The purpose of joining MET had been to get some proper guidance to implement appropriate educational technologies in an elementary school setup. Before reaching ETEC 565, I had traveled through the annals of the MET program and become acquainted with and committed to the pedagogical theory of constructivism, which had substantiated my own teaching philosophy of collaboration and co-construction of knowledge in situated and active learning environments. Now at ETEC 565, I aimed to learn how to meaningfully apply technology at the elementary level so as to reach all learners.
In this purposeful trek to differentiate instructions, I wanted to learn about technologies which had the affordances to help me achieve such goals. I also wanted a lot of questions answered to validate my current practices and future plans. Would LMS be able to provide multiple pathways to learning? Is it suitable to use in an elementary school setup? Which possible multimedia could be used with young students to present content, to augment the learning process, and to allow for expression of knowledge? Would social software be suitable for use in elementary education? What is the feasibility of using portfolios as an assessment tool in elementary education? Could all these technologies compliment sound pedagogies and provide optimal learning?
Playing in the Sandbox
In all honesty, in my quest for the above question, I did not explore the eLearning toolkit a lot. There was some persisting issue with the way the toolkit wiki loaded that the text appeared to overlap. This made it hard to navigate through, read, and use the toolkit. Since this is my 9th MET course I have had a lot of exposure to and experience with many of the tools mentioned in the toolkit and so I didn’t feel at a loss when the toolkit wiki did not cooperate. I have worked with blogs, wikis, Picasa, Audacity, movie-making, DVD’s and uploading material to You Tube. I have two websites that I maintain and use regularly. I use Flickr, Delicious, and Facebook on a regular basis.
My biggest issue was to embed webpages onto Moodle and getting to know the html codes. While I soon gave up on the html endeavour in the face of WYSIWYG, I learned to embed webpages through Google search! In the planning of the Moodle lesson I chose to use Google search and You Tube to find answers to my problems and I was not disappointed. Besides Google, a lot of my learning regarding Moodle and tools for storytelling happened in my Community of Learners within the course.
Actually, compared to the toolkit, a more valuable support came from the assigned readings within the course. I really came to rely on Bates and Poole (2003), Chickering and Samson, (1996) and Anderson (2001) when using technologies to plan lessons and activities. Their writings guided me in my selection of technologies, in exploring and understanding their affordances, and in embedding them in an effective learning environment which benfitted the learner and the instructor as well. I strongly believe if the pedagogy is correct, the technologies will deliver.
Learning -One case at a time
I found the teaching strategy of presenting active learning opportunities by providing scenarios and cases to solve, very effective. By applying readings and theories to realistic situations I was not only able to examine the integration of suitable technologies with sound pedagogy but also scrutinize social, economic, and educational factors that influence such amalgamation. I consider my learning very hands-on as I tried to troubleshoot for Benoit, Anju, Trinh, Dafna, and Neolene in different scenarios and then discuss other viable options with my peers.
I loved “getting my hands dirty” to use a wide range of technology for different projects instead of just examining and talking about them. It gave me a clear idea not only about the affordances of tools like blogs, cooperative wikis, e-portfolios, storytelling tools and the LMS platform of Moodle, but also about how to setup and use them. The assignment for making the quiz was a valuable activity. Not only did I get to explore a new tool but I also had to consider suitable ways to test certain content. The experience provided me with the opportunity to explore the affordance of Moodle to provide formative and summative assessment. The team work and cooperative learning that happened in the course confirmed for me the need of using collaboration not just in my teachings but also in my professional development.
Where do I go from here!
All my queries from my flight path have been dealt with during this journey! I have been shown an abundance of ways in which technology can help differentiate instructions and enrich the learning of my students. A lot of learning from the course has already transitioned into my teaching! My students are having discussions on a class blog and using Web 2.0 platforms of Storybird and TheLittleBird to write stories. They are creating artefacts about their learning using various web technologies and software. I am still unsure about how this can all come together in an e-portfolio as my students are too young to maintain their own blogs. Maybe Glogster will be a more effective platform. Also I am setting up lessons in Moodle and planning a Wiki for group collaboration.
My biggest fear is that as I complete ETEC 565 and then the MET program, I’ll get behind again in regards to current pedagogical and technological innovations. However the success of our Community of Learners in this course has convinced me to join some online communities to keep abreast with current trends. I am also excited about sharing what I have learned with my colleagues at school. I strongly believe in the benefits of blended learning for young learners and will keep working on helping my colleagues set up such environments. I have recently joined the group in my district that is working on promoting blended learning by introducing technologies and providing free workshops for them.
As I move on from ETEC 565 I believe I have finally earned the right to be called a tech teacher!
Anderson, T. (2008).Towards a Theory of Online Learning. In: T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.), Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Edmonton AB: Athabasca University. Accessed online 3 March 2009 http://www.aupress.ca/books/120146/ebook/02_Anderson_2008_Anderson-Online_Learning.pdf
Bates A. W. & Poole, G. (2003).A Framework for Selecting and Using Technology. In A.W. Bates & G. Poole, Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education (pp. 75-108). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 4.
Chickering, A.W. & Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. American Association for Higher Education Bulletin, 39 (7), 3-7. Accessed online 11 Mar 2009 http://www.aahea.org/bulletins/articles/sevenprinciples1987.htm