TED Talks in the 21st Century Classroom

ted

I recently wrote a literature review on the use of TED Talks in the classroom. Given TED’s popularity, there was a surprising dearth of scholarly research available, and even less on TED’s specific use inside of the educational realm. It seems that many college professors are on the ball about incorporating TED Talks into what they teach and how they teach it; however, the lower levels of school are split on the issue, with many teachers having few creative ideas for how to make use of a such a rich (FREE!) web resource. There are also quite a few naysayers and TED-haters out there. In my paper, I start by giving a brief overview of TED’s history and explain what it is. Then I tackle the criticisms floating around about TED all over the web. I counter that by giving five great reasons that TED should be used in the classroom (supported by research and literature written by the greatest minds on the forefront of education), and I close with three general ways that educators are currently using TED in their schools. Click the link below to download my paper and give it a read–and please, use it responsibly!

Enjoy!

TED Talks in the 21st Century Classroom

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Seven Best Practices for Using Hip Hop in the Classroom: A White Paper

hip hop

Hip hop is a musical genre that I’m not totally comfortable with. It’s definitely outside of my comfort zone. However, it’s a huge part of the lives of many of my students, present and past (and ironically, “school” is outside of their comfort zones–making us polar opposites). I recently started to realize that the only way for me to remedy this is not to simply wait for students to get comfortable with school–no! I need to reach outside of my comfort zone to learn more about them–to learn more about hip hop–and even find ways to integrate it into my classroom.

I embarked on this journey with a colleague from graduate school, and together we wrote a white paper detailing not just the history and power of hip hop culture (because it has transcended the term “musical genre” and become its own culture at this point), but how to effectively explore hip hop in the classroom. In fact, we provide you with seven ready-made lesson ideas to get you started.

But if you’re like us, you’ll find that there’s a lot to explore. You’ll find that hip hop culture goes deeper (intellectually and emotionally) than you ever realized. It’s not just about baggy jeans and spray painting walls–it’s about finding a voice in the midst of oppression and searching for truth in the midst of lies. It’s about creating powerful prose worthy of being studied as literature right alongside Robert Frost and Walt Whitman. It’s about the music, the lyrics, the look, and the attitude–all coming together like poetry in motion. It’s been exciting to dive headfirst into the world of hip hop, and I can’t wait to introduce it to my students in the classroom–won’t they be surprised (in a good way)!

Warning: this document is a LARGE file that may take some time to download, as it contains graphics and embedded videos as well as text. White Paper FINAL

 

Lesson Plan on Persuasion in Politics

Don’t we all love political ads? (Sarcasm.) There’s nothing better than being bombarded with blatant propaganda during the month of October as candidates vie for our votes on television, radio, and social media. This one, used a couple of years back during the senate race in Pennsylvania, was one of my favorites:

“He’s not looking out for the average Joe!”

However, some of our students may not recognize these ads as propaganda. They may evaluate candidates based on any number of random reasons–whose name they like better, whose ad plays better music, etc. Especially for our students who are creeping ever closer to voting age, we need to teach them about how to critically examine these ads by identifying the persuasive techniques that are at play, as well as other media enhancements (light, color, sound, etc.) being strategically used to mess with our heads. After this 50- minute lesson on persuasion in politics, your students will never look at political ads (or any ads, for that matter) in quite the same way!

Persuasion Lesson

Give Millennials a Chance!

Are you familiar with the term “millennial”? It refers to the young, upcoming generation–loosely defined as anyone born between 1982-2000–who have grown up in the midst of new technology. Millennials are accustomed to having computers, cell phones, and internet at their constant disposal, and therefore can be mocked by the older generations as unable to function without electricity. If you are a middle school or high school teacher, it’s likely that you are teaching a classroom full of millennials, so it’s important to understand them and how they operate.

If you want to know how “millennial” you are (which isn’t necessarily contingent upon age), you can check out this quiz created by the Pew Research Center.

One of the biggest things to keep in mind when you’re teaching millennials is that there is a lot of technology out there competing for our students’ attention–during school time and in the evenings during homework time. With so many easy distractions and so much to keep our kids awake all night (unlike my dad’s generation who, according to him, used to watch the television test pattern once the programs were finished for the day), it’s no wonder that it’s more difficult for Millennials to be focused and successful. I think we need to keep this in mind when we’re planning lessons (and assigning homework), and use technology in our instruction and delivery rather than trying to compete with technology.

