Blogging has traditionally been seen as an outlet for adults to express themselves, but what about children? This project will center around training elementary teachers to use blogs as a digital space for students’ writing. By using blogs in the classrooms, young students will be able to increase their digital fluency which is a bigger requirement of their academic performance since the implementation of Common Core. This professional development would inform educators how blogs are beneficial to students’ literacy development while using the current English Language Arts/Literacy curriculum. With technology becoming more prevalent in classrooms, it is imperative that elementary educators have a resource that integrates technology into instruction to further enhance writing skills and prepare students for computer-based assessments such as Smarter Balanced tests. Creating this training will support diverse learners, encourage student writing, support technology use for educators, and evoke higher-order thinking skills.
As this course comes to an end, the topic continues with the execution of project management. This entails focusing on the major components of the project such as budgeting, risk management, communication, change management, project scheduling, and so on. It is by breaking these pieces down that one’s project can begin to get of the ground. When starting any project, many, if not all of these focus areas need to be discussed, planned, and executed. If not, the project could suffer. According to Cox (2009), “Project execution requires mobolizing all committed project resources and ensuring that these resources carry out their intended activities” (p. 168). Not every project will require every piece, but each piece needs to be monitored and controlled with precision. This job is typically given to the project manager whom will delegate jobs to the project teams and stakeholders.
To make a connection to this topic, I focused on risk management, project scheduling, and communication. I feel these three pieces of my project are keys to success. To begin, this project is on a tight schedule due to the three week literacy testing window. The schedule needs to be detailed as to when the project starts, what tasks need to be completed, and when the project will end. By having a visual of this, all parties in the project can have a stronger understanding of how their responsibilities may overlap with others. Risk management is important to pinpoint what could be a potential danger to the project’s endpoint. It reassures the project manager that if a problem arises such as technology failure or a lack of communication, it can be rectified immediately through the proper channels. By having a plan where potential solutions are created, it can help to minimize setback to the project’s pace. Lastly, communication may seen minor, but it is the foundation of any project. Through effective communication to all that are involved, the project can send accurate information to those who need it. I found by making this plan, it made me feel more secure about the responsibilities not solely being placed upon the project manager.
Change and quality management are two pieces of a project that help with the maintenance. Prosci (2013) states, “Project management and change management both aim to increase the likelihood that projects or initiatives deliver the intended results and outcomes” (para. 2). With change comes adaptation, and a project manager must always keep in mind that change is most likely inevitable. By acknowledging them and adjusting to them as quickly as possible, changes can help the project move along. It is being aware of change and knowing what to do with it makes the difference from avoiding them. Quality management and project management work together by keeping the objective in mind. The quality of the project’s outcome is highly considered by evaluating the project’s performance. By having high quality work ethic, the project’s outcome will be more positive.
I find change and quality management to be driving forces in my project. As classroom teachers begin test administration with iPads, they may realize that they need more correction or retraining. This could evolve in creating another testing session. Using the iPads may be more of an issue than anticipated which may require more training. These are changes that need to be considered and prepared for. If they occur, the project needs to readily available to change its form. Being on top of the changes will help to reach higher quality testing conditions. Having the best testing conditions will result in more accurate testing outcomes. This project requires high quality and work ethic to gather the best samples of student literacy. Creating high quality testing samples would mean teachers need to be trained as efficiently as possible before test administration.
Don’t think quality management is important? Watch this video on the cost of poor quality management.
Cox, D. (2009). Project management skills for instructional designers: a practical guide / Dorcas M. T. Cox.. Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse Inc.
As a project begins to come into place, there are many factors to consider to keep the project on track to completion. Two major components to a project is the project plan and the work breakdown structure (WBS). The plan is the guideline of all the pieces that make up the project. As seen in the picture above, these components include finance, stakeholders, time frame, risks, resources, etc. It is with a thorough project plan that a project manager can conduct the project in a way that benefits everyone. Cox (2009) reports that “project planning is critical to a successful outcome. Proper planning takes time” (p. 62). It is with this project plan document that “all work that is involved in the project is defined, documented, and managed through the project plan inclusive of all subsidiary plans” (Cox, 2009, p. 63). Being able to pinpoint what needs to be done and at what time is the next venture in project planning.
