Sunday, April 3, 2016

Technology and Digital Learning: Reflection, Update and Status of my Teaching #CyberPD

Around this time of year I always start reflecting on my current year of teaching.  Last summer I participated in #Cyber PD Google Community, which caused me to stop and reflect on my use of technology.  You can read my posts here, here, here and here.

I wanted to write an update on my current use of technology and my current mood/philosophy regarding technology in the classroom.  A couple of things have changed since last summer.  Our school got a cart of Chromebooks for the library and the district hired a full-time library media specialist for our building.  We still don't have wireless in my hallway, but I hear the district is working on that.  I also hear they are purchasing another cart of Chromebooks to be checked out for the classroom.  This, in addition to a computer lab is good news!

I still believe that technology should be used to help students create, collaborate and share their learning.  In general, I'm not interested in the next best app or gadget just because it's available and all shiny and new.  Whether it's an old fashion pencil, book, or electronic device I always ask myself one question.  How will this improve my teaching and students' learning?  If a notebook and pencil works best, than I'm still going to use it! Last summer, I have to admit, I felt envious of all the 1-to-1 i-pad and Chromebook classes.  It was frustrating to see the inequity across schools in regard to technology.  This fall and winter, as I dreamed of my own 1-to-1 classroom, I realized that I needed to decide what that exactly meant to me.  What would I do if I had access to devices all day long?  Would I use them for everything?  Since I don't have 1-to-1 devices yet, I can't tell you what exactly I would do, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't use them for everything.  Here's why;  First, I just don't think it's healthy for children to sit in front of a screen for long.  Elementary students need to touch and manipulate paper, pen and math manipulatives.  They need to use oral language.  They need to lay on a beanbag and read.  And, yes they need to do the physical act of writing.  And they need to do it a lot.  I also think it's important for students to have choices and know when to use technology.  So right now, for me, a 1-to-1 class means that my students would have access to the technology whenever they need it.  They don't have to sign up to go to the computer lab.

One thing that has come up quite often this past year, at least in my school district, is whether or not teaching third graders to use Google Drive is appropriate.  Many teachers argue that without keyboarding skills, students cannot successfully use Drive. It is my opinion that Google Drive is definitely appropriate for third graders!  Yes, they are very, very slow with the keyboarding skills, and it takes most students 1-2 sessions just to learn how to log onto their account.  But we must remember that learning is a process, it is not about a product.  I start with Google Draw and Slides which allows students to get familiar with the keyboard without having to type an entire document.  I also think it's important for teachers to understand that Drive is so much more than a word processing program!  Right now my students are creating their first Google Document.  They are pecking away much quicker and finding the right keys.  Using Draw and Slide, along with working collaboratively, allowed them time to learn the keyboard and how to format text so they were ready for independence.  My access to computers is very limited, so I didn't want to use that time with a formal typing program.

Other Changes
I started a class twitter account and still have a class blog.  One goal I had was to blog more regularly.  This didn't happen, so I need to re-evaluate my class blog and whether I will continue blogging.  I did revamp my class website and I think it is very useful.  I am particularly proud of my Symbaloo page.  It allows my students to easily access different Internet sites that we use. I continue to use Wonderopolis for shared reading, but also added DogoNews.  I tried out Bookopolis with my class, but students really don't use it due to our limited access to computers.  My class has visited the library often to use the Chromebooks for several inquiry projects.  You can read a post about it here. It has been wonderful to work alongside our new library media specialist.

Next year some things will be changing.  I've decided to move to 5th grade.  I've been in grades 1-3 for the last ten years, so I am excited and nervous for the challenge of a new grade.  I have loved every grade I have taught.  There isn't a big reason for the change, it's just something I have been considering for awhile.  I started my career teaching 4th, which made me a better 1st grade teacher, which made me a better 2nd grade teacher, which made me a better 3rd grade teacher, and that will make me a better 5th grade teacher! I look forward to using Google Drive with my fifth graders and exploring other digital tools as well.

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