My End to EDTECH 541…The Beginning of my Technology Future!

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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:

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:

Snelson, D. C. (2010). EDTECH ePortfolio Template. Retrieved April 29, 2010, from Dr. Chareen Snelson:

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

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Technology Can Level the Playing Field for ALL Learners!

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” and  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 through 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:
Roblyer, M.D., & Doering, A. (2010). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc