts, and blogs provide educators with the means to transform their classrooms into a collaborative environment that is connected to an authentic audience and provides educational experiences that promotes 21st century skills. Thornburg (2008) supports the integration of Web 2.0 tools; these new technologies provide educators with resources that are low-cost, collaborative and shrink space so students can communicate and collaborate easily with peers and professionals in and out of the classroom (Laureate Education, Inc., 2008). Prior to this course I had little experience with using Web 2.0 tools; this course has forced me to use these tools myself and explore how they can effectively be integrated into the classroom to enhance learning and the development of essential 21st century skills.

Students bring to the classroom a vast array of learning styles and ability levels. Technology provides educators with the means to differentiate to accommodate the needs of a diverse student population. The Internet provides teachers and students with an unlimited amount of material to supplement classroom instruction. Cramer (2007) describes the use of instructional websites to “illustrate, support, supplement, or assess student learning (p.126).” It takes some time to locate high-quality websites but they can provide our students with educational material that can help them better understand instruction by providing audio or visual representations or information that is of an appropriate reading level.

The role of the classroom teacher has changed from leader to faciltator. The ISTE NETS for Teachers Standards begin with key dispositions that are needed to be an effective teacher: facilitate, design, model, promote, and engage. I have always considered teaching my students how to be critical thinkers and problem solvers a critical component of my instruction. Thornburg made a statement that I have told my students for years, “I don’t know but I know how to find out!” and I model that frequently in my classroom (Laureate Education, Inc., 2008). I share my love of learning and often show them what I have to do in my classwork. If I can develop critical thinking and problem solving skills in my students and build their confidence in their abilities I feel I am successful. The major barrier teachers have to overcome when making the transition to facilitator is the perceptions of what many parents, students, and administrators think a classroom should look like and what the responsibilities of the teacher are. As Prensky (2008) states, educators face many pressures from parents and state and federal government that support an outdated education.

Professional development is a critical component of quality instruction. Blogs, wikis and podcasts can provide educators with resources that are relevant to their classroom and students. I am completing my last class in my Master’s program with Walden University. The knowledge gained from the weekly discussions and assignments have been invaluable; I have found the constant discussion with peers and acquisition of new knowledge and skills to be stimulating. I need to find some new means to stay abreast of current educational issues and trends. Through this course I have subscribed to some extremely useful blogs that have provided me with resources for classroom instruction and will utilize them to continue my professional development.

The ability to work effectively with peers is a key 21st century skill. By working collaboratively, students learn how to agree on, execute, and produce a product or complete a task (Kirschner & Erkins, 2006). Web 2.0 tools provide students with a motivating and educational learning experience that allows them to create products that can be shared with an authentic audience while developing collaboration skills. Developing this skill in my students has always been a goal for my classroom and the new technology available provides me with tools to meet my goal. Unfortunately, there are often parents and administrators that do not see the importance of collaborative learning and how technology can enhance the development of critical content and skills. To promote an understanding of collaborative learning I will invite parents for activity nights that allow them to see how their child is using technology in the classroom. I will share video clips of the use of technology and collaborative learning in our classroom so parents and administrators can witness the learning that is taking place.

When it comes to technology integration in the school environment cost is always a factor, a creative teacher can look at technologies that are more readily available, less expensive, and often already owned by the student and utilize them to develop learning experiences that are motivating and relevant. Ipods and cell phones with unlimited text service are common items in most students’ backpacks. Educators can download lectures, classic stories in the public domain and informational podcasts that students can access at times that are convenient. Students can text Google and quickly access information or they can email assignments to their teachers. These devices can provide, as Thornburg calls it, “anytime, anywhere learning” (Laureate Education, 2008). To provide my students with a quality learning experience that effectively integrates technology, I will continue to look at ways to use technology that society and our students embrace and channel it into my classroom by staying abreast of current issues and trends in technology by subscribing to relevant blogs and online periodicals.


Cramer, S. (2007). Update your classroom with learning objects and twenty-first century skills. Clearing House, 80(3), 126–132.

Kirschner, P., & Erkens, G. (2006). Cognitive tools and mindtools for collaborative learning. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 35(2), 199–209.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008). Understanding the impact of technology on education, work, and society [DVD]. Baltimore: Author.

