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

Teaching Students Digital Citizenship

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 4

4. Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility – Teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices.

a. Advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources.

Program Standard 1

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

1.2 Element – Communicating with Students

1.2 Example of Proficient – Teacher’s explanation of content is appropriate and connects with students’ knowledge and experience.

Digital Citizenship

Click On Image To See Full Infographic

The internet has become an integral part of education as it enables more dynamic classroom learning. However, it also poses risks to young students and the laws and codes of acceptable conduct can be confusing. It is important for teachers to help children understand the importance of safe, responsible use of online resources. On the International Society for Technology in Education website, Mike Ribble describes essential elements to consider when navigating the web. These fundamentals are meant to provide teachers with a way to approach the subject with students and ensure that they are covering all of the pertinent information. Ribble (2014) suggests that there are nine basic components to digital citizenship:

Respect

1.Digital access: Advocating for equal digital rights and access is where digital citizenship starts.

2.Digital etiquette: Rules and policies aren’t enough — we need to teach everyone about appropriate conduct online.

3.Digital law: It’s critical that users understand it’s a crime to steal or damage another’s digital work, identity or property.

Educate

4.Digital communication: With so many communication options available, users need to learn how to make appropriate decisions.

5.Digital literacy: We need to teach students how to learn in a digital society.

6.Digital commerce: As users make more purchases online, they must understand how to be effective consumers in a digital economy.

Protect

7.Digital rights and responsibilities: We must inform people of their basic digital rights to privacy, freedom of speech, etc.

8.Digital safety and security: Digital citizens need to know how to protect their information from outside forces that might cause harm.

9.Digital health and wellness: From physical issues, such as repetitive stress syndrome, to psychological issues, such as internet addiction, users should understand the health risks of technology. (Ribble, 2014)

The complex nature of these standards makes it necessary for educators to explicitly instruct students on how to responsibly use the internet so that they can become engaged and active members of online communities. Like in any community, there are standard behaviors expected of conscientious online participants. It can feel like the internet is not a part of real life so students are not always on their best behavior or participating in productive activities. Online bullying is a major issue that educators need to tackle directly in their classroom. Teachers need to stress to students that anything said or done online is just as real as when they are interacting with one of their classroom peers.

In classrooms, online activity is not just used for connecting students with one another or collaborating with classroom communities around the world. The main thing it is used for is research. The reason the internet is such a great resource for finding material is because it is constantly updated and added to. However, that amount of information can be overwhelming. Students often feel that anything found online is reputable so it is critical for teachers to instruct them on how to distinguish good sources from bad ones. Educators play a huge role in how students learn to conduct research and those skills are important to life-long success. 

It is also important to help students understand that not everything found on the internet is free to use and adapt. Copyright laws and creative commons licensing can be a difficult topic so it is imperative that teachers take the time to go over the intricacies of it with their students. Many young children believe that laws and acceptable behavior are not relevant online because it feels disconnected from reality. It is crucial to teach them that their actions always matter and that there will be consequences if they break the law online. Once students have learned all of the aspects of proper digital conduct, they will be empowered to elevate their learning using the vast array of material the internet has to offer.

Reference
Ribble, M. (2014) Essential elements of digital citizenship. International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articledetail?articleid=101

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

Helping Students Understand Copyright and Fair Use

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 4

4. Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility – Teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices.

a. Advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources.

Program Standard 1

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

1.2 Element – Communicating with Students

1.2 Example of Proficient – Teacher’s explanation of content is appropriate and connects with students’ knowledge and experience.

Technology and online resources are an integral part of most classrooms today. Students actively participate in online research in the pursuit of new skills and knowledge. Schools are increasingly using educational web 2.0 platforms to create classroom blogs that students can create and add content to so it is important for them to understand how to responsibly use intellectual property that does not belong to them. The International Society for Technology in Education addresses this issue in their fourth standard by stating that educators need to demonstrate to students how to use digital information in a conscientious and legal manner. In order for students to use content ethically they first must understand copyright, fair use, and creative commons and how they all relate. For EDTC 6433 I researched how I could teach these complex issues to young students without confusing them on the subject matter.

