Bringing home economics into the 21st century (autosaved)
Bringing Home Economics into the 21st Century
Part I: Project Description
“No artist is ahead of his time. He is his time. It is just that others are behind the time.”
“It may not always be profitable at first for [schools] to be online, but it certainly is going to be
unprofitable not to be online.”
“If you’re afraid to be wrong, you’ll never be original.”
- TED GUY
I would like students in my classroom to view class as more valuable in their lives and to be
taught in such a way that it complements the technology age in which they live. Life Skills would
take on dual meaning if technology became an additional structural support to student learning
such that as students learn traditional life skills they are also learning technological life skills
that they will surely need throughout high school, college and upon entrance to the work force.
A mobile computer lab would facilitate this endeavor as technologies can be used for media
inquiry, construction, communication and expression. A document camera and projector
would allow students to see demonstrations and examples more clearly as well as showcase
student works. These technologies can support teaching and foster learning on a daily basis by
transforming student learning from the 1950’s to the 2000s and beyond. “Today’s students
grow up in a technologically-mediated world and their thinking, behavior, and emotions are
heavily influenced by new technologies.” (Zhao 2003) Technology in any classroom setting is
beneficial as long as teachers appropriately use and repurpose technologies to best fit their
learners and circumstances. I want to infuse learning with technology by truly teaching with it
as a partner in my classroom. Students are digital natives in a world evolving digitally. Consider
the frequency of paper and pencil use in the “real world” work force. Using tangible resources
such as these in presentations, communication, and submission of works are nearly obsolete.
Why not take education where the world has gone and where our learners have always been?
Part II: Putting Your Cards on the Table
Howard Gardner contends that the understanding of truth, beauty, and goodness is
necessity to productive citizenship and that “without such understanding, people cannot
participate fully in the world in which they -- we—live.” (Gardner 1999) Truth, beauty and
goodness are parts of my class every day and come in the form of lessons in decision making,
risk taking, setting goals, conflict resolution, money management, friendships, family dynamics
and so on. I teach Life Management for sixth through eighth grade students, at a Title one
school in a suburb north of Detroit. A large misconception of what I teach assumes that of a
class taught from June Cleaver herself, Wife Skills: Cooking, Baking, Sewing, and How to get
your housework done in your pearls! In fact, the wide array of topics are far more trivial than
the typical cooking and sewing Home Economics classrooms of the past. As it must be to suit
the demands of our world, educational critics and cynics, and to best prepare kids for what is to
come in their lives. I don’t feel that my students necessarily struggle with the concepts or
subject matter, but I do believe that they have a certain fairy tale belief for their lives that will
come magically opposed to in time with hard work, ambition, and perseverance. The
demographic of my school is also culturally diverse which lends to the fact that many students
still assume that their mothers and sisters will follow them around until they are married
tending to their every need. This however, cannot be true because these sisters and other girls
that they are relying on to “tend” to them, are planning to attend college and have careers
before they plan to be wives and mothers. National statistics support that 57% of college
students are now women, a reversal since the 1960’s and beyond the 50/50 split campus ratios
of the 1970’s. (Marklein 2005) As girls march forward, boys tend to be falling behind and also
relying on blue collar jobs that were once widely available. Unfortunately, those blue collar jobs
are drying up, especially in today’s economy fraught with sky-rocketing unemployment rates.
Fortunately, as an educator, and more importantly a Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, I
have the opportunity to prepare all students, despite gender, for the world by bringing together
the skills they acquire in other core classes such as math, science and language arts with real
world applications so that they can have future success in their lives.
To many, my class may not seem so trivial or challenging because of the preconceptions
of Home Economics being a blow off course. Nevertheless, I believe that if I firmly embed a
technology framework into my curriculum and create a challenging academic transition,
students may feel more enthralled and thus challenged by the experience of learning. Dweck
(1999) states that:
Challenges, set-backs, and effort are not threatening to the self-esteem of those who
are concerned with developing their potential; they represent opportunities to learn. In
fact, many students [say] that they [feel] smartest when things are difficult; [and that]
they gained self-esteem when they apply themselves to meeting challenges.
If my broad curriculum could effectively be paired with the integration of technology and
proper challenges, students could walk away better equipped with skills for wherever they
choose to go in their lives whether it be college or the blue-collar work force, and would be
adequately prepared to be productive citizens in the world in which they—we—live!
