Thursday, December 10, 2009

This will be my last posting for the class. It has been a fun adventure, despite the Friday afternoon time and the fact that I have viewed technology about as fun as eating liver and onions for dinner. I actually enjoyed the class and only once felt tortured (Excel anxiety). I feel empowered now, and I will continue to infuse technology into my classroom. The fear is gone, and I can hold my head high as no longer a "special" student for technology. Please do not read any politically incorrect message into my statement. It's just that I have had real insecurities with technology, and if anything can get screwed up, I will do it. I get nervous and frustrated because I have had no clue how to undo my mess. In my family, even my husband makes comments, and he is no whiz at computers either. I have accepted my limitations, but as the saying goes, "Everyone can learn."

So, now, I go off "Into the Wilds of Technology."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Technology Project and Seniors

My technology project is about to wind up. I must admit it has been a struggle. My seniors entered class in August with the attitude that they are seniors; therefore, they have a right to warm the seats and do no work. Wrong. I have persevered in having them complete this project completely and to a standard.

The first day of presentations was disappointing, but today went much better, probably because the presenters had a bit more time and have learned from the presenters on the first day. Their biggest problem is meeting deadlines. The presentations today were more thorough and thoughtfully put together.

I have learned a tremendous amount about PowerPoints. Because most of the students have Microsoft 2007, and the school has Microsoft 2003, two students (and my son) explained how to convert the presentations so they could be shown on the school's outdated software. Daily, I feel less and less intimidated by the computer, but my students still know more than I know. Today, when I started to click the wrong document, the boys (interestingly not the girls) started to yell, "No!" I caught myself at the same time and corrected my error. They were not being rude; it is that they have learned to help us elders, and in the process, they feel somewhat empowered when they do. I know I am thankful for their guidance.

I just learned that an LCD projector is going to be installed in my classroom. I am excited that I will be able to use it when the mood hits me, contrary to now. Now I have to secure the portable one from the library.

Yes, I'm beginning to lose my "I'm old school" excuse and get with the times. Soon my overhead projector may just have to be retired. Along with the LCD projector, my next technological tool will be a document camera; however, this purchase will have to be out-of-pocket. I haven't decided if I want to let loose of the money. Maybe I can go on-line and find a donor or a bargain.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Technology in the classroom update

I have been trying to infuse more technology into my teaching. One thing I did about two weeks ago was make a PowerPoint presentation for the Gothic novel devices, Hawthorne's literary devices, and the devices Hawthorne borrowed from Sir Walter Scott. This information is foundational for the students to know before they read The Scarlet Letter. I usually use the overhead projector for explaining this information. I also enhanced the presentation with pictures I found through google images. I really enjoyed making the PowerPoint, and the students seemed to appreciate my efforts. They even clapped when it was over. I have been wanting to do this project for over five years, but I could never get my son to show me how to do it. He hates helping me because I get easily confused and usually "screw up" what I am doing. He has rescued me many times. Wow, I can't believe I did it all by myself...a small victory for me.

My tech project for the tech class is coming along fine. The students have read and annotated their articles, and next week they will turn in at least 1/2 of the notes they will use for their PowerPoint presentations. The following week they will turn in the remainder of the notes and present their PowerPoints. Today I gave the students the rubric I will use to grade their presentations, so there should be no excuse for them not to do a good job, other than procrastination. I gave them a schedule of all the due dates (benchmark/check-off style) so that they would not wait to create the presentation the night before. I can't stand it when students turn out shoddy work. I hope they enjoy doing this project, plus learn something. I am so glad I have added this assignment into my curriculum.

I am going to continue to step out of my comfort zone so as to introduce even more technology into my classes.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I have begun my tech project with my senior class. The librarian and I have worked up a lesson on using the database SIRS. It requires the students to go much beyond the basics. Exactly happened what I thought would. The students "listened" attentively to the tutorial. The students were shocked to learn that they were not going to be allowed to "do their own thing" and, instead, had to complete an exercise applying the information in the tutorial. Well, they really did not know what to do. They had not actually been paying attention. They thought they would just pretend to listen and then do their thing. This is exactly what I thought might happen because all of them have used SIRS before for a health education project.
As a result, the exercise took an entire other period. Also, some students had to start over because they did not read the directions carefully. They chose the wrong article on which to answer the questions because they did not use the entire title. Anyway, they are now done with that exercise, and we are returning to the computer lab on Monday to begin their own project. I have already given them a list of 30 topics from which to choose, and they have chosen their partner. Several students I had to pair up because they had no one in particular they wanted to work with. One student was openly annoyed with me because I would not let her work by herself. I told her working with people she doesn't know is something she will encounter in the work world. Of course, I also had to ask her to spit out her gum that she was chewing while complaining to me.
I think the students are going to be surprised by the rubric I present to them on the powerpoint presentation requirement. Some have done powerpoint presentations for history, and the teachers pretty much allow "whatever." The rubric I'm using I received from the librarian, who got it off the Internet. I have reworked it to my own liking, which was a tedious task.
I am looking forward to seeing what the students come up with; hopefully they will have fun and learn in the process. If all works out, I plan to keep this project in my curriculum.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Authentic Instruction

This week Dr. Meier required us to write a 600-word essay on our readings, so I will focus on one aspect of the readings I have not already discussed.

