Students Know Technology NO THEY DONT!

This past month I received a set of netbooks for my classroom.  I feel very fortunate to have received these and wanted to incorporate them into my class as much as possible. So I decided to make my class a paperless classroom.  As my classes have begun working in this new digital learning environment I have found that many students really do to know how to use technology and really need to be shown how to correctly use a computer.

So often I hear teachers say things like, “I don’t want to teach kids technology because they already know it all and I don’t.” Or that “the kids know more about this stuff than I do.” To put it bluntly, NO THEY DON’T! This is a myth and in fact I believe that you will find that things like file management, proper email, and using many online tools will be foreign to them.  Although many students will pick up how to use these digital tools quickly we must remember as teachers, students need to be taught how to use many of these tools. Assuming that students can use technology is a pitfall that many educators and schools fall into. Any technology to used in the classroom must be taught to the students before its use to ensure the best possible application of that learning tool.  This is a lesson that even though I knew, really has been pointed out to me in the past few weeks.

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Don’t Just Use Tech Teach It

From Flickr

Integrating technology into lessons for students should be the goal of all teachers, but teaching students how to use the technology is a must.  Often, as we use and adapt technology in our classrooms, we assume students know more about technology than they really do.  I have seen many lessons that have fallen flat because the teacher thought that students would know how to use the technology employed in that lesson.  I have had this happen to me on multiple occasions.  Adults commonly differ to students to figure out technology assuming that they would be familiar and able to use any type of technology.  This is often a misconception.  Just because students may know what the technology is does not mean that they know how to use it correctly.  We must remember this as teachers.  When deciding to use any type of technology in the classroom  time must be spent in class on how to correctly use the technology.  While technology can increase student engagement it can also kill engagement and motivation if students gets frustrated and confused by the technology.  As adults we need to remember that while students may have considerable knowledge about technology they still need guidance on how to correct use technology.

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What! Its my responsibility?

As the end of the rolls in and students and teachers finish up lessons and grading periods.  I am struck once again by the inevitable conundrum of responsibility of grades.  The image below was sent to me by a fellow colleague and I think that it sums up the responsibility of education today.          Teachers need to be accountable for what is taught and how students perform in their classes but we can not continue to place all of the blame on the teachers.  Students, parents, and community also have a large role in the success of students in school.

As a society we seem to currently place the responsibility on others and not ourselves.  Twenty years ago a common saying was,  pull your self up by your boot straps today it seems to be, this is your fault.  American ideals were founded on individualism. The responsibility of success was solely on the individual.  Now it seems as though it is on society to ensure that I succeed. This erosion of responsibility and the american way has grown over the years.  As educators and parents we need to address this with our kids.  We need to stress to them that they are responsible for their future not others.  We need to give them the tools and teach them to be responsible so that they can be successful.  We need to teach kids it is their actions that play the largest role in their success.  Reform is good and has its place but until society takes responsibility for their own actions reform can only go so far.

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What is Augmented Reality? REALLY!

Over the past year I have begun working on creating alternative learning environments in a real world setting.  In my quest to create these so called augmented reality environments I have begun to wonder if the term “augmented reality” is appropriate.  It seems as read other blogs and look at new apps for phones, that every time I turn around there is a new augmented reality application.  So my question is should we look at redefining what is augmented reality and maybe create different types or classifications?  What do you think?

Defining Augmentedness – What is mobile AR Part I The Camera

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Play and Teach Important Components for New Technology

Over the course of the past few weeks, as I have been introducing my students to the use of cell phones in class.  I have come to some conclusions about the use of technology in the classroom.  While I know that these conclusions are not new revelations in the educational technology they are points that I think as teachers we often forget when we introduce new technology into a classroom setting.

The number one thing that I feel is most important is to give kids time to PLAY with the technology.  Often times we introduce a new technology and expect students to beginning using this technology for educational purposes without letting them have time to play and experiment with the technology.  This leaves the students frustrated since they want to experiment with the the technology and see what it can do.  It also leaves the teacher frustrated because they feel that all they do is monitor the students to make sure that they are using it correctly.  If students are allowed time to play with the technology, when it comes time to use it they will not only have a better understanding of the technology they will have also satisfied their inquisitive nature.  This will allow teachers to get the most out of the technology that they use.

