Reflection on the Research About Technology

The 2015 Speak Up article was really interesting to read because it presented a lot of research regarding kids and schools technology usage.  The article is called “From Print to Pixel: The role of videos, games, animations, and simulations within K-12 education.”  I love articles that have a lot of research because it allows me to see what is actually going on rather than just looking at an article.  Therefore, this article is interesting and useful because it is packed with research, student quotes, and an opinion that follows both.  The beginning of the article was very good about comparing the integration of technology to other innovations in the past, including written texts and the distribution of printed materials.  This initially made me think that hesitations about technology today were going to be thought of as ridiculous in the future.  The rest of the statistics and quotes supported the increasing use of technology in the classroom and the reality that many students want that technology integration for learning purposes.

The changes described in the rest of the article are extending further, in my opinion, than the ones described in history.  The other ones described are mainly for communication purposes (communication of ideas-others can read the ideas), which I think is comparable to textbooks as ebooks, lectures as videos, and communication via social media.  However, the innovation of technology has extended well beyond just that.  The article described students taking their educational interests in their own hands via the Internet and students playing learning games.  This is not only a major change in education, but it is also a notable change in history.

The statistics and quotes in the article promote the use of technology in the classroom.  However, one of my concerns is whether it is more effective than traditional ways. The Speak Up article shares statistics about how principals want more technology effectively utilized, and feel that lack of teaching training for technology is the problem.  This is key.  I am in a technology class right now and have learned a lot this semester about how to use technology effectively in my instruction and also getting students involved.  However, technology seems to be changing much more than anything else in the field of education.  To keep up with the technology in my teaching career, I will need to continue to learn and try new things.  This idea of learning for a lifetime is not only important for kids to learn, it is important for us too.

But why is it so important to learn through professional development?  Can’t we just find resources online and implement them?  Technology is good teaching right?  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  We still need to be good teachers and we do need to evaluate the effectiveness of each piece of technology before using it in our classroom.  The Wall Street Journal has an article supporting this idea and provides points that are important for all teachers to consider.  The article is called “Technology in Classrooms Doesn’t Always Boost Education Results, OECD Says.”  This article presented conclusions from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that explained that students who used computers in the classroom more than the average time actually performed below average academically, which was even lower than students who did not use technology in the classroom.  In contrast, the article presented a conclusion that students who used technology in the classroom a little less than average actually performed above average.  This study was done in 40+ countries, so it spans across a variety of education systems and economies.  The overarching message that I got from The Wall Street Journal article is that schools should not just use technology, but show students how to use it and to make sure it is still being used as good teaching.

Moreover, the Speak Up article shows us how prevalent technology is today and how desired it is, and that is something all teachers should remember when creating their unit and lesson plans.  However, it is also important to listen to the cautions of other of research, such as the one described by the OECD.  The idea of a good teacher hasn’t fully changed in the 21st century.  A good teacher is not defined as the teacher with the most technology, but rather, a good teacher is defined as a caring individual who helps their students learn and grow in the classroom.  The effective use of technology is a great way to help students learn and grow in the classroom.  So definitely use technology in the classroom, but assure that you are using it to improve teaching.



Uncovering Technology for Learning Myths

As someone who is learning more about effectively using technology in the classroom, the article “Five Myths About Classroom Technology (And What to Do, Instead)” was really interesting.  This article was pro-technology.  However, it wasn’t arguing for the benefits of simply adding technology, but it instead argued that technology should be used appropriately to gain benefits, particularly as a way for students to create things.  I agree with many of the points, but would have been interested to hear how often the author thinks incorporating technology is effective.  Using her article and my own beliefs, I think technology should be integrated when it can be beneficial, but should never be forced into the classroom.

