Synthesis

Ten courses can turn into… Of course I can!

 

By: Bethany Arsenault

As I look back on my experience during the MAET courses I have definitely grown as teacher.   I have answered a few questions, but more importantly, I have created many new goals that involve many more new questions!

Differentiating and Customizing and Instant Feedback… Oh My!

I remember taking CEP 811 (Adapting Innovative Technologies to Education) in the Spring of 2008.  It was during this course that I first realized that I could use applications to individualize instruction for my students.  I remember creating the “STAIR” project and feeling like it was a lot of work.  I remember getting frustrated and excited as I layered different items in my PowerPoint presentation.
The ability to record my voice and add student photos as student feedback for incorrect and correct answers was so effective.  My students loved it and would play the activities over and over again.  The way I could customize the dolch word levels in my STAIR PowerPoint often felt like I was creating a brand new computer program just for my kids.

My students’ reactions were so exciting because they proved that technology could:

  • provide instant feedback and motivation using my voice and photos of students
  • be used to create a word activity that was based on individualized dolch word lists and not just a generalized dolch word activity computer game.
  • provide an activity that students can do independently without extra teacher time.
  • allow me to create a presentation activity that I can tweak to meet my students’ needs.  The activity wasn’t perfect at first, but I was able to get feedback from students and tweak it to be more effective.

This course reinforced the excitement I felt when I thought about integrating technology into my classroom.  It was the end of my first year of teaching and I was new to the world of technology integration.  It was a true sign that technology could help me differentiate my instruction and provide fun activities that motivate my students to want to learn.  I took this class was way before the iPad was available in stores.  This activity felt a lot like I was creating my own individualized “app.”

On the same Page!

CEP 820 (Teaching K-12 Students Online) created a solid introduction to online learning.  It was inspiring to think that even my little Five year old Kindergarten students could use take a course online.  I just didn’t know how it would work.  I remember the conversation with my instructor, Mike DeSchryver, about my concerns.  My students couldn’t read and were just learning how to use a computer.  I mentioned to Mike that parents often asked about how to say things at home when teaching letter sounds to their children.  There was a definite home-school disconnect.  He suggested that I create a hybrid course that would involve a parent component.  I took that suggestion and ran with it.  My parents and students use my online course at home and I use it in class as well.  The videos and online activities have provided a much better home-school connection.  It is so fun having my parents learn alongside my students.  The parents are reinforcing what I am teaching and giving me wonderful feedback to help me improve my teaching.  This course taught me that technology can be used to create online opportunities for parents and students to better connect to the content we teach in the classroom.  Parents, students and teachers all on the same page…our Kinder phonics course webpage!

 

Critical Thinking and Clicking

I took CEP 891 (Online Literacy and Reading-to-Learn in the Digital Age) in the Spring of 2011.  During this year I continued to defend the need for integrating technology into the classrooms at our elementary buildings.  Teachers would comment about how students were not reading and would jump from page to page on websites and that was ruining their ability to think and read.  Dr. Rand helped us analyze reading online and how people use critical thinking while reading online.  I loved how we used “think alouds” to analyze what we were thinking as we surfed the net to find information about a topic.  Our students do this every day as they search on the internet.  I love asking students and people what makes one link better than another or why did you choose that source over another.  Critical thinking is a huge part of the online world and the paths we choose as we search for content and decide on its credibility.  After taking this course I have added these ideas and discussions to my daily repertoire as I click through sites on the SMART Board or watch students surf the internet in the lab.

Ready set…DREAM…TPACK!

Dreaming – the “Dream it Project” gave me the opportunity to explore the subject of grant proposals.  I have always been afraid of the whole grant writing process.  Professor Mishra and my Cohort were a great support system.  Teachers who are passionate about technology often feel like they have to limit their dreams because of lack of funds.  It was fun to allow myself to explore my dreams of using iPads with Kindergarten students.  The TPACK model helped me really focus on what technology I need in my classroom and why I need it.  I felt that my Dream it Proposal had a healthy balance of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge. When I presented the idea to my principal she was so impressed and even though she isn’t the most “techie” person, she could clearly understand how these ideas could be very successful in a Kindergarten classroom.  I now have 4 more iPads and a few other teachers in our building are excited to get their classroom iPad next month.  I am excited to show them all that I have learned so far.

Works in Progress and Future Battles…

I know that I am a work in progress and so is the MAET.  Technology changes as faster than my students learn how to turn on their iPads.  So many things changed since the day I started the MAET.  One disadvantage I have is that I took my first course (CEP 810) way back in 2007.  SO much has changed since then!  I get frustrated when I think about how I could use have used Google Docs for many of my projects and how my Twitter, Facebook and other PLN resources could have made my project so much better.  I am sure that the MAET program probably feels similarly on occasion.  Keeping up with technology alone is a daily battle.  Keeping current with technologies and how to implement them into a college teaching course is an even bigger battle.  In all it is an exciting battle because we never know what exciting technology is coming next!  It forces us to reflect on our teaching and how we can use repurpose technologies to improve how our students learn.

Choice is powerful

I have to say that I often felt a little restricted during the first 3 certificate courses.  I didn’t feel that I had a choice of applications for projects.  CEP 820 and CEP 813 were wonderful because I was given the option to choose an online tool that fit my needs for my online portfolio and online course.  While I understand the need to teach students how to use certain computer applications and how to apply them in the classroom, it is so nice that we have so many online choices to accomplish the same task.

Fitting, Changing, Balancing and Accountability!

One BIG challenge during the MAET program was making time for coursework.  My schedule was already jammed packed and I had to make some changes so I could fit everything in.  The life of a teacher is always changing because our students and their lives are always changing and affecting our classrooms.  I know that working long hours and fitting reading and researching into a busy schedule is a common part of the master’s degree process.  Finding a balance between personal, career and college was a challenge.  I found that if I scheduled a specific time to do my coursework it helped hold myself accountable.  It wasn’t always perfect, but it helped knowing it was in my already set in my weekly calendar.

 

Learning To Connect!

During the first course, CEP 810, I found that I was separating my classroom and my coursework to the extent that I wasn’t making the connections between the two.  I didn’t make my first really meaningful connection until CEP 811.  Once I started seeing a connection between the content, pedagogy and content it started to build a better foundation for my learning.  The STAIR project was the first project I created in the MAET that I was really excited about.  I was excited to start another STAIR project on my own for other subject areas and not just for a grade for CEP 811.  I always get so excited when my students go home and find out more about a topic we learned about in class.  They do it because they are passionate about the topic and were inspired to find out more.  That is how I felt!

Give someone a fish, they will eat for a day, but teach them to fish…

I will continue to build on the foundation that the MAET has provided me.  It has been an incredibly valuable experience.  The most incredible part about the program is that the instructors do not just  teach you how to use technologies, they inspire you to learn more!  I feel that I was given opportunities to repurpose technologies to fit my pedagogical needs.  I have learned the importance of colleagues and having a support group.  I am thankful to have had some great mentors that have not just spoon fed me the content.  Instead I was challenged to think deeply about my application of technology and how it affects my students.

The program has instilled a confidence in me and has helped me become more of a risk taker.  I will try to remember that repurposing existing technologies are sometimes as important as purchasing shiny new ones for my students.  I am excited to continue connecting with my classmates from the MAET and to seek out new colleagues for my Professional Learning Network using social networks online.  Another part of connecting involves sharing my work.  I am not as afraid to open up my work for critique and collaboration opportunities.  Learning new things can be exciting, scary and rewarding.

I am excited to take risks, dream big and celebrate the small victories as I explore the next stages in my career!