The break down of the project is emphasized in the WBS. It is this document that “subdivides the major project deliverables and project work into smaller, more manageable components called work packages” (Cox, 2009, p. 74). It is here that a project manager truly calculates what is important to the plan, what needs to be completed, and who is responsible for completing it.
It is through this week that I learned how vital it is to have a detailed WBS. Starting with a task and then further breaking it down into smaller pieces until it can no longer be divided is the skeleton of an accomplished project. When I created my own project’s WBS, I learned the difference between a task and a task requirement. Tasks should be included in the WBS and not what is required to complete the task. It is through the WBS that tasks should be detailed and task-orientated. I can now understand how essential a plan and a WBS is to the project manager and the structure of the project.
The components of an effective communications plan is essential to a successful project. Project Management Institute (2013) feels, “A good communication process keeps stakeholders engaged and project teams motivated” (p. 1). Another feature to effective communication is knowing that “Project communication planning shouldn’t be limited to internal stakeholders…many projects impact user groups, leaders and communities outside of the enterprise” (Project Management Institute, 2013, p. 3). Project managers need to keep the lines of communication open for all stakeholders to make sure everyone is performing productively and keeping the end goal in mind. Communication can encompass the connections between the project manager and the stakeholders, the project manager and the project teams, the project manager and the instructional designer, etc. Without effective communication through either personal or technical methods, a project can quickly deteriorate.
As I continue to build my mCLASS online assessment project, I realize that information is not communicated effectively, the training process can be compromised. The instructor will hold a vital role of communicating the content to the teachers that need the training. Another important line of communication is the project manager communicating with the reading staff, mCLASS personel, and school administration. Cox (2009) points out that effective communication is essential in realizing the training objective. Effective communication allows us to create a degree of accurate understanding among learners” (p.153). It is important during a project to know the levels of knowledge of the participants in order to have an understanding of where the project is going and where it shouldn’t go. I have learned that despite barriers such as participants’ attitudes, prior knowledge, or attitudes towards the project, communication should be encouraging, positive, relevant, and informative.
Need more information on the Work Breakdown Structure? This video provides more information.
Cox, D. (2009). Project management skills for instructional designers: a practical guide / Dorcas M. T. Cox.. Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse Inc.
During this week, the focus was on the connection between project management (PM) and instructional design (ID). They both have similar purposes and can be used with each other to fulfill a project’s desired outcome. I discovered in order to begin an initiative, both aspects of PM and ID need to be considered. A similarity is “project management complements the ID process by offering a set of repeatable processes with which to describe, organize and complete the work required for each phase of the product development lifecycle…” (Van Rooij, 2011, p. 141). PM and ID both go through structural checkpoints to obtain an end result for the stakeholders to have and/or use. According to Van Rooij (2010), “Instructional design projects also involve managing the project life cycle, the phases that produce the project deliverable” (p. 855). Although PM and ID coincide to reach an endpoint, project management takes on roles such as budgeting and time management, whereas instructional design focuses on how learners will learn.
As I begin the development of my own project of training elementary educators to use an online reading assessment called mCLASS on iPads, I have to consider how PM and ID will affect it. I have learned that PM tends to consider the exterior goals such as the deadline, stakeholders, and budget, while ID considers what will be done to ensure learners will reach the end objective. I have learned that all aspects need to be fulfilled in order for a project to be successful, which takes analyzing, planning, and knowing when to accomplish each task. Knowing this will impact my task analysis and sequencing of priorities.
Week #3 Overview
During week 3, task analysis and sequencing were discussed. Beginning a project should include knowing what needs to be done and when it should be started and finished. Task analysis is “a systemic collection of data about a specific job or group of jobs to determine what an employee should be taught and the resources he or she needs to achieve optimal performance” (Clark, 2012, para. 1). It is determining what jobs need to be done and deeming which are more important and different times of the project. Sequencing is creating a timeframe for when the tasks should be complete. It is a concept we use all of the time in our daily lives, but is extra emphasized when working on a singular project. They relate to each other by getting the PM and/or ID to “[ensure] proper flow of the training program” (Cox, 2009, p. 53). They get a project in motion by determining the best avenue to the project’s end goal.
