When I started EdTech 503 I really had no idea what was in store. I do now. While I feel somewhat overwhelmed with all I have learned I also feel empowered. I certainly need and want to learn more.
My project for this course was to design three-hour instruction to help 8th and 9th grade students learn to use Google Docs presentations. It is geared for English Literature students who need to do a class presentation on a poet. They will not only gain content area knowledge but learn valuable 21st Century digital skills that they can apply in various real-world scenarios. It’s been fun but daunting.
Here is my 35-page project. There are many supporting documents linked throughout. It has been a grueling process but certainly a learning one.
I’ve been studying various accessibility/assistive technology tools this week. What an exciting area of growth that benefits so many people!
My EdTech 541 project page features several integration strategies for students of all abilities. Many of the tools, apps, websites, and devices listed not only benefit students with physical or sensory impairments, but also students who are struggling in various content areas. I also touch briefly on some tools for gifted and talented students and those up for a good challenge.
This post will take a look at some of the accessibility features built-in to the computer I use every day. I have experimented with them and seen briefly how they might really help students with various special needs.
Meet my accessible iMac:
Model: 27-inch 3.2 GHz Intel Core i3 iMac
Operating System: Mac OS X Lion 10.7.3
This is one powerful machine and I adore it.
The iPad and iPod are also very powerful machines with a different set of accessibility features built-in.
It is wonderful that so many tools are built in to the operating systems of computers and portable devices. This truly gives many students the opportunity to use and enjoy computers in a way that would otherwise not be possible.
Resources: Apple: Accessibility features on a Apple devices NASET: Overview of vision impairments
OATS: Open source assistive technology software
AbleData: resource for assistive technology information
OCAD University: Inclusive Design Research Centre
CAST: Center for Applied Special Technology
Microsoft: Accessibility features on Windows
NICHCY: Offers a wealth of information on disabilities
DO-IT Center: promotes the success of individuals with disabilities in postsecondary education and careers, using technology as an empowering tool
WebAIM: Web accessibility evaluation tool
Building Accessible Websites: free online book
New technology tools available for teachers bring new challenges, and English teachers are not exempt from these issues. In fact, English and language arts teachers are wise to navigate these issues and leverage the powerful tools available in this major content area. This post will discuss what some of the obstacles are and integration strategies to best overcome them. While I have added my own thoughts and other resources as cited, I relied heavily on Chapter 9 called “Teaching and Learning with Technology in English and Language Arts Instruction” (Roblyer & Doering, 2012) for this post.
In their 2012 book Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching, Roblyer and Doering state, “Reading, writing, and critically analyzing written communications are considered fundamental skills for a literate person, and technologies have much to offer teachers as they help their students develop these skills. However, technologies have also brought about dramatic changes in the format and types of communications that literate people must deal with, thus presenting an array of new challenges to English and language arts teachers” (p. 266). The new challenges are very real, but also present exciting opportunities for both teachers and students.
Because technology changes so rapidly, the definition of digital literacy is also fluid. The University of Illinois defines it on their website in three parts: 1) The ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information; 2) The ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers; and 3) A person’s ability to perform tasks effectively in a digital environment… Literacy includes the ability to read and interpret media, to reproduce data and images through digital manipulation, and to evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments (http://www.library.illinois.edu/diglit/definition.html). This is a powerful definition that not only involves using the technology itself, but understanding, evaluating, and interpreting information. Taking it a step further, students must be able to perform tasks more effectively and apply new knowledge as a result of such literacy. Hence, English and language arts teachers are responsible for much more than reading and writing. They must equip their students with 21st Century digital literacy skills.
Need for New Instructional Strategies
Patricia Edwards, then-president of the International Reading Association, stated in 2010, “If students are to successfully meet the social, political, and economic demands of their futures, they must be able to adapt and reinvent the ways that they read and write the world” (p. 22). She further notes that teachers must be willing to take risks and to adapt their instructional approaches and classroom resources in new and imaginative ways (Edwards, 2010). Teachers can’t rely on old instructional strategies to teach new technology skills.
