The Basic Suite of Software

There are three tools that are part of the basic suite of programs used by both teachers and students.  They are word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software.  These programs offer several benefits including improved productivity, appearance, accuracy, and increased interaction and collaboration (Roblyer, 2016).

Word Processing

Word processing software allows the user to create typed documents with text and graphics.  According to Roblyer (2016), this type of software has become one of the most commonly used in the educational setting.  Because I teach computers, I repeatedly use this tool with all of my students in kindergarten through eighth grade.  Word processing software offers the relative advantages of time, a more polished appearance, materials sharing, collaboration, and the support of student writing and language learning (Roblyer, 2016).  As a teacher, I often use Microsoft Word or Google Docs to create handouts, forms, and documents used in my lessons.  I save anything I create in Word to Dropbox and my Google Docs can be accessed anywhere.  This saves time because I do not have to reinvent the wheel and can alter the documents from year to year as needed.  By using word processing tools, the documents my students and I create are neater and more polished which creates a professional appearance and makes it easier for everyone to read.   More and more, I am creating my documents on Google Docs because of its abilities to easily share my work with my colleagues.  I also use it with my junior high students so that they can share documents with me and each other.  I like the idea of being paperless and the instantaneous ability for us to collaborate and edit documents together.    Word processing tools allow my students to enhance their writing and communication skills as they type papers and reports.  I also like how they use the text translation tools found in the word processing tools when they complete assignments for their Spanish class.

Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are used to organize, manipulate, and display data (Roblyer, 2016).   There are many relative advantages to using spreadsheets in education including saving time, organizing information, and increasing motivation when working with math computations (Roblyer, 2016).  In my school, we use Google Sheets to keep track of progress monitoring for students in reading and math.  We are able to share and edit this information in real-time with the colleagues in our PLC’s and with our resource teachers in order to determine our students’ educational needs and groupings for RTI. Through the use of formulas, it  is easy to color code who might need additional help, who is understanding the information, and who needs enrichment.  I use spreadsheets in my computer class to keep track of students’ typing test scores and in the library to keep track of students rotation in centers.  Projects that I have completed with my students in the computer lab have covered creating formulas, organizing information into a table, sorting data, creating a budget, and creating bar, line, and pie graphs. I would have to say that they enjoy creating the graphs especially when they can customize the look of the graphs.  My students use this tool the most during science fair time to display the data from their experiments.   

Presentation Software

Presentation software displays text, images, audio, and video in a slide show format (Roblyer, 2016).  It is routinely used in the educational setting.  Presentation software allows the presenter to organize information, break it into smaller parts, and present it in sequential order.  A well designed presentation supplements the speaker’s explanation. Those working on a presentation can collaborate in a variety of ways to the final presentation product (Roblyer, 2016).  Many of the teachers in my school use PowerPoint to help guide their students while taking notes in class.  I usually use it to project information to my students and occasionally for lessons.  I have to admit that I avoid PowerPoint as much as possible because typically the students eyes glaze over as soon as a large presentation is projected on the screen.  The main reason I use presentation software with my students in the computer lab is to increase their ability to create a proper presentation and gain practice in public speaking.  My students in grades 4-6 love creating presentations.  It is often a challenge to get them to condense the amount of information on each slide and limit the amount of transitions and animations.  They love movement on the slide and adding graphics.  I work very hard with them to ensure that their presentation is not too over the top.  They also struggle with being able to present their information rather than read off the slide, and many of the students are more focused on what is on the screen rather than listening to the information their classmate is presenting.  My junior high students are a lot better at presenting their information, but I often try to find something a little more interesting than using Google Slides or PowerPoint because they find it old and boring.  When they are doing presentations, I often have them choose an online tool such as Prezi or VoiceThread  to make it more interesting.

I feel that teachers use the three software tools described above on a daily basis.  It is important for students to work and obtain proficiency with these tools too.  They are widely used in our society and students will need to be familiar with them as they move throughout their educational experiences and into the workforce.  

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (Seventh ed., pp. 109-136). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

                         

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Relative Advantage of Instructional Software in the Classroom

Instructional software is used to deliver instruction or assist with the delivery of instruction on a topic.  Five specific types of instructional software include drill and practice, tutorial, simulations, instructional games, and problem solving.   

