What Good Teachers Do With Technology

I have to admit that the more I learn about technology and the use of technology in education, the more excited I get about the possibilities of how I can use it in the classroom to engage students and promote learning for a lifetime. On the other hand, there is so much new technology (software, hardware, devices, apps, websites, portals, widgets, and on and on) that I am also overwhelmed with just where to start and start in a way that will have an immediate impact on my students. What are some sound strategies? What are some good goals of technology in the classroom? While I found many examples of what good teachers are doing with technology, I narrowed them down to the following two examples. I chose these because I feel, as a relative technology novice, I will be able to easily follow the lead of these teacher as I move toward my own technology integration:

  • Use technology to empower students and encourage creativity – One recent report on eschoolnews.com (Daccord, 2015), cited an example whereby a high school teacher allowed students to choose just how they wanted to demonstrate their understanding of a complex topic. In previous years, the teacher required students to write a comparative essay, but now he allows student to use iPads create video tutorials that explain, demonstrate and even teach the concept. My Goal: Give students a choice and provide opportunities for creativity by allowing and encouraging the use of technology to demonstrate learning.
  • Use technology to connect students to new concepts – In her article on Teachnology’s website, Alejandra Rice (2010), discussed her difficulties in helping students to connect to abstract concepts or to lessons on places they’ve never been or objects they’ve never seen. Because students had no prior experience with these concepts, places, or objects, they were unable to make the connections necessary for learning to take place. Rice detailed her experiment with first showing pictures to eventually showing videos and using resources on the Internet to take students on a virtual tour. She found that students were more engaged in the activities and more easily made the connections needed to learn the concepts. My Goal: Use digital resources to help students make connections to new concepts and to engage students in their learning.

Daccord, T. (2015). 3 things great teachers do with technology. eSchool News. Retrieved on February 13, 2015 from: http://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/01/26/great-teachers-technology-072/3/

Rice, A. (2010). Connecting through technology. teAchnology. Retrieved on February 13, 2015 from: http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/connecting/

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The Connected Teacher

My Personal Learning Network is the key to keeping me up-to-date with all the changes that are happening in education and how technology can best support and engage today’s students.” Brian Metcalfe

Thrust into a more connected learning environment (thanks to one of my current graduate school professors), I’m finding that technology in education isn’t just technological tools used by teachers to facilitate learning. Up to this point, I’ve thought of educational technology as: a variety of resources, hardware, and software, used in a classroom by students and teachers.

The Internet is, in my opinion, the most valuable of those technological resources due to its “vastness” and its ease of access. It vastness continued to reveal itself to me this week as I read articles and blogs, surfed the web, and watched videos (See some of the places I visited below to follow my trail. I tried to leave a few “bread crumbs,” because I know how easily I get lost on the Internet.). Rather than the usual overwhelmed feeling I generally get when faced with all the information available I stumble across, this week’s articles, blogs, and videos, showed me a way to harness the Internet to become a more connected teacher. The idea of the connected teacher is one who uses the connectivity of the Internet to create a network called a personal learning network or PLN.

According to Kate Klingensmith, in her blog Once a Teacher, the definition of a personal learning network is “the entire collection of people with whom you engage and exchange information.” (2009) Klingensmith lists several ways that teachers are using PLN’s to connect to other professionals, via the Internet, which include: for professional development, to find teaching resources, to get and share ideas with other teachers, to learn more about how best to use technology, to collaborate with others to find solutions to problems, and to stay abreast of the latest in technology and education news. (2009) Everyone of these, for me, is an obvious benefit for having my own personal learning network.

Graffin, in the blog Teacher Challenge, describes the connected teacher as a “…learner who collaborates online and uses a range of social media tools to…interact with other educators.” (2014) He goes on to give a basic step-by-step plan for building a PLN, which includes much of the same suggestions I found on several other sites. These common suggestions include: setting up a Twitter account, attending webinars, joining an online community, participating in Twitter chats or other online conversations, subscribe to blogs, use a bookmarking tool, and start your own blog. (Graffin, 2014)  I find, as I continue in this course, that I am beginning to practice some of these very steps. I have a Twitter (Yes; my own children think this is funny.) and tweet about educational technology news, I have started this blog and read and comment on blogs of classmates, I bookmark items into a group on Diigo, and I participate in online discussions. I hope, then, that I am on my way to becoming a more connected teacher with a growing personal learning network.

Please feel free to comment.  Suggestions and experiences welcome!

“Bread Crumbs” – Places I Visited This Week As I Discovered the Beauty of a Personal Learning Network:

Graffin, M. (2014). Step 1: What is a PLN? Teacher Challenge. Retrieved on February 6, 2015 from http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/pln-challenge-1-what-the-heck-is-a-pln/

Klingensmith, K. (2009). PLN: Your personal learning network made easy. Once a Teacher. Retrieved on February 6, 2015 from https://onceateacher.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/pln-your-personal-learning-network-made-easy/

Metcalf, B. (2011). My PLN: A teacher’s treasure. Life Long Learners. Retrieved on February 6, 2015 from http://life-long-learners.com/my-pln-a-teachers-treasure/