Lessons in Using Technology (Final CEP 811 post)

Throughout taking CEP 811 from MSU (Adapting Innovative Technologies to Education), I have learned many techniques and become familiar with many technologies that I will be able to use and integrate into the classes I teach. I have also learned good strategies in using technology. For one, technology should not be used just to use technology. I have been guilty of this, and the lessons where I tried this didn’t tend to be all that exciting. There should be a novel reason for using technology. Once students figure out that the lesson isn’t something they could just do with their textbook, they tend to buy into the lesson a good bit more. It is also important to use the technology to help reach different learning styles (ie videos for visual / auditory learners, text examples, pictures) and break down barriers that students might have. If barriers are created by the technology, there is probably a better way to use the technology. There are many ways to use technology to help all students, and any lesson using technology should be designed from the beginning to be better than a lesson not using the technology. One good example would be putting a glossary of terms into an online lesson, where commonly unknown terms are highlighted with a link to the definition. Things like this allow students to learn more of what you want them to learn with less with problems in any given lesson (if they are appropriately addressed)!

As I look at this new paradigm for using technology in the classroom, I have found many uses for technology in my classes. I want to look for solutions for my classes that technology can fix. If I can fix it another way, I will keep those as options as well. When creating lessons I will be looking for ways that technology can present a benefit that could otherwise not be accomplished. For example, it is difficult to lecture in a class where students are in three different subjects, and most are in different places in those different subjects Any given lecture might only be appropriate for 1 or 2 students at a time. If I were to video tape some key lectures and post them online or on network space accessible to the students, and even possibly incorporate those lectures into an online lesson (using Moodle), I could replace “normal” book learning with an interactive lesson following my “lecture” presentation. It doesn’t matter when a student gets to that spot in the curriculum, I will have a video for them. If it is present online, there will be greater freedom for students to learn whenever they can!

As I look at my goals to find solutions that can be addressed by technology, I am also constantly adjusting my goals to find new ways to break down barriers that students are facing. An example of this would be balancing chemical equations. Many students have issues with this. If I can find new ways to break down that barrier for students, those same approaches could help those not struggling to master it even more. With interactive websites and lesson formats available, it would be silly to not have students try the interactive online lessons so that they will have an alternative to the paper and pencil methods of balancing equations. No matter what the issue is, technology has the ability to organize materials so that students can focus on the subject material being taught and less on figuring out exactly what is being asked. Any way that technology can help a student better understand something than the way that I am currently teaching, I want to use it.

I yearn for the ability to better help my students understand the material they need to cover in order to receive credit and gain applicable knowledge. Given the self guided nature of my school, this is not an easy task. I hope to continue learning about and creating technological solutions to address the problems to learning my students face. I want for each and every student that comes into my classroom to have the ability to get feedback, scaffolding, links to prior knowledge, relevance, and my knowledge at their fingertips. Technology can help me do that more efficiently. Technology can help me be there for my students more than if I were just alone in the classroom with no computers. When I can increase the amount of time that I help a student understand a concept, whether that is through direct help or a technological solution (online lessons, links, using Moodle, videotaped lectures, etc) , I am being a more successful educator. This is what I will be focusing on throughout my future in education.

Online Experience

Being a teacher in an alternative school, with classes containing students from several subjects at a time, it sometimes seems overwhelming when I am trying to figure out how to incorporate activities like labs into the curriculum. Hands on is by far the best way to learn some science concepts, but with the use of Online Simulations, as outlined in the Michigan Online Experience Guideline, there are some better options than just watching a video.

Using online simulations could be a great asset in science specifically through virtual labs. With virtual labs, students would be able to dissect a particular animal, mix different chemicals and observe the reaction, and even create their own physics experiment on acceleration. This would greatly increase the amount if inquiry that was present within the classroom. With the varied spots of students within each classroom, I am grateful that I have two computers in my classroom at all times for students to utilize online simulations, because the odds of more than a few students being at the same spot in the material are low. For times when an online simulation is appropriate for all subjects covered within a classroom (or in my case for forensics), the computer lab could be reserved and used in a more class or group based way.

