My Professional Learning Network

Tech in the Classroom:

Teachers remain very divided on the topic of technology in the classroom, largely because it can both serve as an educational tool, and as a distraction to learning. Learning how to integrate technology effectively to achieve the positive effects without hindering the process of education takes time, patience, and commitment. If done correctly, however, I feel that it provides the opportunity to expose students to new skills and ways of thinking as well as expanding their learning environment past the classroom. While technology used to be limited to computers in the computer lab, however, nowadays most students have the internet and other apps at their fingertips at any time because of cellphones. Some teachers have found ways to integrate usually off-limits cell phone use in their classroom though and claim to see positive effects. This is a drastic difference from most classes, and even schools, that have declared themselves no-phone-zones. I personally can see that there might be a benefit to incorporating personal technology in the classroom since students are inclined to do it anyways, and it might provide a good management strategy to know how the technology is being used. I can also see it causing additional problems such as exposing SES differences in the classroom, and parental disapprovement. Management of such a policy would have to be well thought out before implementation.

Other ways to incorporate technology in the classroom that might be less divisive includes online educational games such as ElectroCity (sustainability), Mountain Scramble (ecosystems), and DragonBox (math) to name a few. Additionally, activities such as collaborative projects in which classrooms in different schools work together to complete the same project is a creative way of using technology to expose students to different people and possibly even cultures. Many classrooms have started doing pen-pal type activities through the internet with international schools to introduce students to other kids their age in different countries. I think it would be neat to take it a step further and do collaborative projects with these schools as well to take the focus solely off of their differences, and build their empathy for other cultures and nationalities by working together. This is an activity that wouldn’t be possible without the advanced technology we have now where students can not only talk and see each other, but collaborate on the same document from across the world.

 

Educational Organizations:

Association for Middle Level Education: This organization is free to join, and aims to enhance the education of children aged 10-15 by providing teachers and educational leaders the resources and knowledge necessary to do so. The website provides articles on a variety of education topics from bullying to assessment to family and community. It is a way to share information and provide free professional development to educators. There is also the option of paying for a membership which includes access to everything on the website as well as subscription to a variety of education journals for further reading and involvement. If you follow @AMLE on social media, they link out to many of their articles as they come out, and they post information about opportunities such as workshops and conferences. This is useful because it provides reminders to keep up on professional development, and the information they post can reach you without you having to actively search for it, which tends not to happen because of time and life being busy.

National Education Association: This educational organization requires a membership fee to join, but the website itself is full of useful teacher resources that don’t require a membership. The National Education Association aims to improve the public education system. There are articles about hot topics in education, methods for taking action, and tools for the classroom such as lesson plans and behavior management tips for teachers to access. You can search for lesson plans by grade level and subject area. As an aspiring math/science teacher, I found it very useful to find lesson plans that integrated with other subjects. For example, there is a selection of lesson plans and resources for Black History Month, organized by grade level (this selection had options for K-12) and subject, and there are lesson plans for science included. If you follow @NEAToday, they keep you updated with the latest news and information relevant to educators, including policy and budget information that is important to be aware of because it directly affects educators and their students.

 

Resources:

The Teacher’s Corner: This website provides free resources to teachers, including printable worksheets, simple lesson plans, seasonal activities/resources, bulletin board ideas, and opportunities for collaborative projects. The collaborative projects is one of the more interesting aspects of this site. It organizes projects to be completed by multiple classrooms, expanding classroom communities and networks. Most of the resources and activities on this website appear to be geared towards the lower grades, with some spanning into middle school content.

Teachers Pay Teachers: Teachers Pay Teachers is a well-known resource in the education community because it provides a plethora of lesson plans and resources that are written by fellow teachers. This ensures that the resources you get have been test-run, and the reviews by other teachers help establish which are worth trying in your own classroom. The downside is that none of the resources are free, but the added benefit is that all of the proceeds from whatever you purchase goes to other teachers who developed the lessons rather than a big corporation. It’s a great way to support your own!

EduTopia: This site is full of articles and video series about educational topics. This would be a good resource to use for independent professional development because there is a lot of education-related reading. The articles all seem to be relevant to education making this site a great way for working or aspiring teachers to stay up-to-date on important topics.

Teaching Tolerance: The purpose of this website is to provide educators resources with which to teach social justice and promote tolerance through everyday lesson plans, grade-level texts, and teaching strategies. It is geared towards teachers, and provides lesson plans and reading selections on a variety of topics, including but not limited to: history, math, arts, language arts, and science. Each lesson plan identifies what subject it is for, what social justice topic it covers, and which social justice domain it falls under (of which it identifies identity, diversity, justice, and action). It is a great resource for teachers who might be struggling to create an inclusive classroom environment, because it provides teachers with lessons that expose students to different perspectives and diversity. By using, or simply looking at these lessons, teachers can learn how to incorporate such topics into their own lessons.

Common Sense Education: Common Sense Education aims to incorporate technology into the classroom through core subjects in a safe and responsible manner. This website is meant for both teachers and parents. There is an entire section for parents that provides them with information and learning tools about the use of media in the home. It also provides age-based recommendations for educational games, movies, books, and more. For educators, it provides tutorials on how to integrate technology into the classroom in a way that promotes learning rather than distracting from it. It also provides a selection of lesson plans created by other teachers that incorporate technology. There are lesson plans for each subject and you can search by subject and grade level. Each lesson uses online resources from different sites, so it also introduces teachers to other online resources for their subject or more general use. For example, I filtered my search for third grade social studies content, and there is a lesson on “Native American Tribal Cultures” that incorporates four other digital resources, including BrainPop. What is great about this site is that the lesson plans are free, made by other educators, and refers you to other great tools.

EdHelper: EdHelper is another resource that provides content for multiple subject areas. It is a little less user friendly than the other sources in that the site itself is somewhat confusing to navigate, but it has a variety of resources for educators. There are document-based activities, grade-based practice questions, and themed units that include lesson plans, activities, and student reading selections galore. Almost all the content is labeled with the grade-level it is meant for and there is a variety of materials with fun themed activities as well to make the content more engaging. Another aspect that makes this website useful is that it provides foreign language activities for each topic, such as matching English and Spanish words about the topic. These would be great activities to incorporate into an ELL class to bridge the gap between academic content and their language learning. There is also a section on the site with teacher recommendations so teachers can see materials that other educators have already tried and approved of. Overall, this site has by far the most variety in resources out of all three, but it is a little bit confusing to navigate.

BrainPOP: This is a great resource both for in the classroom and at home for students. It is a great way to integrate technology into learning, because it is a collection of videos used to teach about various topics, making it engaging and fun for students. Each video is accompanied by a video transcript and followed by activities, games, and a quiz. This allows for some self-guided learning, but could also be used in the classroom to incorporate into a lesson. You do have to subscribe to the website to watch the videos and it is quite spendy at $230, but if your school has the funding it would be a useful tool.

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