When I began my journey three and a half years ago, my goal was to obtain my M.Ed. in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning so that I could eventually work in administration. Along the way, however, I realized that educational technology classes were what I enjoyed the most and had the most impact on my classroom. I no longer want to work in administration; I want to continue my work trying to evolving as an educator and using technology to its full potential. What I have realized is that I want to be a part of this educational revolution that is currently in its infancy and since I love change and challenge…. it is an incredibly exciting time to be a teacher!!
As I think back to what my classroom was like when I started this process, I see that many things have changed. I have tried blended learning, using a flipped classroom and have incorporated technology in every way possible! My physics students are now using motion detectors and graphing software to carry out their experiments. The obtain accuracy that they never even came close to when conducted the traditional way. For example; In measuring the acceleration due to gravity, most students were within 2-4% of the actual textbook value! It was an amazing experience…. the students didn’t realize the significance until I started clapping and jumping up and down with our results!! We were drawn in to the event and wanted to measure so many other types of motion with the detectors. To me, this was inquiry-based education at its finest.
I try to keep in mind something that I learned in my Inquiry and ICT class: I want my students to learn with the technology, not from the technology. The mistake that I made myself prior to my classes is using technology for technology sake. I was using it to replace me being the source of information but was still direct teaching and not student centered or inquiry based.
With the learning that I did as an educational technology student I was determined to change the way I did things. At the beginning of the 2011/2012 school I attempted to create completely inquiry and problem based classes with the help of technology. After a month of stress and frustration, I realized that we… meaning my students as well as myself… were not ready or adequately skilled for such a transformation. From that experience, I recognized that starting small is essential for everyone and building slowly but surely from that point on is the best way to go. My eLearning class has confirmed that what I experienced with my students is not uncommon. Both teachers and students need time and practice to acquire the mind set and skills for working collaboratively in an inquiry or problem based environment.
Digital literacy and digital citizenship have become part of all my science classes. My students are blogging with students from across the province and across the world about nuclear physics. Because I am the moderator and have to approve all posts before they go public, I have been able to have valuable conversations with some students who did not necessarily understand appropriate blogging practices. For the most part, however, my students impressed me and went over and above expectations. I also had my students investigate and use many different online presentation tools and had them work collaboratively to build their knowledge.
Even though my educational technology classes have come to an end, I will model lifelong learning by continuing to research so that I stay up to date with current trends. I will continue to include as much technology in my classroom as possible and to build into a balanced and student-centered classroom that will help my students to be the creative problem solvers that will be successful in today’s information age.
At my school we have a Tutorial program where students are scheduled to attend tutorial as a place for homework assistance. Because it is a scheduled class, attendance is mandatory for those that sign up. The coming year will find tutorial becoming quite a bit more structured with a focus on literacy. We recently had a meeting where our special education teachers were outlining the program to those of us who will be working in the tutorial room. Needless to say, what they had outlined was traditional literacy. The reason for the renewed push for literacy is due mostly to the fact that the math curriculum has been completely overhauled to include inquiry and problem based learning. Without a firm ability to read, decipher information and apply concepts, students will struggle with this new math. So, I understand the rationale for the new structure and can see its value to students. However, because of what I have learned in this class, I suggested that we also include digital literacy in the mix. I was specifically referring to the skills needed to search the internet, read information, interpret and judge whether information was legitimate or not. To me, these are very important skills needed for all classes. Everyone agreed, thankfully, and it will be added to the tutorial curriculum.
Afterwards, I read through the National Council of Teacher of English report (2009) called Writing between the Lines-And Everywhere Else. They explain how the research they have done shows how the writing that students do outside of school is very different than the writing that they do in school. This polarity is a huge problem, in my opinion. The report goes on to outline three aspects of 21st century literacy: (1) The ability to find information and judge its accuracy; (2) The skill to read and understand many diverse types of print and online text; (3) The capability to innovate and use knowledge creatively. This information supported my push to include digital literacy in the tutorial classrooms. As a non-English teacher it is tough to be a leader in this regard. What I try to do in my classes is promote the three skills outlined above. In fact, I have already been doing this for years with the science projects that I assign! Unfortunately, this has not always been seen as a useful form of literacy. I wonder what the best way is to provide leadership within a school setting? How can teachers work together to move literacy in the 21st century even though some resistance exists?
National Council of Teachers of English (2009). Writing between the lines and everywhere else. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Press/WritingbetweentheLinesFinal.pdf