The Evolution of Tech in Schools

Here is a pretty cool infographic published by the Master of Arts in Teaching program at the University of Southern California, which details the evolution of technology in schools.  The current rapid rate of technological advancement makes it more necessary than ever for educators to collaborate and find the best ways to integrate new technologies.

Although we can never be sure of  what exactly will come next, one thing we can be sure of is that the exponential increase in the amount of tech available to educators will continue to dramatically alter the educational landscape.

The Elephant in the Flipped Classroom

In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, Pulitzer Prize winning author Tina Rosenberg touts the advantages of the flipped classroom for helping students to master content at their own pace.  In describing the “flipped” concept, she states that “[i]n a flipped classroom, teachers make videos of their lectures introducing new concepts and assign them as homework. That frees up precious class time to work directly with students on projects, exercises or problem sets — the stuff that students would traditionally do at home.”  The major issue I have with this, and the major issue I am having as I try to implement some flipped concepts, is what happens when a majority of your students simply don’t invest the time at home to access the content?  No much of what I have read seems to address or even acknowledge this issue.

My students are supposed to be watching lecture videos, taking online quizzes, and reading and outlining text material all outside of my class on a weekly basis in order to access the content.  I am finding that many students are simply not doing this, which puts them even farther behind in class when we are doing an activity based on the material they were supposed to have accessed on their own.  The second problem is that I’m having a terribly difficult time getting students to utilize class time efficiently and focus on the learning activities without literally standing over them and constantly re-focusing them to the task at hand.  Many of my students have difficulty working independently and are easily distracted in groups.  Whole class instruction seems to be the only way to get some classes to focus on a topic or activity for any amount of time.  Due to this combination of issues, in many of my classes, I have had to go back to a few days a week of direct instruction.  I’m not giving up by any means, but I’m definitely feeling frustrated.

So Much Tech to Try

One of the overwhelming things about integrating technology is the sheer number of options available.  Fortunately, there are articles like this one from edSurge which compiles a list of teacher’s favorite Web 2.0 tools.  A friend of mine maintains a very useful list of online tools, to which I regularly refer.  The nice thing about this particular list is that the sites are organized by their primary function (i.e. digital storytelling, QR codes, etc.) and all the sites are fully vetted by an experienced user.  And here is one more – 13 Free Web Tools Students and Teachers Should Know About, from the MindShift blog.  Accessing resources such as these definitely helps narrow down the options not only makes things a bit more manageable, but serves as a reminder that there are thousands of other teachers out there who are all in the same boat as you (and trying to make it float).

The Current State of My Tech Integration

I have been maintaining a website/blog for my classes for a few years now and it is from this platform that most of the tech integration and my current attempts at “flipping” my classroom (at least a little bit) are launched.

mrvigs122.com

I use the site to post weekly assignments and interesting science stuff.  For students, there are many resources such as links to online content, PowerPoint presentations, Gaggle, Edmodo, and other useful websites.  Parents enjoy the ability to see what’s going on in the class at any given time.

Using the website, I assign weekly content based videos for students to watch, as well as reading/outlines of text material as preparation for the activities and discussions that take place in class.  Students are expected to access this information outside of class, at their own pace, and then bring the knowledge into the class where it helps them to make connections and learn the new material.

To assess student progress, periodic quizzes are given using Edmodo.com, which allows students to log in and take assessments.  It will also do much of the scoring and tracking of data, which is nice.  Oh yeah, and it’s free!

As a communication tool, I use Remind101.com, which is a free web-based text service that allows me to “push out” notices to anybody who signs up.  I have one set up for each of my classes, and send out text reminders to check the blog for updates, weekly assignments, quizzes, tests, and sometimes just to point to interesting class-related content outside the classroom.  I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from students and parents really love this as well.