My favorite point in the article was about the point that “‘Technology is less meaningful than traditional learning.'”  This one caught my attention in particular because I believe that in many cases this statement is true.  The author’s point in the article was that this would be true if it is used ineffectively, but that it should instead be used for collaboration and sharing.  I agree, but at this same time am cautious about the use for collaboration and sharing in some ways.  If technology is giving more opportunities for collaboration or is making it significantly easier, then that’s great.  If the collaboration is taking away from face-to-face collaboration, then I think that it is a poor use of technology.  Schools have a responsibility to teach social skills, particularly in elementary school, so I think the traditional collaboration is important to keep, but can be added to or improved with the assistance of technology.  The idea of sharing using technology sounds fun, but also makes me cautious.  Many parents have rules at home about Internet use and would not like their children sharing things online.  Therefore, I think it is important to keep all sharing in the classroom or on private online accounts.  Moreover, I strongly believe that traditional learning can be better at times, but also believe that technology can be a stronger tool at times.  It all depends on the specifics!

I do slightly disagree with one of her points, however.  Her point that educational games should be about creating things rather than students answering questions is very idealistic, but I think it is skipping over a lot of important learning that needs to happen first.  There are certain things that we simply need to know, and we want to practice it until it becomes automatic.  For example, addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, etc.  One memory I have of an educational game involved learning to type quickly.  That game was really useful because I needed to know where the letters were on my keyboard and how to type things as fast as possible.  There really wasn’t a higher-order thinking skill in this learning, but it was still useful learning.  Along with other instruction on typing skills, I can now type fast, which allows me to do a variety of things on the computer.  Therefore, there was no creating in that game, but I loved it, and it is a skill that I still use every single day.

In addition, when we talk about creating versus just learning facts, I am reminded of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  The top of Bloom’s Taxonomy is a great place to aim, but we can’t just focus on the top.  As the article “Bloom’s Taxonomy” explains, mastery of the lower levels of the taxonomy are needed in order to get to the higher levels.  This is also an idea that has been emphasized in many of my graduate classes.  Therefore, if technology is effective in teaching recall of facts, then we should use it to achieve that before using it to have students create something.


Overall, I think the article did uncover some myths about technology and did give some good recommendations.  It is a good reminder for teachers that technology can be used well in the classroom, but with any article, it’s also important to read it while thinking about what is useful in your own classroom or situation.


Teachers Roles in 20 Years

I was shocked after reading the article called “When the Computer Takes Over for the Teacher,” because it argued many reasons where the value of teachers are going down when the Internet provides various resources to replace them.  The article, which was written in 2015, argued that teachers won’t be necessary in 20 years…or even less.  Although I have seen how teachers’ roles have changed over time, I had never considered the idea that they wouldn’t be needed anymore.  On the contrary, I had thought that other professions might not be needed in the future, but that teaching was one that would always be needed.  I am currently pursuing my Master’s degree in elementary education, and I am not convinced that teachers are going to be useless in the future.

Think about the quote above.  Would that be the focus of school if it was taught by computers?  The arguments supporting why teachers can be replaced are all surrounding the idea of who can teach the content the best.  The article explained how many online resources there are that can do it better.  But is teaching today just about feeding the information to students?  What else do teachers do?  The answer isn’t simple because teachers do so much!  When we think about who our favorite teacher was, we have reasons beyond the idea that they taught us more than other teachers.  Sometimes the least liked teachers did give us the information that we needed the best.  But that doesn’t mean they were a good teacher.  My favorite teacher was caring, motivating, set good examples, kept our interest in the subject, and was a human.  When I say human, I mean that most good teachers model good qualities and students pick them up.  Do we really want to stop giving our children good role models and keep putting them in front of technology?  Technology has already taken away enough human interaction from kids in their free time, let’s not take it away at school.

With my strong opinion about the value of a teacher, I did some more research and found another article called “Cloud schooling: why we still need teachers in the internet age.”   This article also believed that teachers are still necessary today.  The article frequently references Suguta Mitra’s beliefs based on his experiments, which the article “When the Computers Take Over for the Teacher” also references.  Instead, this article (Cloud schooling: why we still need teachers in the internet age) argues that teachers are needed beyond just giving knowledge because of “learning by design” and “social learning.”  I believe both are notable points.  I think his “social learning” section should even be expanded beyond just about learning from adult encouragement and learning with peers, and should go into how much teachers help students learn good social behaviors that are valuable for a lifetime.  Again, are we looking just to meet the educational standards, or are we looking to excel at what school is supposed to excel at?