Part III: The transformation I would like to see in my teaching and in my students’ learning
explained through the six facets of understanding.
“Learning often becomes associated with drudgery instead of delight.” (Lumsden 1994)
Explain: I recently purchased a book that I believe is about to be a great supplementary tool in
my classroom entitled, 1001 Things Every Teen Should Know Before they Leave Home (Or Else
They’ll Come Back!) While I wouldn’t have time to directly share them all with students, I can
teach them many of the lessons that are going to prepare them for the world, at home or away
from it. Interpret: Regardless of the job market, kids have to be properly prepared to be on
their own, to be productive citizens, and to be able to provide for themselves and give back,
somehow, to others. How can parents possibly cover everything they have to teach their
children so they can “make it”?! That’s one big launch after the teen years, and studies (as well
as the 2000 census) indicate that that won’t be the last launch because a full fifty percent of
those teens move back home in about five years, and stay for a while! Apply: While my class is
not a core subject area, it is chocked full of valuable information and lessons that tie together
things students have learned in other classes such as budgeting, problem solving,
communication, identifying and using resources, and the list could go on and on but the idea is
that my class helps kids answer the omni-present question, “Why do I have to know this?”
Other than moving into higher classes such as calculus and chemistry, they don’t have to learn
how to invert and multiply, how to write an eight sentence paragraph, or use the scientific
method! Perspective: They do, however, have to know that the application of learning these
lessons, will assist them in their lives because they will be equipped with skills to tackle issues
they face as growing adults.
Empathize: Number 116 of 1001 Things Every Teen Should Know Before they Leave Home says
that, “They should know what they’re capable of doing for a living. Not just what they’d like to
do.” Number 12 says, “They should know the media are selling them on a lifestyle that is
essentially unattainable.” Number 7 says, “They should know that just because things get
difficult, it’s no reason to believe God is on vacation.” Number one says, “They should know
adulthood is not for sissies.” Finally, number 997 says, “They should realize failure can lead to
maturity.” Self- knowledge: I realize that I am only one teacher and one person in the lives of
my students. I know that to love learning or further, guide students to apply learning and to
love that is a big job. Brophey (1997) says that motivation to learn is a competence acquired
through general experience but stimulated most directly through modeling… and direct
instruction or socialization by significant others (especially parents and teachers).” Daily use of
technology already occurs with most students. However, it is not in a way that fosters learning
and develops skills for life- outside of networking. Technology is a resource that can
complement any curriculum and support learning in ways that are unfathomable. In fact,
technology can be seen as the new dynamic in the traditional student-teacher relationship.
However, it is undeniable that the most important influence in student learning and
achievement is still teacher quality. Yet, if that teacher models the love of learning, core subject
area lesson application in life, and the desire to seek out information, ideas and possibilities
through the use of technology, what student would slip into the cracks?!
Assessments will be designed in such a way that answers will often be subjective to the
learner and best fit the lesson each student needs... Through daily use of pre or post class
blogging, online student work creations, presentations, as well as multi-tasking with research
processes during class activities will guide class instruction. The idea is that through stimulated
learning, technology can enhance the classroom experience for both teachers and students. If
students can be aroused to make the most of learning with technology inside the classroom,
they may be inspired to use it for learning throughout their lives.
Part IV: What role does technology play?
Nicholas Necropante once stated, “Computing is not about computers anymore, it is about
living.” I find this statement to be profound because in my classroom, I believe I teach students
skills to guide their lives so that they can be more independent and productive citizens of the
world. But given the technological divide between us and them, why do they need us when
they can “Google” anything? Is the answer the difference between knowing and
understanding? Do we help students to understand the things they know by providing them
with experiences to facilitate such understanding? Prensky (2005) writes that:
Pragmatically, our 21st century kids’ education is quickly bifurcating. The formal half,
“school,” is becoming an increasingly moribund and irrelevant institution. Its only
function for many students is to provide them with a credential that their parents say
they need. The informal, exciting half of kids’ education occurs “after school.” This is the
place where 21st century students learn about their world and prepare themselves for
their 21st century lives.
