Class Reflections: Part I

It’s been a little less than a week since I finished teaching a summer course in educational technology and I learned so much that it’s going to take a few posts to get it all out. While I really enjoy teaching middle school, working with fellow teachers in this course was an invigorating change of pace. I look forward to trying some of the new ideas that came out of this class with my 6-8th graders and living up to the ideals I taught about and witnessed from others all summer.

From the first day of class, the one point I tried to drive home over and over again was that technology driven lessons should be student centric. With this in mind we looked at some of the common errors (in my humble opinion) that teachers make when using technology. Chief among these errors were “Sage on a stage” and “Bells and whistles.” Students created a scene to demonstrate one of the errors (captured with a digital camera) and then made a presentation highlighting the errors with the pictures we took. See one of them below.

During the second week of class, the ‘students’ taught mini-lessons (click on Classes folder) and it was great to see very student-centric approaches that really engaged the class. I recorded their lessons and uploaded a 10 minute highlight to YouTube. The teachers wrote a reflection after watching the lesson and reviewing feedback (via google forms) from their classmates and me. Teachers were quick to point out instances when they weren’t being student-centric and embraced the times they embodied it. A number of reflections discussed the challenges of student centric teaching, but everyone agreed that it was best for students and got easier with practice.

As the teaching wand passed back to my hands in the third week of class, I found myself more conscious of my teaching style than usual. During a somewhat lengthy explanation of the strategies I use when planning, buzzers repeatedly went off in my head saying “Get off the stage.” Though the audience seemed mildly interested in the explanation, I knew that it wasn’t really engaging them in a student-centric way. I know that I’ll be more cognizant of my time in front of the class when the kids return in August.

During the last couple days of formal class (the last day ended up being a pool party), I tried to make the lessons as student centric as possible. One day, I gave them a list of tools to play around with and report back to the class their findings. Several of the tools were apps I’d wanted to try, but had never found the time to test out. It was a great learning experience for me and helped me weed out some things I don’t need to use and find new uses for things I’d been using. My favorite part was learning about some educational apps for the iTouch. On the penultimate day of class, I appointed some students to host stations in several areas (Audacity, Gmail tricks, Backchannelling, IWB tricks) and hosted a station on making student movies myself. Though most people spent time working on their final projects, it’s a strategy I think I’ll try and employ a little more during the year.

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