TEaCHing with TECHnology

Looking through tweets I found there were some useful hashtags to search under that I hadn’t really looked at before.  #edtech #spedtech and #edchat were are very helpful and it was cool to see communities of people talking about similar things that are relevant to teaching.  This is one tweet I found:

https://twitter.com/n_pinn/status/442558662783942656

While this one included a link that pertains to ELL students I think that it is important for any teacher to know about those resources because any teacher could have an ELL.  Granted this article was aimed at promoting a company that designs programs to teach languages it still has some relevant information.  Programs to help ELLs often would help any student struggling with language.  In the graphic, it mentions being able to receive vocal feedback because some programs allow students to record themselves and then they can compare it to what they hear.  This could be especially useful for students who might not be able to easily recognize their own mistakes.  It also allows them to learn at their own pace because it is interactive. I think I would use a program for reading in my class sometimes, especially if I thought the student needed extra support.  At the same time though, I recognize that language needs to be taught person-to-person and be used in conversations to fully understand it but this is a great way additional way to support students.

https://twitter.com/n_pinn/status/442765036725891072

In this tweet it has a link to (ironically) an info graphic talking about the usefulness of info graphics.  I think that info graphics are especially helpful to show students so that they are able to grasp concepts easier.  They would be great to use as an overview of a lesson, especially one that contains a lot of complex information or even to use as a review for a lesson at the end of the day.  The website also has links to a bunch of different websites to make your own info graphic which could be a great tool to have students learn to see if they can summarize material and if they understood what was talked about that way.  I know I’m always more willing to read an info graphic because it’s more appealing so students likely would too. By having them create their own you are encouraging synthesis of information, persuasion techniques, decision making on what is important, organizational skill and improving their use of technology.

https://twitter.com/n_pinn/status/442768240851156992

This tweet was really helpful because it contained a link to a website where there were a bunch of apps that teachers could use.  The coolest part is that they were all ranked, rated and reviewed so you can see what other teachers have to say about them.  iPads seem to be more and more common in schools, especially in special education classrooms so it’s good to have a place to go to get those resources.  In the classrooms I have been in they have heavily used games either as part of the lesson or as a rewarding break for students.  This website will help to evaluate which games would be more helpful than others.  I think it is important to note that not all of the games have the highest “learning” rating which makes me recognize that any sort of technology needs to be evaluated in the classroom.  The games might seem great but the children need to be using them to learn and I think this website is an important resource to help teachers recognize which would be most useful to them and their students.

I’m finding that twitter is a great resource for other resources.  I haven’t found as many links that are related directly to telling people how to teach but more practical links that  can be used to help gain resources teach in the classroom.  It’s great to see so many things out there so that I know when I have my own classroom I don’t have to depend solely on my own creativity but can look for a digital community to help support me in the classroom.

Ignite!

My Ignite video is all about my favorite part of high school and the reason I am where I am today.  My video focuses on the Adapted PE program which made my high school experience what it was. In my video I discuss what we did in Adapted PE and what my favorite parts were that really ignited my passion for special education.

The Digital Citizen

The digital citizen is somewhat of a strange concept because when I think of a “citizen” it is usually tied to being a member of place or community.  A digital citizen is a member of a place that doesn’t really exist, the digital world.  Proven by what happened in Cairo, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t effect a physical community or place.  Regular people were able to use technology to communicate and unite around a specific cause.  They were able to organize and make a difference.  That is the power of the digital citizen.

The next question becomes: how do we handle the digital citizens in our classrooms?  Do we lock it down and insist that our students do not become digital citizens for fear of what might happen or for fear of what they might organize? I think that would be a huge mistake.  As a teacher I think it is important to empower students and encourage them to stand up for what they believe in.  Empowering students in that way can be scary because you never know what might come of it but that is how people change the world.  Whether it is for the better or for the worse, that ultimately is up to them.  If across America schools are denying them access to technology and the knowledge of how to use technology we are essentially isolating them from being able to change the world.  Sure, they could start a case against the school, but I have also seen how one of my friends was able to keep in contact with his high school. When one of their favorite teachers was being fired, no questions asked, because he didn’t turn in a form on time, the students took to social media to start a campaign to fight the school and allow the teacher to come back.  They organized and went to the school board meeting to fight on his behalf.

The schools though are not prepared to teach digital citizens because not all schools have access to technology.  Even if they did have access to technology the teachers need to be aware of what digital citizenship is and how to support it.  We need more education for current teachers on how to use technology and to help them understand the power of social media.  If we want our students to be prepared for the future they need to be a part of the digital world.  Being aware isn’t enough, being a citizen is important.

