W4: Twitter and Technology

There’s tons of information out there on technology’s role in education, and it can be hard to pick out the right information.  Twitter allows use to follow a countless number of people who post interesting ideas and articles everyday that can aid me as a future teacher.  Here are 3 tweets I found today which caught my interest:

This first tweet by Steven W. Anderson contained an article that I found very interesting because it discusses how to run a Media-Literacy class that all students can succeed in.  The teacher talks about how she has to be up to date on all current medias, including outlets and material technologies.  To do this, the teacher says she spends a lot of time following famous speakers through organizations such as TED Talks or The Representation Project.  Some of the topics that she teaches in class include reality television, fear and horror, race, gender, LGBTQ issues, and commercialism in media.  To have her students dive more deeply into these topics on their own, the teacher uses project formats such as family interviews, essays, BLOG POSTS, radio ad creation, viral video creation, magazine articles, and presentations.  Using all of these different learning platforms follows the idea of differentiated instruction, which lets all students succeed.

In this tweet by Steven Anderson, a link to an article is posted about differentiating instruction through technology.  The article posted lists how different online resources teachers can use to engage their students.  For example, the author talks about Kaizena, a website that provides a space for students to get feedback for revising their work.  The teacher talks about survey monkey, an online survey creator that can be used to assess your work through your students feedback and it can also be used to get the input of your students.  The tweet also has helpful suggestions like downloading the youtube videos you plan to use in class so if the internet crashes, you can still give your lesson for the day.  This article also has helpful strategies like creating youtube playlists of videos from different perspectives on topics so students get a broad understanding on different topics.

In this last tweet, there was a link to an article about 3 ways a teacher can connect with their students.  The first way was to just use the first 3-5 minutes of every class or every couple of classes to talk with the students about more personal topics rather than what the students are currently learning.  I think this is an absolutely amazing idea.  Allowing the students to talk gives them a feel of empowerment and it shows that you, as a teacher, cares about the students outside of school.  The teacher can also pickup on important information.  For example, if one student often says that he/she has to babysit her siblings every night, it could mean that his/her parent(s) work late.  Simply talking and listening to your students makes them more comfortable around you, increasing their ability to focus and learn.

Another way to know your students which I never thought of before was to attend some of your student’s extracurriculars.  For example, if a lot of your students are on the basketball team or in the school play, you could attend one of these events.  Being around at these events shows your students that you care about them not just as a teacher, but as a person.  Lastly, this article talks about being available for your students.  Putting in a little extra time to have your classroom before or after school gives your students the chance to study a bit more with some help, or get to know you as a teacher better.

I’ve never had a twitter before and seeing hundreds of tweets in a couple minutes, just scrolling through and finding topics I’m interested in was something I never knew about before.  I’ll use twitter in the future when I’m a teacher (or whatever social media site is most popular at the time) to learn different strategies and ideas for reaching and teaching my students.

Digital Media: The New Way of Learning in the 21st Century


If I got one thing from watching all of these digital media videos, I’ve realized that the traditional classroom is coming to an end. The type of lectures that I sit through in my college courses will likely cease to exist by the time my kids are starting their education. Some of these videos showed some of the most unique, creative, and innovative schools that I’ve ever seen.

In the first video, the students attend a school called Quest 2 Learn. Instead of going to boring math class, the students go to codeworld, and instead of sleeping through science class; the students are wide-awake in their “The way things work” class. Throughout the whole video, the whole time in the classroom, I never saw one student with a worksheet or textbook; there were a lot of students on computers planning games out. The closest thing the students did that resembled a traditional classroom was writing out diagrams that showed the positives and negatives of the videogames they were making. The students interviewed said they had a lot of hands-on projects, which forced them to use system-based thinking and trial and error. The students would work on designing their game, stop midway, assess their work, get feedback from the teacher and other students, and then tweak their game to produce the best end product.

To me, this classroom looked more like video game convention than a learning community. But, when you really think about, these students collaborating, working hands-on, assessing their own work; this is the way people work in the real world. I’ve also never seen a class so engaged in their learning.

In the second video, which featured the Digital Youth Network, different students use different technological venues to learn. One of the students featured loved to work in the free studio on his music. Another student worked on photography where he brought in other students and tried to create a low-stress atmosphere for his client (more real world type problems). The most impressive thing to me about this video was the high school girl who got to lead her own class of 6th and 7th graders. Her class was on video editing, she got to make her own curriculum, and when interviewed, she listed out her ambitious goals of double majoring in computer science and digital media. A common theme in all of these videos was how the students were just so engaged in what they were working on. In this video, a unique aspect was that this Digital Youth Center was in a poorer area and some of the students interviewed said these technology-based hobbies kept them busy and out of trouble.

In the third video with the students at the Smithsonian institution, the interactive scavenger hunt that they could access on the phone engaged the students more at the museum. For example, in the video, the assignment given to the students was to explore the museum and take pictures and learn about the different animals, and later on report what they found out to the “zookeeper,” or the teacher.

In the fourth video, there are college students walking around a small town called Middleton exploring the history of the town as they pass by important areas. Some of the students said they appreciated being in the environment, where they’re from, learning about the history their hometown has to offer. In addition, this helped them learn by connecting the lesson with the personal experiences of the students past.

