Monday, June 5, 2017

My Year of Looking Through the Lens of Technology (Guest Post - Erin Thomas)

This is in a series of posts by teachers in the TUSD Connect Fellowship for the 2016-2017 school year. I hope you enjoy reading their reflections on the impact of technology in their classroom, specific tools and strategies that have made a positive impact on teaching and learning, and their goals moving forward.

As I reflect back over the past ten months, I would have to say that being a part of the TUSD Connect Fellowship has been one of my favorite things about this school year. It isn’t just that technology has reinvigorated my teaching  practice and made the content more engaging for my students, which it has, but rather it is what I have gained through the process of having an instructional coach. In September, when I began this process, my expectations were simple:

I will know the fellowship has been successful if feel more confident about integrating technology and if my students are ready for what’s next because of what they've done this year.

Oh, how far we have come. I have to say “we” because I truly believe that it was having the opportunity to have purposeful, one-on-one coaching that has made this such a transformative process. If someone had asked me last year what tech I consistently used in my classroom, I would have replied “Powerpoint, books, pens, and highlighters. Those are all technically tech, right?” My greatest fear with infusing technology into my curriculum was that it would cause my students to become disconnected from each other and from me. I had horrifying visions of a sea of forty heads all zoned into computer screens searching for answers on Google, rather than thinking aloud and arriving at conclusions with another human being. Perhaps I had been reading too much dystopian literature, but I worried that technology would somehow suck the life out of the content and the process of learning--I couldn’t have been more wrong.

How Technology has Helped my Students Stay Connected

Despite my many fears, this year has taught me that tech can enrich student discussions. Two of the new discussion activities I created this year that I am most proud of are a Four Corners Discussionwhich focuses on how to move online discussions into classroom discussions, and a Six Person Panel Discussion, which focuses on using technology to increase student independence and talk-time. My belief that the increased use of technology in my classroom would cause a decrease in their When I polled my students, both of these discussions were ranked as their favorites for the year.

How Technology has Encouraged my Students to Become Lifelong Learners

I am always searching for ways to encourage my students to “wonder” while learning. As I mentioned earlier, one of my main concerns with technology is that it would students to search for answers online, rather than actually engaging in the critical thinking required to arrive at their own conclusions. My Adobe Spark Blog is about a three-part project using the video slide show technology to encourage students to explore essential questions over a lengthy unit of study.

How Technology has Inspired Creativity in Me and My Students

One of my biggest revelations about technology in the classroom is that it won’t drain humanity out of my curriculum. The projects I have designed this year that make me proudest are the ones which reflect both how technology has inspired my creativity, and my student’s. My Student Podcast Blog on students podcasts is a perfect example of how technology can be used to make a richer learning experience.

Participating in this tech fellowship, and working with an instructional coach, has been the best thing I could have done for my teaching practice. As I look forward to the next school year, my main goal is to build on what I have created this year. While I have specific ideas about new ways to use technology (hello, Google Sites), what I am most focused on as a professional is continuing the cycle of reflection that has been established by my coach this year. I never thought that I would grow as much as I did, and I certainly never thought that I would be as excited about what technology can bring to the classroom as I am.

This year has been a journey for both me and my students. As I have grown, they have grown, and I am looking forward to what is to come next year.

Happy Summer!

Erin Thomas has been teaching English Language Arts in Tustin Unified School District since 2005. She received her B.A. in English, teaching credential, and Master's in Education from Concordia University, Irvine. Erin grew-up in a house filled with books, in fact every room contained its own bookcase, which instilled her a life-long passion for reading and a love language. As a teacher, Erin hopes to foster that same love of literature in her students by giving them opportunities to read deeply and often, and by encouraging them to share their understanding of what literature reveals about the human spirit.

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