Friday, March 25, 2011

How do I integrate technology?

The posed questions this week all had to do with curriculum or the things we teach in class.  While all around us technology is advancing at breakneck speeds, as the 4G to 5G to 6G commercial illustrates, we need to be able to add this or integrate it into the classroom.  The way that teachers present information is guided by benchmarks, which are just educational goals created by our Department of Education.  Also, teachers use a pacing guide to check on a regular basis where they are in their instruction no matter what subject they’re teaching.  These benchmarks are created by experts to create goals for learning in all curriculum areas and grade levels.  Technology is being used increasingly in schools today to enhance the learning process to accommodate more types of learning.  The use of technology with all of its hardware and software inside the classroom is considered technology integration. 
            There are all types of integration inside the classroom.  This can include the use of interactive software programs, to computers in the classroom, and even a portable “wireless media cart”(Shelley, 2010).  The ideal classroom would have a brand new computer, now it would probably be in the form of a tablet, for each child, an interactive board instead of the traditional chalkboard, and a computer for the teacher to instantly have all the needed tools at their fingertips.  This would include instantly assessing students with digital test, using digital text books, and using multimedia to expose students to key enhancements that cannot be brought into the classroom like video of a science experiment that could potential be dangerous and is better suited to watch then to do.  Technology also has become a key part of the classroom as our students have been born into the world of technology that is moving at an ineffable speed.  We as educators need to be able to teach them how to correctly use this technology as it improves and changes.  The greatest part of technology and using the Internet is it gives children an equal opportunity to learn.  Classrooms of one, two or even an entire classroom of computers can be designed to fully integrate technology to enhance learning.
            A key model called the “ASSURE” model helps teachers to become guided correctly when planning for a lesson, unit or an entire week.  It includes key ideas which are question based including how to Analyze the learner, State the objective, Select methods, media, and materials, Utilize those same methods, media and materials, Require learners to participate, and Evaluate how the learning process is proceeding and revising the lesson if needed. The mere accumulation of the knowledge of how technology works is not enough, planning isn’t enough, it must be correctly organized using a model like the “Assure” method mentioned above.  Teachers must create an environment of integrated learning, decide how to administer or deliver the integrated curriculum.  (Shelly, 2010)
            One way to use technology in an appealing way is through digital storytelling.  I someday hope to use this tool to have students retell a story.  I think to have students use a digital storytelling presentation to tell about key components, or story map a book they have read would be incredible.  They could record their voice to tell the story, and create their own artwork to become the illustrators also.  As I teach fifth grade, I think this would be more than just another summary or writing project for them.  I think it would cover benchmarks for both technology and Language Arts.  The last part of the task would be to present it to a lower grade level, either live or through strictly the presentation.  As most of my fifth graders currently read books without much illustration, finding clip art or creating their own art, which they are most happy to do on everything especially their weekly spelling tests for some reason.  I think presenting this would encourage some of them to be a presenter even though they may be shy normally.  Even entice some to read to younger students and be a good role model to work on their own role in society.  Let’s face it with how easy technology is for today’s students this would be easy and I see nothing but great things to be created by completing this project.  The resources for student’s online would be few but key.
 They would need access to an online program, like Prezi, that allows easy user access, also so they can work at home.  Also it would need to be free, as most budgets can’t afford extras in today’s economy.   Furthermore, the use of free clipart, from Google images, would benefit students to illustrate the digital story summary would be a must.   As mentioned before teacher’s are directed by benchmarks, which leads to the question what learning activities would need to be used in order to facilitate the learner to successfully complete the task.  The students would probably need some in depth practice with Prezi, view multiple examples of presentations that are in the spectrum of what I expect as an end result, and a skill set on how to find images using a search engine or how to create their own images by using Paint.  Since they are great drawlers I think using a scanner to insert their own handmade images would also be a benefit for students to use while creating this project.  In short, the end result would need to be created by me as the facilitator of learning to visibly show students what they needed to do to create a satisfactory project. 
Shelly, Gunter, Gunter (2010) Teachers Discovering Computers Integrating Technology and Digital Media in the Classroom Sixth edition. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What is Digital Storytelling?

