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"Top Ten" Most Important Things I Learned

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Amber Hauptman

on 31 October 2013

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Transcript of "Top Ten" Most Important Things I Learned

The introductory pages of Redefining Literacy 2.0 provides an outlook that states, "Educators should seek to integrate literacy, rather than integrate technology" (p. xiii). In education programs, pre-service teachers constantly hear the word "literacy". In a changing world it is essential to realize that literacy now encompasses technology. Rather than administrators and Boards of Education focusing on the integration of technology to become an "innovative school", school systems must shift their focus to overall literacy, which is defined in the next segment.
"Top Ten" Most Important Things I Learned
ED805 Final - Question #3
Amber Hauptman

Integrating Literacy vs. Integrating Technology
As a mathematics educator, it is essential that my students receive a balanced education through a variety of methods. The introduction suggests that we cannot expect technology to work miracles, but we must integrate it at appropriate times. Before I can allow my students the opportunity to work on projects or research online, my students must have a concept of what they are learning, and what words have a significant meaning for the curriculum we are learning. Without a general idea of what they should look for, and what contextual information might mean in terms of our lesson, they are blindly searching for some mysterious information.
Defining "LITERACY"
Literacy took on a drastically different meaning with the onset of technology. Now that most schools, and most jobs students will encounter after school consist of significant amounts of technology, the term "literacy" has essentially taken a 180 degree turn. Literacy no longer simply consists of reading the text in front of you in hopes of comprehending. Early on, our book defines literacy to include, "...a range of skills to find, navigate, access, decode, evaluate, and organize the information from a globally networked information landscape. If we are working to prepare students for a successful future, they must essentially learn how to comprehend and dissect anything from a technological environment. A terrifying reality is that students will dissect this information from technology we have not yet seen by the time they graduate from college. The world is changing, which will continuously change our evaluation of literacy.
When teaching my students the essential components of mathematics that I believe many of them will utilize in the future, I work to find ways for them to succeed without pencil and paper. Last week my students learned about solving quadratic equations with the quadratic formula. We listened to a catchy tune on YouTube to help remember the formula, and then we searched for a quadratic formula calculator so students could easily check their own solutions to ensure the work and method of completion was correct. In 2007 I was expected to do everything by hand as a high school student, and we made no further connections. As a high school student in 2013, I am preparing my students by showing them the process of how and why we do things. Once they understand the conceptual background to what they are doing and why, I find ways to teach them shortcuts online. Future employers will not want to know who can complete work by pencil and paper, they will want to know who can get the job done in an effective manner in the shortest amount of time.
Ethical Literacy
Reliability of Information
Authority of Information
Compelling our Students
Information Processing
Processing and Future Usage of Information
Professional Learning Communities
Intelligence of the Internet and Technology
During my first year of teaching I was quite naive to the implementation of technology within the classroom. I utilized my SMART board proudly for notes, and like all first year teachers felt as though it was an accomplishment to just make it through the day and have a decent plan. When I decided students should research the impact of exponential growth and decay, such as the decline or increase in an animal population I thought I was going to see amazing products from my students. Although most of my projects turned out well, I had a couple of students who decided Wikipedia could write better than they ever dreamed of, so I was startled to read the scientific names of every animal within their text. I later asked them to read their paper to me, because the "words were too big for me to pronounce", but it turned out they had a hard time pronouncing them as well! I will never forget learning the hard way that students need direction in what is appropriate and inappropriate when utilizing sources to structure their own thoughts. Lesson learned!
Due to the lack of instruction on the analysis of reliability, many students are willing to use any information with the direct statement they want to try to prove their point. What students do not always consider is how reliable their source is, nor how valid the statement may be. I fear many would find something on a preposterous site, but still utilize the source so long as it explicitly stated what the student was trying to prove.
I feel teaching comes with the responsibility of being firm enough in your knowledge of the content that you are able to thoroughly explain to students why concepts work the way they do, or why something happens in a particular why. I constantly assign my students homework or extra credit that analyzes the way we use a formula, or how the formula was derived. I never want students to take my word for something and just go with it, I want them to analyze what I am saying and how it relates to concepts we have learned in order to get the essential connections. They should do the same when looking at online resources. Places such as the Khan Academy provide students with strong conceptual knowledge on various topics, where as many of them should know to question answers to homework questions from sites such as Yahoo! Answers, because anyone and everyone can post an answer which may or may not be correct.
