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Archive for February, 2010

While I find that both of these are useful in the classroom, they are two quite different computer tools that serve different purposes in the classroom. Spreadsheets are usually made from software programs. They contain rows and columns and are used to record and compare numerical or financial data. (Rogers, 2010) The most common spreadsheet software at schools is Microsoft Excel or Mac Numbers. Teachers least often use this software for instruction and data management. I have yet to receive any professional development, in my nine years of teaching, on spreadsheets.

Spreadsheet software is commonly used to help make databases. A database collects and arranges information to give users access to analyze that information in a logical and rational way. The gradebook management system is one example in my school; another example is the database service we use for some classroom materials because it is more cost effective to pay for a database of information than a textbook. I find databases much more common in the school setting I’m accustomed to.
I feel that the spreadsheet program could be a more powerful tool in educators’ hands if they were given more training and templates to use as a way to track informal and formal assessments. I state this because it is a cheaper option for schools to track progress. Databases and spreadsheets are used to analyze information about students. Databases can be bought to track student progress, but a good template can do the same thing on a smaller scale in the classroom, and it is already installed on the teacher’s computer. I have done basic self-training for using spreadsheets for the classroom using a website called CASTLE. (McLeod, 2010)

Premade databases that schools use are great, but they are not usually free. We spend thousands of dollars a year to have access to testing databases that we use only twice a year. It is great information that we get back, but I don’t think that it is worth more than knowing the weekly information you can get from informal data using a simple spreadsheet template.

McLeod, S. (2010, February 23). School data tutorials. Retrieved from http://www.schooltechleadership.org/school-data-tutorials/

Rogers, C. (2010, February 08). What is a Spreadsheet?. Retrieved from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-spreadsheet.htm

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One of the main advantages of using technology in education is the personalization of instruction. Educational software is one of the keys to this personalization of instruction. Educational software covers a variety of areas: drill & practice, tutorials, simulation, application, educational games, and databases. Each area has its own advantages in the classroom.
Drill & practice software is great for memorization of facts, such as multiplication tables, country’s locations, etc. Some people would contend that this is not the type of education that students need. Students need to create and understand high concepts, but students must first master lower order information to more easily master high order thinking skills. You cannot ask a child to run before they walk. Drill & practice software provides a great advantage over the typical worksheet and paper and pencil. The software gives immediate feedback, can transform information into long-term memory, saves time, and allows for tracking of student progress. (Roblyer, Mills, & Roblyer, 2005)
Tutorial software can have elements of drill & practice. The advantages of tutorial software is that it offers remediation, gives more students more detailed feedback, and allows the student to work on his or her own.
Simulation software saves school district’s money and allows students to run through a situation multiple times. Simulation software gives students a chance to play out advanced setups of a lab experiment without having to get out all the equipment. In some cases, it is cheaper for districts to buy simulation software, as opposed to buying all the experimental stock to carry out the experiment. Plus, it is safer for the students.
Application software is the most useful for students to learn how to use in school because it is the type of software they will be using on the job: Word, Excel, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, etc. It gives the option for students to create a project in a way different from the pencil and paper. A study by Henry Becker shows engagement levels for students increase when using a computer with application software. (Becker, 2000)
Educational games have their merits in the classroom. They may not always tie directly into the curriculum outcomes for a class, but they provide a huge motivator for some students. Who wouldn’t rather play a game about running a business instead of filling out worksheets for a social studies or economics class? Sometimes a game makes the most complex problems easier to understand.
Database software has helped greatly in school districts in the past decade. We used to talk about making progress towards educational goals, but we had limited data to back up our claims. We can track large numbers of students and their progression over time. I feel that databases that deal with informal assessments of students in a classroom could be a huge advantage for teachers. Before database software, we were limited to mailing out communication to parents, and now emails and online access makes communication much more effective.
The thing that gets me the most excited about the advantages of educational software is the sheer amount of free software to be used and the possibility of application for devices like the iTouch. Software doesn’t have to be limited to just computers. Devices like the iTouch can be effective tools in the hands of children and educators. The number of software applications is rising rapidly, and they cover almost all the above categories of educational software. With time, tomorrow’s handheld devices will be able to do so much more than even expensive, top of the line desktop computers.

Becker, Henry Jay. (2000). Pedagogical Motivations for Student Computer Use That Lead to Student Engagement. UC Irvine: Center for Research on Information Technology and Organizations. Retrieved from: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/2t36d99n

Roblyer, M., Mills, Steven, & Roblyer, M. (2005). Technology tools for teachers. Prentice Hall.

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This would by my introduce to my school board for a 1 to 1 laptop program, and other needed technologies for my school district. It doesn’t detail all the plans you would need for an whole integration of a program, but just a starting point.

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Essential Questions

What principles should guide your approach for integrating technology into instruction?

Here are some principles you should keep in mind when integrating technology into a school district.
• Technology is a tool for students and should not be integrated just so the teacher can say they’re using it.
• The focus of the instruction should not be the technology, but rather the learning outcomes of the lesson or unit.
• This is how students communicate or will communicate in the future, so teachers should embrace the change.
• Teachers need practice with the technology and not to just be told how to use it.
• Technology should be used to allow students to create, explore, collaborate, and expand their world through both information and experiences.

