Monday, August 30, 2010

Overcoming Technofobia: The Teachers Issue

The dawn of 21st century has seen an explosion in technology-based solutions and an extension of it has been placed int the realm of education. However, the use of technology in education is not focused as much as in other sectors such as business and health. While technical solutions are expanding exponentially and an emphasis has been placed on the "wired", technical skills are not developing in the same pace.Therefore, most teachers are legging behind for finding themselves lacking the basic technological understanding and skills that are core to successfully operate these solutions.
Do you suffer from Technofobia? [Future generations truly hope not]
Question #1 - How can I help overcome the view of technology as "dangerous"?
- Start up by defining projects using technology clearly: On many occasions, project and technology issues are merely a result of misinformation, which the use of rubrics resolves. The key is to be specific, however, leaving room for student inquiry.
- Allow Students Freedom under a Watchful Eye: become a coach, mentor, and guide for your students. Watch them, learn from them, and keep them on track. Teachers’ responsibilities are not relinquished and they sometimes have to lay down the law; however, this becomes less of a problem as students learn to learn using technology. Let the students explore, create, and develop a better understanding of the concepts they are learning.
Question #2 - How many educators fail to distinguish between "computers" and "technology"?
Every teacher wants to use the best tools to help students learn, and technology integration requires long-term staff development time. Withal, some teachers do undermine the power of technology. It's crucial to mention that a Powepoint presentation does not make you technological.
- Ask for Help to Avoid Technophobia: There is always someone available in a school to offer technological help. Every school has several technology savvy teachers today. Some schools even have on-site technology integration specialists or coaches. Do not be afraid to ask for help, because this leads to a better understanding. Just like teachers tell their students every day, there is no such thing as a dumb question.
- Fear of technology is not new! Embracing technology involves changing routines and opening yourself to r-i-s-k. The fear of technology sometimes comes more often from the fear of change than of technology itself. Open your mind! Use all possible source of technology you might have access to: cell phones, bluetooth, laptops, Ipads, Itouchs, Iphones (and smartphones in general), flash drives, webcams, and of course: your imagination and creativity.
Teacher dispostion and views on technology play a large role in whether the technology is adopted in classroom. John Saye in his book 'Technology in the Classroom: The Role of Teacher Disposition in Gatekeeping' describes 5 kinds of teachers according to their disposition to technology and intolerance for risk:
* Trailblazers *
* Pioneers *
* Settlers *
* Stay-at-homes *
* Saboteurs *
Pick yours!

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See you in a post :-)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

10 basic reasons why technology MUST be used in class

Many educators are still rather reluctant when it comes to the use of technology in class. Some say it can easily distract stutends and therefore they lose focus ruinning their precious classes. Some claim that its cost is not in sync with its benefits. And even worse: some teachers are empowered with high-tech and they simply don't know what to do with it (!).

So, here are my favorite top 10 reasons why technology must be used in class:

1- Collaboration
How has your life as a teacher changed with the advent of the Web 2.0?
A Web 2.0 site gives its users free choice to interact or collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators (prosumer) of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where users (consumer) are limited to the passive role of content view that was created for them.
Web 2.0 draws together the capabilities of client- and server-side software, content syndication and the use of network protocols. Standards-oriented web browsers may use plug-ins and software extensions to handle the content and the user interactions. Web 2.0 sites provide users with information storage, creation, and dissemination capabilities that were not possible in the environment now known as "Web 1.0".
- Rather than laboring alone on homework, students can this way work in small groups wherever they happen to be and at any time

2- Here, there and everywhere
Skype, Msn Messenger, Google Voice... how many webtools can you name that provide interaction and communication with anyone in any part of the globe? Many!
The worldview of the student can be expanded because of the zero cost of communicating with other people around the globe. The Internet permits free video conferencing which permits interaction in real time with sister schools in other countries. From an educational viewpoint, what could be more important than understanding other cultures through direct dialog and collaboration?

3- Individual Sequencing and Studying Pace
Information technologies can permit students to break step with the class and go at a pace and order that suits that student better. Without disrupting the class, they can repeat difficult lessons and explore what they find interesting. With time, it will become more like having a private tutor rather than being lost in a large class. Moreover, students can research for other sources or simply find other ways to approach one subject.

