Week 3 – What is an EdTech Leader?

shutterstock_227513170Photo credit: http://www.eschoolnews.com/

An EdTech Leader is someone who works directly with students, teachers, and school administrators on both the introduction and the day-to-day use of technology in classrooms, whether that someone is a teacher or not.  An EdTech Leader could also be a tech coach, working with all of the students in the school, but maybe without their own classroom.  An EdTech Leader is someone a teacher can turn to when they have questions or issues with technology.

One day in the near future, I hope to be an EdTech Leader myself, as a 5th grade teacher. This means that I will be the person my colleagues turn to for help.  I may also be responsible for larger scale technology workshops when new technologies are being integrated into the school.  Depending on how many other EdTech Leaders are in the school, I may be working with every other teacher in the school, or just the other 5th grade teachers.  I can help to facilitate collaboration on large technology-based projects that our students will be doing between classrooms.

A good EdTech Leader is open and patient.  They are open to new ideas suggested by other teachers and administration, and try to be open with their schedules and make time for their colleagues if they need help.  Patience is equally if not more important, as different new technologies can be difficult to grasp.  EdTech Leaders may need to guide others on how to use a specific technology many more times than once, and that’s perfectly okay. EdTech Leaders need to be understanding of their colleagues struggles and kind when helping them face the tech issues that they are having when they approach the EdTech Leader for help.

Another important aspect of being an EdTech Leader is keeping up with evolving technologies yourself.  Current knowledge of the tools available will only lead to more effective strategies for technology use in the classroom.  So, an EdTech Leader needs to stay on their toes, doing their own research at home and doing as much technology related professional development as possible.  Technology is always changing and updating, so there’s no end to learning about it, it’s a lifelong process.

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Week 1 – Introductions

recent photo

Hello! My name is Shana Sutton and I’m an undergraduate student at Indiana University studying to become a teacher.  I hope to one day teach 5th or 6th grade, preferably math and science, but I wouldn’t be opposed to teaching language arts or social studies if that’s the position that was available.  My focus here at the school of education at IU is computer science.  I would love to be in a school one day where I can help my colleagues further integrate technology into their classrooms, as well as having it in my own.

I was born and raised here in Indiana, but I don’t know if I see myself teaching here.  Not that there’s anything wrong with being a hoosier, I just want to explore more of this gigantic country.  I would love to live and teach somewhere out west, but I also want to see the East Coast too.  I’ve seen all of the midwestern states, and apart from the Smokey Mountains, a lot of the landscape is the same.  I grew up on Lake Michigan, but I would love to live near an ocean, it doesn’t matter which one.  The great thing about teaching is that I could do it anywhere!

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pathwaytoscience.org

 

As part of my focus on computer science, I am a part of the Computer Educator Licence Program (CEL) here at IU.  I’ve been a part of the program for almost 4 years now and I love it!  When I started with the CEL it was a pretty small program that not a lot of people knew about, and I’ve had the chance to see it grow a bit over the past few years.  On a campus as large as IU’s, with over 45,000 students, it’s really nice to have a class a few semesters in a row with the same small group of people.  Because you have a chance to get really comfortable with that small group of people, discussion becomes easy, particularly if you’re not a big fan of talking with people you don’t know very well.  When discussion is easy, more thoughts and ideas are shared, and the group benefits as a whole.

In the CEL, I’ve gotten the chance to learn from some of the best instructors.  I’ve also had some of the worst, but much more good than bad.  I’ve gotten to tour schools all over southern Indiana to see first hand how technology is currently being used in the classroom.  I’ve gotten to talk to people from all over the world to ask how they integrate technologies into classrooms in other countries.  I’ve gotten to meet with principals at schools already showing interest in giving me a job opportunity upon graduation when I was just a sophomore.

Being a part of the CEL program here at Indiana University was by far the best decision I have ever made in terms of my education and my career, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has even the slightest interest in seeing what they have to offer.

