Arin Giannandrea CEP 800, 801 & 822 Final Reflection Paper MAET Summer Cohort 2009 Looking Back `Dictionary.com states that a techie is “one who studies or is highly interested or proficient in a technical field, especially electronics.” I have never considered myself to be a techie and I wouldn’t say that I am overly interested in technology. Before classes started this summer at Michigan State University, I was nervous. I wasn’t sure if I had chosen the right path for myself – getting a master’s degree in Technology Education when I lacked a significant amount of confidence using technology and computers. What was I thinking? I took the certificate courses for the Technology Education Program through Michigan State University in Howell due to the convenient location and the nice weekend class schedule available. What a great, easy way to earn 9 credits. I didn’t picture myself finishing the master’s degree in the MAET program. However, when I was done with the certificate courses I was amazed at how useful and truly rewarding all the information I learned in the courses came to be. My students loved the activities I was able to prepare for them and they were completely engaged with a high level of interest when my lessons integrated a technology aspect. I was hooked and could see how beneficial (especially in today’s society) learning about technology and education would be. The first day of my summer cohort classes came by quickly. I just got done closing up my third grade classroom for the summer the day before. I had to leave my house pretty early. Michigan State University in East Lansing is about an hour away from where I live. I got ready quickly, grabbed a coffee and granola bar to eat for breakfast on the way and started out on my journey. As I drove down the road I could tell that I would probably need an umbrella so I turned around and grabbed one out of my garage. Sure enough as soon as I got on the highway it was pouring to the point where I could hardly see where I was going. I had to drive extremely slow and barely made it to class by the time it started at 9 am in Erickson Hall. As I entered the room I was drenched wearing wet, squeaky flip flops. What was I doing here? I soon was able to relax as I set up my laptop and introduced myself to my classmates sitting at my table. They seemed friendly. The instructors seemed personable, too. Maybe I can do this. When Punya Mirsha showed us his fabulous, user friendly Summer Cohort website I felt a sense of relief. Everything seemed to be organized and outlined in a very coherent way. I was thrilled to find out that much communication would be done with classmates on Facebook. I love Facebook. I’m addicted to Facebook. Now, I know I can really do this! We also took a survey on our technology use and confidence on that first day of class, and it made me feel better that there were some other students in the room that weren’t so sure of their ability, like me. One of the first readings that made a lot of sense to me was the article written for Learning and Leading with Technology called “Too Cool for School? No Way!” Punya Mirsha and Matthew Koehler introduce the TPACK framework of technological pedagogical and content knowledge use in the classroom. I like how the TPACK framework emphasizes the balance between technology, pedagogy and content knowledge. I didn’t realize that most technologies that exist today were not created for educational purposes until I read the article and came across the part that discussed the value of repurposing technology to fit the educational needs of students. I’ve concluded that teachers have a lot of work cut out for themselves if they are eager to integrate technology into their lessons. A lot of thought and planning is required for successful implementation. You can’t just bring in a new piece of technology such as video camera or new software for the computer and expect the students to gain a new vast amount of valid understanding without keeping in mind the pedagogy and content knowledge that needs as much attention as the technology. The most important realization I learned from this article about the TPACK framework was the importance of teachers being willing to play and experiment with technologies. Technology can sometimes be scary for those not considered to be digital natives. Teachers need to play and have fun with a technology themselves and take risks as they follow their instincts while using challenging technology. This type of openness and playtime is essential to ensure the maximum amount of learning and teaching skills pertaining to new technologies. While taking the Summer Cohort classes this summer at Michigan State University, I discovered that the Cognitive Learning Theory was the theory I felt most comfortable with. I strongly believe that a classroom needs a balance and a variety of Learning Theories to keep in mind when designing an ideal curriculum. Behaviorism and Socioculturalism are important learning theories also. However, the Cognitive Theory seems to be the one that makes the most sense to me. According to Lee Shulman in an article called, “What is learning and what does it look like when it doesn’t go well?” a successful educational Psychologist by the name of David Ausubel once said, “The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows.” I am a big fan of using children’s prior knowledge and building upon what they already know to learn and understand more. One of my favorite activities that I do in my classroom with my students is a KWL graphic organizer. When I read this article I immediately thought of how my third grade students write what they know, what they want to know and what they eventually learned when participating in a number of units conducted in my classroom. This article also said, “Learning is least useful when it is private and hidden; it is most powerful when it becomes public and communal.” While taking the courses for the Cohort this summer I have come to recognize that authentic audiences for lessons and projects containing technology is vital in meaningful understanding. I hope to use the web in future years to come more often to show off my students work and to share my student’s thoughts, ideas and innovations. I learned that understanding is different from knowing from a chapter out of the book called, “Understanding by Design” written by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. Knowing is great, but understanding is even better. The book states, “Without lessons designed to bring ideas to life, concepts such as honor, manifest destiny, or the water cycle remain empty phrases to be memorized, depriving learners of the realization that ideas have power.” I want to bring my lessons to life by