In the semester that I have been enrolled and participating with TED 4590, I have used more technology than I ever have in my previous fifteen years of school combined. Throughout this class, and especially in this final project, I was forced to push myself beyond my boundaries and experiences with technology. I am not the type of person to seek out technology. I have a computer, a tablet, and a smart phone, but my typical technology use only includes searching google, checking my email and the school website, texting, and playing games. I don’t use social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but this class required me to do so, and while I was initially resistant, I now think that even if I never choose to use it for personal use, I at least see how it can be utilized in a classroom.
The very first thing that I had to do for this class was to create a Twitter account and send out at least one Tweet a week. I did do this, typically tweeting toward the end of the week, either on Thursday or Friday, or occasionally at the beginning of the week. Mostly, I Tweeted either about articles I had read about technology in the classroom, the readings for the month, or something to do with history or English (my topics of study). For instance, one of my first Tweets was about whether or not I thought Twitter should be utilized in the classroom. I Tweeted that I was not totally convinced that it should be used as a “snark valve,” which was what one of the articles we read for the class said it was used for.
Next, I had to create a blog on which I posted once a month, which totaled to four blog posts. This I did always at the end of the week, on Friday night. The blog posts were in response to the readings we read for the month. I typically did my blog posts on only one topic, even if the readings might have been over a couple of different topics, with the exception of the last blog post that I made. I did this so that I could really focus on one of the topics instead of only providing a shallow review of everything I read for the month. I also had to respond to at least two of my classmates’ blogs before class met for the month. I made a conscious effort to respond to different people each week so that I was not always responding to just the people in the class who I as friends with. I tried to respond to a question or an important issue that the writer brought up in his or her blog post. For instance, with the last blog post, I responded to one person’s comment that they didn’t understand why there was such a disparity between one school district to the next in terms of technology availability, which I tried to explain my understanding of to the best of my ability.
There was also a flipped classroom assignment, where I had to create a video that potential students would watch and learn from so that they could do some work in class. Specifically, I did my assignment over the “STEAL” method of characterization. I learned this method in one of my practicum experiences, and I thought that it was simple enough that students would not necessarily need to ask a lot of questions about it before practicing it. Basically, it means that students determine what a character is like by finding quotes in the book or story about what the character says, thinks, the effect he or she has on others, the character’s actions, and what the character looks like. I chose to do this because it was something that students could easily learn to do in about fifteen minutes and then practice on their own before they came to class to do an assignment with it.
One assignment that we were supposed to do for the class was a Tweet-up. I wish I had been able to do it, but I was confused about when the Tweet-up was supposed to be, and by the time I realized when it was supposed to be, the time had already passed. Since it was led by another student in the class, there was no way I could do it after the time had passed. Because of this, I still do not know exactly what a Tweet-up is.
For the final month of the class, there were two assignments, in addition to the weekly Tweets and monthly blog posts: an App Review and the final project. For the App Review, I chose to review Microsoft One Note, Adobe Voice, Studyblue, Quick Key Mobile, and Nearpod. I chose these apps because I could actually envision using them in a classroom or for myself as a student. I had heard of Microsoft One Note at a staff meeting at one of my practicums and I had used Nearpod before in one of my classes, but the rest I found on the internet and imagined how I could use them in a classroom. I spent a lot of time reading reviews for these apps to determine if they would actually be useful in a classroom. I also only chose apps that I could use with my iPad, since at the very least, even if students did not have iPads, I would be able to use some of these apps on my end.
For the final project, students were supposed to choose a website and create a narrative for how it could be used in the classroom. I chose the website Storify, which allows users to create a story using information from social media and the web. I decided that I would have students use if for a journalistic style writing assignment where they could choose to do a movie review, an editorial about some issue that is important to them, or an article about some event, preferably one they have attended. As an example, I chose to make my own article about an event, which allowed me to explore the Storify website and its features. I also had to decide what was the most important information that people would need to know if they were going to use this website and put it into a brochure for the other students in our class. I personally thought that the most important things for people to know about the website before using it is that it allows the teacher to validate the type of writing that students do on a daily basis, but it also raises questions about ownership and citing of material, it does not allow all students equal access to sources—since students have to have accounts with certain sites in order to use information from them, and it is not immediately user friendly, requiring time to explore the website before bringing it into the classroom.
