I believe that people are continuously creating knowledge and making connections. As a teacher, my goal is to help students learn. My role is to create a classroom environment where students can belong to a learning community, find motivation and gain understanding of the world. I use standards to guide my practice, but dismiss standardized tests. I know from my own formal education that most things presented in class will be forgotten. I experience actual learning when new information or skills are useful, interesting and connect to something I already know. I find technology to be a useful tool with each of these goals.
Creating a learning environment with technology
Within our classroom learning community, I strive to show my students that people are lifelong learners. They often see that we are all learning together, even though I am usually the guide in our travels together. We are willing to use new tools to help us explore and learn. During the 2009-2010 school year my students published the weekly newsletter with Comic Life, took us on Google Earth tours that supported our units of study, taught us yoga positions that they learned online and created useful visual material for our room with digital photography. They posted daily quotes and led us in experimenting with art techniques.
Using technology to create motivation
I find that using technology is often very motivating for my students and myself. It can provide great resources, activities and ways of communicating. I have a classroom website in Urban Planet that I link many resources to for easy access.
I use Google Earth to help my students understand latitude and longitude when we find ourselves “lost” as we “fly” over the Atlantic Ocean on our way to Africa. We use sites such as Sheppard Learning to provide interesting learning activities. For Readers’ Workshop, we use Moodle to communicate student-to-teacher about independent
reading. Students use its online forum to critique books and recommend them to each other.
Understanding the world with online resources
Most of my students live in poverty, which severely limits their ability to have broad experiences. To alleviate this, we find ways to experience the world beyond the confines of our classroom and immediate surroundings. Through Discovery Learning, National Geographic, Google Earth and virtual trips, we can explore King Tut’s tomb, see the security borders in Israel and watch people make silk clothing in Bangladesh.
I believe and fervently hope that in the near future technology will radically change the ways that schools operate. Our current system reflects outdated beliefs and methods. Schools need to do a better job of individualizing instruction in order to increase relevance to learners. Technology can enable teachers to operate more like sports coaches. Teams need an adequate amount of cohort learning, but running backs need very different instruction than defensive linemen. While I don’t know what “position” my students will hold later in life, I should be able to guide them with different approaches that will increase their learning.