Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Journey

In the beginning of this journey, I viewed technology as just one more thing I would like to know more about but thought I lacked the skills or the patience to figure out. While I know there is much out there still to learn and improve upon, I feel like I have traveled a great distance in my quest to learn and improve.  One area of growth actually came through my willingness to try new programs and technology in my class.  I have discovered that I am able to do much more than I thought I could.  I am not afraid to search around web sites and use new programs.   My class now uses the lap tops and iPods weekly.   So what if my students know more than I do – I can learn from them, and they enjoy being able to show me something new.  I have also grown in my comfort and ability with power points.  I can download animated clips, sounds, and even embed hyperlinks. My greatest growth has actually come in the amount of technology I have been incorporating in my lessons with my students. 
As I move forward in my teaching, I am looking for more ways to use what I have learned.  I will definitely keep up with my teacher web page.  My teaching practice will be enhanced as I create and use power points and web quests to engage my students.  A future goal is to find and use You Tube clips to enhance lessons and bring learning to life.  Overall, my teaching practice will change and improve as I continue to find ways to incorporated technology whenever possible.
This digital immigrant may not be ready to apply for a green card yet, but is well on her way to obtaining a work visa!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

All Aboard!

Now that I am on the boat, how do I encourage others to board as well?  One of the best things I can do is to continue to use technology in my classroom and talk to others about what my kids and I are doing.   Hopefully my excitement will become contagious and draw others in.  By showing others what I have done and giving them specific sites and examples to try, their interest might be sparked.  Hey, if I can do it, anyone can!
Staff members are already starting to climb on board.  They are seeing the benefits of integrating technology into the classroom.  In order to prevent them from jumping overboard, I must find ways to serve as a teacher leader in my building.   My “to do list” will consist of many things. It will begin with continuing to grow more confident as a technology user myself.  I need to understand what I am trying to teach.  Then I will begin to share some sites and programs with others.  My “to do list” will continue with finding time to make myself available to help others, either  individually or in small groups, become more familiar with the technology we have available at our building.   Many teachers are willing to incorporate different technology into their rooms; they just are lacking in the knowledge and experience.  By starting small and holding short workshops, hopefully interest, excitement, knowledge, and use in the classroom will increase.  Several staff members have already approached me asking, “How do you use those (iPods or lap tops) in the classroom?” or, “I like that (homepage or power point).  I want to make one also!  Can you help me?”
I can share many things I have learned over the past few weeks with the staff at my school during staff or grade level meetings.  Sharing tools I have used or created such as web-quests, power points, and a teacher web page, will help facilitate and encourage others to also find new ways to incorporate technology into their teaching.   I can also share the possibilities of using wikis, twitter, and blogs in their teaching and communications with home.   
Technology has become such a major part in the lives of the children we are teaching.  Isn’t it about time technology becomes a major part in how we are teaching children?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lion, Tigers, and the Internet...Oh My!

While I am slowly gaining more and more knowledge about various internet technologies, I am also having more and more concerns.  The internet is a wonderful place that is full of information that can bring learning to life for many children.  It can also be a scary place of images, posts, and predators that make parents cringe.  I fear the possibility of a child ending up on an inappropriate site.  I also worry about the personal security of my students and their families.  There are many sites out there that attract younger students.  Are all of these sites safe?  What personal information are they asking for in order to register as a user?  Who is monitoring these sites and viewing this information?   What pop-ups or links are they going to encounter?  Although our school system has a great firewall, individual houses do not. 

Accessibility to individual lap tops for the students to use is not an immediate concern, but as more and more teachers hop on the “technology boat” I see it becoming a bigger concern.  I can usually gain access to one of the four computer carts in our building for use in my classroom.  This is due largely in part to the fact that half the teachers in the building do not use them.  As we begin to push technology and show them how it opens many doors, the computer carts are going to be in greater demand.  This means they will not be available as often.

So the new question… How do I deal with these concerns?   First and foremost, internet safety needs to be brought up and discussed.  In an ideal world, the students would only use the internet while supervised by adults.  Since this doesn’t always happen, students need to know how be safe on the internet.  For example, they should know not to give out personal information.  If a web-site requires a membership or a registration, they should get an adult.  My mission…. find a video, maybe through you-tube, to show and discuss in class.  I also need to teach my students about “Google” and how to search safely outside of school – with adult help.

