Technology in the Classroom
The Scoop From Someone Who Knows
== Learning Targets Readers should identify several different web-based tools used by teachers in their curriculums. ==
Readers should identify different tools useful for homebound students.
Readers should be able to differentiate between a virtual field trip, and a Webcast.
== The Scoop From Someone Who KnowsTechnology in the classroom has changed in many ways since I was in high school. The Internet did not exist, and computer classes were not a requirement. As I study to become a teacher, technology is cutting-edge and an integral part of almost every classroom today. Teachers use a variety of different tools to assist them in the classroom, including Smartboards, virtual field trips, Webcasts, and of course the Internet. ==
To better understand what role technology serves in the classroom, I spoke with my sister Dorri Herrmann-Smith. She has been teaching high school English Somerset, Pennsylvania for four years. I chose to interview her because she is usually the person to whom I ask all of my teaching questions.
Me: Do you think technology is a help or distraction in your classroom?
Ms. Herrmann-Smith: Definitely a help! Not a distraction. I think it engages the students. If you think about it, using technology is something that they do everyday. I feel like when you incorporate it into the classroom, you’re connecting with them.
Me: Like what kind of technology are you talking about?
Ms. Herrmann-Smith: Everything! Internet searches, emails, podcasts, navigation of the Internet in general.
Me: What different types of technology do you typically use with your students?
Ms. Herrmann-Smith: I just got a SMARTboard! I love it, its so much fun! I’m going to training for it because I’m not familiar with half it can do. You can play games with the students, show PowerPoint’s. It's very interactive for the students. The kids love it!
We do virtual field trips. We visited the Globe Theater in London and looked all around one afternoon. It was amazing! We sat right in our classroom and did it. We also did a tour of a museum in Ohio by Webcast. The tour guide at the museum could see my class and we could see her simultaneously.
I’m getting a Wikispace, which essentially is a blog to use with my students. Just like Wikipedia and the Wikibooks you were telling me about, the class can all update it and it is fully interactive.
The other week we had a homebound student and we Skype'd with him during class. Have you used that? It’s free. You should get it.
Recently my school purchased two Kindles. Entire books can be uploaded to the device and the students can read the information.
Me: That’s amazing, I heard they were expensive. There have been so many changes since we were in school!
Ms. Herrmann-Smith: Yeah, no more dusty blackboards.
Me: Do you feel that things like computers and the Internet are necessities in today’s classroom?
Ms. Herrmann-Smith: Yes, definitely necessities. I use email all day long with other teachers. Grading is all done on the computer. Like I said, I’m getting ready to get a Wikispace. Students can email me night or day with questions, whereas in the past they may have been intimidated to call us teachers on the phone. Of course, parents also email me quite a bit. I often find interesting websites online that I get the students to look at and incorporate them into homework or classroom assignments. There is a website called http://www.turnitin.com where it will catch plagiarizers. I use that all the time. It’s not free, but I caught two cheaters!
Me: So, are students required to access the internet for classes? What if they don’t have the internet at home?
Ms. Herrmann-Smith: We haven’t run into that problem yet. I’m sure we could do something to help that student get online. We would work with them to make sure they got the work done.
Me: What do you think of virtual learning?
Ms. Herrmann-Smith: I think it all depends on the motivation level of students! We get students who drop out and do online classes. That’s a joke. Who writes the papers? It could be anyone. As a replacement to high school it may not work. We have a pregnant girl; she is going to do some classes online. She’s motivated and probably will do well.
Me: How do you feel that technology will evolve in classrooms?
Ms. Herrmann-Smith: I think that everything will be online, more than it already is. Kids will be more responsible for getting online to check things for classes. It will be expected for them to have internet access and check their individual email for schoolwork.
