Innovative teachers bring innovative technology to the classroom to support instruction. Technology is a pivotal piece that impacts student learning in many ways. Tammy Stephens, Ed.D of eClass4learning explains that there are countless “technology strategies that fit how today’s students prefer to learn and how technology can be used in instruction to improve student engagement” (Stephens, eClass4learning). In order to push towards technology in any classroom, it’s necessary that a teacher understands and recognizes the big difference between computer hardware and computer software while understanding which technology tool to utilize at what time.
While there are many computer hardware tools that are meaningful and are proven to increase student engagement, there are a few that I would like to discuss that are purposeful to upper elementary classrooms and beyond.
- Dell Computers: I firmly believe learning should extend far beyond the teacher’s instruction, but it’s not to say that computers are substitutes for inspiring teachers. A Dell computer (or any computer for that matter) provides the ability to get the information students need anytime, anywhere. Computers in the classroom can have an enormous impact on student learning and support instruction. This is particularly important when my students are working on a novel study or student projects and would like to present the information via PowerPoint. I’ve seen student grown in language acquisition for students who learn with multimedia platforms as well as an increase in student motivation. In the area of language development, my students who are ELL have shown growth since our novel study of Maniac Magee. My ELL students used our classroom computers to develop a PowerPoint to summarize chapters 1-10. With the help of images, sounds, text, and videos, my ELL student that struggle the most has been able to link certain images and vocabulary words as we progress through the chapters. Computers are a powerful way to connect between instruction and motivation.
- Much like with computers, I believe students are to be exposed to laptops in the classroom or the school library. Fortunately, my school has a set of 30 laptops available for 5th grade students and can be shared between the 5th grade team. When laptops are rotated between teams and my class is able to use them, I’ve seen that laptops have a great impact on student learning. Laptops are handy when students work on taking notes during novel studies. Rather than taking notes with a pencil and paper, laptops allow students to scribe the words they want to write at a much faster pace. Not only are my students practicing the skill of keyboarding, but assignments are getting done and this is due to the motivation of using laptops in the classroom. I have also seen peer collaboration amongst my students while laptops are in use. Jennifer Magnesi of Ehow explains that “students who excel at computer usage have been given the ability to tutor their peers who may not be so adept at using technology in class. This has given teachers the chance to allow their students to help each other, giving each student in class the time and attention to grow and to learn” (Magnesi, eHow).
- Tablets are essentially computers on the palm of your hands. They are portable, light weight, and only cost a fraction of a computer. Tablets have the capabilities much like computers and can access web information. Though my school does not have tablets readily available to for student access, I believe exposing students to tablets will be beneficial for students who are sensory learners. At the school I last taught at, there were 10 tablets available for every classroom. For students who are sensory learners, tablets can be wondrous. Tablets provide that extra support for teachers beyond their instruction with students who learn through touch. After a math lesson, I have my sensory learner students grab a tablet and practice similar problems taught. By doing so, these students not only receive extra practice, but it also creates an excitement level from paper to the digital world.
- If a classroom does not have a smart-board, then I believe a document camera will serve in its place. I use the document camera in my classroom religiously. It is my go-to device to enhancing instruction. I project my morning entry task on the document camera. Students know where to look to as they walk through the door for instruction on their morning task. It eliminates the effort of verbalizing what their task is. Instead, the instruction of their entry task is posted and students know their responsibility as they walk through the door each morning. By creating a system as students enter the classroom, I have noticed it helps with behavior management tremendously. The document cameras can project information to the students at a large scale and revert to PC screen at the touch of a button. The function on my document camera that I look forward to using the most is reverting from camera to PC. From PC, I can pull up videos and stream online websites that is directly projected onto the screen. In the classroom, this function serves as our “home theater” as we stream ecosystem videos. For my students who are visual learners’ benefits from this as information is enlarged and videos cover the entire screen purposefully.
