What’s the Purpose of Technology? It’s Not About the Shoes

My eyes shot wide open, my jaw dropped, and my shoes left skid marks on the tile. Before my eyes I saw a Promethean Board being used as a screen for an overhead projector. Dumbfounded, I asked the instructor what in the world they were doing and the response was, “I didn’t have time …” My facial expression was a door into my brain: I couldn’t recover quickly enough to hide the feelings of disbelief.

Then it hit me how time seems to be the crouching tiger in the bushes, the elephant in the room, and the colloquial answer for why we don’t stretch ourselves to learn new skills. What then, to be blunt, is the reason for technology? It’s not about the shoes.

Hmmm? It’s not about the technology, but what you do with it.

Can we still walk without shoes? Yes. But, it’s what we do with the shoes that make a difference.

Heidi on I Was Thinking posts an excellent address of this issue which gets one thinking, “Are we doing students a disservice by not perking up our instruction?” Recently I was working with Ms. Laughlin with reading and Activotes, and many students said, “This is FUN!” while they were actively engaged in the lesson on context clues. Not surprisingly unusual, the level of learning was high, the on task behavior was 100%, and engagement in the lesson was evident by discussion and the high number of correct answers.

Overhead vs. Promethean. Hmmm. I wonder which will give us a higher chance of higher test scores?
Picture: Converse Company/all rights reserved

Out, Foul Textbook! Are They Going by the Wayside?

My former students can tell you that when I taught Social Studies, we had a textbook funeral on the first day of school. I remember how frightfully bored I was with them (the TEXTBOOKS–not the students!) and found history to be the dreaded subject (“OK, class, we’re going to take turns reading. Each will read a paragraph!”). The parents considered me deranged. My principal backed me up. We instead kept notebooks and added to them throughout the year. My test scores were constantly in the 90’s and students would tell me at the end of the year that they didn’t know history could be so much fun and interesting.

In the latest T.H.E. Journal (Feb. 2009) article Signs of a Significant Disruption in the Traditional Textbook Model, much to my delight, the Indiana State Board of Education issued a papal bull of sorts when they write, “[textbooks] do not provide content that is interesting, engaging and supportive of effective student learning…” On February 6, 2009, it even gets better: “And the board formally expressed its concerns to publishers and asked “for their input and assistance in improving the quality of educational materials they provide.” (author: Geoffrey H. Fletcher).

The article continues to explain that the school board is allowing publishers to redefine “textbook” to include computers and other devices, software, interent, interaction and ‘systematically organized material.’

Virginia is one of the three states listed that is considering textbook materials this way for the higher subject levels.

Celebrate! Click the link above to read the full article and get encouraged about the change for students in the classroom.

UPDATE, 3/15/09: Read the post on EdTech Solutions on this same topic, along with watching a video
clipart source: http://www.webweaver.nu/clipart/education-books.shtml

For You Tech Coaches/Teachers Out There–Getting Into Classrooms

Today’s short note: If you are an ITRT/TRT/Tech Coach/Tech Specialist, you know how very difficult it is to be invited into a classroom, or encourage a teacher to sit and plan with you for an upcoming lesson. There are those teachers out there that are regulars, but I fret over the ones that avoid technology like a disease, or those that are nervous having another adult in the room, or those that don’t like to share responsibilities. I found this interesting blog post today that has some great ideas: Learning in Maine. For further reading, there is a discussion about encouraging teachers to use technology on Classroom 2.0, the place where I found this blog.

Instructional Technology: 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries

As a Masters student in the Instructional Technology program at Virginia Tech, I’ve spent my weekend reading (well, I have read this weekend) one of our texts, Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology, by Robert Resier and John Dempsey, and immediately grabbed the blue highlighter [green = main topic; yellow = detail; blue = interesting point] when I read a paragraph about 19th century technology and slammed on my brakes. It was one of those “ouch” responses.

In Chapter 3, “A History of Instructional Design and Technology,” Reiser opens with a review of Instructional Design and Technology’s definition (summarizing a long definition into common language: it basically states it’s good teaching and good planning with the integration of technology) and he transitions to the history of instructional media, “…defined as the physical means via which instruction is presented to learners [Resier & Gagne, 1983].” In other words, it’s whatever physical means by which instruction is delivered.

Here’s the quote that resulted in a blue highlighting: “the three primary means of instruction BEFORE* the twentieth century (AND STILL THE MOST COMMON MEANS TODAY*)–the teacher, the chalkboard, and the textbook–…”1

Even though the research might be older, I wonder how many still use these as their main tools of instruction? Could it also be that the overhead projector, if it is the only technology tool used, is now considered likewise?

