The year in technology – a reflection

“we are entering a digital world where knowing about digital technology is as important as reading and writing. So learning about computers is essential for our students’ futures BUT the most important purpose is using them NOW to learn about everything else.” ~ Seymour Papert via The Daily Papert

The past year was by far the most technology rich of my teaching career thus far.

I have cobbled together a 1-to-1 computing environment in my classroom with a combination of desktops, laptops and netbooks.

Getting to 1-to-1 was a big key for me in tech integration. Suddenly, I could start with the learning goal and work backwards to the ideal product and process for my students. This was a big shift from before where the process was something like
  1. okay, I want my students to use technology because, well, they should…
  2. I have 12 computers and 24 students. Hmmm…
  3. How should I group them so that some have ‘tech jobs’ and some don’t?
  4. What product could I have the group create with a combination of low and high tech?
  5. When do I need to book the computer lab (fingers crossed that it actually works)?
  6. Oh yeah, what are they supposed to learn from this again?
Reflecting on the use of technology tools this year in my classes…

The best of both worlds:
  • Printing student posters to share with audiences. Our district purchased a large format printer and I used it several times this past year. Students were able to create posters in powerpoint and then have them printed at a size of 3′ x 5′ and in full, vibrant color. This merged the use of technology for product creation nicely with the ability to easily share the product with an audience.

Tool in flux:
  • Student blogs/ ePortfolios – the past 2 years, I’ve had students use Edublogs for blogging. Last year I added the ePortfolio aspect. This was mostly successful but I’m not sure Edublogs is the ideal tool for this. I personally love the WordPress platform but it is too powerful for most students. Beyond that, I don’t love the text-embedded advertising in Edublogs. This may switch to Google Sites or Posterous.

Most valuable:
  • Just the good ‘ol Internet. Being able to allow students access to so much freely available information for research purposes has been truly transformative – especially with project based learning. Before, I was constantly looking for materials to give them to allow them to research and inquire. Now I teach them how to drink from the firehose of all recorded human knowledge.

The tool I take for granted:
  • Edmodo – this is an awesome tool that I haven’t fully figured out how to use most effectively. It is much more powerful and customizable than I give it credit for. Edmodo has really helped to transform my classroom.

Opportunity missed:
  • Student blogs – I would love to see much more discourse and research sharing by my students on their blogs. I would like to get them reading each others’ work much more regularly and leaving provocative comments. 

Largest failure:
  • Making videos with JayCut – JayCut is super cool and super slick but our computers and lack of bandwidth made it almost useless. The students experienced a lot of frustration trying to make videos online. That being said, JayCut is extremely intuitive and they figured it out very quickly.

Most promising tool:
  • Video analysis with LoggerPro and/ or Tracker – I’ve done more video analysis with physics each year but still want to expand it more. Beyond that, I want to find ways to expand video analysis into biology and chemistry.

Tools I need to use more:
  • Screencast tools (Jing, Camtasia, etc.) – make short videos for feedback to students, for review, to teach certain skills (especially tech skills that are not science content)
  • Flip Cameras – have students create more videos to show learning and share it with an audience outside of the classroom
  • Glogster and Animoto – two great tools that I’ve dabbled in but need to get students using more

Tool that I haven’t used yet for school, but should:
  • Skype – I hope to use Skype to put students in touch with experts or interview subjects or to share their work with an audience

Tech to buy for next year:
  • More netbooks (need to replace crummy old laptops and ensure 1-to-1 ratio)
  • Pocket projectors – we would use these to be able to take digital products to an audience, rather than needing them to come to a room with a projector… imagine the possibilites!
  • Better scanner – I want one that is fast and scans both sides of a document simultaneously. This would mainly be used to make digital versions of student work.
  • Wacom Bamboo tablet – for screencasting and to use with my projector as a cheap alternative to an interactive whiteboard – one that I can put in the hands of students
  • Large screen LCD TV – I’d love to have one of these on the wall in my room hooked up to a pc or Apple TV. I’d have images of student work constantly cycling on it and then use it for some presentations or for students to watch video on.

2 thoughts on “The year in technology – a reflection

  1. Hi there, I know what you mean about the scanner. If you have (or have access to) a smart phone or tablet, document scanning apps work surprisingly well, and are as fast as a snapshot. I just wrote about it a couple of days ago, if you’re interested (link is above).

  2. Mylene,

    That is a great point. I am going to experiment this year with using my iPad2 to do exactly that.

    However, I still really want a good, fast scanner for students to be able use to document their own learning on their e-portfolios or for me to use to scan a bunch of stuff quickly.

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