Ed Tech Needs: What are the greatest needs/issues or opportunities (in terms of improving student and/or teacher performance) regarding educational technology for your grade level (i.e., elementary, middle, high school or university) and why?
In English/Language Arts we need to use technology in both directed and constructed ways. I teach on-level seniors, many (probably most) of whom learned English as their second language. They struggle mightily with vocabulary. In English 4 we study British literature, beginning with Beowulf and working our way through hundreds of years and hundreds (if not thousands) of difficult and unfamiliar words. To teach vocabulary, I do a great deal of direct instruction in class, but I have also found a fun (and competitive) way to have them apply their growing knowledge to new words. From time to time, we all play with vocabulary on the Free Rice website. They compete with me to see how close they can get to my performance on the program. They all get to work together against me and we have a lot of fun. (Free Rice also donates rice to feed the poor--a certain amount for every correct answer. We feel good about doing philanthropic work while learning). Free Rice also has a grammar element, which we use as well.
These same programs are equally effective with my AP English students. Although they are better prepared for reading, in their course we read at an even higher level, with more difficult words. They, too, struggle, and we work continually on improving their vocabulary. Technology is a great tool to use in areas such as these where students need repeated, specific, directed practice.
Other tremendous opportunities in ELA involve creating visual presentations. These are more constructivist applications of the technology, where students play a large role in creating their own knowledge. We use powerpoint, animoto, Prezi, all different ways of transmitting information which encourage student creativity while learning and teaching others. This year I also want to work in a student-created film project. We watch films to evaluate their depictions of some works that we read, but I want students to create their own learning through a story of their own devising and a film that they produce from start to finish. In the past, my AP students have worked in groups to create a satiric film. This is the culminating activity in our unit on satire and we have read several satirical essays, including "A Modest Proposal," prior to working on the film. I will do that again this year, but I am also pondering what kind of film project my on-level seniors may create.
The area I would like to explore for much more use is that of smart phones. Many students have them and I know that we could use them in creative (and probably as yet unknown to me) ways to enhance learning. I want to study this area and find out what programs are available to exploit this as-yet almost untapped resource.