I have learned so much from my colleagues over the course of this class and reading through the blogs each week. We all come from different backgrounds and have different goals, which creates a vibrant community of thinkers about technology and its use in the classroom. This has just been amplified by the course content and other assignments. The blog assignments have been a very eye-opening and interesting learning experience. I have found so many new and interesting technologies and thoughts about how to use technology in education that choosing three was difficult. The three I have chosen come from a variety of ideas about and uses for technology.
First, I was intrigued by an application mentioned by Angela Brockman on January 18th (http://angelalovesschool.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/new-applications-for-the-esl-classroom/) called World Lens. With World Lens, ESL students are able to translate the words on street signs or other signs by taking pictures from their cell phones, tablets or iPods. I find this to be a very excellent and useful learning tool to both engage and interest students in their own learning, creating self-directed/directing learners. As Angela mentioned in her post, students become excited and engaged when they are able to learn and grow independently and then show that skill off. World Lens allows them to do this. Also, as Angela mentioned, this application lends itself to class activities such as scavenger hunts. Not only does it lend itself to scavenger hunts where ESL students translate signs and then do what they say (Brockman, 2013) it also lends itself to a history class by combining the translation aspect with studying history. This is how I would use it in my class. As I mentioned in my comment to her, I would use World Lens to create a scavenger hunt activity looking at historical landmarks and markers both to engage students in the history of the area and to help students understand what the markers are saying. By using cellphones and tablets, World Lens makes learning mobile, fun and collaborative. Another way I would use this application is to allow students to find signs that confuse them and then bring in the pictures and translations for discussion. By discussing the signs and the translations we will be able to work as a group to clear any idiomatic misunderstandings. This is important because it is idiomatic language that most confuses ESL students.
Second, I was intrigued by Dennie Coombs-Norman’s discussion of Interactive Whiteboards from January 19th (http://educator1966.blogspot.com/2013/01/emerging-rechnmologies-blogweek-2.html). Interactive Whiteboards open learning by making it collaborative and creative. They offer the ability to work on a particular problem/concept while looking up web-based information regarding that problem/concept. They also allow both students and teachers the ability to be as creative as possible in order to open learning by lowering technological barriers (Richardson, 2010). Technology can either create or remove barriers and the collaboration and creativity of whiteboards will help to remove barriers. With the use of whiteboards in my classroom I can create interactive and creative activities that both build on and challenge my students’ skills and understanding of concepts-activities such as collaborative crosswords to learn vocabulary or video presentations. Whiteboards also allow me to build on and challenge my skills and understanding through creating multisensory activities and learning modules. Although whiteboards are relatively simple to use and create content for, there is still a learning curve for both myself and my students as there is for many technologies. By lowering technological barriers through creativity and collaboration, whiteboards engage learners in the endeavor and make learning fun.
Third, I was intrigued by Flat World Knowledge (http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/) as mentioned by Valerie Richards on February 16th (http://vrichards1980.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/educ-6177-educational-technologies-blog-open-and-distance-education-technologies/). Flat World Knowledge is an open license virtual textbook site that allows students to purchase cheap print copies of textbooks (as low as $30) or access free copies online and instructors the option to change and update textbook content in order to suit the course and how they teach. I was impressed with this site as a student because I remember paying huge sums just for used textbooks during my undergraduate days. As an educator, I am struck by the ability to update and customize textbook content to suit my course needs. Learning and a student’s engagement in it can be complicated by outside frustrations like the price of textbooks this site eliminates that frustration. As I went through the site I was impressed by the fact that there are instructors at my own college currently using the site and saving students and their respective departments thousands of dollars in textbook costs. This is highly important right now as my school is like so many working through the economic downturn and still trying to provide a high quality education to our students. Flat World Knowledge will allow me to customize the textbook to fit my course content rather than fitting my course content around a textbook I might not entirely like or am forced to use. It will also save my students money by letting them access the free online copy or pay for relatively cheap print copies. This type of technology is a great resource for low income communities or schools with limited budgets.
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Teich, Anne (200(. Interactive Whiteboards Enhance Classroom Instruction and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.neamb.com.