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“What are Web 2.0 tools?”  “How do I upload media files to the Internet?”  I am embarrassed to admit that these were my first Google searches when I began my EDTECH 541: Integrating Technology into the Classroom course.  However, I suppose a learning log requires a bit of brutal honesty.

At the beginning of the course I had already realized my love for learning new computer resources; however, I wasn’t confident that my internal drive was enough to fulfill the requirements for a Master’s Degree in the Educational Technology field.  When I received my first assignment, I really became apprehensive.  I had to set up a blog site for my learning reflections, and create a website for a project showcase.  I immediately thought I was in over my head, but surprisingly, I enjoyed every minute of it.  My seventeen years of teaching were a definite benefit for my lesson planning, since we were to create activities to incorporate into a Thematic Unit.  Creating these lessons was not only enjoyable, but it also helped me develop the 21st Century tools necessary to further educate my students for a successful future.  My assignment for this blog is to answer questions about my learning throughout the course.

What have you learned?

I am happy to report that I am now knowledgeable about the definition of Web 2.0 tools, and am also equipped to use many of the valuable Internet resources with my students.  I also use my own three children ages 5, 10 and 12, as “techie guinea pigs” so I can evaluate how diverse age groups respond to different forms of web tools in order to express themselves, create, problem solve and communicate through different forms of media.  I already had previous knowledge of various learning styles and student needs; however, I was unaware of the vast resources available that allow students to learn globally and show their learning through creative means.  My students and I enjoyed the ePals account created for my Weather Unit.  EPals allows the children to communicate with students all over the world, and discuss topics of interest or analyze global issues.  My students learned how to create a video using iMovie and upload these videos to You Tube.  My ten-year old son was able to use this new tool for his winning science fair project (a plug for Zachary).  I had fun teaching how to create animations, glogsters, digital e-books, embedded website images, locating digital primary documents, testing science and math simulations, using Excel to make pictographs, creating start pages, playing with music, PE, and art web sites, and creating Voicethreads for our kindergarten Wiki Space.  All of these activities, and so much more, are found at my EDTECH Project Showcase site.  I invite you to check it out at your leisure.

If someone told me in January that I would be able to accomplish the entire above mentioned, plus write a weekly blog, and research assistive technology to help special needs and gifted students, I would have thought they were out of their mind.  I can now proudly state, that I not only accomplished this, but I believe I did it well.  I am fully prepared to utilize technology within all subject areas for ages k-12, and I look forward to sharing my new-found education with others.

How has the course work demonstrated mastery of the AECT standards?

My instructor, Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D, can attest to the fact that I had no idea what these standards meant towards the beginning of the course.  Her patience and support are a true testament to what teaching is all about.  I would like to publically blog a well deserved “thank you” to Jackie.  She proved that online courses can lead to a successful and personal learning experience.  Because of her critical thinking activities, I had a big “aha” moment. I do understand these standards and hours of research were not necessary.  This understanding came naturally through my assignments.  Jackie had us “learn by doing” which is my favorite educational quote.  I achieved theses mandatory M.E.T. standards each week.  My advisor, Dr. Snelson, has a wonderful outline of the AECT standards on her website which I used to analyze my learning. (Snelson, 2010)

Standard 1-Design: I designed a thematic unit using the Universal Design for Learning resources (CAST, 2010) which will be presented at my Project website.  I included objectives, essential questions, goals, lesson procedures which use motivational, informational application, and closure procedures.   Assessment  tools and accommodation, along with materials, are included with each lesson.

Standard 2-Development:Throughout my unit development, I integrated audiovisual materials through prepared print technologies, embedded video and recordings, photographs, and digital books.  All technologies are incorporated into the unit through computer-based resources in order to present visual and auditory messages.

Standard 3-Utilization: I incorporated a media rich environment for my young learners by providing many age-appropriate resources and activities in order to guide them to succeed throughout the Weather Unit.

Standard 4-Management: My unit involved planning and developing projects while monitoring student learning and engagement.  I had to organize all learning activities and resources to provide a learning rich environment for each student.

