Have you ever been searching the Internet or browsing a social media site and come across a great article and wonder how to retrace your steps? Whenever I stumble across a fantastic read, I always find it difficult to uncover the original source or where all the rest are hiding. Especially in the realm of education, I struggle to understand which blogs are the best to follow or which resources will prove the most useful. Thankfully, I have recently been introduced to the GOOD Magazine education blog site, a hub of informational articles for teachers and administrators. As both a masters student and future elementary school teacher, this website has been an outlet from graduate school assignments: seeing the real world application of many of the strategies and theories I have learned about throughout my educational journey. While exploring the education sector of GOOD, I came across an interesting article that reminded me of some of the research currently being done at Virginia Tech (my alma mater) and I was happy to take a look. Written by Tod Perry, Everyone Wins When Senior Care and Child Care Combine is a well constructed summary of the Present Perfect film, currently being made by Evan Briggs. In short, this upcoming documentary dictates the benefits of an Intergenerational Learning Center: the combination of both senior and child care to benefit the well-being and happiness of both generations. The reason I was so attracted to this article, film trailer, and subsequent research is because of work I have seen my professors do within the Child Development Center for Learning and Research at Virginia Tech. The Adult Day Services Center at the university opened in 1992 as a research based organization, dedicated to exploring the relationship between young children and senior citizens. The results of this partnership have been incredible and my professors and peers have been working to extend this research data across the country. Therefore, when I was able to connect this GOOD education article with the actual adults and children I have worked with as an undergrad, I was beyond enthusiastic. The connection of my past and my own experiences to the broader professional realm of education makes me excited for the positive impact I can and will have on the world. Seeing something so simple as the relationship between one generation to another, the friendship between someone young and someone old, makes me believe that the world is not too far gone, or too complex for me to be a part of.
Access to Internet, the capacity to virtually communicate, and the automaticity of information have transformed into an innate human right. Technology, without boundaries or limitations, has become the sixth sense of human capacity, engulfing all aspects of modern life. However, unlike the senses and personal freedoms we are born in to, the ability to connect and communicate has created an unequal divide. Just as we are faced with the many inequalities of personal rights, the idea that Internet should and can be provided to everyone regardless of socioeconomic status, race, age or gender is ideal and attainable overtime, but not ensured automatically. The debate on equity encompasses many aspects of society and human nature: productivity, empowerment, communication, etc. However, for the sake of this particular argument, I am going to focus on the digital divide as it applies to the teaching profession and the dynamics of classroom lesson planning.
More frequently and more aggressively, teachers are being encouraged to incorporate technology in the classroom. If our students are digital natives, crave the information available via the Internet, and understand how to use new resources, why would they not take the chance to implement something new? I believe there are three answers to this question. First, teachers are catching up. Unlike the Millennial Generation, educators and administrators were not born into a world of iPads and Applications, figuring out how to bridge the generation gap and pinpointing the correct educational resources is taking time. Second, not all teachers can guarantee that their flipped classroom, daily emails, or discussion boards will be available to their students at home. As unfortunate as it remains, access to Internet is not a human right and children are often left unable to connect. If some students are unable to finish their homework, study for tests, or watch flipped classroom lectures, is it fair for teachers to incorporate those aspects of learning into the lesson plan in the first place? Thirdly, what if it turns out that access to a computer is not really the foundational problem? In his article, Free Computers Don’t Close the Rich-Poor Education Gap, Gregory Ferenstein publicizes the surprising results of a California school study. Simply put, the research found that although low-income students were given computers to use at home, their short-term learning outcomes did not change. The time they spent playing games and chatting on social media was offsetting the total time they were using the Internet for the purpose of school work.
The Digital Divide poses multiple questions and answers that lead to further questioning and extensive research. There is not, and will not be one simple solution to the many challenges technology and the Internet has placed upon our society. However, in his ISTE Ignite speech in 2013, Michael Mills suggests the SAMR model of bridging the divide, a process of pairing ridged instructional objectives with flexible processes and products to students in the classroom. The steps: (S)ubstitution, (A)ugmentation, (M)odification, and (R)edefinition, are set in place to provide students access to the Internet, the opportunity to redefine productivity, and the ability for teachers to actually instruct students on how to use the technology they have wisely. The SAMR model begins to simplify the many questions and answers that technology as a resource in education poses by creating a foundation for the future. Instead of leaping forward, overwhelming students and overestimating the application of technological devices, educators need to stop, think about the goals of the lesson, unit, or semester, modify their expectations, and redefine the limits of student learning.
When I first opened the 2014 Speak Up Digital Learning Survey, which analyzes results of a yearly questionnaire given to students K-12 about technology in the classroom, I was a bit skeptical. As a student, I have taken countless surveys incorporating a range of information and never saw the results of my answers. As an aspiring teacher, I have sifted through the statistics of one teaching strategy or another, but never find my use in my research. In my mind, why would the Speak Up survey be any different? Luckily enough, I have found several reasons why this research is worth a look, proving to be valuable for both teachers and the administration.
