Project Based Learning Ideas for 542

I am struggling with my idea for my project based learning experience.  I am looking at doing project based learning with either Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I want to do some sort of PBL with respect to the greater themes or ideas in the novel. I teach English to academically at risk ninth grade students.  I want to pick something that will be meaningful to them and relate to the unit of study.


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Ideas:

state of education in low income areas (disparities among schools in different areas-can it be fixed?)

The treatment of Indigenous People

To Kill a Mockingbird Ideas:

Justice system in America (problems and solutions)

Teaching compassion to children

Ways to better the community


The state of education idea, the ways to better the community idea, and the justice system idea could apply to both novels.

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Final 541 Blog Entry

Part One-Reflection

This course has taught me a lot that I did not know. For example, I always wanted to explore Google Sheets, but I have yet to find the time to do it.  This course gave me the opportunity to explore Sheets and create an assignment for my classroom that I will actually use.  Often times I find myself jumping through hoops to create an assignment that will get me a good grade.  In this course, I have made a lot of relevant activities that I plan to use this school year or next.  Also, I really enjoyed researching all of the different assistive technologies available.  I know that I did not research every type available, but I have a pretty solid idea of what is available.  This type of activity, along  with many others, helped me grow professionally throughout the semester. I feel much more competent in my ability to integrate technology in my current curriculum.  I also feel better about helping other teachers integrate technology into their classrooms.

Additionally, I have had a lot to time to reflect upon my own teaching.  I have created numerous activities that I hope to incorporate in my classroom as we continue our 1-1 program.  I have been a bit hesitant with incorporating technology in the classroom because I fear I will lose too much class time.  I am prepared to admit that I was wrong about that.  Integrating meaningful technology in the classroom is more than worth it.  This class has solidified my change in methodology in the future.  I feel as this is evident in the products I created for class.  I began with trying to force what I already do into some random technology lesson.  As the course progressed, I evolved in my theories.  I realized it is important to allow the students to learn the content and not just take notes on what I am saying.  As the course continued, I began to create products that put students at the center of their learning.  This is the realization about which I am most excited.  I am energized for next school year to incorporate these activities and assignments in my curriculum.

Throughout the semester, I have reflected on each assignment on my blog.  Each entry is aligned to AECT standards.  This alignment shows master of the AECT standards.


Part Two-Self Grading

I always struggle with assessing my work because, like many others in education, I am my toughest critic.  Looking at the rubric, however, I feel that I did a nice job on my blog entries.  My blog posts are researched based, and I know that I spent time thoroughly researching each topic.  Researching and blogging led to me thinking about the content in a way I had yet to do.  I really enjoyed creating the video for integrating movies in the classroom curriculum.  It allowed me to talk with people in different content areas to hear how they integrate video clips in the classroom.  With respect to the content, I give myself 70/70.

All of my posts are researched based; however, I did not always incorporate the course text.  I really enjoyed reading the text, but it did not always give me the perfect support for my blog entries.  For that reason, I sometimes used different sources.  With respect to research and resources, I give myself 18/20.

The third category is timeliness.  All of my blog entries were posted to the course moodle by Sunday.  While I posted them before the deadline, there were a few posts that I should have uploaded earlier in order to allow my classmates more time to respond.  For that reason, I give myself 18/20.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the different posts made by my classmates.  My posts were thoughtful, but I often posted on their content and asked questions about it.  I did not offer new research to support a counter-argument.  For that reason, I give myself 24/30.

Based on the reasons above, I give myself 130/140.

Assistive Technology

My computer of choice is a MacBook Air.  I have always preferred Apple products to any other system.  As I have not required accessibility features for myself, I never took the time to explore the available features.  Apple has numerous accessibility features that will assist users with utilizing the product to its full potential.  The Apple site breaks the accessibility features into four categories: vision, hearing, and physical and motor skills.  Each category offers numerous accessibility options for each category.  All of the information comes from Apple’s website.

The first category is vision.  The first tool is called VoiceOver.  I did not realize that my computer had this feature.  It comes standard with every Mac product.  On the surface, it appears to be just another text-to-speech tool; however, it does much more than that.  The program tells you exactly what is happening on the computer.  Additionally, you can interact using gestures, the keyboard, or braille.  After playing with the program, it is beyond what I could believe.  The reader, Alex, is very relaxing.  It does not have any hint of condescending the user.  While I do not know braille, I did feel it would be beneficial to someone using braille.  The vision category also includes zoom.  Zoom is your typical zoom feature that makes the content on the screen larger.  According to the site, the zoom feature can enlarge content up to 20x the original size.  Another tool I had not seen before on my computer, but many of my students have used, is the cursor enlarger.  The user can make the normally tiny cursor larger to make it easier to see on the screen.  Additionally, there are ways to change the contrast to make it easier to see if that is problematic for the user.  The final vision component is the diction tool.  The diction tool, available in over forty languages, allows the user to speak commands.  This is a wonderful tool for someone with a profound vision impairment.  The program comes with numerous commands, but the user can also create his or her own commands.  All of these tools are wonderful options for individuals with vision impairments.