Fortunately, many educators have previously dealt with teaching copyright and fair use in the classroom and shared their resources and lesson plans online. Borovoy (2015), in her article “Five-Minute Film Festival: Copyright and Fair Use For Educators,” complied a list of useful websites and created a YouTube playlist with helpful videos on copyright, fair use, and creative commons. The first video in the playlist is particularly helpful because it follows a teacher through her lesson plan on fair use and demonstrates how she engages her students in the subject matter. Borovoy (2015) even provided a link to a pdf of the worksheet that the teacher used in the video. This article provides teachers with a starting point on how to teach the subject of copyright, fair use, and creative commons and even presents links to external websites with helpful information. However, it does not provide a concise guideline for how to deal with issues of copyright, fair use, and creative commons. Burt (2012) did just that in his article “The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons” and also provides many useful tips on where to find content that can be used and how to do so ethically and legally. However, even with all of the information available it can still be difficult to tell what content is safe to use even with proper citation or credit.

Another student in EDTC 6433 shared a resource from the American Library Association that helps individuals navigate copyright issues. On their website there is a page that provides copyright tools like their Public Domain Slider (which helps determine the copyright status of a work published in the United States), their Fair Use Evaluator (which helps determine is the use of copyrighted material is covered under fair use), and their Copyright Genie (which can be used to determine if a work is copyrighted and calculate its terms of protection). The ALA website even provides a tool that allows educators to determine educational exceptions to copyright law (Copyright, 2016). All of the resources described will help me grapple with these complicated but important issues with my students so they will be prepared to use all the content the web has to offer in a safe, legal, and ethical manner.

References
Borovoy, A. E. (2015) Five-Minute Film Festival: Copyright and Fair Use for Educators. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/film-festival-copyright-fair-use
Burt, R. (2012). The Educator’s Guide To Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons. The Edublogger. Retrieved from http://www.theedublogger.com/2012/02/09/the-educators-guide-to-copyright-fair-use-and-creative-commons/
Copyright Tools. (2016) ALA: American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/copyright-tools

Using Technology To Create A Classroom Community And Effectively Communicate With Parents

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 3

3. Model digital age work and learning – Teachers exhibit knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative professional in a global and digital society.

c. Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital age media and formats.

Program Standard 7

7. Families and Community – The teacher communicates and collaborates with students, families and all educational stakeholders in an ethical and professional manner to promote student learning.

7.1 Element – Communicating with Families

7.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher communicates with families about students’ progress on a regular basis, respecting cultural norms, and is available as needed to respond to family concerns.

Engendering a sense of community in classrooms is such an important part of student success and technology can be a great way to help busy parents become more connected with their child’s learning. The International Society for Technology in Education recognizes communication as an important part of teaching and in their third standard encourages educators to find meaningful ways to use technology in this endeavor. For EDTC 6433 (Teaching with Technology) I researched how to use technology to communicate relevant information and ideas to students, parents, and peers to engender a sense of community in the classroom and to seamlessly connect adults with their child’s learning environment. This will be an important aspect of my future teaching because I believe that home life greatly affects academic success and that bringing the two together can improve how students approach learning. Many parents would like to be more involved in their child’s education but simply do not have the time to physically participate in the classroom. Technology is a way to bridge the gap between a student’s school and home life in a meaningful way.

Graphic found on the Pearson Website.

Schools are starting to use web portals, social media platforms, blogs, and apps to keep parents constantly updated on their child’s learning. In fact, these kinds of web 2.0 tools have become so prevalent that they are becoming the standard in many schools. “They have become commonplace technologies that support social networking with peers, teachers, families, and friends” (McPherson & Blue, 2012, p. 2373). Teachers now have more resources like edmodo.com, edublogs.org, and kidblog.org which are specifically designed for use in the classroom. They can now set up websites and classroom blogs on platforms expressly intended as a safe space where students can create and post content. Parents can easily access classroom calendars, upcoming events, and student projects all in real time. This kind of networking has the potential to make parents more involved in their child’s education. While websites and blogs are a great way for parents to see what is happening in the classroom, apps can be a great way for them to receive individual notifications about their child. This can be especially helpful for parents who need to be able to quickly reference information on the go. Another student in EDTC 6433 shared an article describing several free apps that help teachers communicate with parents. All of the apps described in that article allow parents to receive updates from teachers directly to their mobile devices. Two of most interesting apps discussed are called BuzzMob and Collaborize Classroom because they integrate full classroom websites with a convenient companion app that can be accessed by teachers and parents on their phones or tablets (McCrea, 2013). All of these resources have the potential to connect parents to their child’s school and classroom in ways never previously conceivable.

