Goals & Challenges

September 11, 2010 at 10:12 am | Posted in uncategorized | 10 Comments

Our class, Developing Literacy in MST, explores the tried and true literacy strategies to help students engage with and more effectively learn subject matter.  The tools of content area literacy, and specifically knowing how to use them, provide students with the keys to become successful readers and writers across the subject areas. Along with the tried and true, the layer of technology comes into play.   In his post Rewiring Education & Connecting with the iGeneration, Joe Wood asks,

Are improved print-based literacy strategies enough?  Will a teacher or administrator who thinks social networks are a teenage evil, views cell phones as nothing more than a nuisance, and has no clue how YouTube or any other user-generated content website works ever engage and relate to iGeneration students?

From the section on Critical Challenges from the 2010 Horizon Report: The K12 Edition,  comes,

Schools are still using materials developed to teach the students of decades ago, but today’s students are actually very different in the way they think and work. Schools need to adapt to current student needs and identify new learning models that are engaging to younger generations.

Our goal and challenge in this course is to merge literacy strategies and technology to make them integral components within content lessons.  What have you read that supports this goal?  What are the challenges you face?



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  1. In order to engage and motivate students and keep them engaged and motivated, we as teachers must know and understand what our students are interested in. Many students cannot go a whole day or even hours without using their cell phones; this also goes for using computers. Students are watching YouTube videos for entertainment. Many students are finding project resources online. This means that print-based literacy strategies are not enough.
    As a student, I find lectures to be much more interesting when media is included. When it comes to answering questions, they are much more fun when using an individual hand-held digital response device. These devices also allow all students to participate much more because of this. There are students who do not talk in class because they are too shy so these new technologies can be used so these students can remain anonymous and also participate.
    In the article, “Literacy and Communication Technologies: Distance Education Strategies for Literacy Delivery” they say, “It is a reality that education is no longer a one-off preparation for life and career but a preparation, in terms of concepts, cognitive tools, attitudes and values, for a lifelong learning process. At the same time, evolving learning needs and conditions should lead to new and innovative delivery systems.” New technologies allow us to connect ourselves and our students to other teachers and students around the world.
    The challenges will be learning how to use the new technologies as well as teaching the students how to use them. Also, cost and administration could be another hurdle. In the end, it is worth putting in the time to engage our students as well as continue our own learning.

  2. One of our goals as content area educators is to make the content/curriculum more accessible to students through literacy. Technology is playing an increasingly large role in what that literacy entails. Personally, I know that my high school, undergraduate, and graduate experiences as a student would have been very different without the help of computers and the internet.

    In support of the goal to combine literacy and technology, I refer to The Recommendations of the Reading Next: a Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy (A Report to Carnegie Corporation of New York). This is a list of fifteen elements that should improve literacy in middle and high school students. The list includes many items that refer to collaboration, use of technology, and the use of a variety of texts. To use technology, especially in a social way should be more than just engaging to students, it should also help to enhance their literacy achievement.

    However, there is more to incorporating technology than just using it. The popular opinion among the older-than-teenage crowd is that the teenagers (and younger) are the ones who know and use the technology best. This is not necessarily true. In Generation YES Blog’s post Digital natives/immigrants – how much do we love this slogan, the point is made that adults call kids “digital natives” and assume that they “get” the technology more than adults (“digital immigrants”), therefore, they do not need to be taught how to use it. The post goes on to say that that’s not true – kids need adults (such as parents and teachers) to show them how to use these technologies appropriately and academically.

    I think that there is still a place for traditional print based sources in content area literacy, but more attention should be paid to technology based items. Furthermore, I think that social media should be addressed. My inclination is to avoid something like Facebook (see Science Teacher’s blog for a little more information why). I think it is possible and to set up an online communication system for the class only. This allows the teacher a degree of control in terms of ensuring that the students are adhering to the appropriate and academic portions that I discussed earlier. The students would have a place for discussion in a media that they are familiar with and that is accessible anywhere and anytime.

    There is no doubt in my mind that technology is here to stay and that it is important for educators to address this in the classroom. My major concern is with novelty. Are some of these technologies engaging because they are novel? When teachers get involved with the technology and put an academic spin on things that were once separate, are they going to lose some of their charm? In thinking of this, I recall what happened to me when my mother and grandmother joined Facebook – I stopped using it. Also, technology changes so quickly, so another concern is how educators are going to constantly stay up to date with that. Given what I have seen in schools – for example, a teacher using VHS videos in 2010 – teachers like what they know. How can anybody force a change to begin using some technology, and then force everyone to stay current?

