Mar 29, 2009

Professional Development for 21st Century Learning

I recently joined a staff, at an elementary school, in my new town, as the Grade One teacher. Over the last two months, I have been participating in their professional development activities and we recently had a workshop on a new technology that I have never used or even seen. We learned about the "Smart Table" which is a new product that Smart Technologies designed. During the PD session we learned what it can do and how it can transform learning in the classroom. After the session, I asked when we will get it in our classroom and felt excited to have my students use it.

For me, professional development in the areas of technology and web 2.0 is very effective in encouraging me to integrate technology into my practice. I personally love technology and find it very beneficial for students. I am an easy sell.

What about those teachers that never grew up with technology or don't seem to want to try the new tools that are out there? How do we get them to buy into using technology in their practice?

In the article, "A Professional Development Menu," Kimberely Ketterer discusses ways to motivate teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms. She contends that the digital divide between skilled and unskilled teachers is ever present and that without professional development on technology, the digital divide becomes even more pronounced (Ketterer, 2008). I feel ready to use it, but am also very comfortable with technology. The professional development offered this evening, certainly made me more excited to start using it, but I wonder if anyone feels hesitant to use it?

How do you learn technology best?

During this evening's workshop on the smart table, I asked the teacher I was standing with how she has been enjoying her smartboard and if she has tried using "Making Words" with it yet. She said she didn't know how and I ended up suggesting that we work together to build a lesson that she could use with her students. Last week, I mentioned the 2.0 tool, "animoto," to another teacher who I knew is trying new ways to integrate technology. Before the students arrived I showed him how easy it is to use and by recess he came and discussed some challenges that he was finding with it and then after school he came with a huge smile to tell me he made a slideshow with it. As I reflected on both instances, I realized that perhaps, in a way, for those two situations, and perhaps more in the future, I am like the "knowledge broker," that is described in Plair's article titled, "Revamping Professional Development for Technology Integration and Fluency" (Plair, 2008). On the same note, I will be reaching out to the teachers who have used the smart table and other technologies like "Senteneo" in their classroom and I will be learning from them as well, and they will become the "knowledge brokers" to me.

Keeping this in mind, when supporting teachers in infusing technology into their curriculum, it is important to be aware of the different kinds of mentoring roles that teachers may need in order to be successful with technology integration. In "Coach, Nurture, and Nudge," Ketterer effectively states that some teachers prefer coaches to learn how to integrate technology and have made the shift in teaching traditionally to teaching with technology, whereas some teachers need nurturing in order to integrate technology. These learners have made the shift from the traditional classroom, but are not confident in using their new skill. They need a nurturing partner teacher who will help them develop and model lessons There are also those learners that need to be nudged and tend to be teachers who are safe in their comfort zone, and know that they have been successful doing what they have always done, and are hesitant to step out of their comfort zone. These teachers need to be "gently pushed, prodded and cajoled" into learning how to integrate technology (Ketterer, 2008). Knowing these three different learners that Ketterer describes and having an understanding of the digital divide, helps me to find new ways to motivate and encourage others.

In what ways can technology leaders inspire teachers to use technology in their lessons?

Camillo Gagliolo explores this question in her article titled, "Help Teachers Mentor One Another" (Gagliolo, 2008). She identifies two ways that technology leaders can help teachers continue to learn and implement technology. One way this can be achieved is through building a professional learning community with a focus on student learning. Here teachers collaborate, give feedback and reflect o individual and community improvements. In my school, the primary teachers meet once a week at lunch hour to discuss what is happening in the classrooms. This professional learning community is a great place to discuss integrating technology and finding solutions to some of the challenges that are faced when using technology in the classroom. This PLC can also focus on a number of strategies including, sharing best practices, peer coaching and lesson study (Harris, 2008). Another way that technology leaders can help teachers to learn and implement technology is by helping teachers establish a cadre of mentor teachers. Gagliolo effectively contends that "powerful learning when teachers teach each other in a peer-peer network (Gagliolo, 2008). Here, teachers can observe each others' classrooms, provide feedback, personal ongoing technical and pedagogical support and, of course, celebrate successes by sharing at a staff meeting or co-present at a local conference together (Gagliolo, 2008). These can be powerful strategies to help teachers successfully integrate technology.

I look forward to sharing how I have been using technology in my classroom and how I am continuously learning new ways to reach and teach 21st century learners. Perhaps I will continue to blog my learning, as I strive to take my PD growth up 2 notches.

Mar 17, 2009

Not just small steps but leaps and bounds!

I was observing a Grade One Math lesson this morning, where the teacher has been trying new ways to integrate technology. The teacher had the class sing, "The Bubblegum Song," which is about spending money on bubblegum, and then she had the students sit on the carpet to learn about money as they interacted with the smartboard. All students were engaged as they learned each story about the picture on the Canadian coins, listened to the sound of a loon, saw a picture of the Canadian mint in Manitoba and then matched coins with their proper value and bought items from a simulated online store. At the end of the smartboard lesson, students had their own set of coins to explore and made number stories, complete with pictures. This was a great lesson and made me wonder if:

"The use and integration of educational technology has improved teaching and learning?"

I do think that the use and integration of educational technology can improve teaching and help all learners, when integrated effectively. Integrating technology into lessons, gives students the opportunity to achieve the learning outcomes in a variety of ways.

