Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Using Technology in the Classroom Final Reflection

Final Reflection

(Before I begin answering questions, I’d like to say that I had a great time in this class and learned a lot from all of you.  Thank you all for your excellent input!)
  • In what ways has this course helped you to develop your own technology skills as a professional teacher?
This course allowed me the opportunity of exploring wikis more fully.  I was reminded of what a great tool they are for learning, and my classmates showed me some new applications for this tool that convinced me that I should be using them in my classroom.  More importantly, I had an opportunity to communicate with well-educated and dedicated professionals in collaborative endeavors in order to achieve our common goals.  That’s an important 21st century skill, and one that I can’t acquire without stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit and taking a class like this one.
  • In what ways have you deepened your knowledge of the teaching and learning process?
While I was taking this course, I learned that I will be teaching high-school English this year, which is a big jump from the middle-school computer science and computer applications classes that I had been teaching for the past 7 years.  I was able, during the course of this class, to take some of the most important things I had learned which teaching Computer classes and apply them to the new English classes that I will be creating this year. I have re-discovered the importance of using wikis and class blogs, for example.  I was also reminded of the importance of publishing information online, when possible, and sharing our work with a larger ausience.
  • In what ways have you changed your perspective from being teacher-centered to learner-centered?  And in what ways can you continue to expand your knowledge of learning, teaching, and leading with technology with the aim of increasing student achievement?
I have always thought of myself as a fairly student-centered teacher.  In the past, I have tried to listen to my students as much as possible and to be as non-judgmental as possible about their answers. I have encouraged them to give me a lot of feedback about what they are and are not learning in my classes.  In the future, though, I can see that I am going to have to let them take more control. I need to get out of the way even further and let them choose the direction of the class right from the beginning, rather than merely letting them evaluate the assignments and projects once they are complete. 

  • Set two long-term goals (within two years) for transforming your classroom environment by which you may have to overcome institutional or systemic obstacles in order to achieve them. How do you plan to accomplish these goals?
1.      Within two years, I hope to find a group of International students with whom I can collaborate on a blog.  We could choose a novel to read together, and blog on the topics touched on by that article, or we could just read and comment on news stories from a particular online newspaper or an online journal.  That would be an excellent addition to the classes I teach, because it will lend us a perspective that is very different from our own and that we couldn’t get access to any other way.
Depending on the reading material we choose, I may encounter institutional obstacles based upon the topic or the expense.  If the objection is expense-based, we could apply for an internal grant through our PTA group, or try some fundraising.  This wouldn’t be a difficult obstacle to overcome.  Frankly, sometimes I overcome this obstacle by just getting out my personal checkbook. If the students choose a book that doesn’t get approved by the board, we would have a much bigger fight on our hands.  To avoid this problem, the best thing to do is to be proactive and take a few students with me to the presentation/proposal I make to the board. Normally, two dedicat4ed and sincere students is enough, as long as it is a reasonable request.  The board isn’t comprised of ogres.  They care about the students and like to help foster enthusiasm, as long as it can be channeled appropriately. 
2.      I would like to take some of our tenth grade World Literature students on a trip to Europe.  Since we are studying Julius Caesar, I would like to go to Stratford and/or London and/or Rome.  This will generate intense interest in the work we will be studying, especially among the students who are willing to do the work and take the trip. It’s hard for me to think of a better motivator.  If I were really lucky, I would find a way to combine the blogging with the trip and somehow meet some of these students and teachers in person, eventually. 
In order to pay for this trip, which is going to cost about $3,000 per student,  we are going to have to do some fairly serious fundraising, including a couple of spaghetti dinners, a candy bar sale, a beef jerky sale, and some other event like a haunted house.  Students and parents will also be expected to come up with some of the money themselves, in many cases.  I anticipate some resistance from our board when it comes to creating fundraisers, because other clubs have already staked out their annual fiundraising claims and I won’t be able to overlap fundraisers, by selling candy bars from November to December, for example, or by clashing with the Senior class’s spaghettui dinners.  However, the next school district over has been taking this trip for years and they have offered to team up with us to help organize and to bring the costs down for everyone.  I think we should be able to get this one passed.  We’ll see.

  • Refer to your checklist from Week 1. Have any of your answers changed after completing this course?
I’m not entirely certain to which checklist this question refers.  If it’s asking me about which technologies I think are important to use in the classroom, I still think that creating and posting podcasts are very valuable skills and that my students learn a lot when they do it.  I think they might gain more if I would allow them to post their research online, especially with my senior high students.  For many of the same reasons, I also think wikis and blogs would be great tools that I could use a lot more than I do right now.