One of our readings was Kemker, Barron, and Harmes' article about laptop computers in the elementary classroom with a focus on authentic instruction. This article resonated with me because it cited an article by Newmann and Wehlage (1993) that I have included in my literature review for my thesis. That article cites five standards for authentic instruction. In reviewing the list, I realized how much of this I incorporated into my own technology project. In reflecting a bit more, I also realized how much of what I researched for my thesis has actually made it into my curriculum this year. I find this the most exciting part of teaching. I enjoy pushing myself to being better than a mediocre teacher. It makes each day in the classroom exciting. I just do not see how some teachers can assign pages to read and questions to answer out of the textbook and sit at the desk looking busy. How boring! I know nothing terrible happens to these teachers, but personally I would feel like I was slacking and not earning my money.

Another part of this article reminded me of a study being conducted this school year at Salinas High. An English teacher is studying reading improvement in second language learners using SSR and Kindles. His control group is reading without the Kindles for SSR. The other group uses the Kindles. I do not think this is a formal action research project as we do here at CSUMB. It will be interesting to see what conclusions he comes to as to whether Kindles made a difference with students' reading.

On another note, the other day in collaboration, we were bemoaning the fact that we don't have LCD projectors in our classrooms. The Assistant Principal very curtly told us that we have gotten by without them for years and have still been able to teach. True, but I reminded her that colleges use them as standard equipment. Now I see why the statement is made that not much has changed in schools in the last one hundred years. Oh well, I just keep using my overhead and buying boxes of transparencies at $32.00 a pop. I'm doing my part to keep the economy going. :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Educators and Technology

The readings for this week provide some thought-provoking ideas. When I first started reading "Why Educators Should Care About Games," I must admit I was a bit skeptical. My daughter, a graduate of Cal Poly SLO, has related to me many stories of her guy friends' addiction to computer games. I would say the games do engage these young men's minds, do require critical thinking, but at the exclusion of any other social interaction. Nevertheless, I became intrigued by page 78 when the authors began to relate specific activities that involved the classics. It shows me that technology in the classroom need not be at the exclusion of print media, i.e. books.

The explanation of Digital Prometheus caught my attention because of its focus on ethical dilemmas inspired by Frankenstein. Ethics has become a focus of we 12th teachers at my school because students increasingly show they don't have them. They continually make poor decisions that, in many cases, cause them to experience jail time (yes, many have probationary officers) or other serious school sanctions. Using technology to enrich and extend these lessons is a brilliant way to teach students. Also, the approach pulls in important literature that can broaden students' knowledge base. Frankenstein is a recognizable character name that even Mel Brooks copied for one of his movies. Carol Jago, the current NCTE President and a veteran teacher, has published a book about teaching ALL high school students the classics. Extending this reading via technology is a way to achieve equity for all students, not for reading the book but for gleaning the underpinning of theme from it.

One other article of note is "Six Challenges for Educational Technology." This article, while a bit long, was captivating in that Dede realistically states that "Professional development needs are more complex than increasing educators' technical literacy." He says the real issue is building teachers' knowledge and skills in changing their pedagogy and content. He sees, clearly, that not all of the funding can go into purchasing hardware. I couldn't agree more. Just having computers on campus does not mean they will be used effectively. IF the teachers don't know how to integrate technology into their curriculum, the computers become an expensive decoration for the school. Too much effort has been placed on the lower level functions of how to use them and have kids just word process; then the teacher can say s/he is using computers in the curriculum. Expectations must be increased. I feel each school needs a technology/literacy coach who can help teachers change their pedagogy to effect real change.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wow! Trying to figure out how to post my message had me stumped for a few minutes.

As for this week's readings, I found several ideas intriguing. First, I agree with what Barnett says about new technologies--like computers, television, and video--that were expected to change education simply by making it more exciting. I remember my son's teachers telling we parents this same idea. I must admit I was cynical with all the hoopla over the greatness of computers, and my reservations were confirmed. All I ever my son and his classmates doing was playing nifty games with the computer--having fun, or practicing his math. Never was my son shown how to use technology to create a product. The computer was for play or a tutorial. No wonder I felt computers were an expensive toy that served little purpose other than to create some fun in the classroom. I feel this is where schools have gone wrong.

Educators have not been trained as to what the computer can really do. As is usually the case in education, something is bought and little foresight is given to how to train the parties involved. When computers came into education, we teachers were encouraged to take our students to the computer lab, but what were we to do? All we heard was, "Use the computer lab. We have these computers, so use them." We had no training and one computer lab technician who spent most of her time showing us how to start the computer and undo the "screw ups" we created. On those days I was so stressed I prayed nothing catastrophic would occur while I was in the lab. Our work was limited to word processing some journal writes or writing a creative story and printing it.

One statement by Roth made me feel sad. He says that "computers are generally better than humans at disseminating the desired information" because computers "have easier, more immediate access to the desired and required information than most teachers." Granted the computer does have more immediate access to information, but I would hope that humans could disseminate information as good, if not better, than a piece of technology that never takes a breath or feels. Let us never forget that the human touch makes all the difference in the world. Computers/technology is a tool for people and teachers...not a substitute.