Another important thing I have found is TEACH the kids how to use the technology.  So many teachers introduce technology and just expect students to be able to us it.  I hear teachers often say, “well these kids know more than I do about technology”.  This false belief that students are fluent with technology can cause frustration for students and teachers.  Conducting a web-search is a great example.  Often time teachers take students to the lab and tell students to look up information on a given topic.  After two minutes hands start to go up and students say ” I can not find anything on this topic”.  Teachers respond by saying that is ridiculous there is a massive amount of information on this topic.  Frustration has now set in for both the teacher and the students. It is at this point that motivation and focus have been lost and the activity often times is not going to be successful.  Taking the time to show students how to conduct a proper web search is a critical skill that is often over looked by many teachers.  Just googling it often will not net the results that will truly help a student.

Allowing students time to develop the necessary skills and giving them time to play are critical components of the use of technology in the classroom.  If these two components are not developed with all new technology the use of that technology will not be successful and will often turn students away from technology.

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Augmented Reality Post Five: Review of “Manifest Destiny” Game

Yesterday, I finally got to try out my Augmented Reality game, “Manifest Destiny“.  I was excited to give this a try and see how this new type of learning environment might work  with my students.  In the past I have run some short trial games to see how the software worked and all of the those tests the students seemed to really enjoy.  This was the first complete game with a specific learning target in mind that students had to completely discover on their own.  Students had no prior knowledge of the topic of “Manifest Destiny”.


The learning target for this game was: Students will be able to describe and define Manifest Destiny?

Students were given four questions to answer as they progressed through the game.

  1. What is Manifest Destiny?
  2. What are the three political factors influence the development of Manifest Destiny?
  3. What are the three social factors influence the development of Manifest Destiny?
  4. What are the three economic factors influence the development of Manifest Destiny?

Students were placed into groups of three and each student was a different character in the game. At each location each member of the team met a different historical figure.  The historical figure presented each student with some information. After the students listened to their historical character the students must then discuss what they have heard in their groups to get a complete answer.  Each member of the group received vital information that must be incorporated into the answer to each question.  Once they have answered their question the group then moves on to the next location.

Student Reaction

Students seemed to be very engaged in this type of learning environment.  They quickly learned how to use the device and how to use the interface of the program.  Both of these were concerns for me at the beginning of this exercise. Students really seemed to be enjoying themselves and all said that they would like to do this type of thing again.  Some of the complaints were that the questions were to hard.  They stated that they would like to just receive the answer and not have to try to figure it out at each location. Some said that they would like more interaction at each location.  they did not just want to be presented information at each place but rather interact with the device.


In grading the assignment that went along with this activity all groups received a 70% or higher on the questions.  I felt as though the main learning target had been met by a majority of the class.  Something that might have worked out better was to not have the questions on the device but on a separate sheet of paper.  I did find that student engagement and motivation was very high for this activity.  However, the fact that this was a new activity with new technology might have a big part in the motivation.  All in all I thought that this type of learning environment showed a lot of promise.  I will be looking at doing another game shortly based off of what I learned from this game.

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Student Centered = Student Engagement

Well due to state testing I had to post pone my Augmented reality game until today.  But something happened yesterday that got me thinking and I wanted to share.  During lunch on Mondays a group of teachers meet in our building to watch and discuss a video on an educational topic.  We call it Motivation Mondays.  The purpose of this is to find new and inovative ways to teach.

Yesterday, we watched a video on TED called ” Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover.”  Not being a math teacher I contemplated not going to this meeting but I am glad I did.  This talk which you can see below was not just about math but rather about teaching.  He brought up some profound points about having students getting involved in their learning.  Not just by participating but by helping to create the learning process.  This can be done in any subject and creates engagement and a link for students, so that they see the relevance of their learning.  Teachers must get away from the canned approach to learning that has become so previlant in our educational system.  This canned approach often cause student boredom and creates a disconnect with what they are learning.  If students do not see the relevance and purpose for what they are learning they will have a hard time being engaged.  This was a great video. I recommend it at any faculty meeting.  It will bring up some great discussion.   Check it out below.

