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Issues in Educational Technology [Type the document subtitle] My thoughts and feelings based on articles and discussion board posts read in EDU 707. This class was taken through Central Michigan University’s online program for Educational Technology. Patricia Till 12/6/2012


I began teaching in 2002; at that time, a teacher was considered a technological guru if she used a PowerPoint presentation in the classroom. My, how the world has changed! The World Wide Web is used today in almost every classroom across America at one point or another. Students are bringing their own devices—netbooks, tablets, laptops, MP3 players—to school to use to enhance their education. Many students are taking courses not offered in their school through online education. As these doors have opened, concerns have been raised. Many of those concerns were discussed through my participation in this class. My thoughts and feelings on various issues facing education and technology today are published in this paper. With the help of good teachers and supportive administrators, all students can learn to use technology effectively, safely, and ethically. Ensuring access to technology for the disadvantaged or disabled This is a difficult question to answer because there is no “magic” was to ensure access to technology for all. While there are some “easy” answers, even those are not always going to work. For example, many people believe that economically disadvantaged students can still access technology because of some of the following reasons: Many public libraries have computers. Many restaurants, motels, and other public places have wi-fi Many schools who receive Title 1 funds can loan students laptops and tablets to use at home Many schools are opening their doors early and staying open late for students to use their labs, etc. While this is all true, it does not necessarily guarantee that disadvantaged students will truly have access to technology. As teachers, there are other steps that we need to take. Many students who are economically disadvantaged may not have a ride to the public library, or they may not be able to go because they are working themselves. Some students may be living in a shelter, and they must be there by a certain time or lose their bed; what do we do for them? Many students do not go to Title 1 schools, so they cannot necessarily borrow equipment from their school. Some schools do not have the staff to monitor students before or after school in the library or lab. What can we do to help those kids? One of the big things that needs to be done is to communicate with the parents in a way that is non-judgmental. Many parents of disadvantaged students WANT their kids to be able to have the same opportunities, but they NEED their high school kids to work! Teachers can take the time and effort to figure out a solution. Perhaps the classroom teacher could offer to come in early, so that these students could at least have some access to a lab before school. Parental


permission is important, of course. Sometimes, talking to the parents about what needs to be done is all that it takes! The issue of access to technology for disabled students is even more complicated. While schools may be mandated to provide certain types of technology to students with all different types of disabilities, what can a teacher do for that student outside of school? Furthermore, what if the student doesn’t like the technology? For example, many blind students do not like the glare from the computers that will enlarge print. With either group of students, it seems to be that many of the problems occur when technology needs to be accessed at home. In today’s world, it is unfair if all students do not have opportunities to use technology, but many do not. It used to be that poor students might not have the same access to the fine arts as did other students; today, a bigger issue seems to be access to technology 24 hours a day.

Technology and a positive impact on learning Throughout time, teachers have been offered tools to help make life easier for the teacher and more educationally sound for the student. Unfortunately, misusing tools often causes students to become disinterested in learning and unengaged in their studies. For example, worksheets— when used properly—can help a student to review material, understand basic concepts, and remember details about a lesson. Unfortunately, most people who have been to school have also suffered through classes where the week becomes boring because of a practice similar to the following: Monday, read section 1 and do the worksheet. Tuesday, read section 2 and do the worksheet. Wednesday, read section 3 and do the worksheet. Thursday, read section 4 and do the worksheet. Friday, take a test on sections 1-4. Technology is the “latest and greatest” when it comes to education. What can we do, as educators, to make sure that students do not simply get “computer time” as a reward? An even more important question: What can we do, as educators, to make sure that we do not use technology as yet another “way” to do the “worksheet drill”? One thing for teachers to keep in mind that is very important is that their technology tools must align with their objectives. Teachers must ask themselves what the students are going to learn that day and how technology could help them learn the material. If technology won’t help, don’t use it! Countless blogs and wikis support the idea that if a tech tool isn’t going to add to the lesson in some way and make it better, there may not be real value in using it. It is up to individual teachers to learn the technology tools they may share with their students.


A question many teachers need to ask is: Can my students learn to use this tech tool quickly, or am I going to spend more time teaching them the tool than teaching them the lesson? If using technology is going to take up tons of time, there may be other ways to get the lesson across. In addition, teachers should examine whether or not they can go back to a tech tool and use it frequently. It may be that a teacher thinks something is going to be awesome…and it turns out to be a pain in the neck. If this is the case, put it aside and find some other method!!! Finally, teachers need to examine “how” they allow their students to learn and use the technology. Many of the digital natives in school today learn best by practicing and playing with technology; they don’t like a long lecture on what to do if they are not going to be given much time to do it! All students need access to the technology, not just the “good” kids. Used properly, technology can increase positive student learning outcomes. Used improperly, it becomes just another gimmick or thing on the “to do” list.

