The Kids Aren't the Only Ones Growing
by: Mary Wever
When I first set foot into this class, I didn’t really know what to expect. Until now, I had taken the certificate courses online. Therefore, there was a lot of collaboration, but no face-to-face connections. I was very excited to finally put a few faces to the names and work with people who share similar interests. I’ve always known that I’m a visual learner, but the online classes really showed me how interpersonal I am too. I missed being physically present to ask questions, share ideas, and just chat with peers. Finally, I was in a class on campus (which by the way is 7 minutes from my house) with people who are excited and committed to integrate technology into their classrooms and lives. Life is good!
In addition to being thrilled about the collaboration, I soon found out that I would be able to use a lot of the knowledge and skills I learned in my undergrad and previous work experience to complete the projects. Right out of high school, I decided to major in graphic design. I had a job at a great company, but I soon found that I was sitting in front of the computer more than anything else with no connection to the projects I was creating. So, I switched to English with cognates in Psychology and Studio Art and got my degree from MSU. I’ve always teased that my degree is very well-rounded (or all over the place, however you want to look at it). Shortly after, I went back to school for my Elementary Education teaching certificate. It wasn’t until this summer that I got to use the information gained from all my various background experiences into one course. I was able to use my knowledge of English to write papers and think critically from all points of view. The psychology was brought in through all the readings and deep thinking about how children learn, are motivated, and how to keep them engaged. The art is the obvious one with all the creative projects. The best thing is that I was doing all this to directly benefit the kids in my classroom. Perfect! I chose a master’s program that combines all my interests and background knowledge and actually pushes me to think outside the box while encouraging me to think critically. Bonus!
Explore, Create, Share
One of the first things I have written in my class notes is Explore - Create - Share. The words are in bold type and in a larger font than the rest of the words on the page. Punya Mishra used these ideas to create thematic videos with his kids . Not only did Punya hit the nail on the head by putting into words how I feel about teaching kids in my classroom, he also showed me another way of interacting with and engaging my own children at home. I would have never thought to create a video, let alone a series of videos with a common theme, with my kids during summer break. I don’t know why, but I wouldn’t have. Who would have thought that educational technology courses would teach me to become a more interactive and fun parent?
The importance of Inquiry
I will teach through inquiry instead of directly instructing and giving answers to questions. I’ve always prided myself on asking tiered questions so all children in my classroom can be challenged. However, I generally ask the question, allow responses, and push the students to think deeper. Then, I give the answer and wait for reactions. While this is useful sometimes, the reading by Karen Worth made me think that I should encourage inquiry by allowing the children more time and resources to explore. She said that when “children have the opportunity to cultivate their own skills and construct their own ideas and concepts, then they can develop an understanding of the world that is deep and real, and begin to enjoy, understand, predict, and generate new knowledge on their own.” By allowing children more time to process the new information and compare it to what they already know, I am creating an atmosphere that encourages growth and retention rather than surprise and acceptance.
Asking questions is important, and questioning the teacher and books is healthy and will be encouraged in my classroom from now on. While doing the Understanding Understanding video on Common Misconceptions about Condensation , it seemed like many of the children had an idea of why there is water on the outside of a cold can. In addition, they had a good vocabulary. However, most of the participants were not able to accurately state that heat has something to do with condensation. That is acceptable for a small child, but many of the adults said that they either never learned the concept or had never been pushed that far. Had those participants been encouraged to ask questions and inquire about science concepts more, I wonder if their understanding would be deeper. Similarly, Team TPACK did their misconception video on Taste . They found that textbooks and teachers are wrong about why we taste food, but people are still being taught the incorrectly. Information changes at an alarming rate, and students should be taught to question the word of the teacher and world around them.
Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge
This is the first time I have formally heard the term TPACK and how technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge need to work harmoniously for successful student learning . I pride myself on only turning on the Interactive Whiteboard when I need it. That is, I try not to use technology just for the sake of using it. I try to use the tools that are available to me to enhance my teaching and enrich the content. After learning about TPACK, it reaffirmed that I am doing the right thing for my students.
I also loved learning about creative repurposing and how “most technologies that teacher use typically have not been designed for educational purposes” . For example, I can envision using the iPad in my classroom as a replacement for an interactive slate. There is an app that costs $12.99 to download that allows your iPad to access your PC desktop. By purchasing this app, I would be able to display my desktop (and, in turn, my Interactive Whiteboard) on the iPad so students could interact with it from their seats. Though the iPad was not specifically designed to be used in a classroom for this exact situation, it would be a great tool to walk around and interact with.
