Leah Bruosta, fifth grade teacher here and I.NEED.HELP! What happens when I need help with technology in my classroom? To whom do I turn? Well…. the easy answer as one of the “technology” favoring teachers is to “Google it.” I Google it, then I ask someone who might know, then I forget about it for a while, and then reengage in the puzzle. PS – When did “Google” become a verb? Because it is one, and I rarely use it in the noun form anyway…
I have been wanting to ask students to do more and more pre-writing digitally. Their writing lacks organization and this used to be a larger part of our practice in fifth grade. My research question this year revolves around writing engagement when technology is utilized. So far, I am impressed with their speed and skills with word processing, and have noticed that they are in need of organization. “Googling it” didn’t render me with the answers that I hoped for. I wasn’t able to find “editable graphic organizers” or “lock tables” so that students would be able to edit — I even had a hard time explaining to colleagues what it was that I wanted. I could make a PDF form (I think I know what that is!???) and have students edit it — good idea, but it didn’t work when I “made a copy” for each student on Google Classroom. With some fancy saving strategies and trying to skirt the issue, it was figured out- but how do I explain this twenty-seven step, nonsensical strategy to students? Nothing was as simple as I had hoped. So I kept asking around. And I think I have hit on something today. Our technology specialist attended a professional development course wherein she designed just this type of graphic organizer that students can manipulate. And would you believe it, it fulfilled her requirement for Special Education PDPs!? Next step: check out this class!
It’s at this point that I know what I don’t know. I have more questions than when I began and now I have a place where I plan to ask them — and a format on which to practice. Google Drawings… helping kids with writing? We’ll see!
The power of Google Classroom has been on display in many of the blog posts on this website. This year I have embraced the use of Google Classroom when working on projects and mini-lessons with my class in the computer lab. By posting an interactive Google Doc agenda, I have found it much easier to keep my students on task. Students are aware of the expectations going to the lab, and they are able to move from agenda item to agenda item until they finish the lesson.
Most recently, I employed an interactive Google Doc agenda with my junior class as we analyzed oral histories. Through a partnership with Brandeis University, myself and another teacher have been granted free access to The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. This archive hosts a plethora of African American oral histories. The archivists have spent hours and hours recording the stories of African American veterans, civil rights leaders, and ordinary citizens. My junior class spent a period analyzing previously culled oral history stories about World War II and race in the 1940s.
The only problem we ran into were technical problems on the HistoryMakers website. (After all, it wouldn’t be a lesson featuring technology without technical difficulties!) After a little troubleshooting, we were able to resolve the issue standing in the way of accessing the oral history videos, and students were on their way to listening to the interviews.
Overall, I think my students enjoyed working with the website and the oral histories in general. A few students shared with me that they were watching the videos of different individuals and that they got sucked down rabbit-holes, watching video after video for an individual. One student wrote in their reflection, “It’s important for these people’s histories to carry out to new generations of people to understand and appreciate the accomplishments.” I couldn’t agree more, and I’m happy that my students enjoyed interacting with the archive.
Over the next few months, my students will be working on compiling their own oral history projects on important events in American history and discussing their effect on Waltham. The HistoryMakers lesson was an important introductory step for my students, who will be working toward this larger goal.
My name is Leah Bruosta and I am a fifth grade teacher, first time WinPro blogger at the MacArthur Elementary School in Waltham, Massachusetts! If you came into my school building, you’d hear that I am the teacher that “loves technology.” But, please don’t tell my secret. When something ‘breaks,’ or I get stuck – this happens sixteen times a day- I ask the ‘young’ teacher next door. AND… I don’t know how to plug all the machines in … I can’t explain how the internet works or how things are ‘magically’ shared between me and my colleagues. Do you remember Mike Teavee from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie? Remember all of those tiny particles flying over the heads of the onlookers?
I think that’s what happens when I online conference with a student during Writer’s Workshop. When they don’t see my comments immediately, I ask them to wait for all the flying particles to make it to their chromebooks. However, I do know about the magical lack of hum and buzz when I offer my Oompa Loompas, I mean students, a screen on which to ‘write.’