In addition to having supports for individuals with vision impairments, Apple also has features to assist those with hearing impairments.  The first major tool is one that I never thought of as assistive technology.  FaceTime is a wonderful tool for individuals with vision impairments.  Individuals utilizing lip reading or sign language, for example, can use FaceTime to communicate through their computer.  Additionally, the MacBook Air includes Screen Flash.  Screen Flash alerts the user to apps that need his or her attention without sound.  Screen Flash has the screen flash when an app needs attention.  The user does not have to do anything in order to have the alerts work with apps.  Once the program is turned on, it works with every app.  I tried this program, and it works really well.  The only downfall is that you have to be near the computer in order to see the flash.  While that is a downfall, it is a wonderful program for people with vision impairments.

Not only does the MacBook Air have programs to assist individuals with hearing and vision impairments, but it also has programs to assist users with physical and motor skill impairments.  The programs are switch control, slow keys, sticky keys, dictation commands, mouse keys, and an onscreen keyboard.  I tried all of these but the mouse keys option.  The switch control is built directly into OS X, and it allows users to use scanning.  Users can create custom panels and keyboards.  While this may seem frustrating and unnecessary for someone without physical and motor impairments, I see how beneficial it can be to someone with physical and motor impairments.  Additionally, users can add a switch, a joystick, and other external devices for additional assistance.

I have never had to use any of these accommodations.  These assistive technologies make using the MacBook Air much more accessible for individuals with one or more disabilities.  Being able to utilize me gave me a better understanding of the assistive technologies available to those requiring this technology.


Resource:

“Accessibility – OS X – Apple.” Accessibility – OS X – Apple. Apple, n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.

Obstacles to Tech Integration in English

Integrating technology in the classroom was always something from which I thought math, science, and elementary teachers benefited.  I looked at the SmartBoard as a fancy projector.  I looked at the possibility of having 1-1 Chromebooks as interactive textbooks.  Many English teachers, and teachers in other content areas, share these same feelings.  There are many obstacles to integrating technology in the English classroom.

A study of English teachers revealed a number of concerns regarding technology integration in their classrooms.  The study revealed that teachers perceived a number of barriers with respect to integrating technology and changing methodologies (Yang & Huang 2008).  Changing methodologies can be a scary thing.  It is even scarier when teachers perceive this shift as a temporary one.

It should come as no surprise that research shows that constructivist teachers use technology more (Hsu 2016).  Hsu found that there are a number of barriers leading to a lack of technology integration.  His findings, I feel, support how the English teachers at my school feel about technology integration.  He mentions barriers include:

  1. Students’ lack of computer skills
  2. Teachers’ lack of training
  3. Teachers’ lack of time to implement tech
  4. Teachers’ lack of technical support

These concerns and barriers will not go away for some time. The students do lack basic computer skills in my ninth grade English classroom; however, I’m assuming that will change the earlier technology is meaningfully integrated in the classrooms.  Students lack valuable computer skills because we are not preparing them for the expected level of work.

Many English teachers find it frustrating when the availability and access to computers is lacking.  It is difficult to complete digital tasks when the equipment isn’t there (Lowther, Inan, Daniel Strahl, & Ross 2008).  Additionally, as I mentioned before, it always appeared that math and science had the fun curricular materials.  The availability of technology ready materials is not fully there.  Additionally, while English teachers may be quite sound in their content knowledge, there is a little bit of insecurity for some teachers with respect to technological knowledge (Lowther, Inan, Daniel Strahl, & Ross 2008).

All of these issues that English teachers face will be solved with time.  This instructional shift is still getting started, and it will take some time (and patience!) for all obstacles to be defeated.  For many of these obstacles, professional development will be essential.  Teachers will feel more and more comfortable the more they are given time to practice the tools.  Additionally, teachers need to be reassured (by administration) that no repercussions will come from a lesson that does not go as planned when a teacher is attempting something new and unfamiliar with technology.  For English teachers, it comes down to realizing that there are fun, engaging, and meaningful ways for us to integrate technology, too!  It isn’t just for the math and science teachers.


Resources:

Hsu, P. (2016). Examining Current Beliefs, Practices and Barriers About Technology Integration: A Case Study. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 60(1), 30-40. doi:10.1007/s11528-015-0014-3

Lowther, D. L., Inan, F. A., Daniel Strahl, J., & Ross, S. M. (2008). Does technology integration “work” when key barriers are removed?. Educational Media International, 45(3), 195-213. doi:10.1080/09523980802284317

Yang, S. C., & Huang, Y. (2008). A study of high school English teachers’ behavior, concerns and beliefs in integrating information technology into English instruction. Computers In Human Behavior, 24(3), 1085-1103. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2007.03.009

Integrating Technology

As an English teacher, I always struggled with integrating technology in the classroom.  I felt as long as I projected my textbook on the SmartBoard and used the online textbook, that I was integrating technology.  It was not until I began working on my M.E.T that I realized this was wrong.  There are numerous advantages to using technology in my English classroom.  All teachers are realizing that this pedagogical shift is imperative in the classroom.  This technology makes the learning process engaging, relevant, and authentic.