I was floored when we watched the Daniel Pink video on motivation and rewards! It all made so much sense, but I had never thought so deeply about motivation before. After watching his creative video and after completing many ungraded assignments for this class, I have reassessed how I will be giving out grades and rewards in my classroom.
I was intrinsically motivated to complete all the assignments for this class for a variety of reasons. The first is that we were put into groups. I felt a real accountability to my group mates, as well as the rest of the class, to put my all into every assignment. It didn’t matter if they were graded or not. Another reason I was motivated was because the assignments were, what we elementary teachers like to say, at my “just right” level. In other words, the content and technologies I learned about were challenging but achievable . They fell into my zone of proximal development.
I want my students to feel the same intrinsic motivation that I felt in this class. Therefore, I will do many “safe” ungraded assignments where students can feel free to play around and explore their creativity. They will be able to ask questions and dig deeper by thinking critically. In addition, I will make sure that I praise the effort of their work rather than the finished product so my students will continue to try their hardest while having fun learning.
Though I have learned a great deal this summer, I am excited to extend my knowledge in the future by being a good example of a lifelong learner for my students. Since technology is emerging and changing at a rapid rate, we have to expect that our students are also changing. To keep up with that shift, teachers need to continuously learn and relearn what learning is, how to engage and motivate our students, and study relevant topics that will influence how we teach.
I plan to focus on 4 areas to develop into a well-rounded and flexible teacher who considers context along with TPACK.
Technology: Technology is changing all the time. With those changes, and a school budget that cannot keep up, I will research new ways to repurpose existing technologies  to keep my students motivated and learning. I will research online ways to do this, talk to my colleagues, and ask students (since they are the digital natives anyway). One video I found as a start is where Leigh Graves Wolf does a slide show of hardware and software and how to repurpose it for an ELL classroom (http://www.leighgraveswolf.com/?p=508). In addition, I will keep current and focused by reading blogs by Punya Mishra (http://punya.educ.msu.edu), Free Technology for Teachers (http://www.freetech4teachers.com), Classroom 2.0 (http://www.classroom20.com), and iLearn Technology (http://ilearntechnology.com).
Leadership: I am already seen as a technology leader in my building, but I would like help conduct more professional development to the district to motivate teachers to use technology for more than just email. In order to do this, I will need training and development. I plan to return to the MACUL Conference as a guest (and possibly a presenter in the future) and attend ISTE. I would also like to go to the MRA Conference (though it is generally held during the same time as MACUL) because I am also very interested in being a lead reading teacher. By attending these conferences, I will grow my social network by meeting others who are interested in the same things as me.
Communication: I believe that communication is one of the most important skills that a good teacher can have. That is why I would like to read more books, go to professional development, and take some courses on effective communication. In addition, I would like to get some social networking groups together to discuss teaching, especially with technology. I plan to start this year with the 5 new teachers who were hired in my building. We are starting a book club to study The Daily 5The Cafe and for reading instruction. It will be great to get together with other educators who are young, motivated, and excited to teach reading. While there, I plan to show them how to also enrich their lessons with technology. By surrounding myself with other educators who are interested in communicating and sharing ideas, I will grow and thrive as a teacher.
Differentiated Instruction: All students come to us with a variety of backgrounds and learning abilities. It is our job to teach to all the students in our classrooms so everyone can be a successful contributor. In order to do that, differentiating instruction in a multitude of ways must be present. Though I am very familiar with this concept because I work in an International school where a majority of the population are ELL or Title I students, it is still very important to remain cutting edge on the topic. My district has us attend trainings by Dr. Dorinda Carter about Closing the Achievement Gap with African American boys. The information that is presented is very helpful for motivating and encouraging all students in my classroom. I would also like to attend more ELL workshops like SIOP to keep current on teaching language learners. A teacher in my building attends cultural classes where one country is featured each month. I would like to get involved with that as well so I can be sensitive to all cultures in my classroom. In addition, I would like to research and get more training on students with learning disabilities and the gifted students so I am teaching to all levels.
1. Mishra, P. Explore, create, share… the videos. Retrieved July 29, 2010, fromhttp://punya.educ.msu.edu/2009/06/30/explore-create-share-the-videos/
2. Worth, K. The power of children’s thinking. Foundations, p. 31.
3. Condensation Misconceptions. (2010). Retrieved July 29, 2010, from http://condensation.weebly.com/
4. The Tasty Tongue. (2010). Retrieved July 29, 2010, from http://thetastytongue.weebly.com/
5. Mishra, P. & Koehler. M. J. (2009). Too cool for school? No way! Using the TPACK framework: You can have your hot tools and teach with them, too. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(7), 14-18.
6. Lumsden, L.S. (1994 ). Student motivation to learn.