Welcome to my Blog!

Hello and welcome to my blog. It is here that I will be working through various discussion topics related to technology, learning, and most importantly the creation of meaningful and relevant student instruction. I openly welcome your comments, and hope that my insights and presented information works to inspire and assist fellow educators in the effective integration of technology.

In Barcelona with my Girls!

In Barcelona with my Girls!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monitoring the GAME Plan

      With each passing week I continue to make strides towards achieving personal goals by strengthening my confidence and proficiency in relation to the seamless integration of technology into my instruction.  In working through the personal goal setting process it is important to continually monitor myprogress towards established goals and make needed adjustments if required.  Failing to do so could result in problems arising or goals being missed because the needed actions were not taken, or were misaligned with my intended finish line.  In considering the actions I have taken thus far towards achieving my established professional development goals it important to reflect on whether I am finding the information and resources I need to reach my goals; whether I need to modify my planned action strategies to ensure success, and then identifying what have I learned thus far and whether any new questions have arisen.

Information and Resources

In examining my use of information and resources in relation to my personal goals I continue to build on the initiatives of my school and the strength of my colleagues in gaining insight into new resources that will benefit my integration of technology into my instruction.  This year my grade four colleagues and I are endeavouring to integrate the use of digital portfolios into our instruction, as such the element of teamwork and active collaboration is undoubtedly crucial to ensuring the resource’s success.  Additionally our school has begun to utilize the Accelerated Reader program which works to incorporate a high degree of technology in terms of active assessment in identifying students’ zones of proximal development.  In utilizing the resource the technological aspects of the program allow for well aligned assessment and the effective communication of learning goals to both students and their parents.

Needing Modification?

In examining my targeted NETS-T goals and the actions and progress I have made thus far I feel there is no reason to modify my current GAME plan.  I have been able to make measurable progress in relation to both goals and thus far I continue to experience success in relation to finding resources, information, and the incorporating of leadership opportunities into my daily practice.

Learning thus Far…any Questions?

In reflecting on my learning and influenced actions since developing and implementing my technology GAME plan, I believe the biggest thing I have learned thus far is the need to be purposefully selective.  There is what seems to be an infinite amount of resources available to teachers; by working to be selective I can ensure that the resources and information I am integrating into my program are well aligned with the instructional strategies and assessment resources I am currently employing.  In targeting my goals I do not want to completely reinvent the wheel but rather fine tune it to better reflect today’s technology-infused learning environment, thus far my actions have supported this plan of action and I have been able to find information and instructional resources that have worked facilitated technology integration and influenced effectiveness in all core subjects.
In terms of questions arising in relation to the GAME process and the support of colleagues, I do wonder about the goal monitoring process.  I have strategies in place but wonder about the frequency with which I reflect upon my progress.  Undoubtedly there will be weeks when I may not experience the same level of progress as it can take time to assess the effectiveness of newly implemented strategies and resources.  Given this fact what are other people’s thoughts in relation to the monitoring process?  How much is too much and how much is too little?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

1-2-3 Action!

