Friday, December 11, 2009

The project and its outcomes

Initial Project Goals
The project as proposed sought to implement technology through a constructivist approach in an 8th grade Waldorf inspired educational setting through the Waldorf 8th grade project. The 8th grade project is a year-long project that is inquiry based and self-propelled by the learner. Early on the fall of the 8th grade year the students write about area of interest for a project and then research feasibility of doing the project. Integral to the 8th grade project is an adult mentor and portfolio development. It was my hope to offer support to the students as they began their projects and create a PowerPoint presentation about their selected topic. It was my hope to integrate technology in this real-world way to be truly constructivist. I envisioned these highly learner centered projects would be highly compatible with the Waldorf pedagogy and using web searches and PowerPoint would meet technology content standards.
Challenges and Changes
In reality, the tech projects did not encompass the 8th grade projects at all. Unfortunately curriculum must be approved by faculty and the principal in the summer before instruction begins. This detail was not revealed to me until I was in the classroom ready to implement my project after spending a month jumping hurdles to gain access to the classroom.
Goal 1: Implementing Constructivist Approaches Use constructivist approaches to make learning meaningful
The constructivist approaches I selected to focus on in my own teaching were 1) teacher serves as coach and guide 2) learning is controlled by learner 3) teacher stresses interrelatedness of skills learned to other settings/perspectives 4) reflective analysis as part of assessment 5) provide environment for extended learning 5) support the learner at their level (Murphy, 1997).
I strived to stay true to my constructivist vision and asked the students reflective questions during each session to get them to think about what they were learning or how they were not learning by their choices. At first I did not receive serious responses, only shoulder shrugs and sarcastic answers like “computers.” As each week passed and I continued to ask them reflective questions their answer became more introspective and serious. “Well, I am learning how to insert pictures into the slide,” “I have been working on researching my bird the hawk; I am going to make a video at home.” I remained available for support to guide students to answers rather than just show them, helping them to problem solve through technology difficulties.
Goal 2: Meet 8th grade tech standards Language Arts: 1.4
There are not separate technology standards for California State education standards; rather they are embedded into other content area. To plan and conduct multiple-step information searches by using computer networks and modems, is found in the 8th grade Language arts content standards. I worked with the students to meet this standard by conducting web and database searches to build knowledge about the subject. Beyond just acquiring information from Internet searches, the student takes notes, observes key word phrases, makes new searches.
What I learned/confirmed
I did not so much learn new things as I did confirm what I know to be true. Students of any age greatly benefit from the opportunity to “play” and get comfortable with technology at their own pace. Students with access to computers in the home already had good to advanced technology skills from leisure time spent exploring computer applications. These same students were more likely to have their technology assignment complete before coming to class. Children without computers in the home more likely to not stay on task or have work done and were often in trouble for “playing” on the internet. Due to this need to explore, socially connect and learn what they wanted to learn, students were often the subject of disciplinary actions such as students loosing computers use for checking email, MySpace etc.. I did not agree with the approach as I felt it was an equity issue of fair access to technology; however I am not the teacher.
In the end, there were more positive than negative outcomes for my learning and the students learning in this technology project. Learners received more support with an extra teacher in the classroom and less time waiting for help. Learners were offered an opportunity to apply tech skills on a history project and further develop their skills. Finally, learners were able to share their perspectives for improvement.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Getting access to the classroom

Identifying the project was the first step. Coming up with a proposal was second step. Getting into the classroom was step three. Getting into the classroom to do the project turned out to be a bit of challenge. Although, eventually overcome and the project was started.
Allow me to tell you about the experience of gaining access to the classroom for my project. First as with any teaching job, I submitted fingerprints. In my case it was an affidavit of live-scan fingerprints at the beginning of September. Then I waited. I met with the class teacher and explained my project and got her approval. She put me in contact with the technology teacher. I connected with him and got his approval.
Next I got approval from the faculty chair. Finally I met with the school secretary and tied up loose ends on signing-in and making sure all the paperwork wad in order. It was now the beginning of October. However, everyone's qustions about what I was doing were answered and all the appropriate forms completed.

Now I could finally start implementing my tech project. Or so I thought. Since it took so long to gain access to the class and the class had to be taught the technology teacher moved forward with his lessons. Fortunately the children were working with the software program I had proposed to teach them on, Microsoft PowerPoint, however the content was no longer individualized by each child's 8th grade project, it was about birds. I am not the primary teacher and took a month to get into the classroom so I am grateful to be able to work them at all.

The first day I was surprised to learn that in the month of my absence the children had not progressed very far. on my first day the children were still struggling with login issues and making email accounts and the PowerPOint assignment was the first real technology learning application they were going to do. They had learned about the computer, its parts, its programs, how to log on, etc.. So It was nice to know I did not miss too much. Tech class is only once a week and before that it had been once a month. So my first day was very near their first day. Now to move forward to see what this technology teahcing and learning is really like.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The tech project's- setting, participants and needs assessment

Setting and Participants
The setting for the tech project will be a small public charter of Waldorf inspired instruction. The educational setting selected offers one class per grade. The participants will be a single class of eighth grade students at the Waldorf inspired setting. The eighth grade students complete a yearlong thesis project with a mentor to explore a skill, interest or vocation which includes research, proposal writing, internship, production, and ultimately presentation. It is proposed to use the self-selected eighth grade project as to be the basis of all technological activities. In this way the eighth grade students will develop technological skills in subject area of their choosing and building meaningful editions to their year portfolio and presentation integrating technology learning and exposure to hardware, software, and training.

