Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Sadness of the Digital Divide

Reading about the digital divide was very saddening.  Schrum (2011) talks about how certain schools and populations are not given the same opportunities to access technology.  For instance, "schools with high poverty rates and those in rural areas that have access typically have slower connections to the Internet" (Schrum 2011).  Why are these facts so saddening?  It is saddening because many of these students come from families that may not be able to afford the latest and best technologies.  They already do not have as much access at home.  Thus, they are already disadvantaged when compared to their peers who are wealthier and able to afford these newer technologies.  Therefore, when the school does not provide students with access, it further causes these students to be at a disadvantage especially since for some of these students, it means they are getting no exposure and access. 

Throughout this semester so far, we have been talking about the importance of incorporating technology into our lessons.  Reading about the digital divide made this importance even more apparent especially in regards to poorer school districts.  If we do not help these students access technology and learn how to use it to help them work collaboratively with others as well as use it to be creative, then these students will have less of a chance of succeeding later on in life.  As mentioned many times in the beginning of the course, more and more jobs are requiring one to have basic technology skills.  Therefore, if we do not equip these students with these skills, these students will not have an advantage.

As future educators, it is our job to ensure that we are preparing our students to the best of our abilities.  I now understand why it is so important for us to be technology ambassadors and help schools change to address the needs of 21st century students.  Being technologically savvy ourselves, it is our job to introduce the use of technology into the schools we teach in.  We should use technology in our lessons and be the model for others to follow.  We need to be the ones who help our students gain the skills they need to succeed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Teacher Collaboration

In one of my classes, we talked about teacher collaboration today.  In one of the articles, it discussed how teacher collaboration is hard to incorporate into schools because it takes time away from teaching and other more important things that teachers must do (ex: reading the latest teaching techniques and figuring out how to implement them to one's teaching). 

I found this point to be very interesting.  First, I believe that teacher collaboration is very important.  I think teachers should collaborate both with teachers who are in the same teaching field (i.e other second grade teachers, other social studies teachers, etc.) and with teachers in other content areas (i.e the gym teachers, the special education teachers, etc.).  By collaborating, teachers can gain different view points, ideas, techniques, etc. 

Because I view collaboration as something that is very important, I found it to be interesting that the reading would say that collaboration took teachers away from more important things.  However, thinking about it, I began to realize that there are teachers who feel this way.  While student teaching, the district I was in was trying to make teachers collaborate more with one another, and a big thing teachers kept wondering was how they were going to make the time for collaboration.  Thinking about this and then thinking about activities we are doing in class and tools I have been learning about made me realize that teachers can collaborate on-line.  Technology shouldn't just be integrated into the classroom to benefit students, but it can be used to benefit teachers as well.  I know that many of the teachers were supportive of collaboration but were just worried about finding a good time for everyone.  By creating collaborative groups on-line, like our thinkfinity groups, schools can give teachers a place to collaborate, and teachers can do it when they find the time rather than having to go to a meeting at a time that is inconvenient for them.

By having collaborative on-line groups, it is easier for teachers to work with teachers in other content areas, who may not have the same schedule and same free periods.  It also makes collaboration less of an inconvenience because teachers can do it when they have the time. 

I think that recommending on-line collaboration would be a great thing.  I would definitely create an on-line collaborative group and see if other teachers in my school are interested. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Inclusive Classrooms and Technology

I stumbled upon this video while trying to find a video for my website project.  It talks about reasons why technology is important, and it tells how technology can be a good tool to use in both inclusive and social studies classrooms.  I thought that it did a really good job of summing up information on how technology can be a helpful tool in the classroom, and I thought it brought up some interesting points.

While watching this video, I was reminded of how in my Inclusive Teaching class we are learning about different assistive technologies that we could incorporate into our classrooms to help all students effectively learn the information we are teaching.  This video mentions how  "as the 20th century closed, the technological gap became increasingly apparent between students with and without disabilities" (Technology in Inclusive Social Studies Classrooms 1:50).  I thought that this point was interesting especially since I have been learning how technology can really help improve education for students with disabilities.  Thinking about the technological gap and how much technology can help students with disabilities makes me wonder why there is a gap.  If technology can help improve the education of students with a disability in such a great way, why is it that these students are the ones who do not know as much about technology and do not use as much technology when in school?

Another part of this video that interested me was the part about Social Studies and Technology.  My specialization for middle school is Social Studies, and I am always looking for ways to make learning about history more engaging and fun.  Like the video said, I believe that the purpose of Social Studies education is to teach students about how to become good democratic citizens, and to do this, I believe that students must be able to think critically about the past, future, and present.  In this video, they mention how technology is a great tool to help students learn these things.  The video mentions how technology helps to connect people and allows people to access a wealth of information (Technology in Inclusive Social Studies Classrooms).  Watching this part of the presentation made me think of teaching Social Studies in sixth grade.  It made me see how I could have incorporated more technology into my class to help students practice skills like critical thinking. If I were to go back and reteach lessons, I would definitely try to incorporate Web 2.0 tools that we have been learning about.  For instance, I would have had my students blog about a debatable topic, create a website or an on-line profile of someone important, record a video that we would watch, etc. 

I really liked this video because I think it is a great reminder of the great things technology can help us as teachers do, and I think it really helps one see how technology can help improve students' education.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wikis and Blogs in the Classroom

Reading the Richardson Chapter on Wikis was very interesting.  Something that really stuck out to me was the section on Wikipedia.  All throughout my schooling, teachers and professors have been telling me that using Wikipedia is not a trustworthy website.  In fact, like Richardson mentioned, teachers would and still stress Wikipedia's inaccuracy due to the fact that anyone could edit the page, and they all would say that we should use it "as a starting point for [our] work, but not as a sole source" (Richardson 2010).

I found this section interesting because Richardson points out that Wikipedia is actually a pretty reliable source.  He mentions how Professor Halavais, from the University of Buffalo, actually tested the reliability by planting 13 errors on various Wikipedia pages and how they were all corrected after a few hours (Richardson 2010).  This study and the section contradict what many of my teachers have told me about Wikipedia.  Reading this section made me realize how important it is for teachers to research and know about the tools that students are using before telling students whether or not they are good tools.  The section also made me realize that Wikipedia is a good source for students to use to find out information.  However, as with using any kind of source, it is important for students to know how to judge the accuracy of the information in the source.

Reading this section also made me realize how much can be done with Wikis.  As the book mentioned, it is a great place for students to collaborate and create pages on various topics.  Because my specialization is history, I can see the advantages of using Wikis in my classroom.  I can have students write their own articles on things we are learning, and have them edit eachother's articles to check for accuracy.  Also, when students change information on pages, I can have them give reasons as to why they made such a change and support it with factual information.  Doing this can make learning about history more meaningful because they are creating something to teach others while learning themselves. I would definitely use Wikis in my classroom, and I think this is a great tool.