I began to wonder, then, what if we abandoned the copious drafts and myriad revision papers? What happened if we showed our Writer’s Workshop “spider legs” via comments on shared Google Docs? What would happen if we shared our writing digitally and checked for editing mistakes without (*gasp!*) a red pen? I began to wonder if reluctant writers would produce more and better writing if they were offered a digital platform on which to write. I worry about many things, though. What about the people that say that handwriting needs to be implicitly taught? What about the mother who worried that her son would never be able to write his girlfriend a love letter- true story! I mentioned he’d likely send an email but would now like to ameliorate my response to include text message or… ‘Snapchat’ or… What about the fact that my students don’t know how to type quickly or using the home keys? Will this burden them? Will it burden ME? So this year, I am going to look at engagement of students using the chromebooks especially in the area of writing. We will be setting up a Google Classroom, creating draft after draft of writing (on the same Doc!), conferencing digitally, and revising and editing each other’s work.
I am embarking on my second year of the Waltham Integration Network (WIN) project, and I am now the master of technology… just kidding. If this is your first time reading my blog, then you may be unfamiliar with my research question from the last year. Let me catch you up.
As I entered the WIN project last year, I was frustrated with the technological limitations of my classroom. As a teacher of sophomores and juniors, I was a year away from having students who brought 1:1 technology into the classroom with them. Waltham Public Schools has been slowly working toward 1:1 technology, providing middle school students with iPads that they then bring to the high school with them. Therefore, I made it my mission to integrate technology into my classroom as much as possible, given the access limitations.
My research question became centered around the struggle to integrate technology into a classroom where all of the technology was external. I had to sign up for computer and iPad labs or my students had to access technology at home.
Overall, I feel I was pretty successful last year. I introduced many of my students to Google Classroom, and embraced all aspects of the Google Suite: Slides, Sheets, Forms, and Docs. For example, my students completed paperless research papers. In addition, I had my students create screencasts with an app called Touchcast. Lastly, I practiced using Remind with my students (I didn’t like it…shhh, don’t tell anyone).
As I mentioned in my first ever post, part of my research question was spurred by fear. I always want to be on the cutting edge of pedagogical techniques. I fear being left behind when the rest of the profession moves on to different teaching styles and techniques. So, I intentionally created a goal that would push me out of my comfort zone.
Now in year two of my research, I was fortunate to welcome a sophomore class with 1:1 iPads into my classroom this fall. Therefore, I am now straddling both worlds. I have two classes of students with 1:1 technology and three without. Needless to say, next year will see all of my classes with 1:1 technology.
Hence, my goal for this year is to increase the use of technology with my sophomore class. I will continue in the same manner as last year with my juniors. I want to start out the year by substituting and augmenting my use of paper by using apps like Google Form to produce Exit and Entrance tickets. Hopefully this will allow me to speed up my grading and allow me to provide more efficient feedback to my students.
However, as the year progresses, I want to think about more sophisticated ways to use the 1:1 technology my sophomores have. Yes, I’m talking the SAMR model, for all of you technological folks (Liz Homan is doing a little dance). I want to modify and redefine what I do. I want to enhance student learning and begin to approach and embrace more Project Based Learning.
Tune back in here each month to see how my goal plays out!
In the middle of the year, I embarked on a (short) journey, with students, to determine what methods of learning vocabulary were most effective. I wanted to reinvigorate my understanding of tech as a tool for engagement and learning in the way that @edtechteacher21 and the T21 Program had talked about. (Tech as tool- Tool List – One of my favorite resources.) We started with all of the technology I could possibly integrate, and whittled our way down to old school flash cards, no iPads allowed. (Disclaimer: This is NOT some peer-reviewed longitudinal study, but I do think it’s interesting…and for a teacher as researcher study, I don’t think it’s half bad.)
Every week for three weeks, students learned five new words focused on their usage within the context of The Call of The Wild. I wanted to minimize the variables with the words, I figured limiting the number of words the students were expected to learn might help that.
Each week students worked with the words and technology in different ways.
So, first of all, the students struggled with the vocabulary. I’m not necessarily proud of that fact, but that’s just the way things are at times, particularly in 7th grade. (Despite having only 5 words a week we still couldn’t beat 70% average on the summative quiz.)
