Thursday, December 31, 2009

Educational Journeys

This blog posting begins from Aaron Eyler's blog (Synthesizing Education) on Dec. 30, “The Appropriate Use of Technology in K-12 Classrooms”, and moves on to, what I think, is an example of teacher preparation, planning, and collaboration.  His blog makes several good points - a weekly visit to the computer lab is not integrating technology.  His view of “having students engage in critical thinking using technology that contributes to their overall learning” is spot on.  In North Carolina, our new teacher evaluation does add technology integration into the evaluation - big step forward.

With all of the demands on teacher’s free time (40 minutes during the day and 30 minutes before and after school in elementary--with the required meetings), finding the time to create lessons that totally integrate technology is difficult.  These lessons should use cooperative learning, use many levels of thinking skills, and have group rubrics; this requires a lot of planning, thinking, reflecting, and tinkering to develop, along with a tremendous desire to “do the best” for the students. It is exhausting.  Time consuming.  If teachers could work in cooperative groups (in elementary, grade-levels), like the students, it would help stream-line the planning.  Add an instructional technologist to this group, and you have a group based on curriculum content and school level tech that is available, allowed by the district, and possibly some new web tools that add interest to the students.  Being there, in the lab or classroom, when some of this work/web tools is being done or introduced, aids and supports the classroom teacher.  It gives a boost to the work production.  Many instructional technologists were previously classroom teachers and do have a good content background. 

At our school, we are undergoing some new projects this spring (along with moving our 3rd-5th graders into a new, technology rich building).  The 4th graders are going on a field trip to the NC outer banks to enhance their study of our state and its history.  The principal bought 6 flip cameras to allow these students to participate and bring home their personal views of what they saw and why it is important.  I made a blog to share links for content, pics of the trip, and allow a conversation to begin on this learning project.  We have a good skeleton project and are adding details and rich content, done individually by the classroom teachers.  I’ll begin working with the teachers and then the students (in groups of 6) to learn to use these cameras, how to download the files, how to discriminate importance of content, lengths of time and sizes of files, etc.  (remember these are 9-10 year olds).  Some of the finished products in this project include written reports by students posted on the blog or wiki page, the finished videos posted, student and teacher reflections of the trip, year’s work, and possibly some skits or reports on the  school’s daily news program.  

Time and postings will show our results - I imagine some will be more successful than others and some tinkering will be done with the ideas along the way.  Interesting and exciting to see students engaged in their learning, making choices, owning what they know and want to know, and working together to strengthen their choices.  Education is now becoming a more personalized journey for students.  This is an exciting time to help students grow by facilitating instruction rather than the teacher as “expert”, lecturing.

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