For me, the most important part of the class overall was the chance to experience using all of these different forms of technology. As I said earlier, I probably will not keep my Twitter account, but I think it was important to have the opportunity to use it and see its educational potential so I could decide for myself whether or not I would use it in my own classroom. Specifically, for the Twitter and blog accounts, I think it was important to see something that students could easily be accountable for on a weekly or monthly basis. Even if I don’t use these technologies in the same way, I could still see using them in a way to keep students accountable for keeping up with their education at regular intervals.
The most important thing to me about the flipped classroom assignment was determining what I thought students could easily learn outside of class without the teacher there to answer questions. Before doing this assignment, I thought a flipped classroom was something I would never use because I did not like that students would not all have the same access to technology and would not be able to get help outside of class if they needed it. Since doing the assignment, and discussing flipped classrooms in class, I have learned that teachers can put the videos on cds for students that do not have wi-fi, and students could go to the school library or check out a computer in order to view or listen to the flipped classroom video. There are also plenty of things that are very easy to grasp for most students that teachers do not have to waste precious time in class teaching. I had to evaluate what I thought would be easy for students to learn without teacher help, so I decided on teaching students a tool for characterization rather than teaching them about one character, because they might come to a different conclusion about a character than I did if they can do characterization for themselves.
For me, the most important part of the app review was researching the kinds of apps that are out there that could be used in a classroom. I may not use all of these apps in my classroom in the future—for instance, I probably won’t use Quick Key Mobile since I am not a fan of multiple choice tests or quizzes—but I know where to look to find apps that have been used by other teachers. It gives me the opportunity to see how other people are using apps that I am already using as well. Doing this assignment allowed me to see the possibilities for apps that could be used by teachers, students, or both.
Finally, the most important aspect of the final project, for me, was finding out everything that I needed to know to explain how to use Storify to other people. The purpose of the assignment was to find a website that someone could actually use in their classroom, and if I was going to use the website in my own classroom, I would have to teach others how to use it. Even though I would not necessarily consider myself proficient with a technology, if and when I bring technology into the classroom, I know what to look for and what students and teachers would need to know before using a website. I know what I need to do in a website before bringing it into my classroom, and how to make myself very familiar with the website and its requirements before introducing it to my students and being blindsided by certain problems that I might not have been expecting.
I could see plenty of similarities between the technologies and assignments I have done this semester and other technologies I have used or other experiences I have had. With Twitter, though I have never personally done this myself, I thought of sending a Tweet as a more modern way of sending a telegram. Since one of my endorsements is in history, I try to make as many connections between today and yesterday as possible, and with both a Tweet and a telegram, people are limited to as few characters as possible, so people have to be very conscious about their word choice to most effectively communicate their ideas. To be honest, it took me about ten minutes to compose each Tweet because I kept writing more than the character count would allow, so I would have to go back and revise before I could actually post the Tweet. In the same way, people who sent telegrams would have to have carefully crafted their message before paying the money to send it, because to send more than a few lines was very cost prohibitive.
Writing the blog posts reminded me of posting to the discussion boards that I have used within the Blackboard system. For both technologies, I would type my posts either in Microsoft Word or Google docs first and then copy and paste the text into the posts so that I could more carefully monitor my word count and not have to worry about accidentally posting before I was ready. For both, I could also expect to respond and be responded to by other people in the class. Both are ways of communicating that do not necessarily allow for the most efficient back and forth interaction between poster and responder, but they do allow people to post their thoughts and their thoughts about what other people have written.
With the flipped classroom assignment, I was reminded of watching “how-to” videos on Youtube, and I believe that students would also be reminded of the same when they watch flipped classroom videos. Because what I did was a step by step process, it could easily be labeled as a “how to characterize” video. It equated classroom instruction with more informal do-it-yourself instruction for me.