Just think of all of the websites and social networks out there that could creatively be incorporated into our instruction to help our students further their thinking and learning. Even a video sharing site like YouTube could be used to enhance instruction. It has become very trendy to post (and watch!) how-to videos on YouTube, and they are becoming more and more prolific. It seems that there is a how-to video available for just about any topic imaginable! I think that we could be utilizing videos like these for tricky concepts in the classroom to help students who “can’t remember the steps” when they get home. If there isn’t a video available for the topic that we need, it would just take twenty or thirty minutes after the school day ends to film a how-to video for the math concept taught that day or a review of the history lesson that was packed full of facts. We could also get our students involved in producing videos like these! How exciting would it be to have a YouTube channel devoted specifically to our classroom (with written parental permission to get our students on video and publish it to the internet, of course)! I think creating an ongoing class project like that would harken back to what Alan November was saying about having students identify a problem, create a solution, and publish their work to benefit not just their classroom, but the world. It would certainly be a great motivator and a great way to engage students in their class work!

I also think that we need to be forgiving of our students’ attitudes—and perhaps lack of ambition. According to Kelly Williams Brown (author of the bestselling satire Adulting: How to Become an Adult in 468 Easyish Steps) we need to stop “collectively wringing our hands over young people acting young,” and try to remember what our thoughts and dreams were when we were that age. I have included an excellent TED Talks lecture from Kelly Williams Brown (also satirically titled)–“Millennials: Why Are They The Worst?” She is funny, but she also gives her audience a lot of great insight and reasons to appreciate millennials for their unique awesomeness. 🙂

Are we using Wikipedia too much?

Is there anyone left out there who hasn’t used Wikipedia? As a casual reference–let’s say, “How many seasons was Friends on the air?” or “When/why did Borders bookstore go out of business?”–Wikipedia can be a great tool. When you search a question or topic on any popular search engine–Google, Bing, or Yahoo–Wikipedia is generally one of the top hits listed on the results page. According to Wikipedia (haha–yes! There is a Wikipedia page about Wikipedia), the free-access internet encyclopedia is the “sixth most popular website” on the internet and it gets “nearly 500 million unique visitors each month.” But should we let students use Wikipedia as a research tool in the classroom? The answer, surprisingly, may be “yes.” I may have lost some of you naysayers at this point. You know who you are–many of you still proudly display your leather-bound sets of Encyclopedia Brittanica on your shelves, and you wouldn’t be caught dead pulling up Wikipedia on the library computers on your university campus. But hear me out…

Argument #1 against using Wikipedia for “formal” research: Wikipedia can be edited and “vandalized” by literally anyone using the internet.

It’s true–anyone can add material to a Wikipedia article. There aren’t designated authors out there; we are all authors. However, my husband and his friends tested the limits of Wikipedia several years ago while they were in college. They played a joke on one of their friends by writing an entry all about their poor victim and his…ahem…bathroom habits. They screen captured it and printed it out as proof that it existed. However, in a matter of minutes–minutes!–their entry was deleted. While there are no professional authors out there, apparently there are some pretty serious Wikipedia editors that watch the servers very closely for new information being added to their site. The Wikipedia Wikipedia article (I’m running out of clever ways to reference this) describes their bureaucratic system in extraordinary detail, explaining the process of becoming a site administrator and referencing the Wiki page that details policies and guidelines for editing. Just the idea that it only took minutes for my husband and his hooligan friends’ false article to be noticed and deleted is pretty impressive–and this was years ago, long before Wikipedia was being used on smart phones and tablets. I’m sure the turnaround rate for what Wikipedia terms as “vandalism” is much quicker now–it may only be a matter of seconds for false material to be detected and disposed of. I would also argue, from a teacher’s perspective, that Wikipedia’s editability (is that a real word?) could be an asset to the classroom. Imagine assigning your students to write research papers not just to be turned in and graded, but to be published online to Wikipedia? Our students will take a great deal more care with properly citing their sources and editing spelling and grammar if they know that they are writing an article for Wikipedia. Their writing will be published online as a source for other people to use for years to come–how exciting!

Argument #2 against using Wikipedia for “formal” research: The content included on Wikipedia is not always strictly academic.