With each passing week I gain further confidence in my ability to effectively incorporate instructional technology in meaningful ways.  As I continue to explore instructional strategies for seamlessly integrating technology into my content instruction I have taken the first steps towards developing an action GAME plan that will assist me in synthesizing my learning into my classroom practice.  In reviewing the components of my GAME plan, as per Cennamo, Ross, and Ertmer’s (2009) criteria, I have establish learning goals which will further develop my confidence and proficiency in relation to two indicators in the National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T).  I have identified purposeful actions that will aid me in achieving my goals, and additionally determined strategies for the monitoring of my progress.  Lastly I have highlighted the manner in which I will evaluate my learning.  In moving forward with the action and implementation process it is necessary to identify what resources will be needed to carry out the plan successfully, whether any additional information is needed, and if I have taken any steps towards completion.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE, 2008) notes how effective teachers need to be able to “design, implement, and assess learning experiences…[which] engage students and improve learning; enrich professional practice; and provide positive models for students, colleagues, and the community”.  In targeting NETS-T standard two and the design and development of technology-based learning experiences and assessments, the successful realization of my professional development goal necessitates utilizing learning experiences which can effectively incorporate digital technologies and resources which promote self-directed learning and enhanced opportunities for student creativity.
In pursuing my goal of developing a technology-enriched learning environment the effective selection and use of appropriate technology resources will be paramount to me and my students achieving success.  With the integrated use of selected technologies and the principles of universal design for learning my technology-infused instruction will provide my students with multiple means of engaging with materials as a result of heightened access to innovative technology.  The instructional integration of multi-media resources including the integration of Voice Threads and podcasting; interactive technologies such as Smartboards and document cameras; video conferencing equipment and online collaboration forums; and bookmarked online resources for all subjects, will assist in identifying and targeting areas of student weakness, strength, and personal interest.  Clearly the effective integration of technology will provide assistance in facilitating straightforward differentiation in terms of my students’ diverse learning styles, instructional needs, and ability levels.  This purposeful differentiation and customized instruction will enable my students to, as noted in the ISTE (2008) NETS-T, “pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress”.  Additionally personal learning and close collaboration with fellow teachers and administrators both in and outside our school will also provide a source of effective resource information as well as invaluable instructional experience that can aid in matching learning activities to students and their abilities.

In relation to my other identified goal relating to NETS-T standard five and the commitment to continuously improve my “professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in [my] school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources” (ISTE, 2008) I have taken some initial steps to lay a framework for the achieving of my goal.  I have assumed the technology lead role amongst my staff and work to assist teachers with technology integration, learning resources, and technology support.  In being able to assist our teachers directly I am able to effectively model technology hands-on and demonstrate its effectiveness with students in the classroom.  For some of our teachers technology use is still an area of development, consequently being able to offer guided assistance goes a long way in reducing anxiety levels and encouraging integration.  Additionally I am a member of a couple professional learning communities which offer me a medium to gather technology resources and leadership information which can aid me in providing meaningful leadership to those around me during staff meetings and upcoming professional development sessions.

Additional Information
In working to ensure the efficiency of my actions and guarantee that my instruction is working to effectively maximize instructional time some additional information needs to be garnered.  In looking to address individual learning needs and customize instruction to the strengths and weaknesses of students, information can be gathered from a variety of different sources:
·  CUM files, Individual Program Plans (IPPs), and special education folders can assist teachers in offering a formal school-based snapshot of previous achievement as well as records of formal learning intervention and any diagnostic learning results. This testing information can assist teachers in readily identifying potential candidates for more active levels of curricular differentiation.
·  Conversations with previous year’s teachers can elicit professional observations and anecdotal comments about former students’ perceived areas of strength and weakness, and perhaps previously utilized instructional strategies which generated success with individual students when encountering possible learning barriers.  This information can assist in lesson planning and differentiation of instruction as teachers will be able to target those instructional strategies which provided the highest levels of student success.
·  An additional source of valuable information is students’ parents.  Through the use of “getting to know your child” surveys I have this year been able to talk to parents about their individual children and get a better understanding of how they tick, and what makes them unique from their parents’ perspective.  In reading the surveys parents’ responses have been able to highlight areas of personal interest and strength amongst students, as well as identifying areas which they feel there is room for improvement or areas where they’d like to see enrichment provided.
·  Lastly surveying the students themselves will give you possibly the best source of instructional information.  Through the use of student surveys students can work to identify subject areas which they personally perceive as being strong or weak; they can highlight instructional strategies which they find effective (and more importantly also those that fail to engage them); they can make note of their technological proficiency levels and resources they are familiar with (great means of staying abreast of the latest technologies and web resources); and they can single out areas of personal interest outside school which can be integrated into instruction as hooks upon which to heighten personal engagement.