Today’s classrooms are more diverse, and often include students of all backgrounds who are learning English for the first time. Some students struggle with attention disorders or learning disabilities, and many need additional support in reading and writing. There are many technology tools that can wisely be used to support this diverse group of learners. Another challenge English teachers face is motivating students to write, as students are reading less for pleasure and struggle more with basic reading and writing skills. Ebooks, blogs, wikis, and similar tools can greatly help in this area. Much is expected of teachers, and professional development and training must support them in their efforts. Administrators everywhere must make professional development a priority if teachers are going to be equipped with enough 21st Century skills to impact our students.
“The transformation of our culture from an Industrial Age to an Information Age is why a new kind of literacy, coupled with a new way of learning, is critical for today’s classroom teacher” (Edwards, 2010). Though demanding, this is an exciting time to be a teacher, and fortunately there are many tools that can assist in this great undertaking.
Integration Strategies (Solutions!)
I love the following technology integration strategies listed by Roblyer and Doering (2012, p. 273-274) and feel they are worth a repeat here (click the image to see it as a full-size PDF with hyperlinks):
Of those listed, I feel one of the most powerful and effective ideas is digital publishing of students’ work. This can be done through a class blog or wiki, or through an individual assignment such as creating an eBook in a particular area. I recently designed a sample activity using eBooks for young students that meets cross-content area objectives. Students enjoy this type of activity, and are generally more motivated to write if they know others will read what they have written.
There are countless tools available to English and language arts teachers that help instill stronger literacy skills in students. Technology integration can be overwhelming but that shouldn’t keep teachers from starting small, starting somewhere. Pick one tool, one website to try. Then another. Great technology tools plus great teachers equals better equipped students with digital literacy skills. Our kids are worth the extra effort!
Piece by piece, my instructional design project is coming together. This week I have thought through what the actual instruction will look like. What materials will the instructor use? How will the lessons be organized? How will the instructor motivate the students? I enjoyed this assignment because it was less theoretical and more practical. There are two different models we used and I post them both here. Each image links to Google Docs:
eBooks are a powerful tool for Language Arts educators that can help engage students and get them excited about writing. Numerous resources are available online that allow free eBook creation and collaboration without having to print the final product. The possibilities for use in the classroom are exciting.
Above is a sample eBook I created on Mixbook. This site allows students to create a digital storybook and publish their work online for free. Its editing tools and templates are simple and students can work individually or collaboratively on a project. Click on the image above to view my book directly on Mixbook.
Here is a complete lesson plan for teachers to use a similar project in their classroom. It is geared for 3rd-6th grade students, but could easily be adapted for other age groups.
Research is plentiful showing the relative advantage of using technology to enhance classroom instruction. But which classrooms and in what areas? This blog entry will cover specifically how using technology wisely in major content areas offers students a more engaging, relevant, and authentic learning experience.
Major content areas are: language arts, social studies (including civics, history, geography, government, and economics), math, the arts, and science. These are the areas of focus for standardized testing, and therefore are the subjects teachers teach. Take any school across the country and you will find their days broken down among these subjects to some degree or another. All content areas have been impacted by emerging technology tools, and all can benefit from integration strategies. Michael King, a noted principal and educator for over 30 years, states that teachers should begin to build units of study that merge traditional learning with virtual learning, and that these lessons and units developed should be integrated into all areas of the curriculum, not just computer, business or technology classes (King, n.d.)
Ultimately the goal of educators and schools is to provide students with a valuable, sustainable, and practical education that will prepare them for their lives after they graduate. “Today’s world demands that students learn how to access, manage, apply, and evaluate rapidly growing banks of information” (King, n.d.).Technology is a critical part of this effort and cannot be overlooked. I will highlight three advantages of using technology among the various content areas and give examples of some of the technology tools available to educators and students.
It is much easier and effective in a foreign country if the traveler can speak the local language. It is no different in class. If teachers are able to speak the “language” of their students, the message is more fun and ‘sticks’ better. Technology is the language.
Social interaction and networking has had a big impact in language arts instruction. Students like to connect with others through commenting and reaching outside of themselves and their classroom. When students publish their works on blogs or wikis, they make more of an effort and are engaged more with the content. Ebook readers allow students to “make notes and comments directly on what they are reading, which helps them better comprehend its meaning” (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 268). They can click on a word for its meaning, adjust the font size, or see passages others have highlighted. “Teachers are turning to the interactive and visual qualities of software and websites to increase motivation for reading and writing” (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 270).
