Classroom-Changing Technology in 21st Century

Digital Tools Changing Teaching and Learning

Ted Floyd wrote a post called 25 Things That Changed Birding—Recently enumerating changes in the 21st Century that affected how birding is done. This caused me to think about things that changed teaching for me. I've only been a teacher for ten years, which would all be in the 21st Century, but I have tried to meet my students future (college and business) needs by using digital tools as appropriate. I am not as ambitious as Mr. Floyd in identifying 25 things. Instead, I am going to think about a few things that have changed teaching and learning in my little classroom world.
  • Interactive White Board: At first my IWB was nothing more than glorified powerpoint, but as both the school's broadband access and online resources have increased, so has my "integrated" use of the IWB. I use it for everything from taking attendance to sharing and analyzing laboratory data. Students can easily contribute and present their research on the IWB. I don't use many pre-made IWB lessons, preferring to custom design my own.
  • Internet: My students seem to have access to virtually everything, and most days we access something online. TED Talks are inspiring presentations from some of the brightest people on the planet. Vimeo, Youtube, and other sites provide instant streaming video to support a lesson idea or answer a student question. Alternative viewpoints on current topics are available for students to debate. Internet savvy happens in my classroom.
  • Jing: With this tool I record my own lessons to post as either homework, instructions for a project, tutorials, or review. I have some difficulties with posting my screencasts, but I am improving all the time.
  • Blogging: I require my students to write blog posts, read others posts, comment on posts, and respond to comments on their posts. I believe this promotes writing for others, reflection, peer review, and thoughtful critique. All of their writing is directly related to their science curriculum, and thus adds to understanding of the subject material.
  • Netvibes: Where some people may use a webquest, I use a Netvibes tab. Netvibes organizes my readings, the resources I want to share with the students,
Use or Integration?

A twitter post one day read "introducing middle schoolers to StumbleUpon. Kids plugging in their interests." I asked, For what purpose? to which I received the response "to personalize and foster interests". Does this middle school math teacher really think that fostering personal interests through StumbleUpon is "integrating technology"?

The use of digital, electronic tools in the classroom has come to be know as "technology integration" in education. Simply using it does not, however, mean it was integrated.
What does it mean to "integrate" technology into your classroom? My understanding is that technology integration is to incorporate technological tools into a unified learning program. It is using available resources in ways that add to the teaching and understanding of the topic. Appropriate technology in one classroom may be different from another classroom. The best technology for learning how to write in cursive is the pencil. The best technology for learning accuracy in mass measurements might be a triple-beam balance.

In spite of my love for all things technology, my students only use what works for the content. Just "because its there" is not good enough for my classroom. It must demonstrate to me to give my students a competitive advantage in the future, and to be applicable to the curriculum.

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