EdTech 541 Final Reflection

Part One: Course Reflection

One of the main things that I have learned as I have worked through the assignments in EDTECH 541 is that it is possible to use technology and integrate it into my library lessons in a meaningful way.  Many of the schools in my diocese are doing away with having librarians and an actual library class and I think it has to do with the fact that more and more of our schools are becoming 1:1.  I think the assumption is that students can read books and perform research on their devices,  or they can go to their public library. I value the library that we have at our school and I value the time I spend with the students teaching them library, reading, and research skills.  I think that my classroom teachers value what I do as well because they lack the time to go into depth on some of the skills that I cover such as digital citizenship and research skills.  

I was more inclined to favor the constructivist approach while creating my projects for this course.  The projects I completed and technology resources that I created acted as guides to help my students further understand concepts rather than just dispense information to them.  All of my completed artifacts were geared towards the middle grades, specifically fourth grade, and as I developed them, I was aware of the prior knowledge the students had obtained from classes they had with me in the years leading up to this grade and I built on this knowledge from there.  Students were often presented with problems or assignments to solve and the necessary technological resources to solve them.  Each activity involved the students in active learning and provided tasks that were meaningful and challenging, yet recognized their different learning styles, abilities, and motivation.

The assignments that I have completed in EdTech 541 have helped me develop a toolbox of resources that I can not only use in my library, but also share with my fellow teachers to adapt for use in their classrooms.  I was also able to demonstrate mastery of the following AECT standards:

  • Standard 1.2 Using: The use of technological resources was implemented within each project.  
  • Standard 1.3 Assessing/Evaluating: Extensive consideration was put into deciding the best way to utilize technological resources in order to support the objectives of the lesson and enhance student learning.  

 

  • Standard 2.1 Creating: While creating each assignment, I used the knowledge I have for my content area to develop activities that used technology in a meaningful manner in order to improve student performance and learning.   
  • Standard 2.2 Using: I determined the appropriate technologies to use with each activity based on state and diocesan standards and the Standards for the 21st -Century Learner  created by the American Association of School Librarians.
  • Standard 5.1 Theoretical Foundations: Using my knowledge of constructivism, the lessons and activities I created built on my students’ prior knowledge.  Within these activities, the students were often presented with problems or assignments to solve and the necessary technological resources to solve them.  Each activity involved the students in active learning and provided tasks that were meaningful and challenging, yet recognized their different learning styles, abilities, and motivation.
  • Standard 5.3 Assessing/Evaluating: During each module, I researched strategies and resources related to each topic that could be used to further explore and develop learning activities involving the integration of technology.

 

Technology has not always been available for use in my library.  Up until this year when I added three iPads, the only technology available was a laptop and the SmartBoard.  As a result of taking this course and working to integrate technology into this content area,  I have become more creative in implementing technology within my library lessons.  I have signed out the computer lab to help my students further their research skills and integrated learning centers within the library where small groups can work on activities using the technology that is available.  I have also become more mindful of using the assistive devices that are available on our technology with our students who have learning disabilities.  

I feel that it is valuable to integrate technology into today’s classrooms.  If I didn’t, then I would not be seeking this degree.  What I have learned is that many of the technology tools and resources that are available can probably be tailored in some way to meet the needs of my classroom.  I have become a lot more discerning, though, and realize that it is not enough to use technology just to say I am using it.  It is of utmost importance that the technology is integrated in a meaningful and relevant manner in order to enhance student engagement and learning and help the students succeed in ways that they normally would not.  

Click on this link to view all the work that I have created throughout this course.

Part Two: Assessing My Performance

I have put a lot of time and effort into this course and that includes my blogging efforts. As I completed each blog post, I referred to the rubric provided to ensure that I was meeting all the requirements.  Below is my self-assessment and rationale for my blog writing throughout this course.  

 

  • Content: I feel that my blog posts were carefully constructed and thoughtful.  They contained substantial detail with references to the readings, any additional research I performed, and my personal experiences. I feel that I earned the full 70 points for this area.  
  • Readings and Resources:   I read the assigned text chapters each week, used the resources provided, and sought out additional resources if there was material I did not understand. I included references from the course text and other resource materials to support my blog entries each week. APA style was used to cite my references each week.  I believe I earned the full 20 points for this area.

 

  • Timeliness: In looking back and comparing the dates when I posted my blogs, I would say that the majority of them were posted by midweek.  Synthesizing what I have read and learned and writing thoughts down has been difficult for me so some posts were made later in the week.  I do feel that all were posted with enough time for my classmates to comment before the end of the module.  I feel that I have earned 18 points for this area.
  • Responses to Other Students: I made at least two thoughtful substantial responses to other students’ posts for each blogging assignment. I included my thoughts on what was posted, as well as personal experiences and commonalities. My comments were respectful and showed proper netiquette.   I believe that I have earned the full 30 points for this area.