Digital storytelling is described simply as a digital explanation of what needs to be well explained.  I used a program called Prezi to create a Digital Storytelling “Prezi”, as I was told by my professor, the company doesn’t like the reference of a presentation when referring to the creation that is made with Prezi.  I first read about digital media from Teachers Discovering Computers Integrating Technology and Digital Media in the Classroom.  It gave me insight to the new additions to presenting and administering lessons in the classroom.
            The term digital media has great importance in education as we have more visual learners emerging each year.  This media includes Text, Graphics, Animation, Audio and video elements.  The application of this software can be used to greatly improve learning of students, as it simply makes learning more fun and interesting.  The most widely used application is software applications that are used across a variety of computer platforms.  These would include personal computers such as a Mac or IBM compatible computers.  The applications of multimedia is used for computer based instruction and interactive software in the classroom.  Other applications can be in the form of electronic books, how to guides, digital media such as E-Zines, Entertainment and Edutainment formats.  Even more advanced applications are Virtual reality or VR which can be used for gaming or real life simulations.  The real world applications of multimedia are information Kiosks, web based training, and distance learning.  Interactive software mentioned earlier allows for great leaps in education.  It allows for individualized instruction simultaneously throughout a diverse classroom.  It encourages creativity, critical thinking, and creation of digital media presentations, and support for core academic subjects.  As a whole the use of multimedia in the classroom greatly enhances learning and improves achievement for students in the classroom.
            I first went through and looked at several projects that gave me an idea of how a presentation should look.  I also outlined and sketched my basic ideas and key points to make in the presentation.  I used the book and an online YouTube presentation to gain the knowledge of the specifics to what Digital Storytelling should look like, what components it needs to include, and how it is used by teachers.  I then used Prezi to create a layout of key words and phrases to include in my display.  The most important part was how to use Digital Storytelling to enhance the classroom.  I think that the excitement by students to see another media, rather than just seeing the teacher lecturing was a big advantage.  Also the fact that you can pace at any speed or overcome interruptions was key to why I would use this as a tool in the classroom.  Including the versatility of being able to show things at any time, with the added fact that some things can’t be brought into a classroom but could be shown in the classroom really showed me the advantages to using Digital Storytelling as an enhancement for teaching lessons.  I would definitely use this the most in science.  As budgets are tight, and hands-on experiments are part of the new Science benchmarks, using a video to show an experiment, and have it go right the first time, not like normal when things always go wrong, would definitely improve class involvement.  Most of the time there isn’t enough supplies to go around.  But to be able to show a science experiment done correctly instead of just reading about it or displaying it for students to watch would make all the difference in understand and retaining the information.  Also it would be great to use as review before tests or when students seem to forget what was taught at the beginning of the school year. 
            I think I did quite well, the only problems I had were organizing and discovering how to use the tools for Prezi correctly.  After view the tutorial and some trial and error I came up with a good Prezi, remember their not called presentations.  I enhanced my presentation with clipart, and was thankful to have learned earlier this semester how to use Google to find a vast variety of images.  I decided to use all cartoon images, because well I teach elementary school and I think cartoons are friendlier.  I think that this could be used and enhanced by using photos if I needed real life examples for students to view or if they needed to see certain examples.  The only part I had trouble with was the embedding part, but figured it out with the help menu.  The hardest part was getting the order and view of each slide just the way I wanted it.  I had wanted to add some audio but couldn’t find a song that went and therefore didn’t explore the possibility of using audio on Prezi.  I did however look and didn’t see that option.  I’m thinking some other software programs may have that option more visible, but as I explored the creation portion I didn’t find it easy to locate.  Well click below to see my first Prezi on Digital Storytelling.

Shelly, Gunter, Gunter (2010) Teachers Discovering Computers Integrating Technology and Digital Media in the Classroom Sixth edition. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to choose the right software?