On to the next concern….while I hope more teachers would use and teach students with technology, it is limited at our school.   It’s simple supply and demand.   I can alleviate this concern by planning a set time each week to have the lap top carts in my room.   This “routine” will also give the students something to look forward to and encourage myself to plan more lessons using technology and the internet.  This will be my next mission.  I think both of these missions are possible… and I choose to accept them!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Let’s admit it.  We all have those clothes in our closet that we go to when nothing else seems to work.   Or maybe it’s that simple recipe we keep in our back pocket when we can’t think of anything else to make for dinner.   Software applications are just the same.  I seem to always gravitate to the same programs and applications. 
Just recently I purchased a new computer with Microsoft Word 2010.  Why is it that I still find myself lugging home my school computer?  I can answer that one very easily.  My school lap top runs Microsoft Word 2003.  I am familiar with that program and can very quickly type letters or create worksheets and activities.    I also have my lesson plan template saved in Word.  This makes creating new plans very easy.  The structure is already there and all I have to do is add the objectives and procedures.    I will even open a Word document just to spellcheck a word!   I would be lost without some version of Word.  My goal is to become just as comfortable with Word 2010 as I am with 2003.   Another software program I use daily is Easy Grade Pro.  Gone are the days of recording grades in a paper grade book and then staying up for hours calculating totals for each child.  With the touch of a button, I have missing work reports, class averages, and progress reports ready to send home.
I have also used many PowerPoint presentations that I have found on-line.  The students love the sounds and pictures that accompany these presentations.  I also think they like the fact that they don’t have to wait while I write on the chalkboard or the overhead.    While I use many PowerPoint lessons in my room, I have actually created very few of them (okay, none of them).   Learning how to create my own PowerPoint presentations along with sounds and animated pictures is another goal of mine.
So I have my goals, but where do I start?   The first thing I need to do is quit dragging home my school lap top.  This will force me the use Word 2010 and become more familiar with its layout and functions.   Currently, I am working on my very own PowerPoint along with graphics and sounds.  I am continuing to find sites on-line that allow me to download sounds and graphics.  Although I have been tempted to throw my computer through the window a few times, my presentation is almost ready for my students.   I hope to have at least one PowerPoint to use with my students each week.   I have a feeling my lap top is about to become my new best friend!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The 21st Century

Let’s face it, time are changing!  Education in the 21st century is very different from that of the 20th century.   Are you on the boat or in the ocean treading water?  When I was in elementary school, I really don’t remember the focus being on anything other than the core subject areas like reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.  Now that I am an elementary school teacher, I see the necessity to incorporate technology and life skills as well.   In order to live and be successful in the 21st century, today’s students need much more than rote learning and memorization of facts.  If you asked me a few years ago how  prepared I felt for teaching in the 21st century, I would have probably told you I was in the water swimming behind the boat trying to catch up.  Today, I would have to say that I am climbing onto the deck of the boat.

As an educator, my main focus is my students.  Are they leaving my room equipped for success using 21st century skills?  I certainly hope that as a second grade teacher I have begun to lay the foundation for success.    As I think about my instruction and plan my everyday lessons, I try to embed skills that are not just based in the core academic subjects.   I also try to incorporate skills based in life and career skills as well as learning and innovation skills.  Many lessons involve cooperative learning and problem solving.   This year especially, I have made a conscious effort to use what little technology our school has to offer.  My students are becoming more comfortable using our laptops and iPods.   I have become much more at home using and creating power points for class instruction and projects.   Who knows?  By the end of the year, my students might be producing their own power point presentations.

Being open minded and willing to try new things is definitely a strength in regards to learning in the 21st century.   I have also found success in having students collaborate with others in varied groups.   Being able to communicate and work together to solve a common problem is a must for success in this century.    Overcoming the digital divide remains a challenge.   Our school just doesn’t have the technology as surrounding schools.  What we do have needs to be shared amongst the entire school.   That and the fact that we are so test driven, causes challenges in getting students ready for real life in the 21st century.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My First Thoughts

Technology in today’s classroom is a must.   Students, even young toddlers, can’t imagine a world where they are entertained by toys that aren’t electronic, make noise, or require an outlet.  Let’s face it; their world is vastly different from the one we grew up in!  So fearful of technology or not, we as teachers need to incorporate it into our everyday classroom instruction.   There are many things in this world that I am fearful of.  I wouldn’t say technology itself is one of them.  I think I am unsure of technology, or easily frustrated when it decides not to work correctly (or at least as correctly as I think it should).  
The phrase, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink” comes to mind when I think about technology in the classroom.   I do feel that many teachers are unsure about how to manage and use various forms of technology.   I also feel that limited availability is a barrier to others.  While our school has some technology, it pales in comparison to other school within the same district.   What technology we do have needs to be shared and transported amongst many teachers.  This takes extra time and preparation.  Due to these “fears”, many teachers stay far away from any technology they are not required to use. However, as I look around my elementary school, I notice some teachers are very comfortable and successful in using and teaching about technology. They are helping our students meet the ISTE NET standards.   Their students are collaborating, researching, problem solving, and developing products.  While I am far from guzzling the water my horse has lead me to, I am beginning to take small sips.
As I look towards the immediate future, I am looking for ways to face my “fears” of the uncertainties and frustrations that accompany technology.   The only way to overcome these “fears” is to face them, which means using technology.  I am finding ways to incorporate the classroom set of iPods and lap tops our school has into lessons and activities.   I already use premade power points throughout my reading instruction.  My goal is to now create my own power points.  Who knows, maybe by the end of school year I will have my students creating their own power points.  Stay tuned as my journey through the world of technology continues.