1. The results are directly from the student perspective but analyzed by people who know what they are talking about. Readers have the opportunity to learn what kids actually want and are looking for in a technological classroom, explained in adult language.
2. The survey, while lengthy, offered reasoning for some of the more surprising statistics and complicated definitions. i.e. Why do students see the smartphone as the ideal device for communicating? Are there different meanings of a blended classroom?
3. It looks into the future. This survey reports the data found from the year 2014, but also projects what might happen in the future. i.e. Online assessments and classes, teacher-student communication, the evolution of STEM etc.
Overall the 2014 Speak Up survey is meant to be a resource for teachers across the country to understand how our students are continuing to react to technological changes in the curriculum. Technology is no longer a hypothetical question for the educational realm to toy with, it is a reality that we must start understanding in order to keep up with the strengths, opinions and demands of our students. In the future, my classroom will be constantly changing to fit the needs of the millennial generation. Reading surveys such as this will manipulate my knowledge and understanding of what technological resources teachers are using, what students actually enjoy using, and what they both see most effective for education. I believe that by encouraging teachers to understand their students wants and needs, they give back some of the control. Because it is the millennial generation that is most proficient with learning to use technology, they are in control of their own future. They are able to look at their own curriculum and ask themselves, “what would work best here?” By making this process a dual opportunity for students and teachers, we slowly begin to transform the traditional classroom into something better, something more interactive.
Link to 2014 Survey:
School should teach us how to learn. School should help us learn how to live. School should help us become better than who we are. But does it? During his TEDx Philly talk, Chris Lehmann brings up some controversial ideas about education. He suggests that the traditional strategies of teaching do not allow students to critically think or collaborate. Students are never told why they need to understand information they will never use in their future careers. Although most teachers want to do right by their students, they too are caught in the excuse of “someone told me I had to teach it.” As opposed to stopping the conversation there, Lehmann offers some ways to change the traditional pattern of education we have created for ourselves. He believes that students and faculty should ask the questions they don’t know the answers to, but to be prepared to incorporate those questions into every class and every project. The administration and faculty should be honoring the lives that students are leading by daring them to ask questions about their identity, environmental systems, and change.
What I enjoyed most about this particular TEDx talk is that not only did Lehmann have a viable solution to the problem he was presenting, but his solution revolved a very simple set of ideas. As opposed to revolutionizing education with technology or social media, Lehmann merely suggests a change in the way we challenge students. For many years, traditional classrooms revolved around the concept of: information scarcity. In today’s world we have a contrasting information overload. The responsibility of the teacher is to help students make sense of all the available information that kids already have access to. Let’s allow students to search for answers, share what they create, and ensure them that what they are doing matters.
Chris Lehmann, TEDx Philly
The BAM! Radio Podcast I decided to listen to was: Teacher of The Year: 10 Radio. The title of this particular session was: Understanding by Design: What’s the Big Idea? This was immediately drawn to this podcast because of its focus on UBD. In many of my graduate classes at Marymount, I have been learning how to implement the basic framework of this teaching strategy and I was curious to know the practical application in the classroom from the perspective of a professional. The teacher being interviewed, Joseph “Joey” Lee was the 2014 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year and was recognized for his work with Understanding by Design in his social studies lessons and foreign exchange program. The questions he was asked were specific to why UBD is important and how new teachers can implement in in their own classrooms as a whole approach at the beginning of the school year.
Understanding by Design allows teachers to build a framework for students that enhances their learning. It encompasses the whole of the curriculum by outlining broad concepts and essential questions, and working towards clear questions and lesson plans. Lee describes UBD as an umbrella concept; by working backwards from standards and objectives down smaller lesson plans and activities, teachers are always remaining under the umbrella of their original purpose. How do teachers implement this strategy tomorrow? By creating expert grouping: taking an idea and unpacking it and relating the assignment to real life experiences. Hooking students into the lesson before the information is ever presented allows them to intrinsically motivate themselves to work harder. The resources available for Understanding by Design can be found with a simple google search. A good way to stay updated on research and lesson plan ideas is to follow certain Twitter names and blog sites. Overall, I found this broadcast – for being a short as it was – to be extremely informative. Listening to real teachers talk is much easier than finding specific text resources to read. Additionally, the BAM! Podcast website was very easy to navigate, I would definitely return to this site to search other popular radio stations.
Podcasts are definitely something I would consider for professional learning in the future. As a nurse, my mother listens to medical podcasts in the car and during her free time. By listening to the research findings of professionals in her field, she is able to stay relevant, learn about the newest ideas, and introduce new ideas to the colleagues on her nursing team. Why shouldn’t the concept of podcasts apply to all professions? Teachers can utilize websites like BAM! to explore new teaching strategies and get ideas for their own classrooms.
Here is the link to the BAM! Podcast website if you would like to take a look!
