Posts Tagged ‘matrix’

Balance in Education

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Teaching is all about balance.  We have to be able to teach students basic skills and knowledge, but also challenge them with essential questions as they analyze the information that’s being presented to them.  Teaching and learning is give and take; the student is not just an empty receptacle for the teacher to fill with the material he or she deems worthy.  One of my English courses mentioned the “Banking Theory of Education.”  This theory challenges the idea that the teacher is the “sage on the stage” who spews titles and authors and dates and expects students to collect all this data organically.  If students are just a receptacle, what happens if they get filled to the top and overflow?  Rather, a balance of types of information and activities is needed to engage students in the learning process and give them valuable skills.

So in the 21st century, don’t we need a balance more than ever?  Like the Core Knowledge website suggested, “Students can simply Google anything they need to know.”  We are in an Internet age and as tech-savvy as I think I may be, my fifteen year-old sister has already surpassed my computer experience.  By the time I start teaching, my secondary students will be even farther ahead of the curve.  How do we account for that?  Most of these students have some form of the Internet right at their fingertips, literally in the palms of their hands.  The Internet is a distraction, a diversion.  How do we turn it into something concrete and teachable?  The possibilities are both inspiring and overwhelming.

What websites like Core Knowledge and The Partnership for 21st Century Skills try to get across is the need to align classroom environments with the real world.  These students need to be prepared to use technology in future college careers or jobs.  Besides media literacy, students also need to learn how to innovate, and how to incorporate what they have learned into life and career skills.

However, there are some who criticize the theories surrounding 21st-Century Skills.  For example, in the article “What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or ’21st-century skills’?,” some worry that incoroporating 21st-Century Skills in the classroom could take away from core content knowledge.  They believe that content knowledge is more important, and that 21st-Century Skills could somehow “de-emphasize” content.

I believe that as with everything in education, a balance is needed.  I don’t think that using these 21st-Century skills in the classroom will take away the importance of content knowledge.  Without content knowledge, there is nothing to necessarily apply.  Therefore, content and application need to be balanced so that students get the most out of the material.

Personally, I don’t think that 21st-Century Skills in the classroom is a problem as long as there is some content.  For example, you can memorize the dates for the Civil War, but it doesn’t have to stop there.  You can use the dates to situate the war in a historical context, which the students can analyze.  Understanding comes from being able to critically think about the political and cultural climate of the time, leading to discussions about cause and effect, and everything in between.  It is up to the teacher to create a well-balanced lesson plan to move from content to application.

A good example that I found in the Technology Integration Matrix was a lesson called Poetry Exploration.  In this lesson, students were required to use technology to do research on a poem, potentially collaborating with the author, then they had to teach the poem to the class.  Both content and application are in this plan.  Students have to know what a poem is and how is is structured and used before they can analyze it and understand it.  In order to be able to teach it, the students have to have both knowledge and skills.

How Does Technology Fit into the Classroom?

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Gabrielle Kuhn, INDT 501-01

It seems like a million years ago that I was in 5th grade sitting in computer class being taught how to type without looking at the keyboard.  Since then, I am proud to say that my typing skills have improved, but the world of technology and computer skills is still confusing to me.  When I was in school, we barely had whiteboards, and it wasn’t until high school that teachers used PowerPoint presentations instead of writing notes on the blackboard.  Gone are the days when to research a topic, you had to head to your friendly neighborhood library and scour the shelves for books on killer whales or Neptune.  Now all you have to do is “google” it, a term that has made its way into Websters dictionary.

Even now as I go to practicum, there seem to be SmartBoards popping up everywhere.  It’s clear though that not all the teachers fully understand how to use these boards.  I don’t even know how to use them.  These teachers and myself understand SmartBoards only as far as using it as a projector.  In my own experience, I have used it to put up PowerPoints, but other than that, I have very little experience.  From what I can gather from the Technology Integration Matrix, only using the SmartBoard for a PowerPoint does not engage the students, but they are instead passive observers.  On the matrix, an interactive white board may belong in the Adoption Level of the matrix, because the teacher is choosing how to present the information, whether it be in videos, Google Maps, or other types of presentations. From what I’ve seen in tutorials, SmartBoards can be amazing tools, and I hope I can gain more experience using them in new ways before I start teaching.

Looking at the Technology Integration Matrix, I have found some interesting ideas for high school language arts, which is my subject area.  I liked the idea of a Collaborative-Adaptation activity like the Poetry Exploration lesson.  The students can learn how to use the Internet in the most effective ways, learning how to figure out which information is trustworthy.  Corresponding with authors gives them the opportunity to reach outside the classroom and apply what they are learning in a real world context.  Finally, using multimedia or movies to visualize and explain poems can give students the freedom to be creative and explore the ways in which they can use media to depict and transfer information.  Lessons like Poetry Exploration seem simple, but incorporate many different kinds of tasks so that the students are creating a well-rounded and well-researched project.

I am a little skeptical about the lesson plan called Multimedia Study Guide.  Students would be able to record lessons using laptops and smartphones.  While I can understand using school laptops to take notes then upload them for future use, the idea of using smartphones doesn’t seem too helpful.  In my practicum classrooms, I have seen teachers allow students to use smartphones “only to take notes,” but this inevitably leads to students texting instead.  The smartphone is too distracting, in my opinion.

I have seen some good uses of technology in the classroom, however.  One example is a teacher who had her students write stories, and then use a software to illustrate them in slides and add their own voice to narrate the story.  I believe this is an example of Active-Adoption on the part of the teacher, who, as described in the matrix, “controls the type of technology and how it is used. The teacher may be pacing the students through a project, making sure that they each complete each step in the same sequence with the same tool.”  The projects are regulated by the teacher, but the students still have the opportunity to be creative with their stories and illustrations.

I can’t wait to get started learning about new tools and programs for the classroom.  The world is changing and information is changing, and I think that students are going to be more engaged if they are using the same skills they learn in the classroom at home at their own computer.