Actions thus far…
September is always a busy month for teachers with planning and organizing student instruction being at the top of the instructional to-do-list.  In terms of personal professional development and my identified goals I have taken some noted steps towards achieving my goals. I have actively worked to incorporate elements of technology-based instruction into all subject areas and will continue to increase these levels as students gain proficiency.  I have also completed both student and parent surveys in the interest of identifying student learning preferences and areas of learning strength and/or weakness.  Additionally I have assumed a leadership position as technology lead within my school and actively work to facilitate technology integration amongst fellow colleagues.  I also continue to pursue my Masters degree in technology integration and consistently work to incorporate new information and resources into my practice in an effort to provide the best possible instruction. 

Cennamo, K., Ross, J. & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach. (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
International Society for Technology Education. (2008) National Education Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/Libraries/PDFs/NETS_for_Teachers_2008_EN.sflb.ashx

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Technological GAME Plan for Success

In reflecting upon the topic of teaching and technology there can be little doubt that technological innovation has worked to revolutionize the world of teaching and the manner in which curricular content is introduced, instructed, and assessed.  From the introduction of the World Wide Web and computers through to interactive technologies and mobile devices technology integration has allowed for greater levels of creativity and flexibility in gaining understanding; which has consequentially raised the proverbial bar in relation to learner expectations.  Our world has evolved into a technology-driven society and placed greater demands upon teachers to instill in their students the skills and attributes to be self-directed, critical thinkers, capable of creatively solving problems, and efficiently adapting to challenges.  Now in looking at the acquisition of these skills in reference to these changing expectations the overall goal of instruction has remained the same.   Be it viewed as traditional and old school or cutting edge and tech savvy, the outcome of instruction has always been ensuring that students know and understand the content they are being taught.   Thus it is that in reflecting on the development and integration of authentic technology-based learning experiences, and the promoting of self-directed learning and creative thinking that it is also incumbent to reflect upon teachers’ skills and comfort levels in relation to technology integration as this will undoubtedly influence instructional effectiveness and levels of achieved student success.  A useful resource to aid in evaluating teachers’ technology skills and comfort levels is the National Education Technology Standards for Teachers or NETS-T.
The National Education Technology Standards for Teachers
Within the International Society for Technology Education’s (ISTE, 2008) National Education Technology Standards for teachers five performance indicators are identified.  Each of these indicators relates to a different component of effective technology integration and instruction, and contains overall performance goals and evaluative criteria to measure proficiency and understanding.  These NET standards (ISTE, 2008) feature performance indicator categories relating to teachers’ abilities to:
1.                       Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
2.                       Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
3.                       Model Digital Age Work and Learning
4.                       Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility
5.                       Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership
Through comparison and recognition of the NET standards teachers are better able to identify the qualities of effective instruction and then self-assess their own instructional proficiency and performance in the interest of identifying areas of personal strength and potential improvement. In reflecting on the NET standards in reference to my own teaching practice and the identifying of potential professional development goals, my energies this year will include purposeful action in relation to: Standard two, the design and development of digital learning experiences and assessments; and Standard five, engaging in professional growth and leadership.