== ConclusionI think it was interesting speaking with my sister regarding the various types of technology that she uses daily. It has given me insight about how teaching is different from what I witnessed while attending school years ago. In our school, we were treated to usually one or two field trips per year. I can only imagine how simple and enjoyable a virtual field trip would be. According to American Teacher Magazine, it is cost effective and not only is it possible to see museums and events in other cities and towns, it is also possible to look into the past! Colonial Williamsburg offers an online tour that allows students to take part in a scavenger hunt while learning about history in the process. (American Teacher Magazine, 2009) ==
My sister mentioned to me in our interview that they had used Skype to communicate with a homebound student. I was aware that this tool being utilized for long distance communication and Internet chatting, but had never considered its place in the classroom. Not only is this software free, it can be used to record conversations to be played back at another time. Imagine how interesting it could be to connect an English class to an author of a book that they read, or an art class to a work of art that a class has studied! Carolyn Foote, A high school teacher in Austin, Texas was able to connect her class with an author of a popular book. The author, Cynthia Leitich Smith feels that “books and technology don’t have to compete. They can be celebrated together.” (Foote, 2008)
My sister also mentioned Webcasts. Webcasting is becoming more and more popular with educators. Although there can be costs involved with on-demand learning programs that teachers can order for their classrooms, the ease of ordering up any kind of educational program imaginable is indispensable for the modern classroom. (Miller, 2006)
SMARTboard technology is a very unique learning tool. According to Michele Davis of Education Week’s Digital Directions, it’s possible to write with a special pen, erase what you wrote with a digital eraser, and even move objects around. Your work can be saved into document formats including Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. It looks just like a regular whiteboard, but the pens and board are digital. (Davis, 2007)
How will technology evolve in classrooms? Did anyone think fifty years ago that technology would exist that would enable teachers to teleconference with other educators across the country, or even the globe? Perhaps, but now we know it’s a reality and many of us will have the opportunity to use these advances when we begin teaching in our own classrooms. One interesting forward-thinking platform for education is entire three-dimensional worlds where characters can exist in a different reality. Gilly Salmon, a professor of elearning in Britain explains that in the virtual reality game Second Life, actual colleges and other learning environments are created by users. (Salmon, 2009) One learning tool I have discovered in the game is language classes. The professor and students all have speakers and microphones which allows for real-time communication.
Decades ago, science fiction movies portrayed videoconferencing to be a tool of the future. Today, it is commonplace in our homes and in our classrooms. What does the future hold for technology in school? Many advanced tools are available to today’s teachers. No matter what the subject, students can learn and excel with technology that their parents could never have dreamed of!
== Questions & Answers...1. What tool has replaced the chalkboard and regular whiteboard in many classrooms? ==
a. SMART board
c. Desktop computer workstations
d. Digital paper and pens
2. Virtual fieldtrips are unique because unlike a regular field trip, on a virtual field trip you can…
a. Explore the past.
b. Ride a better bus.
c. Have more fun.
d. Learn more.
3. More recently you have been giving more assignments online this semester. One student hasn’t been doing them and you
finally find out that she has no internet access at home. What should you do?
a. Allow her to work online during class on the computer at the back of the classroom.
b. Don’t require her to do any of the online assignments.
c. Allow her to leave class to go work on the assignments.
d. Penalize her for not doing the work.
4. One student in your class is homebound this semester. What tool would be most useful for him to use so that he can keep up with class work?
a. Photocopies of class notes from another student.
b. Email, so he can get updates from the teacher each day.
c. Use Skype to participate in a class lecture with the other students.
d. Both b and c.
== References Salmon, G (2006).The future for (second) life and learning. British Journal of Educational Technology. 40, 528-38. ==
Foote, C. (2008). See me, hear me. School Library Journal. 54, 42-3
We’re going on (virtual) field trip! (2009) American Teacher, 93, 4 Retrieved June 6, 2009
Miller, M. (2006). Learning on demand. T.H.E. Journal. 33 18, 20-1
Davis, M. R. (2007) Whiteboards Inc.. Education Week's Digital Directions 24-5