RENEE LYNETTE WILLEMSEN-GOODE
Using Technology in the Classroom
In the following reflection, I will give a brief overview of what technology was available for me to use in the classroom, how other teachers in the school use this technology and how I made use of the technology. Also, I will reflect on the use-value of technology in the classroom, including its benefits and pitfalls.
Technology in My School and Classroom:
The classroom and school that I was in afforded me the opportunity to use many different types of technology. Within the classroom itself, there was an overhead projector, a television, a VCR, and three computers. There was also a printer in the classroom itself. Each computer was connected to a school-wide network on which each student had a password-protected user folder. My cooperating teacher also had six AlphaSmarts, which are essentially keyboards with memory chips that the students can use to type up their text. This data can then be uploaded into the computer from the AlphaSmart. Each of the computers had a variety of software installed on them, including Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, Microsoft Office, ClarisWorks, several Internet programs and a few math games.
Teachers in the school made widely differing use of the technology in the school. While some teachers, including my cooperating teacher, made full use of the programs on the computers, many other teachers seem wary of the technologies. While some students were creating PowerPoint presentations for their reports, other students used the computer technology much less frequently. I suspect that in part, this reluctance to the computers came from a lack of familiarity with the technologies. In my limited interaction with the other teachers in the school, I noticed a lot of animosity toward technology, which often stemmed from a teacher not knowing how use the computers, for example, not being able to fix the problem that their printer was having. However, I attempted to try out as much of the technology as possible during my student teaching experience.
Using Non-Computer Technology in My Lessons:
I often used the overhead projector instead of the blackboard to put up instructions, diagrams, pictures and notes. I also both made and used overheads from texts that the students were reading or of other images that I wanted the students to see. I definitely enjoyed being able to scroll back through notes over the course of several lessons and being able to reproduce text or worksheets that the students had on an overhead projector. On the other hand, I realized that I would not want to rely solely on the overhead projector over the black board as there were times that I wanted the students to be able to look at a couple of different images of items at once and scrolling back and forth was not practical.
I used the television and VCR to watch a movie with the students, but I also used the television to project images from the computer when I wanted to whole class to see what I was doing or looking at on the computer. I really enjoyed being able to use television/film media with the students as they generally enjoyed watching the television and also seemed to get a lot from what we did. Being able to hook up the television and computer was also helpful, because it would allow the whole class to see w website or image at the same time, alleviating the problem of having too few computers in the room. It could have allowed me demonstrate how to use a program on the computer.
Using Computer Technology in My Lessons:
We used the computers a lot during my student teaching experience. The students used both the computers and the AlphaSmarts to publish final drafts of poems, stories and research. For the most part, students wrote drafts before they used the computers to type up their poems, stories and research. Not only were students typing text, but they were also formatting this text. I also had the students use the Internet to look at math-related sites. Furthermore, the research that they did for their environmental projects came almost entirely from the Internet. Students looked through websites that either my cooperating teacher or I had directed to them, or through search engines for kids such as Yahooligans.
One final place that I used technology was in planning for my lessons. I often found a neat activity or idea on the Internet, such as the simulation I used in my unit on Rachel Carson. This was an invaluable way that technology filtered into my classroom. There are pages and pages of lesson plans that can drawn upon. While many of these resources are not necessarily useful, it still served as an important resource for me.
Reflections on Computer Use:
There were definitely ups and downs with the computers. On one hand, the computers allowed students to interact with information they might not have otherwise experienced. However, using the Internet was always risky, as pop-up ads and unexpected links might be inappropriate for young learners. Similarly, students often had trouble finding ability-appropriate text on the web. At the same time, students were learning valuable information about searching and using the World Wide Web, a skill that will definitely be important in their later lives. Also, students in general seemed to enjoy working with the web, though this sometimes meant that they were playing around more than they were working.
Students were also learning valuable word-processing skills. However, I wish I had spent more time working with kids on formatting their texts, as students often spent a lot of tie putting spaces in their poems in order to center it as opposed to changing the alignment to centered. When the this technology had some malfunction, students were often frustrated and upset. For example, one boy lost a large chunk of typed research when a computer crashed. While to some extent, these events were valuable lessons for the students about backing files up and saving often, it was certainly a disappointing experience for a ten-year when his research is lost forever.
While there are potential pitfalls to the technologies, in systems crashing or time being spent with students playing around and formatting, I still believe the computer was a crucial skill. In my own classroom, I would want to make sure that we had many preparatory lessons in formatting, in the programs we were using, in surfing the web and in saving files before I embarked on any major project with the students. While this prep work is time-intensive, I think that it is worthwhile for students to be learning these technological skills.