The fifth video was similar to the first video. There are no textbooks in the classroom; students are working on designing structures on computers. One of the students interviewed said he originally attended a traditional school, but he was bored of taking tests and mundanely repeating facts back to teachers. He said that that experience helped him feel motivated to learn in a technology-based school setting. The students used platforms like YouTube to present their projects, and instead of one student presenting, the whole class in working interactively on a forum, all of them voicing their opinions at once.

There were some key take-a-ways from watching all of these videos:

1) Digital Media is powerful. Ignoring the benefits it offers would be ignorant and dumb and would hold the education system back from evolving and matching the needs of future careers.

2) The skill of memorization died at the end of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the skill of navigating through a confusing mess of information to solve problems is much more valuable.

3) The definition of literacy is currently changing. Instead of literacy meaning just the ability to read and write, it might soon become the ability to read and write using different platforms, whether it’s paper or Microsoft word.

4) Lastly, and most importantly, technology is empowering the students, allowing the students to follow a personal path and create what they want, thereby engaging them in ways that even the best authors could never do with books.

I think it’s hard to say what my future classroom will look like after watching these videos since education is changing so quickly.  I can make a few predictions however.  Instead of textbooks, students will carry around iPads which will hold their daily interactive readings.  Students will be shooting videos in class for projects and working in small groups to edit and refine their final product.  Teacher will be guiders and not lecturers, helping students overcome problems as they struggle.  My classroom will likely incorporate technology that isn’t even in the public domain yet.  The more tools I have, the better chance I have of reaching my students.  The future of both education and technology excites me.

W3 TED talk by Temple Grandin

Before I watched this TED talk given by Temple Grandin, I looked her up on Wikipedia to get some background knowledge who of she is. In 2010, she was in Time magazines top 100 most influential people in the “Heroes’ Category, she’s a best-selling author, a consultant in the livestock industry, a professor of animal sciences, and an autistic activist. She created the “hug box,” a device used to calm people with autism, and she has an award winning biographical film. In other words, she’s successful in anything she pursues which really makes me curious about how she lives her life. It also makes it obvious that her photo realistic visual mind is positively benefitting the entire population.

This week, the main message I got from our course was that through establishing a Universal Design for Learning (UDL), we can reach every student and hopefully motivate him or her to be motivated in their learning, which will lead them to getting the best education they can get. Through differentiated instruction, which means shaping the course content so that every student is experiencing the content in his or her optimal learning way, teachers are doing their best to educate all students. This idea of differentiated instruction ties in very well with Grandin’s TED talk.

Although Grandin jumped around very quickly in her talk, I feel that she really stressed that the world needs all types of thinkers. She described 3 types of thinkers:

1) Photo realistic visual thinkers who are good for designing and problem solving

2) Pattern thinkers who are good at music and math

3) Verbal Minds who are good with words and social skills

As a teacher, I would teach my lesson trying to appeal to each of these 3 types of minds. For example, if I was teaching a simple addition math lesson to 2nd graders, I could give concrete objects to help photo realistic visual thinkers. I could give written out math problems to pattern thinkers and word problems to verbal minded-thinkers. Acknowledging and adapting lessons to each type of mind will lead to the best outcome for all my students.

I like how she described people with autism as bottom-up thinkers. When they look at the whole, they see the small parts that make it up. I liked how she wasn’t afraid of what other thought, like when she was talking about designing the cattle-holding facilities and got into the cages to look around and see what the animal saw. I also liked how she brought up how important mentors are. I think every teacher can be a mentor to all of their students by not only teaching all students to the best of their abilities, but by forming a personal connection with every student.

Finally, something that I will definitely use in my future special education classroom is the idea of finding what the students like, and using it in different ways to engage the student. In the video, Grandin uses the example of a student who likes race cars, so the teacher would have the student practice writing through writing stories about racecars, or in math class, have the student solve problems that include race cars.

I really liked this video that I watched (which you might want to show in class) after I watched the TED talk. I found many similarities between myself and the description of the visual thinker from the video. I can remember in high school, I was great at history, even though I didn’t study that much. I think it’s because when it came to learning war history about World War 2 for example, I would envision the different battles in chronological order which allowed me to remember important dates, figures, and turning points in the war. As a teacher, I’ll incorporate a lot of visuals to help those students who need images to master material.

Teachers Need Real Feedback Analysis

I think I would burn out as a teacher, start to hate teaching, and give up on a potentially fulfilling career if I never got any feedback/constructive criticism. If I never got any feedback, I’d probably teach the same lesson, on the same day, year after year to a different batch of students, never improving my lesson, just mundanely giving my students the same info every year. In the TED talk, Gates says that over 98% of teachers got one word of feedback every year: Satisfactory.  This NEEDS to change.

I’m the type of person who likes progress and improvement. I love to get better at whatever I’m passionate about, which includes sports, music, and teaching. The only way I can improve my teaching is to get feedback on my practice. Luckily, I feel that teacher assessment is finally changing and gaining public importance, which will make our education system fairer to students and teachers, and it will put America back in the leading position for education.