The title of my class is “Life and Living.” This class title is broad and can be interpreted in
many ways. I revel in this description (or lack thereof), because it allows me to create a
classroom where the instruction is jointly teacher and student driven. If students are interested
in a certain topic, we can entertain that topic for as long as needed. This is wonderful because I
truly feel students are learning about topics that interest them. However, due to this freedom,
students do not always take my class seriously. Also, there is only so much knowledge I can
bring to the table without preparation or an experience in my own life with which to share with
students. This is where technology comes in. I feel that with a classroom set of laptops, a
document camera, and a ceiling mounted projector I can address all the issues that I struggle
with in my classroom. Zhao (2003) states in What Teachers Need to Know About Technology,
Teachers at the mechanical level of understanding often try to repeat what technical
manual prescribe or what they are taught. They are less inclined to repurpose
technology for their own uses. On the other hand, teachers at the generative level of
knowledge are creative and frequently reinterpret technology for their purposes. They
adapt technology instead of adopting it.
I have developed a multi-step plan to address the issues of lack of focus and delays due to
teacher research with the usage of technology.
The first issue that I wanted to address was that students did not always give my class the
respect that I feel it deserves. Being a non-core subject, my class does not get the same
attention as a class such as math. My classroom seems to contain more joy than most
classrooms, but it lacks a bit of focus. In observations of other classrooms, I sought out
technology that would work in my setting. I found that a document camera would be most
beneficial. This device, combined with a projector, would allow me to give notes in a traditional
academic style. This is not my standard procedure, but this setup would be familiar to students
and would make them focus a bit more. Also, in a cooking demonstration, the camera could
show the ingredients being mixed without having a mass of students surrounding me and
hoping they can see. This is just a few ideas I have for using the document camera.
The aforementioned projector will have multiple uses as well. Occasionally, I show
educational videos to my class and there are often complaints that students cannot see the
television clearly. The projector would create a larger image on a wall or screen that students
could see more clearly and would eliminate the excuse that homework was not done because a
viewing angle was obstructed. This projector could show anything from my computer, so the
daily agenda could also be displayed and would give students a better idea of what to expect.
The final piece of technology that I seek is a classroom set of laptops. This is the pivotal
piece of my futuristic dream classroom. Every day when students log in there will be a question
for the students to blog about. These questions can be on a multitude of topics ranging from
apples to Zaire’s policies. The blog will allow students to respond to a question and read other
students responses and comment. This interaction is also viewed by the teacher and can help
in driving the discussion. If students show a particular tilt in their responses, I can react to that
and clear up any misconceptions that they may have and lead them in a meaningful discussion.
During that discussion, if an issue arises that I cannot answer or wish to not answer, I will have a
student designated as the “researcher” and she will look up the information for us while we
discuss. As a realist, I understand that if students are given computers, focus may be worse.
However, I have addressed this by having only one researcher and the rest of the laptops will
be closed during the discussion. The role of researcher will be changed daily. I realize that this
style of teaching is a more reactive style as opposed to a proactive style. However, in my
experience I have found that when students are given ownership of their education and they
know that their voice is heard, they will work harder and be more intent on learning. Of course
I hope to have general knowledge of all the topics I will be bringing up in class and there is an
overarching plan for the curriculum, but the day-to-day tasks are driven through student input.
At the end of each class, the students will be given another chance to blog. There will be a
short response to the current day’s discussion and they will be able to ask any questions they
may not have been able to ask in class. Also, there will be a thinking point for tomorrow’s blog
in which they will be able to post “big” questions or topics that they would like to discuss in
class the next day. This will excite students to learn and create a more interactive classroom.
“Today’s students grow up in a technology-mediated world and their thinking, behavior, and
emotions are heavily influenced by new technologies. If technologies are appropriately
incorporated, students could come to school for that certain thirst for learning and knowledge
that has seemingly become so rare. Through the usage of technology, my classroom will
become a place where students are eager to come. However, whereas they used to arrive with
the expectation to have fun, now they will arrive with the expectation that they will have fun
AND learn about topics that interest them. They will also have governance and choice over the
class and that will make them more focused and intent on learning. The role that technology
plays is the conversion from a teacher-led curriculum to a student-driven curriculum, which is a
monumental shift not only for my class but for education as a whole! Motivating students to
learn seems simpler if done with tools with which they are already familiar and fond of! Kids
know how “cool” technology is. Teachers have to learn to “bend the rules” with technology to
push their students to be invigorated with energy to learn. “Technologies including standard
productive or office software, blogs, wikis, and GPS systems were not designed for teachers,
and as such, teachers must repurpose them for use in educational contexts.” (Mishra & Koehler
Technology truly affords teachers a route to constructivist teaching. As we know, “learners do
not passively absorb knowledge, but rather construct it from their own experiences.” (Dils
2001) I do not want to be a “transmitter of knowledge”, I want to guide my students to create
their own meaning in lessons so that they are truly of value in their lives.
