My students came into the class expecting a couple of PowerPoints and a paper or two. More than a few of them were also extremely worried about taking the class because they didn’t consider themselves good at technology. They had more than a bit of intellectual dissonance when I came out blazing a trail with technology that was new and fresh and fun and exciting. And even though I thought I was doing a heck of a job teaching technology, I left my students behind--way behind.
So, I regrouped and retaught some things and arranged for additional lab time to help students outside of class. I sent detailed emails of how to do the assignments I had rushed through in class. And I think it paid off. Last night, my students did presentations on what they learned in my class including good and bad things about technology, what they liked and what they struggled with, and their own strengths and weaknesses with technology. It was a very enlightening evening.
First, here is what they learned. They learned about my favorite Web 2.0 sites--Glogster, Animoto, Class Tools, Wordle, Bubbl.us, Blabberize, Big Huge Labs, YouTube, and more. They learned how to create examples and to link technology to the curriculum they were teaching. They learned how to encourage themselves and their students to write and collaborate using wikis and blogs. They found online games to use in their classrooms to teach and motivate their students. They learned about assistive technology and how it can be used to level the playing field for special needs students with learning disabilities, sensory impairments, and physical disabilities. They learned what copyright and fair use mean for them as graduate students and for their own students. They learned about plagiarism and how to prevent it in their own work and their students’ work. They learned what it meant to be digital citizens and how to make their students responsible digital citizens. They learned that there is still a HUGE digital divide in the Black Belt and West Alabama and East Mississippi; many kids are not getting any exposure to technology because the computers are broken, or they ave been stolen, or there are only 3 or 4 in the library for an entire school. They see how unfair it is that some schools have computers, Elmos, LCD projectors, interactive white boards, clickers, Mobis, and other great technology when their schools or their children’s schools have none, nada, zilch, nothing. They learned how to design lessons that incorporated technology and interested the kids and realized they were doing project based learning. And these graduate students realized that it was okay to be unsure about something, to say I don’t know, to ask for help, and to learn new things outside of their comfort zone. All in all, I would say they learned what I was teaching and whole lot more.
Second, here is what they listed as their strengths. Some realized that they were good at research. Others fell in love with blogging. Some saw how helpful Web 2.0 tools would be for differentiating instruction. Others rediscovered their creativity. Some found new ways to use the limited technology resources their schools had. Others found great sites to share with their classes. Some learned to teach other teachers what they had learned. Others developed their ability to be flexible in their thinking. They realized as they said their strengths out loud to the class that they had learned a lot.
Here we go to their weaknesses. They found that it was hard to teach a whole class of students to use a Web 2.0 tool in fits and starts of lab time and limited computer access. Some still don’t embrace technology. A student admitted being afraid of losing something on the computer or having to redo something that didn’t work right the first time. Another said that she didn’t like to read and found that not reading the assignments or directions on the different web sites was a problem. One student did not want to write papers. Some had difficulty sending assignments through Blackboard or attaching them to emails. Others would do the assignments and forget which flash drive, computer, or file they had saved it in. Some could not do classroom management for large classes with limited numbers of computers. There were some students who couldn’t use the sites we used in class at their schools because of filters. One student said she wanted to use technology, but didn’t know how to troubleshoot enough to figure out things when they went wrong. They were honest and they were reflective even about their shortcomings.
Here is what I learned last night . . .
1. I need to get a Greek book and keep it on my desk. This is to remind me that Greek was the hardest, most difficult thing I ever took and that many people view technology as I do Greek.
2. I need to remember the kids and teachers and schools who don’t have even the basics of technology and figure out more ways that UWA can help get it to them.
3. I need to start blogging on the first night of class. It really opened their minds and got them to relate to each other.
4. I need to include an Elmo demonstration and make my students do a presentation using the SMART and Promethean boards.
5. I need to visit some classrooms in the Black Belt. I may not be Ms. Fix-It, but at least I could get some things going technology-wise.
6. I need to redo the wiki assignment to include more widgets and ways to be creative.
7. I need to have a class on using eReaders and the Wii and other “different” types of technology beyond computers.
8. I need to offer a workshop on grant writing for technology in this area in Spring 2012.
9. I need to show my students more ways to use technology for their personal productivity and for professional use.
10. That all in all, I am doing a pretty good job teaching my course, making them think, exposing them to new technology, and helping them tackle challenges.
I am part of the solution to our current education problems; I am creating the next generation of teachers.