Synthesis

An Educational Journey

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This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Three years ago, I embarked on a journey to obtain my Master’s Degree in Educational Technology. At the time, I was in my first year of teaching fifth grade science and math. Being a younger teacher and understanding the importance of incorporating technology, I scheduled the laptops to be used in my classroom every Wednesday. I distinctly remember using the laptops as the students learned about the human body systems. I stayed up late Tuesday nights to locate websites for fill in the blank worksheets and websites with games for those early finishers. The students were always excited to come to class on Wednesdays, which made me feel that I was being an engaging, effective teacher. As I embarked on my journey through Educational Technology, I realized the error of my ways.

During my first semester of graduate courses, I had the opportunity to take two introductory courses including Teaching for Understanding with Technology and Adapting Innovative Technologies in Education. During these courses, I was introduced to an array of resources to improve my teaching. During Teaching for Understanding with Technology, I was able to increase my professional learning network (PLN) by reaching out to fellow teachers through Blogs and Twitter. Through both of these avenues, I found engaging lessons and have made friends with teachers from all over the world. I was inspired to create my own blog to share what I was doing in the classroom with my fellow teachers. In addition, I was able to vent and achieve a higher level of understanding of teaching through weekly Twitter chats. Through the use of Twitter, I was able to meet local teachers and discuss teaching topics both virtually and at Conferences.

During Adapting Innovative Technologies in Education, I was introduced to an amazing resource to help students with disabilities and incorporate technology in the classroom. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a website that lists resources to help students work collaboratively, use text-to-speech, incorporate graphic organizers, utilize online math manipulatives, literacy and writing tools, and many more.

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This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

I was also introduced to Technological Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, and Content Knowledge (TPACK). TPACK is the use of technological, pedagogical and content knowledge to teach an all-around good lesson. By first thinking about what you are going to teach and how you are going to teach it, you can then find a technology that enhances the lesson rather than makes it seem cool. Through the use of UDL and TPACK, my implementation of technology began to change. No longer did I see fill in the blank worksheets as a positive, engaging way to incorporate technology. Instead, I began to use technologies to enhance students’ learning. For example, after completing a science experiment and learning about the scientific method, students created a poster with their data using Glogster. Another example would be as students were beginning to learn about one-step equations. Instead of showing them how to solve a one-step equation, I had them research ideas and create a blog entry about their own method of solving one-step equations. I began to see technology as a tool rather than a “fun” game to distract students.

During my second semester of my Master’s, I took the class Teaching Students Online. During this class, I had the opportunity to create my own online course. As I was taking this course, I was also dabbling with the idea of a flipped classroom. A flipped classroom is when students complete work such as reading a textbook or watching videos before coming to class. This gives the students an opportunity to practice what they learned and ask questions in class. Teaching Students Online allowed me to learn more about synchronous (students meet at the same time either online or face-to-face) and asynchronous (students work independently and at different paces).   Since I was teaching 7th grade science at the time, I decided on creating a synchronous classroom.

Throughout the process of creating a course online, I had to learn how to rethink the layout of my class. The first step was to figure out what I wanted students to learn and how I was going to teach them. I created objectives for three units on Plate Tectonics and decided to make the online course engaging by incorporating videos and games since students would be doing this portion of the course at home. By creating a flipped classroom format, I was able to focus my classroom time on creating hands-on experiments and allowing students to ask questions about the videos and readings they worked through the night before. I also decided to have quizzes and projects online instead of taking up precious classroom time. One project was to have students create a Voki (online avatar with voice) to explain what they learned through their readings. Another lesson I learned through this course was the use of Learning Management Systems. I explored many different avenues to host my course, which gave me an opportunity to learn about different types of websites for hosting content. Once again, I was able to use TPACK to incorporate technology as a tool rather than a cool game.

My third semester of the program, I decided to attend overseas in Galway, Ireland. Through this experience, I was able to learn both personal and professional lessons. Personally, I was able to learn a whole new culture and work with teachers from all over the world. Speaking with teachers who worked in other states and even other countries inspired me to be a better teacher and incorporate new ideas in the classroom. I also was able to learn how to work with people of different types of personalities. Throughout the four-week intensive course, I completed two different projects with a group of four people. There were arguments, tears, compromise and success. Professionally, I participated in my first conference. Within a group of 20 people, we were able to plan and host a conference in just two and a half weeks. By working together, we created a website, planned sessions, and promoted the conference. My personal part was the website team. As the website group, we created a GREAT14 website dedicated to information about the conference, biographies, and session information. Another job for the conference was planning a session during the conference. My team member and I planned a session about being proactive with cyber bullying in the classroom.

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This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

We hosted a discussion and provided tips for implementing technology and avoiding cyber bullying. In addition to planning and presenting at my first conference, I focused on bettering a lesson on Density that my students always struggled on in the classroom. Prior to this project, students could always memorize the formula or density (mass/volume), but could not explain what it meant. This led to difficulties in explaining why an object increased in volume when heated. Through this Dream It project, I investigated different ways to teach Density and help students better understand the concept. My goal was to incorporate technology to enhance my content and pedagogy for teaching Density. Through my research, I found three different ways to incorporate technology. The first was the use of ExitTicket, which allowed me to have consistent and instant feedback while teaching the concept. A second technology was to use Ted-Ed, which allows students to watch videos and answer questions or discuss as they watch the videos. This allowed students to have a visual understanding of Density. Finally, I found that the University of Colorado has created online interactives that allow students to manipulate objects for a better understanding of Density. Through all of my research, I was able to rewrite my lesson, engage students, and have them master the concept. My experience in Ireland helped shaped me better as a person both personally and professionally.

During my final semester, I had the opportunity to take Design Thinking. This course opened my eyes to how designers work to create a new product. By choosing a problem, in my case engagement in the classroom, I was able to go through the steps of design thinking. First, I surveyed both students and teachers to empathize about how engagement in the classroom affects both parties. Through this data, I researched and dreamed about solutions to the problem. I created prototypes and tested them. Students reviewed the concepts they learned by using Kahoot (an interactive game), Plickers (paper clickers), and Edpuzzle (similar to Ted-Ed). Finally, I concluded that by using Plickers and Kahoot, students were more engaged in their learning. Through this course, I was introduced to a new way to research and test whether or not a conclusion to a problem truly worked in the classroom.

Overall, the Master of Arts in Educational Technology has helped me improve in many different areas of my life. As I reflect upon that first year teacher who made fill in the blank worksheets to incorporate technology, I see the changes in my thinking due to the program. Personally, I have grown as a person and learned how to share my ideas as a teacher and work collaboratively with many different people. Also, I have increased my professional learning network (PLN) and create a blog to share my ideas as a teacher and a technology integrator. Professionally, I have learned to incorporate technology in a meaningful way that helps to enhance a students’ learning rather than give them busy work that is “cool.” Also, I have the confidence to become a consultant for other teachers and instructors as they begin to incorporate technology in their classrooms. I am no longer the first year teacher. Instead, I am a well-rounded technology integrator.

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