Although I think students should continue to be taught in a classroom with a teacher, it is important to note my learning experiences through technology.  I was the type of college student who loved online classes.  If it was available, I would take it.  I was able to complete my work when it worked best with my schedule, and I loved that.  But it is also important to note, that I was a college student taking most of my classes in the classroom.  These were classes that could work online for students who are expected to have already learned many of the things that K-12 education is supposed to teach.  Most classes are better taught in a classroom, and K-12 always needs to be in that classroom because elementary and secondary school is not just about teaching the basic academic skills, but it is supposed to also prepare individuals for life in whatever route they may take.  How can a computer respond to every classroom situation that may come up?  It can’t. Only a human should, and technology should be used to support human teachers.



Equity and the Classroom


Equity is a huge goal for schools today.  We want to treat our students equally in order to give them a fair chance at succeeding in todays world.  We want to prepare every student to succeed regardless of their parents income.  However, money does play a role in education, particularly because of access to technology and the Internet.  This is a problem because it is limiting the fair opportunities of some students because of socioeconomic status, which is against educators goals.  Therefore, technology can create problems in equity of our schools, and actual equity should be a valid goal of society.

I watched several videos and read several articles on the technological gaps present in schools today and the effects.  These sources are all demonstrating the usefulness of technology for educational purposes and how gaps are evident today.  A video by Mills ISTE 2013 presented a research finding that when low income students were given the opportunity to use cell phones in the classrooms, there was a 30% increase in their test scores.  This was surprising to me because I had always viewed cell phones as a tool that could be used for educational purposes if used correctly, but had observed that cell phones frequently caused more distraction problems in the classroom.  An article by the NEA called “Using Smartphones in the Classroom” also supports the claim that cell phones can be a useful tool.  More specifically, the article suggested many tips for successful integration, including “Ensuring it stays academic,” “Use Smartphones to stay organized and assess learning,” “Apps for the social sciences,” and “Let fun foster productivity.”  Therefore, it is clear that cell phones can have a positive role in education, as well as the Internet, computers, and iPads.

I find it difficult to discuss the technological gap in regards to finding equity because there is no easy solution in my opinion.  Many of the articles and videos I have read/watched discuss the difficulty in families finding Internet coverage in order to complete homework assignments.  That is a huge dilemma for me because technology does have good uses, but I don’t like the idea of putting burdens on families to have to leave their home in order for students to complete homework.  So this leads me to the question about what we can do.  Much of my research makes it clear that the problem is real and action is needed, but many seem to skip over the perfect solution to the problem.  That is what I want.  And that is a dilemma today.

Therefore, without a clear and perfect solution out there, it is important to consider what we can do in our classrooms.  Knowing the situation of the students and being sensitive to it can go great lengths.  Moreover, when there is a huge range of SES in a classroom, it is not fair to assign homework heavy on Internet usage if everyone doesn’t have access, or to encourage the use of phones in the classroom if everyone doesn’t have a smartphone.  Although this may seem obvious, it is important to constantly think about when choosing how to appropriately integrate technology.  However, technology in the classroom can be fun, so use that as an advantage.

Although I would have probably argued that schools should provide computers if they have the funds to do so, the article called Study: Free Computers Don’t Close The Rich-Poor Education Gap made me question whether this is actually a solution worth the investment.  Although I want to express an opinion about the right thing to do, it seems that it may depend on the budget of the school, the SES range at the school, the teachers drive or lack thereof to use technology in homework, and so many other factors.  Therefore, I can’t confidently give a prescription answer to how schools should work with the technological gap, but instead suggest that schools and teachers evaluate how to help lessen the gap and encourage equity on a case to case basis, depending on their independent situation.