- Every classroom with digital cameras with video capabilities is able to capture timeless moments at an instant versus a classroom that does not own one. Cameras with video capabilities in my classroom are used by students. Students record one another during oral presentations once at the beginning of the year and again at the end of the year. When students are behind a camera, they will naturally try harder. As a class, we did our first recording earlier this month and some things that I picked up on is that students’ oral language and communication skills had a slight improvement. I am anxious to have our second recording at the end of the year to see even more of a progression in communication skills.
- Since my students are getting into novel studies, thumb drives can be a very useful hardware tool to have. While students are taking notes via laptop during our novel study sessions, they are constantly saving information on their thumb drive to refer to when they are creating their final presentation project. Thumb drives can really impact learning as well as support instruction for teachers. Before students create their final presentation project, the need to review information saved is a must. Since my classroom is an eco-friendly class and we are trying to go paperless with projects, students must be able to access information by having a thumb drive.
- Ipods with recorders are an expensive, yet an innovative tool that students should explore with in the classroom. I frequently load podcasts into ipods for students to listen to. Some of my students have never held an ipod before, something that is so small yet so complex. These students usually are the ones that race to grab an ipod and listen to the podcasts that I load each time. For my ELL students, ipods can really make a difference in their learning. Listening to the podcasts encourages my ELL students to access prior knowledge and vocabulary words to make meaning of what they are listening to. I have seen growth through using ipods with my ELL students.
Computer software plays an equally important role in the classroom. Teachers must know which software to use that will benefit students as students are beginning to explore with the technology.
- Microsoft Office is a software tool that is constantly being used in the classroom, both by the teacher and student. Microsoft word and PowerPoint is frequently used by students to develop their project. These two software tools have become a daily use in my classroom and because students are frequently using this software, they have become “experts” at using them and the “experts” help the students who are less familiarized with Microsoft. For myself, I use PowerPoint to present new vocabulary words for the week, while providing pictures and meaning to go along with each word. This is helpful for my ELL students as they make connections between the words and pictures.
- Inspiration is a software organized graphically to help young students as well as students who are visual learners think critically. Learning can be mapped in many ways, but this software does it all for you. It organizes, integrates new knowledge, and focuses on critical thinking which an important piece to increasing student engagement. For 5th grade students, they are required to think more critically in literature, and this is due to the demands of the CCSS. Having this software helps even my most advanced learner dig deep into literature questions.
- DreamBox Learning is a software tool learning platform that teaches math at a beginner to advance. From the eSchool News Staff of Fifty of the best ed-tech products for schools, “students give right or wrong answers to questions, the software adapts the level of difficulty, scaffolding, sequencing, and pacing of the problems they see—ensuring that every student works in his or her optimal learning zone, from struggling to advanced” (eSchool News Staff, 2012). “This a great tool to use for intervention to make connections between the math learned in class as well as what students are doing in DreamBox.” I believe this tool can make a big difference for students who struggle in math as well as provide the opportunity for students who excel in math to work on advanced mathematical problems. The key thing is making the connection between math learned in class to what students are doing in DreamBox. By not utilizing this program, we are doing our students a disservice in their learning.
- FluidMath can be a great software tool to use in the classroom as well. It is a tool for tablet users that “features accurate recognition of handwritten math symbols, allowing teachers and students to share concepts and explore ideas electronically” (eSchool News Staff, 2012). For students who are sensory learners, this is a great tool to use in the classroom and definitely increases engagement in math concepts. Math is a subject for students that require constant reinforcement so that students can grasp the concept. I would love to use this software someday soon with my students as I see the positive aspects of it.
My classroom is equipped with a document camera, a projector screen, four classroom computers as well as Microsoft Office software that are installed in each computer. Granted, my classroom does not have a SmartBoard, but we use any technology that’s readily available in the classroom to learn.
