‘Learning’ is such a broad term when it comes to individuals. It presents itself in so many different ways it is hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, how it happens, and why we keep doing it. However, I think we can develop a general description of what learning is.
Learning is a daily practice that can be both conscious and subconscious. It is our brain’s way of making new connections to old ones. It is a process that never ceases and is comprised of both successes and failures; and sometimes the failures provide us with the best learning experiences, if we are in tune with self-reflective practices. Learning comes in many shapes and sizes, however, real-life, collaborative, kinesthetic experiences provide the best ones. We can determine if we have learned something if we find ourselves incorporating new ideas or practices into what we do on a daily basis. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own learning, however, sometimes there is a need for guidance from a ‘master’. That ‘master’ typically has years of experience, expertise and a never ending expanse of knowledge. The ‘master’ can help facilitate the learning process, but they can’t control whether or not you learn. You must make the choice to engage yourself.
At the end of the EDU 625 course, I find myself asking if my philosophy has changed from the beginning, and my answer is no. Technology is another tool that we can add to our learning toolbox. As a learner, we must still make the choice to engage our self in the learning process, and the addition of technology can help us achieve our goals, and accomplish certain objectives. It provides the learner with a new way to interact with information. Many of our K-12 public are starting to find unique ways to integrate technology into the learning process for students. “Social networking tools offer opportunities for innovative, participative pedagogical practice within traditional institutional frameworks. However, tensions continue to develop within this space: between creativity and security, personal and professional identity, privacy and openness. We argue that iSchools are uniquely positioned to create proactive, adaptive policies guiding the pedagogical use of social media and offer initial recommendations toward the crafting of such policies. If we expect information school graduates to be proficient and critical users of perpetually evolving social media technologies, we need to create learning environments that support the ethical, reflective and effective use of these tools” (Nathan, MacGougan, and Shaffer, pp. 112).
This leads me to my next topic… issues surrounding the use of technology in schools. One of the largest issues is safety and security. Children and even young adults still don’t have the necessary skills to make the best decisions when it comes to the use and application of technology in schools. As an adult, I would like to think that we are better equipped to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate sources. Seeking out the best, most reliable resources requires a bit of footwork. As educators we must teach our students how to go about that footwork to make sure that they too can find credible resources. “The plethora of information available online, coupled with heavy reliance on the Internet by information seekers raise issues of the credibility or quality of information found online” (Metzger, pp. 2078). Not only is the large amount of information that can be accessed, it also allows for any person to be an author. There aren’t as many guidelines that regulate publishing online, so credibility is in question there as well.
These issues can create a difficult challenge in an educational setting. Our students have multiple ways to access information now, but they don’t have the skill sets to make the most informed decisions about resources and data. The new Common Core State Standards are challenging students to be able to:
- Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
- Gather relevant information form multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
- Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research (Common Core State Standards, 2014).
In order to teach our students how to determine the legitimacy of resources. Here are some questions you can ask your students:
- What is your topic?
- What is the URL?
- Is the extension appropriate to the content?
- Who is the author?
- Is there contact information for the author?
- What are the author’s credentials?
- Does the site appear to be professional?
- Are there typos and other errors?
- What is the purpose of the sire?
- Is there bias? If so, what is it?
- Is this a primary or secondary source?
- Are the citations or a bibliography?
- Is there a date for the publication/revision of the page?
- Does the information seem in depth and comprehensive?
- Overall Evaluation…
As an educator, what might you do, or set in place in your classroom to get your students in the habit of analyzing their resources? What changes do you foresee needing to take place within your classroom, within your school, within your district to better accommodate the integration of technology in the classroom, and bring our students’ learning experience in to the 21st century?