There are many websites that help students practice their reading and writing skills. Apps are available on mobile devices that students can use outside of school. Vocabulary boosters, talking word processors, speech-to-text capability, concept mapping, and collaborative editing all contribute to students’ digital literacy in a fun and engaging way.
Students benefit greatly when they can see a practical use for the knowledge they are learning. If teachers can make a solid connection between students’ real-life scenarios and the content, then students will get more out of the instruction. “Students need to know the rationale for learning, and teachers should take the time to explain it” (King, n.d.).
Social studies has perhaps been the most affected by the impact of technology than any other content area (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 334). Today’s technology tools certainly make the world smaller and information travel quickly. These changes affect how much students know about the world around them and the “interconnections of people and the earth” (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 334). Project-based technology tools apply across various themes like culture, environment, global connections, civic ideas, and technology in society. The tools available and their potential use in a classroom are endless.
“Simulations, or electronic environments that allow students to interact with simulated events or locations, can help make these concepts more clear and meaningful” (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 338). Virtual field trips allow students to travel online to a place they would not normally be able to visit. This opens up the world to them and allows a budget-friendly opportunity to learn about a location, museum, or historic site almost as if they were there. Digital storytelling is “the use of images and audio to tell the stories of lives, events, or eras” (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 340) and can be a motivating and powerful tool for students. This tool not only increases digital literacy, but engages students and allows them to make their own lives a part of their scholarly research (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 340). Geospatial technologies (think Google Earth) involve using technology for visualization, analysis, and measurement of the world around us. Students can view and examine the world through “multiple layering of data sets (population density, roads, earthquake activity) within a spatial environment” (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 341). Several programs are free. How else can students view the world in high resolution photos and satellite images? Adventure learning (AL) is a “hybrid distance education approach that provides students with opportunities to explore real-world issues through authentic learning experiences within collaborative learning environments” (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 339). It’s all quite remarkable.
There is a need, especially in abstract math and science concepts, to make learning genuine and real. Students need to see why it matters to them. Not enough students are pursuing STEM (science/technology/engineering/mathematics) fields. “This trend could have serious consequences for our country…There is a need for all citizens to be scientifically literate in order to make informed decisions that affect our country’s future” (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 318).
Integration strategies and tools available can really help make science and math more meaningful for students. Virtual science labs, while debated in how much they should be used, are certainly worth exploring. “Authentic science not only involves having students ‘do’ science, it also includes connecting science to students’ lives and life experiences. Involving students in active scientific investigations can improve their attitude toward science as well as their understanding of scientific concepts” (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 319). Several online projects allow students to collect and analyze data, communicate results, get feedback and become “collaborators in a real scientific investigation” (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 319). In math, students are able to visually see realistic representations of abstract concepts by using graphing calculators, interactive software, and probes, thus helping students develop problem-solving skills.
The sheer number of content area resources available is overwhelming. However, educators must devote the time and training needed in order to provide more engaging, relevant, and authentic learning environments. They must become masters in the tools of their trade in order to prepare students for the real world, especially the 21st Century digital world.
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2012). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.
GeoThentic: Helps students learn geospatial technologies by solving complex problems in an online environment
Muzzy Lane’s Making History: An interactive game that gives players the power to take full control of any world nation, colonies, regions, cities, and military forces during the time leading up to and during the Second World War
The Oregon Trail: An interactive game about America’s pioneers as they make their way west
Louvre Museum: Experience a virtual field trip and view some of the masterpieces up close and in detail
Neighborhood MapMachine: A hands-on program, students create and navigate maps of their own neighborhoods, other communities, or imaginary places
The JASON Project: Connects students with scientists and researchers in real- and near-real time, virtually and physically, to provide mentored, authentic and enriching science learning experiences
Earthducation Adventure Learning Series: A series of 7 expeditions to every continent over the course of 4 years (2011-2014) designed to create a world narrative of the dynamic intersections between education and sustainability
Videos, if integrated wisely and well, can be a powerful media tool in the classroom. Thousands of educational videos are available online and can be used to demonstrate experiments, explain a concept, show a historical event, and engage students visually in ways unheard of before now.
