Prospecting For Treasure

Always prospecting for the next treasure of an idea.

My First Year of Teaching With Technology: Where Do We Go From Here?

It is the last week of school, and this is a great time for reflecting on and evaluating the new things I have tried in my fourth grade classroom this year .  It is also a  time for making plans for next year.  I am amazed by how much my teaching and personal life have been transformed by my venture into using technology in my classroom.  It all started last summer with an on-line technology class, Using the Internet in the Classroom, and has continued throughout the year with my continuing professional development via Twitter.  At the beginning of the year I was trying something new almost every week, to the point of exhaustion.  Since January I have continued to explore new resources and new ideas, but at a slightly slower pace. 
 
By far the best thing we have done this year is the blogging, which is interesting since that is where I began.  The way I’m utilizing blogs has changed greatly since last April when I set up my classroom blog, Ms. Day’s Fourth Grade.  Our very first blog post was last May, following our annual field trip to Living History Farms.  Keep in mind that prior to that, I did not know what a blog was, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach classroom blogging, but my goal has always been to keep the kids writing.  I started out by writing a question and having the kids respond through a comment.  This worked ok, but it didn’t keep my students’ writing at the forefront, and they had little flexibility in deciding what to write and therefore, little ownership.   At the beginning of second semester,  I began having the kids write as the  “Guest Blogger” on our class blog.  We were working on opinion pieces so they were to write on a topic they felt strongly about.  This worked for some kids, but not for others. 
 
Then I learned about Kidblog.org   and after spring break, every child began to have their own personal blog.  I have seen real improvement in their writing since we began this latest venture.  It has also been very gratifying to receive the feedback and support that we have, from their third grade teachers, parents, our principal, and members of my Twitter PLN.   The kids have been excited about their blogs, but I was really hoping,  that more kids would go on-line from home to write on their blogs, or that they would write additional posts when they had free time at the computer center.  I have had only two students do that. 
 
I know how I feel about the things we have done, but I’m not always sure how the kids really feel, so I decided to have the class complete a survey about the technology we have used this year.  I created it on a Googleform and embedded it in our ReadtheWeb Class Wiki.  That is something else I learned this year, and I blogged about it in my post, Using Google Docs to Create and Embed an On-line Quiz.   As I was getting ready to analyze the data, I clicked on summary, and accidentally learned it was already done for me.  I often learn by hit or miss.  I am so glad I decided to survey the class, because I have really enjoyed seeing what the kids have to say.

Students were asked to rate each website on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1=I didn't like it and 5=I loved it.

They have really liked the Kidblogs, Storybird, and StoryJumper.  When asked what was their favorite thing that we did involving technology this year, one student wrote, “I liked the StoryJumper the best, because I love to write and the StoryJumper brought out my best story yet.”  How could a teacher not love a statement like that. 
 

No doubt about it, they love our class wiki with all the links to games and other resources.

Our ReadtheWeb class wiki is very popular.  Our wiki has pages for different subject areas.  With the help of teachers on Twitter, I have collected links for math and language websites here.  When students do not have a specific assignment at the computer center, they may use the wiki to play games, which build reading and language skills.  We have a link to the wiki on our class website, so students can also go on from home.  Someone said, “I like the ReadtheWeb wiki, because I got to play fun games, and learn at the same time.”  
 
When asked “What did you learn this year about computers and/or the internet, that you didn’t know before?  One of my students said, “I learned that there are kids’ blogs.  I only knew about websites for adults only.” 
 

Our webquests were not nearly as popular.

Not nearly as popular were the webquests we did.  The kids have better memories of “Mountain Trek” which was our first technology experience, than they do of the American Revolution webquest.  One of the things I liked about a webquest was that it controlled where the kids went on the internet.  I felt that it kept them more accademically focused.    I asked the kids if they felt 4th graders were old enough to do their own research and find their own websites, because this is a direction that I think I will be going next year.  I am very interested in learning about Glogs, and having kids collaborate on Googledocs.  I have seen examples of these from other teachers on Twitter, some from kids younger than mine.   I am thinking about having kids take more control of their research. 
 
One student responded with, “Yes, because there are some things that we cannot find on the websites you give us.”  Another said, “Yes, because if they do that they will not be bored, plus they will learn more, also.”  
 
Next year I want to do more in the way of  teaching actual computer skills;  helping kids to learn how to use search engines, upload photos, and add links to their blog posts.  I think all these things will make the things we do more personal and meaningful.  I think their Kidblogs could become a personal portfolio for each student.  It would be great to have kids present their work to parents at parent teacher conferences. 
 