In the video, I learned that the USA is tied for 15th in reading proficiency with Iceland and Poland. I would have never thought that the USA would be out of the top 10 in any subject of education. It’s crazy to me that teacher feedback is just gaining importance now because data has shown that 11 of the 14 countries ahead of the USA in reading proficiency has nation-wide teacher feedback systems. In the Shanghai province, the leading area of reading proficiency, new teachers shadow proven, experienced teachers, teachers have weekly meetings where they discuss valuable teaching strategies, and teachers go into each others classrooms to evaluate and give feedback. I think this feedback system relates to and explains a statistic we talked about in class, that there are as many honor students in China as there are students in America.

This system in Shanghai seems to be working and meeting the goal the USA has, to make our average teachers as good as our best teachers. When we look at our best teachers, there’s a couple of similarities; These teachers asked challenging questions, they taught lessons in multiple formats, and they allowed students to display their knowledge in multitude of ways. This ties into our reading for the week on UDL, where there are 3 main goals (which the best teachers exemplified): Having multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression, and multiple means of engagement. To summarize this idea, teachers must incorporate a variety of ways of teaching to engage all their students. Here’s a great video I watched on the importance of UDL. 

Lastly, I really liked what the example teacher from the TED talk did in her classroom. It seems so simple to put a video camera in the corner of your room every couple of weeks to see your teaching from a different point of view, but I’ve never met a teacher who’s done this. It seems like it would be really beneficial to the goal of becoming a better teacher everyday. I will definitely use a video camera in my classroom to improve my teaching.

A Documentary On Learning

In this video, I tried to find examples in my life of people around me learning.  One of my clips was taken outside of class and the other two clips were taken inside the classroom.  After shooting this short video, I realized that learning can happen anywhere, but I think the best, most in-depth learning takes place when the learner is intrinsically motivated to acquire new knowledge.  This motivation naturally pushes the learner to focus more on whatever they’re doing, leading to a better understanding of the knowledge they’re taking in.

Is it OK ?

During my senior year of high school, every student was forced to purchase a laptop to use through out the day at our school. I wasn’t that opposed to this notion because I was going to get a laptop for the beginning of college only a year later, but I still wondered, was it really necessary that all these students have a laptop? Did a bunch of sixth graders need laptops to take their focus away from their already history or math lesson when they already had a short attention span? Did my school, Northridge Prep, realize that there were some families who had 3-4 children in the school, and this new requirement would cause the family to spend somewhere between $3,000-$4,000 to keep their children at this private school. This was the first time I really thought about whether technology was that necessary in a classroom.

Now, almost 2 years later, I firmly believe that yes, those laptops my high school required were necessary. When I visited my old high school a year and half after I graduated (during my freshmen year springbreak), I was dumbfounded by what I saw.

It was paperless.

As I walked through the halls, looking into classroom after classroom, all I saw were students looking at their screens, looking up to their teacher, and looking back down. The only exception to this religious form of teaching was band class; there were still a couple of sheets of music in there. Even students in chemistry labs read the lab’s procedures off their computers. I talked to my senior year English teacher about what he thought about this fast-paced transition to technology (even though the public schools around my small private school made the “technological transition” one year before us). Mr. Maggio said he was apprehensive at the beginning but learned how much more manageable it made his classroom. All social-media sites were blocked, along with game sites and other distractible websites. My school from a year earlier was a stranger to me, it seemed that education itself had completely changed.

This brings me back to the original question. Is it necessary that teachers use these types of technologies in their classroom? My answer is yes. There are many reasons behind my final decision.

In my senior year of high school, I graduated with a class of 34 students, our average ACT was a 25, which was above average for our school and higher than any school in the suburbs around us. The next year’s class, where technology was implemented in every class, graduated with an average ACT of 27, the highest average in our high school’s history.

Even more, as a future special ed teacher, I think the benefits of technology can be even greater. Last year I did a project for my CI 199 James Scholar course where I analyzed another professor’s data about whether a special ed class preferred regular books or e-books. 18 of the 27 students said they preferred reading from the e-book because of its interactive qualities and games, it’s easy to access features, and it’s abilities to highlight, take notes, and look up words with the touch of your finger. The 9 students who didn’t prefer the e-book noted that they didn’t care what they read out of, and when they were asked to write down why they preferred one over the other, the students wrote things like, “Harder to find functions on iPad,” “Menu bar is confusing,” and “Initially confusing to learn controls.” It seemed that most of the student’s problems weren’t with the technology itself, but the initial process of learning to how to use and access the different features the technology offered.

The subject I hated the most in high school was chemistry. I had this boring, monotone teacher who taught from the book and he hated using any technology, including power points. This was the first time I had ever gotten a “B” in a science course. It was really hard for to me process how elements reacted together and how different structures were built up of different molecules.

After I watched this futuristic video:

, I thought of much easier it would have been for me to understand these chemical structures if I could see it in this interactive, three-dimensional form.

Every decision made today in changing education is data-driven, and the current research backs up the idea that technology can help excite and motivate kids in their education. Therefore, I think its necessary that teachers incorporate and teach students how to use technology.