Monday, September 22, 2014

Summary: Affordances of Interactive Whiteboards and Associated Pedagogical Practices: Perspectives of Teachers of Science with Children Aged 5-6 Years
This article was written about a study of Kindergarten and First Grade teachers in Australia who taught Science.  The researchers obtained interviews with all participating teachers and ensured that all have used SMART Boards or ACTIVboards in their classes for at least 3 years.  The teachers also all expressed a confidence with the software of one of these boards, to some extent.  The authors focused on three pedagogic practices with this study: Supported Didactic, Integrated Interactive Activities, and Guided Assessment.  
The teachers found the Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) first as engaging tools to hook their lessons.  The easiest way to do this, was to treat the IWB as a screen or whiteboard substitute.  Teachers show slideshows or some sort of presentation tool to show slides, web pages and images or videos to attract students’ attention.  Secondly, teachers used the IWB to all their students to interact with the technology.  This usually involves dragging and dropping or responding to what is on the board in another way.  Finally, assessments can be accomplished with IWBs as well.  Although much assessment must be done independently to show knowledge, reflection can be done using this interactive tool.  Students can display their work and annotate their thoughts about it as well, in order to learn from their experience and make improvements for next time.  
There are positives and negatives for using IWBs in a classroom.  For example, this technology facilitates whole-class discussions and offers a medium for sharing ideas, but if the classroom is not designed correctly, as in the location of the board, then student visibility and engagement can be hindered.  Secondly, text, sound, video, and graphics can be shown at the same time to provide better explanations, but if a teacher has subpar troubleshooting skills, or the school is lacking technical support, then the information can get delayed or disrupted easily.  Lastly, teachers are able to use the technology to have more face to face time in front of their students instead of behind a computer screen, but if they are lacking technical training or confidence the technology is much less effective.

I have been interested in the use of IWBs for quite some time now; mostly I think, because I don’t have one, but other teachers in my school do.  To be honest, I was not surprised by any of the findings in this article, and found the results very true to my experiences around this technology.  I think that the biggest thing I can take away from this is that any technology in school buildings needs to be supported.  Teachers need support while using it, and the technology support and attention from professionals to ensure that it’s working properly.  When these two things are lacking, the effectiveness of the technology is greatly hindered.  

Teck, W. (2013). Affordances of Interactive Whiteboards and Associated Pedagogical  Practices: Perspectives of Teachers of Science with Children Aged Five to Six Years.  Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 12(1), 1-8.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Summary: Using Google Drive to Facilitate a Blended Approach to Authentic Learning
The study was conducted at the University of the Western Cape, in South Africa.  The students involved were in their second year of Applied Physiotherapy.  The study was developed after a previous class of students in this area were found to be lacking reasoning and critical thinking during their clinical exams.  The university wanted to make changes to their module for the second years to improve their skill set in these areas; previously, the classes mostly consisted of readings and lecturers.  The changes included moving from lectures, to case studies and integrating technology, Google Drive, within small groups, as well as, instead of having one lecturer, there were several facilitators.  Students worked collaboratively to explore cases outside of class using Google Drive as their tool.
The study used 10 principles of authentic learning to come up with the case studies.  Authentic activities have real world relevance, are open to interpretation, are made up of complex tasks that need to be studied over a period of time, require that students use theoretical and practical perspectives as well as many resources, require collaboration, provide opportunities for reflection, can be applied across domains of the students’ field of study, involve feedback from peers and facilitators that mimic real world assessment, produce quality work in all forms, whether it be notes in a Google Doc or a completed project, and consist of diverse outcomes and applications, students have freedom while addressing major concepts.
To analyze the findings from this study, the University held a focus group with willing participants from the study, 22/61 participated.  The authors analyzed the responses to conversations at the focus group to determine common themes that were evident.  Students reflected on the following things during the focus group about their experiences:
  • “A change in perception about what learning is”
  • “You can’t memorize your way through a degree”
  • “It’s not a classroom thing-it’s a daily thing”
  • “It’s not learning from a book, it’s trying to find out how to learn”
  • “We have to really be able to explain to other people so they can understand.”
  • “Even a lecturer has something to learn from a student”

Although I don’t teach students anywhere near the independence level of these university students, I believe that I have a lot to learn from this study.  What the professors at this school did, was make their content relevant to their students, while providing them with a tool that would make collaboration possible.  This very much prepares students for working in the real world.  
My student currently have access to Google Drive, and I think most of the time, I simply use it as a substitution for paper and pencil, when it can be so much more!  Some of the Authentic Assessment Principles that jumped out at me were: provide opportunities for reflection, require collaboration, and involve feedback.  All of those are things I can currently implement with my classroom of 4th graders.  However, it does involve a mind shift for me, as the teacher to imagine my classroom with these things going on.  That also means that I need to teach my students how to reflect, collaborate and give feedback.  Thinking of classrooms like this excites me and motivates me to begin taking steps to make it a reality in mine.

Rowe, M., Frantz, J., & Bozalek, V. (2013). Using Google Drive to facilitate a blended approach to authentic learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(4). 594-606. (2013, July 1). Retrieved September 9, 2014, from Ebscohost.