Thursday, February 16, 2012

Reflecting on Technology in Today's Learning Environment

     This course has exposed the true extent of technology’s influence in our society. When I surveyed the students in my classroom on their use of digital devices, I was amazed at the multiple ways students communicate. The course work required active participation in creating a classroom blog, at Blogspot,  a podcast with Podomatic, and a wiki page with Wikispaces. By developing these online tools I increased my knowledge and understanding of  Web 2.0 tools. Now I can incorporate this 21st-century communication  into my classroom. 
     My knowledge of Web 2.0 and my ability to use the tools has increased due to my recent exposure. I realized digital immigrants can learn and teach these tools, if we embrace the power of the Internet and the digital devices relevant to this generation. By using a classroom wiki, I have watched students interact with other members and check the posting history. I believe I learned a new way to teach and interact with my students.  
The change in my classroom from teacher-centered to learner-centered made sense to me as I completed this course. New curriculum for me this year included Lego Mindstorm robots and Sim City 4. My sixth graders learned how to download firmware and codes to the Robots. My seventh graders built virtual cities in Sim City 4 and participated in a Sim City challenge. As I was learning and integrating this technology into my classroom, I felt the shift from my personal instruction, to peer to peer and group discussion as the students discovered what combination of codes correctly ran the Robot C.  As the resources in this course implied, the shift from teacher, to group and student driven learning, is a desired affect of 21st century learning. I did feel more relaxed with my classroom’s atmosphere once I read this shift, from teacher lecture to group interaction was desired. I would have to say, my perspective on learner-centered instruction improved. I am going in the right direction; I just need to persevere. 
This course has encouraged me to build my technological foundation. With frequent use of a blog and wikispace I can stay connected with my students even if absences occur. I can post homework assignments and short instructional videos to the classroom wiki. Students can access the page from anywhere and no longer are dependent on a fifty minute block of lecture time in the classroom. The technology of RSS feeds will keep me informed on the latest techniques and changes I need to know in order o network with colleagues throughout the world. By maximizing my knowledge base, I can only increase my students’ achievement. By using a learner-centered environment, I believe I will engage my millennium learners more thoroughly.
One long term goal I have to transform my classroom environment is to learn the classroom management system BrainHoney. Our district has moved to this system and our staff is being trained to use it. Lessons plans, audio and video resources, graphics and pictures can all be stored in this one management system. Teachers can develop a quiz or test that is uploaded to a module. Automatic grading is programmed into BrainHoney, so students get immediate feedback. I really understand the benefits of BrainHoney due to the exposure this course has given me to the future landscape of teaching. I plan to enter new data and resources to my BrainHoney account with the benefit RSS feeds and recent networking has provided me.
A second long  term goal I have to transform my classroom environment is to increase my use of robotics. The Lego Robot C has been more successful then I had originally thought. The district leaders want this type of 21st-century learning to take place in our schools. At first I was afraid I would fail miserably with this curriculum. Surprisingly, I have learned to enjoy the challenge of programming a robot. My goal is to broaden my knowledge base of robotics and expand code writing with my junior high students. I plan to achieve this goal by teaching robotics 4 times a year instead of just once. I also plan to collaborate with other robotics teaches and share sample code and resources. I have already found reliable links that provide instructions and ideas for Robot C.
Concerning my feelings regarding the technological advances in the classroom, I will admit, the changes are more diverse than I realized. The speed of change and the amount of digital devices used by this generation is astounding. I believe all teacher must seek exposure and training in Web 2.0 tools in order to keep abreast of the changes happening in our careers. Evidence shows that almost every Web 2.0 tool makes it easy to connect and create with others globally to expand our instructional basis. We just need a little confidence and exposure to harness the power of these tools ourselves.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

7th graders on Digital Devices

In an effort to understand how students in my classroom are changing with their access to digital media, I conducted a survey of thirty, seventh graders. These students all have a school issued MacBook laptop so the questionnaire evolved around how they use their laptop and other digital devices outside of school.
The students were asked to circle digital items they have access to outside of school, and the results were that 27 of the 30 had cellphones. 22 of the 30 students had iPods, 16 had digital cameras and 12 had access to a desktop computer at home.
Ten students said they had XBoxes with an additional 10 having other game devices.
Seven students circled MP3 players, five had an iPad and 5 more had an iTouch.
Two students had Kindles, but no other electronic reading devices were mentioned.
From these 30 students, it was noted that cellphones, iPods and digital cameras were the most popular devices.
How much time they spent with their MacBooks, cellphones, video games and TV per day was the second part of the questionnaire.
It seems that fifteen of the thirty or 1/2 of the students use their cellphones 3+ hours a day!
These students are texting and talking constantly. How do they find the time for this? It seems watching TV is much less popular with today’s 7th graders than it was with my generation. 17 of the 7th graders said they watched 30-60 minutes of TV a day. Only 5 students thought they watched 3 hours of TV a day. 
The students all used their laptops outside of school with the most popular use being to surf the Internet. Several students asked what spending time on FaceBook counted as. We decided this social networking would be included in surfing, so it was no wonder that 10 or 1/3 of the students said they surfed 3+ hours a day.
Another category asked students how much total time outside of school they spent on their laptops and the majority said 2-3+ hours a day. When asked how much of this time was spent doing homework half of them (15) said 30 minutes. So it seems our school incentive for 1-1 computers is not producing homework inspired usage of the laptop. 
The last category on the questionnaire involved playing video games. In this area, it seemed only a few students were gamers since only 3 admitting to 3+ hours of video games per day. Thirteen students said they play games 30 minutes or less per day. Five students, or 1/6th of the 7th graders, play games one hour a day.
In reviewing the results of this survey, and leaving margin for error, I conclude that today’s 7th graders are very attached to their cellphones, computers and iPods.
These students are spending time with devices that were not available during my youth. Watching TV has given way to texting, talking, FaceBooking and surfing.
Now that I am aware of the statistics concerning 7th graders digital pastime, I am aware of how important it is to be electronically savvy myself if I wish to relate to them in the classroom.