Standard 5-Evaluation: My instructor evaluated my weekly assignments using a rubric given to us prior to our assignment, allowing us to prepare lessons adequately and to provide feedback on each aspect of the assignment.  I designed my own rubrics and assessments for all of my Weather lesson plans.

How you have grown professionally?

I previously mentioned at the beginning of my blog, how I have grown with applying technology into my classroom curriculum.  What I didn’t expect to enhance was my networking skills as an educator.  This course inspired me to be proactive with helping our education system move forward on a much larger scale. I have always been active and educated with my district’s technology needs, but now I broadened my horizons to our national vision and goals.  I joined many new organizations and education communities such as the ISTE, NJAET, Educators’ PLN, Ed Tech Graduate Students’ Association, Twitter, numerous Ning and Wiki Spaces, and many more.  None of these organizations are required  in my course syllabus.  I have also reached out to state senators to help reinstate Educational Technology federal funding, and I continue my commitment to my district’s technology vision.  My learning flourished into these new areas of interest and global peer networking.  I plan to continue my commitment as an educational technology advocate; not for my own needs, but also for my commitment to our youth.

How your own teaching practice or thoughts about teaching have been impacted by what you have learned or accomplished in this course?

Prior to this course, my mind-set on lesson planning was accomplished through our district teachers’ editions with technology and project based learning as an added bonus when I found the time to integrate it into the day.  I didn’t think my students had enough hours in the day for enjoyable computer activities other than art projects.  This was especially true for my fifth grade class.  Now I realize, after all my necessary research and readings of professional literature, that teaching mainly to practice state testing is a huge disservice to our children.  Problem-solving activities and global PBL Projects teach our youth the critical thinking skills necessary to be successful in the 21st century.  Providing our students with various ways to express their knowledge, while using appropriate technology to practice new skills learned, will prepare our children for success on testing, as well as in their future.  State test scores were keeping my teaching preparations and my students’ enthusiasm for learning stagnant.  I now re-evaluate how to prepare my students for any exams by making long-range goals for the children based on problem solving, critical thinking and analysis, alongside drill and practice.  Technology integration enhances the ability for our students to accomplish long-term necessary life skills.

How theory guided development of the projects and assignments you created?

The Technology Integration Matrix (Technology, 2009) allows me to decide successfully which different technologies can help my students achieve each learning activity.  I study this matrix to determine what category my technology enhances for my students. These categories include entry, adoption, adaptation, infusion, and transformation.  I test drive each technology used to ensure the “relative advantage” for the curriculum goals.  Technology should not be for glitz and glory.  The Essential Criteria Checklist for Determining Education Software (Roblyer, 2010), proves helpful when deciding necessary programs required for my yearly budget.  Programs need to be tested prior to adoption to determine its usefulness to all learners.  Bloom’s Taxonomy is used consistently for creating lesson objectives and essential questions.  This helps my students tap into critical thinking skills rather than one word answer formats when being questioned.  The UDL previously mentioned, helps me align my teaching with current learning research in order to meet the needs of every learner.  All my students are now treated “special” and learn in a unique way.  I keep this objective in mind throughout every lesson.  This course was a much-needed refresher on how many unique and exciting ways a child can learn.  It also sparked me to never stop learning along with all of my students.

I encourage all teachers to look into all the wonderful free webinars and tutorials available on the Internet.  Do not be afraid to test out the latest web resources.  It sparked my career as if I just started teaching for the first time.  The end of this course is bitter-sweet.  I will miss my weekly assignments using the latest web tools, but I look forward to continuing my learning journey and constant networking and research.  I plan on blogging throughout my technology learning adventure as new courses and career paths arise.   I believe that each day is a new beginning of a long and exciting learning journey.