- My document camera is used religiously in the classroom and does not cease to amaze me with the features that it offers. I use my document camera to display images as a mean to hook my students in for the lesson I am going to teach. For students who are visual learners, this impacts their learning greatly. I post directions for their entry task every morning using the document camera and my visual learners now exactly what to do. Every Monday I introduce new vocabulary words associated to the novel unit. Along with the words are pictures and meaning to enhance comprehension for both my visual and ELL students. During my close reading lessons, I isolate a single paragraph for deep analysis with the students. To enhance my lesson, I create PowerPoint slides to define meaning of the figurative language used by the author in the paragraph, as well as pictures to go with the meaning. The document camera is a powerful tool when I want to convey my thoughts out in words and pictures for my visual learners and ELL students and make a connection to their own learning. The document camera is not only beneficial for visual/ell learners, but for students who have poor eyesight as well. I can zoom in on the document to a single sentence or phrase that I want students to critically analyze and think about. By using the zoom and freeze feature, this gives access to students who need to see large prints and can critically think along with the class.
- Computers serve many purposes in my classroom. I view computers as tools that are aimed to improving classroom experiences and to motivate students. While it’s widely used for the creation of presentation product, computers in my class are used in other ways as well. Another way that I use computers in the classroom is by having students take Accelerated Reader test which are a great assessment techniques for me to understand where each student is in their reading, and see the progression over time. Computers are also use during “tech-time” which is at the end of the day. This is a fun period for students, especially for my newcomers and ELL students as they have had little to no exposure to computers. During “tech-time” our technology specialist comes in and introduces new and old features for students to be familiarized with and to hopefully become confident users. Our technology specialists cover the basics such as finding the start menu and how to copy and paste. The new features presented are exciting to my students. The computer specialist introduces features such as creating boarders around a document in Microsoft Word, how to add foot notes and how to add music to a PowerPoint slide.
- Microsoft Office is heavily used by my students. Students use Microsoft word to write reports or finalize writing pieces such as narratives, expository or persuasive. Writing a report does not have to be a daunting task if there’s technology involved. Students tend to WANT to finalize their writing piece by typing it up. During our most recent wrap-up of a novel unit, each student was required to present the book in a new and exciting way, through their interpretation of the book while hitting some key ideas of the book. Students leaned towards creating a PowerPoint show to display their work and they did in many creative ways. Within some PowerPoint presentations, students are adding audio clips of music, transitions, and images to enhance their presentation. Due to their success of creating a PowerPoint slide show with added enhancements, we give thanks to our technology specialist.
- The classroom document camera is a hardware tool that’s used in my classroom on a daily basis. I use the document camera to display morning entry work, directions, or pictures to hook my students in for the lesson I am going to teach. This tool is not only user friendly, but is my instruction means MUCH more when I use the document camera during close reading or math. For my students, math in particular is a visual subject and should be taught using a lot of visuals and examples to enhance the concept. My core lessons in math such as creating arrays for a multiplication problem require the document camera for many if not all of my students. When students get to see me represent a multiplication problem in an array, it means much more to them than telling them to represent it. Modeling is key and it starts with using a document camera to reach out to all of my students. Ken Royal from Scholastics Inc. believes that “The document camera may be the easiest technology to integrate into the classroom since the chalkboard” (Royal, 2009). Document cameras are truly simple to use and have functions that are easy to understand such as zoom and freeze. This is a tool that my classroom cannot live without!
- Classroom computers are important technology tools used in my classroom as well. The different skills that the students learn by using and exploring with computers are priceless. I know that a few of my students are from low income families that do not have access to a computer at home, so having a computer in the classroom and utilizing it the correct way with these students can create a jump in their learning as I am already seeing. These students are getting the right support through our technology specialist which has been a helpful factor to their motivation. Although AR tests may seem daunting to certain students, my low income students see it as an opportunity to interact with a computer while testing. My classroom computers are not only used for testing, but for keyboarding skills as well. Laurie Patsalides of Bright Hub Education believes that “students gain more word processing skills when learning to type: skills they will need in college and the workplace” (Patsalides, 2013). Technology is ever changing and to better serve our students in today’s technological world, we must expose and teach technology in order for our students to be successful in the real world.