  3. The links posted above elaborate the concern that teachers and administrators who are slow to incorporate current technologies face alienating students who have become dependent on those same technologies for content literacy. Students who use social media, digital technologies, and internet resources pervasively will be more engaged in learning if the teacher incorporates these technologies in the classroom in thoughtful, appropriate ways. A resource provided by the National Center for Technology Innovation and Center for Implementing Technology in Education states that incorporating various technologies in modern classrooms enhances “comprehension, reading and writing synergy, and motivation.” Administration and teacher focus groups have revealed that funding and time constraints are the most common obstacles to effective implementation of technology in the classroom. I believe that professional development introducing teachers to Web 2.0 tools and digital technologies is the key to effective utilization of technological resources. Innovative, awe-inspiring uses of technology help students achieve content literacy while also being cost effective and time efficient for the teacher.

  4. In schools today if teachers don’t incorporate technology in the classroom they are a step behind the times. Our students are very tech savvy and tend to learn quicker when technology is used as a strategy in the means of learning in the classroom. When students enter the classroom they are equipped with Ipods, cell phones, pda’s, Iphone’s, Itouches, Ipads, or any other new technology piece. Everyday there is a new piece of technology that comes into the world and our students are the ones teaching the teachers how to use them. It is our job as teachers to link this technology to our curriculum and literacy standards/strategies to maximize the learning environment. In the article Improving Technology Literacy: Does It Open Doors to Traditional Content? it states that the first idea that improved confidence that is based on advancing technology literacy can lead to broader content gains, there exists supporting research related to the ideas of self-efficacy, self-concept, and motivation. If teachers are not motivated themselves then it will be really hard to motivate the student to learn. This is why I feel it is very important for teachers to incorporate technology in the classroom. Students are more apt to dive into the lesson if they can use a SMART Board or some sort of technology device. My students trample over each other to get up to the SMART Board first to do a math problem. Teachers also need to be able to figure out the ways each student learns so they can target different literacy strategies to use for those students and how the technology can help them reach their fullest learning potential.

    The challenges I encounter are how would I help out a severely disabled student learn the literacy strategies through technology and differentiate my lessons through technology if I have a 3rd grade math level student and a 9th grade math level student in the same class.

  5. As teachers it is our jobs to not only provide our students with the opportunity to gain specific knowledge and understandings but also to prepare them for life outside of school, whether that is college or the workplace. All throughout teacher education literature you will find proponents of relating classroom lectures and activities to the students’ interests and previous knowledge. This will in turn prove to be more engaging for the students. Many students are using social networking sites to remain in contact with family and friends while outside of school. If teachers were to utilize some of this time for outside of class discussions, blogs, or podcasts it would allow students to see these social network sites as both fun and useful tools for their education. It would be interesting to find out the percentage of seniors that have used social networking sites for assistance from friends on school assignments (hopefully the students aren’t sharing answers but rather asking questions).
    In the most recent issue of The Science Teacher, Steve Metz describes the current trend of technology as it relates to music, but the implications of what he describes can be transferred to educational technology as well. He says, “The music industry has been forced to reinvent itself. This can be seen as a metaphor for our education system. Just as changes in music delivery have radically altered the music business, dramatic changes in the workplace have required rethinking the way our schools work (pg. 6). It would be great if schools had an infinite supply of professional development along with teachers eager to become better facilitators within the classroom, but sadly this is not the case. I believe it is important for teachers of all content to influence their students to become self advocates for their education and to demand the very best of their teachers. This means that I as a teacher must continually adapt my teaching strategies to meet the needs of my students as well as state and national standards.
    One challenge for teachers in today’s classrooms is the fact that while the internet holds a wealth of information, it also holds a wealth of disinformation, such as the current movement against vaccinations in children. Therefore it is not only the job of the librarians to inform students on the proper ways to gather research but through my teaching students literary strategies to facilitate them with classroom text and writing they will be able to use these techniques in critiquing other text. While it is not a challenge teachers must keep in mind that not every student has access to a computer at home. Teachers should allow students an adequate amount of time to locate a computer and perform the task required by the teacher.
    As I was growing up and witnessed the birth of the cell phone, and the resistance it was met with by the older generations, I realize that my fellow generation is at risk of developing a resistance to new types of technology that we are not used to.

  6. In my opinion, a teacher who ignores technology-based literacy strategies today is doing a major disservice to their students. Saying that, I will also say that a good teacher could get through to iGeneration students using only print-based because of their skill as a teacher. However, I do not think a good teacher would ignore the fact that many of these kids learn better if technology is incorporated into the lesson. So I believe a teacher/administrator who really wanted engage students today would/should adopt various technology-based literacy strategies to use in their lessons/curricula.
    I feel if teachers/administrators reject social networking technologies they are impeding their students. Unless teachers/administrators are very good educators, adopting these technologies and using them in the class may be the only way to really connect/engage/motivate the iGeneration students. Many students today a literally obsessed with these types of technologies, so think how much educators could connect to students if they channeled at least part of their lessons through these type of technologies. A boring topic could be made more interesting, and learning could become fun. Personally, I would want students who are so engaged in a lesson that it becomes fun for them.
    When I have observed in a middle school science classroom this past spring, I really noticed a difference initial engagement levels if technology was used at appropriate times throughout a lesson, as opposed to a basic lecture or merely using worksheets. So at least in my limited experience, i have seen students respond very positively to technology in the classroom. I was reading an article entitled Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students that said, “The most common–and in fact, nearly universal–teacher-reported effect on students was an increase in motivation. Teachers and students are sometimes surprised at the level of technology-based accomplishment displayed by students who have shown much less initiative or facility with more conventional academic tasks.”

