Technically Speaking,

Technology is woven into the fabric of our lives. Whether it’s smart phones, laptops, or to tablets. we use them everyday. Our job as educators is to prepare our students for this world.     So how does a digital immigrant keep up with all the applications available, the constant changes, and the planned obsolescence of technology? How can we learn how to use the apps so we can teach it to the students? Don’t slip out the back, Jack just make a new plan Stan!

These days a technology plan is essential- it helps to focus efforts and make the best use of limited time. The first part of the plan is to use the resources available.  In my district we have i coaches, ISWAT, and professional development opportunities to keep current with technologies and introduce us to applications (not only how to use the application, but also how to use it in our classrooms). Since we no longer have a computer lab, the i-coaches are our former computer teachers who present professional development and are available for classroom co-teaching or consultation. If I have an idea and want to integrate technology , I can bring my idea to an i-coach and ask for input not only about feasibility, but integration ideas as well. I have used these valuable resources in a limited way and will make the effort to learn and work with them. The ISWAT (I’m a Student Assisting With Technology) team is a group of students from 3,4, and 5th grade that are tech savvy. They are available to update computers, load software and help teach your students to log on, use applications and other helpful jobs. In my classroom, I have used the tech savvy students to help others use the applications, but not for other purposes so I have added them to my plan. As a one to one district, we have both our i-coaches and Apple computer coaches provide professional development. While I have taken some and found them all useful, I sometimes don’t find out about them right away. I am subscribing to the professional development i-cal so I will be informed of all the opportunities my district offers.

The second part of my technology professional development plan to to learn with the students and let the students teach me. This is where choice comes in. I like to offer choices to the students, but sometimes limit it to applications I understand. If I am willing to learn with the students and let the students teach me, I can increase the amount of choice. I have done this in the past with Glogster and Google Sketch-up with great success. Students would ask how to do something and I would always reply…let’s find out. Once we did, that student was responsible for teaching that skill to the others. I need to do more of that.

The next part of my plan involves social media. While I will never join facebook, linkedin, or other social networking sites as I feel that my private life is private, I do see the benefit of sites like Twitter or Tumbler. Short posts about what is happening in the classroom and resources from other educators are very useful. I started using twitter only for school events resources and communication and will to continue to use it.  I also like having my resources in one place. As part of  this class, we started a Delicious account. This has spurred me to really take advantage of a Symbaloo account. Symbaloo is similar to Delicious, I just like the format and aesthetics a little better. I will build a Symbaloo page with science resources on it to help me meet the needs of my students, and keep me current with trends and lessons in science.

I subscribe to a few professional organizations, and museum websites. I follow organizations and people relevant to my teaching on twitter. I subscribe to a few podcasts that are helpful to my teaching. I also add helpful links to my google plus account. By doing this, I feel I can get a handle on the current trends in technology. I have listed a few below. – for Ell strategies –  National Science Teachers Associaltion– NASA’s government site

Staying in the know with technology seems a daunting task for a busy educator, but it’s very important. For me, a plan helps focus so I can make sense of it all.

Individualized Learning in a One Size Fits All World

When we hear the word teacher we conjure images of apples, rulers, number 2 pencils and the class learning together on the journey of discovery. While that was true in the past, modern teachers are explorers, organizers, individual learning coaches, readers, computer technicians, and a myriad of other cians and ers.

The 21st century classroom looks and is very different from the classroom of 10-15 years ago. The students are different as well. These students grew up with technology- they do not know a world without tiny cell phones and game systems with movie quality graphics. The classroom is much more diverse in culture, language, and physical and mental abilities. No longer can we “teach to the middle”. We must teach to the child. We need to meet the needs of the individual in a group environment. We still need to make the journey, but we need to take students from where they are and help them discover what works educationally for them so that they can soar to new heights.

Technology can help teachers to make the learning inclusive and meaningful for their students. To create a classroom climate of inclusion and celebrate diversity, I use technologies like Google Earth and Skype or Google Hangout to bring the world to students. When picking the reading material, I like to find authors and stories that are culturally diverse and that reflect some of the cultures present in my classroom. Then we use Google Earth to tour the places we are reading about- or create a lit trip. Google Hangout or Skype is great for connecting with other classes or people around the world. We had a Nasa hangout last year and talked to, among others, a female astronaut. The girls in the class were inspired to look at math and science in a different light.  By using these applications, students from culturally diverse backgrounds can not only feel a part of the class, but feel celebrated and included as well.

To meet the needs of ELL’s I have used Google translate and websites that are available in English and Spanish- the University of Illinois extension has some wonderful web-quests available. The students are much more engaged and learning the material better when they are using the same website, but it is in their native language. One year, I also brought in Latino poet David Hernandez to teach a poetry unit. It was wonderful to see boys want to do something artistic, my ELL students celebrate their culture, and the whole class think of poetry in a new way. That year I had many Spanish speaking students, but I also had one Arabic student. Walah and Rachel wrote a poem together and recited it at the poetry slam in Arabic and English- the expression on Walah’s mother’s face was priceless. She told me that it was the first time at school in the US that she heard her native language and that (because her English was limited) she felt a part of Walah’s school. We used a digital camera to record and all students were able to take their performances home.

Another way to address the diversity in our classrooms is Universal Design, which creates flexible teaching and learning opportunities designed to meet the needs of a wide range of students, but diminishing the learning for none. For this to be successful, i think having choices for students is key. The understanding and outcomes may be similar, but the way it is presented is up to the individual. Keynote, Prezi, imovie, ibooks author and show me are wonderful apps to try. Flipping the classroom in which students watch videos, read on line texts, or do other learning activities at home and come to the classroom to practice, where the teacher is there to support, is another great way to individualize learning using Universal Design. Students are able to watch, stop, and watch again if they are unsure of the concept. They may also use the resources teachers have if they need the material in another way. I have had great success with using Khan academy, and Ted talks for flipping the classroom.

All in all, a teacher’s job is no longer to be in front of a group of students doling out nuggets of wisdom like the old women feeding the birds at the park, rather we are docents of information, showing students the many paths that lead to the same well, helping them choose the path that is right for them, guiding and supporting them along the path they choose, and celebrating who they are as a learner.

Why I Flipped My Classroom   a short video about flipping a classroom