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1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

I believe that student learning can be improved upon and facilitated by meaningful uses of technology in the contemporary classroom. As any teacher can tell you, presenting information to students in creative, innovative ways is effective when trying to engage them in learning. One way that teachers can add this effect to their lessons is by implementing technology into their teaching process. This can be accomplished in several different ways. One form technology can take in the classroom is as an instructional aide to an educator such as Power Points. It is important that teachers construct such products to model the teacher’s creativity and promote student understanding or else the technology can become dull or, conversely, over-powering. My goal when cooperatively creating the Power Point Globally Ignored Country of Sri Lanka Presentation.ppt to accompany the presentation of a social studies cultural unit about the country of Sri Lanka was to make a show that was able to project the power of images with verbal communication rather than inudating the viewers with tons of textual information.

Another form which technology can take in the classroom is as a resource and tool for teachers when preparing materials for lessons. This means that some form of technology does not need to be present while the lesson is being taught for it to be part of the lesson. For example, when designing a language arts writing assignment, I wanted students to use a graphic organizer to generate their thoughts before writing. Rather than trying to find a graphic organizer to meet my needs, I used a combination of Paint and Photoshop to create my own. Teachers can also use programs like Inspiration to make creative teaching tools for use in the classroom, such as the teacher who created this concept map about how to become a successful math student.

But perhaps the most effective use of technology in the classroom is when the media is placed directly in the hands of students to use as a means of exploring and learning. For example, students can have direct interaction with technology in the creative and interactive endeavor of making podcasts in collaboration with classmates and then share their products with the virtual world-wide community. These podcasts can vary
in use from classroom news and updates to series of podcasts covering lessons and information students have learned, such as this podcast which comes from a classroom of fifth graders who had been researching information about Senators Obama and McCain before the November 2008 election.

In all instances, it is important that technology is adding to the experience in the classroom in some manner which is innovative, engaging, and authentic. To a
ccomplish this meaningful and creative use of technology, it is important that an educator be very familiar with the kinds of technology available for use in lessons. If a teacher does not know how to use a device or a program, she cannot take full advantage of all the possible creative and innovative uses for it in the classroom. One such piece of technology which is becoming more commonly used in classrooms today is the document camera. This device can be deceptively similar to an overhead projector in the hands of an operator who does not know how to use it! Therefore, I worked collaboratively with a cohort on the creation of a Technology Expert Module entitled Not Your Mom's Overhead to share information about using document cameras and creative ways teachers can use this piece of technology.

2. Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

In today's technology driven world, it is important that we as educators do our very best to prepare our students to be part of that world. Technology comes in so many different forms that teachers are able to apply it in a variety of differentiated assignments in the classroom that meet the needs of students' diverse learning styles and abilities. Technology can be used to encourage creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration, inquiry, and many other forms of learning. It is the responsibility of the teacher to seek out ways to integrate different forms of technology in lessons to reach the needs of her students and give them a greater understanding of technology along with their curriculum materials.

The importance on incorporating technology into classroom learning is heightened by the lack of exposure to technology some students face. There are students do not have opportunities outside of school to experience technology due to a variety of factors, such as poverty, thus a teacher can aid her students in developing an understanding of technology through the creation of lesson plans and assessments which draw on the use of technology. During this semester, I had just such an opportunity when I created my Technology Integrated Lesson Plan for teaching kindergarteners about recycling. I found a video from PBS Kids which I felt was appropriate in level and engaging for kindergarteners and used it as an introductory activity and a source of information for students to use during their own small cooperative-group recycling sorts in the classroom. Additionally, technology was used to find resources (images of the steps recycled materials move through) for use in the lesson should there be a technical difficulty and the video fail to work. The technology used in this lesson is accessible to students through the Internet, which makes it accessible in their homes or in places like libraries and school computer labs. I believe that students should be able to have their individual learning needs met and the technology in this lesson allows students who needed additional time or information to revisit the source.

3. Model Digital-Age Work and Learning

I believe that when students experience support at home, they will be able to do better in school. This makes the connection between my classroom and my students' home environments so important. However, there are many ways that communication between me and a parent/guardian can fail. Printed newsletters can be lost on their way from backpack to parent; phone calls can be missed and not returned; meetings can be impossible to schedule due to factors like parents working multiple jobs. All of these break down communication. But I believe that technology can be used to effectively communicate relevant information from the classroom to students and parents through a classroom website. My classroom website is still very new and being developed, but it currently includes places where I can leave messages to my students' parents/guardians, a calendar for displaying important school-related dates such as closed and early dismissal days, a copy of the classroom schedule, and a page that features photos of the students and some of their classroom creations. Using a classroom website allows parents to gain access to classroom information quickly and relatively easily. If they have computer access, all they need to do is go to the web address. I have even included a link back to my practicum placement's school page for reference.