Drill and Practice

Drill and Practice software provides exercises where students work examples and receive immediate feedback for their answers.  It includes flash card activities, chart fill-in activities, branching drills, and extensive feedback activities.  Drill and practice is often looked down upon, but it does have its benefits.  Roblyer (2016) states that drill activities provides effective rehearsal for students and allows them to transfer newly learned information into long term memory.  Once students master lower order skills, they can use these skills for higher order thinking activities.   Drill and practice software provides immediate feedback to the students, can increase motivation, and save teacher time. Even though drill and practice software is sometimes criticized for being outdated, teachers should seek the use of this software to meet specific needs for their students (Roblyer, 2016, p. 81).  Quizlet is an example of a drill and practice software that I use in my fourth grade library class.  Quizlet is a website that allows teachers and students to create and share flashcards.  While studying literary genres, students can read and listen to the literary genre terms and definitions. They can use the program as flashcards, take a fill in the blank quiz, practice spelling the terms, and play games that involve the terms and definitions.   Through drill and practice, games, and quizzes, the students will be able to spell the literary genre words and identify the meaning of each genre.

Tutorial

Tutorial software provides instruction on a topic much like a teacher instructing in a classroom.  With tutorial software, students should be able to learn the material without any additional help or materials. There are two types of tutorials, linear and branching. Linear tutorials provide the same instructional sequence regardless of student performance.  Branching tutorials are more sophisticated and lead students along different path based on how they respond to questions and how they show mastery of the material (Roblyer, 2016, p. 83-84). Tutorials are generally used with older students who are able to read and are more popular in military and industrial training.  It can serve the needs of the classroom that use the flipped classroom or screencasting strategies.  Tutorial programs provide a more self paced review for students who need further instruction in a topic area.  They also allow more advanced students to move on to additional learning activities at their own pace when a teacher is not available to present the material (Roblyer, 2016, p. 84-85).  In my fourth grade library class, I use screencast-o-matic to record tutorials for all my research lessons and post them on my classroom website. When researching and completing projects, students work at all kinds of speeds. The screencasts help the slower students go back and review information I already presented and they help the more advanced students work ahead at a faster pace.

Simulations

Simulations are a computerized model of a real or imagined system that is designed to teach how the system works.  There are two main types of simulations. The first type teaches about something.  The second teaches how to do something. Simulations are predominantly used in science. Simulations are best used when a real situation is too time consuming, dangerous, expensive, or unrealistic for a classroom setting (Roblyer, 2016, p. 92).   In the past, I have not used simulation software in my fourth grade library classes, but this year I am working on having centers set up when the students come to class.  I was able to obtain some laptops and iPads for my centers and found PhET to be good quality simulation software. PhET is an interactive simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder.  It provides free and interactive math and science simulations at all grade levels. Using these simulations in the library would allow my students the ability to further explore and process topics that they have learned in class.   

Instructional Games

Instructional games software adds game-like rules and/or competition to learning activities.  They are often used in the same way as drill and practice games and simulations, but they are considered separately due to their different instructional elements.  Instructional games have rules, an element of competition, and are entertaining for the students.  Schools have been slow to adopt instructional games due to the cost, inadequate hardware to run the games, and good quality software has been hard to find.  Instructional games are beneficial because they provide the element of play and enjoyment for the students.  Teachers can capitalize on this enjoyment and spend more time on a curriculum topic with their students. Educators do have concerns with instructional games.  Some educators worry that students will get caught up in having fun and this will draw attention away from what is to be learned (Roblyer, 2016, p. 92-96).  In my fourth grade library class, I have used Jeopardy games to review library concepts.  It is a fun way to review topics at the end of a unit and circle back on old topics covered throughout the year.  We don’t play the game all the time so the novelty makes it more exciting for the students.  The students work together in teams to answer questions and the game is more engaging than providing review worksheets because we can discuss answers together and clear up any misunderstandings with the material.  