How does one state it better for those who are scared to grasp and grab on to technology integration in the classroom? If you’re one of our technophobes and are scared of technology, permit me to come rescue you and show you the glories and fun of making lessons come alive! If chalk and the textbook are still your sole means of delivery, permit me to show you the joys of I.T.!

Hats off to:
==>Mr. Fisher: rarely do I NOT see a computer being used in his library classes;
==>Mrs. Bright: The technology integration principal guru of Portsmouth!
==>Mrs. Froehlich: You have gone from, “Eeek! Laptops!” to applying for and winning an MCPS system!
==>Mrs. James: You’ve been showing your teammates the power of PowerPoints!
==>Mrs. White: You never cease to amaze teachers and inspire teachers who come to observe your teaching!
==>Mr. O’Donnell: As with entering any mad scientist’s lab, one has to dodge all the technology in your room, and your students are given many great opportunities!
==>Mrs. Barth: You’re always sharing technology links!
==>Mrs. Rhodes: Always “bungie jumping” off your comfort level, you never quit trying those things that cause you fear!

Do you have anyone else that you want to brag about? Join in the conversation by clicking “comments” above!

*: caps mine
1: Reiser, page 28; also, cf. Commission on Instructional Technology–1970)

Technology Integration Keeps on Rolling

Mrs. Patgorski: (see the post below)

Mrs. Ruben: Today in class we played a stock market game to review the SOL for The Virginia Company of London. So that the students can better understand what it means to be a stockholder in a company, and why shareholders desire a profit for their investment, Mrs. Ruben played the CEO and we had trading on “the floor” of our “stockmarket”. We tied this in to the present economic crisis on Wall St as well. The technology integration part? Mrs. Ruben practiced with her keyboard with the MCPS system (PowerPoint) and we finished up with effective test taking strategies on our PowerPoint. Great job, Mrs. R.!

Mrs. Barrett: Mrs. Barrett and I sat down to plan for a lesson next week in Science. To review for the weather SOL, students are responsible for making/scripting a weather forecast and will be filmed next week. After she and I work on rendering the video, we’ll have a TV “newscast” in her room.

Mrs. Montgomery/Mrs. Austin: Students today worked on regrouping in the computer lab by using Kidspiration 3. Instead of having to take time to distribute materials at desks, both teachers were able to use the virtual manipulatives on Kidspiration 3 and print off the papers for students to take home.

It’s great working with such a dynamic staff!
[previous Shout Out]

Sprucing Up Your Classroom with Technology Integration

//www.flickr.com/photos/copleys/1843276789/sizes/s/in/pool-27724923@N00/#cc_licenseImagine sitting in a room for six and a half hours and having nothing to look at but posters (if you’re lucky), a talking head up front, and being threatened with certain death if you dare open your mouth. Add to that the possibility that this room has no windows and it’s stuffy. Or, imagine that the talking head up front is frightfully boring and the subject material is something that makes you want to pull your hair out (For me, that would have to be Shakespeare–I can’t STAND Shakespeare–a friend took me to a Shakespeare play once and by intermission I was a crazed lunatic).

However, I digress.

Recently on a Classroom 2.0 discussion, initiated by Jarrod, who asked for suggestions about room decor. He wonders how environment adds to student learning. I know when I taught for twenty years I always tried to make the classroom inviting so students wanted to be there. I made it colorful enough without trying to overwhelm my students so much that their eyes would not spin. So many teachers forget that while they can get up and walk around and talk, students can’t. And, students can get frightfully “antsy” if the room looks like a dark, dank, and dreary dungeon.

One of the comments to Jarrod’s post comes from Jane who gave some wonderful sites to go to for classroom decor sharing and ideas:

==>Classroom Displays photosharing group (Flickr)
==>Classroom Display blog

Teaching is one of the few professions where colleagues share so freely, and these are two sites that might help give your classroom that “Spring Cleaning” that you’ve been wanting to do, as well as perk your students up before state testing. Maybe these sites will give you that spark you’ve been looking for!

If you have any other sites that you know of, please share!