Needs Assessment
The success of this project depends on access to materials, faculty support to offer instruction, time allotted to the projects, the teaching faculty’s ability to implement technology teaching through a constructivist approach in the 8th grade Waldorf inspired educational setting and individual student needs.
The technology situation at the Waldorf inspired educational setting has approximately 20 Macintosh lap tops that are available to the students to use; the current schedule is once per week. There is not a permanent computer lab, rather a locking cart which is wheeled in to the classrooms and students are allowed to use the laptops during a technology block, or lesson.
There is a specialty teacher who offers instruction on technology and physical education to all eight grades at the school. The classroom teacher supports the pedagogical views of Waldorf education and sees the value of offering instruction in technology. There is enough materials for all students to use and there is faculty with proficient technological skills to offer instruction.
Student needs will be based on each student’s abilities and comfort with technology in regards to California department of Education eight grade technology standards. Opportunity to use computers with greater frequency will be needed to improve student’s technological fluency.

Proposing the Using Technology Project

The Using Technology Project is an assignment which consists of three parts: a proposal, a written paper, and PowerPoint presentation.
I proposed implementing technology through a constructivist approach in an 8th grade Waldorf inspired educational setting. Its primary goal seeks to assess the technological needs in terms of resources, materials, faculty expertise and student needs. Student needs will be based on each student’s abilities and comfort with technology in regards to California department of Education eight grade technology standards. Secondly, I propose developing and using constructivist activities to bridge learning and instruction gaps to meet technology standards and offer meaningful learning experiences for the students.
The Waldorf inspired setting being utilized for this project, discourages media and limits technology access, yet has been forced to mediate their pedagogical views to receive state operational funding and fulfill technology standards. My proposed Using Technology Project seeks to negotiate the instructive gaps between state mandated education code standards and the Waldorf pedagogy through constructivist learning approaches with technology with eighth grade students a Waldorf inspired setting. This project will be evaluated for its impact and effectiveness through observation and feedback solicited from class sessions and teacher meetings. The results will be shared in a Power Point presentation in the Technology as Tool, fall 2009 class.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Multi-cultural Learning with the WWW

Multi-cultural Learning with the World Wide Web.
Multicultural education is of value to teaching and learning as it addresses multiple perspectives, learning styles and equity in classrooms, teaching and learning.
Technology is a of value in education as a tool to leaqnr new subject matter in various ways but also to develop technological skills needed for the workforce. Christine Sleeter, professor and author of many multi-cultural education texts, cites Wood (2002), in her article, Technology as a tool in multi-cultural teaching (2002) "The fact remains:
In order to compete in the workforce, all
cient (85%) of all jobs will require at least
some technical skills." and Sleter and Tettegah state " They will also require multicultural knowledge to apply those skills in their work environment in our rapidly changing demography."

Technology and multicultural teaching can be integrated to engage students in meaningful ways.
Web-based technologies are not the single answer to address all multicultural education learning, however greatly support various types of learning and knowing which supports multi-cultural education.
Christine Sleeter examines how multi-cultural education could potentially change or rather is changing by the introduction of web-based technologies into classrooms and other learning/ teaching venues, in her article, Technology as a tool in multi-cultural teaching (2002). Sleeter and colleague Tettegah, offer examples of how teachers increasing their technological skills began using technology to teach in a variety of creative ways. One point I found particularly valuable was using technology as a tool in multi-cultural teaching with Hawaiians who traditionally use oral stories and dance to pass down knowledge from one generation to the next, and that the technological options matched the learning and teaching styles of the Hawaiian people. I believe this observation to valid and useful for many cultures using oral narratives and dance, such as American Indians and other cultures. Sleeter and Tettegah state that “Web-based resources and online education has the potential to serve students not traditionally associated with schools and colleges in a manner unlike traditional education, as well as on ground classrooms.” The example of serving the Hawaiian culture illustrates this point well. I agree that using web-based resources has great potential to reach a great many people who may not normally have such educational opportunities and reach people in way more meaningful to them.

Friday, September 25, 2009

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Authentic Activities

This week’s readings included an article by Thomas Reeves. Reeves' article authentic activities and online learning (2002). Reeves and his colleagues discuss authentic activities as influenced by constructivist philosophy. Reeves cites other authors defining activities as ‘anything students are expected to do,
beyond getting input through reading or listening, in order to learn, practice, apply, evaluate,
or in any other way respond to curricular content’ Brophy and Alleman (1991).
This blog activity is a task we are expected to do, in order to learn, practice and apply creative technological skills. When we are asked to review and comment on other student's blogs we are evaluating our processes.
I especially liked the statement that activities ‘encourage and affirm learning...and may take many forms, but essentially, they encourage the learner to respond to the text rather than remain passive’ (Reeves, 2002).
From my perspective the activities of reading scholarly text then blogging, and reading and responding to other students work is one of many forms to engage us as learners in a active way to encourage and affirm our technological readings.
This constructivist approach is being contrasted against an instructivist approach. The instructivist approach is a model based on a behaviorist approach. The instructivist approaches is concerned with student outcomes and requires the student learn a set of skills and demonstrate the learning and mastered skills to the teacher. The constructivist approach is more concerned with the individual students learning process.
I tend to favor constructivist approaches in my own teaching and learning. In technology learning I have found that most of my learning has come from time and opportunity with technology. Interestingly enough, time and opportunity are key elements to learning through play form a constructivist approach. So my advice to technology learners is to play with technology. Get a Facebook account, set up a blog, play video games, use an iPod, etc...