Rethinking Technology in the Classroom

I’m in the process of rethinking my “Technology in the Language Arts Classroom” graduate course that I last taught (as far as I can tell) in spring 2010. The course is a required class for the M.A. in teaching here at Fayetteville State and is designed primarily for high school teachers (although I have taught some middle school teachers, too). Tweaking this course demand quite a bit of reflection, not only about the pedagogical demands of the high school classroom but also about my own considerations of how “technology” factors into education. In the next few days, I will post a revision of my syllabus, but for now, I’m interested in raising a couple of questions about what has changed for me since I last taught the course.

Many of these changes are based on observing my wife and children as they engage in different kinds of classroom experiences. I’ve always included blogging requirements in my classes, but thanks to one of my wife’s children, I’ve learned more about Glogster, a tool that seems targeted towards high school students. In teaching Glogster, I won’t necessarily be endorsing it, but I’d like my students to get a better understanding of how different blogging platforms might encourage different kinds of expression.

Further, as I have become more comfortable with PowerPoint, I’d like to spend a little more time discussing various uses of presentation software. My wife was required to produce a narrated PowerPoint as an assignment for a course she was taking, and I think it could be a useful tool, but one that ended up being way more complicated than either of us expected, so while I am thinking about requiring that students produce a narrated PowerPoint, I am dong so with the expectation that they might struggle with making one (and if they struggle, I hope to turn that into a learning experience, not something that will be a source of frustration).

I’m also trying to rethink how I will tweak the wiki requirements. In some versions of the course, I had ambitions that students taking the class would create a wiki, usually about topics related to the course, but the assignment always seemed too ambitious and, in some ways, redundant, especially given that most of the terms they could have defined were already on Wikipedia. But several of my students recognized that the storage space on wikis could be useful for their course materials, so I would like to find some way of encouraging them to play with a wiki, probably Wikispaces.

Both of my wife’s children have had assignments that invited them to create movies using iMovie (other options were available, so this wasn’t required), so I am considering a more detailed discussion of that as well. But one problem I have encountered–and it’s related to the iMovie assignment, which asks students to interpret a popular staple of modern American literature–is that the web allows assignments to circulate a little more visibly. This kind of sharing can help teachers looking for a creative way to get students to produce interesting work, but it also (quite obviously) makes it easy for students to find those assignments, whether they copy them directly or simply consult them.

Probably the main shift that has taken place, though, has to do with my own attitudes toward social media. I’m still somewhat active on some social media sites, although I’m often torn between more personal interactions on Facebook (and fun distractions like Scrabble) and the professional connections that I usually find on Twitter. I’m blogging less frequently due to time constraints, but all of these social media tools now feel like a part of our social fabric rather than an innovative curricular change. Even if students or teachers don’t blog, they are likely aware that blogs exist. I’ve heard about assignments that require students to create Facebook or MySpace pages for characters in novels or plays. There’s nothing wrong with such an assignment, but I wonder what kind of pedagogical purpose it actually serves.

I’d welcome any suggestions, observations, or experiences regarding these issues, but I will likely post a revised syllabus later this week. Here is a draft version of my Spring 2010 syllabus, if you’re interested.

11 Comments »

  1. Laura Said,

    December 27, 2011 @ 8:36 am

    Hey Chuck, now that it’s my job to help teachers integrate technology into their courses, I’ll offer some suggestions from things we’ve use. My teachers come up with fantastic ideas. Video is hugely popular. I teach video editing to students in 7th grade. We use movie maker, but teachers who use video often suggest iMovie. We used to use Jaycut as an online option, but it’s gone now. In English, they use video to create multimedia essays. Students are required to write an essay, then create a video (montage of photos usually) and narrate the video with the essay. It works pretty well and the teacher uses themes to give them direction. One is flight (what does flight mean to you). The other is dreams–what are dreams. You could see that these could be used for literature–illustrating a theme from a novel. She’s also had them create scenes from Shakespeare and “documentaries” about things that come up in literature that students need to understand–like prohibition or the Great Depression. For both of these, the students use Flip video cameras and video themselves acting these out. They usually turn out pretty good.

