Reflections

29 Sep

As I attended tonight’s EC&I session, I jotted down a few things that I wanted to discuss in my blog tonight and each one is related to questions that I have been struggling with for a while now.  While Richard was discussing the history of technology, I was thinking about all of the things that were at one time so exciting and are now common place. From the first time a film strip was used in the classroom to just three years ago when the student’s at my school were excited because all of the classrooms got their own TV and DVD player (note: these have already become kind of useless and I would have rather of had my own data projector but to the teachers that requested these things, this was a huge technological advancement) But I digress, the problem now seems to be that there is so much available out there that only some will be used and eventually for everything, the novelty wears off and it becomes common.  As a teacher, especially one that is interested in educational technology, I find it very difficult to choose what to introduce my students to and it does not seem to matter as they are so used to technology now they want to stick with what they know.  How do I bust that bubble?

First, I would like to talk about novelty.  I have always allowed my students to use iPods at school, in fact, I encourage it.  I like that they have a little computer at their fingertips to help them with spelling or give them the answer to a burning question or give them their own private space to work.  At first, I was like, the coolest teacher ever, there were iPods all over the place. Now they all have them and they don’t use them as much.  When I give them the option of using some kind of Web 2.0 tool they just want to do a poster or if they are really adventurous, use PowerPoint.  When I tell them that they are not allowed to make posters and only posters, they act like I cut their arm off. So why is this? apathy? laziness? Boredom? All of the above>  My instinct is that in my school it is leaning more towards laziness and the difficulty of breaking them out of their “old school” ideas. (And I mean old school literally) We have relied on novelty to motivate students for a while now and it have come to the point where the market has become saturated.  What do we do now that the novelty is wearing off?

I think I should show my kids that video!  Personally, I think that PowerPoint are just fancy posters but for some kids, that is thinking outside of the box.

So, if my kids are encouraged to go further than PowerPoint and posters, what do I want them to do?  Well, that is where it becomes confusing for me too.  There is so much available out there for them to use that it is difficult to decide or learn to use many of the tools.  They are familiar with Facebook and things like MovieMaker but when I ask them to use a new tool, they become confused and lost.  The thing is, that most kids do not use Web 2.0 tools in their everyday lives.  They use social networking tools and when you try to introduce social  tools into the classroom, they act like we have walked into their bedrooms.  It is hard for them to see that something that they use in their social lives can be used in the classroom and it is hard for them to let go of thinking that it is their’s.  I think too that sometimes they find it uncomfortable that their teachers know and use the same networking tools that they do.  It makes teachers human and gives them social lives, something that kids don’t think we have.  Asking them to use Facebook at school and admitting that you know how to use it is now akin to seeing your teacher buying groceries (remember thinking “they eat food, weird?” I do.) I remember last year one of my students seeing me text after school one day exclaiming “whoa, Mrs. Stinson, you text?” So, social networking in schools is uncomfortable and web tools are unfamiliar, that leaves teachers with yet another task, making it comfortable and familiar.  And if you are a teacher that is uncomfortable and unfamiliar, then you have a whole other situation on your hands.

My final thought is concerning the motivation of the student’s themselves.  I have been working for three and a half years to encourage students to think about and QUESTION what they are learning/seeing/reading/hearing.  From that I try to motivate them to choose where they want to go with their questions and thoughts and what to do when they get there.  I like the analogy that was given in class tonight in reference to personal learning; “choose your own adventure” and I fully intend to use it! Some kids embrace this style of learning and some hate it.  I know that they hate it because it makes them think, work harder and challenge themselves into something uncomfortable.  I also know that it is a set of skills that need to be taught.  Technology makes it so much easier as there is instant access to information and endless ways to synthesis it but that also brings us full circle, if the novelty is wearing off and the options are overwhelming, where do we stand?

I guess what it comes down to is that I really believe in the value of using technology as tools for inquiry based learning and I have been taken out of the comfort zone of what I know to be school to pursue it.  The difference is that it was my choice to do so and I still have questions about it.  I need to remember this when I am working with my students that are embarking on this adventure with me (sometimes against their will) and have a little patience with it all.

I will leave off with an inspirational song. Hope you all enjoy!

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10 Responses to “Reflections”

  1. Annie Saint-Jacques September 29, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    I find your reflection very informative Danielle. My own playground is higher education and I really appreciate your hindsight : “They use social networking tools and when you try to introduce social tools into the classroom, they act like we have walked into their bedrooms.” Some nice challenges ahead then… It’s interesting because in the everyday world, people naturally tend to gather and ask for help when they need it (Jonassen wrote about that). They create their own vibrant community. How can we help children transpose this to their learning environments? I think adults are probably more aware of the importance of networks; more and more they willingly turn to social tools for their own growth, be it personal or professional.

