Classroom Instruction Beliefs

I have been in education for 12 years. In those 12 years my teaching methods have changed dramatically. I became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference in education. I admit that I was a struggling student. I did not learn well by lecture and simply reading textbooks/answer questions. I learned best by doing, collaborating, and creating. However, new to teaching, I did not truly realize the amount of work went into everything a teacher did. I ended up teaching using the method I was most familiar with, a traditional environment, because that was easier. It was teacher-directed and memory focused. I was teaching to the state and district tests. I was heavily influenced by pacing guides set to us from the district. Students learned what I wanted them learn and how. That year I was miserable teaching, my students showed no interest in the learning, were continually off task, and causing trouble in class. I finally opened my eyes and said it was time to change my approach. This was not how I wanted to teach. How I was teaching was not what I believed to be the best approach for my students.  But, I did not have a good foundation to change my teaching methods.

Before my 3rd year teaching, I took a college course in Differentiated Instruction, based on Gardner’s theory. I wanted to learn more about the different ways people learn, remember information, and use the information. Each year I would first start with a test I found online in order for me to get an idea of my “who” in the classroom. Students took this multiple intelligence test to show me how they learned best. I then asked them to analyze the results for their first writing assignment. Their topic was, “Do you Agree or Disagree” with the results from the Multiple Intelligence test. Their response was normally, “it depends.” It depends on what they are learning, what they already know about the content and the task assigned to them. Well, this made me think more. I could differentiate the instruction and content for my students, start to allow some choices in their product and I used this teaching approach for quite a few years. I would pre-assess the groups to determine what they already knew about the content and I built upon previous knowledge.But, I was still not seeing the results I felt the students should be producing using this approach. There was more joy in their learning process, but it was not purposeful or authentic to the students. During this time frame I was also using more and more technology in the classroom, as I became 1:1. However, it was used in a traditional sense, or as the book says processing tools. (Jonassen & Land, 2012).  I asked for my students to type up a final copy of a paper or go to particular websites to practice math facts or reading skills. I believe there is a place and time for those types of websites and activities, and one could say I was “differentiating”. However, it was not authentic, creative, or relevant to the students.  My beliefs of teaching were beginning to change again.

I was now looking for ways to transform my teaching with technology and create a student centered, performance based learning environment. Students were actively and collaboratively engaged in their learning. Creativity and innovative thinking to develop original solutions was essential. I was on the verge of making a more global experience for my students before I changed roles at the school. I began researching TPCK, where I was digging into the pedagogical approach to the content, my learners and then technology. I began brainstorming the hard to teach/learn topics to determine how technology can create deeper experiences for my students. I saw more enjoyment in learning, motivation and drive to keep the inquiry during a project, and end products that were not thought of before. I could still differentiate the content, approach and products for my students, but it was frequently done with my students as the planning occurred.  

Jonassen, D. Land, S. (2012). Theoretical foundations of learning environments. New York, NY: Routledge.

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Module 1 Reflection-Educational Technology Professional Practice

In the 10 years I have been in this school district, my educational technology practice has changed significantly. Initially, I had a traditional teaching style, similar to the behaviorist teaching method. I was in front of the classroom relaying the content to the students. Students would individually practice the content to show mastery through a worksheet. Students were assessed and the whole class moved onto the next topic. I had a computer and a Promethean Board. I had little training on how to create presentations with the Promethean Software, so the board was a “glorified presentation board”. I would search for the “cool new tools” to use in the classroom to teach content. I attended hour long training session to learn more tools, but the focus was the skill of the tool, not how to effectively use the it in the classroom. I look back to when I first used technology and realize that I lacked the knowledge and skills needed to implement technology successfully and effectively. As years went on, my approach to educational technology changed and my teaching style went to a more constructivist approach. I began to transform the learning experiences for my students through the use of technology that utilized essential 21st Century Skills.

In 2007, I started my inclusion of educational technology with nine computers in my classroom. That year, I began my three year district program called TEC (Technology Education Collaboration) Mentors, where monthly we met to discuss and share technology tools we were using with our students. After two years, I moved into an ITEC (Integrating Technology to Enhance Curriculum) Classroom where I was 1:1 with desktops. My focus continued to be simply fitting a technology tool into a lesson and substituting the computer for paper/pencil like activities. My students were word processing, creating brochures and posters, and researching content with websites I wanted them to use. It was not until I participated in a new district professional network called iPAC (Personal, Authentic, and Collaborative) when I began creating learning opportunities that was more student directed, offered choice, and the students became more responsible for their learning. This was when I began to look at my curriculum and what the students needed to learn and do, then I searched for the best tool for the learning. I received laptops, iPods, GPS, SMART Airliners, digital cameras, and FLIP cameras just to name a few technology tools I had to support and design learning to assist individual efforts to understand the content and make connections, which is a suggestion made in the book.  (Jonaassen & Land, p5). Critical thinkers and collaborators were developing in my classroom and meaning was personal rather than universal, all components that need to be addressed in our book. (Jonaassen & Land, p4). I became a coach/facilitator to my students and learning was scaffolded to match what each student needed.

My teaching experiences and professional learning led me to a Technology and Learning Coach position for a school, where I continued to coach and scaffold the learning, but my learners became the teachers. I worked with the teachers individually, collaborating during their planning and implementation of lessons in the classroom. These peer coaching opportunities gave teachers individual attention they needed to gain confidence in using technology successfully in the classroom. I also conducted weekly trainings that would focus the content, technology tools and essential  21st Century Skills. After 4 years in that position, I have recently transitioned into a district position, a Technology Integration Specialist, and my learners are now teachers in the district and the Technology and Learning Coaches at each school. Professionally I would not be in this position unless my district was driven and innovative to be leaders in education. They envisioned 6 years ago where we needed to be and offered intensive professional development opportunities for interested teachers.

As a district Technology Integration Specialist, I am required to be informed of the latest best practices and transformative uses of computers in the classroom. I am well scripted when it comes to the SAMR model of technology integration in a classroom. However, I lack in my understanding in the TPCK model, which seems to be a better model for teachers to use when integrating technology. It requires teachers to still focus on the content, pedagogy, and knowledge, while the technology component will enhance it, if used effectively. Based on my initial reading of the article written by Angeli and Valanides, our district’s vision seems to be heading in this direction. My hopes for this class is to have a deeper and richer understanding of the design components required to create best practice examples for teachers. Currently, I am confident that I have many tools to assist schools and I successfully provide a great deal of support for the teachers. I will be a more valuable asset to the district if I had a solid foundation of the theories and methodology behind developing transformative learning experiences.