Even though the Michigan Online Experience Guideline has many good options for use within my classroom, there are some experiences that would be challenging to facilitate with my students. Because I work at a court school, communication with outside persons is very limited. Many of my students are also experts at gaining communication with persons that they are prohibited from even with school blocks in place. Because of this, it would be a challenge to open up interactive discussions with experts or between students. If this was done in a highly supervised scenario, or with only one or two students participating in this at a time, I think that it would be possible to integrate, but sufficient resources would need to be given in order to ensure proper use of the technologies.

Wiki Overload

Wikis are on the brain, and for good reason. This section of my CEP 811 class we were to look at wikis. I didn’t know what to think of them at first, but I think they’ll end up being useful. I don’t know how much they’ll be used in the classroom vs. with staff to organize things, but time will tell. This might even be useful staging local storm chases when the weather gets warmer!

I created a wiki at PBWorks for school, and I figured that the best test would be to use it between staff for a computer lab reservation system. As I find uses for it in the classroom, I can foresee these being used in classes like forensics and careers, so that students can give feedback to each other and across classes (since I usually teach two of each at the same time).

On Wikipedia, I couldn’t find my school, but that’s not a surprise. I went to the Lansing, MI Wikipedia page and added the Ingham Academy to the public and private schools list. I then created a page for the Ingham Academy on Wikipedia, and I think I have the hang of it now. This could be an issue … because I’ll not only be surfing, but editing Wikipedia from here on out! I had fun doing this, and hope to get better as time goes on. I enjoy taking pictures, as I did for the Ingham Academy, and hope to be able to add to this community.

Click HERE for an image of my PBWorks wiki and my Wikipedia creation.


Listed below are some strengths (features) and weaknesses (barriers) to a lesson that I created to address the Physics concepts of speed and position vs. time graphs. The lesson is posted in MERLOT here. Basically I found that while I did allow for some creativity, I had restricted that creativity to only a couple of programs. I also didn’t do a very good job accommodating for different learning styles in more than the introduction and modeling of the lesson. In order to make this lesson better, I would need to add more ways for students to view the presentation, give more options for the creation of position vs. time graphs, and allow the students to create their own data if they choose to motivate more students.

UDL Guidelines – Educator Checklist
I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation
1.2 Provide alternatives for auditory information
Feature: This lesson will be lectured verbally with text notes, and will be visually modeled.
1.3 Provide alternatives for visual information
Feature: This lesson will be explained verbally. It would be of added benefit to add video and audio supplements to each part of the lesson.
2.1 Define vocabulary and symbols
Barrier: Some vocabulary in this lesson might not be in some students’ prior knowledge and isn’t adequately explained.
3.1 Provide or activate background knowledge
Feature: Situations of speed from prior knowledge will be addressed and expanded upon.
3.2 Highlight critical features, big ideas, and relationships
Feature: Slope’s relationship to speed on a position vs. time graph is revisited and reinforced throughout the lesson.
II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression
4.1 Provide varied ways to respond
Barrier: There is only one set of assessments for this lesson. This needs to be expanded to allow more freedom.
5.1 Allow choices of media for communication
Barrier: The lesson only allows for Excel and PowerPoint as methods for sharing the information.
III. Provide Multiple Means of Engagement
7.1 Increase individual choice and autonomy
Feature: This lesson allows creativity during the presentation section, so that the students can explain however they choose.
Barrier: The creativity is restricted to the use of Excel and PowerPoint.
7.3 Reduce threats and distractions
Feature: Excel table templates are used to create graphs to be used in the lesson.
8.2 Vary levels of challenge and support
Barrier: Other than the presentation, materials don’t have different levels of support or challenge.
8.4 Increase mastery-oriented feedback
Feature: The lesson requires students to explain their knowledge of the topic to others.
9.2 Scaffold coping skills and strategies
Feature: Students receive feedback at the end of each section of the lesson, ensuring they understand the topic before presenting it to others.

MERLOT: An adventure of knowledge …

This is a new resource that I have been exposed to in my class CEP 811 from Michigan State University. It is a nifty collection of resources including animations, lessons, websites with links, tutorials, unit plans, and so on for educators to view, use, and add to. It is a great resource from what I can tell, and after subscribing to an RSS feed I immediately was able to find a website that had virtual labs for chemistry. Sites like this will be greatly useful as I try to find better ways to teach in an environment that educates students in the unique way that students are taught at the Ingham Academy, where adjudicated youth are taught in classes sometimes containing several subjects, spots, and grade levels within the same classroom each period. It is a challenge that will become less daunting with resources such as this!

-Dan B