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Augmented Reality Post Four: My “Manifest Destiny” Game

Augmented Reality Game

Augmented Reality Game

Well, I have been off of the grid lately, working on a new augmented reality game for my students.  This game is designed to introduce them to Manifest Destiny.  There were two things that I was hoping to accomplish with this game. First, to introduce them to Manifest Destiny,  and second to get them working together.  This game is set up so each student in the group interviews a different character.   Each person in the group receives only a portion of the answer in their interview, making it necessary for  the students to work together to get the correct answer.  Each stop has a question that is presented to them at the beginning of the game that will be answered a long the way.

1. What is Manifest Destiny?
2. What are the three political reasons that influenced the development of Manifest Destiny?
3. What are the three economical reasons that influenced the development of Manifest Destiny?
4. What are the three social reasons that influenced the development of Manifest Destiny?

The entire game takes place on the back field of our school with a total of  four stops in the game.  I am very excited to try this game out on Monday. Wish me luck!

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Why are we addressing only 1/2 the issue of school reform?

As a teacher today I have often heard colleagues, parents, and administration talk of the apathy and lack of work ethic from students today.  I know there have been times in class that I have wondered that myself.  When I think of this subject, I often wonder is it the students or is it the education system.  Kids are often bored at school. We all know this and, as a teacher, I see it every day.  Teachers try to engage students and keep their motivation and interest, but it does not always work.  No matter what teachers do, the structure of the school is still the same. Every 50 minutes their is a bell, and after a couple of classes there is lunch, then a couple more classes, then they go home. While teachers can alter what happens in their rooms quite effectively, in many cases the atmosphere of the school does not change.

For true education reform we have to change the way students go to school.  A series of classes and heavily structured day may have worked in the past, but are they working today? With all of the talk of school reform and what happens in the classroom ,should we not consider also how the overall day is structured for the students?  All educators know that an atmosphere can have a profound effect on student achievement.  Reform in the classroom is only part of the equation.  Home life and the educational system as a whole is the other half of the equation.  Without addressing all of the issues affecting our schools, true reform will not happen.

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Piloting 30 cell phones in the classroom: Test One “Twitter”

This past week I introduced my students to the 30 HTC Touch Pro2 I am going to test for the remainder of the year.  Each student was assigned their own phone.  After allowing the students a day to familiarize themselves with the phones I decided to try them out.

My first use with the phones, as a resource, in the classroom was to test out Twitter with my Jr. High Students.  As I presented information to them on Washington State history specifically the fur trade and missionaries.  They were allowed to participate in a back channel on twitter. If you are not familiar with back channeling is when people in the audience converse online about the topic being presented to them live.  To do this they use a designated hash tag in Twitter to see and respond to people in the class.  I was surprised by the by the results of my little experiment. Students were very engaged with the topic and obviously the technology.  I was also very surprised to see that they stayed on topic.   Not only were they on topic but they answered each others questions and posed other questions to each other.

On the second day, I decided to post questions to them on the topic and have them respond to those as well.  This really seemed to keep them engaged on the topic being presented.  I even had a student at home who logged on to Twitter and was participating in class from home. I did find that conducting a class and monitoring and posting to Twitter was quite difficult.  Although by the second day, I did see how it could be done.

While I was encouraged and saw the potential of this type of technology use in the classroom I am not sure if this would be a great fit for Jr. High students.  Some of the students a hard time using the phones and got frustrated with the technology.  As a result this pulled them off task as they tried to fix their phone or interrupting class to vent about their phone.  I felt that there is some true potential to using this type of social networking in class.  Will be revamping my use from what I have learned over the past week and giving it another try. Will post the results when I do.

One of the issues that I had was the Twitter client that I used.  I was using a Twitter client called MoTweets.  Does anyone know another mobile application for a windows mobile phone that that works better?  I felt that this client was not very reliable and often very slow to post to Twitter.  If you know of one please leave me a comment.

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