Within the mathematics classroom the most significant struggles with a computer not understanding what the user wants is through the utilization of calculators. When typing a lengthy equation, calculators are high maintenance in that a significant amount of grouping symbols are required for the calculator to understand exactly what is happening when it follows order of operations. Due to the fact that mathematics equations are not composed with significant amounts of parenthesis, students will type the problem correctly in their opinion, but the calculator does not understand exactly what the user means. Students become glued to calculators at an early age to calculate simple computations, which hurts them in the long run when they are working through more complex issues. Although I encourage the calculator for small calculations that would take the user too long to figure by hand, I try to make my students realize the importance of understanding what answer is acceptable based on the context, so that they will understand when technology fails them due to a misunderstanding of communication.
Much like the utilization of technology, students of mathematics must learn how to be problem solvers. A student may not need the quadratic formula in their future career of choice, but they will need to learn how to become problem solvers. Often times before a chapter I will present students with a real-life application problem and have them try to trouble-shoot their way through the situation. Students must have the tools to be excellent problem-solvers to be successful in every area of their lives. So when may of them whine about never using this in real life, I remind them of our steps to problem solving on the wall, as well as the concept of metacognition. If a student can understand where their breakdown in understanding occurs, they will be far better off than those who have never learned to challenge their own comprehension. I believe this level of mathematics, as well as this level of competence about exploring technology, will prepare our students to be successful in any situation that may come their way.
Coming from the world of technology and information processing via the Internet and other forms of technology, our students want to take in information as quickly as possible. Within my own classroom, most of my students with ADHD or behavior struggles greatly benefit from being able to listen to music during work time. This music puts them in the "zone" so they are not distracted by things and people around them. Although our principal strongly believes students cannot learn while listening to music, I am finding with this generation of learners that this is the best way to focus. I, myself, tend to plug in classical piano music while working on graduate studies. Something as simple as an interesting show on the television, the washing machine, or someone eating will distract me long enough to lose my train of thought, and I have never been one who would be thought of as having ADHD or ADD. I believe in coming from a world where technology has always been a part of my life, I have learned how to essentially do two things at once, as have my students.
Rather than students coming to me early in the morning, because their time to sleep is so precious, many have started looking to Khan Academy or YouTube for tutorials on how to do various types of mathematics problems. Students are compelled enough to be accurate that they will look the information up online in order to be successful, but they do not value being correct that they will come in to ask their teacher. Students demand results, and they demand explanations. Often times I find my honors students have looked up why a formula works or where it comes from before we have time to address the issue in class so they can provide us with information on the topic. Our book also suggests that if we cannot think of a career in which students will use a particular concept, we should throw that lesson out the window. However, in a world where the Internet can essentially complete any mathematical task for them, I start to wonder if there will ever be a concept that the student will actually have to "do" in the future, or if everything will be done via technology.
While ensuring our students become technologically literate before leaving the walls of our school, it is also essential that we have thoroughly taught each of them ethical literacy. In a world where we are constantly utilizing information we find to summarize and guide other conclusions, I often question if any work is original? As I write these exact paragraphs and reflect upon the impacts within my own classroom, I am sure someone, somewhere has had similar reflections upon the impacts these topics have created within their own classrooms. Students must understand ownership, and give credit where credit is due. Too often students are willing to copy and paste from Wikipedia for research projects because "someone else has done the work for them". The book suggests it is essential to make students understand the concept of ownership of something published on the Internet. A great tool to accomplish this would be to allow students to utilize a blog or a classroom Wiki to post their own materials. Provide students with an opportunity to feel proud of content they have placed online for others to analyze and possibly 'claim as their own'.
Reliability of a text is something I was never taught to think twice about until I took this course, as well as an Educational Research course. Because I was from the generation which started the obsessive use of the Internet, most of us were taught to assume anything on this vast resource was the 'mecca' of information because of its revolutionary presentation on such an innovative tool. Students must ensure the information they find actually relates to the topic at hand, and that the work is valid and accurate. Although we do have technology courses at the school I am employed by, I do not believe these courses encourage students to consider how reliable their source might be, or analyze the accuracy of the information.
