Provost English & Technology Blog

My P.E.T Project

Course Reflection

Posted by mprovost on February 24, 2010

This morning, before beginning this reflection, I did the following: checked my personal email, work email, Facebook, updated my status, Googled an old friend from high school, tracked him down in three cities and became a fan of his business, checked my Twitter, sent a tweet to my favorite musician and four fan “friends” I have made (one in Texas, one in NY, one in Turkey and one in New Zealand) , read the local news, the world news, and Skyped with my cousin in Virginia.  It is now time to settle in and reflect on the impact of technology on education, work and society.

Prior to beginning this first technology course in my Master’s program, I still maintained doubts that the technology that I love, that is essentially my life, would fit appropriately within my classroom.  Though I pursue technology within my classroom, at times I feel as though others think technology is pulling me away from my curriculum instead of driving it forward.   In Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World, author Heidi Hayes Jacobs contends, “[R]unning schools and using curriculum on a constant replay button no longer works. It is critical that we become active researchers and developers of innovation and new directions” (Jacobs, 2010, p 8).  Throughout this course, I found validation that my passion for technology in education is not only purposeful for my students now, but also necessary in making them 21st century learners for a lifetime.

Throughout our course text, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, author Will Richardson exposed the “Read/Write Web” and the multitude of applications that can be used for education.  What resonated the most was the fresh perspective on Wikipedia and recognizing that using global collaboration does not translate into watered-down and questionable content, but rather “Wikipedia is the poster child for the collaborative construction of knowledge and truth that the new, interactive Web facilitates” (Richardson, 2009, p 57).  I found this to be a huge “a-ha!” moment in my learning – shifting perspectives and learning to lend credit to the critical thinking that collaborative sites encourage.

The idea of the collaborative wiki clearly demonstrates Dr. Dede’s claim that technology alone does not do anything, as educators we must change how and what our students are learning (Laureate Education, 2008a).  For myself, this means that Wikipedia on its own is harmless, Wikipedia as it’s portrayed by many educators his useless, but if we can use Wikipedia to change how and what students are learning, then we begin to reach its true potential.  As a Web 2.0 tool, it encourages critical thinking, discussion and facilitates powerful changes in pedagogy and content (2008a).   This realization was a major change for me, an exciting change that I felt compelled to share with the media specialist and tech integrator at my school.

When considering sites like Wikipedia, it magnifies the necessity for me to become a facilitator for the learning that goes on within my classroom. Dr. Dede reminds that in a student-centered classroom, my role is no longer the expert but to teach my students how to separate biased information and synthesize that information into knowledge (Laureate Education, 2008b).  Integrating, or rather, allowing, the use of Wikipedia within my classroom is a wonderful way to incorporate strategies for both reading and writing; my students could use the resource list, evaluate the information, and even publish information as “experts” themselves.

My goal moving forward is to consider Jacobs, “[A]cross the country, pioneering teachers are providing students with new roles that have students making contributions to their learning communities” (Jacobs, 2010, p 188).  Utilizing roles such as official scribes, researchers and collaboration coordinators, my students could work with each other and with other students around the globe in “new roles for developing empowered learners” (Jacobs, 2010, p 188-189).  I realize now that these types of projects do not have to be separate learning ventures but instead integrated into existing curriculum units thus enhancing engagement and increasing student achievement.  Thornburg and Davidson remind that when using technology as a purposeful learning tool, the classroom moves from a didactic teacher-driven to an inquiry-based project driven world (Laureate Education, 2008c).

Over the next two years, I would like to accomplish the following goals to transform my classroom into a 21st century learning environment.  First, I would like to stretch the definition of “audience” for my students.  Currently, I am committed to teaching them the concept of audience in the traditional realms, and slowly I am working in the wider concept of a global audience.  “When students write for an extended audience online, they are often motivated to become better writers and become personally invested, rather than writing only for the teacher” (Collier, 2008). Specifically, I would like to focus on publishing more work online in blogs, wikis such as Wikipedia, Voice Threads or any other emerging technologies.  The largest obstacles are time to rework my curriculum units and access to technology – both of which I feel are manageable if I invest some time over the summer months getting organized.  I believe these online projects can incorporate many elements I need to teach – from grammar and vocabulary to reading strategies and the writing process.  My goal with each lesson will be to make sure I am not the only person viewing the work; I will ask myself “how can I stretch the audience in this unit?”.

The second goal I would like to accomplish aligns perfectly with the first; I would like to be more committed to a class blog or website on a daily basis.  Currently I utilize a class Ning, but I must always be looking for the best way to communicate with students and parents.  Ironically, parents are concerned about security, but when I offer a secure Ning, I have the struggle of getting them to register and log-on.  This “buy-in” is one obstacle, the others being time and personal commitment.  I hypothesize that if I can get the buy-in from parents and students then it will force me to keep up with daily updates on class work, homework and communications.

I believe these goals will transform my classroom environment and better prepare my students for the 21st century jobs that await them.  Thornburg suggests that the students of today live in a media-rich world and that “our instruction must match the context of our learners” (Laureate Education, 2008d).  I want my classroom to be media rich, inquiry-based and focused on collaborating with a global audience.  This course has reinforced for me that in order for my students to be mindful of what they are learning, I must be mindful of what I am teaching them; I must intentionally integrate technology into their education to prepare them for both work and society.

References:

Collier, L. (2008, November). “Widening the audience: Students reading and writing online”.   National Council of Teachers of English. Retrieved February 24, 2010 from    http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/CC/0182 nov08/CC0182Audiences.pdf

Jacobs, H. (2010). Curriculum 21: Essential education for a changing world.  Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008a). [DVD]. Understanding the impact of  technology on education, work, and society. Evolution of technology and pedagogy. Baltimore, MD.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008b). [DVD]. Understanding the impact of  technology on education, work, and society. The changing role of the classroom teacher.   Part 2. Baltimore, MD.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008c). [DVD]. Understanding the impact of  technology on education, work, and society.  Bringing the fun into teaching technology.     Baltimore, MD.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008d). [DVD]. Understanding the impact of  technology on education, work, and society. Today’s students.  Baltimore, MD.

Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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