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  

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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

Acceptable Use Policies

An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is a document constructed by an institution that details the manner in which it would like its members to use technology including the internet. Many schools and districts have Acceptable Use Policies that address both acceptable and unacceptable behaviors for students, faculty, and staff when using technology and the internet.  Prohibited behaviors usually include plagiarism, piracy, cyberbullying, and visiting sites deemed inappropriate by the school.  Acceptable behaviors include being a positive digital citizen, having proper netiquette, and using the internet properly for school purposes (“1-1 Essentials-Acceptable Use Policies”, n.d).

A 2009 article by Education World titled “Getting Started on the Internet: Developing an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP),” states that an Acceptable Use Policy should contain six key elements.  They are “a preamble, a definition section, a policy statement, an acceptable uses section, an unacceptable uses section, and a violations/sanctions section.” The article goes on to explain each section.  The preamble details why the policy was created and the goals of the policy.  Key words in the policy are explained in the definition section.  This ensures that everyone reading the policy understands the terminology.  The policy statement lists what computer, mobile device, and internet services are covered and when the students can use those services.  The acceptable use section breaks down the appropriate use of school technology and the internet.  The unacceptable uses portion must give specific examples of inappropriate student use.  Finally, in the violations/sanctions section students learn how to report violations and the consequences they will receive should they violate the policy.

All schools and districts are different and create Acceptable Use Policies that are relevant to their situation.  The following are excellent examples of Acceptable Use Policies for elementary schools in the United States:

I feel that my school’s Acceptable Use Policy leaves a lot to be desired.  After reading about Acceptable Use Policies and viewing examples from other schools, I would like to initiate a conversation with my principal about revising our policy to make it more detailed and transparent for our faculty, staff, parents, and students.  Our current AUP can be seen by clicking on the following:acceptable-use-policy

We also have a 1:1 iPad program for our sixth through eighth grade students at our school.  The following document is sent home with the students and is signed by the students and parents: ipad-contract-2014I feel that this document is a better example of an Acceptable Use Policy because it incorporates the suggested sections that I mentioned above.  After reviewing both of our school’s policies, I think that the policy we have in place for the iPads should be edited to include all types of technology and the internet and used as the AUP for all our students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade.  Even though our kindergarten through fifth grade students are not 1:1, they do have access to iPads in the classroom and use our school computer lab.  

As educators it is important for schools to provide students with access to the digital world, yet we must do it in a way that protects our students.  An AUP is the first step toward protecting our students as long as it is enforced and supported by all members of the school community.  

References:
1-to-1 essentials – Acceptable use policies. (n.d.). In commonsensemedia. Retrieved October 4, 2016, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/1to1/aups
Getting started on the internet: Developing an acceptable use policy (aup). (2009). In education world. Retrieved October 4, 2016, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

 

Video Interviews

I interviewed five of my co-workers, all educators in an elementary school, about their feelings and ideas for using video in the classroom.  Please take a look below.

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.