Passport to Technology

Students today are almost constantly using, accessing, and sharing information through technology.  It is important that we share common rules and practices with students so they can learn the norms of this technology culture.  You wouldn’t dream of taking a group of students to a museum if they don’t first understand the rules and norms there..  There is no way you could let a student take a trip without some guidance about the cultural practices of the country they were visiting.  Sure they could wander around and pick up some of the customs but you’d be sure to tell them if something was drastically different or if certain behavior would put them in a dangerous situation or get them arrested. Teaching digital citizenship is important in today’s classrooms in order to allow our students to use technology correctly and safely.  Sure, they know and understand some of the customs but we need to help lay the important ground rules to this foreign digital country.

Attempting to improve my own knowledge of different technology I have started to follow some people on Twitter and found some resources to use in the classroom to teach digital citizenship.

https://twitter.com/n_pinn/status/436366685893693440

This tweet (above) by Edutopia was really helpful because it allowed me to explore another online platform in order to learn even more about digital citizenship.  I wasn’t really sure how pinterest worked but now I see how helpful it can be.  This collection of items related to digital citizenship.  It has posters and good tips to give to students.  It even has creative ways to talk about this with students through links to websites like this one.

https://twitter.com/n_pinn/status/436976469764747265

In another tweet by Edutopia, there is a link to other resources to again help teachers bring up this subject.  It’s important to have these resources so that you can reach your students in the best way possible.  By following some of the links and watching some of the videos that one site created to bring it up to younger students, it helped me see some of the simplified views of what could happen.  This website uses the think aloud method which might help to keep kids safe when using the internet.  Though some of the things they mention are a bit outdated, it helped me realize how internet safety seems second nature to me now but it actually is a lot of information for kids to take in.

https://twitter.com/n_pinn/status/436979174746505216

This article shows how much impact technology can have and that commonly used websites like Facebook are taking notice.  The article linked in the tweet mentions how technology is often very natural for students today but there is a culture that comes with it.  If we want students to be safe we have to help them understand that culture and all of the aspects that come with it.

Thinking Differently

Temple Grandin’s TED talk about people on the Autism Spectrum and thinking about how others think definately relates to us as future special education teachers.

I think she brings up a lot of good points about making sure that we realize that not everyone thinks in the same way.  I think that is what the UDL is all about, it’s allowing access to curriculum through different channels so that people who do think differently are still learning. I believe that the best way to reach students is by recognizing the way they think compared to the way you at the teacher think. It’s so important to remember not everyone sees the world through the same lenses.  That is the real challenge in teaching is trying to figure out what your student’s lenses look like and how to help your students see through them.

I have also read her book, Thinking in Pictures, and the depth she went into about how she saw the world really made me stop and look back at my own thinking.  We don’t spend a lot of time thinking about thinking because it’s difficult to do but it is necessary.  If we can help our students use metacognition to think about their thinking and find a way for them to explain it to us just as Ms. Grandin did then that would help tremendously.  Unfortunately that’s pretty hard to do so it is up to us as the teachers to try and find what works best for the student.

Differentiation is all about designing learning for the student, it’s important in all classrooms but especially in a special education classroom.  Unfortunately, special education has a negative connotation but to me a special education students is just as smart as a general education student but they learn in a different way.  This is where differentiation can come in.  By capitalizing on what the student is good at  they can learn just as well!  As she mentioned in the TEDtalk some of the most brilliant people in the world were autistic, we need people who have have specialized thinking so as teachers we may need to use more specialized teaching.  That shouldn’t be seen as something negative, just something different.  As a special education teacher we need to be ready to have students like Temple Grandin and like the boy mentioned in this article.  We need to build on their strengths and give them opportunities to thrive.  Instead of writing a paper on a topic in history, can they write about a specific invention or theory and how that relates to history?  As mentioned in the TED talk, it’s all about sparking an interest in these children, does it matter if they do everything the exact same way everyone else in the school is doing things.  That makes it more complicated for teachers to grade students, and to handle the issue of fairness between students, but school should be about allowing all students the best access learning.

Learning

What does it mean to learn?  What does it look like when someone is learning?  We all learn different things whether it is something we might not think about like tying our shoes or it might be something more obvious like learning from a book.  Sometimes we are stretched to learn things in new ways, like practicing ice skiing where we have to focus on things foreign to us.  Sometimes traditional methods of learning doesn’t always have learning involved.  But everything we do at one point or another had to be learned.

