This unit has been an eye-opener for me as an educator. It has been many years since I have had to produce/follow lesson plans that “I” actually had to implement. The requirements of the lesson along with integration of technology were far more restrictive than my first understanding of the lesson.
Initially, I planned on using a lesson that was written in collaboration with the classroom teachers last year for our renewal of the curriculum documents to align with the Common Core Standards. The standards were numerous, and after meeting with my peers, it was decided that I would just concentrate on the writing standards that were in the lesson. Tracking student data would be a streamlined. The class that took part in my lesson already has a baseline for argumentative writing. The content was experimental, however, the concepts of creating an argument to be supported with a claim is a standard that we are currently working on. Kudos to my team for making my life easier for me.
The learning objectives included the following standards: CCSS ELA – Literacy W.9.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. CCSS ELA – Literacy W.9.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.CCSS ELA – Literacy W.9.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
These standards were met by students creating an argument after discuss traditions that may exist within the school or community setting, especially those that may no longer serve a purpose. Write a letter to the appropriate person/people (i.e. student council, school principals) articulating why it may be appropriate to phase out those traditions whose purposes are no longer relevant. Students are slated to share these letters in an open forum (Edmodo) with other members of their classes. This piece has not been accomplished as of yet. However, the students are familiar with the Edmodo website and are able to navigate through with ease. The sharing of ideas is in a closed blog/social media setting. My goal is to get teachers to share student work globally. Unfortunately, there are still issues with our district filtering system and allowing students to work academically in unsupported forums.
The are always lessons to be learned about technology. The underlying teaching is not affected by the use of the technology, however, the technology gives the students the avenue to share their work with the class in a different medium. The focus was still on the teaching of supporting claims effectively with relevant reasons. The different format for sharing of work was appealing to students, and it has some effectiveness with engagement. The only issues I have had with using this web-based program is if the wifi goes down. Otherwise, there have been minimal PITA moments. Students who are familiar with Facebook have found it extremely easy to navigate through the use of Edmodo. Teachers can post and create assignments, and students can reply to posts. Teachers have the authority to remove any inappropriate posts that students may add. This gives the students an opportunity share without having to get up in front of the class, or speak aloud and be concerned with being wrong. My class is generally accepting with each other, however, they are teens and all have their moments.
With the down wifi being the biggest issue, I have to consider myself one of the lucky ones. Our district is stretched to the limit, just like all the rest. However, the IT staff are amazing at accommodating what they can. Our high school is under renovations, so this has interfered with the use of our wireless network as well as the normal run of the mill issues. The IT staff had a new wireless access point added to assist with our limited signal issue. All it took was a request and patience. This did hold up our work, which is why we haven’t gotten as far. I am lucky to have the ability to apply what we have going on in group to my class. I just need to be realistic about upsetting the apple cart and setting my own agenda.
The other piece of technology that was used was Subtext. This app is available both on the iPad or as a Web 2.0 tool. I have a mini lab of iPads available for my use in my class, so scheduling and availability of the lab was a non-issue. Subtext is an application that allows students to actively read text online and answer questions in a thread. It also allows students to use ereader tools that are embedded in Subtext to read the article aloud. This helped some students who wanted to focus on the activity instead of the words. Student read “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and also watched a two-part YouTube video clip on the story. Although teachers can not always have online text and video to support ALL parts of their lessons, it was much easier for students to comprehend the big ideas of the lesson and visually and auditorily hear the information they needed. What surprised me was that when asked to provide textual evidence, the students knew where to “stop” the video. They then were able to transfer that knowledge to the text sequentially.
I do not believe that technology replaces good teaching. However, I DO believe that good teaching can be enhanced by teachers thoughtfully embedding technology into the units of study. As educators, we are always cognizant of how to reach our students on all different levels. Technology is a tool, but good teaching is how we can reach students and make a difference.