Choosing any particular preference for design at this point would be penny-wise and pound-foolish, at least for me. Akin to Locke’s theory tabula rasa of the mind, my future is still wide open. Which door shall I choose? Truthfully, I am not sure yet which direction I will ultimately choose. There are, however, many reasons to post in this forum. I miss teaching teenagers in a face-to-face environment. My current course project takes place in a face-to-face environment. The concept of personalized instruction continues to resonate within me (Andersen, 2011; (Keefe & Jenkins, 2002). [Sidebar/Anecdotal Evidence favoring more personal instruction]. I am amazed at the immediate transformation my son has undergone in just a few days, switching from an overcrowded third grade class in public school, to a much smaller, Christian private school. To say he has blossomed right before our eyes would be the understatement of the year. In the span of a few days he has joined the Chess Club, returned to the Boy Scouts, and insists on daily trips to the Boys and Girls Club. Just a week ago, I could not even get him to leave the house! It would be very fulfilling to be a part of a learner’s transformation from hating school to loving it.
The reality of the socioeconomic constraints put upon young families, however, is a constraint limiting the number of families who can successfully participate in a blended learning environment for their elementary age children. Locally, online public school is offered free of charge; however, a responsible party has to agree to be a learning coach for a period of 5-6 hours per day! Essentially, the learning coach (parent) is the teacher. There is some teacher instruction, similar in form and function to the expert SME described by Piskurich delivering information without the ability of interaction or determining if they have lost their learners (Piskurich, 2006). Primarily, the responsibility lies with the learning coach. The student goes online, watches videos, and takes assessments. Some accommodations are made and the state does provide for the materials. However, this type of situation would not likely work for most two-income families. Therefore, if the child cannot get to the mountain (technology), then the mountain must go to the child. In a typical public classroom, elementary students work on a computer for approximately 30-45 minutes once per week. This practice seems at the least ineffective, if not downright harmful to the students’ natural intuitive growth and curiosity. The children are exposed to so much technology outside of school it is unrealistic to treat it like a “treat” rather than the main meal while in school.
In an ideal situation, I could design a blended learning program wherein the children would be able to utilize computers in the classroom, with a facilitator present. This type of scenario would incorporate the majority of the advantages of e-learning, while at the same time limiting the disadvantages of synchronous or face-to-face learning (Piskurich, 2006). However, there are still a number of public schools who have limited funding for computers. Case in point, in my previous teaching position I only had two computers available for students. It made things a little tricky to embed technology into the curriculum. I considered myself lucky that I enjoy searching the Internet.
I also consider myself lucky that this assignment gave me a legitimate opportunity to research yet more instructional and technological innovations on the Internet. In fact, the recommended resources led me to a website “promise land” filled with ideas for those long-suffering teachers limited to only 1 or 2 computers in the classroom. I only wish I had found the website years ago! The article is entitled, “The one computer classroom” (http://eduscapes.com/tap/topic84.htm) and provides possibilities, strategies for usage across a curriculum, links and resources, in addition to a discussion addressing possible issues arising from having only one computer in a classroom. Overall, there were tons of resources and opportunities on how to integrate technology successfully in technology constraining situations (Johnson & Lamb, 2007). Some of the suggestions were reworked examples of the same old instruction being fitted with a new look, but there were some innovative ideas. For instance, having the students work collaboratively as a class with the teacher on a project, using the projector as the overview, and having the students direct the changes made.
The Horizon Report provides a list of emerging and integrating technology with estimated time to adoption within the public education brick and mortar environment (Johnson, Levine, & Smith, 2009). I was specifically intrigued with the technologies of Cloud Computing and Geo-Everything). My most recent teaching position was teaching 9th grade Earth Science.
My thoughts immediately ran to having the students form collaborative groups with students from other schools utilizing the same lessons for discovery lessons such as following meteorological patterns across the United States. Students have difficulty finding “weather” interesting, especially when discussion turns towards confusing terminology such as lows and highs, and easterlies. There are some visuals in textbooks. Plus, I have found some animations online. However, the opportunity to actually track weather in real-time across the nation would be extremely engaging as well as educational in so many respects: scientific investigation, meteorology, collaborative learning, data plotting, mathematics, cultural learning, timing, organization, and actual discovery participation.
