Friday, April 19, 2013

Utilizing Technology in Education

Found in the online article, Research on Multimedia in Education, “when information technology-assisted project based learning is used in a constructivist, cooperative learning environment, students learn more and retain their knowledge better.” (para. 1) Utilizing technology in the classroom is progressively becoming more popular because it is attractive to a wider audience, includes many types of learners, and urges students to apply learning in a hands-on manner.  It is beneficial to incorporate technology into the classroom not only to improve student learning, but students will also be more engaged in the learning process.  This post will focus on how technological advances have changed and improved the way we teach; specifically, screencasting, collaborative editing, and blogging have reformed the traditional classroom into a more practical learning environment that challenges students to actively learn. 
Screencasting:  According to an article by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, screencasting records a person’s movement and audio on their computer screen, capturing everything occurring during a specific period of time. (para. 4)  There are many free programs that you can download to have screencasting capabilities, among them are: CamStudio, Screencast-o-matic, AviScreen, and Copernicus for Macs.  Screencasting can be an extremely powerful tool to utilize in the classroom.  A teacher can model what is being taught through screencasting.  In my business class, I teach how to use the different buttons on the Ribbon in Microsoft Office.  With a projector or on their own computer, students can view a pre-recorded screencast explaining how to implement different features of the Ribbon into a document.  Being able to help and monitor students while the screencast plays is a huge advantage; students are also able to re-watch screencasts to better understand concepts.  Screencasting is a student-centered activity; it accommodates different learning styles and speed. (“7 Things,” 2006)
            While screencasting is an extremely attractive alternative to modeling what is being taught, it is not an efficient method for modeling all lessons.  I am a business teacher and my lessons are meant to help improve students’ computer skills.  Using screencasting in a lesson in an English language arts class would probably be an inefficient method for teaching about the theme in a novel.  Some concepts need to be taught in a traditional way: pencil, paper, textbook, etc.  
Collaborative Editing:  Collaborative editing is a software tool that allows multiple people to edit a document simultaneously.  A group of users can create a document together, while in separate locations, that each can individually edit.  Google Docs is essentially a free online version of Microsoft Word.  It has similar features; however, it allows users to collaborate on documents, which is especially useful on a group paper.  EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative says, “Collaborative editing is a more efficient method of creating and revising documents.” (para.4)
            Collaborative editing is used when multiple people are in charge of writing and editing a document.  Using Google Docs to edit a paper is much easier than e-mailing back and forth between group members.  Another example when collaborative editing would be useful would be during a lecture.  Members of class could all edit notes to share with each other.  However, this editing process does have a few flaws.  First, all users must be trustworthy and communication must be clear.  With Google Docs, it is very easy for an unfinished paper to be submitted.  It is crucial that all users know what is expected of them.
            Collaborative editing is most beneficial in a group setting.  Google Docs is a great, basic program to use but word processing software would be more efficient in an independent setting. A wiki is a great tool for classmates to collaborate online, but if only one person is writing, a blog may be more appropriate. 
Blogging:  Writing a blog is essentially writing a journal online.  It is short for ‘web log’ because people write different posts on the Internet.  People write a blog for many different purposes, but most blogs tend to focus on one primary topic; I’ve seen cooking blogs, technology blogs, blogs about starting a business, or sometimes, it may just be about a person’s life.  Blogging can serve many educational purposes.  From blogging, I’ve learned so much about technology and just teaching in general. 
This sort of assignment is a part of the “new” pedagogy discussed in Marc Prensky’s article, “The Role of Technology in Teaching and the Classroom.”  Blogging is a student-centered, independent learning activity where the student is basically in control of their own learning.  The teacher does not teach but the students teach themselves.  (para. 2) To facilitate blogging using the “new” pedagogy, teachers would help focus what the students are to write about and the requirements to meet the assignment.  However, blogging may not be best used in the traditional classroom during lectures and so forth.  If you asked a student to blog about a teacher’s lecture, my guess is that you would probably get some off-topic, less than stellar posts. 
Using technology in the classroom is an extremely beneficial tool to aid student learning.  With technology, students are able to teach themselves rather than just rely on a teacher’s instruction.  Every student is actively involved in the learning process.  Screencasting, collaborative editing, and blogging are all useful tools that can enhance curriculum; however, this paper has shown that it is not appropriate in every classroom setting.  As technology advances, pedagogy and learning will continue to change.  As teachers, we need to continue to learn about these advances and how to better reach our students.  Utilizing technology is an extremely powerful tool to engage students; however, we must also be cognizant that it may not always be the best form of instruction.


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