According to a recent study, access to technology shows no positive outcomes for students

Inner city schools across the United States have become focused on improving their internal school structures to allow all students to receive a high-quality education. While is difficult to define what a high-quality education should look like for students today, ensuring that the appropriate learning resources are available to students is very important. In a recent study, education researchers wanted to see if donating computers to low-performing public schools would increase positive learning outcomes for students coming from low-income families. The research study found that “free computers don’t close the rich-poor education gap” in public school systems.

The current education reform movement in the United States is focused primarily on improving public schools and learning outcomes for students. Before reading this research study, I disagreed with the idea that providing computers to students would not close the rich-poor education gap and does not promote education equity. I feel that decisions to integrate technology in the classroom are made too quickly and discourages education professionals from implementing technological standards with state learning objectives. It’s just too easy and the learning process becomes interrupted.

The results and findings of the study surprised me but my initial reaction and response to the study quickly changed. It made sense to me that when students were give access to a computer either in school or at home, students used the computer for things other than educational reasons. This presents education professionals with a bigger issue – how and who is responsible for teaching students computer literacy for the sole purpose of increasing educational outcomes? Students who have unlimited access to information and various social media platforms, who may not have been properly taught how to use each, are at a higher risk from achieving academic success.

Personally, I feel that schools who are focused on integrating technology in the classroom must be transparent with teachers, parents, and students. Stating the reasons and goals for computer use in the classroom and at home should be understood by all school parties. Implementation of technology in the classroom is a school-wide approach that has the capacity to increase positive learning outcomes for students.

An educator’s response to available online information

Getting information about almost anything has become very easy for almost anyone of any age. As technology continues to advance, children who are born into this age of information will become the navigators and experts for using technology. In a previous blog post, I mentioned that it is critical for educators to change their approaches to teaching when there are new ways in which students learn best. I value and appreciate how simple it is to get general information – it’s quick and efficient. However, we cannot allow our students to get distracted with the abundance of information that exists on the world wide web. There is far too much and getting the right information can be misleading for students. Teaching how to approach online information and getting to the information that is of value is worthwhile for a further discussion. While technology integration in the classroom cannot be ignored, learning how to use it effectively is more beneficial to the profession of teaching and learning.

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Getting the facts about a major historical event is far more easier for students than asking the teacher. It appears that students find it easier to type a question (i.e., what are the differences between the northern and southern colonies?) into an online search engine on their tablets or smartphones. The process is just too quick and convenient for students. The differences between the two colonies, in regards to geographical location, are essential for students to understand. However, I believe that the need to move past the recall of facts is more deserving. Promoting critical thinking and inquiry-based learning is the direction education systems across the United States must gradually move towards. Specifically, in the social studies classroom, the use of primary source documents invites students to gain a richer understanding of content material. Learning that requires a student to  type a question in a search engine for the purpose of getting an answer should no longer exist.

Understanding the Impacts of Technology in the Classroom

Educators take on the role of promoting high quality education and creating a learning environment that is both meaningful and relevant to the lives of the students we serve. Aside from the numerous needs we respond to in the classroom, educators are now faced with the challenge to respond to the technological needs of our students. SpeakUp is a national initiative to show how the use of technology in the classroom yields high student achievement rates and learning that is beneficial to the demands of tomorrow.

From the research study, I was intrigued to see how students use technology in the classroom to complete specific assignments or tasks. I valued how students were using technology to take online tests and how efficient this could be for educators and administrators to receive immediate data to track student performance. As daunting as this may seem, I personally value a data-driven school for various reasons. As an aspiring educator, focused on narrowing the achievement gap, analyzing and interpreting data allows educators to track student performance, monitor and improve student weaknesses, and further celebrate student success.

While I greatly value and appreciate how technology can improve student outcomes, I also argue that there needs to be a balance between digital and traditional learning until all educators are on board with how to effectively teach using technology. Before technology takes over the classroom, school systems and or individual schools need to understand how to effectively make use of the digital resources that drive student engagement and achievement. In contrast, we cannot fully take away the skill sets that students enhance from the traditional classroom. Students also need to know how to interact and communicate socially with their peers inside the classroom as this will later become a critical and necessary element to succeed in the 21st century.

Education is Bent, Not Broken!

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All current and new beginning educators must watch Chris Lehmann’s Education Is Broken video that illustrates what education has evolved to and provides new insight on what education should become. I selected this video to respond to the idea that education is broken. I would argue that education is not entirely broken as it is more bent. The federal initiatives that are delivered to reform public school education across the United States mirrors a revolving door. While the initiatives are respected, the bigger conversation needs to be held at the bottom line. It must start with the teachers who interact with students on a daily basis. We know what works best for them and how they effectively learn.

Lehmann explains that high school stinks and that students are constantly told what to do and how to do it. He opens the conversation with what high school students are expected to do. As mentioned in a previous blog post, I argued that student voices matter and are critical to learning. Lehmann illustrates how public schools can empower the youth to do great things in society. He suggests that schools have the ability to teach students how to learn material that is relevant to their life, become open minded to new ideas, and to think critically about the world in which they live in. These are three ways, of many, in which students can become active global citizens.

