I believe the biggest thing that I’ve learned though this course is that technology is a vehicle for instruction. I used to kind of view it as the bells and whistles of showing off mastered material by my students. It was the prize for having worked hard. Now I see it more as a means to build mastery while also providing all students an opportunity to learn in ways that best suit them. Technology can be used to help quieter students find their voice while also helping students who tend to go full force ahead, to rein themselves in a bit and learn from others through collaborative projects based in a digital environment. The opportunity for students to provide feedback to one another by name or anonymously is huge when it can be captured in text and read and re-read as a learner continues to strive for improvement and understanding. I also view technology as a means to provide more individualized instruction to my students. Posting videos in Canvas allows students to view them as many times as they need as well as to go back to them in the future.
The Google environment provides a plethora of extensions and apps that can be used by some or all students to support engagement as well as learning. For example the Read and Write extension allows a struggling reader to access reading passages that are above their independent level for in class work such as well as research. Then, add FlipGrid and Today’s Meet and my mind is blown! I can provide engaging, and dare I say it, FUN ways to get my students to respond to text as well as one another. I’ll admit that I feared one to one in my classroom this Fall. I worried that my room would be filled with the sounds of keyboard clicks and students focused on their computer screens for entire class periods. But now I realize that technology can be a means to get a conversation started, with all students participating and then moved to actual verbal discussions. Starting online may help some students to gather their thoughts and their voice so that when it’s time to share in small group or whole group, they’ll have something to contribute.
I now believe technology can help me to provide learning opportunities outside of my classroom by “flipping” lessons so that when my students come in the next day, we can have a mini lesson and then they can get to work. They will be able to have time to think about what they’ve watched the night before and ask better questions to move their learning along, perhaps more quickly and efficiently. I never thought I would be in position to genuinely work towards flipped lessons because I thought it was such a daunting task. I don’t think that anymore, and I’m actually kind of excited to work on some lessons in the fall. Fingers crossed I don’t fall flat on my face!
Kindness Boomerang Project
My SEL project, “Kindness Boomerang” has helped me to reflect upon how I need to continue working to support all of the learners in my classroom. This project provided an opportunity for all of my students to participate in a lesson by tapping into multiple ways for students to share their understanding and individualize the lessons. Also, the lessons provide students with opportunities to take time to build understanding at their own pace. Today’s Meet provides an opportunity for the quieter students as well as those who may also need time to formulate their response, a voice in the classroom when they’re ready, as opposed to immediately during a whole or small group discussion.
By providing a link to the video, students are given the freedom to watch the video multiple times, to do what works for them. A challenge to providing a viable video link is that elementary students in our district are not allowed to view YouTube videos over the school network. I will need to work around that and I’m hoping that the network filters will allow student access to the Kindness Project website. Finally, the creation of the Word Cloud will help to solidify what kindness really means to each student and provide a visual reminder that can be displayed in the classroom.
I realize that this project does not rank high on the SAMR model for my students, but in a sense, it’s transformative in my teaching. A project like this is taking me away from the front of the classroom leading to stepping off to the side and facilitating. It will provide me with an opportunity to talk with individual students and meet their needs while also building rapport with them to create a positive learning culture in my classroom towards the beginning of the school year.
The SAMR model is the technology integration model that I am most familiar with and have had the opportunity to discuss with my colleagues on several occasions. In applying this model to my own integration, I can make sense of how it provides a framework for moving from being a tech novice to a tech innovator. In my mind, Substitution and Augmentation are the ways in which the students and teacher dip their toes in the pool water and become comfortable with using technology by easily comparing it and linking it to the more traditional school experience. Substitution and Augmentation are ways in which technology is a tool for building foundational understanding. Modification and Redefinition are the equivalent of jumping into the pool and swimming to the other side. Modification and Redefinition lead to a deeper understanding of the course content/foundational understanding because of the collaborative and immersive opportunities afforded with the use of technology. Just like in life, there’s a time to hang out at the edge of the pool and there’s a time to jump right into the pool.
The purpose for the activity needs to be clearly understood and identified so that the appropriate use of technology or lack of use of technology fits with that purpose. Adding onto the SAMR model with Bloom’s Taxonomy further deepened my understanding because it helped me to further differentiate the different levels within SAMR. There are times when I need to work with my students to build a foundation of understanding about a concept(s) so they can have a starting point to dig deeper and to pursue their interests within the concept to build a deeper level of understanding. There must be times of students remembering and applying concepts before they can move into analyzing and creating. Technology that is integrated properly can assist students in building their foundational understanding so that they are better prepared to analyze and create via technology further down the road.
As I reflect on where I’m at in integrating technology effectively in my fifth grade classroom, I would say that I have rarely given my students the opportunity to jump into the pool and immerse themselves in their work and in building their understanding. I am definitely a work in progress in this area. I feel confident in my ability to use technology in substitutional and augmentative sorts of ways with Googleforms and Googledocs. I have appreciated the opportunity to provide feedback in a more timely manner to a larger portion of my students as well as create more opportunities for students to provide one another with meaningful feedback as well. I struggle with moving into the deeper level of technology immersion with Modification and Redefinition because I’m unsure about what it looks like and if it will be a good use of class time to allow the students the opportunity to explore and create on their own as they work toward CCSS. I know it’s cliche but I also worry about time away from moving on in the curriculum. I know that student choice and creation are good practice, but I also know that my administrators expect me to work all the way through the curriculum within the year. I struggle with the give and take required for students to have more time to pursue their interests related to the curriculum. Their gains and a portion of my evaluation are based on success on standardized tests and not the amazing projects they create. In the coming year, I’d like to implement a consistent Genius Hour (realistically a half hour 2-3 times per week) into my schedule to provide opportunities for my students to pursue their own interests and to create opportunities for Modification and Redefinition based upon student choice. I’m thinking the engagement, collaboration and learning that I will hopefully observe will help me to become more comfortable with the process.