Final reflections

city-refraction-city-reflection-by-lrargerich-on-flickr

city-refraction-city-reflection-by-lrargerich-on-flickr

I am supposed to be reflecting on my aims for the SUNY technology in education course that’s just coming to an end.  When I look back at my original aims, and what I hoped to learn, here’s what I wrote:

  • How to use blogging/podcasting in the class room
    How to use google docs effectively

    How to be more imaginative in using ICT in the day to day of teaching
    How to include the above in UbD planning

I really didn’t know what to expect, to be honest.  Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and I was bumbling along in my own sweet way, totally unaware of many of the web 2.0 tools out there available for use for free in the classroom.  While I would not consider myself an expert, I have certainly learned a great deal towards achieving those aims, and more, over the past few weeks.  At the start, as you can tell by reading the first few blog posts here, I was reluctant, hesitant and skeptical about the use of the technology in my teaching.  I now feel excited, motivated and enthused about it.  I have even begun to experiment with some of it. 

One issue that I keep coming back to is time – podcasting, blogging, presentations – all very valuable.  The actual substance of the podcast or presentation doesn’t actually take that long to produce.  What takes the time is the editing and searching for the right photo or quote for your powerpoint.  Is this efficient use of a very scarce commodity?  And blogging – well – that takes on a life of it’s own!  Reading more important than writing in blogging.  Very time consuming as the more you read the more links you follow to more and more interesting websites till you realize you have just spent 3 hrs reading blogs with nothing concrete to show for it.

Collaboration is so important but I found working on the individual projects easier – I could do it whenever I had a few moments.  Group tasks required all of us to sit down at the same time, and if someone couldn’t be there, it was a no go.  This is something I should consider when assigning work to my students too.  The last task – designing a flat classroom project – was perhaps for me the most challenging.  Not sure why, exactly – maybe now having got my head around some of the new technology I need time to assimilate before working with others on a project like this.

Incorporating technology is great when it works.  When it doesn’t it leaves you frustrated beyond belief!  Here you are having spent ages coming up with a dynamic new way of learning for your students only to be thwarted 5 mins before the curtain goes up because of some technical hiccup.  I can’t help feeling a little bit of “why bother?” and I should have just done it the “old” way because that would have been easier… Maybe the need for a tech person on call to help in these emergencies, although I’ve no idea how this could be managed really.  I’m sure if an IT support person were to be in my lesson, then there would be no glitches, simply because they are there.   And again I think it comes back to our reasons for using the technology.  As Jose Picardo says on his excellent blog and in this post,  it is not just enough to plan to use ICT in our lessons, but it has to be meaningful to our students.  To them it is not particularly exciting or new – it is normal.  They are, remember, digital natives, and we are not.

open-door-by-cedro-on-flickr

open-door-by-cedro-on-flickr

Ideas for using podcasting in my classroom – put kids into groups of 2 or 3, and have them produce a podcast once per semester by rotation – maybe one produced every 2 weeks.  Something along the lines of “Biology in the news” or the like – short – 5 mins or so is enough.  Homework could be to listen to it and comment on the class blog….

I have always been a strong advocate for the IB DP program – and I still am.  It provides a far better HS experience than I ever had – students receive a great all-round education without specializing too early (a la A levels).  They do community service, EE, metacognition… all good stuff.  But over the past few weeks of this course I have been thinking… I miss teaching lower down.  For the first 10 years of my career I always taught the range from Grade 6 to 12, and enjoyed the diversity.  Yes, lots of prep, but it kept me interested and movitated.  In recent years I have become very “exam heavy” in my schedule.  First taking on Maths Studies along with Biology, meant all IB classes, then a move to the Philippines and all IB classes again.  Some of the enjoyment of teaching gets snuffed out when all you are worried about is getting through the syllabus and checking off the right number of lab hours. 

If I have learnt anything over the past few weeks of this course it is to be open to new ideas.  Read, read and read some more, and then try stuff out, and then form an opinion about whether it can be useful.  I’m historically good at the last part without having done the former. I also learnt that I have to take control of my PD, and not wait for someone to come knocking on my door to tell me about a great idea they have and would like to share.  By developing my own PLN, I am in charge of what I am learning, and who I am learning from, and when I learn it.  That is surely better than the “one size fits all” traditional PD that teachers often receive.  There is no criticism here – my current school is AMAZING at bringing in top notch, and at the forefront in their field, educators for us to work with and learn from, but my PLN is specific and targeted and there and ready to answer my questions….

Well – I guess I had a lot to reflect on!  So, I’ll stop there.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Final reflections

  1. Tom McLean

    Nadine, I have found one of the benefits of participating in this course has been to develop a dialogue with you.

    I don’t mean this to be ass kissing pat on the back style b******* rather that I would never have had such conversations with you without the use of blogs etc

    I am definitely the risk taking, just try and see, kind of person. I rely upon my instincts to create meaning out of situations that don’t necessarily go as they were planned. Now that is ok but I have a lot to learn from a more thorough, reflective and experienced practioner such as yourself.

    I find that we all stand to benefit from a less formal, more spontaneous and more natural form of PD. The ‘personal learning network’ is such a brilliant idea. I respond to the control I have over it, the way I can pick and choose. There are so many inspiring people out there doing things which I can learn from and which have positive knock-on effects to my students. And I can decide what matters to me, when I should learn, when I should apply it etc.

    When I applied for teacher training college I made sure to use all the buzzwords and phrases like ‘life long learning’. It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I started to take a really serious interest in learning because I had always found it boring and very restrictive. The relevance was lost on me a lot of the time. But as a teacher I have such freedom to learn what I want (even within the scope of the subjects and syllabuses that I must conform to) and with web tech I have an enormous resource to tap into.

    After working in some really shitty jobs (postman, dishwasher, pensions administrator) and some seemingly exciting ones (sailing instructor, yachtsman, skiing instructor) I have found such freedom, satisfaction and inspiration in teaching.

    Whereas school was often restricting, boring and irrelevant to me I feel that web technology offers the potential for school to offer as much to my students as it does to me. I emphasise potential.

  2. joncooling

    I enjoyed reading your reflections, maybe because I can relate to the points that you have made. I share your views on the IB diploma, for me also, it has benefits that the A-levels do not provide, not just that students can select from a range of subjects and ‘not specialise’; but that the internal assessments and the extended essay provide students with transferable skills that will be invaluable in their future studies. I also share your concerns relating to time. I am mindful of this sounding like an excuse, I certainly don’t mean it to be. I welcome the use of new technologies (web 2.0) and also enjoy the opportunity to develop new skills. But such tools need to be used properly and should fit the purpose. They should not simply be ‘forced into use’. At the forefront must be ‘learning’ and an acknowledgement that sometimes the ‘old methods’ may be better. Lets not lose the art of one-to-one communication. We don’t always need a technological medium. In a previous lesson I mentioned my concern over the use of laptops in classes and the fact that students may ‘lack practice’ in writing skills (skills required in IB exams). Perhaps constant communication through web 2.0 tools may also mean that other communication skills are also forgotten. I have learnt new skills, some of which I will use in my teaching – I guess that I am suggesting the importance of balance! Now I’ve waffled on for too long…..

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