Your Encyclopedia Brittanica probably doesn’t have an article about the life and career of Kim Kardashian. Most printed encyclopedias are mindful of their page count and restrictive with their content. Wikipedia is much more open about the type of material it includes, and it’s one of the reasons that it’s become one of the most widely-used reference tools on the internet. You will find science articles right alongside pop culture biographies, with up-to-the minute updates on noteworthy events almost as soon as they occur. That is one major advantage that Wikipedia has over a traditional printed tome–it avoids the lengthy publication process, so the information it provides is never out of date. According to the WW article (again), “50% of US physicians have consulted Wikipedia.” That either promotes your confidence in this vast online resource or it undermines your trust in your family doctor. 🙂

Argument #3 against using Wikipedia for “formal” research: The information it presents simply isn’t as reliable as the information in a published text.

I would have made this same argument several years ago. However, Wikipedia has changed quite a bit over the years, and the organization and administrators behind the scenes are working hard to make it just as reliable as any published reference tool. And, to reference the WW article again, “a 2005 survey of Wikipedia published in Nature based on a comparison of 42 science articles with Encyclopedia Britannica found that Wikipedia’s level of accuracy approached Encyclopedia Britannica’s and both had similar low rates of “serious errors.” Again, part of what makes Wikipedia more error proof is its changeability. A printed encyclopedia contains out-of-date information as soon as it hits the shelf–it’s inevitable. However, Wikipedia is constantly being updated and improved. It’s a living, breathing document, and one that contains far more (increasingly reliable) information than a printed text. One of the other things that I like about Wikipedia is that authors are required to cite their sources. We don’t have to take their word for it if we don’t trust them–we can simply check out the works that they cite at the bottom of the page, usually printed in hyperlink form for easy access. That means that when a student uses a Wikipedia page as a research tool, we (as teachers) can have them also use the works cited in the article. The Wikipedia article could theoretically be a springboard to searching even more (and more reliable, a skeptic might argue) sources like government sites and university databases. In this way, Wikipedia can provide a powerful blueprint–a “start here” guidemap–to more in depth research on any given topic. If the works cited on an article look a little slim, that may also be a good indication that very little is known about the topic being researched, and it might guide the student to choose a topic that’s a little more researchable.

Argument #4 against using Wikipedia for “formal” research: If we don’t set some boundaries, students won’t stop at Wikipedia–the next thing you know, they’ll be searching Twitter for their research papers!

Perdue OWL (Online Writing Lab)  is one step ahead of you–they’ve already explained a way to accurately quote and reference a tweet in MLA format. So if you’re worried that Wikipedia is just the beginning, your fears are founded. But really, I don’t think you need to be afraid. After all, what the internet boils down to is simply information that we’re accessing from our computers, laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Introducing and permitting Wikipedia to enter our classrooms is also a great way to springboard into teaching our students how to determine which web resources are reliable and which are not–a skill that they will likely use for years to come. So embrace the change! Or endure the fate that ICT teacher Nigel Willetts mentions in his quote: “When faced with a steam-rolling technology, you either become part of the technology or part of the road!”

Did Somebody Say “Free Textbooks?”

Jake Meme

Open Educational Resources (acronym “OER”) have been gaining in popularity over the last few years, but they are also a source of debate and contention in some school districts. Here’s the breakdown:

What are OER? 

OER stands for “open educational resources” and it denotes any classroom-ready resource available under an “open” license (which means that a teacher who wants to copy or redistribute materials in the classroom doesn’t need to worry about copyright infringement laws). Not all OER materials are free, but many of them are, making them more accessible to a wider community.

How is OER changing the landscape of education today? 

Previously, classrooms mainly centered on a physical textbook—generally a hardback tome that was a relatively expensive purchase. These textbooks needed to be replaced every few years (to account for physical wear and tear on the book or outdated information inside of the book). OER and Creative Commons changes that traditional platform for learning by digitizing curriculum materials and making them available to print and re-distribute, oftentimes for free (something that generally couldn’t legally be done with a print textbook). Classrooms that take advantage of OER are providing their students with the most up-to-date information at a fraction of the cost. Those teachers are also participating in massive online sharing communities where they can garner lesson plans and curriculum resources from other teachers across the globe and adapt them for their own use.

What are the implications of OER to your work as an educator? 