    For presentations, we use Prezi a lot, starting in 6th grade. Students find it a lot more fun. I also had a teacher who had her students create both a Prezi and a printed brochure. They talked about presenting the same information in different ways–a valuable lesson.

    We have Google Apps for education, which has led us to use Google Sites to create web sites. One teacher had his students create an online newspaper for states that just became states right after the revolution. It turned out pretty well.

    Another history teacher has talked about creating a Twitter account for say, a WWII soldier, and the feed would consist of tidbits that tell the story of WWII. He hasn’t done it yet, but it sounds like a cool idea.

    We also have had teachers use GoAnimate, an online animation tool. DoInk is a little more involved, but is another good animation tool.

    I also teach Scratch, a visual programming tool, and have a teacher who’s going to use it for a Science project to have her students create an interactive quiz. This could be used to create games as well.

    We also use Google docs a lot. Many of the kids use it for group projects. It works really well. So that’s a good thing to know about. I have some teachers who want to introduce this in 5th grade.

    Oh, and I also do a podcast project, where the kids create podcasts about the school. We upload them to the school web site, and then create a QR code that gets posted around the school.

    Another topic you might cover for your teachers is where to find resources. Since assignments and technologies change, knowing where to turn is pretty important. I read a fair number of K-12 techie blogs, where I get a lot of ideas and keep up with new technologies. Also, you might want to cover iPads and/or tablets, which are huge right now.

    From a theoretical standpoint, I think it might be worth discussing the impact of “brands” on the use of technology in the classroom. Often, IT people get tied to Apple or Google or Microsoft and that means that the whole school has to use those products. And, of course, there’s the money issue. I just think that would be an interesting conversation to have.

  2. Technology in the Classroom » Geeky Mom Said,

    December 27, 2011 @ 9:07 am

    [...] Tryon is revamping his Technology in the Language Arts course and I left a long comment on his blog about what we do.  Here’s a slightly more organized and extended version of [...]

  3. Tama Leaver Said,

    December 28, 2011 @ 4:37 am

    Hi Chuck,

    I don’t envy you curriculum remodelling over the festive season, but your previous version sounds pretty good.

    If you’re looking to contextualise wikis as a tool for teachers, you might find this useful: Wikipedia: What’s in it for Teachers? (http://www.tamaleaver.net/2010/08/31/wikipedia-whats-in-it-for-teachers/). Also, while it’s implicit in various elements of your old curriculum, I wonder if you need to more directly address copyright etc if a big part of the unit is about working on the web? If so, perhaps this could be useful, too: The Creative Commons: An Overview for Educators (http://www.tamaleaver.net/2009/09/07/the-creative-commons-an-overview-for-educators/).

    In terms of narrated slides, I’ve found Powerpoint a bit rubbish, too. Perhaps try Slideshare where students upload the slides and audio as separate files and then mark the transitions – it seems to work better (at least for me). While I know Prezi is popular, personally I find students spend so much time playing with the elaborate animated transitions that they often lose sight of the point being made!

    The one big area I’d strive to include is mobile apps. Love it or had it, mobile apps – be they tablet or phone based – are hurtling into classrooms and there are some great ones out there. Just being aware of them (even if not explicitly using them since it’s hard to ensure all students have tablet/iPad access) seems important for tomorrow’s (and today’s) teachers.

    Just my 5 cents! :)

  4. Chuck Said,

    December 28, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

    Laura, thanks for the suggestions. I have a similar video assignment in my English 240 class where I encourage students to produce video interpretations of a Shakespeare scene. Many students have access to iMovie thanks to donated Macs. I have a Twitter unit and have discussed the idea of having students create a fictional character account–I wonder how many Twitter accounts Hamlet has, though….

