Archive for August, 2010

Should Teachers Be Given Laptops?

I’ll try to be as unbiased as I can here, to take a look at it from a taxpayers’, school boards’, administrators’, and educators’ points of view.

From a taxpayer’s perspective, the question would be thus:  Would purchasing laptops significantly positively enhance our students’ education?  The use of the word “significant” is important here, because it would be a very significant purchase for a school to make financially.  Taxpayers would want to be assured by the board members that this was indeed a beneficial purchase, and their money was being spent wisely.

From a board member’s perspective, the question would be:  How exactly would a purchase like this help teachers and thus, students?  The school board has been elected in order to make sure the money collected from the district is spent in a responsible manner.  They would be interested in being able to quantify (or, at the least, make tangible) the educational benefits.

Administrators would be tasked with the role of making sure teachers were in fact utilizing the laptops effectively in the classrooms.  Their question would be more along the lines of:  How am I able to oversee the efficient and effective use of these laptops?

Teachers would be responsible for showing the administration exactly how they are utilizing these laptops in their classroom, and how the laptop positively increases their ability to teach effectively.  Research and initiatives have been produced to show just that.

-Matt

Do Schools Need Technology Coaches?

The board at my wife’s school recently put the district’s “technology coach” under scrutiny–basically asking the man to defend the existence of his job at a board meeting open to the public on Monday.  You can read about it in the local Clearfield paper, here, if you are so inclined.  Part of me feels bad for him, as it would be a tough position to find yourself in:  a public apology of your job!

But part of me was frustrated because the questions by the board members weren’t the correct ones!  The question should have been:  What do you do?  It should have been:  Why does this school need a technology coach?

I believe there was (<–past tense!) at one point a need for such a position:  someone to coach the teachers in the use of technology, helping them integrate these resources into their classrooms.  But with teachers being increasingly more exposed to technology outside of the classroom (not to mention, being required to take courses in order to obtain a certification!), how necessary is someone that will “show teachers how to use computers,” as the article says?

Is a “technology coach” a dying position for schools to have?

-Matt

Availability of Technology Affecting Performance

It’s a fact that teachers everywhere face everyday;  students come from a wide range of economic backgrounds.  There is a direct correlation between this and the comfort with technology that a student has.  The following is only an abstract, but this article supports that idea, citing a “positive relationship between socio-economic background and computer experience.”

This seems like an issue that would be hard to combat being a teacher.  Parental involvement and support from home is also something that teachers grumble about.  Parents who are more involved tend to have children that are more successful students.   Books have even been written on that subject!  But parental involvement isn’t necessarily related to socio-economic status–being exposed to technology at home is.

How can help students who may not have the exposure?  “Computer anxiety” can be fought in schools only so far…

-Matt

Extracurricular Activities and Technology

Students’ lives don’t end when the leave the classroom–that’s a fact I hope I don’t forget when I begin my teaching career.  As a student who was involved in everything I could be–sports, music, clubs, etc.–I remember fondly my time spent out of the classroom in extracurricular activities more so than time spent in the classroom.  As a teacher, I will be an advocate for these activities, as the benefits have been documented and proven.

Following the theme of the course, I’m going to take time here to show just a few examples of online technology resources for coaches and advisers, as well as students who participate in these activities.

As a high school girls soccer assistant coach, my head coach and I spent a lot of time at this site. The downloadable “gadget” allowed us to group skills and drills together, and provided us with some great ideas for practice.

In speaking with the high school baseball coach, he also relies on technology to assist with his coaching.  He utilizes this site to help him with ideas, as well as makes players research their positions individually.  At the high school age, muscle memory and physical skills are often in place to the extent that focus on cerebral understanding is often center to a practice.

Music is also one of the most popular activities in schools, and chief among the different groups is  marching band.  There are several sites that offer ideas for field shows and/or music, but this site is a site that allows free downloads of all music content.  Additionally, users have the opportunity to upload original scores and compositions to make available on the site.

I would be remiss (and perhaps chastised by my wife!)  if I did not also mention art as well.  In her teaching, she has had success with this site, which offers lesson plans as well as instructional videos for students.  User content is not uploaded, but a discussion/chat feature on the site allows her to see feedback.  She is also notified of any updates to the site, such as a new instructional video or art supply available.

These are four very simple sites that help indicate one thing:  technology is available for educational activities beyond the classroom for both students as well as coaches/advisers.

Till next time!

Matt

A More In-Depth Vision of Networking with My Students

As I stated in a previous post, I am very interested in being able to capture the time my futures students spend on social media networks such as Facebook for educational purposes.  “Mr. Kephart’s Facebook Page” could be a real supplemental tool for my classroom.

My vision here is that there could be a page where students could check their assignments online.  When I was in high school, we had something called “the homework hotline” that students could call.  Teachers would record their assignments via a voice message every day, and students would be able to call and listen to the recording to get the assignment if they forgot to write it down, or misplaced their assignment details.

A “teacher’s website” is currently being utilized by most of the teachers I know–details about the course, due dates, the teachers themselves, etc.  I think that Module #3’s detail of web feeds, RSS feeds, etc. would be the next logical step.  If the student is alerted whenever the teacher makes a change to a page, or adds another bit of information, etc., it would really help those that are connected.  Facebook really seems like a good medium for this for two reasons:  it is very conducive to such a feed, and more importantly–an increasing number of students have access and utlize the site.

My fear is always that some students will be left out, though.  So my question to any who read this:  Would it be fair to use a facebook page to assist in my teaching?  Or should I skip it so some students do not feel left out?  I have no desire to make it a NECESSARY component of the classroom, just simply an additional medium to access their brains!

Vote if you can!

-Matt

Are County Fairs too Antiquated?

It’s fair week in Clearfield!  Anyone else going?

My wife is an art teacher, and entered about 30 pieces of her students’ artwork into the high school contest this year, so we got to go in and walk around today for a bit.  We walked through two of the expo buildings and–as usual–there were many vendors promoting just about everything there.

“Just about” everything.

The ONLY bit of technology that was there was a cell phone company, selling phone covers. Phone covers.  Not the actual phones.  Just the covers.  Heh.

(A bit of a rabbit trail follows, along with a shameless plug)

I have the pleasure of working with a man who, with his wife, run and operate a local candle company.  REALLY nice candles!  In speaking with Steve this week, he made the offhand comment that it seems like less and less young people are attending the fair each year.  It used to be the highlight of the summer for everyone–young and old–but it now seemed like “kids come in for a bit, then leave after getting something to eat.  We hardly ever see them around the expo buildings, unless they are with their parents.”

Back to my comments above:  do I think there is a relationship between the lack of technology present at a county fair and the observations made by my coworker about the dwindling number of young people?

Absolutely.

Should I take this into consideration when planning lessons, activities, projects, etc. with my future classroom?

Absolutely.

After all, I’d hate to have a pre-dwindled interest in my classroom.  Gotta keep up with the Joneses.  Less Cows.  More technology.