  7. Technology has enhanced in so many ways that we have grown to depend on it so much in our everyday lives and is being introduced to students at a younger age. When I found out that my cousin in the 3rd grade was preparing a powerpoint presentation, I was completely baffled. Powerpoint wasn’t introduced to me until I was in middle school. Today in class, I was presented with evidence that students in elementary level are creating blogs, online surveys, and presenting scientific experiment data on the web. I was very impressed and shocked at the same time. I couldn’t believe that elementary students had put together such a comprehensive web page. This is strong evidence that technology is introduced to students at a much younger age. In article, Critical Issue: Using Technology to Enhance Literacy Instruction, there’s a great list on specific technology is used to enhance student learning. One example was online publishing of student’s work. It acts as a motivator for students to put more effort into the project because they feel like their work could have far-reaching effects. Not only that, but I also believe that when students are publishing their own work, they are taking ownership of it. They are still learning and practicing content literacy, but they integrating it with technology. If students are publishing their experiment findings on the web, they are still practicing science literacy; performing/follow experimental procedures, collecting data, presenting data, and analyzing their data.

    A challenge that I can think of in incorporating science literacy and technology is keeping up with technology. Technology is enhancing everyday and new products are being introduced. If I don’t keep up with it, then I would definitely miss out on new technology that can help my students learn better. I have enough trouble keeping with technology right now. I remember when Microsoft Office 2007 came out; I struggled with it a lot. Just when I was getting use to Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 came out and the format changed and new stuff was added to it that I am still learning. In class today, I learned how to do the readability statistic on Microsoft Office that I never knew existed. I think it will be a useful tool in the future so check if my readings are at reading grade level of my students.

  8. The world is constantly changing, and technology sometimes seems to be changing so fast that we can barely keep up. I still think back to my high school where they tore out the home economics room in order to install a computer lab in order to attract students and to provide resources for the students. Today students may have multiple computers in their own pockets. Using this technology to our advantage is imperative within our classrooms. If I can be entertained by my iPod Touch for hours at a time, why can’t my students? If I can barely make the time to read through a textbook for my own benefit, what makes me think that my students will find the same resources worthwhile? During my observations last spring, I became very familiar with SMART Board and saw how it was able to grab students attention when used well. I was also able to use youtube.com to find videos for the students that I worked with. I was just barely able to scratch the surface of using what technologies were available, but from what I could see, it was the most effective way of grabbing the students attention.

    In the book Challenges of Teaching with Technology Across the Curriculum by Lawrence A. Tomei it is mentioned that the use of technology in the sciences has perhaps advanced more rapidly than any other field. The advancements in digital measuring devices, microscope technology as well as computer use has opened up both the science teacher and student to a wealth of new information and techniques. The true challenge lies in using these new technologies well. It is one thing to let students listen to their music in the background while they do their work, but it is quite another to use engaging and important technology within the classroom. It may also be overwhelming especially to a new teacher to feel confident enough to use these technologies in order to benefit as many students as possible.

  9. Many major advancements in interactive technology are happening in the realm of video games. As a gamer myself, I have read about the social role of video games in raising children, particularly as many other gamers are starting to have kids. I read a particularly interesting article here:


    The author, who is a new father himself, talks about the show Dora the Explorer, and how it incorporates a computer cursor and is in other ways resembles a game. Microsoft’s new product, Kinect (formerly Project Natal) is a motion capture device which could make shows like Dora truly interactive.

    The Kinect may be the beginning of a generation of motion capture systems with educational potential. The Nintendo Wii showed that motion capture appeals to a mass audience. The Kinect, and future systems, may be precise and accurate enough to be used in the classroom.

    Although specific strategies for older students have yet to be developed, this is a technology which may bear our attention as it is being introduced. At the very least, elementary educators can expect students raised with motion capture technology married to their educational entertainment to become more common.

  10. Technology can help literacy students, but we must remember not to use them as foundation studs in solving the literacy problems. I have extreme trouble reading even blogs such like this. I attempt to use my school provided services during my free time. But, the one computer on campus to fulfill my needs for a reader has been occupied by a fellow student. My career as a special education teach might eventfully provide proper access to digital text readers. I love technology and its ability to enable students. But, once technology is removed many students struggle including myself.

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