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

Advertisements

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

Digital Games in the Library

Children learn best when the content is relevant to them and when they can make connections between new and old material.  Sometimes it can be challenging to make these connections, but using games can help.  Games can help strengthen teacher to student and student to student relationships.  Children like playing games because they can have fun while they are learning.  Teachers like games because they help boost students’ academic confidence and develop their social and problem-solving skills (“Teaching with Games”, n.d.).

Both games and gamification have been used for educational purposes from preschool all the way through higher education.  They are useful because they are engaging and motivate the learners (Young, 2016).  Motivating students to learn, especially in topics that do not initially interest them, can be a challenge for all educators especially for library instructors.   I have yet to meet an elementary student who loves to learn about library skills and research so using games, especially digital games, in my library has many advantages.  

One advantage is that the students are learning through the process of playing a digital game.   Digital games might help a student understand a new library concept or idea such as:

  • ABC order and how fiction books are shelved.
  • The Dewey Decimal system and locating non-fiction books on the shelf.  
  • Parts of a book
  • Literary Genres
  • How to search the library catalog
  • Library Orientation
  • Research Skills
  • Digital Citizenship

Digital games are more engaging for my library students.   From year to year, my students need a lot of review and practice with library skills.  Handing today’s students worksheets on these topics is not very engaging and meaningful.  Because my class is not graded, students are less motivated to complete worksheets, but a lively digital game sparks their interest and the students are more willing to participate.  

Digital games can help students make connections with the library content and form positive memories of their learning.  When activities are fun and interesting, they stand out in students’ memories and can facilitate learning.  The students may recall the information more readily after playing the game.   Some students might remember library vocabulary words after playing certain games, others learn from reading the clues provided in certain games, and other students learn when they hear their classmates call out answers. Using digital games appeals to all different types of learners because they provide a variety of experiences for students. (Stathakis, 2013).

Using digital games with young students is one of the many effective tools that can be used in library instruction.  Effective digital games create a collaborative and enjoyable experience for the students which increases their engagement and motivation resulting in learned material.  When used properly to meet desired objectives, digital games can have a positive impact on a student’s educational experiences.  

Resources:

Stathakis, R. (2013). Five reasons to use games in the classroom. In education world. Retrieved October 19, 2016, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/reasons-to-play-games-in-the-classroom.shtml

Teaching with games. (n.d.). In education world. Retrieved October 19, 2016, from   http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/strategy/strategy065.shtml

Young, J. (2016, July 1). Can library research be fun? Using games for information literacy instruction in higher education. Retrieved October 19, 2016, from http://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1973&context=glq

 

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.

                         

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.

Social Media in Learning

Social media is a powerful tool and many teachers use it for personal reasons,  professional development, and communication with our school families, yet the thought of incorporating social media in our classroom seems to continue to be a touchy subject.  I think some worry that students will be distracted and spend more time communicating with each other rather than focusing on the assignment while others worry about cyber-bullying and student privacy and safety.  What I have found after curating website articles about schools using social media in the classroom is that all of these issues can be addressed and the use of social media engages students and extends their learning.  Social media is here to stay, the students are aware of it and use it at home so why not use it in the classroom.  At least then, we as teachers, can be involved in teaching our students the proper and safe way to interact with others on the internet.

I teach in a K-8 grade setting and I have often wondered how to safely incorporate social media in the classroom.  Many of my students are too young to set up accounts and those that are old enough may not be allowed to have them.  What I have found through my reading is that I can set up a classroom account with my younger students and we can work as a class to create posts.  It is also possible to set up individual accounts to blog, text, whiteboard, tag, post links, and create videos even for young students using educational sites like EduBlogs, Edmodo, and Fakebook.  Blogging and posting to social media helps students as young as kindergarten with their reading and writing skills and gives students the ability to share what is going on in the classroom through their eyes.    By using social media, students are able to connect and collaborate with other students in their school, district, state, country, and world.  Not only will students learn from others, but they will contribute to the learning of others and new cultures and knowledge will be brought into the classroom.

Using social media allows us to explore and educate our students on proper digital citizenship.  For example, students will learn the proper way to post and what types of information should be shared in a more controlled environment with teacher guidance.

