Final reflection paper

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  • 1. Final Reflection Paper<br />Looking Back: From where?<br />The concept of reflecting on what I have learned is often a frustrating struggle for me because I habitually contend that I have learned nothing! However inconceivable that is, I suppose I may not realize that I am actually learning or changing my thoughts and ideas on matters of any relevance. Classes often require a great deal of reading, writing, and group projects that can form a bit of mental reluctance but also probe questions of the purpose of the activities. Regardless, in the end, I know that I have learned because I have experienced new ideas, thoughts, and insight to new tools and technologies, yet pinpointing and labeling exactly what I have learned seems trying. Is learning changing one’s mind? I ascertain Gardner’s suggestion that significant changes of mind are learning. His ideas focus “on changes of mind that occur consciously, typically as a result of forces that can be identified (rather than through subtle manipulation).” While my “forces” can be identified, my changes of mind/learning may not be so easily identified! This reflection will be an attempt to describe and consider more consciously, my own changes of mind, thus my learning.<br />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 love that is a big job. The more I learn as a teacher, and as a student, the more I want to elicit change in others. I can say as a result of course concepts, readings, and class discussions, that I know I could be a better teacher if I sought out and repurposed technologies to integrate in my teaching. However, I still question if I actually understand this to be true thanks to the reading on Understanding understanding! If I am truly mindful of the tendency of most to interchangeably use the words understand and know, I should stop to ask, “Is understanding simply a more complex form of knowledge?” I can “respond on cue” that I know technology can better a learning experience for a student, but could also prove my understanding of that when I use my judgment of when to use or not use any given technology. Technology is only an irrelevant object and useless unless it is used to solve a problem. “[Technologies] only become a tool, a means to an end, when they are connected to a problem.” (Zhao 2003) The problem lies in the fact that, “educators have slid into the 21st century- and into the digital age- still doing a great many things the old way. It’s time for education leaders to raise their heads above the daily grand and observe the new landscape that’s emerging.” (Prensky 2005)<br />“Times have changed. So, too, have the students, the tools, and the requisite skills and knowledge.” (Prensky 2005) 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).” I need not to be concerned with what other teachers are doing, what critics express of the job, we, teachers are doing, or what the MEAP says about the learners I see every day. I do need to be like the tiny red ant in the spoke of a moving wheel, not noticing the pressures of the outside and press on with my job at hand; create lovers of learning, apply learning, and model that love to others. It’s the color-outside-the-lines approach to teaching. It’s the take what 80% of teachers are doing and throw it out to do what 20% have found to actually work- in essence, denial of instructional and intellectual conformity. This is especially true if, “More and more of our students lack the true prerequisites for learning- engagement and motivation- at least in terms of what we offer them in our schools. Our kids do know what engagement is: Outside school, they are fully engaged by their 21st century digital lives.” (Prensky 2005)<br />Considering that much of the educational practice is behind the times, it is reassuring to know that it is not going unrecognized. It just seems that the practice is difficult to change or maybe running into some resistance. However, in peeking at the newest edition of the NEA Today (August/September 2009), I noticed that there exists a double page spread entirely devoted to technology! The spread has sections on Google, Schooltube, Wikipedia for Schools, and Twitter. In addition, the NEA has noted their dedication to technology by inviting educators to a group site they’ve created which is created for the sharing of ideas and opinions regarding education. Also, noted was a website for educators to find additional free technology resources for the classroom! (www.nea.org/freetech) I think that this is one of many signs of the birth of a revolution. <br />Since my undergraduate work, every education class and professional development meeting I’ve had seems to push the installation of the love of life-long learning into our students. There is no doubt in my mind that technology developments make this creation more attainable now than ever. Technology beckons educators and students with opportunities for learning and can increase student achievement. Learners who have success in the world of education tend to like learning more. Students already love technology, consider how far one could go in a public place without seeing or hearing a child speak passionately about some technology. Educators just have to pair up with what most kids already love and foster it in such a way that students can see that technology is more than for gaming, communication and social networking. Recognizing that technology is a knowledge system for students is key to reaching them more effectively, maintaining engagement in class, and continually motivating them. Technology has not only become what they think about, but also a mode by which they think. <br />Why must my job be done the same as it has always been done?! Why not innovate and integrate? What’s wrong with blending the old with the new? A meeting of content and pedagogy seems only appropriate- “at the intersection of what we teach and how we teach it.” (Mishra & Koehler 2009) If students are changing, why isn’t our teaching? We should teach the way they learn. They shouldn’t have to conform to us the way we have always expected them to!