I’m familiar with sites like Teachers Pay Teachers in which educators from around the country can “sell” their lesson plans (usually complete with ample handouts and worksheets) to other teachers for a small fee. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I’ve Googled free resources to use in the classroom before, and I generally end up being disappointed at the quality of the selection presented in the search results. Using a legitimate OER database sounds like a very different experience from either of these. OER share sites also offer the opportunity for collaboration among educators, which means that I don’t necessarily just go on there to download a ready-made lesson plan; I can also alter or annotate it and share my edits with the OER community. OER are not set in stone—they are not copyrighted worksheets from 1978 that have been scanned into a computer somewhere—they are living, breathing documents that have come to life as a result of collaborative effort. This means that if I’m using an OER, I’m not just taking and printing—I’m also adding and leaving my mark on the face of education. The lessons and activities that I create could potentially be used (and altered and rewritten and used again) by teachers across the globe for years to come!

What do you think about OER – is it a good thing or a bad thing or??

I think it’s great that Creative Commons is providing a way to publish resources that can be used more freely among educators; however, OER has limits. As Todd Finley points out his Edutopia article “A Tour of High-Quality Open Education Resources (OER) For Writing,” not all OER are quality materials that a teacher would want to use. An educator using an OER database still needs to be discriminate when perusing the search results and determining which materials would be the best fit for his or her classroom. Most legitimate published textbooks are written by teams of educational researchers with doctoral degrees and years of experience studying what works and what doesn’t work. Meanwhile, OER documents could be written or edited by anybody. Asking if OER should completely replace the traditional textbook seems equivalent to asking if Wikipedia should become our new go-to source for research projects. It’s widely used and very convenient, yes—but not quite as reliable or high quality as a legitimate published text. OER are an interesting concept (and something that I need to spend more time exploring before I come to a definite opinion about whether they’re “good” or “bad”), but I don’t think Glencoe or Harcourt Brace are going to be put out of business by OER anytime soon. I think that if I use OER in my classroom in the future, I will continue using them in conjunction with a published, hardback textbook.

Where can I find OER for use in my classroom?

I was hoping you would ask that question! Here are a few places to start:

  • http://www.ck12.org/teacher/ : This flexbook library provides free and open textbooks for secondary level students. Most of the books cover math and science, but limited texts on other topics are available as well.
  • https://www.khanacademy.org/ : This is an open courseware site providing online classes on just about any topic!
  • http://openstaxcollege.org/ : This site provides free and open digital texts to accompany college-level courses! Great news for those students who are stretching pennies just to afford college tuition.
  • http://openstax.org/ : After the success of Open Stax College, Open Stacks was born–meeting the textbook needs of high school students across the globe.
  • http://betterlesson.com/ : This site contains hundreds of lessons written by top-rated ELA teachers to meet Common Core standards.
  • http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm : Using this site, you can access lecture notes and course materials from MIT courses for free! Check out this open courseware site to peruse the course catalogue.
  • http://www.learnnc.org/?home : Written in North Carolina but adaptable to anywhere, this site contains top-notch history lessons to use with your students as well as professional development for educators.
  • https://p2pu.org/en/ : Another open courseware site providing college-level courses to anyone who is interested, free of charge.

Evaluating My Digital Estate

Of all of the matters to take into consideration when a family member dies, I think the term “digital estate” would probably be one of the last. However, this idea of leaving behind a legacy on the internet is becoming increasingly prevalent. We’re investing more and more of our time into social networking, online banking, and other electronic profiles. What happens to all of those things after we die? If you’re interested, you can learn more about digital estates in this video from PBS Newshour:

All of this got me thinking about the different websites that I have become heavily invested in. How much of a presence do I have on the internet? Also, how can I go about purposefully enhancing that presence to improve my professional life and help me better reach my students?

I decided to evaluate my digital estate by taking an inventory of the social networking tools that I currently use, and reflecting on how I can use them better to enhance my instruction.

Blogging

I actually have three different blogs on www.wordpress.com, though I’m only currently maintaining two of them. I kept one blog (www.lostonplanetchina.wordpress.com) when my husband and I moved to China for a year, and I wrote about our experiences and culture shock there and posted quite a few pictures. This blog had 50 followers, most of whom were people I had never met, and as of today (September 8, 2014) has been viewed 10,679 times.

When we returned to the United States, I “finished” this blog and started a new, more general one where I could write about everyday life (www.yourfavoriterachel.wordpress.com).  This blog, while not quite as exciting as stories about life in China, has 98 followers and has been viewed 6,900 times. Because I have been enrolled in graduate school and I had a baby in May of this year, my posts have become more and more infrequent, dwindling from once every week or every other week down to once a month or so. I’ve also cut down on the number of blogs that I follow—cutting down from eight to just three (because that is all I can manage to keep up with these days. When I follow a blog I am “all in.” I read every post word for word and I comment on or “like” just about every post. I really want the author to know that I am there, reading their material).