Problem Solving Software

Problem solving software is used to teach problem solving skills.  There are two main approaches used in problem solving software.  They are content-area problem solving skills and content-free problem solving skills.     Content- area problem solving software focuses on teaching skills mainly in math and science.  Content-free problem solving software focuses on teaching general problem-solving abilities.  Effective problem solving software must be clearly linked to cultivating a specific problem solving ability in students.  Problem solving software can be interesting and motivating for students; however, it is important to test the software for its effectiveness in teaching problem solving skills before adopting it with the students.  There is also concern that students will not be able to transfer knowledge they learned using the software to other areas (Roblyer, 2016, p. 97-100).  One example of problem solving software to use in my fourth grade library class would be Kidspiration.  The students at this age are still very new to looking up information, synthesizing and outlining the essential information they need, and using that information to write a well constructed report.  Inspiration provides the logical steps a student would take to perform these functions at their level.  Students can begin with a graphic organizer, then create an outline from the graphic organizer, and finally use the outline to create their report..  Students could work individually or with others.    Using this software might be more time consuming with the students, but the information created might be more coherent for the students to read rather than using paper and pencil.        

There are numerous amounts of instructional software available to deliver instruction in a variety of ways. It is important that educators are careful in selecting these programs to ensure that they provide the best possible educational experience for their students.   All programs have their benefits and limitations, yet can be integrated in a meaningful way.   

References:
Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed., pp. 81-100). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Vision Statement for Integrating Technology into Teaching

 

Classroom Technology

Technology is all around us and can be linked to everything we do including shopping, paying bills, playing, and connecting with people. With its increased presence in our lives, it only makes sense for technology to be available in the classroom.  Technology provides increased learning opportunities for our students and should be embraced and integrated into their educational experience.

An educator’s goal should be to provide the best possible education for his or her students.  Part of this is to prepare our students for the workforce and the world after they leave school.  This may mean moving away from traditional or objectivist models of teaching and providing students with a more constructivist approach that provides students with the ability to work more independently and collaboratively with others both in person and online. (Roblyer, 2016, p. 50).   As technology grows and changes, we must do the same in order to help prepare our students for the future.  We must teach our students to properly utilize the technology that exists today so that they will be able to incorporate it into their future careers.   

When integrating technology, an educator’s role is to decide which learning approach best suits the learning activity and the students needs.  Both directed learning based on objectivism and inquiry based learning based on constructivism contribute essential elements to instruction that involves the use of technology.  Directed learning provides the foundational skills for students and ensures that prerequisite skills are learned. Inquiry based instruction allows students to generate knowledge through experiences (Roblyer, 2016, p. 48-50).  

With the use of technology in the classroom, students and teachers have instantaneous and more current resources available to them and allows for differentiation among students.  Technology allows teachers to help students find materials that best meet their needs.  Directed learning through the use of apps and websites can support students who need more practice with skills like reading and math through the use of drill and practice software.  Other softwares can provide more accelerated students with self directed, inquiry learning for topics that school may not address.  Students can privately work at their own pace while receiving immediate feedback.  Both directed learning and constructivist models can be applied through the use of simulation software when helping students understand difficult math and science concepts, and the internet can connect students with information and research that they might not be able to find locally in books or libraries.  (Roblyer, 2016, page 50).  Technology also allows teachers to quickly assess students learning and track student progress and decreases time to provide feedback to their students.  It also saves money and time by taking the place of printed worksheets and handouts that are used and replaced each year  (Roblyer, 2016, p. 22-23).   

As we bring technology into the classroom, we will be able to prepare our students to be responsible digital citizens.  Our students will be digital citizens for the rest of their lives both inside and outside the classroom.  By integrating technology in the classroom, educators can help students learn to build positive and safe online social relationships  and think critically about the content they read online.  The proper use of technology in the classroom will help our students learn the best and most responsible way to use it in their lives (Mathis, 2015).   

Technology provides more access to teachable moments. With technology at their fingertips, students will be able to look up information they do not know and examples and models of subject matter they are studying.  Technology provides a reinforcement for lessons in a way that is interesting and fun for the students and allows educators to expand their lessons and challenge their students to find out more about what they are learning.  

Technology is a powerful tool in education; however, it requires the combined support of educators, schools, districts, the local community, and the state in order to be implemented effectively. In order to successfully integrate technology, schools and districts must coordinate planning and involve teachers and technology coordinators at all stages of planning.  Money should be budgeted every year to make technology purchases and upgrades.  Professional development must be provided for teachers to be well-trained and up-to-date on skills.  Finally, technology should be used to meet curriculum needs.  (Roblyer, 2016, p. 65).  

References:

Mathis, M. (2015). Technology in the classroom: 5 undeniable reasons to embrace it. In Teachhub.com. Retrieved from http://www.teachhub.com/5-undeniable-reasons-why-educators-should-embrace-technology-classroom

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (Seventh ed., pp. 22-65). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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