Monday, November 17, 2014

Technology in My Placement

As we are learning in class, technology can play an incredibly important role in the classroom. It can make teaching easier when used properly and students often find it more engaging than traditional methods of conveying information. However, technology is very expensive and school districts often cannot afford to purchase all of the technological tools that they would like.

Ann Arbor is a very good school district and yet it too does not have the capability to provide all of the possible resources. My placement at Community High School has exposed me to what (I assume) is the typical range of technological resources available to most schools. There are a few computer labs which contain relatively new apple desktop computers and several laptop carts which contain much older macs. Each classroom has a projector and a sound system that teachers can use to share visual and audio media. There is one IT person who comes to Community once a week. Though this technology may seem simplistic and limited, it actually is very functional and seems to work well for the teachers and students of this school.

Though it might be nice for each classroom to have a smart board or for each student to have easy, reliable access to a laptop, it is not necessary. In fact, the addition of such technological tools without the proper training would be disastrous. Teachers must be comfortable and familiar with the technology in their classrooms. Furthermore, they must be able to plan how the technology will be incorporated into their lessons and prepare for a plan B in case something goes wrong. This requires a new type of professional development and many teachers may be uncomfortable reworking their lessons to include technological tools. I think there is a happy medium where teachers can try new things, but don't have to jump on the bandwagon every time a new and improved gadget comes on the market.

My mentor teacher, a graduate of the MAC program, makes use of the projector and the sound system in her room and frequently signs the class up for trips to the computer lab. However, I think the most important technology available in the school is quite simply access to the internet. The most important thing isn't the availability of computers, it is having the ability to use them. We have access to an excellent stock market game that allows students to simulate buying and selling stocks. I think a lesson's success is based on how well you use the tools you have, not whether or not you have the newest gadget. As we've learned in our 504 class there are a lot of web-based tools that teachers and students can use to stay organized, learn, and engage with the material. Though Community High School may not have the most sophisticated gadgetry, I think that the teachers do a remarkable job with what they have.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Exploring Edubloggers

Today I sat down and tackled the task of finding and responding to various edubloggers. This was not as easy a task as it sounds. There is so much out there on the internet that it is actually rather overwhelming. Finding the blogs that are both useful and inspirational took quite a bit of time.  I searched through numerous databases and skimmed dozens of blogs before I found a few that really captivated my interest. Many of the blogs I found were disorganized and cluttered to the point that I had a difficult time navigating and comprehending the information on the site. Others hadn't been updated since 2013 or 2012 and I was hoping for something more recent. Still others discussed concepts in more vague, abstract terms or focused on education as a whole. (This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I was looking for something specific to my content area).

However, after searching for a while I found two excellent blogs! I never thought I would be the type of person to follow blogs, but after reading through a few of the posts on these sites I can say that I will definitely be going back for more! The first blog focuses on Spanish and the second one focuses on history. Both offered excellent resources and ideas that I have not yet been exposed to in my classes or my placement. This is the major benefit I see to participating in the edublogger world - access to new information and ideas. The spanish blog suggested a way to incorporate current events with social media. I was immediately captivated by this idea and the more I thought about it the more I realized it would be a good way to utilize authentic texts and encourage students to use the language in writing outside of formal papers (namely on Facebook and twitter). I love that as I read I not only received new ideas, but also was able to generate connections to what I am learning here in the MAC program. The history blog suggested an excellent resource called the Google Cultural Institute. (All you history teachers out there should check this out. Now. Don't worry, I'll wait) It is the coolest thing I've seen in a long time and it got me so excited to teach again. This is another benefit to finding and reading excellent blogs - you may be inspired.

Both of the edubloggers had numerous excellent posts and I am excited to see what else they write in the future. I was even excited to leave my own comments (Although neither of my posts have been accepted and posted publicly yet. Fingers crossed that they will be soon). Though it took me a while to find blogs that I enjoyed reading and found useful, the effort was well worth it. I probably will not spend a lot of time searching for more edubloggers to follow, but it is nice to know that there are practical, yet inspirational ideas being shared all the time. I look forward to reading what else these bloggers post and beginning my tentative foray into the world of edubloggers.