The students whom fill our schools today, tomorrow and in the near future have made a huge shift in the way we learn over the past ten years.
Today’s students are changing rapidly, and a number of things are influencing these changes such as social, cultural and most importantly the technological shift in the world. (Latham, G. ET al.2006) It is recognised that the students in classrooms today are not the same students as a mere ten years ago. However they are 'subjectively different by virtue of their relationship to new times.’ (Green and Bigum, 1993, cited in Latham, G. et al. 2006) In recognising the shift in our learners of today, we as future educators also have to recognise the new needs and capacities of our students, which demand reconceptualized curricula and pedagogies. (Latham, G. et al. 2006)
In order to engage our students of the 21st century, it is up to us as teachers to engage them in meaningful, rich tasks, where learning is a want not a need. There are a number of ways to engage our students in classrooms, however it is found that the use of technology in schools can in fact reach a level of engagement that is difficult to achieve in other ways. (Kearsley & Schneiderman, 1999) A framework that recognises the importance of technology, as an engagement tool is better known as Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning developed, by Greg Kearsley and Ben Schneiderman.
When using the word engagement, Kierlsey and Schneiderman (1999) understand that children are motivated to learn when using active cognitive processes, such as problem solving, decision- making and evaluating processes.
In conjunction with Kierlsey and Schneiderman’s framework for technology-based teaching and learning is the active learning model. The active learning model adopts the notion that the learning experience is multi-directional and that learning occurs and is shared between all members of a classroom setting, including from teacher to student and from student to teacher. (ACU, 2000)
Both of the models work side by side to enhance student learning.
There are a range of learning technologies and tools that are available over the Internet that can enhance both teacher and student learning.
The main underlying reason to use the following technologies in my classroom would be to engage my students in meaningful and rich tasks.
The first engagement tool that I, as a future educator will be using in my classroom are the Voki avatars. Voki Avatars are a free service, which, allow the creation of personalised speaking avatars, which can be embedded into personal blogs and in email messages. (Oddcast, 2007-2008)
There are a number of uses for vokis, however in an education setting they can be a very useful engagement tool for teachers, to introduce a topic, to show a role-play or to have a bit of fun with the class. By engagement I mean that, all students are motivated to learn because of the meaningful context of the learning environment and activities. (Greg Kearsley & Ben Schneiderman, 1999)
After discovering the avatars in this course, I decided to use them in a lesson to show a role-play. It was amazing to see how well the students in my class responded to the avatars. They were totally engaged with the lesson and they could remember exactly what the avatars had said a week later.
This showed me how beneficial they really are in a classroom setting. Vokis need not only be used by the teacher in a classroom setting, however they can also be extremely beneficial for students learning, in areas such as story retell, visual literacy and also to show students what text to speech looks and sounds like.
The next tool that I am going to discuss is PowerPoint and the endless possibilities that can be achieved by using this technology in a classroom setting.
PowerPoint is a presentation software package that is user friendly and fun to use. PowerPoint’s can be developed for a number of purposes, however the two main purposes that I would use PowerPoint’s in my classroom would be for engagement tools and also for digital portfolios. Firstly, PowerPoint can be used as a teaching tool, to allow educators to incorporate ICT's into their lessons that are easy for the students, however most of all that are easy for the teachers.
The great thing about PowerPoint is that you do not have to be a technological whiz by any means to use it and there are a number of free programs available to help teachers step by step to create their own presentations and also to teach students how to do the same. As a frequent user of PowerPoint I would use the free tutorials that are available, such as ‘actden’ to teach my students how to create their own PowerPoint. Once the students were familiar with the dynamics of PowerPoint, I would get them to set up their own digital portfolio. The digital portfolio would consist of a number of slides that would track the students learning and progress throughout the year. (Kember, 2008) This would give students the opportunity to showcase their learning and achievement with friends and family from both inside and from outside of the school environment. It would also allow the teacher with a set of documents that provide evidence of knowledge. (Kember, 2008)
After researching and experiencing the endless possibilities of webquests, I am excited to say that I cannot wait to set one up for my future students. However if I were to set up a webquest for a unit of work, I would also have my students set up a personal blog that would be connected to the webquest. Webquests are an authentic learning tool that adopt the active learning and the collaborative learning approaches. Personally I would set up a webquest that would run throughout an entire term and that was to be completed in small groups, of two to three students.
Students would work their way through the webquest, while along the way posting reflective comments, questions and answers onto their personal blog spaces to share with their peers. The use of the small groups together with the personal blog spaces would encourage collaborative learning and enhance student success. Collaborative learning occurs when students work together and alongside each other to learn. Dillenberg and Schneider (1995, cited in Krause, et al. 2007) explain that collaborative learning may occur where learners work in small groups, to achieve a common goal. This is exactly my intent for the use of the webquest and the blog, where the class would be working in small groups to achieve an end product, whilst underneath it all they will be learning collaboratively. The use of the blog would also be great for students to be able access and work on their webquest outside of school, so that learning can occur outside of a formal school setting. The blog would allow students to share and find out new information and to work together, (without the teacher) to find out new knowledge work through the webquest. This would give the students control and ownership over their learning.
Lastly, the final teaching and learning tool that I would like to adopt into my class would be the use of podcasts. A podcast is a digital audio file that can be made available on the Internet, by using an RSS feed. (Orden, 2005-2008)
Podcasts can be a great teaching tool, to introduce students to a new topic by showing them a video, song or play on the computer. However in my class, I would like to use podcasts for students to make their own audio file, such as a video, a story retell or a music clip. The creation of the podcast would create an authentic assessment task, one that the students can take charge of. It would also be a great opportunity for the students to be able to showcase their knowledge over the Internet and to share it outside of the school with friends and family. How exciting for students to design, make and showcase their own learning over the Internet.
Although I have only known about most of these technology tools for a mere six weeks, I now feel like I have grown into a digital native and I have come so far.
I am sure that these are only a few of the available teaching and learning tools out there, however I am now confident to say that as a 21st century teacher,
I feel that I can connect my 21st century students with real, relevant and rousing learning experiences, by incorporating these new exciting technologies into my lesson.
Kearsley G & Schneiderman B. 1999. Engagement Theory: A framework for technology- based teaching and learning. Retrieved from: http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/engage.htm on the 14th August 2009.
Kember, D. 2008. Learning with Digital Portfolios. Retrieved from: http://education.qld.gov.au/smartclassrooms/pdf/smart-newsletter.pdf on the 17th August 2009.
Krause K, Bochner S, Duchesne, S. 2007. Educational Psychology: learning and teaching. 2nd Edition. Thomson, Melbourne, VIC.
Latham G, Blaise M, Dole S, Faulkner J, Lang J and Malone k. 2006. Learning to Teach: New Practices, New Times. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, VIC.
The Abilene Christian UniversityAdams Center for Teaching Excellence. 2000. Active Learning Online. Retrieved from: http://www.acu.edu/cte/activelearning/whyuseal2.htm on the 27th July 2009.
Orden 2005-2008. How to Podcast. Retrieved from: http://www.how-to-podcast-tutorial.com/what-is-a-podcast.htm on the 17th August 2009.