CAST. (2010). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines Version 1.0. Retrieved April 28, 2010, from Universal Design for Learning Center: http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines

Roblyer, M. D. (2010). Essential Criteria Checklist for Evaluating Instructional Software. Retrieved Feb. 10, 2010, from Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (5th Edition) Companion Web Site: http://wps.prenhall.com/wps/media/objects/2448/2507611/Volume_medialib/IAF03.PDF

Snelson, D. C. (2010). EDTECH ePortfolio Template. Retrieved April 29, 2010, from Dr. Chareen Snelson: http://edtech2.boisestate.edu/snelsonc/portfolio.html

Technology, F. C. (2009). The Technology Integration Matrix . Retrieved February 2, 2010, from Florida Center for Instructional Technology: http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/index.html

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Technology has become increasingly valuable for educators and students.  When incorporated correctly into the educational setting, our students are able to accomplish set goals more efficiently and productively with the vast array of programs and applications available.  Teachers are able to reach all types of learners and meet the needs of special education students by using assistive technology and programs designed for the challenges of today’s special needs population, as well as regular education students.  According to Roblyer and Doering (2010), the goal of assistive technology is to “harness the potential of technology in ways that offer an individual with a disability increased opportunities for learning, productivity, and independence –opportunities that otherwise would not be available.”  It is important to note that disabilities or special needs include students with physical, cognitive, or sensory disabilities.  This list also includes students with speech recommendations and gifted and talented learners.  I look at every one of my students as special needs, although they may not be classified.  I believe every child has a special and unique way of learning, and technology is able to enhance their success if each lesson is tailored to their learning style and needs.

This week I had the opportunity to visit many sites which described specific assistive technology resources. I clicked around on the Assistive Technology Glogster and was amazed at how many of these unique applications had free downloads and ideas for specific learners. The Universal Design for Living (CAST, 2002-2010) was the most useful in advocating technologies that enhance instruction and support the learner in order for them to be successful and independent.  This website promotes Planning for All Learners (PAL) which “promotes access, participation, and progress in the general education curriculum for all learners” – There is a toolkit that includes tools, resources, guided lessons, models of instruction, and templates in order to facilitate educators when planning to meet the needs of their diverse classroom population.  Teachers must have mentoring and training to keep up with the latest methods of reaching all students, and this website addresses educator’s needs fully.  After reviewing all of the resources available, I questioned some of my own teaching methods, as well.

I recently had a visit from a former student who now follows an IEP for his specific learning disability.  This student struggles with expressive writing and language, as well as difficulty getting thoughts on paper.  The task has always been tedious and frustrating for him, and he was thrilled to tell me that his teacher is allowing him to use the word processor.  This seemed like a fabulous idea for this child since I know the potential of his creative imagination.  I asked him to show me his work when he was finished.  A week later he came to see me, but looked like the same frustrated child I witnessed weeks before.  He muttered under his breath that he “can’t write”.  I asked to see his work and immediately noticed all the points taken off for grammar and spelling.  I was a bit frustrated for him since I knew he had used a word processor.  Why were there so many errors?  Out of pure curiosity, I asked his special education teacher if I could teach him to use the spell and grammar check on the computer thinking this might help his self-esteem.  I respected her answer when she informed me that she didn’t allow that since it would not teach him spelling and grammar.  Perhaps using this icon would be a crutch, however, I wished there was a better way to help this child.  Consequently, his spelling and grammar did not improve from a poor grade.  What next for this child?

After this week’s research, I found a wonderful website that I believe would be beneficial for this student’s needs. I am not a special education teacher; however, I will share this site with our special education team. The program Word Prediction, provides the student with the opportunity to pick from word choices for spelling, and listen to their writing with text to speech ability.  The child can then hear if a word is missing or if the work is not making sense.  The child must pick from a grammar choice, henceforth, will receive a concrete lesson while working.  Unlike spell and grammar check, the program basically tutors the child trough the process.  I could never fault faculty for not being aware of this program.  Schools are not always capable of providing additional professional development when it comes to assistive technology.  Due to budgetary constraints there is the usual visit from vendors and the tendency is to concentrate more on physical disabilities.  I am optimistic that technology training in this area will become more prevalent in the future.