This article appeared on the front page of the Metro section of the Washington Post, Monday, June 8, 2015. As opposed to glorifying the profession, this article states exactly how a first-year kindergarten teacher is feeling at the end of the school year. As opposed to glorifying the profession, this article highlights how many new (and experienced) teachers are feeling about the vast amount of assessment in the classroom. This is definitely something to think about, especially due to the varying demographic characteristics of each school.
Take a look for yourself!
It has come to my attention that being open to the use of technology in the classroom is only the first step. In order for teachers to begin integrating technology into their lesson plans, they have to know where to start. I realize this statement may be redundant, but it is a fact that I have been rudely awakened to. Prior to starting my ED 554 Computers and Technology graduate class, I assumed I had a good understanding of social media, applications, and the Internet. Although this is true – I can navigate web pages and design basic blog sites relatively easily – I had no idea the extent of what technology can offer students. Throughout the past few weeks, I have found the best place to start is the Internet itself. By finding out what is popularly used by other teachers, I was able to gain some foundation of how and when popular sites are used within the curriculum. As far as interactive material goes, teachers have different options to offer students at any grade level. The most important part of using technology in the classroom is remaining up to date as to what is available: websites are constantly changing, information enhanced, and more educational opportunities created.
Below is an example of how I used my learning to create something new. I integrated several key words associated with technology into a related shape. With the help of my classmates and professor, I am constantly learning new ways to implement these creative ideas into my future classroom.
Regardless of the circumstance, I always walk away from watching a TED Talk feeling stricken with awe, inspired to implement change, and slightly mind blown. This particular TED Talk: Extracurricular Empowerment, was no different. Scott McLeod introduces “another story about teens and technology.” Contrary to the typical journal article or evening news update about how technology and social media are interrupting the learning process, McLeod offers a different interpretation of the Internet. This story was about Martha, a nine year old girl from Scotland who created a blog about the poor quality of her school lunch. By posting pictures and giving each of her lunches a rating, she gained popularity and followers. She began communicating with and inspiring children around the world to share the quality of their school lunches. As an blogger and activist, she was invited to speak on Nick Nairn’s cooking show and met famous chef, Jamie Oliver. Although she faced some retaliation, by virtually speaking out against poor nutrition, Martha was able to not only change the food served in Scottish schools, but raised over $200,000 American dollars for Mary’s Meals, a charity that feeds hungry school children. This was all done by a little girl’s idea to share her ideas and start a blog (outside the classroom). Martha and her award winning blog site are shown in the picture below.
The purpose of sharing this story, along with several other accounts of positive teen use of the Internet, was to give Scott McLeod an argument to move forward. This argument is one that I could not agree with more wholeheartedly: the Millennial generation is curious, disciplined, self-directed, and enthusiastic; they are critical thinkers, and problem solvers. They are exploring, learning, and sharing using the technology that is available to them outside the classroom. Why are the incredible characteristics of Digital Natives being excluded from classroom instruction? Because society (i.e. parents, teachers, administration, local governments, etc.) are preventing them from using it due to the fear of the unknown.
In order to enhance learning and mold classroom instruction to meet the needs of today’s students, we must make integrate the extracurricular use of technology into the classroom curriculum. According to Scott McLeod, the equation for this change is: Curricular = Fear – Control + Empowerment. The real question is, when will educators fully accept the need for this change, and how will we begin to implement this necessary resource into all classrooms?
David White, of the University of Oxford, has created a series of YouTube videos to analyze the increasing presence that individuals are having on the Internet and more specifically, social media. He distinguishes between two different types of users: residents and visitors. Residents of the digital world are completely at ease on the Internet and use social media as a place to communicate, share, and network. Contrastingly, visitors are those people who manage to engage the Internet but will never feel completely confident or accepting of the impact of social media. David White argues that these opposing forces lie on a continuum; everyone lies somewhere on this spectrum depending on their Internet activity. In this particular video, his debate revolves around the credibility of the Internet. Is easy access to information harming or helping visitors and residents, and what does this information imply for the future of education?
Before the 21st century, fast access to academic information was limited. Books and research articles sat on the shelves of public libraries, were written by experts, and controlled by publishing companies. Now, information is immediately accessible, convenient, relevant, and produces fast results. The Internet has completely transformed how society operates, learns, and communicates. Specific to education, the Millennial generation of students has a vast network of opportunity to find and share information. It is critical that educators understand where their students lie on the spectrum of visitors to residents, how they are using the Internet to learn, and the long-term impact of the Social Web.
David White argues that the horizontal spectrum of visitors vs. residents is intersected by a vertical line of personal vs. institutional Internet use. The biggest piece of information for educators to take away from this visual is that statistically, students are spending a majority of their time in the resident/personal quadrant (i.e. Facebook, Skype, Twitter), and not enough time in the resident/institutional quadrant. The goal of utilizing and implementing the use of computers and technology in the classroom will be to bridge this gap; students need to be shown how to be effective Digital Natives. Instead of ignoring or excluding technology and social media, it has become the responsibility of educators to open themselves to various forms of teaching. Teaching students how to use their technological abilities for educational use increases the likelihood that the students will become institutional residents, positively impacting their learning.