All students took a self-paced 8 question multiple-choice Socrative quiz on three consecutive Fridays. There were 72, 67, and 70 students involved in the Socrative quiz respectively and the results are shown in the most simplistic bar graph imaginable to the left. (I still needed help from multiple roommates, in particular, @ZavaskiMD ). The descending numbers show how student scores decreased as I removed technology from the equation.
I have a lot of thoughts, on this preliminary data, and I probably should have continued this study longer, with fewer variables, so that I could have more conclusive evidence. I do think that the data does help to show that when students engage more fully (read: authentically) with words (or really anything academic) they are more likely to retain the information. In this case, it is hard to tell if the group work or the actual technological actions of filling out a graphic organizer with web images was more useful. I like to think that it was a combination. The students were able to talk out their understanding of the word using the graphic organizer in notability as well as insert photographs they found on the internet (or in the example above that they drew) that represent the definition. This personalization of the vocabulary words through notability was the crucial piece, and the Quizlet was a nice addition for students to continue studying.
The conclusion that I came to here, is not that technology use increases student scores, but that authentically integrated technology that increases student discussion and engagement with the material is effective. Technology is not the beginning or the end; it’s a tool to help drive student engagement, and therefore learning.
As we enter into the “home stretch” of the school year, I thought I would share a few reflections on the research I have done this year.
A quick reminder for readers: I am a U.S. History teacher at Waltham High School and my research this year has been a qualitative analysis of technology integration in a classroom with no direct 1:1 technology. I have attempted to analyze the struggles, realities, and triumphs of embracing 21st century skills in a classroom with 20th century technology.
As mentioned above, I have attempted to integrate as much technology as possible into a classroom that has inconsistent access to 1:1 technology. The technology-based projects, assignments, and lessons that I created have primarily taken place in the four labs (three computer, and one iPad) in my school.
For the most part, I have been able integrate technology into my classes at least once each month. However, I have found it difficult to maintain an integrated classroom throughout the school year. Although applications have allowed me to sprinkle in technology, I am far from a place that is a truly integrated or “flipped” classroom.
As I reflect on the past year, I find it difficult to isolate just one or two reasons that I was unable to fully integrate technology into my classroom. I know that one of the reasons is that technology in my school is limited and in high demand. This leads to a race to secure coveted lab reservations. So, the lessons where I am able to fully integrate technology are only those which I am able to foresee weeks in advance and book space accordingly. For instance, I planned ahead to have my classes complete the Touchcast assignment and Paperless Research Papers. However, this advanced planning rules out spontaneity. If three days prior to a classroom lesson, I have a stroke of genius about a great way to integrate technology, I won’t be able to make it happen because the lab will already be booked.
The lack of 1:1 technology also limits my ability to give formative and summative assessments online. I have found this to be restrictive. For instance, if I did have regular access to 1:1 technology for my students, I would have been able to use Socrative, Poll Everything, and other similar applications more efficiently. (Aside: since most students have their own cell phones, I contemplated having students use them to access apps like the aforementioned. However, after some thought, I decided against it.)
Furthermore, it has been difficult to maintain a flow of lessons that embrace technology integration throughout the school year. I have struggled with the conflicting demands placed upon me as a high school teacher. Teachers are required to cover certain content by particular dates, as bookmarked by required student assessments. This demands a certain amount of teacher-centered learning. At the same time, however, teachers are encouraged to “flip” our classrooms and engage in student centered learned.
The assessments mandated by our school and state, remain traditional and primarily factual tests. For instance, this year I have been responsible for administrating four in-class writing assignments, a midterm, and a final. These are six assessments that took away from classroom time or interrupted the flow of a unit I was teaching. I am not saying that these assessments are worthless. But, in my opinion, they do not measure or give students credit for the skills and ideas learned through innovative, technology integrated lessons. Thus is life, but it hinders creativity.
I feel that we can never truly embrace 21st century learning as long as we continue to employ 20th century assessments. I believe this to be a fundamental problem facing education.
Despite these challenges, I do think I had a fair measure of success with integrating technology this school year. Although I felt restricted in my ability to secure lab time, I discovered useful apps like Google Forms, Google Classroom, and Remind. These apps allowed me to push my U.S. History students to use technology outside of school, for homework assignments. (I chronicled my trials with these apps in previous blog posts). Despite the challenge of sustained use, Google Forms and Google Classroom helped to transform a lot of my teaching this year.