The app reviews reminded me of when I decide to download apps for my iPad. I never go quite as in-depth as I did for this assignment, but before downloading any app, I at least read the first three or four reviews and look at how many stars the app has been given before I decide to download it. For pleasure or for education, I never pay for an app, with the singular exception of paying for the Blackboard app so that I could more easily access my assignments and grades on the go. I went through a similar process of deciding what I needed to know about an app before downloading it for the app review assignment as I do on a daily basis with apps I choose to use for my own benefit.
For the final project, using the Storify website reminded me of using google docs, if for no other reason than that it automatically saved what users wrote. I have never used anything else like this website, with the possible exception of google docs, because in google docs, one can incorporate pictures and text. Storify goes the extra step by allowing the users to pull information dierectly from social media and incorporate it into your own writing, including pictures, videos, gifs, Tweets, and website links. Since I do not use a lot of technology, I have never used technology like this before, but the finished product does remind me of the digitally born stories we read within this class, in that it incorporates more engaging material within a piece of work to further illustrate an idea or support a point. For me, Storify allowed users the convience of google docs with a beautiful final product similar to “A Game of Shark and Minnow.”
What I have learned most from Tweeting every week is that it is a good way to check student progress when students are not in class every day. Because I knew I had to Tweet every week, I made sure that I had something that I could Tweet that was somewhat related to the class or to my content area. Sometimes I could make it more fun and interactive, such as a question where I asked Tweeters to identify their favorite “Shakespeare burn,” and sometimes it was much more direct and informational, such as a tweet where I simply provided links to articles about using technology in the classroom. Twitter, I learned, provides users with a way to get information out in a very quick and concise fashion, and even though I found it initially difficult to use, struggling with limiting myself to 140 characters or being confused about how to use a hashtag, in the end, I learned that it is a very efficient way to communicate with a large group of people.
From blogging, I learned about a format where students could have an audience wider than just their teacher and even just their peers. Like in this class, teachers could require their students to read their classmates’ blog posts and respond to a few of them each week or each month, and all students would be able to express themselves even when there is not enough time in a class for each student to share their ideas in a traditional discussion. Students would benefit from reading their classmates’ reactions to books or ideas learned in class by seeing different perspectives, and they would also benefit by knowing that they were writing for real people. One of the biggest issues in writing classes is how to get students to write for a wider audience, and by posting on the internet, even though it might open students up to comments from unkind indiciduals, their work could be read by other people, giving them the sense that their writing is not just for the sake of the class, but for the benefit of others as well. That is how I felt about my own blog posts, and I believe that that is how students might feel as well.
I learned a lot about the flipped classroom. Before this class, I always thought it was the worst thing that a teacher could do to their students, to make them learn outside of the classroom where they could not ask for help and might learn information incorrectly. However, in this class I learned that there are many different ways to do a flipped classroom, and teachers could use it as often or as little as they want. I learned that it also depend quite a bit on the class that an individual teacher has and whether or not they are responsible enough or advanced enough to be responsible for their own learning. Under the right circumstances and with the right content, a flipped classroom could be a great relief both to teachers and students, freeing up class time for students to explore what they learned the night before and get help with actually putting what they learned into practice.
From the app review, I learned that not all apps are created equal. For instance, I found three for four different apps that could be used for grading multiple choice quizzes and tests quickly, but after taking a look at each of the apps, I found that the only one I would actually use in my classroom is the Quick Key Mobile app that I actually reviewed. While the other apps performed similar functions, and some even had what looked like a more professional set-up, the reviews for the other apps were not very positive and the interface and instructions were more difficult to navigate. Just because an app is the first that appears in the app store when a key word like “grading” is searched does not necessarily mean that that app is the one that should be used in the classroom. Teachers should spend time carefully researching what they should bring into their classroom, because the work they put in on the front end of deciding what to use will only make things easier for them on the back end, because they will have chosen the best possible app for the situation.