When I asked the kids about what they have learned this year, someone said, “I learned how annoying technology can be sometimes.  But it can also be fun, if it works correctly.” 
 
Boy, isn’t that the truth!  We have three aging Dell desktops, an ancient Dell laptop, and five — year old HP laptops for 24 kids.  Next year I will have 29 students.  I am concerned about how to make this work with five more kids. One of the laptops is designated for a special needs child who will be in 5th grade next year, so there will be one less computer.   This cart of laptops is actually for the entire school, but they have been housed  in my room most of the time, since only one other teacher has shown any interest in using technology.  While I keep sharing the things I am learning with my colleagues, I also worry what will happen if anyone else on staff gets the technology bug.
 
My school has just aquired ten new IPads.  One of my projects this summer will be learning how to use them.  We can have a lot of fun with those.   But I’m wondering if any of the other teachers will be interested.  It would be fun having someone to share ideas with face to face, but with such limited resources, it would be hard to do the things I have done this year if I had less access to the equipment.  
While equipment concerns are sometimes frustrating, I have learned that once you start on this technology trail, there’s no turning back.  For me personally, incorporating these new ideas into my classroom has revitalized my teaching.  I am excited about the things we are doing and learning, and I know I communicate that enthusiasm to my students.  So many times this year I have begun lessons with the words “I want to show you something  I just learned.  It’s really cool . .”   So no matter how many kids we have, and how little equipment, somehow I’ll make it work.  There’s no stopping now!
 
 
 
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June 6, 2010 - Posted by | Education, Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. […] It is the last week of school, and this is a great time for reflecting on and evaluating the new things I have tried in my fourth grade classroom this year .  It is also a  time for making plans for next year.  I am amazed by how much my teaching and personal life have been transformed by my venture into using technology in my classroom.  It all started last summer with an on-line technology class, Using the Internet in the Classroom, and has con … Read More […]

    Pingback by My First Year of Teaching With Technology: Where Do We Go From Here? (via Prospecting For Treasure) « Chicago Mac/PC Support | June 6, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for sharing my post. I appreciate it.

      Comment by iageode | June 7, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thanks for your candid reflection and for sharing the results of your student survey. I work with teachers to support their technology integration and I often see the same successes, frustrations, and questions that came up in your post. In the past two years we have increased our availability to technology in our school. This certainly helps our teachers be successful integrating technology to increase learning with their students. I also see teachers blossoming as technology integrators, very much like you have. It is a very exciting time to be an educator.
    Keep up the great work, your students will benefit and you will continue to feel successful.

    Comment by Dodie | June 6, 2010 | Reply

    • Thank you for your comment, Dodie. While it has sometimes been frustrating, mostly I have had a lot of fun trying all these new things this year. The kids are really ahead of me in lots of areas. I realized about a year ago, when the kids were talking about their webkins and other tech toys, that there was a whole world that I didn’t know much about. I know more than I did, but sometimes I feel like I can’t fit much more in my brain. My excitement about my new learning is contagious, because the kids get excited too.

      Comment by iageode | June 7, 2010 | Reply

  3. What a great blog post! It’s clear that you’ve tried a lot of new things with your students this year, and I think it’s amazing that you’re willing to take risks along with your students. This is my first year using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom too, and I’m thrilled with how well my students have taken to these tools too. I look forward to using these tools again next year, and trying some new things too.

    Good luck with using the iPads! I can’t wait to hear about your experience with them. Glad that I have the opportunity to collaborate with you through Twitter. Thanks again for sharing your learning here!

    Comment by Aviva @grade1 | June 7, 2010 | Reply

    • I get to check out one of the IPads for the summer, which I am excited about. There have been so many great posts about IPad apps on Twitter. This summer will give me a chance to sift through them, and experiment. I’ll let you know what I figure out.

      Comment by iageode | June 7, 2010 | Reply

  4. I enjoyed sifting through your year-in-tech and am so heartened to read about how much you’ve been able to accomplish with so few resources. I can do this, too. 🙂 Kudos to you and your students!

    Comment by Jo Hawke | June 7, 2010 | Reply

    • Dear Jo,

      Thank you for your comment, It would be a lot easier with a nice shiny new computer lab, but that’s not reality in most public school districts, especially in the current economy. I think the key is to try a little at a time. I couldn’t have done half of what I did without the things I learned from Twitter. Others in my PLN have been so generous with resources and ideas. I would ask a question and within minutes someone would answer and send me a link. I have been so impressed and thankful.

      Comment by iageode | June 7, 2010 | Reply


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