Student Centered Learning Through Technology

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 5

5. Engage in professional growth and leadership – Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

a. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.

Program Standard 1

1. Expectations – The teacher communicates high expectations for student learning.

1.1 Element – Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy

1.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher recognizes the value of understanding students’ interest and cultural heritage and displays this knowledge for groups of students.

The use of technology in education has always been a hotly debated subject. Some believed that children should worry more about gaining prescribed knowledge and that the use of technology is unnecessary in that pursuit. Certainly, students can learn literacy, math, science, social studies, and history without it but does that mean that they should have to? Opponents to the implementations of technology in schools argue that it distracts students from their studies because they are used to using it for entertainment (Evans, 2008, 308). If that is the case, then shouldn’t educators take it upon themselves to help students understand what a powerful learning tool it can be? Others argue that young students cannot handle the rigors of digital citizenship and should be taught a strong moral conduct before being allowed to go online at school (Evans, 2008, 307). However, students will be exposed the internet regardless and if it is done in school from an early age teachers can help students understand their role as a responsible member of a digital community. Finally, those who oppose early exposure to technology indicate that students should be exposed at a much older age so that they do not have to learn soon-to-be obsolete technology at a young age (Evans, 2008, 311). Contrarily, it would benefit students to be well equipped to adapt to new technologies, as they are quick and ever changing.

With the prevalence of technology in everyday life, it seems that a more pertinent question should be how should educators integrate it into the classroom. One objection to the use of technology that actually holds some credence is that it can be distracting for students. However, when introduced and used in a meaningful way it can transform learning. One tool that teachers can use when deciding when to integrate technology into the classroom is the SAMR Model for Technology Integration. At the bottom of this taxonomy is substitution where the use of technology would not result in any functional change. Next is augmentation where it would act as a substitution but would also provide functional improvement. One step up on the taxonomy is modification where the task at hand can be significantly redesigned. At the top is redefinition where the teacher is able to use technology to create a new meaningful experience for children that would have been inconceivable without it (Puentedura, 2014). Sometimes the use of technology can be justified even if it just provides a substitution but teachers need to be aware in those cases that it might not be the best option and could lead to distractions. If the technology can redefine learning then there is no question that it should be implemented into the classroom. Another benefit is that it has the potential to ignite student-centered learning and provide them with a stronger connection to the content. There are so many different ways that technology can be seamlessly integrated into a child’s education to transform and redefine his or her learning experience.

One way to redefine education through technology is through epistemic learning programs. David Williamson Shaffer, Kurt Squire, Richard Halverson, and James Gee argue that computer simulations can be a great learning tool and that they are “the most powerful when they are personally meaningful, experiential, social, and epistemological all at the same time” (Evans, 2008, p. 296). Although programs like these are not used in school yet, the authors believe that some video games can act as a framework for future developers. These researchers believe that if developers make learning programs that require the same level of higher reasoning and practical knowledge as certain epistemic video games do that it can help students develop important skills. They maintain that education should integrate learning not only through a mere transmission of facts to be memorized but also through the development of skills. They assert, “We learn by doing—not just by doing any old thing, but by doing something as part of a larger community of people who share common goals and ways of achieving those goals” (Evans, 2008, p. 299). Having students participate in communities within virtual realities can expose them to experience that they otherwise would not be able to achieve in school. For example, students can actually participate in societal issues like politics by participating in the process. Instead of passively learning about how different political systems function they can actively partake of a reality where they are exposed to it and can influence it. This kind of learning has the potential to transform learning and provide children with a more dynamic and student-centered education. This does not mean that technology should replace standard models of teaching but that it should be a meaningful part of the curriculum.

References
Evans, D. L. (Eds.).  (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.
Puentedura, R. (2014). SAMR and Bloom’s Taxonomy: Assembling the Puzzle. Common Sense Graphite. Retrieved from https://www.graphite.org/blog/samr-and-blooms-taxonomy-assembling-the-puzzle

Participation In An Online Educational Community

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 5

5. Engage in professional growth and leadership – Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

a. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.

Program Standard 8

8. Professional Practice – The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.

8.1 Element – Participating in a Professional Community

8.1 Example of Proficient – Relationships with colleagues are characterized by mutual support and cooperation.

Constant development is an essential part of effective teaching practice and the best way for educators to maintain that kind of consistent growth is by connecting with their peers. However, that can be difficult for teachers to do because of the nature of their job. Donnelly and Boniface (2013) argued, “One of the most salient issues for practicing teachers is isolation” (p. 9). Instead of regularly being surrounded by their colleagues like most workers, they are separated from them for most of their workday. As such, it is important for them to find other ways to connect with like-minded individuals and discuss their trade. Online communities are a great way to do that. They not only allow teachers to connect with each other to share ideas, gain insights, and learn from one another but they also allow them to feel more connected to their craft. Being a part of such a demanding job makes it crucial for teachers to have a support system.