    • daniellestinson September 29, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

      They also can’t imagine yet that learning environments can be cool or interesting. They have a hard time giving it a chance when they have always known school to be only one way. There was the teacher telling them what to do, whether it was right or wrong, who was smart and who was not, give an assignment and go home. Boring, Home is about fun and friends and things that they like to do. They just can not fathom how we would take what they like to do and make it apply to school. But we’re working on it but I think that right now we’re still in the grassroots stage. I like to think about all the YA Science Fiction novels that I have read and how they describe a teenager’s life in the future. It’s all about instant access and networks and being “linked in” to everything at all times. I don’t think that reality is that far off, we are just witnessing the beginning of it now. I mean, ten months ago, I did not have a Blackberry and now if I didn’t have it I wouldn’t know what to do without all that readily available information and access to my people. We will get there.

  2. Angela September 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    Hi Danielle,

    I see your struggles within my own classroom and school. Just this week, my principal gave his students a multiple intelligence survey that allowed students to see what type of project ideas would fit best with their intelligences. They were given the opportunity to pick any project type they wanted, yet the majority of them chose a standard paper.

    At first, I couldn’t figure out why, but after reading your blog, I think you are right. New technologies cause students to think and worker harder than standard project ideas like a paper. It’s easier to choose a standard project than take the time to experiment with something new. This also led me to my own blog and some things I have been working through around that same topic. I do not incorporate as many new technologies into my own classroom for those same reasons.

    Although you may not realize it, your blog has helped me formulate some thoughts I was articulating within my own blog so thank you! I think you’re right, it’s an adventure we have to embark on with our students and we all have to have a little patience along the way.

    • daniellestinson September 29, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

      I am not sure what school division you are in but Regina Public Schools has implemented a new teaching/school environment “policy” called Structural Innovation. One of the core components of Structural Innovation is based on Inquiry and Project based learning (although if you click on the link, their definition of what that means is way off.) Not only are we encouraged to motivate students to use technology in their Inquiry process but their whole way of teacher directed learning has been turned upside down on them in the past two years! Our kids, especially the senior kids, at my school no longer have the option of being lazy thinkers. We had to take traditional ways of doing school completely off the table. If they want to be successful, they have to work for it. We, especially me, have been met with resistance from both parents and students (I was the first senior teacher to implement Inquiry based learning in grades 7/8) but we just keep plugging away at it and spreading the word. Strength in numbers! Keep going, push those kids, and good luck!

    • mrthejud September 30, 2010 at 2:26 am #

      I’m not sure it is always easier to choose a paper though. A paper might be a novelty to a student who is constantly immersed in social technology at home. While we incorporate social media into our classroom we need to consider the fact that these students are constantly connected and them creating a blog or something that can be commented on means that they are constantly connected to their work. So that means no down time for the student.

      This is especially taxing on students who are only relying on situational interest (aka novelty) to get themselves through the assignment. Trying to shoehorn kids into Social Media tools can both be a blessing or a hindrance unfortunately.

  3. Lisa M Lane September 30, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    I had never really thought of the novelty factor till last night — the idea of novelty and that it wears off. I know it’s true, but I don’t think about ed tech that way.

    Maybe the difficulty is starting with the tool: “what do I want them to use?” Today I had an interesting class experience, and all of those for me tend to start with “what do I want them to do?” instead of what tool I want them to use. (It’s not on my EC&I blog, but on my regular blog: http://lisahistory.net/wordpress/?p=675.)

    Today the tools were clearly secondary — I chose Ning (and now a WordPress blog) because I wanted them to post images and text to present, and today I chose Stinto and we chose Skype because we wanted to connect with students who weren’t there.

  4. dianna831 October 1, 2010 at 3:12 am #

    Technology makes it so much easier as there is instant access to
    information and endless ways to synthesis it.

    Yes Danielle, you are right – and I also wonder if the constant creativity that surrounds us lessens our desire to be creative – i.e.: if I don’t do it then someone else will…
    love the song, thanks!
    Dianna

    • lewisv October 24, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

      I wonder about this ‘creativity’ piece too, Dianna.

  5. Christian Long October 1, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Lovely points/questions re: the novelty vs. value proposition. Ultimately, regardless of tool/tech (slate, pencil, film strip, podcast, multi-touch iPhone, etc), the point will always be the ‘question’ that drives academic inquiry and discovery. The longer we debate the ‘new tool’ or not bit, the longer we’ll delay focusing on what matters most –> the essential questions and “Q”uality discoveries along the way. Thanks for your post and reflections.

  6. lewisv October 24, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    Danielle,
    You present some well-spoken thoughts in this post. The fact that there are so many technologies to choose from does create challenges for teachers. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the multitude of tools and to feel as though it is impossible to keep up with the constant change. As educators, I think we have to realize that we can’t be experts at everything. We must equip our learners with strategies for evaluating tools, understanding their capabilities and limits, and determining how the technology might enhance their learning. It is OK for educators to learn alongside their learners.

    Finally, I enjoyed both of your video clips in this post. I believe Power Point is being used inappropriately in many situations and ‘death by powerpoint’ is a term I have heard in my division. 🙂 The inspirational song you left us with at the end of your blog is terrific. I have already forwarded the link to a few of my colleagues. Thank you!

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