Friday, May 30, 2014

Lessons Learned From Integrating Technology This Year

I feel that my direction with technology in the classroom has changed as the year has progressed. I began wanting to give students leeway to explore with the iPods. I wondered how I could move beyond substitution and augmentation and move to modification and redefinition. However, as the year progressed, I lingered in the substitution and augmentation phase.

Just recently, I gave students a survey to see how comfortable they were with technology at the beginning of the year, and how they felt now. The following link gives the students' results.
Student Survey of Comfort with Technology

The fact that so many students rated themselves as very comfortable with technology at the beginning of the year is due in part to the previous T3 program, as most of my students came from classes of Tier 3 teachers who integrated iPods last year. Plus, most students (70%) had access to a personal device at home, usually their own device. One parent told me that having iPods in the classroom was the tipping point in her decision to purchase an iPad for her child for a birthday present this year. I feel encouraged that I had some impact on students comfort level as a few more students are comfortable with technology now than the beginning of the year.

At the beginning of the year, the students were very excited to get the iPods and it was interesting to watch how quickly they taught each other how to do things on the devices. At the beginning of the year, I gave them iPod time, which transitioned into iPod ELA (English Language Arts) time. Students liked playing with the Opposites app and videotaping themselves read. I encouraged them to use the Spelling City app. As the year progressed, I felt pressured from the looming state test and I moved away from this ELA iPod time and started doing more direct instruction teaching strategies.

To save paper, I had students take tests for their Storytown lessons on At the beginning of the year, I walked the students to the computer lab to take these test. Then, I decided to have them try to take the test using the iPods, and it worked! The only difficulty with this is I have to log into ThinkCentral to score the students' written responses to the essay questions. However, the rest of the test is scored for me.

There has been a lot of training in Writing this year, and I know students love to type their writing. I did not want to teach students how to save (and retrieve) their documents, because I know that is difficult. So. I opted to teach them how to use Google Drive. This became the most useful aspect of technology in my classroom. I used gClassFolders to stay organized and Doctopus to create files for specific assignments for my students to complete. They also shared files with me that they created themselves.

Using the Google Drive app with the iPods was nice as I have a 1to1 device situation. So, students could log into Google Drive just once and then open it up without having to log in. By far, the biggest complication was having students log in. I posted an example of the username on a bulletin board ""which helped.

What was amazing to watch was the moments that students taught themselves and each other different aspects of technology. For instance, students taught themselves how to create Google presentations without any help from me. Watching this gave me the confidence to help the music teacher create Google Presentations for our 4th grade musical that students performed at the high school. Also, I will be using a Google Presentation for show my colleagues what my students learned. If you are part of my school district, you can access this presentation here.

Students used the commenting feature of Google Drive to "chat" with each other and to offer feedback on writing. At the beginning of the year, a few students went on Drive after school to chat much like adults would use facebook or twitter. Please feel free to read some of my previous blog postings about integrating Google Drive. I am really looking forward to using Google classroom next fall. I wish Google would approve me for a Summer preview.

The opportunity to integrate iPods has allowed me to think bigger as I move forward. This summer, I hope to utilize the time away from the daily pressures of teaching to examine the Common Core State Standards we will start using next year in more depth. I want to align Kahn Academy videos with these standards and assemble a way to start to flip my classroom next year. So, the students learn the math concepts at home by watching these videos and come to school to practice them. I have already signed my students up for, but they only use it if I tell them to do so, or if I set aside specific time during the school day for this purpose. I may assign specific questions on that site for homework next year (if they still offer it for free to teachers).

As I had a low-completion rate for homework assignments this year, I wonder if students would have higher rates of completion if the homework was to watch a video and complete a set number of questions on a website. If students have not watched the video assigned, then the rewards of flipping a classroom may not be achieved. I would have to teach the same concepts in class, as I would hope they would have learned at home by watching video. Also, I wonder if there is a way to track whether students actually watched a certain video to have accountability. Plus, some of my students do not have internet access at home. So, I would have to consider how to provide equity to these students without seeming punitive. I could offer them time to watch these videos during recess.

There are so many considerations to take into account as a teacher. Already, students feel comfortable using technology. Eventually, technology will be just one more tool in my teaching repertoire I can draw upon. I will continue to delve into technology deeper in order to positively impact student learning.

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