Bringing the World-Wide Web into the Classroom

The Internet is one of the most — if not the most —  expansive sources of technology available to us.  If used properly, the Internet in the classroom has a great potential to promote student learning.  It allows everyone to access information quickly, conveniently, and, most importantly, virtually at no cost.  The Internet can be used in countless ways to promote student learning in the classroom.

Google is one of the most powerful, beneficial tools the Internet has to offer when it comes to promoting student learning in the classroom.  One of the most advantageous tools Google offers schools is Google Apps for Education, or GAFE.  GAFE offers student’s unlimited gigabits towards the entirety of Google Applications, such as Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, and Google Sites.  These sites will help me, as a future teacher, to effectively communicate with students and their families; while helping students stay organized, collaborating with each other and manage their homework and various other assignments.

Since these students will only be in elementary school, their Google account will be monitored by their parent or legal guardian.  They will be given the student’s username and password, allowing them to gain a better understanding of what is being covered in class on that specific day, and when homework and other numerous assignments are due.  I believe that when parents are cognizant of their child’s responsibilities inside and outside of the classroom, they can better monitor and ensure that all the work is done on time and to the best of the child’s ability.

Another surprisingly useful tool that will help to promote student learning in the classroom is YouTube.  Utilizing YouTube, I will be able to post content such as a tutorial video, which explains how to do the homework from the previous night.  While the video is playing, I can circulate through the classroom and provide additional help to students needing it.  This will allow me to save time during the overall class period.  YouTube will also provide the means to introduce students to new assignments that require a different medium of technology.  Students can watch the videos on one medium, while simultaneously working on their assignment.  YouTube will afford students the opportunity to access the materials from class, both inside and outside the classroom.

I believe that Internet incorporation within the classroom has the potential to expand and promote student learning.  The Internet provides students with unlimited access to almost anything and everything imaginable.  With the world at their fingertips, it is my job as an educator to enforce digital citizenship and responsibility, and to certify the students’ safety.  The Internet is comprised with millions of constructive tools that will help teachers connect with students and their families.

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Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

Technology’s capabilities have made vast advancements since I was in grade school.  The use of technology was rarely considered in the classroom for the purpose of enhancing lesson plans.  Fast forward a few years, and teachers everywhere are making great strides to acquire, learn about, and utilize the latest technologies. They realize that this generation of students has a high degree of familiarity (and comfort) with technology, since the majority of them have “grown up” using some form of technology.

Currently in our culture, it seems that children start using technologies–such as tablets or smartphones—once they learn how to walk and talk.  It almost seems as if these intricate technologies are “hard wired” into children’s brains shortly after they are born. Children may be familiar regarding how to use these technologies; however they remain unaware of the dangers of it, as well as the responsibilities that accompany it.  I believe that if I plan to incorporate technology in my lesson plans, it is imperative to teach my students about Digital Citizenship.

I will be teaching early elementary students and I believe this is a crucial age for learning the responsibilities that come with technology.  When given certain technologies, little kids like to explore them on their own before being instructed on how to handle them.  Technology is a very powerful tool, and as Spiderman says, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

It is my role as a teacher to instruct my students on the dos and don’ts of the technologies they will use.  Safety of students is the top priority of teachers, staff and administrators.  Technology is one of the most common resources that has the ability to put students’ safety at risk.  By following and teaching my students about the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship, I believe that the students can remain out of harm’s way and that the lessons they learn about Digital Citizenship will resonate and remain with them throughout their lives.

Students are never too old to learn about digital citizenship and responsibility. It is better to learn these nine elements in school, rather than making a careless mistake using technology.  Technology is very powerful and, if not handled correctly, can severely damage one’s life forever.

Critiquing Elementary Lesson Plans

The first lesson plan I am going to critique is geared towards elementary students, covering figurative language.  I believe that the use of figurative language and creative writing is an extremely important topic that students should learn early and continue to develop as they grow older.