The final project taught me that it is important to first master a technology before showing it to others. If I had just quickly picked a website for the final project without trying it myself, when it came time to present it in class, I would have had a lot of trouble demonstrating the website’s features to others, since I would not have known them myself. I also learned that it is important to pick technology that students will actually want to use. After looking at several different websites that I could use in a classroom, I decided on Storify because I know that so many students today do most of their writing on social media. I think that students would actually want to use this website because they get to incorporate Facebook posts, Tweets, and Instagram pictures into their writing, and many students use these websites to post their own thoughts and pictures. Using Storify allows students to utilize social media as a legitimate source of information, which I believe validates their own use of social media, and I have learned that it is really very important to try to reach students with technology that matters to them.
During this semester, I actually switched majors from education to English, so I will likely never actually teach in a high school classroom. My plan is to get a Master’s degree and teach at the collegiate level, so I can still use technology in a classroom, but it might be used slightly differently. Since I currently plan on teaching at a college, I might use Twitter as a way of keeping in contact with students if the class does not meet everyday. Most likely, if I used Twitter, I would use it to remind students of upcoming assignments on a weekly basis and have students Tweet questions to me when I cannot see them in person.
Since I would be teaching English, I would have students use blog posts as a way to engage with the texts that are read for class. I would have them post on one of the pieces per week, and the posts would not have to be long, but it would be an easy to check and see if the students have actually done the reading and understood it enough to engage with the text on a critical level. Some students do not like to talk in class, so this would also serve as replacement participation points for students who do not like to talk in class.
While I do not see myself actually establishing a flipped classroom with my class, I might use the screen casting technology I used for the flipped classroom assignment to record the lessons that I plan on teaching in class for students who might not be able to make it to class. Instead of discussing in class, they would have to write an additional blog post to respond to the lesson. These videos would also be available for students to view in case they needed to review what was discussed in a class period before a test or if for some reason they did not take notes or remember well what was said in class. For me, the video portion of the flipped classroom assignment might be the most useful thing I used in this class, and it is what I see myself most likely using in my future classes, though not necessarily in a flipped classroom format.
In my future classroom, not all students might have the opportunity to use tablets, but most will probably have smart phones, so I could easily do what I did for the app reviews and recommend apps that will supplement student learning for my class. Using the apps would not be required, but it would be something available for students to use if they wanted help with the class. If it was available at my school, I would ask to bring in a tablet cart one day of class to show students a few apps that they could use to supplement their learning or for help if they needed it. I do not really plan to use the apps in class, as not all students would have equal access, but I would research to find out the apps that could help my students outside of class when they would not necessarily be able to talk directly to me.
Finally, in my own classroom, I could see myself asking students to use Storify either as a replacement for the blog posts or as an additional, more lengthy and more formal writing assignment. If I chose the first option, they would still create weekly posts, but it would be more informal and more of a space where students could connect what they were reading in class to their own lives. They could incorporate images and videos that either helped them understand the reading or explained how other people interpret the work, and they could react by explaining how they interpret the work differently than most people do. It would be much more of an exploratory space than the blogs would be, and would allow students to bring in how other people who aren’t necessarily scholars interpret or respond to great works of literature. If I chose the second method, I would likely use it only once in the class and have students explore a specific question that is brought up in a work of literature. They would still incorporate other perspectives, but they would also need to incorporate scholarly works into their posts. In a composition class, I might just have student complete the same assignment that I would have given to the high school students, but with higher expectations. I think I would choose the first option over the second, but the benefit that blogs have over Storify is that students would only need to send me the link to their website once for me to be able to view all of their posts, while students would have to send me the link to each one of their Storify posts in order for me to see them. While I find the format of Storify more engaging and interesting, I might also get frustrated with having my inbox clogged each week with email links.
Overall, whether or not I use every technology I learned about in this class is not necessarily important. What is important is that now I feel much more comfortable incorporating any technology into my classroom and I have options for what to use and how to use it. I cannot say that I am an expert on technology, but now I know that my students will not be an expert on all technology either, and I know how to learn what I need to know about technology to become proficient enough to use it in my classroom.