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Distrusting Educational Technology Book Critique

As an assignment for class, we had to do a book review.  Simple enough, shouldn’t be too difficult; the book I chose, Distrusting Educational Technology by Neil Selwyn wasn’t even 200 pages long.  I thought to myself, “I’ll be able to knock that out in two, three days tops if I just spend like, 20 to 30 minutes reading it each day.”  I was very wrong.  The first time I sat down with the book, reading just the introductory chapter took me over an hour.  This wasn’t an opinionated narrative book, but a report of findings, an extended research text.  While I normally don’t have too much difficulty reading passages like this, Distrusting Educational Technology  is riddled with difficult language.  It would not have taken me so long to get through if I wasn’t having to consistently turn to a dictionary.  I had previously felt that my vocabulary was fairly substantial, but this book changed my mind on that matter; I only felt more and more simple minded as I struggled through it.

As I was working my way through the text, I was creating  this poster that I was to present in class:

book critique

It’s more than a little blurry, I know, I apologize.  This is what the post says:

About the Author

Neil Selwyn is a professor at Monash University in the UK.  He has published six books, all having to do with technology in education. This is his latest.

Summary

While most discussion involving technology and education revolve around which technologies will be used how those technologies will be used, Selwyn explores whether or not technologies should be used in the classroom at all.  Realizing that most technologies are created by a third party seeking profit, he questions the motives behind  and pathways taken that lead to digital technologies ending up in classrooms.  Selwyn believes that just because something is new does not mean that it is always what’s best.

3 Key Takeaways

1.Digital technologies being in our classrooms has significant effects on society,  and not all of them are positive.  Having a wealth of information at our fingertips means that we don’t have to remember specific facts, or even how to spell correctly anymore, effectively dumbing down the “Google generation”

2.Digital technologies should be fully analyzed, including being criticized, before being generally accepted by the masses.  Hyper-critical analyses are often times skipped when reviewing educational technologies.

3.When students are faced with so much content on the internet, it becomes difficult to have original ideas or form independent opinions.  Social media especially, reinforces this, allowing users to re-upload and re-post content in order to take credit for something they did not create themselves, or to restate the opinions of other without having to form their own.

Why you should read this book

Selwyn brings up the fact, many times, that most people just accept that digital technology will play a major role in the modern classroom.  While this book may not completely change your opinion on whether or not digital technologies are beneficial to education, it does put a new perspective on your opinions of educational technology.  As a lot of people think digital technologies to be beneficial, Selwyn makes you question why it is you think that way, as he holds such a polar opposite opinion on the matter.

That last section “why you should read this book” was a requirement.  I don’t really think many people should be reading this book.  It might be helpful for someone conducting research on the matter, but don’t sit down and try to read this book cover to cover, it’s not worth your time.  What wasn’t required was the photo of the author.  As I was reading through and saw his opinions on technology in the classroom, I had thought that he would be much older than he is, and I wanted to make this fact apparent to my classmates.

I also had to write a review of the book on Amazon, available here.

Then, when it came time to actually present on my book of choice, I was still having a difficult time.  Public speaking does not scare me, I’m plenty used to it and I don’t usually get nervous.  However, presenting on this book, in front of classmates that I’ve been studying with for over a year and have grown close to, my face was flushed and my voice was shaking.  I had read the book closely, I’d made the poster, but I did not feel confident speaking about it.

As carefully as I’d read the book, I still didn’t feel like I had an adequate understanding of what Selwyn was trying to say.  I understood that he didn’t want educators of any level to be using nearly as much technology as they are, or at all, but I just couldn’t understand why.  He would make points with quotes from others with the same opinions, but I was having trouble understanding why these were bad things.  For example, he calls millennials and younger the “Google generation,” these are the people who grew up in a world with access to so much information at our fingertips on the internet.  He believes the Google generation is lazier and more stupid than previous generations because they can’t form their own opinions when they have access to so many others.  How is having information bad for education?