However, it is important to remember that sole reliance on this kind of communication can alienate some families. Teachers must be mindful of that fact that some families do not have access to technology or the internet in their homes. So if technology becomes the dominant way that teachers communicate with parents it may create an even greater divide between home and school for some students. Technology should be used to help teachers offer parents a vast array of contact options and each family’s personal needs and preferences should be taken into account. Some school districts are trying to help parents by creating technology centers and by offering technology training to them. With the ever-increasing demand for technology skills to be taught in schools it can only benefit students if their parents have a level of fluency in the subject matter as well. Other school districts are not only training parents on how to use computers but also checking out laptops or tablets to families. These schools understand that along with the technology families also need to be able to access the internet and are helping them apply for it at reduced rates. One administrator is even trying to get free internet access for all of the community members in the district (Fleming, 2012). Nevertheless, many districts cannot afford to help provide families with these kinds of resources so it is important to take individual situations into account and use these resources as supplementary to more standard forms of communication. With the use of technology teachers can reach out to and connect more parents to their child’s education in a meaningful and interactive way.

References
McPherson, S. & Blue, E. (2012) Using Web 2.0 Tools to Develop New Literacies in Teacher Education. Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2012, pp. 2369-2382. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/39937
Fleming, N. (2012) Schools Are Using Social Networking to Involve Parents. Education Week, Vol. 32, Issue 11, pp. 16-17. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/11/07/11digitalparent_ep.h32.html
McCrea, B. (2013). 7 Free Apps for Keeping Parents and Teachers Connected. The Journal: Transforming Education Through Technology. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/06/11/7-free-apps-for-keeping-parents-and-teachers-connected.aspx
Media
Image found on a Pearson website and the statistic is from a State of Parenting Poll found on the Parent Toolkit website.

Encouraging Self-Directed Learning In Students Through Technology

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 2

2. Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments Teachers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessments incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the Standards.

b. Develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress.

Program Standard 6

6. Assessment – The teacher uses multiple data elements (both formative and summative) to plan, inform and adjust instruction and evaluate student learning.

6.2 Element – Designing Student Assessments with an Emphasis on Formative Assessment

6.2 Example of Proficient – Teacher has a well-developed strategy to using formative assessment and has designed particular approaches to be used.

One of the main obstacles that teachers face in the classroom is lack of student enthusiasm to learn the content being presented. Research has shown that there are a few key elements needed to provoke intrinsic motivation in students. Learners need to feel that they have self-efficacy (belief of one’s competency), control beliefs (belief in one’s ability to influence outcomes), and task value (comprehension of the reason for doing a task) in order to sustain interest in their studies (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, Chapter 2, para. 2). While these learning qualities are well known by many educators it remains difficult to find creative ways to imbue students with them. For EDTC 6433 (Teaching with Technology) I researched how the second ISTE standard would influence my teaching by researching how technology could be used to promote elementary age students to take ownership of their education by setting their own learning goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress. What I discovered is that technology can be a great tool for addressing the three aspects of intrinsic motivation that can influence student engagement and promote self-directed learning. The goal as a teacher is not just to help students comprehend concepts and gain new knowledge but also to encourage them to pursue their own independent inquiry.

Self-directed learning can improve students’ sense of self-efficacy by helping them understand the process of learning and their own part within it. Abrami, Venkatesh, Meyer, and Wade (2013) asserted, “Self-regulated learners are individuals who are metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning” (p. 1188). This kind of active involvement in the learning process that invokes students to set their own goals, research those objectives, and then reflect on their progress can greatly enhance their confidence in their own abilities. Researchers conducted a study to determine if the use of electronic portfolios could improve student achievement by helping them engage in self-directed learning. What the researchers found is that the students using electronic portfolio software outperformed their peers in the control group in not only their competence of subject matter knowledge but also in the their ability to set goals and actively engage in learning (Abrami, Venkatesh, Meyer, & Wade, 2013, pp. 1198-99). However, some of the gains seen could have also been achieved if the students used a physical portfolio to engage in self-directed learning but the process would not have been as seamless or interactive. While the researchers mainly established that self-directed learning is a key element for student success, they also demonstrated that electronic portfolios are superior to physical ones because of their interactive nature. The students in this study were able to easily share documents and artifacts with their peers and teachers in order to receive feedback on their projects in a much more efficient manner.