This lesson plan is very effective; it clearly states the objectives, procedures, and how the students will be assessed at the end of the assignment.  The lesson plan also connects with the Common Core State Standards for language arts and writing by demonstrating an understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.  The objective of this lesson plan is for students to do the following:

  • Create a PowerPoint show illustrating two types of figurative language. As an alternative, students will use an interactive online tool to create a similar slideshow presentation, using a site such as Zoho Show. (This site is easier to use than PowerPoint, and free.  Zoho Show also allows students to collaborate, even on different computers with a simple URL address).
  • Demonstrate understanding of personification by creating and interpreting simple examples.
  • Demonstrate understanding of alliteration by creating and interpreting simple examples

The lesson plan continues with a list of materials needed to complete the assignment as well as procedures for the students to follow.  Students will review the concepts of alliteration and personification using different interactive websites provided by the teacher.  They will then start to model their project following the slide requirements for their slideshow, also provided by the teacher.  Before the students begin working on their computerized slideshow, they will need to start brainstorming creative examples of both alliteration and personification using idea cards that may be either digital or non-digital. Once students complete the foundation of the assignment, they are ready to begin their projects.

Depending on students’ familiarity with technology, they have the option to start their power point from scratch, or use a pre-made template.  Each slide should contain examples of alliteration and personification.  Students should also color code and underline the word being personified (on the personification slide) and the alliterative letters (on the alliteration slide). If this project is completed on Microsoft PowerPoint, students will travel from computer to computer and look at their classmates’ projects.  However, if students completed this project using Zoho, they will be able to give their presentations using the interactive SMARTBoard, where students can narrate their own presentations.

When assessing students, the teachers must ensure that students demonstrate that they are comfortable using PowerPoint or Zoho software, and display proficiency in the specified content areas.

I think this lesson plan has the potential to be very beneficial for students.  It not only enhances the level of collaboration among and between students, but also helps facilitate the students’ learning from each other.  What I also find valuable about this lesson plan is how it purposefully integrates technology, and can easily be comprehended by students in elementary school.

Another lesson plan I am going to critique is one that I observed – personally — at the AT&T Classroom.  Before I continue, let me tell you a little about the AT&T Classroom.  It is located on campus at Kent State University that elicits 21st century learning.  The classroom is equipped with technologies — iPads and laptops available to every student — as well as a large interactive SMARTBoard, an Apple TV, and a digital presentation station.  Local teachers bring in their students for a half-day, daily, for six weeks during which they utilize these digital tools.  For more information regarding the AT&T Classroom, visit the AT&T Classroom website.

This lesson plan is also geared towards elementary students; however in this lesson, students are learning about coding and programming games.  This lesson is technology-based in which students use their iPads and the app “Hopscotch” to create their own games.  To learn more about this app, visit the “Hopscotch” website.

As I observed this lesson plan, I noticed how clearly the instructor related it to the students.  The objectives, procedures, and assessment were precise, unambiguous, and easily understood by the students.  The objectives of the lesson are quite simple:

  • Students will code their own game by following along with the instructor’s step-by-step instructions
  • Students will demonstrate their knowledge in game coding using “Hopscotch”

It is now time to get to work.  Since the students are only 7-8 years old, they are unable to completely code games by themselves, so they follow along with the instructor while he/she demonstrates the step-by-step process.  This process is very sequential and it is crucial that students pay very close attention.  Students create new rules — such as “move forward 100” or “jump at 500,100” — to move the different objects in the game.

Once the students have completed the coding process, it is time to try out their creations.  They are assessed on this assignment simply based on whether or not their game works properly.

I find this lesson plan very valuable to students.  Not only are they introduced to new technologies, but they are also learning and understanding complicated skills.  As technology keeps improving, the demand for people who are able to demonstrate coding skills increases tremendously.  Without the implementation of technology in this lesson plan, kids would not get the hands-on experience, or be able to fully understand the process of programming and coding games.

Integrating Technology in the Classroom

In our dynamic, technology-saturated world, it seems like a “no-brainer” to incorporate technology into classrooms.  Young children are adapting and attaching to these new technologies faster than adults; so why not try to create a fun, beneficial learning environment with these technologies?

The problem with this strategy is too much of it can be a (potentially) bad thing.