Some other issues that can impact the use of technology has to do with the users. From my personal career experiences prior to teaching (I worked for Apple..and now run my own technology consulting/training business) this is what I have observed:
There is a want and need to stay current with technology, but a sever lack of understanding
- Many people only use their devices for basic use partially because they do not know how to go beyond it, or a fear of doing something wrong
- There is an innate fear of the ‘just go for it’ mentality when it comes to technology, because they might break it, or do something wrong that they can not fix
- Unwillingness to learn and try something new
Personally, I think that mobile devices, apps and technology are going to change the way we learn. I think they belong in the classroom. I think that we need to prepare our students better when it comes to acceptable use, and what the expectations are for using technology for learning. Additionally, I think that schools need to find a better way to accommodate the integration of technology into schools. This list contains some of the things I feel they would need to consider:
- Funding to provide each student and teacher with up-to-date technology
- Increased funding and personnel for IT support in each school within the district
- Meaningful training that actually applies to the use of the technology in the classroom
- Updated curriculum that supports a learning environment that supports technology use
- Updated classrooms that support the use of technology
My vision and philosophy for the use of technology in public k-12 classrooms is ideal, and will take a long while to happen, probably towards the end of my teaching career…but I think it is a step in the right direction.
One of the ways we can combat some of these issues is by taking some personal initiative to stay ahead of the curve, or at least in it! ‘Next steps’ can be difficult to figure out when technology is changing so frequently. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that there is more to stay on top of. To remain as prepared as possible it requires a rather large chunk of dedication, time and research on your part. “This generation of students is considered more competent in use of technology (ie, tech-savvy) than previous generations because they have been surrounded by technology all of their lives.5 However, professors are finding that the students are selectively tech-savvy, with comfort levels limited to the use of social media for social interaction and entertainment rather than programs and activities designed to increase productivity.5-7 As educators in this current environment, we now have to become comfortable with technology, which may include teaching students how to use technology more productively for the mastery of course content rather than for social interaction” (Thiele, Mai and Post, pp. 80). It is very evident that the new generation of students is setting a new bar when it comes to the integration of technology in the classroom. It is not a matter if whether or not we choose to incorporate the technology, its a matter of when and how soon.
In order for me to stay ahead, or at least on par with the current technologies out there. Part of my personal practices include talking with students about what types of apps, technologies and softwares they are currently using. Often times is a student is really passionate about what they are sharing, I will ask them to show me how to use it, or something they have made from it. Another practice I intend to keep using is staying connected with news and updates via social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Social media platforms are a great way to read snippets about new and upcoming things. Another practice I hope to continue is staying as up to date as possible with Apple software and technologies. For example, every year they have their WWDC (world wide developer’s conference) and then broadcast the keynote. I make an effort to watch it, and if possible complete the updates to experience the technology for myself. Lastly, the best thing we can all do to stay as current as possible is to just get out there and try anything we come across, within reason (barring any potential computer viruses!).
When I research and explore new technologies, the questions I would want answered are:
-How would this positively impact my professional experience as a teacher?
-How would this positively impact my students learning experience?
-What would I need to do and/or have access to in order to implement the use of this in my classroom, or the school?
-How is this applicable to what my students are learning, and their lives?
-How will this help them in the future?
-How quickly will this become antiquated?
-What are the costs associated with this?
-How will this impact the current curriculum?
-What do I need to adjust in order to successfully adapt the use of this technology in my class?
Ultimately, the best way for me to maintain an up to date view of current and future technology is to immerse myself as fully as possible by utilizing the resources I have.
If you are finding the “Ahead of the Curve” thing to be a bit of a challenge, check out some of these websites below…you may find them helpful:
English Language Arts Standards » Anchor Standards » College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing. (2014, January 1). Retrieved October 30, 2014, from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/CCRA/W/
Gutherie, E. (2013, August 27). Teaching Students to Determine Credibility of Online Sources (Free Student Handout!). Retrieved October 30, 2014, from http://secondarysolutionsblog.com/credible-online-sources/
Metzger, M. (2007). Making sense of credibility on the web: Models for evaluating online information and recommendations for future research. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58(13), 2078-2091.
Nathan, L., MacGougan, A., & Shaffer, E. (2014). If Not Us, Who? Social Media Policy and the iSchool Classroom. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 55(2), 112-132.
Thiele, A. K., Mai, J. A., & Post, S. (2014). The Student-Centered Classroom of the 21st Century: Integrating Web 2.0 Applications and Other Technology to Actively Engage Students. Journal Of Physical Therapy Education, 28(1), 80-93.