There are enumerable websites and information available about the latest assistive technologies such as, cameras for wheelchairs, text-to-speech applications, switch operated pc mouse, classroom audio enhancements, magnification of computer screens, iPod Touch applications, etc. We were given a wonderful resource in my graduate course called UDL Toolkit Wikispace. This website provides links to all of the wonderful assistive technology advancements.  I suggest visiting this particular site to see if any of these technologies will assist your special learners in order to provide them with an equal educational opportunity as those children in the general education population.  Some of these assistive applications will even help advance at-risk students who could benefit from learning through different means and diverse learning styles.  Keep your students in mind as you browse through each application and technology.  You may be as surprised, as I was, at how you can give each student a new way of learning and opportunity for success.  Please share your thoughts or experiences with me through your comments, since I am also new to the world of assistive technology advancement.

CAST . (2002-2010). Supporting educators in learning about and practicing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) . Retrieved April 20, 2010, from CAST Transforming Education through Universal Design for Living: http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/
Roblyer, M.D., & Doering, A. (2010). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc

This week, I used my Ed Tech 541 VoiceThread in order to communicate my blog post.  Please click on the link provided in order to hear my ideas on how to incorporate the Internet into your classroom. I included examples of how my students use the Internet for my Weather Thematic Unit.  I hope you enjoy it.

http://voicethread.com/share/967970/

or try:

http://voicethread.com/#q.b967970.i5159242

Spreadsheet and database software might easily be overlooked as a valuable learning tool in education.  In order to meet the accountability regulations, administrators may quickly provide teachers with access to software for student information, test scores, grade books, student performance data, etc.  Spreadsheets and database programs are beneficial to teachers; however, it is certainly essential that the students be trained to properly use these applications for learning, problem-solving opportunities and the ability to meet today’s technology standards.  For students to achieve success using these technical tools, educators must be fully mindful of the extent that the use of spreadsheet or database applications will realize in helping to improve their students’ learning goals.

What is a Spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet is an electronic worksheet that stores data in rows and columns. An individual cell may contain “numerical values, words or character data, and formulas or calculation commands“. (Roblyer, 2010)  Formulas are used to perform instant numerical operations which make it possible for a student to compare data and explore changes with instant visual results.  Charts and graphs can be supplemented to enhance the organization and evaluation of the work.  The educational advantages of spreadsheets include:

  • Ÿ  Performing numerical operations with visual representation for concrete learning
  • Ÿ  Enhancing a student’s projects with graphs, charts, and data display
  • Ÿ  Encouraging higher level thinking and “what if” problem solving by allowing functions to   complete low level arithmetic
  • Ÿ  Helping students track data from assignments/projects
  • Ÿ  Permitting students to keep track of their grades in order to predict outcomes and     encourage goal setting

What is a Database?

Database software allows users to collect and store information, while providing search engines for easy retrieval of information.  According to Thorsen (2009), databases “provide tools for a skilled user to detect patterns among the facts from which they are built“.  Making predictions, revealing relationships, describing the unknown, making comparisons and effectively problem solving, are just a small number of the capabilities databases provide for our students. Databases should be used to:

  • Ÿ  Help students complete research and look for data among many different organizations
  • Ÿ  Learn invaluable lessons in study skills and organization by relating to the way databases handle information
  • Ÿ  Teach students how data can be organized to show relationships to small pieces of information
  • Ÿ  Question students and encourage them to find information to support their position
  • Ÿ  Practice research skills by locating public databases for analysis

When incorporating spreadsheets and databases into our classrooms, we are empowering students to problem solve and use higher level thinking skills to question, analyze, and explore information.  Students gain an opportunity to use real world tools to gather research and information. As a result, learning becomes more concrete and visual which provides the students with a better understanding of new concepts.  Students become more engaged when they actually see the relevance of their learning and are capable of viewing the results from different perspectives. Students are encouraged to work collaboratively and share information.  These advantages, not only foster the learning process for the student, but the effective use of the technology also provides a sense of accomplishment.