Part V: Evaluation
The measure of the impact in the technological transformation will be subjective. A
control group, as possibly suggested, could be unfair to learners and therefore I would not
consider it in the strictest of forms. I could however, interview students to find how their
experience in my class has changed from one year to another with regards to the technological
integration. This would be possible in part, due to the fact that my class is required for all
students in seventh grade, thus any who have the eighth grade class where the technology will
be fully incorporated will be able to have a baseline from which to compare their ideas and
feelings for my class and instruction. “As 21st century educators, we can no longer decide for
our students, we must decide with them… We need to include our students in everything we do
in our classroom, involving them in discussions about curriculum development, teaching
methods, school organization, discipline, and assignments.” Prensky (2005)
I could also prepare a survey using a web technology such as survey monkey to attain
ideas from students. A pre and post survey could be useful. A pre-class survey could help me to
gain a better understanding of my students’ technological skills as well as their thoughts on
technology and its use in school. Collaborating with students could be a place where teachers
have lost out over the years of education!
Digital tools are like extensions of students’ brains… Encouraged to share their
expertise, students can be a teacher’s best resource for suggesting better access to
technology, defining kinds of technology that teachers should be using in the classroom,
and showing teachers how they can use specific hardware and software tools to teach
more effectively.” (Prensky 2005)
A post-class survey could determine student’s opinions on how well I integrated
technology, their attainment of knowledge and understanding of class concepts as related to
the technology. I once heard someone say that attitudes are precursors to real behavioral
changes. The more I considered this statement, the closer I believed it to be true. Dweck (1999)
contends that, “even college students’ views about intelligence and effort can be modified- and
that these changes will affect their level of academic achievement.” While students happily
enter my room, remain engaged, and participate in class activities, I do not believe that they
take learning in class so seriously. If I could change their attitude, I may also be able to change
the behavior and actions of my students in regards to their own learning.
I would also be willing to commit to a once a week teacher journal in the form of a blog
to reflect on how I feel my students are progressing technologically as well as grasping concepts
within my curriculum. The blog would also give me an opportunity to truly reflect on my
teaching and make very conscious choices as how to move forward to best match the needs of
my students and their learning. In addition, my reflective blog will be a form of modeling, which
as we know is a powerful tool for motivating students. In asking my students to take part in
electronic journaling via a blog, I am encouraging them to write, and in so doing myself I show
that I value learning and writing to them. “Adaptivity, along with connectivity is where digital
technology will have its greatest impact on education.” (Prensky 2005) According to Zhao
(2003), if I “increasingly incorporated technology in [my] instruction, [I] may begin to observe
improved efficiency of the instructional process and notice changes in student learning and
engagement.” This in effect, would prove achievement of my goal of increasing student
learning and value of my class if I noticed such changes through the student surveys, writing
and my own reflective journals.
Part VI: Technology and its discontents
Developing information literacy, technology skills (in students)
The use of classroom laptops will provide students with the ability to utilize technology skills as
well as develop information literacy. Through the use of various technology based programs, students
will be able to communicate, collaborate and evaluate, hence improving information literacy. With
access to a world of information through the use of “connected” laptops, students can easily
become distracted and overloaded with data smog. With proper training students can learn to
filter what is valuable and what is superfluous information. Students need information literacy
and technology skills in order to maintain focus and accomplish any task at hand. When
working in a computer lab, I often find that students become sidetracked by other places on the
internet and need redirection or just don’t know how to comprehend the amount of resources
and information available to them. As the use of technology will increase with use of
technology in the classroom, students will require training in information literacy for
technology. A way to begin such an operation could be a simple discussion followed by a task
such as a webquest wherein students are more closely guided in the sites they should visit.