I’m so happy that this assignment is completed.  And now that I’ve written this blog post reflecting on my experience, if I ever had to read anything written by Neil Selwyn again, it would be too soon.

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Free and Easy: Classkick

In class this week, a few of my classmates were hosting presentations.  During one group’s presentation, a couple other students and myself were asked to try to find a whiteboard app that nobody in the class had yet heard of.  The app would be used for a review game in class, among other things, for example.

 I went into the app store and simply searched “whiteboard education” and this free app, Classkick, popped up.  In the app’s store’s summary of Classkick, it had this picture:

classkick

(https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/classkick/id909904332?mt=8)

I saw this picture and thought the app looked perfect for the purpose we were looking for.  I didn’t really read the description or any customer reviews, but I saw it was free and downloaded it right away, telling my group mates about it so they could download it to.  We started to play around with it.  When we were getting confused, we tried googling the app, and that’s when we found all it could really do.  First, we found this video:

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvSxM9KpTDE)

This was way more than just a whiteboard app.  Classkick looked fantastic!  With a myriad of uses!  So, I headed over to the website that’s shown at the end of the video, getclasskick.com, and found that the creators of the app have a blog.  You can probably guess by now that I read every post they had on there.  It turns out this app is brand, spankin’ new, having only been released in early September of this year.  Most of the blog posts they had up on their site were announcing bug fixes and improvements, and since it’s so new, there’s probably plenty more of those to come.  However, my favorite post, declared that not only is this app free while it’s in it’s infantile, still-rapidly-improving stage, even after they’ve fixed most of the bugs and they add in all the fancy new features, it is still going to be ABSOLUTELY FREE.

You’re probably saying to yourself, that’s great, we all love free stuff, but could this app be of any use to me?  I get it, teachers have to be selective about the different technology they do and don’t bring into their classroom, and that you don’t want to waste any class time on a technology that’s not really a good fit for your students.  But I really do believe that this app is useful, and will fulfill each of your students needs.

For example, as the teacher using the app and hosting an online classroom within it, you can prepare many slides that the students can work though.  On these slides, you can have a wide variety of content.  So, I would use this as a study guide of sorts.  If your students have a big test coming up, you can take slides you’ve already created from your lectures and put them in the app. Adding in questions that will help your students review for, and ace, this test will require little time and effort on your part.  And, you can see how your students are progressing though the study guide, and you can see where and if they’re getting stuck.  This will allow you to  have time for some last minute formative assessment, so you can answer any questions or correct any mistakes right before the summative assessment.

This of course isn’t the only way Classkick could be used, and I know I’m going to continue playing around with it to really see what it can do.  If it keeps improving like it has been since it’s release, I know it’s going to be a staple in my classroom one day.  Hopefully, it will be in your’s too.

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The Importance of Teacher Networking

As technology becomes a more influential part of everyday life, teachers have to adapt and use these tools to their advantage.  One of the best advantages of modern technologies is the ability for teachers to network more than they ever would have been able to in the past.  It is so easy to find other teachers online who teach the same subject area that you do or have the same interests in new teaching techniques and methods.  These are the two main ways that teachers can network; with teachers in the same content area or grade level and with teachers who are invested in modern teaching techniques.

Edmodo is a great website that connects teachers who teach similar content.  The site is set up to be social media, that is, you have a news feed where you can see what other teachers have posted, whether that be helpful tips or questions.  You can set your profile so that only teachers in your content area show up in your feed, creating many networks of teachers within the networking site itself.  Besides networking, Edmodo can be used as a tool in your classroom, connecting you to students to help keep them on track with their assignments.

Another way to go about networking with other teachers is to search for groups online that discuss different teaching methods.  The conversation is less about specific content and more about new ways that teachers are finding to deliver content.  One such example is the flipped learning network where teachers can discuss the technology they use to flip their classrooms.  There are different chat forums where you can find a topic of interest and discuss it with teachers from around the world.  This would have been impossible just fifty years ago.