For teachers who are new to Excel and database instruction, internet4classroom.com includes helpful tutorials and resources that can be used by the teacher or your students.  Working together with your student, the use of applications can provide a positive learning experience for both of you.

Thorsen, C. (2009). Techtactics: Technology for teachers (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Roblyer, M.D., & Doering, A. (2010). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.

How should technology be used?

This question seems to be the topic of constant conversation in my district today. Many teachers are overwhelmed and are too timid to delve head first into new technology. Others are just as motivated for additional access to more advanced technology as the children. The ISTE lists specific standards for achievement by teachers and students. In order for these standards to be met, administrators must provide technical support in the form of proper continuing education, professional development, district operations, and networking.

When all district technology needs are met, teachers must use the technology for every aspect of teaching, the result of which will be enhanced motivation and engagement of the students. Children today are already using computers, mp3p players, cell phones, digital cameras, Internet, etc. Teachers have the ability to extend a student’s personal use of technology for lessons and research. Students should have a safe environment for applying this new knowledge in digital journals and blogs. Students should communicate with other cultures in order to collaborate and interact with a diverse community of student peers. They should have access to a variety of ways to create multimedia presentations, either individually or collaboratively. Students should have access to programs that will guide them to organize and analyze data for all areas of their curriculum. Computer time is necessary to provide students with the time necessary to research in order to plan and compose their projects. Programs must be available for learners to perform drill and practice exercises to succeed with individual goals. Technology specialists should be available for both students and teachers to in order to troubleshoot hardware or software problems. The specialist will guide students and faculty through the technology learning process and teach safe and responsible technology practices when using the Internet.

Learning is greatly enhanced when technology is responsibly placed in the hands of the students and teachers. The Technology Integrating Matrix provides teachers with wonderful ready-to-use examples on methods for successfully using technology.(Technology, 2009) Fear of the unknown, should not keep us from exploring technology. Teachers today are becoming just as energized and engaged as students about the possibilities that lie ahead in the use of technology. Take the risk of embracing technology. The results are endless and will be surprisingly rewarding for all.

What principles should guide your approach for integrating technology into instruction?

After watching a video on the latest addition to the Apple family, The Apple I Pad, my first instinct was to find out how to get my hands on one and allow my students to use it in my classroom. As tempting as it may be, to incorporate all the “cool” new gadgets on the market, research suggests that I incorporate a direct plan of action before introducing any new technology into my curriculum. Effective technology integration is well planned and works collaboratively with today’s educational curriculum and state standards. Technology is not simply adding gadgets, websites, printouts and spreadsheets into a lesson for your students. Successful technology integration goes beyond the concept of being a “tool “when certain principles and guidelines are practiced before instruction takes place. When developing a unit plan using technology, a teacher must map out a Technology Integration Planning (TIP) Model. This model consists of four phases: (Roblyer, 2007)

• Why should I use a technology based method?
• How will I know students have learned?
• What teaching strategies and actions will work best?
• Are essential conditions in place to support technology integration?

It is important for teacher to insure that a technology lesson meets the criteria for all students in order to succeed. According to the Universal Design for Learning (UDL), every classroom consists of learners with different needs and learning barriers. UDL provides teachers with specific guidelines on methods to use in order to reach all learners. Teachers should provide students with various methods of acquiring information and research. Teachers must keep learners motivated and challenged by keeping lessons interesting and attention-grabbing. Teachers should provide diverse models of ways students can demonstrate what they learned. (CAST,2008) The proper instruction provides all students with a successful opportunity to reach curriculum goals and objectives.

Administration support and training, access to technology tools, and proper technology integration steps, provides every student with a motivating, rewarding and successful opportunity for learning. When all these conditions are met appropriately, our students will be adequately equipped with the 21st century skills required for a successful future.