After reflecting, I have learned that task analysis and sequencing may be the biggest portion of a project to oversee and overcome. To get a project up and running, one must look at the scope of the project and what it entails to finish it. It starts by gathering information and ultimately deciding what to do with it. Task analysis and sequencing seems as if it happens just once, but it is continuous effort throughout the length of a project. With my project in mind, I would need a plan to obtain the iPads, train educators on the mCLASS program, and train administrating the literacy tests with the students. Just like an educator would consider as many aspects as possible when creating a lesson, such as how many students, what they know, how long the lesson will be, materials, modifications, etc., project managers and instructional designers must consider all of the elements and pace them accordingly.
Helpful Resource: Need help understanding how task analysis relates to a classroom? This brief article relates task analysis to classroom procedures, rules, and learning skills.
To begin my new course on project management, the definition of a project would be helpful. Cox (2009) defines it as “temporary endeavors with a beginning and an end” (p. 6). With a particular task in mind, a project starts with an idea and is carried out from start to finish with the help of stakeholders, which are “people (or organizations) with a “stake” or a vested interest in the project” (Cox, 2009, p. 7). A project has a distinct purpose in mind to fulfill a need in a given area. For example, a school may take on a project of fundraising to buy more sports equipment, or a hospital may take on the training of new nurses and residents for a period of time. Another concept that is essential to understand is what operations are. Webster (2014) claims an operation is “an ongoing organisational function that performs activities to produce products or supply services. For instance, production operations, manufacturing, IT service management… Furthermore, operations are permanent endeavours that produce repetitive outputs” (para. 3). After a project is complete, operations begin to main the output of the project.
Regardless of the content, project management involves several areas to be acknowledged such as time, budget, training, and many others to be deemed successful. A project is looked upon as a business with many different components interacting with each other seamlessly. It takes communication and cooperation from several aspects. According to Cox (2009), “while it is important to know what tasks must be executed within and across each knowledge area, it is equally important to know at what point in the project these tasks must be performed” (p. 6). Effective project management is delegating and orchestrating each part of the project to ensure that it runs smoothly to the finish line.
As I enter this course, my first thoughts of what a project is jumps to an assignment that is given to be completed in a given time. As I have read and learned more about project management, I see a project is beyond reaching a deadline, but completing a unique task that involves many elements. When asked if I have ever managed a project, I think of my experience running a program at the summer camp I worked at where I was responsible for managing the money, enrollment, the activities, and the young girls. I can assume now I was the project manager that made sure all areas were run effectively, but I see now with larger projects, it may be a lot for one person to handle all areas independently. Projects may involve help from others, including bigger companies. Technology use can be another feature to a project. It takes strong leadership for a project to be delivered successfully to ensure all areas are handled properly. I have seen several projects started in my school that seemed to have not considered areas such as budget and timing. When materials are dispersed late, not enough were ordered, or were not taught to be used properly, it can through the production or the outcome of the project extremely off. With the aid of this course, I will learn why project management is essential, how it relates to being a teacher, and how the elements of project management will help to create my own project.
Helpful Resource – Still not sure what a project is? This video below gives a more detailed definition along with how it differs from an operation. Knowing what a project is will help to know how to manage it much more effectively.
Cox, D. (2009). Project management skills for instructional designers: a practical guide / Dorcas M. T. Cox.. Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse Inc.
How has your learning philosophy or perspective changed during this course?
My learning philosophy regarding technology and learning has developed as I have learned about the use and importance of technology in various fields, but most importantly to me, education. Like the quote above, technology is an ever growing tool that will not replace the teacher, but be an asset for teachers compared to teachers that are not connected. Technology are not just tools to be plugged in or carried around, but a new platform for learning and advancing as a person and learner. Throughout the course, I have had several opportunities to gain a stronger sense of how technology has and still is infiltrating education from all directions. As an educator, I gravitate towards using it to make myself a stronger and more efficient teacher and to provide my students with the most creative, productive learning experiences possible. My perspective has broadened due to the many hands on experiences I have had during this course. By participating in the learner challenges and interacting with classmates, I have gained several new tools and strategies.
What are the key issues of using technology to actually enhance learning?
With the joys of using technology, comes speed bumps to its use in the classroom. A key concern that is still a question for debate is the distraction component of technology use such as tablets and mobile devices. Sahakov (2014) states, “Various kinds [0f] entertainment from mobile devices such as playing games, texting, or surfing the net distracts students in the classroom. Moreover, with the ability to communicate easily, students tend to text or communicate with each other when they should not be doing so” (para. 7). How does an educator monitor student use of technology in the classroom? Educators should have a clear objective and use of the device before it is ever turned on. Students should be fully aware of why they’re using it and what the outcome of the use should look like. When left to “research” on mobile devices, appropriate sites and applications should be listed or stated beforehand. Teachers need to implement learning activities that focus on using the tech tool to reinforce skills instead of focusing directly on the tech tool. By fully engaging students in the learning experience as a whole, it will deter students from straying away from the project and using the tech tool for personal uses.