Proposed Score: 138/140  

Accessibility Features on My Computer

Accessibility features are designed to help people with disabilities use technology more comfortably. Although some accessibility features require special software downloads, many are built into the operating system of your computer or mobile device. For this class and while working at my school, I use a laptop with the Windows 7 operating system.  I have never really pursued using the accessibility features available on this system, but through research and experimentation with the system, I have found many accessibility features that would benefit the needs of others who might have a disability and would find the normal features of Windows 7 difficult to use.  

Microsoft  supplies a central location for locating their accessibility settings and programs.  They call it the “Ease of Access Center” and it can be found in the Control Panel  or by pressing the Windows Key + the letter U when logging in to the computer.  The first item that is listed in the Ease of Access center is an option a user can click on that allows Windows to suggest settings to make the computer easier to see, hear, and use.  The user can fill out a questionnaire regarding their sight, dexterity, hearing, speech, and reasoning.  Depending on the user’s disabilities, this questionnaire might be hard for the user to fill out on their own, but it could be completed with assistance from another person.  Once the questionnaire is filled out, the user can obtain a list of recommended settings to try.  The Ease of Access center also provides quick access to common tools that are used for accessibility and one can explore the settings by category (Microsoft, 2015).  

Accessibility Tools for Those with Vision Difficulties

The magnifier tool in the Ease of Access Center magnifies the screen or a portion of the screen to make text, images, and objects easier to see.  This makes it easier to view text and images and see the whole screen more easily which would benefit someone with visual impairments.  One can set the magnification level to up to 16 times the original size. One can also make the computer easier to see by selecting a High Contrast Theme.  With a high contrast theme, colors are inverted so white becomes black and black becomes white.  This would benefit users with weak eyesight because it helps make it easier to read the text and reduces eye strain.   Users can also turn off unnecessary animations that might be distracting and can change the size and color of the mouse pointer in order to make it easier to be seen on the screen. There is also an option available to use the computer without a display.  This tool would allow those with poor eyesight or the blind to be able to use the computer.  By clicking on certain options, one can have the text read aloud and also receive an audio description of what is happening in videos.   

Accessibility Tools for those with Dexterity Difficulties

Windows 7 offers the capabilities to use the computer without the need to use the keyboard or mouse.  If a person is missing limbs, has dexterity issues, or has other physical or cognitive disabilities, settings can be chosen to use a pointing device.  Users would be able to type on an on-screen keyboard using a mouse or another pointing device such as a joystick by selecting keys from a picture of a keyboard (Roblyer, 2016, p. 412).  The on-screen keyboard can also be re-sized and customized so that it is easier to see and use.  Text prediction can be enabled as one types so a list of words pops up that predicts what the person might be typing so he/she might not have to type out the whole word.  One can also avoid using the mouse or keyboard by choosing a setting to speak into a microphone to control the computer, open programs, and dictate text (Microsoft, 2015).  In Windows 7, the computer can also be set up so that the mouse can be controlled by the keyboard.  The mouse would be turned off and controlled by the numeric keypad. The keyboard can also be adjusted for ease of use.  “Sticky Keys” could be turned on so that instead of having to press three keys all at once like Ctrl+Alt+Delete, one can press one key at a time.  Filter keys is another feature that can be turned on.  When this feature is turned on, the computer would ignore or slow down brief repeated keystrokes or when someone holds down a key for several seconds unintentionally.  If a user finds the keyboard and mouse to be too difficult to use, Windows 7 does offer Windows Touch.  With Windows Touch, if a user has a touch-screen monitor, he/she can just touch the computer screen in order to work (Microsoft, 2015). I do not have a touch screen monitor so I was not able to try this feature out, but it seems similar to using an iPad.   

Accessibility Tools for Those with Hearing Difficulties

In Windows 7, there are text or visual alternatives available for sounds.  Visual notifications can be turned on when sounds occur.  Text captions can also be turned on for spoken dialog.   

Exploring the accessibility tools available in Windows 7 really got me thinking about some of my students and how I can better help them while they are in my computer lab.  I have never heard of any of our students being referred to an assistive technology team as mentioned in Roblyer (2016, p. 408); however, now that I know about the tools that are readily available within our software, I feel more prepared to offer suggestions for ways to better use our technology to support my students as they grow and learn.     

Microsoft. (2015). Microsoft accessibility. In Microsoft. Retrieved November 15, 2016, from https://www.microsoft.com/enable/products/windows7/  

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed., pp. 408-412). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Obstacles to Integrating Tech in Language Arts

Using technology should be an integral part of education in today’s classrooms, but it does come with its challenges.  It can make the learning situation much more complex, yet educators recognize these difficulties and continue to work and prepare themselves to try and integrate technology successfully.  

