Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Implementation of Technology in the classroom

This was a difficult assignment.  I literally have hundreds of programs and apps on my laptop, iphone, and ipad.

To pick a technology that I wan't very familiar with sounded almost impossible.  So I decided to go with something I hadn't already tried before.  For various reasons our college hasn't had success with SRS's (student response systems) [clickers, smart phones, laptops, etc.].  So, when I found out about a free web site I jumped at the chance to try it on my own.  
A bit of back ground first.  I teach Foundation students.  They come to us with only minimal skills.  I can work with that.  What has proven harder is attitude.  I try to make my lessons engaging and even entertaining - anyone tried to make the past simple fun?  Then you know what I mean.  I am teaching level 3 writing.  The nature of the course is to pass the CEPA exam at the end.  If you are familiar with CEPA then you know it has a lot of grammar - more than is completely necessary, but I digress.  I can't just turn on a youtube video and hope my students will understand the grammar.  I have to repeat and recycle everything.  I myself was getting bored from the lessons and worksheets.  Yes, there are some spectacular web sites, but since I don't have a lock down system to monitor the students web surfing, I can't be 100% sure they are on the correct web site and doing what I asked them to do.  
I had found a web site that allows a teacher (or anyone) to make a quiz - give it - get results - and the best part - to get a complete print out of who missed what question.  All without lengthy registration and up load.  

I literally spent 10 minutes or less making a short 10 question quiz.  I went to class - had students take it.  The best part is because I have a couple of new students - they don't have laptops yet.  They were able to access the quiz from their smart phones!  I had the entire class engaged - even those without a laptop (or charger, or whatever the excuse is today).  They never forget their phones!  
I could see immediately which question everyone had missed.  We could discuss the answers right then.  We could analyze why they hadn't answered correctly.  And hopefully through this engagement we could instill the correct answer.  

Did I mention that is also shows how much time the spent on the quiz.  I believe part of my job is to also give them study skills as well as writing skills.  By having this information, and showing the students that they aren't spending the correct amount of time on something, I can hope that this will make them more successful next time. I have used this only a couple of more times.  I plan on making many more 'spot check' quizzes.
The implications of this are enormous.  Because of the ease and speed - I can make one on my break - between classes - if I see that class later in the day.  It can be used for any subject.  I could even send the link to a student who is absent.  Although for my 'spot check' class that wouldn't be ideal.  If I wanted to I could even let the students make their own quizzes and then take each others quiz.  To me that is the ultimate use of this technology.  To have students fully engaged in their own learning.  
I wanted a technology I wasn't familiar with.  I wanted something to engage the students more - but not become the focus of the class.  This item had to be easy to use.  I wanted something useful for the students as well as useful for me.  I believe this is using technology and not just from technology.  

Pick a Technology for class use

I think this was one of the hardest assignments I have ever had.  To choose just one from the thousands out there, and from the hundreds on my laptop, iphone, and ipad.  To narrow down my search, I sought something that I wasn't using currently, but would find useful.  That was difficult as I am somewhat of a tech junkie.  I stumbled upon an idea.  My college has been trying for the past year to use SRS's (student response systems). But due to technical issues, cost, and management changes, we haven't formally implemented anything yet. I found a web site that fits my criteria - must be free/low cost, must be easy to use as a teacher, must be easy to use as a student, must work the first time.  You will need to read my next blog to find out what it is!  Thanks.   

Monday, March 26, 2012

Professional Development - PLN

   I have been very interested in technology since my first computer class back in the mid 80's.  I seem to have a knack for understanding and the patience to stick with programming.  I didn't, however, go into this field of work. I chose to become a teacher, or rather, teaching chose me.  I can remember the early days of list servers - send 'subscribe' to an email address.  I thought it was the greatest invention of all time.  Information on demand.  I have been on some lists for a very long time.  I would call myself an info junkie.  There is no such thing as information overload...
       Having said that it is hard sometimes to reconcile what I have in my head with the realities I am face with in my teaching.  I get invites to all these wonderful conferences that are focused on different aspects of teaching (CALL, TALL, theories of language acquisition) from all over the world - but I can't even attend a two day conference in Dubai.  Even if I am able to go - implementing these new ideas, techniques, etc. is far beyond ideal.  We are surrounded by technology - almost assaulted by it, and one of my best lessons lately was using pieces of colored paper.
        I may sound a bit discouraged, but I keep up my spirits with my daily infusion of free apps (for my newly aquired ipad + iphone) and my hero - Larry Ferlazzo.   Every day, like clock work, he sends out an email highlighting different aspects of ESL.  It could be an article  written in a newspaper, a new web site to help teach a certain subject, a new app, - just about anything.  But what I love most is his enthusiasm for teaching. His joy comes through his articles.  I can only hope to emulate such an attitude.  I am off to prepare for my presentation on my favorite apps....got to have faith!