Reading Response #4
Most people think that teachers come to work, give out worksheets, give some directions, mark papers, give test, and so forth.  Although these are some parts to teaching, being a part of the adoption of new books or tools such as software can also be a part of your responsibilities.  As a scenario was given to me this week, I came to pour over the computers for the best solution for my problem.  This was that my boss, the principal, has come to me asking that by the end of the day I find a suitable academic program to better integrate technology into my students’ learning.  As most people think that this would be easy, well it was until the scene unfolded and I was stuck with only one computer, as the dilemma unfolded I soon learned that it was going to be much harder than I first thought. 
The computer I use is recent but not state of the art.  Each computer can be refered to as a “workstation”, and that’s all that I was going to get, as the budget was set for software programs not hardware.   As for some of the nuts and bolts of the computer I have, there are some key elements that need to be addressed, each component will be viewable at the same Wikipedia site that can help explain in greater details what some of these component are and how they play a key role in the computer.  The first consideration is the Operating System, since this is the software that commands all the processes, I had to find a program that went with Windows Vista.  I also had to find out what were the main components to my computer.  I accomplished this by going to the “Control Panel” from the “Start” button.  Then to the “System and Maintenance” section.  Last I went into the “Performance Information and Tools” part to gain valuable information on what the internal limitations of my computer were.  I was somewhat familiar with what I was running on a basic level.  But as most people I had to use the information from the computer for specifics, as I use up to 5 or more different systems per day and have a hard time keeping track of specifications of each platform. 
This isn’t the latest version of Windows, but still could cause friction when trying to operate a new software program on a computer.  My next concern was the CPU or processor speed.  This is the main “brain” and the speed it can process information is greatly important, I have a clean 2.30 GHz.   Another concern is the RAM, which is quick volatile memory that can really mean the difference in performance of a program.  I have 4 GB, with a usable 3.3 GB for regular daily or quotidian use.   As this was added and doubles the stock amount it makes a smooth transition while operating the system and performing tasks.  Other considerations were the visual screen resolution, which I have a healthy 1152 X 864 screen resolution.  This is runs by the use of a Nvidia GeForce with a GPU, or graphics processing unit, of 1.5 GB.  The amount of space on my internal hard drive was also a consideration.  But with the large internal hard drives that are available space wasn’t an issue.  With my other removable media devices, e.g. the CD/DVD write drive, and USB ports I was set for most anything to be installed on my computer. (Shelly, 2010) The only problem was how I use one computer for 20 or more students.

I found it after much looking and comparing, StarMatica, a Language Arts program suitable for my 5th grade Language Students.  This program has several Language features, including assessment, practice and teacher modifiable lessons.  The best part was a feature that allows students to use the software at home or in a lab.  The limitation of having one computer made finding a versatile program that could be used by an entire class, in other areas besides the classroom a key focus to my search. 
The limits that were put in place as part of the scenario created some difficulties.  These dealt with how many computers can share or have the program installed on them.  I had to look for a program that was able to be used in a lab or at home, but still gave a range of teacher control for specific needs and had assessments as data drive the classroom of today.  One other difficulty was that some software was only compatible to certain operating systems.  At that point I could only move on and search for more suitable candidates.  Sure I would have liked to use other hardware to project lessons on the board, or to interact with students but unfortunately it isn’t currently available at my work location.   Even though I chose a program that didn’t utilize everything that could have been used, I feel that I found a well rounded program that would show a positive learning gain as part of the integration of StarMatica in my curriculum.  I would ideally like to have students use this at home for homework, or when they go to computer lab for special areas in order to give computer based assistance in Language Arts. 
As a final thought, I can’t hardly imagine how great it would be to have an up to date, state of the art classroom.  With all the possibilities, an interactive board where students could use a special pen to interact with lessons on the board by getting up and moving around.  In addition to having a voter machine where a teacher can review and ask multiple choice questions, and instantly see how many students got the right answer, and who specifically got it wrong.  This would make great strides into making the classroom more effective and teaching a diverse classroom successfully.  I could focus on students who showed difficulty with specific skills and meet their needs without review materials that they do know.  To wrap up, I see tablet instead of textbooks, handheld devices to allow students to catch up on what was taught the days they were absent, and instant assessment feedback to both parents and teachers.

Shelly, Gunter, Gunter (2010) Teachers Discovering Computers Integrating Technology and Digital Media in the Classroom Sixth edition. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.