Furthermore, at when point when I was able to plan far into the future, my Honor’s Level U.S. History II students completed projects solely using Touchcast. Touchcast allowed my students to participate in a “flipped classroom” while creating projects about a Cold War unit that in previous years, I had taught in traditional ways.
In the end, I have achieved one of my major goals for this assignment: next year, I will have at least two classes of tenth graders that come to my classroom with 1:1 iPads. I am sure there will be structural barriers to navigate, but I am excited to think of new ways to use this technology next year.
Moving forward, I have a few tools in my belt with some of the apps I tried and found success with this year. I have some interesting ideas about how to use iPads for formative assessments. Most importantly, however, I have a new way of thinking about my teaching. I maintain my ultimate goal of achieving a more technologically integrated classroom. I’m not there yet, but I’ll get there one day.
My name is Michael DiLuzio, I am a history teacher, and my biggest fear is that one day I won’t have a job because a robot will replace me. In my most pessimistic moments, I think I will be the final generation of an extinct species: the human teacher. If I am being truly retrospective, I think this fear comes out of an acknowledgment that I am at a teaching crossroads. I’m entering my seventh year as a social studies teacher, and I think I am beginning to enter my prime as an educator (hopefully an extended prime).
However, while I am honing my craft, new technologies and innovations continue to pop up that challenge the treasure trove of lessons and pedagogy that I have built as an educator. The bedrock of what I do is beginning to crumble. The stories I tell, the lectures I give, the readings I discuss, the movie clips I play, and the discussions I facilitate already seem as though they are from a bygone era. The style of teaching I grew up with is beginning to go extinct!
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t get up and lecture everyday. I cultivate lessons with primary sources, my students debate important issues, jigsaw difficult readings, “save the last word for me,” “take stands,” walk around imaginary museums, and complete enough exit and entrance tickets to fill the Grand Canyon. They don’t, however, own their education, they don’t drive their own learning through inquiry, they don’t complete project based education, and they are not experiencing a flipped classroom.
Teacher jargon aside. It has become apparent to me over the last few years that the role of the teacher is changing. The teacher is no longer expected to be the “sage on the stage”, but to be a facilitator or a learning partner. At the moment, I am not sure if I completely accept this change nor am I sure that this dichotomy will continue. I’m conflicted about abandoning a lot of the ways that I grew up learning, because I still see a lot of value in teacher centered learning. There is nothing quite like listening to an expert.
However, I do realize that there must be a balance struck to satisfy competing masters: inquiry based learning, 21st century skills, content expectations, and standardized tests. Similarly, I realize I need to evolve as an educator or I will be left in the past. The future of education is ahead of me, and I don’t want to be a twenty-nine year old educator that refuses to adapt. I want to embrace the use of technology and the changing role of the educator.
Furthermore, next year, my tenth grade students will enter my classroom as a part of a growing part of Waltham’s 1:1 technology initiative. These students will have been using iPads as a resource for three straight years. This both excites and terrifies me. This excites me, because I will be able to use this technology to approach my teaching in a multitude of new ways. As currently constituted, when I want my students to have access to a computer or 1:1 device, I need to sign-up for space in one of the many overbooked labs at my school. Although, it is possible to sign-out these rooms when one schedules far enough in advance. The long range planning it takes to secure a lab lacks the spontaneity of transforming a lesson that you are planning on using tomorrow.
In addition, the use of a lab every once in awhile is not the same as truly integrating technology into my classroom. This is why I joined the Waltham Integration Network. I want to work with my colleagues to develop ways that I can more fully integrate technology into my classroom. However, I am still somewhat weary about the entire situation. I want to strike a balance between complete technological integration, project based education, and teacher cultivated lessons that are sometimes (gasp) teacher centered. I think there is a place in education for all of these different types of learning.
Therefore, over the next year I will be trying to answer the following research question: How can I teach 21st century skills and integrate technology into a classroom that does not have consistent access to 1:1 technology?
The above bubbl.us displays a brainstorming session I had when I was flushing out my research question (click to enlarge).
Although this question doesn’t exactly prepare me for dealing with next year’s 1:1 initiative. It does push me to think about ways to change my teaching. Over the next year, I will blog here about my attempts to integrate technology, my triumphs and my many struggles. Tune back in next month to see my progress.