My third blog is this one–an educational-themed site. Though it has been sitting dormant for quite some time, I am starting to post more material to it (for the purposes of a New Media and Literacies course that I am enrolled in for graduate school) to bring it back to life again. Because this blog has been largely inactive, it is by far the least popular; it has only four followers (though I still think it’s exciting that I have followers on a blog that I just started as a school project). However, I am surprised to see that WordPress is reporting that this blog has been viewed 4,428 times, which is not far behind my much more active blog!

Twitter

I have been avoiding Twitter for a while because from what I’ve gathered, the feed is much more fast-paced than Facebook newsfeed, and I am not sure that I am ready for the kind of commitment it would require to keep up with that. I joined Twitter for the sake of this class, and I was surprised to see that because I created the username ReadingRachelD (a reference to the nickname I had during my reading specialist internship because there were one too many Rachels on staff, and they used “Reading Rachel” to distinguish which Rachel they were referring to) a few up-and-coming/self-published authors have started following me on Twitter—perhaps in the hopes that I will read their books! So I suppose that people are using Twitter not just as a social networking tool, but also as a marketing tool; I’m not sure how I feel about that. I probably haven’t been posting (or reading through my feed) quite as often as I should be—perhaps once a day or once every couple of days.

Diigo

I’m not sure that I’ve been using Diigo correctly either. This site is completely new to me—I had never even heard of it before my graduate class started. I’m so accustomed to reading an article all the way through and then making a general comment on it at the end (the same format that many online newspaper articles and blogs use); however, I am not really used to annotating as I read, or highlighting specific quotes from the author to comment on. I’ll keep working on it! I would say that I’ve been visiting the Diigo site about twice a week. This could potentially be a great tool for me to use in the classroom once I’m on the teaching side of it again!

Facebook

Facebook is the first social networking site that I ever joined, and the one that I’ve been a member of for the longest time. (I have used other sites that have since died, like MySpace, LiveJournal, and Xanga, but they didn’t have nearly the staying power that Facebook does.) I joined in 2004, and I’ve become more and more active as the years have gone by and the website has developed and added more features to occupy users’ attention. Even when I first joined the site, I was fairly active, frequently updating my status (which I perceived, for all intents and purposes, as an “away message,” having been a frequent user of AOL instant messenger) and creating groups for my friends to join (which I recently realized, much to my embarrassment, still exist out there in the Facebook universe). At this point, Facebook also contains a detailed photographic history of the last ten years of my life, cataloguing my college (undergrad) years, my dating relationship with my husband, our wedding, and now the birth and month-by-month growth of our baby. If Facebook were to suddenly crash, and all of that photographic history lost, I would be pretty upset because many of those photos are only stored on Facebook and not backed up on my laptop (which unfortunately died a few years ago). It took quite a bit of getting used to when my family members started showing up on Facebook, along with the students that I teach! I was so accustomed to it being a social networking site exclusive to college students. However, I’ve grown used to it now, and I’ve adapted with the many changes and transformations that Facebook has been through over the years. I use the Facebook app on my phone (which makes it convenient to check even while I’m feeding the baby or rocking him to sleep), and I would estimate that I look at Facebook several times each day.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is another website that I just recently joined for the purposes of my graduate class. My husband has been a member of LinkedIn ever since the website first gained popularity, but I haven’t really explored it or created a profile until now. I am interested to see how useful this website becomes once I am back in the job market searching for a teaching position! I have realized over the years that in this very competitive job market, connections are just as or more important than credentials, so I wonder if LinkedIn really aids in providing the connections needed to get noticed by an employer. So far I’ve been on there a handful of times to tinker with my profile/resume.

Google

I’ve been using the same Gmail address for the last seven years now, and it’s really been nice to keep the same email even when I switch to a different internet provider. I move around a lot, so my email address has stayed constant even though my physical address has not, which provides a great way for distant family and out-of-touch friends to reach me when they need to. I also enjoy the Google chat feature. Even though text messages have become so prevalent, my husband and I still chat with each other on Gmail while we’re at work (because typing on a computer at work is much more discreet than “swyping” on a cell phone while at work).

I also recently used Google Docs as a way to collaborate with a classmate on a multimedia presentation in real time rather than saving various versions of the same document and sending them back and forth. It was a very efficient way to complete a group project, and I really enjoyed using the chat feature on Google Docs so that we could ask questions or make comments to each other while we worked. It’s a very nice alternative for people who don’t have (or can’t afford) the Microsoft Office Suite.

