Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thoughts about Teaching Technology

As the current Technology Coordinator at a Private, K-8 Elementary school located in the southwest suburbs, I feel that I have both the best job and the worst job in the building. Since I must wear many hats, my job effects every person in the building, and can sometimes seem overwhelming. The best part is that it is never the same and sharing my knowledge with the students is always rewarding. My teaching assignment is limited to working with grades 5 through 8. Until the current school year, it also included teaching 4th graders. Since the primary grade students were not taught many computer skills, the 4th graders often came to me with little to no actual ability using Microsoft Office Suite. Due to a change in the faculty, the primary grades now use Microsoft Office Suite, have to log on and off using a user name and password, and are receiving extensive skill based instruction. In a few years, this will afford me the ability to expand the technology program to include many of the recent developing technologies including Google Apps (used for collaboration), wikis, and podcasting to name a few. Current enrollment is 451 students, two classes per grade, with between 25 and 30 students in each class. Students receive specific skill based instruction once a week. The curriculum based teachers often bring the students to the lab during the open lab times for projects that are used to enhance instruction and may require additional skill based instruction.

The school has two fully equipped computer labs, one with 25 HP desktops, and the other with 34 HP desktop computers. Additionally, each classroom has between two and three desktop computers, and each teacher has a laptop computer. The desktop computers are all connected to the network and utilize a wired ethernet connection. The laptop computers all have wireless capability and the entire school has wireless connectivity throughout the building. All computers on the network have Windows xp Pro Operating System and the ability to connect to the Internet. Each lab has a ceiling mounted projector connected to the teacher workstation which I feel is the best way to teach technology skills.

Since I have a tablet computer, also connected to the projector, I have been able to connect computer generated lessons and identify areas I wish to focus on using the stylus similar to what could be done using a document projector. All of my lessons begin with step by step instruction on the skill being taught culminating with an example of what the final project is to look like. Projects do not always result in something being printed. For example, using Photostory 3 (a free program from Microsoft), the 8th grade students created electronic autobiographies of themselves. Modelling this activity using the tablet and the projector, I was able to demonstrate how to use the program, add images, music, transitions, and make the movies unique for each student. Finally, the projector allows students to be able to share their work with each other. I would not be able to assign the types of projects or teach the advanced skills without the projector.

Since the students are learning much of the skill based instruction in the primary grades, this change will afford me the ability to modify lessons and teach the students how to podcast, create wikis, and blog. I have always wanted to create a blog to use with the junior high students (7th and 8th graders) to develop collaboration skills and create meaningful dialog pertaining to issues important to students of that age. My feeling was that poignant questions directly connected to the curriculum would enhance the learning of the specific topic being taught in the classroom. While I have seen demonstrations of this technology, until I have a chance to work with it myself, I do not feel that I can incorporate it into my skill based instruction.