Another example would be astronomy applications. My son’s third grade class recently finished a science lesson on the moon and sun. Gabriel had a moon chart he kept four days a week for four weeks. In theory, he would go out at night, see the moon, and note the moon’s position, size, and other relevant astronomical visuals. However, during those four weeks we had lots of rain and on the days the sky was clear the moon’s orbit was off significantly so the children could not see it at night, but could only see it in the morning (if someone mentioned to them that was a possibility). There was so much that could have been done to make this a truly integrated technology assignment. Gabriel and I were able to take advantage of several Ipad applications I downloaded specifically, such as “Living Earth,” “Google Earth,” “Beautiful Planet,” “Weather,” and especially, “Star Walk.” The Star Walk application was especially wonderful because we could hold the Ipad in the air and it would use a compass to point us in the direction of the Moon, give us the latitude and longitude of where we were standing, and even outline the constellations for us so we could “visualize” some of the other constellation patterns. The application also provided information for any planet, the time it rises, sets and its elevation all for a certain day. For the Moon the application also provided information regarding cycle, such as on December 14, 2010 the Moon was in First Quarter (52%) and today the Moon is in Waxing Gibbous (59%), rising at 12:45 p.m. and setting at 1:24 a.m., with an expected elevation of 67 degrees. We could also print out pictures from the Ipad of the sky, or from visual records if the weather was bad.
If all of the students had access to this type of information, the weather being bad would not have been so detrimental to the entire lesson. Also, the students could have plotted their individual information on a class star chart each day to “see” the progress occurring. This could have been especially meaningful by utilizing the GPS applications and mapping the coordinates of each student’s Earth bound position relative to their planetary data. They could have made a three dimensional computer model, and then set it to play like a slide show demonstrating the Moon’s orbit, rotation, and cycle from different perspectives. As it was, my son just memorized the phases of the moon from a piece of paper.
These two technologies would also work really well in a social studies class for collaborative learning projects. Again, cooperation across the U.S. would be especially meaningful, having students gather information for their particular region regarding cultural events, media events, economics, and major political events. The students would be participants in recording of history, creating their own historical class timelines with data supplied by themselves and others. This type of project could also be taken even a step further, across curriculum. Each student could pick a specific historical time span and put together a class wikipage regarding population statistics, health statistics, economics, industry, literature, and politics. In the math class the data could be plotted and organized. In the English class the literature of the time period could be read and analyzed. In the Science class the current scientific breakthroughs could be discussed and investigated, etc.
Another science based discovery idea using technology is online field trips. Sometimes there are constraints to live field trips such as economics, missing other classes, distance, permissions, transportation, and supervision. An online field trip utilizing technology, especially three dimensional technologies with real time capabilities would be much better than pictures or textbooks.
More Explorations…More Discoveries
As is typical in exploration online, one great link leads to another. Edutopia.org is no different. I spent hours and hours and could probably spend many, many more reading all the great articles and blogs on Edutopia. A few that I especially appreciated related to science were:
A blog, “Say Yes to GPS: Bring Latitude and Longitude to Life,” which discusses using GPS technology (Moulton, 2006). Several things are discussed such as Geocaching and provides a link to http://www.geocaching.com/, where there is a ton of additional information on how to use GPS in an instructional setting; Naturemapping (http://depts.washington.edu/natmap/) and the Degree Confluence Project (http://www.confluence.org/).
An article, “NatureMapping Takes Kids — and Technology — Outside and into Active Learning” (Peterson, 2006), which had numerous links to other resources related to videos, tips, lesson development and articles.
An article, “Geo-Literacy: Using Technology to Forge New Ground” (http://www.geolit.org/) in which geo-literacy is described as “students learning about blacksmithing, marsh ecosystems, and local history” (Ball, 2003, p. 1) through technological resources. Amazingly, these third grade students use portable keyboards (http://www.alphasmart.com/) to type up the findings and publish on the web (http://www.geolit.org/rushranch/RR-Rush1.htm). There are also great links to other articles from here http://www.edutopia.org/neuroscience-brain-based-learning-relevance-improves-engagement, http://www.edutopia.org/six-feet-wonder-learning-from-the-ground-up, and http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-overview-video.
Andersen, M. H. (2011, January-February). The world is my school: Welcome to the era of personalized learning. The Futurist, 45(1), 12-17. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?hid=105&sid=4d551d14-d0ac-4b1b-9fdb-0f3aae8d81ee%40sessionmgr110&vid=3
Ball, A. (2003). Geo-Literacy: Using technology to forge new ground. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-geography-geology-history
Johnson, L., & Lamb, A. (2007). The one computer classroom. Retrieved March 26, 2011, from http://eduscapes.com/tap/topic84.htm
Johnson, L., Levine, A., & Smith, R. (2009). The Horizon Report (2009 Ed.). Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/CSD5612.pdf
Keefe, J. W., & Jenkins, J. M. (2002, February). A special section on personalized instruction. Phi Delta Kappan, 440-448. Retrieved from http://www.kappanmagazine.org/content/83/6/440.full.pdf+html
Peterson, D. (2006). NatureMapping takes kids — and technology — outside and into active learning. Retrieved December 14, 2010, from http://www.edutopia.org/node/1251
Piskurich, G. M. (2006). Rapid instructional design: Learning ID fast and right (2nd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.