1 Bringing Technology Into the Classroom A Review of Web 2.0 Resources from EDUC 649 Becky Campbell May 13, 2012, Chapman University
Even prior to EDUC 649 I considered technology a vital resource and tool to include in the classroom because so much of the world outside the classroom is technology based and I have always felt it is out job as educators to prepare our students to be ready for the real world and that includes the technology based work place. In my prior experience working in an Elementary school I would not say that there was enough technology education or access. My class of thirty first graders had access to four very old and outdated computers in our classroom as well as once a week we were scheduled for fifty minutes in the school’s computer lab. The computers in our classroom did not work consistently or quick enough for the programs I would try to run on them for the students. They were in constant need of repair, which took weeks to get done, and when one was finally repaired something else would be wrong with one of the other computers. Needless to say I did not rely heavily on these computers for my lesson plans and student projects. I had a computer at my desk that I could use to show videos, internet sites and such but it was also fairly slow so did not run anything with Flash software well. My school had access to smart pads that the teachers could use to hook up to the ELMO projectors in each classroom but since I was a long-‐term sub they did not feel it was necessary to invest the resources or training needed to have it installed in my classroom. All in all, my first experience with teaching my own classroom ended up being fairly light on technology. I hope now that I have more resources and knowledge about what is out there for teachers and classrooms from EDUC 649 that when I am back in the classroom I can make a case for getting the technology resources I need for my students and using them meaningfully in my lessons. I understand that there are many pros and cons to using technology in the classroom but I feel that as long as educators are aware of both and are able to work around the cons in order to make the technology
experience for students a meaningful one that leads students towards technological competency and fluency in the real world then the pros far out weigh the cons. Through EDUC 649 I have collected a portfolio of many Web 2.0 technologies and resources that I hope to incorporate into my classroom someday. First, I would like to create a webpage for my classroom. I would give the address to the parents of my students and encourage them to check in on a regular basis. I would have a page where they could find weekly homework assignment instructions in case they were misplaced by the students. I would also create a resource page on places in the local area for fun, free or low cost activities they can take their children to. I would keep a calendar that notes both school wide activities as well as special projects, deadlines and events in my class. I would have a page that is set up like a blog for weekly newsletters to keep them informed about what we are doing in class and posts on links to articles they may find useful or interesting. I found in my first grade class that if I did weekly newsletters that were printed and sent home inevitably they would be lost by students or misplaced by parents and it was a lot of copies in boring black and white. By having the newsletter as a blog post on my classroom webpage I can create a more visually appealing look and interactive experience by hyperlinking articles or other webpages, embedding video or audio and including pictures from the classroom. I hope that having a weekly blog such as this would allow parents to have a better connection to what their students are doing in the classroom and keep a dialogue open with me through comments on the posts or emails. Through the Wix webpage I can easily create a classroom webpage for free that is virtually add-‐free (aside from those for the Wix online webpage creation software) and make a page that is for the blog. I could also use a free online blog site such as WordPress or
Blogger and link it back to my classroom webpage. All of these web 2.0 resources are easy to use and manage and have very little adds on them. I could also pay fairly minimal fees to upgrade my pages in order to exclude the adds. Another web 2.0 tool I would include in my classroom would be online presentation softwares such as Prezi or Projeqt. These tools are a much better use of web 2.0 technology than the old PowerPoint software. With Prezi I can create a much more interactive presentation and embed YouTube videos and files which was harder to do in the old static and linear PowerPoint presentations. My students can also work together on a Prezi from anywhere since it allows people to edit together at the same time over the internet. I can use the Projeqt tool to upgrade my old PowerPoint presentations and insert live Twitter or blog feeds to incorporate up to date information, interactive maps for geography or history lessons, or videos from anywhere on the web. Having access to these presentations from wherever I have internet access is a great advancement because I can work on them from work or home as well as access them to present to classes no matter where we are in the building. For presentations and group projects in class I would connect my students to the VoiceThreads web tool where they can use pictures to create presentations along with audio and video embedded in the presentation. Other students can then go in and comment on the presentations to give the groups feedback or make connections to their own projects. Students can work on the VoiceThreads website in class or from home since it is web-‐based so it is easily accessible. This makes both working with VoiceThreads and presenting them very interactive and student driven verses when the teacher is the only one to comment or give feedback on projects.