I would like to mention that the website I have designed is very focused toward adult use because I was teaching kindergarteners whose parents would be the ones to use the site. My student teaching placement students could use the site for such things as proudly sharing their posted work with others, but the information contained on the site was not for their direct use. However, if I was to be teaching older students, I would include other parts to my website such as homework links, study guides, a message board, and assignment calendars so that students can also be involved in their own success through technology.

Beyond the idea of communicating with parents through technology, I feel that it is important that I use technology as a means to reevaluate how to approach teaching certain lessons. For example, demonstrations are very common in a science classroom. However, there are a breadth of problems with achieving a demonstration which can be observed by all students at the same time. Generally, there is never enough space for all students to be around the demonstration at once which results in students either missing out on what is going on or students jockeying for positions closer to the demonstration. As a teacher, I would take many of these same demonstrations and perform them with the use of a document camera. This would allow all of my students to see what is going on without pushing, shoving, or possibly being too close to the demonstration. This website has a video of just such a demonstration incorporating a SMART document camera and SMART board.

4. Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

Teachers are role models for their students and are generally expected to be responsible role models by society. Teachers live and work under a degree of scrutiny that is not seen in many other common professions. This article describes how many young teachers have lost employment due to personal information, images, videos, etc displayed on social networking sites on the Internet such as facebook.com and myspace.com. I believe that, as a teacher, it is my responsibility to either have a personal website that I would not feel embarrassed or in fear of setting a poor example for my students or to not have one at all. I understand that my students are impressionable and that society expects me to act almost entirely without reproach. To some it may seem unreasonable, but I believe that it is important that I take my role as a teacher into consideration even in my private life.

In addition to the role I am expected to play outside of school, the role I set inside of my classroom is even more important. I want my students to understand that there are laws which govern the use of information to protect those who have worked to create an original idea or product and that it is not right to take it without permission. Specifically, I am describing the stipulations about use of materials as described in Copyright and Fair Use law. As a teacher, Fair Use allows me to use information for educational purposes, but there are limits to my legal rights. Since I was teaching kindergarteners who did not have written work which would make reference to copyrighted materials, I created a document which lists what I feel are ten of the most helpful guidelines for a teacher to remember about Copyright and Fair Use. I have practiced setting a good example for my students through doing such small things as including web addresses under images where students can see them. For an example, please see my technology integrated lesson plan in section 2. I hope that my students will notice and ask me why that information is there so that well before they are doing research they can see that even a teacher needs to give credit to her sources.

Besides considering the fair use of resources, I feel it is my job as a teacher to demonstrate the fair and equitable treatment of all my students. To me this means such things as using technology resources to try to find translations of rules, directions, safety guidelines, etc which I will give to my students and/or their parents/guardians who are English Language Learners. This means respecting the cultural diversity and backgrounds of the students in my classroom. But it also means meeting the individual needs of students who have special needs through physical or mental limitations. This is where technology is so immensely helpful. Just because a student is differently abled than the majority of students within my classroom does not mean that I will not expect them to learn or participate. Today there is a wide range of technological advances to meet the needs of differently abled students. This video shows some of the accommodations technology allows to be made for these students to learn and participate in activities that in the past they would generally never have hoped to achieve. I see that it is my role to make accommodations that allow these students to be as active and engaged in lessons as the rest of my students.

5. Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership

I feel that professional growth and leadership are vital to the continued development of a successful classroom teacher. To accomplish this, teachers need to work in collaborative settings with other educators and professionals in their community to expand as well as re-evaluate their knowledge and understanding of their craft. This need for continued development is especially apparent in terms of technology because of the constant change and flux of what is available to educators. However, it also is the responsibility of educators to examine the relative advantage of including technology in a lesson and deciding if that inclusion is worthwhile or not. This was one of the goals of the collaborative Design Team Project created by a group of my fellow future educators and me to examine how technology might be used in the classroom to improve student learning by getting them engaged and keeping them that way throughout a lesson. We each acted as leaders by generating our own vignettes about hands-on learning in the classroom, which did or did not incorporate technology based on the best judgment of the teacher composing the vignette. We then disseminated this information to other members of our course through a presentation and posting of the information on a class wikispace.

In addition, I believe that it is very useful and important for teachers to stay informed about research which is being conducted in education and technology. Teachers may share information with one another, but it is always best for an educator to examine an original source. Take for example this article which rebuffs the idea that we remember "90% of what we say and do." Instead, it goes on to describe how technology can be used to integrate visual and text/auditory information to increase the performance of learners. This sort of knowledge is highly informative for teachers who are planning the ways in which they will approach a lesson.