When searching online it is critical that students understand when to trust a source and when to question the information provided by that specific source. Must like reliability, it is essential for students to question the authority of not only things found on the Internet, but also information given by any person. It seems Wikipedia is a constant example in terms of the authority of information, as those posting to particular topics do not have to be credible in the subject they are providing information on. We must continuously caution our students to question the source of the information in order to determine if the information should be trusted. Students should respectfully do the same when learning from educators within the classroom. Our students should continuously question "why" when learning new concepts or being instructed to think or feel a certain way.
Due to the fact that we are constantly teaching our students to find the answers to their problems on the Internet, we indirectly teach them that the Internet is a know it all. Our textbook suggests that the, "...true intelligence of the World Wide Web is between your ears" (p. 36). Although Google knows what I typed in the search engine, and pulled up the results it thinks I want, it may be incorrect. Although this is predominantly true with the Internet, this also applies to other technologies our students work with on a day to day basis. Even through the utilization of their smart phones, students sometimes come to the wrong conclusions because they trust what the phone thinks they want. The same rings true for mathematics students with their calculators. Although the student knows what they mean when plugging in particular problems, the calculator will always follow order of operations. In this sense, some students begin realizing calculators can become more of a hindrance than a help, much like some realize that technology can occasionally be a hindrance as well.
One of the most significant topics we discussed in this course was the concept of what students know versus what they will be able to do with what they know (p. 69). In a world where we constantly redefine literacy based on the newest technologies, it is essential that educators prepare students to work with technologies we cannot imagine at this point in time. In the six years that have passed since I graduated high school, phones have developed from a small screen that could only show numbers, to a hand-held computer. If that is what can be accomplished in six years, I cannot fathom what my students will utilize in fifteen years when they are thirty and established in their careers. We must prepare them for this unknown by preparing them to teach themselves. To do so, it is important to give them the tools to become critical thinkers, and analyzers. These students must not be afraid of anything new, rather they must quickly determine the functionality and utilize it within their career if they want to compete with the other thousands in the same job market.
As Jane Healy discussed in "The I-Generation", "Computers will make a difference...in the way their brains approach information processing." Students watch television, listen to music, text, download applications in their iPhone, and complete chemistry homework at the same time. Our students come from a generation in which they are constantly multitasking, or trying to do so. Her interview suggests that we cannot assume that technology will magically make students level of comprehension increase just because students like technology. Although researchers know little about the effect these stimuli of information processing via technology will have on a young child's brain, it is critical that the data is compiled to determine if these practices are something that we should continue to try to boost the comprehension levels on various concepts.
In order to continue captivating our students into learning content presented within our classrooms, our book suggests it is essential that we are finding ways to compel our students to work (p. 102). In a world where students are becoming less patient and demand quick results, teachers may find it challenging to captivate the attention of students for very long. When Google can find 18 million results within 0.35 seconds, students may not be interested in an explanation that a teacher can give over the span of a couple of minutes. We must challenge our students to do the searching and questioning on their own. We must challenge them to want to do something for class, because they will not come willingly if the information does not interest them. As our article called Teach for Tomorrow suggests, "...give them practice in encountering problems before they know how to solve them. " We must find ways to make connections for students, so they want to become the learners their future employers will want.
Every teacher knows that finding materials for class used to fall upon the shoulders of the teacher and potentially those in his/her department at the same school. Today I have the ability to follow teachers on Twitter, through their blog, as well as on Pinterest. Through the utilization of these three resources, I have the ability to find a lesson or activity simply by utilizing a search engine. As we continue working towards the Common Core Standards, I have relied on the resources of other teachers so I do not have to reinvent the wheel. Professional Learning Communities not only provide help with materials, but can also provide suggestions on behavioral issues, organizational strategies, as well as a multitude of other helpful topics.
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