In my teaching practice, online communities will be an important part of my routine allowing me to stay current on instructional strategies. One website that has fostered a dynamic educational community is Edutopia. It offers a wide range of subjects to explore, as well as, a vast collection of articles and message boards for individuals to read and participate in. It brings together educational professionals from all kinds of backgrounds and allows them to share their knowledge gained from years of experience. Recently, I decided to sign up for an account so that I can participate in discussions. Today I read a well-researched and informative article on project-based learning and how that method benefits students. I was so inspired by this article that I decided to become a part of the conversation and post a comment so that I could share my opinions and observations. This was the first step towards becoming a fully contributing member of this community. I plan on continuing my participation on Edutopia by posting questions and offering information. This website will be just the first of many that I will explore to elevate my teaching practice.

Edutopia Screen Shot
References
Donnelly, D.F. & Boniface, S. (2013). Consuming and creating: Early-adopting science teachers’ perceptions and use of a wiki to support professional development. Computers & Education, 68, 9-20. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.04.023
Holland, Beth. (2015). Design Thinking and PBL. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/design-thinking-and-pbl-beth-holland?page=1#comment-240556

Using Collaborative Communities To Improve Professional Teaching Development

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 5

5. Engage in professional growth and leadership – Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

a. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.

Program Standard 8

8. Professional Practice – The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.

8.1 Element – Participating in a Professional Community

8.1 Example of Proficient – Relationships with colleagues are characterized by mutual support and cooperation.

Teachers are by nature communicators. They spend most of each day conveying ideas to their students. They are inherently a part of a community within their own classroom, yet, many teachers find themselves secluded. The educational system is set up so that teachers are separated from their peers for most of the day only interacting with their students. Donnelly and Boniface (2013) argued, “One of the most salient issues for practicing teachers is isolation” (p. 9). They continued to elaborate that this reality is caused by the fact that teachers do not have many chances during the day to work with their colleagues. However, an integral part of professional development for educators is collaboration with others in the field. Technology has created ways for teachers to virtually connect with each other whether they are from within the same school or located across the globe. For EDTC 6433 (Teaching with Technology) I explored how to use online communities and tools to help improve my professional practice and model lifelong learning skills that will aid my students in becoming proactive learners.

The act of teaching can be transformed through joint effort and strong teacher cooperation whether it is found within schools or through online communities. Another student in EDTC 6433 shared an article extolling the benefits of peer partnerships for educators and how collaboration helped to create more dynamic lesson plans for their students. The administrators in this article took great care to foster a culture of community within their school. Although these teachers were located in the same school, they still found it difficult to find time to physically meet up so they made use of technology to communicate. They enhanced their communication by using Google Drive to create and share files (Edutopia, 2015). These teachers made excellent use of technology to collaborate more easily and effectively with peers within their school.

While the Internet is a wonderful tool to connect busy teachers within schools or districts it can also be used to connect educators across the globe. Scragg (2013) compiled a list of websites used to host educational communities. Web sites like Twitter have been used to create teacher communities where educators can talk about current issues and follow one another as well as host virtual “meet ups.” Other websites like We Are Teachers, Teachers Teaching Teachers, Share My Lesson, and Classroom 2.0 were all specifically designed to allow teachers from across the country and around the globe to connect and share resources (Scragg, 2013). These communities allow individuals to develop their practice by posing questions or providing advice to fellow educators. These online groups allow teachers to share open educational resources with one another and enrich their own experiences by exposing themselves to ideas they might not have otherwise discovered. This type of open sharing allows teachers access to innovative material which will benefit their professional practice. When teachers are able to constantly better themselves their students will model that proactive behavior and benefit as well. Online resources like these will play a large role in my teaching practice and I will use technology to make sure that I remain connected to my colleagues.

References
Donnelly, D.F. & Boniface, S. (2013). Consuming and creating: Early-adopting science teachers’ perceptions and use of a wiki to support professional development. Computers & Education, 68, 9-20. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.04.023
Edutopia. (2015). Teacher Collaboration: Matching Complementary Strengths. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/practice/teacher-collaboration-matching-complementary-strengths
Scragg, S. (2013) Online teacher communities. United Federation of Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.uft.org/linking-learning/online-teacher-communities