Standard 2: Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
Standard two is focused on teachers’ abilities to “design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessment incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (ISTE, 2008).  In working to develop a self-directed GAME plan in relation to addressing this learning standard, Cennamo (Laureate Education, Inc., 2012c) observes how it is necessary to establish a learning goal; institute purposeful action to achieve this goal; monitor the progress and success of our actions; and finally evaluate our efforts and determine if we were successfully in achieving our targeted outcome.  In following through this process I can ensure my efforts are effectively directed and consequently increase my chances of success.  In looking at the NETS criteria for effective instruction within standard two the listed criteria contains many of the goals I have already targeted for myself within my personal professional growth plan in reference to instruction development. 
In following Cennamo’s (Laureate Education, Inc., 2012b) GAME plan in establishing the personal goal of further developing and refining a technology-enriched environment, wherein there is consistent integration of digital resources into instruction, I have established a goal which will benefit my instruction and work to engage my students by providing opportunities for increased access and use of technology within lessons.  In relation to direct actions in support of this goal I will continue to integrate new and innovative technologies into lessons; I will draw on the experience and expertise of colleagues and professional learning community members in the interest of gaining further insight into technological best practices; I will engage in professional activities and professional development sessions within and outside my division in addition to information gathered through online tutorials and courses (i.e. Masters program); lastly I will draw on the experience and knowledge of my students to direct my instructional energies towards newly emerging technologies and those which work to the strengths of my students.  In terms of monitoring the success of my actions in relation to the establishing of a technology-enriched learning environment, the periodic review of planning; the collection of anecdotal observation of classroom activities, utilized assessments, and instructional settings; and the focused feedback of students and/or colleagues and parents will all provide information and aid in guiding the self-assessment and monitoring process.  In terms of evaluation my students’ achievement in class will provide the evaluative evidence of whether or not I was successful in making, as Prensky (2008) notes, “education relevant to [my] students' lives and truly prepar[ing them]for the future” (p.45).   Ultimately if, as Prensky (2008) further observes, my students are able to effectively demonstrate increased “computer and technology skills, critical thinking and problem solving, teamwork and collaboration, ethics and responsibility, and a sense of global awareness” (p.45) I will view my efforts in relation to NET standard two as having been successful.

Standard Five: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership
In working to establish goals, initiate action, monitor learning, and then evaluate overall progress, Cennamo, Ross and Ertmer (2009) note how this self-directed learning process allows a person to “take control of [their]own learning” (p.7).  Thus it is that my next professional learning goal will again follow this process, and is in relation to NET standard five and one’s ability to engage in professional growth and leadership.  Standard five relates directly to a teacher’s commitment to continuously “improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources” (ISTE, 2008).  I have long been a proponent of technology in the classroom and as such have worked to support colleagues’ integration efforts, technology initiatives, and the development of classroom learning resources.  In establishing the goal of exhibiting greater technological leadership I will draw on my experiences, knowledge, and personal resources to “contribute to the effectiveness, vitality, and self renewal of the teaching profession and… [my] school and community” (ISTE, 2008).  In terms of directed actions as a member of our school’s technology committee I will be in a position where I will be able to utilize my beliefs and confidence with technology to assist in generating what Ertmer (Laureate Education, Inc., 2012a) calls a supportive technology environment by working to develop in-school technology initiatives; promoting technology learning amongst staff through monthly technology sessions during staff meetings; and participation in division technology programs and resource development.  In terms of monitoring this goal, the use of a professional journal would be most effective in terms of recording anecdotal information.  By setting a weekly time period in which to reflect upon my recent activities I can assess the effectiveness of my actions and make adjustments if required.  In addressing an overall evaluation of this goal a close comparison between my journal entries and the NET standards at the conclusion of the school year will highlight how closely (or not closely) my actions mirrored the expectations contained within the standard in effectively promoting the application of technology.
In conclusion the combined use of Net standards and GAME planning enables teachers, such as me, to reflect on their performance in relation to established standards and take meaningful action which allows teachers to, as Cennamo et al. (2009) highlights, “respond to…rapid and continuous technological changes…keep [their] skills up-to-date, and better meet the needs of [their]students today and in the future” (p.7).

Cennamo, K., Ross, J. & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach. (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
International Society for Technology Education. (2008) National Education Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/Libraries/PDFs/NETS_for_Teachers_2008_EN.sflb.ashx
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2012a). Enriching Content Area Learning Experiences with Technology, Part 1 [Video webcast]. Integrating Technology Across Content Areas. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_1374112_1%26url%3D
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2012b). Promoting Creative Thinking with Technology[Video webcast]. Integrating Technology Across Content Areas. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_1374112_1%26url%3D
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2012c). Promoting Self-Directed Learning with Technology[Video webcast]. Integrating Technology Across Content Areas. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_1374112_1%26url%3D
Prensky, M. (2008, March). Turning On the Lights. Educational Leadership.65(6), p40-45. Retrieved September 10, 2012 from Academic Search Complete database. ISSN: 00131784.