Teachers have to understand that the tool (technology) is not to be the objective of lessons. Students will be able to understand the technology quickly because they are digital natives and digital immigrants. (Prensky, 2001) Students today have to “power down” when they come to school. Not all students will quickly grasp the technology, but technology allows for self-pacing and differentiation of instruction. The teacher can also facilitate for the needs of the student.
Most new technology is not difficult, just unfamiliar to teachers. (I’m sure some teachers fought the use of TVs in the classroom.) The instructor doesn’t have to be an expert, but he or she must know how to run the basics. Instead of fighting students about having cell phones in class, they can set aside a day for students to answer polls through text messages. (http://www.polleverywhere.com/) Teachers can then have them make charts over the responses, or it can guide the discussion. Technology was invented to make our lives easier if it is used correctly.
Teachers have to be given time to practice with the technology to be comfortable with using it in the classroom. We know from the research of Joyce & Showers that merely telling teachers about something only convinces a small percentage of teachers to try it in the classroom. It takes practice with the professional skill and feedback in the classroom to insure that teachers will ingrain the skill into their teaching strategies on a regular basis. (Joyce & Showers, 1988) The school is an environment of being correct, and only brave teachers will venture out on a ledge and be willing to be wrong about something in front of students. Teachers need to feel at least secure in the knowledge they know the basics.
The most important factor to consider when integrating technology is whether it is best for students. If you are in education and you don’t believe in doing what is best for students, then you are in the wrong business. Technology can level the playing field for students. It can open up a world of knowledge and experiences to students from all walks of life and different backgrounds. Technology allows for differentiation; it opens up access to advanced classes; it helps connect students with foreign experiences. Technology by itself will not solve all the problems in the education system or replace teachers. It is, however, a tool that allows students to master small memorization tasks and to practice more advanced skills and create something original.
Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (1988) Student achievement through staff development. White Plains, New York, Longman

Prensky, M, (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon (NCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001)

How is technology affecting the learning process?

In the past decade, I have observed technology leading to the following effects.

• Positives
o Students are now multitaskers.
o Students can access information quickly and in larger quantities.
o Levels the playing field at schools (anyone can access)
• Digital Divide; iTunes University, Open Courseware, etc.
o Offers more learning opportunities: online classes for poor, rural, remedial, and advanced level
o Personalization
• More able to adapt to the individual’s learning
o Does away with memorization-
• Everything is right there, so why go backwards?

• Negatives
o Students are now multitaskers.
o Bad grammar and spelling
o Students are bad at differentiating between good information and bad
o Easier to steal ideas

The positives have outweighed the negatives in my teaching experience. Students are more capable at multitasking than my generations or past ones. It can even be seen in the way their brains are wired. It is both good and bad. Students can bring together multiple resources in a project more quickly, but studies have also shown that multitasking leads to poor quality. (Hamilton, 2010) I think that technology has shortened attention spans, but this is probably more related to the student’s interest level in a particular subject.
The sheer amount of information online today is staggering when compared to the limited amount of books in the school library. It usually takes little or no effort to find the answers you are looking for on any subject. It also makes it easier for students to pass off other people’s ideas as their own. I have noticed the quality of the information increased in my classrooms, but the level of original thought shown in the work from pulling together multiple ideas has not grown at the same rate. I have had to deal with teaching students how to find the right information. With so much out there, it is hard for them to sometimes understand that not everything on the Internet is true.
Technology removes barriers for students. It doesn’t care where you are at, how much money you have, or your level of education. Technology allows students to remediate lessons or recover credits. Technology allows for advanced classes or different classes that can be offered on site. Students and teachers can take open university classes for free. I often listen to podcasts from different iTunes universities to refresh myself on a subject or to learn something new. This openness of information ties into the personalization that can take place because of technology. I can give students an opportunity to explore the subjects in a generalitive learning environment. Some students will run with their project, and some will crawl, but they are both maximizing their learning if my instruction and facilitation is strong. Technology addresses all levels of needs within a classroom.
Technology does away with memorization of mundane details. I know that some teachers find it frustrating that students don’t know facts that were drilled into them when they were young, but that is the world we live in. I was raised with calculators, while my dad had a slide rule. Do I need to how to operate a slide ruler when I have a calculator? As Einstein said, “Never memorize something that you can look up.” I’m not saying that basic knowledge is not important, and that you can’t merely create something without any background knowledge. Technology, however, is changing the game on how easy it is to get information. I can’t imagine a world now without an Internet browser on my phone. We should be focusing more on creating rather than memorizing in education.
The last negative is that spelling and grammar is getting worse, in my opinion, and I’m part of that trend. Texting and spell check have made me lazy, much like a lot of my students. It is a problem for this generation because more and more communications in the business world take place via text, email, and multimedia. Grammatical errors and misspelling will stand out.

Hamilton, J. (2010, Feburary 09). Multitasking teens may be muddling their brains. Retrieved from index2.php?reqstyleid=1#

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