Sources Used and For Future Reading/Watching

Education Ted Talks

Today I watched two Ted Talks with different messages on how to improve schools today.  The first was called “The Surprising Truth About Learning in Schools,” where Will Richardson presented his truth that “Schools aren’t built for learning.”  He backed up this statement with his beliefs that schools need to implement changes that they know are important, and that schools should focus on students learning meaningful things.  The other video was called “Linda Liukas: A delightful way to teach kids about computers.”  In this video, Linda Liukas discussed how computers can be taught in a way that encourages critical thinking in students.  She related a lot of her examples to kids who would be in lower elementary school.  I found this video particularly relevant because this is something that I could see implementing in my classroom, and it adds a lot to what I have been learning in my technology class.

I really appreciated her positivity in the video.  I have my fears about using technology too much in the classroom and the kind of message that it sends to rely so much on it.  However, she brought up a perspective that I hadn’t previously considered.  She used computers as a way to exemplify some things that I have been learning in some of my education classes.  One such thing is help students use higher thinking skills, particularly related to Bloom’s taxonomy.  In this video, she gave a lot of examples of promoting critical thinking when students learn and work with computers/computer ideas.  This made me reflect on learning about how to promote critical thinking, and I realized that she made a great point.  I want to foster that critical thinking, and technology is an especially relevant way to do that since our society relies on technology so much.  Therefore, it is nice to be able to watch a Ted Talk for my technology class and to be able to relate it to my learning in several of my education classes, which makes this video very meaningful for my future teaching.

The graphic above is an explanation of Bloom’s Taxonomy from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching site.  To learn more, visit their site.

The article called “Computer programming improves critical thinking” by Aaron Weaver argued that critical thinking has improved his math.  He therefore believes that “Computer Science 1” should be mandatory for college students to better help them with other subjects.  This shows that working with computers for better higher thinking skills doesn’t just apply to young children, but rather, it can be applied to various ages.  As a future elementary school teacher, I want to educate my students to be smart elementary schoolers, but I also want them to grow up learning and developing these skills.  Therefore, this article supports the video in the benefit of teaching computers, but also encourages the idea that computers can be beneficial for people to develop better higher thinking skills throughout their lifetime.

My take-away from Linda Liukas Ted Talk is that in my future classroom, I shouldn’t just use technology to simply enhance the exact curriculum I would have taught without it.  Instead, I should do just that as well as using technology to promote higher thinking skills in Bloom’s Taxonomy that students will relate to because of their love and constant exploration of technology.  This relates to the video by Will Richardson in that meaningful learning will be more memorable to the student; therefore, helping students develop higher level thinking using computers can pull in the interests of students who are passionate about technology.


Education Podcasts and Our Classrooms


After reading the article titled “Enhancing Podcasts: A Twist on an Old Tool” and listening to an education podcast, I got some insight into how podcasts could be really useful to improve classrooms today.  I don’t recall using podcasts much in my own elementary and secondary education, but I have heard lectures as podcasts or videos in my undergrad.  I loved having lectures in the form of podcasts because I was able to watch it at home on my own time, and I was able to rewind and pause the lecture.  It added a lot of flexibility to my schedule.  I, however, do not think podcasts should be used in an elementary classroom in this way because it would present a lot of limitations, including the ability to ask questions easily, the ability for a teacher to monitor and make sure their students are engaged, the ability for a teacher to adjust if it doesn’t seem like students are grasping the content, and the ability for teachers to interact with students and keep them watching.  However, especially after reading the article and listening to the podcast, it seems technology can be adjusted to be implemented in an appropriate way for the target age group.  Today, however, I want to address how podcasts can be helpful for teachers.

To start with, the podcast was called “Why the Death of Paper Books May Be Greatly Exaggerated,” on the Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo.  In this podcast, he had Dan Willingham and Kristin Ziemke discuss the question at hand.  I chose this podcast out of personal interest because I personally do not like digital textbooks to use personal textbooks, but I also understand that there would be many benefits to schools and students to use them instead of paper books.  In this podcast, they discussed how research showed that kids actually prefer paper textbooks even though they are the “digital natives.”  The two guests offered different insights into why and adjustments that can be made to help schools do what is best regarding textbooks.  Kristin had suggested that children need to be taught how to use these online textbooks.  Dan had discussed how there are concerns with comprehension from these textbooks and how different digital textbook set-ups make a difference, therefore, promoting that schools evaluate the effectiveness of specific digital textbooks.  Overall, I found the podcast very interesting into further exploring the topic, and I felt the use of the podcast distributed the professional conversation effectively.