<br />Thanks to this summer cohort in educational technology, I want even more, to infuse technology in my current curriculum to better student learning as well as create greater respect for my subject area, Family and Consumer Sciences. I want to be able to repurpose tools and integrate them into my teaching which requires that “special knowledge” referred to as TPACK (technical pedagogical and content knowledge) by Mishra and Koehler (2009). I realize that integration, appropriate and effective use of technology in my classroom is an ongoing process; an evolution that requires me to continually better myself in content area, technology and professional knowledge. With this in mind, consider Brophey’s thought that:<br />Within any school subject or learning domain, student’ instructional needs change as their expertise develops. Consequently, what constitutes an optimal mixture of instructional methods and learning activities will evolve as school years, instructional units and even individual lessons progress. (Teaching: Educational Practices Series-1)<br />Thus, who can better themselves professionally without continual reflection, learning and acceptance of change? Is there a Zen or Mecca that professionals arrive at in their careers? Is Maslow’s self-actualization a real destination professionally and do most people really seek it out?! Are the tools with which I want to teach to possible attain this place in teaching even truly available to me and can I effectively use and/or repurpose them to best suit my students? These are questions I ask myself as a result of where my learning has taken me this summer. Maybe questions do not prove what I have learned, however, Sternberg and Williams (1996) would argue that, “It’s more important for students to learn what questions to ask- and how to ask them- than to learn the answers.” They would further contend that students given the responsibility for learning, learns how to learn; “Active learning helps students develop skills in seeking information.” While my seeking may take time, maybe even years, the questions and the journey, so to speak, have begun.<br />Looking Forward: Where to?<br />Consider the constant rhetoric that people with no goals, go nowhere! So, with such a great journey ahead, I should like any traveler, prepare myself by laying out a roadmap with a planned route, anticipate the need to nourish myself with new ideas, pack the possibility of getting lost (due to construction, of course), and leave fear of failure behind. As with any journey or experience in life, a conscience and a sense of humor are mandatory, both of which I will use herein! My conscience, which for entertainment purposes of this writing will take on quotes from the character of a little green man, with superior insight, the ever-wise Jedi master, Yoda. <br /> “Always in motion is the future.” (1980) The Empire Strikes Back<br />As I’ve previously discussed, the shape of education is changing because the world and its’ learners are changing. Schulman (1999) explains that, “learning was [once] understood as a process of getting the knowledge that was outside the learner—in books, theories, the mind of the teacher—to move inside.” However, now believes that learning is a dual process which alternates between the inside-out and outside-in. If teachers want to have students who construct meaning from their lessons and make a difference, they must know and understand that students’ prior knowledge is a pre-requisite tool for their teaching. “The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this and teach them accordingly.” (Schulman 1999) The first direction in my roadmap is to abandon and revoke the condition of nostalgic teaching methods (Explore). The second is to take on the challenges of integrating technology in my school as a whole, opposed to my own classroom, both in practical use and fiscally (Create). Finally, even if only successful in my own building or even my own classroom, I will attempt to foster a culture of technology (Share).<br />“You will find only what you bring in.” (1980) The Empire Strikes Back<br />While some of the Explore aspect of my journey has begun, I know that much of it lies ahead. The backbone of my foundation for such exploration lies in my graduate education and teaching experience thus far. Its future lies not only in the completion of the MAET program but also in the search for further professional development and TPACK resources. Resources such as The NEA Today magazine, websites like Teach with Technology (http://www.4teachers.org/) and Teaching and Learning with Technology (http://www.tlt.ab.ca/), or any number of blogs like (surprise) Teaching With Technology (http://falconphysics.blogspot.com/) are widely available. A deft student would include here any number of Key or Journal articles noted in the TPACK.org explanation from Wikipedia! Nevertheless, I think that to name specific sites, blogs or even scholarly writing now to use over the course of a five year span is limiting and naïve because as we know, change is constant. I think it would be more realistic to say that this promise of professional development would be a personal commitment, over time, to always searching out the best, whether old or new, resources. Such professional development could occur with a physical professional library to an e-library via deli.ciou.us for available reference. In addition, up to date social networking to be in constant contact with others committed to the same lifestyle would be a prudent choice.