One way to make learning more engaging is to incorporate social media in the classroom. Since students are already comfortable with these tools, this tool makes learning more engaging. Educators in a high school setting are moving to a more open-minded approach with respect to social media (Mao 2014).  Social media can be an amazing way to connect to other learners and share information. As teachers begin to incorporate social media, students will become more engaged in the educational process.

While incorporating social media is important, it is crucial to increase student engagement.  Technology allows the teacher to create an engaging, student-centered classroom.  There are numerous initiatives that assist in creating this type of learning environment.  For example, Technology-Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) is a pedagogical innovation focused on constructivist teaching and learning (Shieh 2012).  Initiatives like TEAL encourage the educator to rethink the pedagogies driving their instruction.  The current move in education requires an educational shift.  Without this shift, students will be left woefully underprepared for the future job market.

Including technology in the K-12 setting is an important shift; however, it is one that many educators, and students, are not yet comfortable.  Many educators are considered “digital natives”, and their understanding of meaningfully integrating technology is minimal.  In fact, many researchers are now assessing the meaningful use of technology in the classroom.  For example, Gu, Zhu, & Guo (2013) are researching both teachers and students to assess digital natives and the digital divide.  Additionally, they are assessing the attitudes of educators while implementing the technology.  In order to gauge the success of technology integration in the classroom, it is important that this type of study exists.  Many teachers today know that technology is an important classroom component. 

Finally, there is an abundance of research to support what all teachers already know.  Integrating technology in the classroom increases engagement, relevancy, and authenticity.  Many teachers are looking to move from theory to practice (Robyler 2016). The shift is happening, and many teachers are now realizing the importance in integrating technology in the curriculum.  Technology has moved passed the whiteboard as a glorified projector.  Teachers are realizing this shift is important and beginning to make changes.


Resources

Gu, X., Zhu, Y., & Guo, X. (2013). Meeting the” Digital Natives”: Understanding the Acceptance of Technology in Classrooms. Educational Technology & Society, 16(1), 392-402.

Mao, J. (2014). Social media for learning: A mixed methods study on high school students’ technology affordances and perspectives. Computers in Human Behavior, 33, 213-223.

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching, 7th Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9780133955439/

Shieh, R. S. (2012). The impact of Technology-Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) implementation on student learning and teachers’ teaching in a high school context. Computers & Education, 59(2), 206-214.

 

Game Based Learning

 

Integrating game based learning is something that I have struggled with this year.  While I have integrated Quizziz, Quizlet, and Kahoot!, I feel like those do not really count as game based learning. While game based learning is simply described as an approach to teaching where students use games to explore relevant topics (“What is GBL?”), it seems like it should be much more than simple definition matching.  Most teachers in my building use GBL only for test reviews.  Game based learning can be so much more than that.  Game based learning includes both games and interactives that can be used in the classroom.

One reason I have struggled with this is because I have trouble finding games that fit in my high school English curriculum.  Most of the games I found on the list worked well for grade school level learners.  It was only once I changed my mindset that I was able to see how some of the games would fit in my curriculum.  For example, I found a great game called Pandemic.  This is not a game one associates with high school English; however, it hits on a number of other important skills that can transfer to my classroom.  Students work in teams to solve a problem.  This is not unlike trying to analyze a character or discover a theme.  They all require collaboration and cooperation.  The game teaches those very important skills.

Another example is Popplet.  While Popplet may not be the game many are thinking, it can be used to work collaboratively to solve a problem.  In the end, that is exactly what an online game does.  It is no different with Popplet.  Although, instead of saving the world from a deadly virus, they are exploring a theme in To Kill a Mockingbird.  I find the skills of team work and cooperation are necessary for both.

Integrating game based learning is something that I have scoffed at for years; however, I am starting to realize the value of the games and interactives in the classroom curriculum.  I realize that there are many lessons taught in game based learning that can transfer to every day life skills.


 

References:

“Game-Based Learning: Resource Roundup.” Edutopia. N.p., 11 July 2011. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.

“Small, Safe Steps for Introducing Games to the Classroom.” Edutopia. N.p., 08 Oct. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.

“What Is GBL (Game-Based Learning)?” EdTechReview. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.

Social Networking and The Walled Garden

The entry this week focuses on the concept of the walled garden.  In order to collaboratively discuss this topic, I have created a Voicethread.  After you take a look, you can comment here or on the Voicethread.  Feel free to let me know what you think!

https://voicethread.com/app/player/?threadId=7624858

Resources:

Giacomantonio, Lucia. “Making Global Connections: The Edmodo Pen Pal Project.” RSS. N.p., 23 Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Mar. 2016.

“So You Want to Do Mystery Skype?” N.p., 25 Oct. 2011. Web. 04 Mar. 2016.

“Walled Garden.” What Is ? A Webopedia Definition. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2016.