CAST. (2008). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines Version 1.0. Retrieved February 5, 2010, from Universal Design for Learning Center:

Roblyer, M. D. (2010). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (5th Edition). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. pp. 52-63

Technology, F. C. (2009). The Technology Integration Matrix . Retrieved February 2, 2010, from Florida Center for Instructional Technology:

Technology plays a vital role in today’s educational curriculum. The effective use of technology provides the ability to inspire, prepare, and improve learning of students of all ages. Some of the most basic daily lesson plans can become much more powerful and inspirational to a learner simply by changing the direction of how the lesson is delivered. Technology integration changes a student’s perception and increases student motivation. Although there are many local funding and teacher training hurdles to overcome, research confirms the overall conclusion that technology used in education produces positive and meaningful results.

Test Scores Improve

Students with access to computers are able to utilize programs and technology resources to make a difference in their personal goals and test scores. Teachers can pinpoint, through the use of testing software, areas of strengths and weaknesses for each student. Teachers can also obtain data and feedback on specific lessons and activities needed to improve individual learning. Research shows that schools who do not reach the AYP requirements are behind in technological advances and usage within their district. Those who have access to technology are motivated and engaged in daily lesson performance, thus decreasing student dropout and failure. A study done in Missouri showed that fourth graders improved consistently on their the MAP results when their classrooms were equipped with technology, basic productivity software, and high speed internet connections.(Bickford, 2005)

Technology Prepares Students for Real Word Life Skills

In the 21st century, students require lifelong learning skills and preparation for the future where they will be expected to put these skills to work. The use of technology by students and teachers provides more collaborative working time and team problem solving, something that will benefit them in all aspects of life. Students trained to use distance learning and web communications to dialog with schools and community groups all over the world gain a wide variety of perspectives. Students retain and understand lessons when information presented is relevant and meaningful to their life’s experiences. A hands-on method of working together provides students with a more significant and real world application to their curriculum. (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2003)

Technology Prepares Students for the Workforce

In today’s global economy students must have access to the most relevant computer resources available in order to be a competitive member of the world’s workforce. Technology based curriculum prepares students to enter colleges and universities and to be productive members of the workforce environment. Career Pathway districts integrated technology with learning and career exploration. High school students reported a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work and felt they possessed the appropriate tools and methods needed to enter today’s careers. Teachers and administrators felt they were a positive element of this process and were motivated to continue improving their instructional practices. Student’s grade point averages were higher and graduation statistics rose, with technology trained students expressing more confidence in their future. (Career Pathways in Michigan Schools, 2002)

In order for our future generation to be educated and prepared for today’s workforce environment, it is imperative to incorporate technology into all facets of our curriculum. Today’s society places high demands on the use of computers, multimedia and appropriate technological problem solving in order to be successful in the 21st Century. It is imperative that teachers and students be technologically literate in this generation. To accomplish this, technology must be a part of a student’s everyday learning. This enables all types of knowledge including, visual, auditory, kinesthetic and critical thinking. Student learning and achievement has a more direct positive result when technology is used on a regular basis. The ISTE mandates many standards for both students and teachers to ensure the proper learning environment for our students. Their focus is not only on the use of technology, but rather on the endless possibilities of the learning journey when technology is used correctly. “Taking the journey is critical in preparing students to live, learn, and work in a technology-rich world. “ (ISTE,2010) Let’s prepare our students today for this lifelong journey ahead.

Bickford, Adam. “Analysis of 2004 MAP Results for eMINTS Students.” Evaluation Team Policy Brief, eMINTS National Center, January 10, 2005. Retrieved from
http://www.emints.org/evaluation/reports/map2004.pdf

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2003, June). Learning for the 21st Century: A Report and MILE Guide for 21st Century Skills. Retrieved from
http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/downloads/P21_Report.pdf

“Career Pathways in Michigan Schools: A Success Story.” Michigan Department of Career Development. December 2002. Retrieved from
http://www.michigan.gov/documents/A_Success_Stor_Black_white_60632_7.pdf

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Resources for Educational Technology Professionals, 2010 Retrieved from
http://www.iste.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Educator_Resources