    I have a basic Google docs unit, but I would like to expand that, perhaps by having the students in the class collectively create a short document–that might supplant having them do anything with wikis. Providing them with good resources–such as other teaching blogs is great idea.

    Tama, the use of mobile is an interesting idea, and I’ll look into Slideshare. Unfortunately, I’m traveling right now and am having to rush this comment. More later tonight, but these are helpful ideas.

  5. Chuck Said,

    December 29, 2011 @ 8:32 am

    By the way, Laura, thanks for your extended post on this topic

  6. Chuck Said,

    December 29, 2011 @ 10:59 am

    For some reason, this comment from Skye Dent didn’t post properly, so I’m adding it here:

    1.The potential of students plagiarizing from looking at other students’ material from other sites would not be a major concern for me. You can just write your assignments in specific ways to avoid that. Not to worry.

    2.Recent class concerns with social media in my world are not plagiarism concerns, but privacy concerns. The chair says that the FERPA rules prevent us from talking about a student’s work to others, and that making them do homework and assignments in a way that makes that information public can be a violation of FERPA.

    For example, my students created news blogs last semester. But, I had them repost articles from other sources that attributed the sources so that their own writing would not be made public.

    3.The age of some of the articles you’ve assigned would cause concern amongst many of my students. When the subject is new technology, they expect articles that are fresh and up to date. The Bogort article is 2007. Baird is 2005. Jenkins is 2009. Common Craft would not let me sign on without permission.

    Thanks for the Glogster info. Will check that out. If you follow me on http://www.possiblygowrong.blogspot.com, I’ll follow you.

    Happy Holi-daze

    That being said, I wonder if our department goals are merging with yours again. The person replacing Kevin Dilley (the journalism professor who also advised the Voice) has Ph.D and experience in computer science. It looks like the chair is going in the direction of computer science technology and away from journalism.

    Kevin left to teach in Texas. Wonderfully talented professor with a great heart. Will miss him.

  7. Chuck Said,

    December 29, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    Now to respond to Skye’s comments:

    1) I’m not personally concerned about plagiarism, but I’ve seen assignments by high school teachers that certainly invite it. I think my point in discussing how social media/search function is to encourage teachers to make more personalized assignments, as you suggest.

    2) Yeah, I think FERPA is a huge issue here, which is probably why Glogster caught on for my stepdaughter’s teacher–it’s very well protected. But for teachers, I want them to know about blogs as sources for ideas/networking.

    3) I’d agree that some of the articles are a bit dated, including my own, but some of the practices–blogging, Twitter–have been around for a while, and their uses are somewhat established. Working on updating some areas, especially in light of Laura and Tama’s comments.

    In terms of FSU politics, I think there is a lot of pressure to create majors that are more focused on careers, hence our interest in English of creating more professional writing courses/degree programs. I think journalism is probably a tough sell given all of the stories about reporters losing jobs, etc.

  8. Edward R. O'Neill Said,

    January 2, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

    You could also try a Syllabus-Free Course:

    http://managinglearningtechnology.blogspot.com/2011/12/introductions-in-syllabus-free-course.html

  9. Chuck Said,

    January 2, 2012 @ 8:48 pm

    I like the idea quite a bit, and I’d like to think that what I’m doing is a series of introductions that will allow students to find their own path.

  10. Rethinking Technology in the Classroom — Fayetteville State University College of Arts & Sciences Teaching Blog Said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 10:02 am

    [...] is the first post in a series of two recent essays cross-posted from my personal/professional blog, The Chutry Experiment. Although I am reflecting on the process of designing a course for high school teachers, I hope [...]

  11. The Chutry Experiment » Technology in the Classroom Said,

    July 31, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

    [...] graduate-level course, “Using Technology in the Language Arts Classroom,” which I have taught several times in the past. It’s getting close to the end of summer–classes start August 22 at [...]

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