Technology is a tool for learning, it is not the learning itself.  Technology does not have to be incorporated into lesson plans unless, of course, it has the potential to make the lesson more effective and efficient.  Students must be engaged with the technology, not distracted by it.  I plan on teaching young children ranging from first to third grade, and it is my job to enforce that.  Since my major does not require a specific concentration, I hope to incorporate technology into all subject areas, as applicable and necessary.  Technology will allow students to learn the material in a fun, more interactive way but will also enhance their skills within the 4 “C”s.  Technology will allow students to be creative and share their ideas with one another and possibly with other students, internationally.  Different classrooms have different learning principles that help to intensify and reinforce a student’s learning experience.  Inside my classroom, I feel as though it would be appropriate to employ behaviorist learning principles.  These principles include:

  • learning is a passive process and is the result of a stimulus-response cycle
  • teaching and learning strategies focus on creating opportunities for students to perform for rewards and avoid negative actions.

In my experience, both inside the classroom and out, I found that young children tend to learn more efficiently when given a reward for their good behavior.  Behaviorist technologies are very simple, advantageous, and enjoyable for young children as well.  Examples of these technologies can be found at http://www.funbrain.com.

The use of technology has the opportunity to transform learning throughout millions of classrooms.  However it cannot and should not be the focal point.  Although I am an advocate for technology for learning, I am also an advocate for the “old-fashioned” way of teaching.  Bill Gates brings up a great point in his quote:

“Technology is just a tool.  In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”

Teachers play such an important role in a child’s education, and no form or amount of technology can ever completely replace them.

The Four Cs of 21st Century Learning

America’s system of education is outdated and does not effectively prepare students for a successful, well-rounded future in education.  Schools and other learning programs across Capture[1]America are still preoccupied with teaching students about the 3 “R”s (reading, writing, arithmetic), when 21st century learning is stressing the Four Cs — Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking.  The Four Cs are extremely important in both the learning process and the teaching process.

Teachers need to take it upon themselves and their colleagues to effectively transform their classrooms into 21st century learning classrooms.  This includes appropriate communication and collaboration with each other in order to improve upon teaching styles.  Teachers should also communicate with each other to take the standards set forth by the Common Core and find ways to go improve and expand upon them.  This involves a great deal of critical thinking as well as creativity.

Besides incorporating the Four Cs in the classroom, teachers need to diversify students’ knowledge to help them grow into better 21st century learners.  This includes teaching them to be skilled in subject areas such as science, social studies, geography, and foreign languages.

Above all, teachers need to recognize their responsibility as role models to their students in the classroom.  By demonstrating these competencies, students will have an easier time successfully learning the 21st century skills.

What Does it Mean to Be a 21st Century Teacher?

It is no secret that more and more students are becoming disengaged in the classroom.  For teachers to keep their students focused for a whole class is like pulling teeth; and why wouldn’t it be?  Many schools are not effectively transitioning to the progressive, technology-infused society we live in today.

Keeping students engaged is the single-most important component a teacher must master.  Once they have the students engaged, it is essential that teachers provide the proper tools needed to broaden their students’ knowledge as well as help them explore new concepts and ideas.

Since students are already familiar with the advancing technology of the 21st century, it only makes sense that teachers should strive to incorporate it into their lesson plans.  Technology in the classroom will encourage students to follow the 4 C’s that are becoming more prominent in our society: creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.

Technology’s manifestation in the 21st century has made millions of jobs easier, and has the potential to make a teacher’s job easier.  With so much information and so many educational tools available to us, it is easier for students to be more creative and authentic when completing assignments.  For example, when asked to summarize a chapter of a book, technology allows them to create storybooks that can be shared around the world, rather than typing a summary or making a poster.

Since students have the ability to engage with technology more than ever before, teachers should no longer be the focal point of the classroom; they should be a conduit – a guide and facilitator — for their students.  Teachers should equip students with key ideas and concepts, and allow the student to explore the subject more broadly and deeply.

In order for a teacher to be successful in the 21st century, they must be aware of both the 21st century needs of students, and the 21st century need for technology.