implementing some technology but by also making the learning meaningful to each and every student. A discussion my colleagues and I participated in during the Summer Cohort class really had a huge impact on myself as an educator. We were asked to share an “Aha” moment where we realized the exact moment we truly understood something. I shared the moment I saw my first brand new baby son because I immediately realized the powerful love a parent has for their children for the first time in my life. It was difficult to share this story to others, just because it was so emotional for me – I had to hold back the tears of joy. It was so interesting to find out that most responses were emotional and included people in their lives that were influential to them. I will definitely keep this in mind as I teach in the future. Before I came to the Summer Cohort classes this summer, I never imagined in a million years that I would change my mind about cell phone use in the classroom. I have always been baffled seeing children carrying around cell phones, chatting or texting constantly. Who in the world are they talking to, and about what? I was shocked and excited when I learned about pollseverywhere.com. This website allows you to set up questions students can answer using their cell phones. You can even register the student’s cell phone number to see how the student answered for each question. Even though I don’t quite relate to the idea that kids love their cell phones, I am motivated to repurpose this technological tool in my classroom to enhance and motivate learning. When I look back at the most significant realizations that occurred for me this summer, I didn’t need to be a techie at all to accomplish these courses. I certainly learned a variety of cool, fun and engaging new technologies that I wasn’t familiar with in the past. However, the more important understandings had to deal with myself as a motivated, passionate teacher. Looking Forward I have to say that I definitely have more confidence in myself as a learner with technology. It is not as scary to me anymore. I know it is important for me to have an open attitude and have the willingness to play and take risks with technology. I want to push myself to discover more about the benefits of technology use in the classroom. I want to be a resource for my school district, especially for the elementary grades, to help guide others to implement technology in their learning environments. To keep myself motivated and interested in technology that can be engaging to students in my classroom I plan to keep myself updated on the new gadgets, equipment and technology education ideas that exist and are ever-changing. To accomplish this I will follow the netcast called Geek!Ed! which is produced by some Pinckney, Michigan educators that are enthusiastic about the impact of technology on education of today. Because I found Punya Mirsha to be interesting, engaging and passionate about his work and discoveries about technology coinciding with education, I will also follow his website and blog on a regular basis. Another resource I plan to use to assist myself as a tech-teacher would be the blog written by David Warlick. It is called 2 Cents Worth and consists of thoughts, ideas and opinions about using technology in the classroom. I am a member of MACUL Space, which is a social network for connecting educators and enhancing learning about technology use in an educational setting. I am a member of MACUL which is the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning. I receive the MACUL journal in the mail periodically and enjoy reading it! Another important area of my career that I would like to improve upon in the future is developing a classroom that inspires students to be creative. Fostering creativity in children is valuable in the success of student understanding. In order to accomplish this I will visit the website called Creativity Matters. This is a website is for teachers who believe that creativity can be taught and that creativity is a vital part of instilling lifelong learning skills. Another resource I have found useful is a subscription to the teacher magazine called The Mailbox. This magazine is filled with many unique ideas for teachers and activities are provided to help children have the opportunity to be creative. When you subscribe you can also get the “companion” subscription which gives you internet resources as well. I also found an interesting website called Leslie Owen Wilson’s Creativity Index which will be very useful in guiding my interest in teaching creativity in my classroom more often. This site has books, webquests, related links, videos and much more all about creativity. My favorite part about my job is to get students to be motivated to learn. I like to see the students enjoying themselves while content is being taught because I think one retains more when they are having fun. The main purpose for me to continue my education in Computer Technology Education is to learn how technology implementation can inspire and motivate children to want to learn. One Resource that I will be using to continue my quest on motivating children is Mary Bigler’s Lessons Learned which is a book written by my favorite undergrad professor. I have her books on CD and plan to listen to it often to inspire me. Another resource that I will keep handy in my teaching future is the book titled, “The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child” written by Ron Clark. This author was nominated for the Disney Teacher of the Year award in 2001 and wrote a book about the motivational, and somewhat different, aspects of his classroom that made his students have a strong desire to learn. As an educator, it is important to me to know what is going on in the world of education. Public education always seems to have issues, especially in Michigan, and I want to be familiar with those issues. I also want to know new research and educational trends that may be occurring. To accomplish this I will visit and subscribe to educationweek.org. I also will read the National Education Association and Michigan Education Association magazines I receive and visit their websites often. I chose the above particular resources over others because they were most easily accessible to me, and they are thought provoking areas I am interested in. I have set up a Netvibes page that is opened every time I turn on the computer that has tabs with the specific areas of interest for my professional development so I can stay updated and involved whenever I chose. I look forward to my future as a professional teacher and to continue my higher education in the MAET program. My confidence has grown even though I still am not considered to be a techie.