If I was working with an older classroom I would consider creating an EdModo class group for my students to be able to utilize and connect with each other outside of the classroom. This could be a very good resource for them to use when working on homework or papers and I would be able to check the comments and discussions from home and answer any questions that were not already answered by the other students. I like EdModo because it is add free and I feel that parents would have less hesitation in letting their students use the EdModo site rather than Facebook because it is meant for an educational setting so is safer and less accessible to outside people. While there are so many positive outcomes to utilizing and incorporating technology and web 2.0 tools into the classroom, I also recognize that there are cons and downsides that as a teacher are my responsibility to be aware of and consider when choosing what to use in my classroom. First, I think one of the biggest drawbacks to utilizing technology is access— both at home and in school. As I noted before, the first grade classroom that I worked in for about a year was very limited on working and up to date technology. The computers we had were too old to keep up with the advanced software and flash components of a lot of the programs and web based resources I would have liked to use. Also, as a teacher I would have to consider if my students had access to computers and the internet in their homes. A lot of the software I would like to utilize in class and have students use at home for projects such as Prezi, Projeqt, and VoiceThreads require internet connection. If I ask them to work on group projects that they can all edit from home then I need to make sure they have the access to do so. Another drawback to utilizing technology in the classroom is that it is forever changing. It is one thing to be a teacher who keeps up with where software advances are
going and new tools to use in the classroom but it is another to be able to afford these ever-‐ changing technologies. As soon as you purchase a computer it is obsolete in a year to the new technologies that so quickly move past it in capabilities. Districts do not have the funding to keep up with the turnover and a typical teacher’s salary cannot afford to do so either. While keeping this in consideration, I think it is important for teachers to stay up to date with changing technologies but not necessarily invest in them or request their schools or districts to do so until the new technologies or softwares have the bugs worked out. It is also important to consider if technical support or repair comes with the technology and how you can access that when needed. Using free online software also comes with some downsides. Usually if the software is free there are adds on the pages in order to pay for the service. When choosing to use free web resources we need to review them closely to make sure that the adds are not too distracting from what the purpose of our students using that particular website is. A lot of the online game websites are very add heavy. Funbrain and Scholastic are two popular websites that seem to have a lot of adds on their pages. Most of the adds seem to be for educational products and sites but when a young student sees these flashy adds they may not know what their purpose is and go to those websites. Once students get out of the websites that you have screened for safety you cannot control what content they may eventually get to. Starfall is a website with math games, literacy resources and reading games that does not have many adds but it is mainly geared towards younger elementary aged students. Adds should not mean that a teacher chooses not to use a website, there are many free resources out there that are great to use with students but have some adds. A teacher simply needs to screen the resources to make sure the adds do not outweigh the
service and teach their students what to look for on the websites and how to avoid the adds as much as possible. While it is our job as teachers to keep our students informed and connected to new technologies and web 2.0 resources so that they are prepared to be digital citizens of the real world, it is also our job to keep them safe when using the internet. We need to screen new web-‐based technologies we bring into our class to make sure that there are safe guards to protect our students’ identities and privacy as well as keeping them from connecting to unknown strangers through those resources. Along with screening the safety and security of these technologies we need to be sure to teach our students how to be savvy and safe web users and why those things are important. They need to really understand the risks involved in connecting to the world wide web because it is just that—the entire world and anyone on it. Facebook and Twitter are very relevant examples of web 2.0 tools that we can use in our classrooms but could open connections to unsafe people for our students to interact with. Being able to monitor our students’ access without limiting it too much can certainly be a drawback and a risk some teachers are not willing to take in their classrooms. I do not feel that is fair to students or their futures, we cannot hide them from the web but need to teach them how to wisely navigate and manage it. Creating digital citizens should be a priority to every teacher today. While we need to protect our students from other people on the internet we also need to make sure that our students are not abusing it themselves. Cyber-‐bullying is on a rise today and a lot of it happens outside of school grounds and hours so currently there is not a lot schools can do. It is a pervasive issue though that teachers and administrators must be aware of, “at least 40 percent of high school students have been cyber bullied while in
high school, and… the figure is nearly double among middle school students,” (Koebler, 2011). As teachers we need to talk to our students about the responsibilities of what being a digital citizen are. That includes the responsibility to use the internet as a source for connections, research and resources, not a place to hide their identities in order to not get caught bullying others. I believe cyber-‐bullying is on the rise today because of the passive-‐ aggressive nature of bullying someone online verses face to face where it may be harder for the perpetrator to do so. Our students must understand the consequences that cyber-‐ bullying can bring so that they fully understand what it means to be a digital citizen. While there are some downsides and cons to using technology in the classroom those can easily be overcome with attention to the resources you are choosing to present to students and have them use in the classroom. As teachers we are responsible for staying in the know about new resources that come out and for reviewing the ones we already use in the classroom to check for changes in access and making sure they are still relevant to our students. In order to prepare our students to be digital citizens and capable of going into jobs that will require them to be fluent in technologies and able to quickly pick up new ones, we need to start fostering technology competence and skills at a young age. It is important to teach students about safety in using the internet, problem solving in using different software, and how to access trustworthy resources in which to do research. Web 2.0 is here and as teachers of future generations we must support them in utilizing the technologies of today that they will one day be revolutionizing into the web 3.0 era and beyond.
Citations Koebler, Jason. (2011). Cyber Bullying Growing More Malicious, Experts Say. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/high-‐ school-‐notes/2011/06/03/cyber-‐bullying-‐growing-‐more-‐malicious-‐experts-‐say