Monday, September 19, 2011

Learning and Leading with Technology

    Technology advances are on the rise in the United States and with that there is increased evidence of misusing and abusing of this technology in schools. These misuses range from intimidating peers, downloading illegally, plagiarizing, improper use of cell phones and personal handheld devices, but ITSE's National Educational Technology Standards have given students, educators and administrators somewhere to start tackling all these issues. By dealing with these issues that are in and out of schools we as educators are able to prepare students to be members in a quickly changing digital society. There are many technology users already who aren't aware of what digital citizenship is, but it is simply the normal behaviors with regards to technology use. These behaviors can be broken down into nine areas. These nine areas are; etiquette, communication, education, access, commerce, responsibility, rights, safety, security, these issues all have different levels of importance to different groups of people, but there are ways educators can teach these issues so that they are all of importance.
    The first of the nine issues is etiquette, which has become a problem since there are no black and white rules on the uses of devices, which makes students seeing adults using technology in the wrong way assume is is the right way. But by having teachers and administrators follow the rules and policies set be the school in and out of the classroom-appropriate technology behaviors are being demonstrated. The issue that came up second is communication, new forms of communication that have created a new social structure. One of the worst consequences of this new social structure is that students have gotten use to using IM and email shorthand in their assignments but if students are shown good communication skills that are appropriate for each situation then it will not care over into class assignments. The shorthand that they are using has a place but not in formal assignments that are turned in. Third is education, teaching hasn't grown while technology in the classroom has; which means teachers aren't able to teach students how to use technology to find reliable materials or ways of using technology. To fix this if there are different learning opportunities provided with different technologies then students will know the way to find the right resources.
    Access since not everyone has access to a digital society and the disparity of who does and doesn't is widening, but by allowing students to work on projects at school or with partners who are fortunate to have technology at home, teachers are not only allowing all students the chance to use technology and gain that knowledge but also having students work with people they might not normally work with. Commerce is next and with online purchasing becoming common older students need to be aware of the dangers of online ordering but by engaging students in a discussion about the dangers and ways to protect themselves students will be better online consumers, then even earlier generations. It is easy for even young students to locate down loadable materials but they haven't learned the responsible way to find and locate these materials safely. Yet if we start teaching students copyright laws at the age they start having the ability to download material they will know the difference between legal and illegal materials, this carries into rights which also means teaching teachers about about students digital rights so they can teach them to their students. Students also need to be aware of ways to stay safe from physical dangers. The last issue is security which means protecting equipment but also protecting oneself, by teaching students they need to run virus scans and backing up data. There has been no overall agreement on how we should act in relation to digital technology but if teachers and administrators are able to agree on what to teach we will be one step closer to an agreement.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Speak Up" Unleashing Technology for Educators and Students in the Classroom

    Speak Up and Project Tomorrow teamed up in 2009 to run a study that looked at the effects of bringing technology into all levels of the classroom on a daily basis. Project Tomorrow is a program that is invested in creating and helping to shape tomorrow's innovators, leaders and engaged citizens. Speak Up is a program that commonly teams up with Project Tomorrow to work closer in the classrooms with students of today. The study looked at three different areas of bringing technology into the classroom, these areas allowed teachers as well as students to see the benefits of bringing technology into the classroom.
    The study was broken down into three different areas of bringing and having technology into the classroom. The first of three topics that the study looked at was social based learning, in which it was found that students, administrators and principals want to bring technology into the classroom in a greater capacity then today's teachers do. Even though teachers do think that digital communication tools need to be used they don't think that blogs, social networking and wikis need to be the way that students and teachers are communicating. Teachers of today are more likely to participate in communicating with their peers and their students parents then with students themselves. I happen to agree with what the teachers that participated in the study are saying and believe that blogs, social networking and wikis between students don't need to be brought into the classroom and that teachers do not need to communicate with their students in this way either. I think that email is a sufficient way for teachers to communicate in a classroom setting, I know I will be using email to be in constant communication with the parents' of my students but would not be emailing my students directly in an elementary school setting.
    The second of the ideas the study looked at was un-tethered learning which looks at bringing mobile devices into the classroom and the idea of online classes. The common idea was that by bringing mobile device such as cell phones, laptops and tablets into the classroom will create more of a distraction then be helpful to learning, students are more likely to be surfing the web and texting friends rather then working on the assignments or researching the appropriate topics. I am a believer that this is what would happen and students would never get their assignments done which means that standards would not be met in classes. Districts are also concerned about the security of bringing such articles onto a campus and the idea of theft which would not make for good school ratings which every school wants. In the same idea of security teachers and districts have to find a balance between Internet learning and following the strict regulations that are placed on school Internet use but the use of online classes is still primarily for teachers even though students would be interested in taking them there are once again the guidelines that need to be followed. I am on the side of most of the teachers and what the author said that the mobile devices will be a greater distraction then help to students even if students want them in their daily learning. I have taken online classes and that part I will say is better in some capacity since students are allowed to learn at their own pace but the students need to be mature enough to handle learning on their own.
    The final topic that was studied was digitally-rich  learning, which says that there is already a wide range of technology being used but that its not the right programs to use to create the future scientists, engineers and technologists. But in the elementary classroom how do we know if we have any of those in our class and that it will not change by the time they get to the next school year. The author was saying that even though there is technology in the classroom it is not the right programs that are going to allow the students to be higher level thinkers, but there are different ways to create a higher level thinker then putting a computer in front of them. The biggest disconnect though comes from the programs that future teachers are learning and the programs that current teachers are using, future teachers are looking to use electronic portfolios while current teachers take handed in work. Future teachers want to create electronic portfolios for students but if there are students that don't have computers or students that want to have their work easily accessible to anyone with or without a computer these students need to be turning in hard copies of their work. Although administrator have come to the idea that they need to spend the money on educating their teachers about current programs and their effectiveness teacher are going to teach in a way that they feel comfortable and I believe that I will be a teacher that teaches in the way of today's teachers and the way I was taught.
    Technology in the classroom is something that is going to happen but there is a right way to bring it into the classroom and a wrong way to bring it into the classroom where a teacher is no longer a teacher but more of a computer police.