Taping Teachers

After watching Bill Gates’s TEDtalk on giving teachers feedback three things came to mind:

  1. I agreed with some of his ideas and statements
  2. I didn’t know how I felt about some of his ideas
  3. How much I hate seeing myself on camera

Watch the TEDtalk here:

I think teachers need feedback.  We won’t grow or change without if we think that we have nothing to change, that goes for people in all aspects of life.  I once had a teacher for an English class who didn’t grade our writing and hand it back until the end of the year.  I’ll never forget when after our third assignment of the year he commented how our writing should be improving but he didn’t feel like it was. The comment shocked me, how we were supposed to improve if we had no idea what we work on?  And did I ever wish I could have been able to tell hime what he needed to work on. Here’s the thing with feedback, no one really wants to hear what they are doing wrong all the time.  I sure don’t.  But here is the second part, we need to hear what we are doing wrong.  Teachers owe it to their students to know how to help them better. I like that Bill Gates is trying to help improve schools through helping teachers, I feel like it would be nice to have some more support because I feel like I am just going to be thrown into the classroom.

Student evaluations could help teachers understand what they need to continue to teach and how they need to continue to improve.  In this article: http://www.edutopia.org/student-feedback-accountability-teachers the author makes a good point that if we are evaluating the students they should evaluate teachers as well.  Maybe not to the point of giving grades but to gauge how they are taking the information. Now, as with any evaluation or assessment there is no way to know exactly how accurate they are.  As discussed in this article http://blogs.berkeley.edu/2013/10/14/do-student-evaluations-measure-teaching-effectiveness/ and the article mentioned before if you have students give grades or numbers that can be very arbitrary.  (And from the student perspective when I am asked to fill out evaluations on my professors I have no idea what the difference is between ranking them a “4” or a “5” because those are just numbers. But maybe that it’s not a “1” so they have to be doing better.)

I’ve actually always wondered why in high school at least they never asked for my opinion of the classes I was taking or my opinion of the teachers. I’m not asking them to have me rank them or grade them but allow me to give my written feedback.  It’s always easier to complain and it’s always harder to read someone’s complaints especially if they are about you but it could be a great way to learn what we need to do better.

Bill Gates also spent a lot of time talking about video taping teachers and having them turn in the videos they want in order to be reviewed. I’m not really sure about this but I do know that it is an up and coming idea for educators and will be implemented with the new edTPA requirements.  If the video is used in the way that the teacher in the video showed then it could be great to help teachers see how they interact.  If teachers reflect on it as they are watching and think about what they are going to change in the future then that could be really beneficial.  The problem is that you have to be pretty secure with yourself and open yourself up to the idea.  I have had the privilege of hearing that teacher speak at a conference where she discussed the video she said she got the most attention for:

 https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/when-lesson-plans-fail

She was strong enough to not only review the video itself but open up her “failed” lesson to the world.  She shouldn’t be evaluated as a bad teacher because she had one day that went wrong.  I would actually consider her a great teacher because she admitted what she did wrong and wanted to fix it.  Maybe we should allow teachers to video themselves but make sure offer them a supportive environment to help them improve.

The downside to giving teachers feedback is if there are other things riding on it.  If they are given poor feedback and there is no improvements made will they be fired?  Will salaries ride on how “well” someone is preforming? I’m not sure if that’s fair. I’ve had plenty of classes where one day there is an administrator sitting in the back for evaluation and all of a sudden the teacher has objectives written on the board and they super concerned with making multiple students share ideas.  That skews the evaluation because when the administrator isn’t there or if the camera isn’t on it changes the behavior, and really we can’t blame them.  Wouldn’t everyone in every profession do the same?  So how do we help teachers receive quality feedback?  I think its about building a positive network in the schools, having teachers regularly support each other and encourage asking for help.  Show them it’s ok to mess up sometimes and give them a camera to film their class.  If you encourage teachers to evaluate themselves maybe they will become more likely to do it and to improve our schools.

All I can think of though is how much I hate to see myself on video.  But maybe that’s because while I am aware of what I say and do every day, it is much different to actually see yourself, hear your tone, and see all the mannerisms you might not catch otherwise up on a screen.  Seeing myself on video always makes me critique how I am acting even if I videotaped myself for a project and had the chance to redo it multiple times (and makes me cringe just thinking about it). In the classroom you don’t have multiple times to redo every lesson so it’s critical that you have the best shot at getting it right the first time and maybe watching yourself on video (though I’m cringing just thinking about it) can help you get it right the next day.  We make students struggle through things all the time, I think we owe it to them to make ourselves struggle through our own evaluations.