Looking Back My biggest takeaway from this summer coursework was building my own confidence in using new technologies for teaching and learning. I came into the MSUrbanSTEM summer institute rating myself a 2 out of 5 in terms of my tech savvy. I definitely considered myself a “consumer” of technologies. After two weeks together with the cohort, and another two weeks continuing my own explorations, I now feel like a 3.5 out of 4. I have become someone who creates products using different technologies.
There are at least seven new tech tools that I have successfully used this summer. One example is Weebly. In July, I was very intimidated at the thought of building my own web site. Through the support of my team and the course instructors, I was able to successfully create a content-rich and aesthetically pleasing web site. It is still a work in progress, but I am feeling more confident in “going public” with my learning and my role as a leader in STEM education. Other technologies that I used within the eleven day institute include twitter, meme-generator, google drawing, pixlr, youtube editor and POW TOONS.
The experience of creating instructional tools with new technologies has shifted my perception of myself as purely a consumer of technologies to a creator. Using the TPACK model, which combines the three knowledge bases of content, pedagogy and technology, my job as an educator is to look at my content, apply an appropriate pedagogy, and determine which technologies might make this content come to life for my students. All three knowledge bases must be addressed.
According to Mishra and Koehler, “Teachers need to develop a willingness to play with technologies and an openness to building new experiences for students so that fun, cool tools can be educational.” This quote sums up my summer experience with MSUrbanSTEM. We took many different technologies, played with them, and made them useful to our classroom and our disciplines.
Looking Forward I will take much of what I learned this summer into my classroom this fall. Our Deep Play Group has continued to explore Google Apps for Education (GAfE) and how we can use these tools to engage students more fully in our discipline as well as encourage collaboration and streamline paperwork. I also spent two days at Googlepalooza learning more about GAfE and its applications to my classroom.
The Quick Fire Challenges, in which our groups were charged with creating a product in as little as 25 minutes, was a great learning experience for me. My students tend to take a long time in creating final products like posters. I really like the format of the Quick Fire with the set criteria and time constraint. It challenged our group to work quickly and efficiently and not to overthink the task or try to make it "perfect." It was fun to share the final products with the group and it added a levity and fun to the classroom. I would like to bring the play and fun back into my classroom. As educators in a large public school system, we can get so consumed with standards, objectives and assessments that we lose the sense of fun and creativity in our classrooms.
Additionally, the World of Wonder was a great exercise in that it challenged each of us to explore some of the questions and wonderings we have when observing the world around us. As both a presenter and the audience for the World of Wonder, I found myself inspired and awed by the complexity and beauty of the world we live in. I would like to bring this activity and this feeling into my classroom.
Finally, I was inspired by the reading of Cosmos by Carl Sagan. It prompted me to begin watching the more recent mini-series with Neil deGrasse Tyson. I would like to incorporate these documentaries as well as excerpts from the original text with my 6th grade students who study Earth and Space Science. For me, the following quote from Carl Sagan speaks of the wonder that is at the heart of the discipline of science, “The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore, we've learned most of what we know. Recently, we've waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We're made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
References Mishra, P. and Koehler, M. “Using the TPACK Framework: You Can Have Your Hot Tools and Teach With Them Too.” Learning and Leading with Technology May 2009: pages 14-18. Sagan, Carl. Cosmos. Ballantine Books, 2013.