Sunday, March 20, 2011

How has my viewpoint changed regarding the integration of technology in the classroom?

I just can't imagine, at this point, not diving right into to integrating technology into my classroom. I feel more confidant, now, about moving forward with this goal. I felt insecure walking into this technology class. However, now I see that there are ways to stay up to date on the latest advances in technology--and there are ways to learn how to use them! I didn't think there was any way I could ever do anything creatively on the computer. I love my webquest. It got me excited about being in the classroom again. Photo Story and Scratch have been big hits in my house already--my kids love them. I love when my first grader comes home telling me about a smart board---and I know what he's talking about. I love having the math games that help my third grader "get it". I appreciate the easy-going, laid back format of this course. The hands on time has been invaluable. I've been sending along information to my kids' teachers non-stop--just hoping they are in the mindset of wanting to give them a try. I'm particularly interested in researching how technology can help special needs children. I've found some excellent resources so far, and again, feel confidant about my abilities now. I feel, going forward, I'll be more willing to experiment, research and apply what I've learned. I'm certainly appreciative for my new found confidence! My future students thank you.

Using Instructional Websites to Differentiate

Differentiated instruction is the process of ensuring that what a student learns, it is learned, and how the student demonstrates what is learned, student’s readiness level, interests, and preferred mode of learning. Differentiation stems from beliefs about differences among learners, how they learn, learning preferences and individual interests. Differentiation in education can also include how a student shows that they have mastery of a concept. This could be through a research paper, role play, computer usage, diagram, poster, etc. The key is finding how students learn and meeting those needs.

The author of this article is an eighth grade science teacher with a Special Education degree. He is always accommodating and modifying for students with IEP's, but also "going beyond that to offer multi-modal, engaging instruction and assessment for all students.  The question was always, how?" In the five years in his current position, he's fought to incorporate the latest and greatest technology in order to keep up with his students' needs. He has been successful for the most part, but after all of the school's purchases, "beyond the smart board, document camera and the Flip video, the single most comprehensive differentiation tool we use is our instructional website". The use of a classroom website in the classroom has changed the way the teachers teach, and the way the students learn. All of the other technology used, can be brought together on the website. Students can access  it and have input on what they want to see there, and what helps them most. Websites are an outstanding way to reach students who are kinesthetic/tactile learners. "A dynamic animation of a concept on the smart board (many recent textbooks provide access to free links) can get kinesthetic learners (and students who flourish with attention) up and moving."

Instructional websites also provide in-class individual engagement for students with behavior management issues, perhaps at a computer station with an aide, keeping students in class rather than out in a behavior room. Online textbooks and textbooks on CD provide an alternative for low readers, but managing CD players and other equipment can be an issue. By posting textbook audio clips to the site, scaffolding for low readers is easily accessible--in class, during the review cycle, or out of class with support.

It may be that teachers value their time so much, that they don't want to take what little time they have in order to create a class website. However, "the benefit of investing the time to build a content-rich instructional site, for a subject with a recent adoption, is that curriculum elements, once posted, will be useful for years. So in fact, it saves prep time over the long run."

With an instructional website, assessments and re-assessments can be made easier, and the interest level of the learner is heightened, and kept for longer periods of times. Technology is all around us, and the internet is a very big part of our lives. With a classroom instructional website, it is possible that all learners will benefit, especially those who need that extra support.