Younger students could be limited to only one or two sites with more freedom to roam as they
learn to filter through and organize the data they retrieve. These skills will be essential for their
future in college and the in work force.
Meeting the diverse needs of students, assistive technologies, particularly through the
Universal Designs for Learning (UDL)
Social and Ethical uses of technology and healthy practices in the use of educational
Using Technology to facilitate/Develop Creativity and Critical thinking skills in students
With the availability of laptops for all students and a projector to show their
accomplishments, using technology to foster creativity and critical thinking skills is endless.
Listing technology as the center of a day’s activities intrigues students and sparks up their
creative minds. Learning compels them when it involves something of their favor such as
technology. The old school methods of paper and pencil often intimidate students because
then they feel they have to have real artistic or creative skills. Today’s technologies such as Jing,
Movie Maker and I-movie, Adobe Elements, Adobe Premier, digital cameras, and more provide
students with out-side the box thinking opportunities. In addition, creativity can be more than
how we often define “art,” it can also be creative writing and thoughtful commenting using
technologies from simple word processing, to blogging, to students collaborating in Voice
Thread. “A creative attitude is at least as important as creative-thinking skills.” (Sterberg &
Williams 1998) If students can just be sent in the right direction, their confidence soars and
they have the opportunity to connect to learning because they feel compelled to learn.
Using technology to engage in professional development & Leadership
My plan in developing myself professionally is an unending process with no beginning
and no end! As made evident in the wiki on Professional Development and Leadership, PD need
not be formal. Professional development can occur any time a professional takes time to
review, experiment or even play with a new technology. Upon review of such a technology, one
may find that there is a purpose for it in his/her classroom, irrelevant of the purpose for which
it was designed! Mishra and Mishra (2001) state that, “Often we create instrumental reasons
for learning (it will get us a job, allow us to function in society, and so on…) …We just love to
know… We love to understand because it gives us pleasure.” Much like our own students,
professional development frequently makes teachers take on the “drudgery of learning”
attitude. However, if teachers are compelled to learn, the PD may not be so bad.
My plan demonstrates with the idea of lead by example. I know the staff members in my
building are often curious as to what I and others are doing, especially when it comes to
technology and ideas to boost student achievement. It seems like resistance may be a very
serious issue at many schools, however, our staff are extremely open to learning, sharing
resources and collaborating with one another! I did not previously discuss this, but we are
blessed with a time to collaborate with one another on Monday mornings. Every Monday
morning, almost all school year, we meet with one another to analyze data, discuss ways to
increase student achievement, and better our teaching practices. This often allows for
opportunities to share ideas and possible technologies within our classroom. We also take a
great deal of ownership in our professional development and even do it with our own initiative.
While our district provides us with PD, we also create our own accessing the resources we have
within ourselves. My opportunities and experiences as a leader are abundant and recurrent.
Teaching K-12 online
With the addition of a classroom set of lap tops, students will have access to online
search and references, therefore teaching k-12 online will be made possible.
• Brophey, Jere. (1997). Teaching. Educational Practices Series-1
• Cunningham, Joan. (2008) Between Technology and Teacher Effectiveness: Professional
• Dils, A. Keith (Spring/Summer 2000). Using Technology in a Middle School Social Studies
Classroom. International Journal of Social Education vol. 15.
• Dweck, C. (1999). Caution: Praise can be dangerous. American Educator, 23(1), 4-9.
• Gardner, H. (2006). Changing minds: The art and science of changing our own and other
people’s minds. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
• Harrison, Harry H. Jr. (2007) 1001 Things Every Teen Should Know Before they Leave Home (Or
Else They’ll Come Back). Thomas Nelson Publishers.
• Lumsden, L. (1994). Student motivation to learn. Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse on
• Marklein, Mary Beth. (2005). College Gender Gap Widens: 57% are Women. USA Today:
• Mishra, K. (2001). My First Student. With an introduction by P. Mishra.
• Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2009, May). Too Cool for School? No Way! Learning & Leading with
Technology, (36)7. 14-18.
• Prensky, Marc. (2005, December/January). Listen to the Natives. Educational Laeadership.
• Shulman, L. (1999). What is learning and what does it look like when it doesn’t go
well. Change, 31(4), 10-17.
• Zhao, Yong. (2003). What Should Teachers Know about Technology?: Perspectives and