Day 4: Family, “ActivInspire,” and more on Avoiding “Tech Bloat”

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I’m a big believer in the inevitability of my becoming a teacher being directly attributed to a stark genetic predisposition (chuckle)… My grandmother taught for over 40 years, her five children all became teachers and they all married teachers. My mother was one of those children, and I had the pleasure of working with her today as she substitute taught in the building. Nothing quite beats “keeping it in the family.”

20130108-150000.jpgFamilial ties aside, I found myself coming to some wonderful “a-ha” conclusions in her classroom today as I mentally continued adding building blocks to my ideas and epiphanies from yesterday’s blog.
…but before further unpacking the idea of “Over-Tech”ing, or “Tech Bloat” as I’m now calling it, I do want to return to app showcasing for a brief moment to discuss how the morning began today and a wonderful new presentation tool beginning to be implemented called ActivInspire.

Video: What is ActivInspire? A brief showcase of the software…

Waverly’s school district has been blessed with the resources to hire a full time Tech Integrationist, Sarah Lalk, who is able to travel, instruct teachers on app usage, and give lessons to classrooms on new tools as well. She ran this morning’s ‘mini workshop’ excellently, allowing a great balance of instruction and room for the students to explore the program on their own.

20130108-151147.jpgOne of the coolest presentation and interactive functions of this new software is the ability for “spotlighting” and creating “magic boxes.” This presentation tool allows the student to hide something behind another object (I.e. box, magic hat, etc.) and use the interactive whiteboard to pull the item into view.

20130108-152136.jpgThe “Spotlight” function does a similar thing, but instead hides all but what you want revealed of the picture. The spotlight can then be moved with the interactive whiteboard to reveal a different area of the picture or a different part of the text. These tools have endless possibilities when implemented effectively! …very fun and exciting stuff!

20130108-152437.jpgWhat I am finding, and was affirmed today, is that a majority of the time students want enough guidance with their new tools that they don’t feel “lost” or unable to utilize the “cool functions,” yet they want enough room so that they aren’t being coddled and have room to explore. Especially when incorporating a new program, app, or technology for the first time, don’t over-teach the use of it! In this 21st Century learning environment, there is a considerable chance that the student catches on faster than the teacher in some cases. This is one of the biggest reasons preparation is crucial in the technology integrated classroom. Rather than allow this to function as a distraction or off-putting experience for the educator when it does happen, though, allow it to be a showcase of student ability! Turn it into a peer-teaching or flipped classroom experience! Never be afraid to learn right alongside your students!
Finally, I’d like to conclude my thoughts from yesterday on Tech Bloat, solidifying some of my ideas with an article I read recently by USNews.

Article: USNews- What to Expect!

This article gives a quick and simple synopsis of the overarching “main points” facing high school students in the coming year. Among others, the undisputed #1 is Blended Learning. Yet, despite its prevalence in the future of our schools, and it’s undoubtedly positive impact, the writers of the article reinforce my observations from yesterday, elaborating to say this:
“‘Rather than flooding classrooms with more devices, educators will likely take a step back from “shiny device syndrome” and evaluate how to best use the technology acquired over the past year,’ says Joel Block, a science teacher at River Valley High School in Wisconsin. ‘Just using technology to use it has no added value in the classroom,’ Block says. ‘Print continues to be valuable in the classroom, just like technology, and using them together is the best option for creating an environment where students can learn best.'”
Again, by no means will I ever condemn the usage of technology in the classroom, in fact, the entire purpose of my observation, blogging, and research is to endorse it! I do feel, however, that it is important to consider the implications of a technologically bloated learning environment. It is absolutely imperative that teachers are effectively prepared and ready to best incorporate this new technology, not allowing the relationships with their students to be marginalized. There is always a place in education for scenes like the one below…a teacher reading to students on the floor…out loud…unplugged.

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