Prensky, M. (2008, March). Turning on the lights. Educational Leadership, 65(6), 40–45.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Classroom Technology Profile

I took some time this week to survey my 4th and 5th grade students about their interest in and access to technology. I created a podcast to share my findings and some of the things my students had to say regarding their technology use. You can click on the title to listen.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills

I spent some time this week exploring the website of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. The partnership is comprised of many technology companies and the federal government with a common goal of helping schools develop the resources and programs to deliver 21st century skills to our students. The site describes the skills that are needed for students to become successful in a globally competitive workforce and offers student outcomes and curriculum maps with benchmark goals. Most teachers realize the importance of 21st century learning; the roadblock is the lack of training, support and resources necessary to make these goals a reality. Educators have an understanding of the needs of their students and what is essential to create a learning environment that provides a quality education yet they have very little say in the overall decision making in their schools; educators in other high-achieving nations have greater input in decisions regarding classroom instruction, curriculum and professional development (Darling-Hammond, Chung Wei, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009)

The Partnership provides an excellent diagram of a framework that shows how all components of the education system are interconnected in the 21st century classroom (you may view it here). It is important to note that educators and students do not (or should not) have to make a choice between core subjects and the acquisition of 21st century skills and dispositions. Yet on their site they post a survey that asks readers to make a choice between the two and does not provide an option for both. The outermost ring in the support system should be professional development. The promotion of 21st century skills really comes from the classroom teacher; it is the classroom teacher that creates the learning environment. The simple acquisition of resources does not provide a quality learning experience. Teachers may be provided with resources but without training, support and (let’s be realistic) time they cannot develop curriculum and lessons that foster the desired outcomes. Teachers in the US lag behind many countries in the amount of preparation time and opportunities for professional development; intensive teacher training leads to improved instructional practices which, in turn, improves student learning (Darling-Hammond et al., 2009) With adequate training and time teachers can even make do with a lack of resources- it is something we are used to doing.

The corporations involved in the Partnership have them means to make their goal become reality. They will need to truly develop partnerships with schools and teachers to provide them with the resources and training needed to implement their vision. Whether it is providing funding and training or lobbying the government they will need to take an active part in promoting change. At the very least I would like to see their resources page filled with lessons and tips that will make it easier for teachers to promote skill acquisition in their own classrooms.

As a contemporary educator I will continue to do the best I can to provide my students with a quality learning environment that fosters the essential skills that are needed for them to be successful in the 21st century workforce as well as ensuring that they meet NCLB standards, they learn how to live a healthy lifestyle, and they have a decent breakfast and even send food home for them at night. I will encourage my fellow teachers and try to convince my administrators and school board of what is important in our school to provide a quality education for our students. I will remain positive because I became a teacher to make a difference.

Darling-Hammond, L., Chung Wei, R., Andree, A., Richardson, N., and Orphanos, S. (February, 2009), Professional learning in the learning profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the United States and Abroad. Retrieved March, 27, 2009 from

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's Grant Writing Time

It is time for our yearly technology grant to be written and I have been asked to provide input. Please share the technology that you find the most invaluable in your classroom and how you utilize it in your classroom to increase student learning or productivity. If you could share your content area and grade level that would help me to organize the information. We have many SMARTboards in our school; I am particularly interested in innovative uses of interactive whiteboards and accessories to enhance their effectiveness. Thanks for your time and help!

Opening the Classroom to Parents Through Blogs

Too often parents want to know the ins and outs of their child’s day in the classroom but by the time students get home, homework is completed, and dinner is cooked the memories of the day have faded; important events, interesting information and funny anecdotes did not get shared.
I envision a classroom blog as a way to share the day with parents and provide the opportunity to comment and ask questions of their child and the class. Each day a pair of students will have the responsibility to record information about the day and enter it in the classroom blog. They will also be responsible for sharing any comments to their post with the class and replying to any questions posed to them. Writing as a means to inform others provides a purpose for their writing; it is not simply for a grade. Well-written entries will likely produce more comments and will encourage students to improve their writing skills and will also provide validation for their efforts. When one knows their work will be in a public forum and can be read by family, friends or anyone they are likely to put forth their best efforts. If students create the blog they will be more likely to encourage their parents to read it than if it was simply recorded by the teacher and therefore opening their life in the classroom to their family and others.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Just a start

Here is my first exploration of blogging. While I am somewhat of a "techie" I have never felt the need to post my musings for everyone to see. I will be exploring this as an avenue to discuss the trials and tribulations of a technology infused classroom with fellow educators and as a possible communication tool with parents that will allow them to have a better idea of what their child is doing in my classroom.