<br />My personal network of friends and colleagues provide me with a plethora of resources. Classmates and teachers from this program have proven to be spectacular resources for technology and applications thereof. I have past professors who I communicate with regularly who often contribute to the technological development of my teaching. The role that these people all play in my career is that they are all players on the same team; we all, to some degree, share a commitment and passion for technology, both new and old, with a common understanding that it is a tool, mostly free, for the taking! <br />While all of these people are valuable resources in my social repertoire, I feel that the most meaningful face-to-face resources are my students. Students often know what to do when I have computer “hiccups”, they often know better sites and programs, they know that they can always find a way around, over or through that I thought was unattainable. If I use students as resources in their education, it would provide them with a sense of choice and ownership. If I included them somehow in teaching teachers, they would feel of extreme value and importance. Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean they we have to know everything! Especially considering the idea that computers and the internet aren’t really “technologies” to our students they are to us. Respectfully and humbly… Just ask the natives!<br />“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.” (2005) Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith<br />The unknown is a scary place to be or venture to, but can conversely be part of a remarkable ride in any journey. I think that my natural tendency in life is often to try to be a leader. The MAET program seems to also instill a desire to be a leader in the realm of technology in education. This manifesto, if you will, also makes me lay out the goal of embracing educational technology and makes me realize that I truly want to create an environment that fosters technology. I can do this by partnering with other teachers in my building who have also earned their Master’s degree in Educational Technology as well as those teachers who have a natural technological inclination. We could create a team within our building to introduce and increase technological integrations across curriculums. We would have to have the support of building administrators and district technology leaders, in addition to a well thought out and thorough plan to integrate technology, and be committed to developing our building professionally with technology to match the education our students desire with their 21st century learning styles. “As teachers [in our building] develop their core technology skills, they [will] need on-going support though a professional development environment that is consistently interwoven with hands-on use of technology to reinforce their efforts and learning.” (Cunningham 2008)<br />“Try?! There is no try! Only do… or do not!” (1980) The Empire Strikes Back<br />While I may anticipate 80% of teachers to be on board with the technological revolution and 20% resistance, or vice versa, I should not let it hold me back from trying to share the skills and practices that I have learned, or have yet to learn, which could make them, us, better at our professions! <br />Just Do It! Was a 1988 Nike campaign that was responsible for increasing Nike’s share of domestic sport-shoe business from 18 percent to 43 percent, from $877 million in worldwide sales to $9.2 billion in the ten years between 1988 and 1998. Eventually the campaign was credited with embracing not just resolve and purpose, but also the “beauty, drama and moral<br />uplift of sport—even, every now and then, fun.” (Data used from The Center for Applied Research’s mini-case study on Nike) The success of the campaign is that much more remarkable when one considers that an estimated 80 percent of the sneakers sold in the U.S. are never used for the activities for which they have been designed. This is evident of a technology or a tool being repurposed. Sneakers are for sport would be the original intention, but look at the success of the company for changing attitudes of consumers with a mere slogan! I suppose that from this I should take that the prior thoughts and attitudes of teachers regarding technology in the classroom needs to be known, possibly consciously changed, and further, developed to increase effectiveness in teaching and student motivation, learning and performance.<br />“May the Force be with you.” (1980) The Empire Strikes Back<br />Hopefully, it will not be sacrilegious or offensive to do so, but this is the only thing I can think of to support such a mission. My parochial school background and religious up-bringing make me think of the way we were always dismissed from church on Sundays, as if the sermon was a guide to live the upcoming days in our lives. Our pastor would quote Matthew 28:19-20, in which Jesus is talking to his disciples after his resurrection and says, “19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." If this verse were transformed for the technology enthusiast in any of us, let it be, “Therefore go and make techies of all contents, teaching them in the name of the Macs, PCs and of the Holy Internet, and guiding them to ask Google anything you do not know. And surely the force is with you always, until some new technology comes about.” <br />References<br />Brophey, Jere. (). Teaching. Educational Practices Series-1<br />Cunningham, Joan. (2008) Between Technology and Teacher Effectiveness: Professional Development. http://www.techlearning.com/article/1110<br />Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2009, May). Too Cool for School? No Way! Learning & Leading with Technology, (36)7. 14-18.<br />Prensky, Marc. (2005, December/January). Listen to the Natives. Educational Laeadership. 10-13.<br />Shulman, L. (1999). What is learning and what does it look like when it doesn’t go well. Change, 31(4), 10-17.<br />Zhao, Yong. (2003). What Should Teachers Know about Technology?: Perspectives and Practices, 1-14.<br />