Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Observation

Students need face to face contact at some point during the learning process, especially with the instructor.  This can be achieved online through use of web cam.  There are a number of wonderful tools available for this including Skype, dimdim, wimba classroom, VoiceThreads, etc.  The visual helps students feel connect to the instructor as well as other members of the class.  With the visual and voice there comes a feeling of community.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Home Row

I teach the most basic computer class known to man...keyboarding.  Although this class is very simplistic in nature, I believe it sets the foundation for future computer use.  Keyboarding is to computing as addition is to Algebra.  I drill into my students proper typing position which involves keeping their hands on the home row.  For some reason they fight me on this.  To them it seems easier to peck using their two index fingers.  I see that as exerting way too much energy!  I wish we could see eye to eye.  Eventually most of the class does come around and they appreciate all they have learned.  The see their typing speed increase and are excited about the results.  We make it a point to set goals at the very beginning of the six weeks, and I encourage students to meet those goals. 

Maybe as teachers, we should begin implementing technology with baby steps.  I'm asking the students to learn the whole keyboard in one day.  In fact we typically learn about two or three keys a day.  If we break up the technology and begin slowly fusing it into our classrooms, maybe we will a) be able to see the results because we arent' to busy to see them, and b) we will really be able to focus on the technology we are trying in order to gauge if it is working with our students or not.  Technology shouldn't be difficult, a bit of a challenge at first? Yes.  Something we have to get comfortable with? Yes.  But can technology be seen as the building blocks necessary to construct effective lesson plans?  Most definitely!

Let us keep our fingers on the Home Row and learn a few key elements of technology at one time.  One by one we can add more in and really see results!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

PowerPoint, PowerPoint, PowerPoint

I had a teacher while an undergraduate that tried her hardest to use PowerPoint for her presentations.  There was one problem though...She did not know how to turn on the classroom computer.  I kid you not.  I literally had to turn the computer on for her each week and help her load her PowerPoint.  Even then the she read straight from the presentation.  We were bored out of our minds and in no way did the technology enhance our learning.  If anything her lack of skill hindered her ability to fully communicate with her students.  She was so incredibly concerned with what was on the screen to even break away from her lecture to ask students questions, or answer student's questions.  She was so zoned into the PowerPoint, I think she forgot we were in the room.
At what point does technology hinder or enhance learning.  I believe there is a very fine line that has been drawn in the sand.  From my experience, teachers either go completely overboard and bombard students with technology, or come up just short.  The first time I feel technology has been efficiently implemented has been in my current graduate level courses.  Maybe I am being too hard on teachers and over-generalizing.  The fact is, I can only go based on my experiences, and this is what I have seen thus far.  So for now, here is a link to ten things to keep in mind when creating a PowerPoint presentation: 10 Tips For Preparing A Professional Presentation.

“Last week I gave a fire safety talk (clears throat) and nobody paid any attention. It’s my own fault for using PowerPoint. PowerPoint is boring. People learn in a lot of different ways, but experience is the best teacher (lights a cigarette). Today, smoking is gonna save lives (throws cigarette into garbage can filled with paper and lighter fluid).”
Dwight Schrute, The Office, Season 5 – Episode 13, “Stress Relief”

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Beginning

I have been using a computer for the majority of my life.  I remember playing DOS run games on my dad's office computer at the age of six.  I had a computer class in the ninth grade in which I learned the basics of Microsoft Office, and one in college on the same subject.  I also took a class called Technology In The Classroom.  I vaguely remember going over PowerPoint and Front Page.  That class was just six years ago and is already incredibly outdated.  That is the problem I am having with today's teachers.  Unless they physically make themselves available for more technology training by means of taking courses or trying to keep up with it a little at a time by way of the Internet, then they are vastly behind.  I am one of the most recent graduates at my current school, and what I learned is already outdated.  Imagine these teachers that have been in the classroom for twenty five years.  How far behind in the technology curve are they?  Our students have never known life without technology.  Half of them sleep with their cell phones ready to answer a text or check Facebook in the middle of the night.  How do they feel when in a classroom that does not at all cater to their learning needs.  Now, do they need to be entertained all day?  By no means!  I do feel as educators we are doing them a disservice if we do not use the tools available to us to make learning easier for them.  With technology the way we have it, we really have the ability to go much faster.  In theory they should be learning more.  In my personal opinion, schools should offer much more in terms of educating their teachers on the use of technology in the classroom.  The material should be broken down in little bits easy enough for the teachers to digest.  We have to find a way for teachers today to understand the need for technology.  to understand that implementing technology in our classrooms doesn't mean just throwing together a PowerPoint for our lesson that day.  Technology is SO much more than that!  We have the opportunity to really communicate with our students via social media; to have instant feedback from our students via online polling or text polling; to go almost paperless via online quiz makers, etc.  Our students crave technology, and to be quite honest, teaching with technology is much more fun!