ITRTs (Virginia) Help Improve SOL Scores

http://www.setda.org/web/guest/nationaltrendsreportEver wonder what benefit a TRT/ITRT has with instruction? Teachers are stressed trying to meet SOL passing score benchmarks, and a recent study by SEDTA (State Educational Technology Directors Association) reports “In 2006 the VDOE…examined the relationship between the instructional technology resource teacher program and levels of technology practiced in schools, impact of the instructional technology resource teacher program on classrooms and teachers, …and on students. The results indicate major improvements occured in 32% of the subject areas tested by the Standards of Learning tests, most dramatically in English reading.” Interested in reading more? Click here: Virginia ITRT program report from SEDTA

Can Technology be Integrated with a Colonial Fair?

In my previous life as a classroom teacher, I was a Social Studies teacher (Virginia History, or you could also call it colonial history). When I was told by the principal that this would be my assignment, I conjured visions of my high school History teachers. Do you remember yours? You know—they were always the football coaches or baseball coaches! While we read the chapter and answered the questions at the end of the chapter, the teacher (or coach) would watch football films and prepare his plays for the Friday night game. I despised history and thought it as exciting as watching water boil.

After graduating from college, I subbed for three years in Ohio. At the end of the third year, I was called in for an interview (finally) for a sixth grade history position. Teachers were a dime-a-dozen then, so even GETTING an interview was in itself a major accomplishment! Imagine my shock as I sat down for the interview and the principal’s FIRST question was, “What can you coach?” No mention was made of classroom management, pedagogy, or philosophy. My wife and I left for Virginia knowing that teaching in Ohio was now basically impossible.

However, I digress.

This drove me to recreate how I would present history to my students. I wanted it to come ALIVE and be PURPOSEFUL. I wanted my students to see that history is FUN! One way that I enjoyed doing this was an end-of-the year Colonial Fair. For example, one year, we “lived” in the 1700’s out in the school yard (nine acres). Students had to make their own butter, dig their own garden and plant seeds, make their own candles, make their own bread (yeast, even!), cook their meals as the colonists did [with adult supervision, of course], write with feather quills—all on a day that was quite warm! Parents told me that although their children were EXHAUSTED, they learned exactly what it meant to live in the 1700’s.

The principal of the school where I am on Wednesdays and Thursdays has come up with a brilliant idea for a colonial fair for her school for after testing:
• Each grade level is responsible for a different station (i.e. quill pen writing/colonial cooking/etc.)
• Pull in the Social Studies specialists to assist.
• Many other ideas that I’m not putting here because this is getting long, but here’s the clincher where technology comes in: The upper grade is responsible for documenting the fair through media (podcasting even, maybe?). Maybe it could be done as a “You Were There” approach, maybe Ken Burns style, or maybe a slant on how the fair was put together?

Colonial Fairs seem to not be a major interest in schools. I posted on Classroom 2.0 recently asking for others to share ideas, and apparently not many have tried Colonial Fairs, or don’t associate them with technology.

Has anybody done one with great technology ideas? Have you been to one? Please share ideas! How can I encourage my teachers to get excited about this?

How Does a TRT/Tech Resource Specialist Best Meet the Needs of Teachers?

VSTE is looming on the horizon. The Movie Maker workshop for the art teachers is getting close. Am I ready to work on a Masters through Va. Tech? How’s Internet Safety coming along? Time to schedule meetings with the primary teachers about the Gradebook report card roll out. Orchard training on Tuesday–need to review that one more time. When’s your next morning Starbucks session? I need to prepare for Kerry D’s visit to sixth grade and prepare for the luncheon. The Promethean Board punch list needs to be completed. The QX3 microscope is being ugly–could you come upstairs and take a look at it? I better update my weekly log. Get the COW cart to first grade early so in case there’s a problem, it can get fixed before class starts. Spring workshops need to be prepared.

The life of a TRT! And, my colleagues and I still will get that nagging feeling in the back of our minds, “How can I better serve my staff?” It’s a constant struggle of wondering how to better meet the needs of teachers of encouraging, serving, and assisting.

One way is by empowering through training.

This can be done in small groups, before school (i.e. Starbucks Sessions), after school, and city-wide workshops. We (I.T.) are preparing for workshops in the spring that will address needs listed in the assessment survey that teachers filled out in the fall. The most requested workshops were Movie Maker (and it will be improved even more for those who have taken it before), PhotoStory, and PowerPoint strategies.

Even though I want to be all things to all teachers, I realize that the best way for me to meet the needs of my 71 teachers and 1,000 students is to remember what I went through in my 20 years in the classroom and roll up my sleeves.

Huzzah to my wonderful staff members! Thanks for being the kind of wonderful teachers that make it fun to come to work and come into your classrooms! If you ever need help in the classroom, don’t hesitate to shadow my office threshold!