In the area of language arts, technology has changed the format and types of communication that people encounter which adds new challenges to language arts instruction. Literacy used to involve being able read and write and make meaning from the written word.  With the ever-present and constantly changing internet, 21st Century literacy skills now include being proficient in media literacy, digital literacy, and information literacy (Roblyer, 2016, p. 261). Teachers must develop new instructional strategies to help students adapt to a more global means of communication.  This means while teaching students how to read and write, we also must empower them to be able to analyze and critique the messages portrayed in images, language, and sound (Alliance for Media Literate America, 2001).  We also have to teach them to recognize when information is needed and how to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content in an ethical manner even when guidelines and rules continue to change or are ambiguous (“What is digital literacy?”, 2009).

In order to deal with these new skills, teachers must include new strategies in Language Arts instruction. To advance reading and writing skills, teachers must teach students how to read not only written text, but also multimedia text.  Using multimedia in instruction helps students decipher text that is nonlinear (Robyler, 2016, p. 263).  Teaching about information literacy should not be isolated to one lesson, but should be an ongoing process.  Students need to learn how to perform proper searches and evaluate information for reliability and credibility each time they seek out information.  Finally, we cannot be afraid to allow students to interact socially.  Instruction should allow students to share their work and encourage collaboration with their peers and with others on a more global scale.

It seems wonderful that there are policies in place that recognize the need for using technology in Language Arts instruction and Roblyer (2016) lists a lot of great strategies for addressing these needs, but let’s be honest, there is still one large issue that needs to be addressed—professional development.  It’s hard to expect an educator to even know how to grow as a literacy professional and connected educator when they do not receive any type of quality, formal instruction.  Many times school leadership does not provide this type of professional development so it is up to the educator to personally seek out their own professional learning through developing personal learning communities and communities of practice (Roblyer, 2016, p. 268).  One would hope that an educator would realize the valuable knowledge gained and be motivated and have the ability to seek out these relationships and opportunities.

References:

Alliance for Media Literate America. (2001). What is media literacy? AMLA’s short answer and longer thought. In Center for media literacy. Retrieved November 8, 2016, from http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/what-media-literacy-amlas-short-answer-and-longer-thought

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed., pp. 261-268). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.         

What is digital literacy? (2009). In Cornell University Digital Literacy Resource. Retrieved November 8, 2016, from https://digitalliteracy.cornell.edu/welcome/dpl0000.html

Integrating Technology into the Library

It is no longer a question of whether to use technology in schools, but how to effectively use technology to enhance student learning.  As the library media specialist for my school, my role is to come up with innovative ways to use technology across the curriculum, design student experiences that use technology in original ways, select appropriate resources, and collaborate with my colleagues to plan effective student-centered technology enhanced lessons.  These lessons must allow students to develop their information literacy and computer skills, interact with members of the community, and understand that the skills they are learning can be applied to their everyday lives (Hughes-Hassell, 2001).

Technology is a tool that can be used in the library to solve problems.  Hughes-Hassell (2001) states that it can be used to “gather, organize, analyze, and present information.” There are many ways to use technology effectively in the library in order to make it more engaging, relevant, and authentic. One basic way is to use technology to play review games with students on library skills, genres, parts of a book, library terminology, the Dewey decimal system, etc. Using video in the library can really help create a more complete picture when presenting lessons to students. Chances are pretty good that you can find a clip on YouTube to enhance any lesson and if not, you can upload your own video to share with the students.  It is very expensive to house current encyclopedias on site at school; however, through technology, my students can access the most current electronic resources such as encyclopedias, journals, and magazines to gather research information. Digitized resources through the Library of Congress can augment lessons through the use of primary sources.   Technology can help students communicate with other students from around the world or reach out to scientists, researchers, and authors.  Older students might contact experts using e-mail.  Skype visits with experts might also be set up to aid in lesson understanding and allow students to communicate with authors about books they have read and the writing process.  Portable technologies, such as laptop computers or iPads, can be used to gather data outside the classroom and tools such as spreadsheets can be created to help students analyze their data.  Students can use a variety of authoring tools like presentation tools, digital booklets, animated reports, and videos to present any type of project or research.  Technology can also be used to take students on virtual field trips and simulate real-life experiences for students. Webquests can guide students to search the internet for specific information.   Technology can provide scenarios and interdisciplinary connections to enhance learning.  For example, after reading the book Gopher Up Your Sleeve  by Tony Johnston, students might use websites like enature.com to learn more about the animals in the poems.

Technology on its own does not facilitate learning, but a huge difference is made when it is used in conjunction with meaningful resources and authentic experiences.  School librarians should collaborate with teachers to design learning opportunities that utilizes technology to address the needs of the learner and curriculum goals.  

 

Hughes-Hassell, S. (2001). Enhancing student learning with technology. In American Library Association. Retrieved November 6, 2016, from http://www.ala.org/offices/sites/ala.org.offices/files/content/publishing/editions/samplers/penaasl.pdf