Reflecting on beginning

As I begun I have found myself asking”How do I do xyz?” quite frequently, often and aloud to myself. Apparently, according to an online quiz, I have a “growth mindset”. Cue laughter, as I have found it has been of little help to settle the nerves when engaging completely foreign technology. As a frequent reader, admirer and enjoy-er of blogs I supposed you could say I’ve had minimal experience with how they actually work. However, daunting as starting has been, I am thoroughly looking forward to the challenges these new technologies will bring.

Learning Curves

As with all things, ICT’s come with their own learning curve. Their own events and hiccups that make you question if you will ever be comfortable in their presence. I am pleased to say that the more I explore and engage with new and exciting ICTs the more keen I have become to seek out new knowledge and find new and exciting ways to enhance the learning experiences for my future students.

The culmination of good, sound pedagogical practices together with the tools that ICTs provide I am sure will result in some very interesting and meaningful learning experiences for students. Now I just can’t wait to get started.

I found an interesting Blog by Johan Lindstromn that I just had to share! His blog talks about how teachers can get started using ICTs in their classrooms and lists some really interesting applications for students to use. Well worth the read.

IWB’s – are we using them the best way we can?

Interactive whiteboards should be just that – interactive. A place where teachers can call upon students to come to the front and have a go at using the touch screen or the touchscreen pen to physically manipulate the resource available on the screen.

However, all to often that ‘Interactive’ part seems to fall by the waste-side and the touchscreen becomes nothing more useful than an ordinary whiteboard for project images upon.

In order to make sure I don’t fall into this peril of using an IWB as a replacement tool for an OHT I have begun to compile some resources I can use when I get into my own classroom. The possibilities really are endless if you are willing to look!

TeachHub has some fantastic resources. As does IdealResources (if you don’t mind the membership fee).

Happy hunting!!

Keeping our students safe.

In an age of modern technology it feels like hardly a moment goes by where we aren’t told of the perils of something gone wrong when young people use the internet in unsupervised and often very unsafe ways. So that begs the question how can I keep my students safe and ensure they are using the endless resources available online in ethical ways? And even more to the point am I using the internet in a safe and ethical way? And am I modelling this for my students?

One sure fire way to make sure that I am doing my best to keep my students safe while we explore the vast and wondrous world of resources available to us though ICTs is to ensure that I stop and take the time to explicitly teach cyber-safety as and integrated part of digital learning. And this can’t just be a tick and flick – this is something that will need to be revisited time and time again in order to ensure that both the students and myself are vigilant about what information we give away about ourselves to the online community of virtual strangers.

Cyber safety for students information can be found here.

Exploring a whole new world

Learning about what programs, apps and interactive websites that are available to enhance and transform student learning is an absolute whirlwind. Everyday I feel as though there is something new to learn, a program that has changed. And the best part is that the more I explore, the more I learn. And the more I learn the more I find myself excited to explore some more. Just today I have found a host of programs for students to edit and upload music files; and to create there own games on scratch or sploder. For a digital immigrant I am beginning to find myself more and more at ease with the ever changing world of new technology available to my students.

Measuring Success – RAT framework

One way to measure how successfully we are implementing and using ICTs in the classroom to support and enhance student learning is to question our planning against the RAT framework (Hughes et al, 2006). I have found myself regualarly stopping to question firstly why I am using this ICT? and secondly what is the positive impact it is going to have on the learning capabilities of my students. It is essential that in order to prepare our students for the demands of life beyond formal education that they are positively engaging in meaningful experience that use ICTs to enhance and transform they ways in which they learn. If I can’t answer those 2 all important questions, then I really need to ask myself ‘Should I be using an ICT at this moment at all?’

Learning from or learning with?

As time goes on and I learn more and more I find myself wondering ‘Did I ever learn from an ICT or with an ICT?’ As I begin to plan for learning experiences of the future students I intend to teach I am beginning to believe this is an extremely important distinction to make! When we learn from an ICT it is almost expected that as if by magic or osmosis that the new knowledge and now inserted in my brain and therefore I have learnt. By teaching myself to teach with ICT’s I believe my students will benefit far greater as they engage and are interested in the learning that is requiring them to think and work in transformed ways.

I found some great information for Teachers on this website from InfoDev that describes in detail some key strategies and ways we can begin to use ICTs more effectively in our pedagogical practices. Have a look here.

Transforming or Replacing?

All too often we use technology in our lives to make it faster, make it more efficient, squeeze just a little more into our day. Which is fine – sometimes it can be just what we need to get us over the line. But what would happen if this was ALL we used ICTs for in our classrooms? What if instead of writing up today’s Maths I use an IWB to ‘flick it up on the screen’? And what if, instead of finding a text to use as an example for my students I let them watch a 30 second video about that text? How much better off would my students be? Probably, not very much.

Using ICTs as replacement for slower ways of working can be great. Yes, saved copies of documents that can be shown on the whiteboard can save teachers some time (and money in photocopying) but they aren’t enough to engage, enhance or transform the way our students will learn. The RAT framework (Hughes et al, 2006) is an excellent tool that I have found to assess ‘Why I am actually using an ICT in this particular learning experience?”  A great, very succinct, definition of the RAT framework can be found here.

I am finding it ever more prevalent that as a pre-service teacher that I continue to develop my ability to effectively and efficiently align student learning, with instructional strategies to achieve curriculum goals. And a huge part of this will be determine by how well I use information and communication technologies as tools for learning.