Classroom Q & A.png

So then I am brought to the question of using podcasts for my own learning.  As we all know, teachers never stop learning and should be always looking to improve their classroom strategies.  As I read about in the article, podcasts can be used in various creative ways for students, and the above podcast is a demonstration on how to present ideas and arguments on a timely topic in education for teachers.  Therefore, podcasts appears to be an effective way to present information to anyone.  Because I had a great experience learning from them in college and because there appears to be a great amount of useful ones online specifically for teachers, I hope to use them to better my teaching strategies.  Moreover, podcasts can be a great way for teachers to inform themselves without having to leave their computer.  The podcasts are out there, so teachers can find ones that they find interest or relevance in to improve their own professional learning.
Podcasts also give teachers who have insights and strategies to share the opportunity to share to a public audience online.  Podcasts, along with blogs, Youtube videos, social media, etc. give teachers several forms of power and recognition that they may not have had before.  One form of power is that they can now get their ideas out about changes in education so that they can have a positive influence.  Or they can find good podcasts on issues to share with others so they understand what is going on today to better form their understanding.  It also gives teachers recognition when they share a video that is being watched by other teachers.  There are great teachers all around the world, and a teacher who may not be famous, can share their strategies, which may inspire another teacher to follow or to improve their strategy.  This gives teachers who make podcasts extra recognition for their hard work that they probably wouldn’t have received otherwise. Therefore, podcasts can be a great tools for teachers to learn, and they can also be a great tool to improve the education of the world.

Powtoon Presentation

After learning about some neat presentation features online, I made a Powtoon.  I chose to make a Powtoon because it looked fun and interesting with the potential of being very informative and educational-something that is appealing to a future elementary school teacher!  My Powtoon presentation is based on one of my standards that I had chosen and discussed in an earlier blog.  Refer back to my blog titled Standard for the Semester: 1st Grade Reading 1.6 post.  Specifically, this presentation relates to the VA SOL Standard-Reading 1.6c, which can be find on the VA DOE website and says:

” Use beginning consonant digraphs to decode and spell single-syllable words.”

To start learning about how to apply this standard, I made a brief and fun presentation on Powtoons about digraphs.  A teacher would likely want to teach the 4 digraphs first, but this could be a fun review video for the kids.  The 4 digraphs included are ch, sh, th, wh.  Please click the links below to view my Powtoons presentation!  The first is a video version of my Powtoons with music and transitions and the second is a PDF version of my slides without the music and transitions.


Although I did not include this in my presentation, there are options to record your voice and use it in the presentation.  This could be a great way to virtually teach a lesson!  I am still learning the site, so all teachers who are interested in this resource should explore the site on their own and learn how to make these presentations to fit their educational goals.

So the next obvious question is how would I effectively utilize the presentation to teach the standard.  I would want the kids to sing along with me as we go through the presentation, and their parents can have the PDF as a reference as well.  This is just a fun way to help the students remember the 4 digraph sounds and also associate it with an example that is meeting the standard of a one syllable word.  When making the presentation, I chose my example for each digraph based on the image options from Powtoon.  They have a great selection of images, which is useful for presentations like this (and especially for more complex ones).  The hope is that the sounds and spellings of the beginning digraphs would transfer for when a student is trying to work with a different one syllable word, and that because of the practice with this presentation, they would be able to remember the different digraph sounds and apply them appropriately.

In my technology class, I have been learning a lot about different ways to incorporate technology into the classroom.  This is just one of many examples, which I chose because I wanted to explore this site to hopefully make more advanced presentations in the future.  As a future teacher, I want to be an effective teacher, and I want students to have fun.  I think this website could be a great resource for teachers and for students.  Try it out!