As I began to outline this paper, it became apparent to me that we have covered a great deal of ground during this course. Skills that I had developed using trial and error during the school year have become refined, and I have discovered Internet sites that I will use time and again. In addition I have learned many new skills, and I am pleased that activities that required a great deal of time and energy during the first week of class have become routine. This reflection of Curriculum and Instruction 335 will look at skills, communication, multimedia, legalities, and evaluation, but it is difficult to separate the knowledge gained during this course into neat categories; there will be some spill-over.
Urbana Middle School uses ClarisWorks 5.0 and Netscape 4.0 in the school computer lab and on the COWs - computers on wheels - that are available for classroom use. The activities this summer have allowed me to expand my knowledge of these applications and consider new uses for some of their functions. When my LD students know how to create graphs and charts and use formulas from the spreadsheets they have prepared, they will be able to approach assignments with confidence and be assured that perceptual difficulties will not prevent them from turning in a product of which they can be proud.
I am certain that I will be helping my students to do more research activities using the Internet. With so many sites adding graphics, animations, and audio to their pages, it is easy to engage students in active learning. A technique that our Technology Coordinator, Pam Van Walleghen, uses is to provide a web page on the server that lists a limited number of sites for students to explore when they do research. This allows the students to use their time in the lab efficiently and gives them quality sites with reliable information to explore. I now feel that I have the skills to create like documents for my students. I can use this opportunity to discuss reasons for my selecting the sites and give an introduction to the CARS Checklist as described in Robert Harris's article "Evaluating Internet Research Sources"
Personal communications using Eudora for e-mail, the Webboard, and chat are wonderful ways to share information with colleagues. Perhaps the best part of this communication is the rapid transmission of ideas and resources that encourage dialogue. We have the tools to enable collaboration to take place, and collaborative eforts usually result in a higher quality product because we use the expertise and experience of many people to create lessons for our students. I feel comfortable using these applications and will develop lessons that will encourage my students to use these personal communications options to interact with their peers and me.
Another way we communicate is by loading our activities onto a server and making them available over the Internet. I've become more comfortable creating web documents using BBEdit 2.3.1 and Claris Homepage. Putting the documents on the server using Fetch appears to be straightforward, although I wonder if there are options of which I am not aware. As mentioned above I will use these tools to create launching point documents for my students to use for research projects.
The mutimedia area is the area that provides me with the most opportunity for growth. I have learned that there is a vast body of knowledge that I need to master before I can prepare the kinds of lessons I want to have available for my students. I have explored Real Audio and Video but do not feel comfortable with my ability to integrate them into my lessons. Using a scanner to digitize regular photographs and using a digital camera were much easier to master. Students like to see photos of themselves and their friends and using these photos in lessons and presentations will be a powerful way to engage them in the lesson.
Power Point is a new application to me. I was pleased to find that creating presentations for my project was much easier than I had anticipated. The presentations now have colorful backgrounds and graphics. In the fall after we do the lab activities, we will incorporate digital pictures into the presentations as well. The PowerPoint presentations will also become an integral part of my classroom. The greatest frustration I face as a special education teacher is not having enough time to provide the assistance my students need when they need it. Now the PowerPoint presentations will make it possible for me to be in two places at once. Students can review a presentation of the lesson independently or with a partner while I provide assistance to other students.
Another area I want to master is using Java applets in lessons I create. There is a wealth of material on the Internet that would make interesting additions to instuctional units, but I do not feel I have the knowledge base to use them efficiently. During the school year time is a valuable commodity, and there usually isn't enough time to spend extended periods trying to make the technology do what you want it to do.
An important consideration when using information found on the Internet is whether the information can be trusted. Knowing the credentials of the author, indeed knowing who the author is, provides a starting place for determining the validity of the information. Determining the validity of information is important for both adults and students, and we must keep in mind that students are likely to view any textual information as fact. Our jobs as educators must be to help our students think critically and explore not only validity but also such issues as copyright infringement and our students' responsibilities as outlined in the school's Acceptable Use Policy. We must make them aware of the complexities they will encounter when they use the Internet.
Another responsibility of the educator is to make our students aware of the hazards they may encounter when using the Internet. They need to know that scam artists, sexual predators, and unstable people may be lurking in entertaining sites. They need to be cautious about any personal information they may reveal about themselves, and we need to be careful about the pictures and information we reveal about our students.
A third responsibility we have is to see that our lessons and web pages are accessible to as many people as possible. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act require that what we do as educators be accessible to all our students. Using Bobby to check our web pages is one way that we ensure that as many people as possible can have access to our information. As advances are made, we will need to become more aware of such options as text-to-speech technology that will help our students access the information they need in order to learn. Emerging technologies that combine images, audio, animation, and video will be a powerful tool for educators to use to accomodate the different learning styles of our students. In addition, we need to be sure that a student's socioeconomic status is not a barrier to using technology in order to learn.
Computer and Internet technology will make it possible for teachers to use a variety of authentic assessments to evaluate their students' learning. Student electronic portfolios can store a sample of a student's best work. Not only will the teacher be able to evaluate the student, but the student will be able to look at his work and evaluate himself. Technology also provides a broad range of projects that can demonstrate a student's mastery of a body of knowledge. A student can use Web pages, presentations, time lines, maps, and a host of other products to showcase her learning. Teachers will not only have to become familiar with technology, but they will also need to develop rubrics that apply to these new assessments.
As important as technology will become in the classroom of the 21st century, students will still need to be able to use conventional information sources. Teachers will have to teach students to manage data effectively in order to gather the information they need. Sometimes the most efficient way to find data is to open an encyclopedia or textbook rather than searching the Internet. In the same way that students need to find the most effective way to gather data, teachers need to find the best ways to use technology to enhance their lessons. We need to review the research to determine the most efficient and efficacious ways to use technology in our lessons.
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