Click on the image below to view a virtual field trip learning activity I created for my EdTech 541 assignment this week. Its purpose is to use a virtual field trip to teach Web 2.0 tools to other educators. Enjoy your trip!
How Does Your Garden Grow?
After discovering and tending to a secret garden for a time, Mary Lennox declares, “I am writing in the garden. To write as one should of a garden one must write not outside it or merely somewhere near it, but in the garden” (Burnett, 2011). Mary’s garden was a place where flowers bloomed, thorns yielded roses, and miracles occurred. To preserve its beauty, it was initially contained, protected, and ultimately kept secret. Once growing and flourishing again, it was then opened up for anyone to enjoy.
On the Internet, a walled garden is a protected browsing environment that controls information and websites a user is able to access. It is a closed system, one that the user is not able to leave without administrative privileges.
More schools are using closed systems as a protected middle-ground to teach social media skills to students within a safe environment. Schools generally fall on either one end or the other of the social media spectrum: unrestricted access allowing commercial social media services (like Facebook) or blocking all social media sites altogether.
Walled gardens are valuable option that should be explored in order to equip our students with vital 21st Century skills. They allow educators to teach students how to use social media in a safely monitored school-run environment, and parents are often relieved to see the school taking an active role rather than shying away from and fearing social media (Ross, 2011).
Open or Closed?
We all like unlimited options. No one likes to be told what he or she can or can’t do, especially online. We like the freedom to visit the websites we want, download what we want, and navigate freely. Our initial response: freedom is good.
This type of freedom, however, can be dangerous in a school setting, particularly in a K-12 environment. Even with filters and firewalls, students can inadvertently pull up an inappropriate site or become a target for child predators. Schools must take safeguards to reduce those chances, and many have chosen a walled garden (closed-system) approach. This allows students and teachers to work only within predetermined websites and environments.
It isn’t as bad as it might originally seem. Without realizing it, we have closed systems all around us. Our mobile phone provider places certain restrictions we must operate within. Open vs. closed system is an age-old difference between Apple and Microsoft. Steve Jobs believed “that for a computer to be truly great, its hardware and its software had to be tightly linked” in order to give the user a controlled experienced (Isaacson, 2011, location 2559). This is what still distinguishes Apple devices and computers from Microsoft, Android, and other open systems.
In the classroom, using a closed system is better than no system at all, especially if students gain real-world skills they would not otherwise have access to at school.
Navigating the use of social media in the classroom is a new terrain and one that makes administrators, teachers, and parents nervous. It is a tool with tremendous potential and real dangers. Yet, I believe it is wrong to throw it out altogether.
Reed (2007) stated that “tomorrow’s citizens must be global communicators, must be able to participate successfully in project-based activities, and must have collaborative skills.” In a 2007 report by Pew Internet, 55% of all online American youths ages 12-17 use online social networking sites (Lenhart & Madden). I imagine that number has grown significantly in the past five years, especially since Facebook was still catching on.
Something bigger than themselves
Whatever one’s feelings are about the benefits or dangers of social media, it is obvious that students enjoy sharing, collaborating, and networking online and find it engaging or they simply would not do it (Picardo, 2010). Students value belonging to a collective network, something bigger than themselves.
Schools should harness this desire and enthusiasm and utilize the skills students already possess to benefit them in the classroom. “We are looking to see how we capture that energy and passion in school. Often when they move into school, the energy goes out of it. I think we have to find ways to capture that excitement and get them as engaged in school work as they are outside” (Bull et al., 2008). Put another way, “Pedagogy, in my opinion, needs to reflect these social changes and conform to the needs and expectations of today’s students and, if we teach them in a way that mirrors how they live their lives when they are not in school, if we help to ensure that the gap between their school life and real life is minimized, we then become better able to guarantee the commitment and engagement of the vast majority of our students” (Picardo, 2010).
In an article on how to use social networking for learning, Smith (2007) made a powerful suggestion: “Schools should reflect the world we live in today. And we live in a social world. We need to teach students how to be effective collaborators in that world, how to interact with people around them, how to be engaged, informed twenty-first-century citizens. We need to teach kids the powerful ways networking can change the way they look at education, not just their social lives. We don’t talk enough about the incredible power of social-networking technology to be used for academic benefit. Let’s change the terms. Let’s not call it social networking. Let’s call it academic networking.”