Receiving swift feedback from peers and teachers can also greatly influence students control beliefs by allowing them to actively participate in the outcomes of their learning projects. When students are able to quickly determine if their approach is effective they have more control over adjusting that plan to better achieve their goals. Any kind of technology that allows students to easily share their work and receive prompt feedback will help with their intrinsic motivation. For example, another student in EDTC 6433 shared the website www.edmodo.com which helps students and teachers create online learning communities that allow for this kind of active collaboration from students. While this website is not structured exactly the same as the electronic portfolio software the aforementioned researchers studied, it provides students with many of the same opportunities and may actually be more useful. Although the electronic portfolio software used in the study was easy to navigate and effective at directing students to set goals and assess their learning it also required teachers and students to download it to their computers which made it less accessible. Edmodo has the benefit of being a collaborative website that teachers and students can access from anywhere they have an internet connection. Students can pose questions and share research in an interactive platform that invites peer-to-peer engagement. It also provides teachers with an easy and efficient way to track student progress and offer meaningful advice which can encourage self-reflection in students. Both of these resources can benefit students by giving them more feedback to help in the personal assessment stage of self-directed learning.

While this kind of information sharing and interactive learning provides students with more control over their own learning, it also presents them with a sense of task value. Many students become disengaged from learning because they cannot see the outcome or purpose of it. When students create projects with the objective of sharing them with peers it can provide them with a reason to be more invested in their research and the development of their project. Websites like Edmodo are made just for this kind of student interaction. Teachers could also use any blog hosting website to achieve a similar goal and many have successfully. Recently there has been a hotly debated trend in education where teachers are forgoing the classic term paper and instead having students write several blog posts over the course of the term. Richtel (2012) poses the question “Why not replace a staid writing exercise with a medium that gives the writer the immediacy of an audience, a feeling of relevancy, instant feedback from classmates or readers, and a practical connection to contemporary communications?” (para. 6). While a general consensus for the replacement of traditional research papers with blog posts may never be reached, the benefit of this type of collective learning for younger students is hard to refute. It can be difficult to get young children to want to self-direct their learning but offering students a platform to display knowledge they have gained provides them with the incentive to actually want to learn new subject matter. When students are able to create information that they can share with their classmates and even other students around the world their desire to engage in learning can be greatly increased. One teacher recognized this fact and used Edmodo to have her students post their experience on a field trip to the Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, MA. Her students invited other classes from around the country to join their online group on Edmodo enabling them to engage with history in a more tangible manner (Carroll, 2012). The students who took the field trip were able to enrich the study of other learners while also deepening their own experience by providing them with a greater sense of task value.

Students who believe in their own competency, understand their own capacity to influence outcomes, and recognize the reason for doing a task will inevitably gain more from their education because they will be more engaged with it. Technology has the capacity to offer educators a myriad of different ways to supplement their teaching and assist them in demonstrating to students the benefit of self-directed learning. With the help of websites and software I plan on showing students the importance of setting their own goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress. As a future teacher, I plan on integrating technology in a meaningful way whenever possible and electronic portfolios and online communities are an interesting way to help students achieve. Self-directed learning becomes much more stimulating when students can interact with each other and easily obtain feedback on their progress.

References
Abrami, P. C., Venkatesh, V., Meyer, E. J., & Wade, C. A. (2013). Using electronic portfolios to foster literacy and self-regulated learning skills in elementary students. Journal Of Educational Psychology, 105(4), 1188-1209. doi:10.1037/a0032448
Carroll, N. (2012). “Shared” Field Trip Using Edmodo. Teaching is Elementary. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://teachingiselementary.blogspot.com/2012/11/shared-field-trip-using-edmodo.html
Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd ed.). Denver, CO: McRel [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Richtel, M. (2012). Blogs vs. Term Papers. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/education/edlife/muscling-in-on-the-term-paper-tradition.html?_r=0

Using Technology to Differentiate Instruction and Inspire Student Learning

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 1

1. Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativityTeachers use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments.

Program Standard 3

3. Differentiation – The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning. 

3.3 Element – Demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness in persisting to support students.

3.3 Example of Proficient – Teacher persists in seeking approaches for students who have difficulty learning, drawing on a broad repertoire of strategies.

Tailored instruction has long been thought to yield the highest level of comprehension when learning a new skill. It is logical then that legislatures and administrators would push to implement that principle in schools. Differentiation is now considered an essential tool for educators to learn and more teachers are encouraged to adopt this technique every year. Instructors well versed in differentiation provide students a variety of approaches in which to explore a single concept. This practice allows students to take into consideration their personal learning style when mastering subject matter or even practice the same skill several ways for a deeper understanding. It also allows students choices in their education which can imbue students with a sense of agency and incite engagement in their studies. Effective educators use many methods to achieve differentiation in their classrooms and often technology can be a valuable tool in achieving that goal.