Cheating I agree with what my classmates have said already: if students took the time to study that they take to make cheat sheets such as the pop bottle one, they would probably not need to cheat!! :) That being said, I think there are both some simple and some more complicated steps we can take as teachers to prevent some of the cheating going on. Most teachers today seem to have a pretty good grasp on how to prevent cheating on "traditional" tests. I know that in my room, I walk around during a test to make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing. I ask students to place water bottles, electronic devices, and food on the floor. They are not allowed access to their electronics until all tests have been turned in. Even then, I may need to reassess what I say about that. I wouldn't want them immediately texting ideas to their friends in other classes! I think as we introduce new forms of assessment, the ability to cheat becomes greater. One free website that can help detect plagiarism is paperrater.com. I have used this, as most of my students submit their papers electronically. It is not quite as good as Turnitin.com, but it is free :) My students often run their papers through paperrater before even giving them to me, which helps them fix their mistakes ahead of time :) As we begin to use cell phones as clickers, iPads in the classroom, electronic tests, etc., I think we are going to have to adjust how we work to stop cheating. As others have said, it appears we need to teach ethics/morality as well as test material. It can sometimes be difficult to know what the boundaries are for students. We encourage them to use technology, but then we take away that technology at times to prevent cheating. I think teachers need more training on this as more and more classrooms are becoming 1:1. Creating different versions of a test can


help, as can being vigilant, but we cannot change how a student views cheating unless we start teaching them these things very early. Training Teachers with Technology All teachers—including those who are “tech savvy”—can become frustrated with technology at times. One of the most frustrating parts of using technology in the classroom is the fact that many schools buy some great tools for teachers to use…but these same schools then fail to provide the training and support that teachers need in order to best use these tools to enhance the education of their students. Too many times, teachers are left to train each other on equipment and tools that they really don’t have a firm grasp of how to use. I can personally think of three tools introduced to me over the past few years which initially caused some frustration. This year, I was very excited to have a document camera in my room. I could finally show examples of student writing or pictures out of a book without having to scan things and make copies! Unfortunately, it took a couple of weeks…and the help of some students…to figure out how to adjust the camera properly for each piece I wanted to show. There was no instruction manual or quick “how-to” session provided by my school; the camera was simply placed in my room at the beginning of the year, and I was told to make sure to use it! I was also excited this year to learn that we would be upgrading to Blackboard 9.1; this was supposed to be a friendlier platform for our hybrid classes. While I regularly help other teachers use Blackboard and am considered an “expert” by some, I know that I have to play around with it to figure it out half of the time. I constantly feel like I am just one step ahead of my students! Finally, I remember when I was first handed an iPad last year and told to use it and all of its great apps to enhance student learning. While the iPad is not difficult to use, figuring out how to best use it for 10th grade students to enhance learning is not as simple as pushing a few buttons! I feel that if more professional development had been spent on the iPad, it would have benefited both me and my students. The same can be said for Blackboard 9.1. As far as the document camera goes, a simply instruction manual probably would have sufficed  I think the suggestion made about allowing teachers to choose their own professional development is key to making sure that teachers can use technology for education in the classroom. Everyone is at different levels of being comfortable with technology, so professional development should be personalized to each individual teacher. It is the same principle that we use with students all of the time; we can’t expect a student who reads at a 5th grade level to approach Hamlet in the same way we expect a student who reads at a 12 th grade level to approach the same literature. I wish that more schools would allow teachers to go to “stations” on professional development days. We tried this at the beginning of the year, and we received


some great feedback from some of our teachers. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the funds or the expertise to have as many stations as we would have liked. However, our teachers liked having “break-out� sessions during the two professional development days at the beginning of the year. The only downfall was that about six of us were leading those break-out sessions; this meant that we could not really further our own development on those days. It required us to attend trainings and workshops on our own time in the summer; while I think it was worthwhile, I hope that the rest of my staff will step up to the plate this year! It will always be difficult to make sure that technology is being integrated with classroom instruction. I think that at times, giving it time is the key factor. For example, many teachers were unfamiliar with how to use short video or audio clips to enhance instruction a few years ago. They may have thought that having a projector in their room should only be used for showing movies! Today, most teachers with projectors regularly use them in short segments to enhance a traditional lesson. I rarely see full-length movies being played anymore unless that is the point of the class! Teachers need time to play with and use the technology given to them; they cannot become experts in a day or even a week. They need to be allowed to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes, the same as we need to allow students to grow in our classrooms.

ICT Competency Standards In reading over the competencies in the report, I found the idea of "knowledge creation" to hit home with me. As we are adopting the Common Core Standards in all of our core subjects, I think that students will be called upon to create innovative projects, demonstrations, and skill sets to show what they know. I think that technology has the ability to help students become creators of knowledge, but it has, unfortunately, not done so yet. Many students have only a very basic skill set when it comes to technology. I know that in my classes, students often want me--the teacher--to basically hold their hand throughout any project. For example, I had my students creating some videos using Animoto. This is a website that allows you to upload pictures, videos, text, and music to create digital stories about a topic. I wanted my history students to create digital stories about a variety of topics surrounding the 1920s: flappers, automobiles, radio, etc. Some of my students ran with the project, but many of them wanted me to tell them how to do it, step-by-step. They are still uncomfortable "creating knowledge" to share with others. I think that we need to encourage students to be life-long learners, and this is one of the goals of the knowledge creation standard. Students are encouraged to create their own learning goals and plans, and this is a key feature of many of the changes taking place in schools today. I


know that I began having students not only write their own learning goals but also chart their progress toward those goals in my classes this year. This seems to help students become more engaged in the learning process. Of course, I use technology to do it…they graph things online  As the students in my hybrid classes create their goals, they can also share them with parents and other students on their wiki sites. I agree with the idea that teachers must be the leaders in showing students how to use technology effectively to communicate and collaborate with others. By setting good examples, teachers can encourage all students to take part in their own learning.