Besides the specific networking sites for teachers, it’s also easy to find teachers to bounce ideas off of just on Facebook or Twitter.  A simple search and hundreds of people who also want to find teachers to discuss both content area and education practices are at your fingertips.  For example, last year I was supposed to interview a teacher who had implemented the flipped classroom.  I looked on Facebook and found the Flipped Class Network group page and posted a message asking if anyone would be willing to talk with me.  A woman from the Philippines responded that she would be happy to help me out with my assignment.  Unfortunately due to both of our schedules, the time difference, and her weak internet connection, we couldn’t set up a time to do a video interview.  I did spend some time talking to her via Facebook chat about how she runs her classrooms.  She uses flipped learning in both a high school classroom and at a university where she teaches different mathematics.

She and I would have never met had it not been for the different ways teachers can network online.  Because it is now so easy to spread information in such a way, education as a whole, worldwide, can improve due to new technologies devoted just to connecting with other people.  It’s why teachers should be thinking about expanding their networks beyond just the other teachers within their school, so that new ideas can be spread.

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Inserting Images

For an assignment for a math class I’m taking, we have to post to a wiki, and I’m having trouble inserting an image in the page.  I’ve tried using an HTML code and it’s just not behaving how I need it to.  I’m able to insert the image via URL in the rich text editor, but in order to do that the image has to already exist on the internet. Therefore, I’m going to use this blog post simply to post that image so I can put it in my assignment, mostly because I’m getting frustrated with it.  It’s beautiful, I know, but you can hold your applause.

Joel's problem

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Indiana University Cyber Infrastructure Building Tour

This past Thursday, I got the opportunity to tour Indiana University’s Cyber Infrastructure Building (CIB) with my technology leadership class.  I pass this building often, as I don’t live too far from it, and while I didn’t know what that building was until I went there for the tour, I always thought that the building itself looked so interesting.  Inside and out, this building exudes just how modern and tech-savvy IU is.  The outside of the building it covered in these layered, stable struts that work for temperature control and to reflect sunlight.  The inside of the building is even cooler.

20140904_140011 Upon entering the building, visitors are greeted by the sphere.  This is a stationary projection screen, which is round.  Different spherical objects, such as the Earth in the picture above, are projected onto this large screen through the use of four different projectors.  Those projectors work together to create the effect of the sphere spinning, as if this mini-Earth were rotating.  This would be such a neat tool to have in an Earth/Space science classroom.  Our tour guide showed us the different kinds of information that can be displayed on the surface of whatever planet or moon you have projected onto it that would be so helpful for visual learners.

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In the room attached to the atrium, there was a setup of one computer, twenty-four monitors.  The monitors sync together to form one giant wall monitor that is all controlled by one computer.  In similar setups, it takes a few computers to handle that display.

After seeing this room, we were taken into the back office space, where a lot of different cool new tech toys were held.  We got to see these different technology tools that some people had researched in our Technology Analysis Project that we did last year, which I’ve written about here.  I’ve heard some people discussing the benefits of using a raspberry pi or a leap, but I got to see them in person, and have the leap detect my hands.  It wasn’t hooked up to any running programs, but it was cool just to manipulate the effects on the screen.

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They also had the Google Glass and Oculus Rift for us to check out.  That’s Emma sporting the Google glass, you can read all about what she thought of the experience here.

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After checking out all their gadgets, we headed over to where Big Red II is housed.  This picture of a sign they had posted in the facility gives you a pretty good idea how sturdy the place is.  I mean, when you have a facility housing the supercomputer for all of the Indiana University campuses across the state, it’s gotta be pretty reliable.  I don’t know too much about how supercomputers actually work, but they sure do take up a lot of space, and they take in a lot of power.  We entered the room in which the supercomputer is held, and it was so loud.  If it weren’t for all the vents in the floor, it would have been really hot in there too.

Visiting this facility has made me want to learn more about how supercomputers work and what it is that they do.  As far as I know right now, they’re just a large storage space for data, and I want to know what else it is they can do.

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