Social media used in classrooms will not be a waste of time if managed effectively. Teaching students how to properly use social media will help prepare them for the future. After reading these articles, I have more confidence in how I can integrate the use of social medial in my classroom and I plan on incorporating it into my computer classroom in the next school year.

Click below to access my curated articles:

pearltrees for wordpress

Personal Learning Environments

Megan Apgar PLE

 

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) allow a learner to take control of and manage their learning by “navigating and organizing a stream of information and resources from a variety of different sources” (Ash, 2013, para. 1).  PLEs are created using a variety of technologies and tools that aid an individual in organizing the large amounts of information received daily.  PLEs  are unique to each individual based on interest and need (Ash, 2013, para 3 & 4).

When I started to create a diagram of my Personal Learning Environment, the first thing that I did was list out all the digital resources I use as a student, for personal use, and as an educator.  I knew that I wanted my diagram to be in a circular shape and that all the pieces had to be connected in some way with me in the middle as the central figure to show that it was unique for my needs and learning goals.  I liked the idea of using circles because they are never ending just as building our PLE is never ending and forever changing.  From the list of resources I created, I broke them up into four categories based on how I used them.  My categories include connecting socially and professionally, aggregating and annotating, working collaboratively, and creating content, connecting, and sharing.  Each category fit into a circle and I connected the circles because I feel that many of these tools are intertwined with each other and can be used for more than one purpose.  From creating this diagram, I learned that I use a lot of technological resources in my daily life that have had a great impact on my personal and professional growth.  There are probably more out that I could be using or some that I use that I forgot to list.  I also learned that I must not do a lot of collaborative work because this portion had the least amount of resources listed.

Even though PLEs are unique to each individual, I found some similarities between my diagram and those of my classmates.  The similarities I found are that many of us including Amy, Katie, Scott, and Brian put ourselves in the middle of the diagram and many of us like Amanda, Courtney, and Brian used the concept of a circle in some capacity with each resource interconnected in some way.  We also use many of the same resources and tools for professional, personal, and educational reasons. The amount of differences between our diagrams was greater than the similarities which indicated our uniqueness.  I noticed that our main differences involved our breakdowns of how we categorized our resources.  We all seemed to choose different labels to categorize them.  Courtney represented her resources as professional and personal and Amanda represented hers based on frequency of use. Kimmy seemed to only include social networks as her resources.  Despite our differences, the point of having a PLE is all about making it your own and blending your resources to develop your own personal learning space.

Resources:
Ash, K. (2013, May 20). ‘Personal learning environments’ Focus on the individual. In Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/05/22/32el-personallearning.h32.html
Personal Learning Environments. (n.d.). In IMAILE. Retrieved from http://www.imaile.eu/ple-personal-learning-environments/

Content Curation

Beth Kanter (2011) states that content curation is “the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme.” Content curation is more than just picking a bunch of links to information about a topic and posting them. It involves careful consideration of whether the information is relevant to the reader, comes from a credible source, is annotated with a reflection from the curator, and is organized in a meaningful way for the reader to better understand the topic. The curated content is also continuously updated and kept current by its author in order to provide the best content for the reader. Curating content has become an essential practice due to the large amount of information that is shared all over the internet.

This week I worked with my PLN mini group to come up with a checklist for assessing the quality and value of a curated topic.  We used a Google Doc to create this checklist.  Using Google Docs is nice because each of us had editing rights to the document and could add information and comments at any time.  Because of some time constraints I had, I got started with the project by providing the group with a list of criteria or questions for evaluating our curated topics that I developed from reading our resources.  I also provided the links to the resources I used.    My next group member took the list I created and expanded upon it by providing explanations for some of the criteria, citing the resources, and developing our list of references. Finally, the other two group members finished the explanations and reviewed the references to be sure they were properly formatted using the APA style.  We worked well together as a group given our busy and varied schedules and I believe we developed a quality checklist.

Here is the link to the checklist our PLN created:

Content Curation Checklist

Kanter, B. (2011, October 4). Content curation primer. In Beth’s Blog. Retrieved from http://www.bethkanter.org/content-curation-101/.