I am new to Google Hangout (I just joined for the purposes of my grad class), and I’m not sure that it’s a site I will use all that often. Only a handful of my friends are using Google Hangout. It seems like a copy of Facebook with some features that have been slightly tweaked. For example, I do like the fact that I can have different circles of friends, and only share information with certain circles (unlike Facebook, in which I generally share the same information with all of my friends). However, until Facebook dies, I just don’t anticipate my Google Hangout account getting very much use—it just seems redundant.

Aside from Google Hangout (which I’ve only really logged onto twice) and Google Docs (which I’ve used a handful of times), I would say that I use some sort of Google application every day, several times a day (such as Gmail or the original Google search engine). Because both my Gmail account and a Google Search app are on my phone, it makes it much more convenient to consult them often.

Pinterest

I have been using Pinterest for the last two years, and I would say that my use of the site is very irregular. I’ll spend a few days creating a new board and pinning things to it, and then I might not use the site for another month or two before something catches my interest and I’m back on there pinning again. Pinterest isn’t quite as social as some of the other sites that I’ve used. For example, I pin things that I know I’ll enjoy and add them to my own personal collection (or board). It doesn’t bother me if no one “repins” my pins or comments on them—that’s not really the purpose of creating a board (for me, at least). It’s very different from Facebook, where I might get discouraged if I wrote a status update and no one made any comments or “likes.” I don’t use Pinterest to connect with people or see what they are pinning—I’m very selfish in my Pinterest use, and simply focus on what I like. I have 14 boards with 235 total pins. I have 100 followers and I am following 123 people (though, like I said, I’m not following them very closely). Perhaps it’s because I’m not using Pinterest to connect with other people that my use of the site is so sporadic. However, I did find it interesting that when I searched “Rachel DeAngelis” on Google Images, pictures of things that I’ve pinned showed up most frequently on the first few pages of search results.

REFLECTION

Honestly, I don’t feel like I’ve ever been a digital “native.” Technology is something that I have to work at—it doesn’t really come naturally to me, and it generally tends to intimidate me.

One thing is becoming clear after examining this inventory of social networking sites—it seems that I used to be a digital enthusiast many years ago. Every time a new website craze came along, I jumped in headfirst. That has changed a lot for me in the last 10-15 years. I’m not sure if it’s because I used to have more time to play with social media sites (when I was in high school and undergrad—before I had a full time job or became a mom), or if social media sites are just more abundant and cropping up faster than I can keep up with, but these days I find myself resisting new crazes.

However, I’m too young to start lamenting that I’m having trouble keeping up with the times or that I just don’t understand how to operate that [insert device here]. One thing that is becoming increasingly clear after spending only two weeks in my New Media and Literacy course is that I’m going to need to stay current and use cutting edge technology in my classroom to truly meet the needs of my students. During my first year teaching (in 2008), I was offered a classroom that had a smart tablet (for use in conjunction with the projector) and a class set of remote controls for students to use. There were so many things that I could have done with these gadgets to make my classroom more interactive and engaging for my students; however, because I didn’t understand how to use them (and felt so overwhelmed with other first-year-teacher responsibilities that I didn’t take the time to learn how to use them), they sat on a shelf collecting dust all year. And I conducted class by giving lectures and writing notes on the chalkboard. What a shame!

But of course,  using technology in the classroom is not just about having fancy gadgets. It’s about teaching students how to access information, think critically about it, and do something important with it. Now, with the Common Core standards being adopted in most states (and being more rigorous than ever), it’s so important to use technology to challenge students’ critical thinking skills and help them develop multi-modal literacy.

Having technology as such an integral part of the classroom makes me uncomfortable, because it’s not how school was done when I was growing up, and I am inclined to teach using what is familiar rather than what is cutting edge. It makes me uncomfortable now, as a grad student, to try to stay on top of multiple social networking sites at once—it’s a little scary and overwhelming at first. But like anything, if I continue practicing at it, it will become more familiar and less scary. And it won’t just be a benefit to me to tinker with all of the digital tools and websites that are out there—it will be a benefit for my future students as well. It will help me prepare them to enter the 21st Century workforce (whereas before I was preparing them for, perhaps, the 1950’s workforce). If I provide them with the tools they need, I can help them not just function as citizens there, but as leaders who stay ahead of the curve.