- Microsoft Office has been around for decades and is still widely used by teachers, students and other professionals. Students use Microsoft Office (ie: word, power point) when they want to convey thoughts during a presentation to the class. Chris Kyriacou of Skilledup explains that “Microsoft Office is an essential tool for any individual in today’s digital age” (Kyriacou, Skilledup).With the use of technology during any presentation, it becomes much more interesting and students are more engaged in the topic and presenter. With wrap-up of our first novel study, student’s engagement level heightened as they busily put together their presentations of understanding of the book. For the optimal learning experience, I believe there should be a balance between teacher directed and student directed situations. In the case of students presenting their knowledge of the book through PowerPoint, it is student-led and is a powerful to their learning.
ANALYSIS & REFLECTION:
Today’s learners are highly visual learners and use digital media in ways that engage learning. To continue this interest of students, we as educators must understand their desires for technology and how to best implement technology in the class to increase best practices. I’ve learned through the course of teaching that technology is an essential tool to bring in the classroom and can really change the dynamic of learners from disengaged to promoting active learners. In the classroom, the students and I use the technology that is readily available at hand. The technology that keeps most kids engaged would be the computers in the back of the room. Upon completing a novel study, students have choices of how they would like to present their understanding. Student’s choices include writing a report using Microsoft Word, creating a PowerPoint slideshow or designing a brochure that targets the key ideas of the book in their own, creative way. Giving students choices is powerful while paired with technology can create an undeniable dynamic for learning amongst all students, especially my ELL students. Brad Kuntz of ASCD explains that as teachers, “we can provide opportunities in class for students to learn and demonstrate their mastery using technology. We can create innovative activities and projects and allow students to use technology as part of classwork” (Kuntz, 2012).
In teaching with technology, it can support instruction immensely. An example would be using the document camera and using the various features that it offers (zoom, freeze, revert to PC screen). The role of technology in the classroom for students is to lend themselves into exploration. Other technology tools that I have students explore with to enhance engaged students is through using digital cameras to record students’ oral presentations, classroom computers as well as laptops provided by the school library for quick note taking during novel unit studies. These are the major technology tools used in the classroom day in and day out.
Through this course, I have explored with many software’s that were not made known to me otherwise. I realized that there are countless tools available that can help students from math to ELA, ranging in ability levels to meet each individual’s need.
- A future goal that I have for myself is to attend professional developments on integrating technology in the classroom provided by the district to increase best practices in my classroom within the next two months. These courses are offered by the district’s technology leader and they are primarily focused on document camera and the calibration between my laptop to desktop computer and projector screen.
- Another future goal is to explore with Microsoft Office 365 within three months and compare/contrast the advantages/disadvantages of Microsoft Office 365 to the current that I use: Microsoft Office 2014.
- Another future goal is to hopefully provide every student with access to Microsoft Office at the convenience of their own home within the next five months through PTA funds.
Fifty of the best ed-tech products for schools. (2012, July 23). Retrieved from http://www.eschoolnews.com/2012/07/23/fifty-of-the-best-ed-tech-products-for-schools/5/
Kuntz, B. (2012, June). Engage students by embracing technology. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/education-update/jun12/vol54/num06/Engage-Students-by-Embracing-Technology.aspx
Kyriacou, C. (n.d.). 10 Reasons You Should Be Using Microsoft Word. Retrieved from http://www.skilledup.com/learn/digital-content/10-reasons-using-microsoft-word/
Magnesi, J. (n.d.). What are the positive effects of computers in the classroom? Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/info_7994455_positive-effects-computers-classroom.html
Patsalides, L. (2013, May 1). Why and How to Use Computers in the Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/elementary-school-activities/5638-benefits-of-computer-time-in-the-classroom/
Royal, K. (2009, October 1). Best in Tech 2009: Document Cameras. Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3752578
Stephens, T. (n.d.). Ten Technology Strategies to Engage the Digital Generation. Retrieved from http://www.eclass4learning.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/engagementwhitepaper.pdf