Walled Garden Approaches to Social Media
Walled gardens can be a valuable tool to engage students within a format they are familiar with: sharing, posting, commenting, and submitting. This approach “not only helps protect those who are the most vulnerable, but provides a safety net as parents and decision-makers become accustomed to a greater degree of interaction online” (Dawson, 2011). Even Google now supports walled gardens within Google Apps, allowing more privacy and security for students.
Fortunately, teachers have several options online to choose from that will create a walled garden approach in their classrooms.
Edmodo: mimics a Facebook interface that allows students and teachers to connect, engage, and learn both inside and outside of the classroom. Free for teachers and students.
Edu2.0: simple, powerful, e-learning platform for schools. Free plan with upgrades available.
Wikispaces: private, secure space for classrooms that allow students to showcase their work, collaborate, share their findings, and interact. Email addresses of students are not required for sign-up. Free for teachers and students.
Flickr Groups: share content and conversation, privately or with the world. Best for sharing photos and videos.
Diigo for Educators: social bookmarking. Collect and organize anything, access from anywhere. Great resource to share research with each other, highlight online readings, follow related topics.
Reaching out through global communities
Even from within a walled garden, children can be connected to the world, because “if you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden” (Burnett, 2011). Global networks and communities have tremendous power to “promote global learning, provide cultural understanding, and build relationships. Educators need to find ways to connect students from different parts of the world so that they can learn together, share knowledge and develop cultural understanding and relationships.” (Reed, 2007). These websites offer plentiful ideas for classroom integration:
Curriki: empowering educators to deliver and share K-12 curricula
LearningTimes: Create powerful and memorable learning experiences online
One World Youth Project: links schools around the world to build a generation of discerning, empathetic and empowered global citizens
iEARN USA: Learning with the world, not just about it
As teachers embrace social media and social networking possibilities rather than shy away from them, students will be better equipped in 21st Century skills both inside and outside of the classroom. They will be more enthusiastic, more engaged, and more responsible digital citizens. Using a walled garden approach, if designed wisely and well, allows students and teachers a safe environment for learning.
“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles” (Burnett, 2011).
Short Description of my ID project: After three hours of classroom instruction, ninth and tenth grade English Literature students will be introduced to Google Docs presentation and collaboration tools to use for their group presentation on a poet.
1.0 Students can…
1.1 explain three common attributes of electronic presentations
1.2 discuss three benefits of using electronic presentations in the classroom
2.0 Students can…
2.1 summarize what Google Docs is
2.2 identify three types of files that can be created or uploaded to Google Docs
2.3 discuss two benefits of online collaboration
2.4 create an acceptable Google username and password
2.5 successfully login to Google Docs in the browser of their choice
3.0 Once logged into Google Docs, students can…
3.1 create a new presentation
3.2 name the presentation
3.3 select a theme from a list of theme choices
3.4 share the presentation with their partner
3.5 view their Google Docs home page documents and make sure the new
presentation is listed
4.0 Within the presentation and in collaboration with their partner, students can…
4.1 create new slides in the following formats: title, title and body, title and two
columns, title only, caption, and blank
4.2 add hyperlinks that work
4.3 add a timeline of their poet’s life
4.4 add sample poems from their poet
4.5 attach handout for class
5.0 Students can select appropriate images for their presentation that…
5.1 are properly attributed
5.2 include at least one Google stock photo
5.3 include at least one photo from Flickr with Creative Commons license
6.0 For each slide, students can…
6.1 add transitions between slides
6.2 add one object animation
6.3 write speaker notes for use during presentation
7.0 In keeping with good design principles discussed in class, for each completed slide
7.1 evaluate whether good design principles are met
7.2 determine if appropriate font size is used
7.3 examine text, background colors, and overall readability
7.4 distinguish if layout and overall design is professional
7.5 defend why they chose the graphics and layout they did
8.0 Students can successfully…
8.1 start the presentation
8.2 advance to the next and previous slides using arrow keys, the space bar, and
9.0 Students can…
9.1 successfully save their presentation in the class shared folder within Google Docs
9.2 differentiate between sharing options of public, private, and anyone with the link
10.0 With their partner, students will present their Google Docs presentation in front of
the class using good verbal presentation guidelines discussed in class