One thing that inspired me from this video is believing that benchmark projects are just as valuable as benchmark tests. As an aspiring social studies teacher, I will adopt the mask project presented by Lehmann. The study of history is all about understanding the historical past which can be shared with students in one story book. And every student has a story to share or discover. My teaching philosophy is built upon the notion that a student’s self-identity is critical to enhance or find during the transition period from middle to high school. Constructing a mask is a brilliant way for students to begin this process of self-discovery which fits nicely in any social studies curriculum.

When students are given an opportunity to make something to show what he or she knows about a particular area of study, then they will be able to find value and produce work of quality that shows their understanding and mastery of a learning objective. If educators adopt the “don’t do it this way, do it your way” then students will most likely complete the assignment without pressures. And furthermore, if our public school education systems across the United States become aware of what matters most to our student then this leaves an opportunity to fix or reform the public school education systems.

Education Podcasts: Every Classroom Matters

BAM! Radio is an online podcast library that emphasizes on the current issues that impact teaching and learning in schools across the United States. I decided to subscribe to Every Classroom Matters as it is an area of education that is so critical to both teachers and students. As I enter the profession of teaching, I am focused on cultivating a classroom that is focused on learning significant themes of our past, respecting the differences of all human beings, and building long-lasting relationships. Our classrooms hold a very diverse student population and it is essential for educators to ensure each student has the capacity to achieve high academic standards while having a sense of belonging in the classroom.

A teacher must be able to care for and connect with students before he or she begins to deliver the content material with students. In this particular podcast, James Sturtevant is working through his 30th year in public education. He believes a strong student-teacher relationship is essential to the learning process. He is also the author of You’ve Gotta Connect ugc-cover which allows educators to begin cultivating new attitudes and learning innovative ways in which students can blossom in all aspects of their education career, even those students who don’t like you or have no desire to connect. While, I haven’t read the book, it is certainly on my summer reading book list.

Accepting all students, even those that are hard to reach, is Sturtevant’s primary focus in trying to understand the daily challenges that educators face on a daily basis. For educators who serve the youth in inner-city public schools, Sturtevant suggests that a building a strong relationship with students during the first month of school makes all difference for students to learn and achieve. He has a unique way of connecting with struggling students by sitting back, shutting up, and simply observe the interactions students were having with their peers. Based on his observations, he learned a lot about the realities each of his students encounter outside of the classroom.

From there, he was able to appreciate his students more by simply listening and adjusting his approach to teaching and learning implementing a classroom that is more student-centered. As he concluded his podcast, he left us with a challenge to identify at least 3 or 4 at-risk students in the beginning of the year and devote more time with each one of these students to support them in ways that can make all the difference in their life inside and outside of the classroom. Based on our classroom discussions, where teachers are going to find the time to complete these tasks came up frequently. Sturtevant explains that it only takes 5 minutes each week from the beginning of the school year and by spring break each student will blossom and shine bright!

Word Cloud Generator

Differentiation is key to the learning and development of our most struggling learners in the classroom. As a social studies teacher who values the importance higher-order thinking skills, the primary source documents that are essential to understand the past are challenging to navigate through. To alleviate academic pressures in the classroom, the world cloud generator will put all students and even teachers at ease, regardless of student ability.

In my previous long-term teaching assignment, my students were expected to understand how Franklin Roosevelt provided federal assistance programs to Americans across the country in response to the 1929 economic depression, specifically the banking crisis. My instant thought was to analyze the first of many Fireside Chats of FDR addressing the nation. I then thought, well, how am I going to expect my seventh grade students to read, comprehend, and analyze what his message was?

The world cloud generator gave me the opportunity to simply copy and paste the entire speech into a text box while it populated the most occurring and important words from the speech. From here, students were able to identify the main ideas, themes and messages of the speech and how it influenced FDR’s initiative to turn the economy around using his New Deal Programs. It was amazing to see how many students were able to use this world cloud, also a tool to differentiate content materials, when they were expected to recall and build upon the next lesson.

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Extracurricular Empowerment

Scott McLeod delivers a TEDTalk message to capture the beauty of students using social media and technology to empower their peers around the world. As technology continues to advance our students have a better opportunity to learn and grow in various areas of adolescent development. McLeod moves past the negative portrayals of teens using social media and technology and offers an invitation for educators and adults to allow students an opportunity to empower the world with their voices through the use of technology. Student voices are critical in education and must be heard. This allows for students to gain a sense of identity and belonging as to where they stand in a world so big. Our students are using technology every day in efforts to become someone and for their voices to be heard.

So what does this mean for us as educators? Simply put, we need to bring the students’ extracurricular use of technology in the classroom to enhance learning that is meaningful and relevant. Teaching how to effectively use technology in the classroom may take some time but the benefits could certainly yield towards higher student engagement and increased student achievement across the board. When there are significant changes in society that impact our students, we as teachers must become aware and sensitive to the way our students learn best. Best practice suggests that we must change our approaches to teaching when there are such changes.

Are you ready to accept the new normal?