A Bittersweet Moment…

As I thought about posting a final class reflection for ED 554, the Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony kept popping into my head. This final chapter of my journey into teaching has certainly been bittersweet. I am truly elated that my graduate classes are (nearly) over, and I can’t help thinking about the wonderful, unique experience that I have had over the past two years. I came into this program as a stay-at-home mom with little teaching experience. I am now leaving with great friends, and practical tools that will get me through my first year of teaching. In the last few months, my technology prowess has grown. I began this technology class as a true digital immigrant; now I may be becoming more of a native (I just joined facebook and have spent far too many hours chatting online). While all of this has been a memorable experience for me, I am saddened that I must say goodbye to all the amazing people that have shared this whirlwind adventure with me…so good luck to all you amazing cohorts!


Brain Rules

Here is a video about a study that was done in a classroom using the “repeat to remember” Brain Rules strategy:

In his book, Brain Rules, author John Medina asserts that vigorous aerobic activity stimulates brain power. This seems like an obvious connection to me. I have long thought that exercise boosts brain power (or at least makes me think more clearly when problem solving). After strenuous exercise, I often find that I have more mental acuity and a more creative mind. Hopefully, this new information will be a deterrent for those who want to cut PE programs from publicly funded schools, when it seems obvious that fitter students will perform better in school and stay healthier.

Virtual Classrooms

I really enjoyed the last virtual class session (while sitting in Reston with Steve) – it was something that I had yet to experience before. My only point of reference for a virtual classroom has been the tortuous ELI NOVA classes that I have had to endure over the past two years to fulfill gen ed. requirements. The real difference I think is that the online NOVA classes only appeal to those students with predominantly visual learning modalities; whereas, the Blackboard Collaborate class could appeal to both visual and auditory learning styles. Since I am a combination visual/auditory learner, I think that Friday’s virtual class was more engaging for me than any NOVA online class has ever been. Even though it was a bit challenging for me to listen to Steve and concentrate on the dialogue on the back channel, I found the class to be extremely refreshing and fun! I am definitely eager to try it again (this time, I’ll be sitting at home with my three munchkins in tow).

Social Learning on the Web

After reading about the social web, it became clear to me that social networking tools are not for just posting daily happenings on Facebook, but can fulfill a broader purpose. Even though I am not active with Facebook or Twitter, and have just begun to blog, my mindset is beginning to shift more in favor of using these tools in the classroom. I think that the evolving world of internet communications – tweets, blogs, podcasts and tags could give students (especially at the secondary level and beyond) radically new venues to perform research, connect, create and learn. Current research has shown that students who work in collaboration with others fare better than those who work alone. As a future teacher, I see the need for me to have less direct instruction and have my students be more active in the learning process, possibly with more social learning via the web. I think that the web 2.0 can be a vast resource for supporting this style of learning. Although I don’t see myself using Twitter and Facebook at the elementary level, I can see older students using tools like IM, Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace to connect with friends and continue the classroom discussions, debates and study groups that arise in the classroom to include a broader network. I also like the fact that the web 2.0 supports lifelong learning through websites, blogs and thousands of niche communities that are based upon specific areas of interest in virtually every field.

Digital Storytelling

Although I have never personally seen or used digital storytelling, I can certainly see the positive creative and literary uses in the classroom.  At the early elementary level, digital storytelling could help teachers and students integrate technology in the classroom as students manipulate computer-based tools to tell their personal stories.  At the upper elementary level, digital storytelling could be used to improve students’ writing skills, showcase their personal creativity and give them a voice.  The implementation of digital storytelling projects in the classroom would allow older students to perfect the writing and editing process, work on scriptwriting and perform internet research to investigate a topic.  Additionally, having students work together on a group project would foster collaboration and promote organization skills for all students.

For more information on digital storytelling and technology in the classroom, check out this cool website:


Why Use Google Docs?

I have had limited experience with Google Docs before Friday’s class; yet, I found the presentation to be truly enlightening. I think that there are numerous practical applications for using Google Docs in an upper elementary classroom in the form of collaborative research papers and book reports and online journaling and essay writing. I also see the many venues for creative writing and developing spreadsheets and classroom presentations. I love that fact that multiple students can work together and express their unique ideas in creating one document. If I ever taught in an upper elementary classroom, I could see how Google Docs would be a great way for students to communicate and collaborate, as they create and edit documents from anywhere in real time. Furthermore, Google Docs seems simple to navigate and helps promote both group work and peer editing skills. I also love the spreadsheet creator, which allows the students to think algebraically when entering in data. Google Docs appears to be practical, as there is no software to download and all work can be accessed at any time of day from virtually any computer. From a teaching standpoint, I like the fact that Google Docs promotes student accountability, as created documents can be saved and there are no more lame excuses for not completing assignments. With Google Docs, learning can happen at all times of the day and the learning can be 100% interactive. Furthermore, Google Docs fosters motivation and confidence in students as their published work is displayed globally.

Curriculum 21 – Chapter 12

Jacobs, H. H. (2010). Curriculum 21: Essential education for a changing world. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD.

When I began my student teaching experience in a sixth grade classroom, I was astonished by how technology brought the classroom to life.  I wanted to “tap into” this exciting energy and enthusiasm for learning, and I made sure that the students and I used the interactive smartboard every day to work on math problems;  every student was thrilled when it was their turn to come up to the board to answer a  math question.  Similarly, I witnessed first-hand, the students’ inclination to work cooperatively on technology-based projects.  Not only did this collaboration bring about creative problem solving, deeper thinking and questioning, it fostered confidence, as students’ work was on display.   Since many students shared one computer to work on a group project, they were able to peer tutor their classmate’s work as they looked over each other’s shoulders and offered compliments and positive feedback.  As a pre-service teacher, I only saw this as a win-win situation.   It was quite evident to me that exposing students to technology gave them added confldence and motivation, as they themselves were able to generate, obtain, manipulate and display information.   After all, students today can do things on the computer that most of their parents cannot do, and this is empowering for them.

I see today’s tech savvy students as those who want to be active  in their learning and garnering of information.  While it is true that students have instant access to a myriad of information, I believe that it is our role as teachers to guide  students in learning what to do with the information that they find on the internet and teach them to be effective problem solvers and critical thinkers.  At the same time,  it is equally important for us to make solid connections with students by using technology to teach “in their world.”

“Did You Know 4.0?”

The onset of technology is ubiquitous.  From I-phones to I-pads and smartboards to discussion boards, it is a part of everyday life.  As “Did You Know 4.0?” attests, we are in the midst of a dramatic technological revolution.  Rather than cower and retreat from it, shouldn’t we embrace technology?   As a future teacher, I see the strong benefits of technology in the classroom.  I see technology as a  powerful instructional tool for enrichment and lesson extensions.   As we all know, students are hurtling through a digitized world at lightning speed.  Although some of this technology exposure is for entertainment purposes, these same children can also be surrounded by engaging and interactive technology.   As such, it is vital for teachers to enhance instruction with technology to keep students interested and engaged in our curriculum topics.  Technology should be integrated into learning, but only when it makes instruction more effective.  As educators, one of  the most important technological skills that we can teach our students is  how to be resourceful.  Through our teaching, we can use technology to enhance other skills or topics in the classroom.  Students should still be able to read classic literature and discuss the plot and main characters, but the learning experience can also be enhanced by discussion boards or blogging.   When done right, technology can make learning meaningful, engaging and fun.