Making the most of Technology
I am able to effectively utilize technology to enhance student learning and professional growth and development.
I use technology in the classroom for two main purposes: to help students understand physics that is difficult to observe in real life, and to take advantage of and enhance students’ knowledge and use of technology. In integrating technology, however, I am cautious to ensure that it actually aids teaching rather than merely providing a fancy but unnecessary distraction.
Use technology to understand phenomena that are hard to observe
Videos and virtual simulations help students see phenomena that would otherwise remain abstract. Youtube has helped bring a world of science demos into the classroom, so I often use videos to engage, to explain, and to evaluate. When not overused, a youtube video will quickly quiet students at the beginning of class and get them ready to learn a new topic introduced by the video, such as this OK GO video with a Rube Goldberg machine (at right) that I used to introduce energy conversions. I’ve also found that virtual simulations are engaging and very effective at helping students understand things they can’t directly observe.
The University of Colorado phet simulations cover an array of science topics and students are always interested in watching or playing with the simulations and answering related questions. When learning about plate tectonics in middle school, kids were jumping out of their seats to get to be the phet “Plate Tectonic Controller”, while the rest of the class picked out crust types and watched in fascination as mountains and volcanoes were formed. Students later drew a diagram of volcanoes for homework, and about half included the plates sliding under one another that we had seen in this simulation. These simulations also let students conduct virtual “experiments” in ways that are easy to manipulate variables and find relationships. Of course, in using these or any simulations, the objectives must always be kept in mind, and I will help students understand any differences between the simulation and reality.
Use and cultivate student knowledge of technology
As digital natives, many students are more comfortable with technology than teachers and are excited to integrate their interest in technology with academic endeavors (OECD (2008), "New Millennium Learners. Initial findings on the effects of digital technologies on school-age learners", OECD/CERI International Conference "Learning in the 21st Century: Research, Innovation and Policy", 15–16 May 2008 Paris). I use Edmodo, clickers, a wiki site, and have the students design meaningful powerpoint slides to use and cultivate their knowledge of technology.
Implement new technologies cautiously
People have jumped to the conclusion that we need to rapidly integrate technology to address “digital natives”, but more data is needed to fully understand and shape lessons around these issues (Bennett, S.; Maton, K.; Kervin, L. (2008), "The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence", British Journal of Educational Technology 39 (5): 775–786, doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00793.x; Cuban, L. (1986). Teachers and machines. New York: Teachers College Press.). I will thus continue to learn about new instructional technologies by reading the literature and attending workshops. Due to the fast pace and often questionable results of new technologies in education, I will holistically consider whether a given technology complements my own subject and instructional character. Most importantly, I will regularly assess the effect of integrating technology into my own classroom and reflect on the benefits and drawbacks. For example, I created an online test (at right) for my middle schoolers to take on laptops, which included analyzing a virtual simulation and deciding how they would experimentally test a youtube video. Upon seeing that the first period took longer than expected for this test, I decided to use paper versions for the other classes, and then did a Microsoft Mail Merge to quickly create paper versions of the 1st Period’s test so that they could finish the test the next day.
YOU be the teacher
I held class in the school computer lab, so that students could design a 3-slide powerpoint based on the physics topic of their choice, where one slide needed to connect the topic to the real world (encouraging students to think about how the topic was relevant to them), one slide needed an image or video (so students used or cultivated their technological communication skills), and one slide had a multiple choice question (encouraging students to think critically about what was important about the topic and how to check understanding).
Dynamic Prezi presentation on the four forces, with guided notes
Prezi is a presentation program that allows the creator to zoom around and rotate various parts of the presentation, resulting in a more dynamic lesson that can show spatial relationships. I created this lesson plan to present the four fundamental forces that govern the universe, and put these four forces in the context of an Earth sitting in our vast universe, showing where and how each force plays a role. I included warm-up questions and a graphic organizer to help the students achieve the learning objectives from this lesson.
Examples of Using Technology in the Classroom
"Shanna continues to use technology in the classroom to provide great interactive demonstrations."
"Follow That Photon" webquest
I designed this webquest (http://shannashaked.wix.com/followthatphoton) for an educational technology course, and then adapted the rubric to fit a suddenly empty period for a high school astronomy course that I helped teach. Students click on different pages to follow a photon from the center of the Sun as it travels to different destinations on the Earth. In this way, they learn about the entire electromagnetic spectrum (different frequencies of light) in the context of what can actually happen to a single photon leaving the Sun, and ending with the student’s choice of real-world applications that include photography, a day at the beach, and solar power.
Clicker technology for every-pupil-response formative assessment
While teaching high school physics, I used clickers to check understanding of every student, and then showed the clicker results to all students so that they could see the distribution of what they and their peers thought were the answers. Based on education research of clicker implementation, when less than 85% of students had the correct answer, I had students do a think-pair-share with their group members and then re-polled everyone to see if they had learned from their peers or if further instruction was needed.