4- Weight
One thing that really gets on my nerves is to see the poor student carrying tonnes of books in their backpacks because they have 4, 5 or maybe 6 different subjects one that day. Add up some notebooks, some binders, pencil cases and others material and voilá in 5 years' time you have a student with a chronic backache. Ipods have up to 32 gb storage which means thousands of files in it. A kindle reader may allow you to have approximatelly 1500 books weighing only 29g. An Ipad weighs 680g and the whole world can be put in there. Not to mention netbooks computers, cell phones, flash drivers and etc..

5- Ownership of Productivity
Students need productivity tools for the same reasons you do. They need to write, read, communicate, organize and schedule. A student's life is not much different from any knowledge worker, and they need similar tools. Even if they are never used in the classroom, portable personal computers will make a student's (and teacher's) life more effective. To cash in this benefit, schools need to go paperless.

6- Organization
How often do you lose your mind trying to find that slip of paper where you made that important annotation? Get rid of them! Go paperless! Use social bookmarking. The way I use social bookmarking is quite simple. Since I do a lot of my work at home, I often bookmark at home and then access those bookmarks at school. For example, if there are several youtube videos I want to show students, I bookmark them at home and then load them when I go to school in the morning. Using bookmarks you don't need to create "folders" for each site you want to mark, you can just tag them. Not to mention the power of social networking. You can follow people and get to know what they've tagged.

7- Learning X Teaching
Technology allows the tables to be turned. Instead of teaching (push), students can be given projects that require them to learn (pull) the necessary material themselves. Key to this is the ability to get the information they need any time anywhere, without being in the physical presence of a teacher. This project-based pull approach makes learning far more interesting for the student. I strongly believe that students cannot wait to get out of regular classes to go to the after-school internet project.

8- Depth in Understanding
Interactive simulus are prone to produce a much greater depth of understanding of a concept. When virtual manipulatives are used in a classroom setting they can go far beyond chalk and talk. The use of visuals in a collaborative space conduct to curiosity and investigation therefore demonstrate concepts far beyond the traditional talk and hand-raising.

9- Time and Space Stretching
There's no substitute for a teacher. No machine wil ever do that - Thank God ;-) However, we the use of internet and its many tools we can stretch the time students spend with their teachers. Teachers could be found and thus help studentes develop at any time. Plus, on-line material can be much more available than that. A student who wishes to hit the "books" at 1:00am can do it easily sitting in front of his computer.
The use of textbooks inside a classroom are unfortunately and inevitably limited. On the other hand, a wireless laptop has access to the teacher's course material and the entire Internet almost anywhere. This is also a vastly larger resource than can be practically carried on paper in a backpack.

Bottom line: information technology allows learning anywhere, anytime; not just in one particular classroom for 60 minutes a day.

10- Express yourself. Don't repress yourself!

Webtools allow students to express themselves in a never-seen-before way. Let their imagination fly by creating and editing videos, prezi presentations, run a class blog or a web-based newspaper, exchange podcasts, create a web-based TV program or radio station, compose digital music.. Be creative and let them be as well.

In short, we have still a long path to go so as to achieve the goal of a technological class, especially in Brazil where technology may be costy and teachers are rather too much old-school material. However, I believe that if education is about knowledge and intellectual skills, then we have to beware that IT is at the core of it. It is just a transition and we'll survive. Don't worry.

See you in a post :-)

Education and Technology - How did you cope with this marriage?

In contrast to developed countries, the discussion about the use of technology in class in Brazil is still incipient. Some private schools already have an IWB (Interactive WhiteBoard) in every classroom. However, in some schools they are not connected to the internet (?!), in other more students have never heard of it. I strongly believe that technology must be intrinsically connected with education since students are exposed to it all the time. They get to school with their Ipods clung to their ears, all of them have a mobile with which they text, transfer files, listen to music, record voice clips and yeah they call. Such other technologies should be inserted into everyday class routine because they are part of students lives and it won't be different at the work place.

Regardless of your nationality and therefore location, I invite educators to join this discussion about inserting technology in class. I would like you to share your experiences and tell us how you managed to get it done.

This blog aims to prove that it is possible to use technology for educational purposes not only in wealthy countries but all over the world. Since it's becoming and inevitable way of dealing with learning.

Please, contribute.

See you in a post :-)


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