Technology Operations and Concepts
As the technology which is available to educators changes each year, so too does the use of this technology in the classroom. Computers, DVDs, videos, and electronic displays and overheads enhance traditional learning while, at the same time, allowing for new collaborative work between students, between students and educators, and between fellow educators. For example, as part of the unit I created for student teaching, students were to use various interactive online resources to better understand key historical events. Instead of just reading about the Underground Railroad, students could investigate the choices escaping slaves faced on the arduous journey north. Their biography research projects too required the utilization of technology- to find appropriate information (7c,d,e). Unfortunately, not all students have equal access to the same technology outside the classroom. And with this inequity comes varying levels of technological proficiency. To partially address this, time was set aside for a few students without home computer access to work with myself and my mentor teacher searching for information and practicing using the internet as a research tool (7a, c, e).
Due to this differential access, the manner in which technology is used in the classroom is critical. For example, in my EDUC 396: Boundary Crossings in Elementary Schools, we used laptop computers with wireless internet access to investigate different endangered animals and the reasons for their endangered status (7b). By working with the students in the classroom, I was able to guide them in more effective strategies for using the technology available and for determining the quality of the sources found (7a,c). This ensured that each learner had the same access, as well as allowing for the building and practicing of skills and strategies with appropriate adult supervision and guidance (7a).
However, technology is not of benefit only to students; it also allows for collaboration and professional growth among educators. One of the core requirements of EDUC 376: Teaching Advanced Concepts in Geology and EDUC 377: Teaching Advanced Concepts in Physics was the creation of an online website for each. The purpose of this was to provide background information to other educators and to provide the relevant lessons, materials, and knowledge (7c,d,g). By creating these sites, not only was I learning how to use technology more effectively, but I was also creating an avenue for the sharing of content knowledge, pedagogical practices, and ideas (7g.) In a similar manner, I was able to use video recordings of myself and students to better reflect on what we were doing in the classroom. For example, I recorded one of my early science lessons so that I could review it later. I was then able to use this to more objectively reflect on my methods as a teacher, but to assess what the students were doing throughout the lesson. Furthermore, sharing this with peers allowed for feedback, observations, and ideas which I may not have had (7f,g).
Similarly, the use of technology allowed me to assume the role of teacher-researcher in the classroom. I was able to use a stopwatch, Microsoft Excel, and video recordings to investigate a classroom routine, my feelings and perceptions related to this routine, how they were accurate (or not) and the differences in my thinking compared with those of the students in the classroom. This allows me to become a better teacher through self-reflection and self-evaluation. It also allows for the sharing of my experiences in a meaningful way with other educators, teachers, and learners as I was able to present my research during the Capstone Symposium on Teaching (7f, g.)