Technology Support

This has been a super frustrating week regarding technology at my school. At the end of last year, the entire administrative staff left the school and took the technology staff with them. Since last June, we’ve only had a technology staff-person hired for one week (after which he quit). Most classrooms in my school have one-to-one i-Pads, but unfortunately we have been unable to update the i-Pads all year (thus the apps on the i-Pads have not yet been able to be utilized). Every day this week, I, along with three other teachers, have been attempting to gather all the necessary technology, passwords, and information to update the third grade i-Pads. Day after day, we have reached a roadblock that has forced our project to a halt–we need another password we don’t have, the master computer can’t be hooked up to the cart, we need to access i-Tunes but can’t on our network’s internet, and the list goes on. It feels ridiculous that it’s almost the end of the school year, and we still have yet to be able to truly use the technology our school is lucky enough to have in its possession.

Yet sadly, our school is not alone in this problem. According to this article, “Tech Without Support“:

  • Sixty-five percent of K-12 schools do not have enough staff to integrate tech into classes.
  • Two-thirds do not have enough staff to plan for new technology.
  • More than half do not have enough staff to maintain their tech applications.
SOURCE: ESCHOOL NEWS SURVEY

If we wish to truly value and utilize technology in today’s schools, we have to also find a way to support its use. This means training teachers to use it and providing enough staff to keep it up and running. The article also mentioned an interesting alternative to hiring a full technology staff–use the students! Obviously this would work best at a college and high school level, but I even think that upper elementary and middle school students would be fully capable to learn many of the skills necessary to keep the technology up and running. This article, “Student-run Tech Support Programs Advance at the Speed of Technology” gives some really cool stories of schools across the country that are using this model.

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It will be curious to see how schools work to find the support they need to use the technology they have in these coming years.

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Mystery Science

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One of my newly-discovered tech tools is a site called Mystery Science. My cooperating teacher bought a free one month trial & we’ve both loved using it as a supplement to our Science curriculum.

Basically, Mystery Science provides videos with questions related to an intriguing question that relates to a scientific phenomenon. It’s structured similar to the lessons we read and created in our Science course this year. For instance, we just completed the unit, “Do plants eat dirt?” In this unit, I began with students debating each other on this question as half the class firmly believed that they do indeed need dirt to survive, while others believed that they can survive with just water.

As students progress through the unit, they watch videos that show different science experiments, listen to an expert explain various concepts, and are given questions to answer. I had students answer the questions in their Science journals–writing for about five minutes per question. You could also have students discuss their answers with partners or with their table group. It’s cool because the questions have them make predictions and hypotheses about various science experiments and phenomenons. For instance, there is a picture of a Venus Fly Trap and students are asked to predict how the plant can get the nutrients it needs when there are none in the soil of its habitat. The questions are well-worded and are a nice set-up for great discussion and debates in class.

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It would be sad for me if students only did Mystery Science and missed out on trying the experiments themselves, but I like using it in addition to our own classroom experiments. One of the plant experiments in the video matched up to one we did in class (“Can Plants Grow Without Water?”), and students were so excited to already know what would happen. I definitely want to try to use this resource if I teach Science next year.

Creating a Professional Learning Network

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This weekend I expanded my Professional Learning Network on Twitter and I’m excited to use these individuals and groups to expand my knowledge of how to incorporate and utilize technology effectively in my future classroom. I picked a variety of different Professionals to follow–from teachers to Educational companies to government organization–so that I am getting information and ideas from a wide array of sources.

I haven’t used Twitter as a professional resource yet this year. I’ve used Pinterest a lot to get ideas for how to make learning fun and engaging, but I think that my professional learning network on Twitter will help me focus on the tech side of teaching.

I found a great list of 20 Tips for Creating a Professional Learning NetworkBecome a beacon of light.  PLNs rely on open sharing of information.  So if you know something, share it!  It’s best to start with a specific interest and then grow into other topics as time goes on. Become an expert in your niche by researching current trends.  This will draw a larger following on your network, because you can provide a novel source of information.  . Here are a few of the ones I want to make sure to follow:

  1. “Become a beacon of light.  PLNs rely on open sharing of information.  So if you know something, share it!  It’s best to start with a specific interest and then grow into other topics as time goes on. Become an expert in your niche by researching current trends.  This will draw a larger following on your network, because you can provide a novel source of information.”
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  After all, PLNs are all about learning.  But don’t ask questions that you can easily research yourself.  Try simple searches on TED talks, Wikis, blogs, or news articles before posting a question. Try to be specific and think of how a question might generate interest from others.  For example, you may want to refer to an article or research study when asking a question.  Be specific!  This will generate the best answers.”
  3. Remember to be polite and acknowledge contributions to the rightful owner. Show common respect for the people in your network.  This may seem like common sense, but can be a pitfall.  It took me some time to learn “web etiquette” over the years, but it has helped me tremendously.   Send thank you notes, acknowledgements, and use your true voice.  Not only does it make the other person’s day, but it will help you gain more meaningful connections.”

In essence, I want to be introduced to new content, learn new ways to use technology in the classroom, and stay up to date on new trends. I can’t wait to see what I learn from these various resources!