Internet Safety and Social Networking In reading the article this week, I found many of the comments interesting because I feel like I have gone through many of the same experiences as the administrators and teachers interviewed. At one time, I was against social media in the classroom; however, I have come to somewhat embrace it. Our high school students use Facebook more than they use the telephone; many of them do not even have a “landline” in the house! If this is how they communicate, it is our responsibility as teachers to teach them how to stay safe and communicate effectively online. There have always been worries about keeping kids safe. While it is true that we need to do what we can to protect them, I sometimes wonder if we don’t at times go overboard with protection. For example, I have often wanted to use perfectly safe and educational sites at school…only to have those sites blocked by our filters. I think many of us have had this experience! It seems that most students will let teachers know if something is inappropriate in the classroom; I know I have had many students show me pictures that were drawn in books or notes that were written in dictionaries. We need to teach them to let us know about inappropriate Internet postings as well! If we keep the lines of communication open between the students and the teachers, I think we will go far in helping to keep our students safe. Different aged students need different types of protection and education; what is appropriate to discuss with high school seniors is not always appropriate to discuss with third grade students, after all! As the students grow, we need to educate them on Internet safety and social media. Far too many high school students have experienced cyber bullying or online threats; we need to make sure they know who to go to for help if this occurs. Social media is here to stay. It is our job as teachers to educate our students about how to use it appropriately!


Ethics It is easy to say that teachers and schools promote good ethics in the classroom at all times. However, in reading a couple of this week’s articles and links, I discovered that this is not always the case. For example, in “The Educator’s Guide to Copyright and Fair Use,” the way that teachers often use charts, songs, graphs, and maps is discussed. Many teachers (myself included) often show things or play things for their students without saying where the information originally came from or who owns the copyright on it. I know that I am often guilty of this in my history class. I sometimes question whether or not I should tell my students where I got some of the information I present to them, and I now have come to realize that I should! (I do let them know when I use a presentation or a story written by someone else. I just never thought of it for everything I show!) Another, trickier, example was shown to me in “10 Big Myths about copyright explained.” I often encourage my students to “copy” an author’s style or tone when writing their own stories. At first, for students who need more guidance, this means copying the characters and even the dialogue. I never really thought about this as a violation of copyright, but in a way it is. Granted, my students don’t publish their work. However, I need to make sure that I am informing them about what the law is and how it is appropriate to use stories as models when learning but not when submitting a published copy! The scary thing is that copyright is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ethics in the classroom Today’s students struggle to learn ethics. While it is easy to blame parents for part of the problem (OUR parents never condoned cheating!!!! In fact, we would have been in serious trouble if we copied something and passed it off as our own!!! This is what you hear from a lot of teachers, no matter their age!), students do spend roughly 7-8 hours in school every day. Schools and teachers need to start to teach ethics at an early age and continue teaching ethics all the way through college. Most high school students understand that copying another’s work off of the Internet or paying one of those companies to write an essay is not “right.” So, why do they do it anyway? I think they do because the consequence of such actions is not always completely negative or serious enough. For example, if a kid gets away with it, they sometimes get a positive consequence from their friends. (Wow! You got away with that? You’re so awesome!!) They might even get paid by others who are desperate to get an essay done in five minutes! Even if a student gets “caught” by the teacher, the punishment is sometimes not enough to deter them from this behavior. Many teachers give a zero and perhaps a detention, but the students are usually required to redo the assignment and can still earn points for it. For students who don’t care about these consequences, do they really matter? In addition, while it is easy for teachers to tell kids that cheating in the “real world” doesn’t cut it, students don’t


always believe that. They sometimes see adults they admire cheat and get away with it. They also see or hear about celebrities who get second chances for many unethical behaviors. This makes teaching kids about responsibility and ethics a difficult job. We can start to help our students have a better handle on ethics by modeling good behavior. We need to show them—both through our own actions as writers, presenters, and researchers and through our own actions as a diligent teachers—that using technology to cheat is not correct. We need to help them understand that giving people credit for their work should be the only way to get through life. We need to have consequences that matter and chances for kids to practice in a safe classroom. We need to encourage parents to be on our side and reinforce our lessons at home. Finally, we need to use every opportunity we can to help students use technology properly!

References Starr, Linda. "The Educator's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use." Education World. N.p., 25 2010. Web. 3 Dec 2012. Templeton, Brad. "10 Big Myths about copyright explained." Brad Templeton's Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec 2012. <http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html>.


Issues in Educational Technology