We know from Gardener's theory of multiple intelligences that students learn in different ways and that there are eight different potential pathways to learning (Brualdi, 1998). If you already take a multiple intelligences approach to teaching and use a variety of strategies to reach all learners, then it is easy to see that integrating technology can become a great addition to any lesson plan. In the article, "Why do teachers not practice what they believe regarding technology," Chen argues that for teachers to embrace technology in the classroom, they need to believe that technology use will not disturb higher level goals, rather can help achieve higher level goals more effectively and that teachers will have adequate ability and sufficient resources to use technology (Chen, 2008). Using the smartboard effectively, for example, can provide students with a visual, auditory and hands on approach to learning, whereas using a powerpoint presentation for a lecture is not any different than using an overhead.

Just as with any lesson, it takes more than including multiple intelligences to make the lesson effective, as the learning needs to be meaningful. In the article, "Meaningful Technology Integration in Early Learning Environments," Weng et al, contend that when integrating technology there needs to be a constructivist framework and curriculum that emphasizes learner centered exploration and active meaning making (Weng et al, 2008). They state that the choice of technology should be based on how well the tools serve classroom learning, teaching needs and student needs (
Weng et al, 2008). So teacher's perceptions of pedagogical beliefs play a big role of the integration of technology. In "A Study of Teacher Perceptions of Instructional Technology Integration," Gorder noted that four pedagogical principles that were practiced in classrooms where technology was integrated. They include active learning, mediation, collaboration and interactivity (Jaffee in Gorder, 2008). While there are easy ways to integrate technology into your day as Linda Star highlights in "Education World," including accessing the online weather channel, including URL's into your monthly calendar and providing a URL with a daily quote, there are other more meaningful ways to integrating technology into your classroom. (Starr, 2002). There are numerous web 2.0 tools like blogs, digital storytelling, podcasts, youtube and other online sites with simulations, virtual field trips and discussion sites like Skype, that can make learning come alive in your classroom.

For me, having a smartboard in the classroom and easy access to computers gives me the opportunity to add interesting strategies and tools to my lessons. All learners are benefiting from using the technology for their learning and while we may be taking small steps to implementing technology effectively, the learning for students certainly jumps from small steps to making leaps and bounds!

Mar 15, 2009

"Developing Responsible Cybercitizens"

Have you ever googled your name to see what hits you get?

After watching the google videos on privacy, I decided to see what happened when I googled my name. Guess what I found? Yes, there was Danielle Spencer everywhere! Thank goodness for Russell Crowe's beautiful wife, Danielle Spencer, because links about that Danielle Spencer filled page 1 and 2, however, by page 3 there I was! My facebook account with my picture and this blog "Up 2 Notches" were right there, in plain view. I wondered if it was because of the "cookies" and "cache" in my temporary folders, as the google videos explained? I had to figure this out. So I went onto my husband's computer and googled away. There I was again! I was "googleable." It left me

As an educator, I am always aware of my professional conduct and have considered my professionalism online, so it was easy for me to agree with Doug Johnson's tips for educators in"Lighting Lamps." He reminds educators to use extreme caution when engaging in blogging or other forms of Internet communication (Johnson, 2008). His tips include "write assuming your boss is reading," and "gripe globally, praise locally" (Johnson, 2008). For me, my facebook account is for social networking, my ning is to share teaching ideas and my blogs are used to share ideas and explore the realities of the digital world, and one reality is that when you are online, you are in the public realm.

How do we teach students that the internet is a public place and to be careful with giving out private information? How do we develop responsible cybercitizens?

While the Canadian government's document titled, "Children's Online Privacy" shows steps in beginning to set expectations and standards by "urging" industry to "adopt the highest possible standard of privacy possible," and "wishes" to work with "data protection regulators from other countries to ensure that children have access to an online environment that is safe and respects an individuals privacy," we need to begin educating students on privacy.

Perhaps one way is by modeling that privacy is respected and important. One example used in "Social Studies Vision: Consider This," is to teach students to keep passwords private. The authors of this article also noted that lessons on what is private information is important, especially for elementary students (Berson et al, 2004). I also wondered, after reading "The Ebb and Flow of Library Privacy," and from the discussions on the discussion board, about keeping library records confidential, if that would be another good way to model privacy.

Teachers can integrate teaching responsible cybercitizenship in the classroom and can use some online websites that engage students and teach them cyberskills. In the article, An Analysis of Electronic Media to Prepare Children for Safe and Ethical Practices in Digital Environments, by Berson and Desai, recommend these websites for practicing making responsible decisions online: Brainpop,, Media Awareness Network, iSafe, Netsmartz, and Hectors World (Berson et al, 2008). After going to each, I highly recommend Hector's World, as it tells students right at the beginning when they enter a nickname, to "remember only to enter a nickname." Then once you enter a nickname, they clearly state that they will not be keeping any information or asking for details.

This leads from privacy of personal information into the "Digital Dossier," which is the "accumulation of personal data collected as people use digital technology" (Di Gennaro, 2008). In Born Digital, Palfrey and Gasser, state that protecting the privacy of young people with respect to their digital identity is a great challenge, because there are many "economic incentives" at play (Palfrey and Gasser, 2008). However, we can teach students that information about them is tracked digitally and teach them how information on them is collected and how they are leaving a "digital footprint" behind.

In Lighting Lamps, Johnson tells teachers to "write assuming your boss is reading" and "gripe globally, praise locally," and as teachers we need to teach our student cybercitizens to "write assuming your parents and the world is reading" (because they can and probably are) and "think globally and act cybersafely."

Just curious, have you googled your name yet?