For the class EDTC 6433 (Teaching with Technology) we were asked to explore how the first ISTE standard can be applied to our own teaching goals and experiences. This standard asks how technology can “facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity” so I researched how it could be used to provide students with a more tailored education. My theory on the subject is that if students are allowed to use technology to progress at their own rate and receive individualized ways to practice certain concepts they will reach a higher level of mastery in those skills. Investigating this project uncovered a wide range of resources available to teachers including software programs, websites, and apps to name a few. In order to narrow down my examination I focused solely on the use of educational apps. During my research I discovered an article that provided a framework for strengthening children’s literacy skills through the use of apps. Northrop and Killeen (2013) asserted that the use of apps to scaffold instruction can be very effective when coupled with explicit instruction, however, they warn teachers that this technology should not be seen as a substitute for meaningful lessons (p. 533). One issue they noted was the game-like structure of the literacy apps they tested and how that might cause issues with long-term retention of the skills presented. Northrop and Killeen (2013) stated, “we noticed that the child would race through the app, clicking to get the correct answer, not paying attention to decoding and reading the words” (p. 535). Despite this setback they recommended the use of literacy apps in classrooms and suggested that with proper instruction and monitoring that this kind of technology can be a useful instructional aid.

Another student in EDTC 6433 found a similar article that dealt with the use of apps to build on students’ math skills. The article chronicled a study conducted on a group of fourth grade students and demonstrated how the use of math apps improved their comprehension of the subject matter. The researchers in this study also found that the apps worked best when used to scaffold learning already achieved through explicit teacher instruction. The researchers in this article indicated that the best apps to improve student achievement allow students to progress at their own pace and provide expedient feedback (Zhang, M., Trussell, R.P., Gallegos, B., & Asam, R.R., 2015, p. 33). These two features enable students to focus on the particular skills they struggle with and provide teachers with valuable information that they can use to differentiate instruction. These authors also touch on the idea that it is important for educators to use apps to supplement instruction and not rely on them to actually teach students new skills.

Overall, the use of technology as an instructional aide can greatly benefit both teachers and students. When used effectively it can provide students with differentiated instruction by allowing them to work at their own pace and to work on the skills they struggle with the most. However, it is crucial that teachers take great care to implement technology in a thoughtful and intentional way by providing explicit instruction and guidance on how it should be used. Mary Ann Wolf of the State Educational Technology Directors Association emphasized, “Strong leadership is needed to encourage the correct use of technology, provide support throughout, and systematically integrate the use of technology for instruction. Integrating technology is much, much more than putting a piece of software into a classroom” (Robin, 2015, p. 221). Once teachers become proficient at managing technology use in their classroom, it will advance student learning and incite engagement in the content presented.

As a future educator, I am dedicated to advancing student learning by using a wide variety of techniques. Technology will definitely have a prominent place in my classroom and I will use it to engage student learning and provide them with the differentiated instruction that they need. All of the articles cited provide useful information about the benefits and the difficulties of using technology in the classroom. In order to implement technology in a meaningful way I will have to carefully plan out how to integrate it into lesson plans in a seamless and impactful manner. This will mean that any piece of technology that enters my curriculum will have to be well vetted to determine if its use will actually benefit the learning process. The two articles dealing with the use of apps in the classroom discuss the fact that the wide range of apps on the market means that some are much better developed than others. Some apps focus on a very narrow skill set and some cover a wide range of material. Furthermore, some apps provide useful feedback on student progress that educators can use to scaffold learning and some provide no feedback at all. These issues will mean that adding technology to my classroom will be an extensive process but the resulting benefits to my students will be well worth the effort.

References
Northrop, L. E., & Killeen, E. (2013). A Framework for Using iPads to Build Early Literacy Skills. Reading Teacher, 66(7), 531-537. doi: 10.1002/TRTR.1155
Robin, B.R. (2008). Digital Storytelling: A Powerful Technology Tool for the 21st Century Classroom. Theory Into Practice. 47(3), 220-228. doi: 10.1080/00405840802153916
Zhang, M., Trussell, R., Gallegos, B., & Asam, R. (2015). Using Math Apps for Improving Student Learning: An Exploratory Study in an Inclusive Fourth Grade Classroom. Techtrends:Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 59(2), 32-39. doi: 10.1007/s11528-015-0837-y