Another issue is although technology use is on the rise, teachers are still trying to catch up to the level of use that young students are on. Common problems include lack of experience, intimidation of equipment, resistance to change from traditional methods, lack of up to date equipment, and out of date software. Wright and Wilson (2011) report that, ” Due to such obstacles, teachers may believe that technology integration is not worthwhile, worth the time and effort, and can be exhausting to use. The pressure to meet a “standards-driven, text-based, chronologically-sequenced curriculum” presents additional limitations in using technology and limits time to do so” (p. 48). Technology use is not just a click away, but a mindset to incorporate resources that will capture the audience’s attention and motivate them to want to learn independently and cooperatively to understand concepts that may be difficult to grasp traditionally. It takes patience and practice which may not be addressed as much as we would like.
What are your personal greatest challenges relating to technology and learning?
My personal greatest challenge involving technology and learning is the lack of training and skill development needed to authentically incorporate technology resources into my instruction. I feel many teachers feel by having students play games in the computer lab or moving pictures on a smart board are productive uses of technology, but in my opinion they are not. It is time to elevate technology use with research, presentations, sharing, interpreting creditable sources, and analyzing data, but without the teachers knowing how to accurately present academic material in this way, students will be left with one dimensional uses of computers and mobile devices. According to Wachira and Keengwe (2011), ” Despite reports of increased investments in instructional technology resources, the near universality of computers, Internet access and other forms of technology within the nation’s schools, …educational technologies are yet to be effectively integrated into instruction in most K-12 classrooms” (p. 17). Although tools may be available and present in classrooms, it does not necessarily mean they are being effectively integrated into instruction.
Available tools may also not be functional, which in my school was a major issue. With laptops with missing keys, desktop computers that would constantly freeze, and internet connects that were never consistent, using technology became a hassle. Wachira and Keengwe (2011) pinpointed, “The unpredictable functionality and the uncertainty of getting timely technical support make it almost not worth the time to learn and use technology” (p. 21). I have felt this very way working with unreliable tools. Not having the support from your environment can make technology integration nearly impossible, which can be frustrating for a person like myself that sees that value of its use.
I have a want to learn, but the learning opportunities are not being made available to me like I would want. There should be more training and teacher experience with technology tools to productively use them for authentic learning experiences. With my personal use and education of technology tools, including the ones learned from this course, I have managed to use technology to the best of my ability, but I feel I still have a lot to learn, which makes me eager to have professional development.
What are your personal plans for next steps in learning?
With the closing of this course, my next steps for learning is to use what I’ve learned in my everyday instruction. For example, I learned that effective presentation of materials and content can make or break a lesson. With tools such as PowToon and Prezi, I can engage students in ways that lectures just can’t do alone. Another goal is to blend digital and face-to-face learning more seamlessly. This can be a challenge with limited tech tools, but with small group instruction, new laptops on the way, and 4 classroom computers, I plan to create learning activities that encourage technology use and more physical cooperation. I discovered from this course that social networking is not only good to use online, but as a classroom community as well.
I want to promote an atmosphere that embraces learning in a digital world without abandoning the real world. I will continue to further my research on how technology can utilized creatively in the classroom because it is vital to be aware in order to see the true essence of technology integration into instruction. This course has exceptionally taught me that by equipping myself with the best tools, I can provide my students with experiences that are worth remembering.
What does the future hold for technology for younger students?
Technology has grown and developed tremendously within the last twenty years and now we have the future to look forward to. What will elementary classrooms look like in five, ten, and twenty years from now? What devices and programs will young children interact with in the classroom?
Futuristic technology for classrooms includes 3D printers and Google Glasses which have been hot topics lately, but emerging technology that seems to be more on the fast track are mobile devices, particularly the Apple iPad. Why is it on the rise? According to Hutchison, Beschorner, and Schmidt-Crawford (2012), “[An iPad] has most of the capabilities of a desktop or laptop computer, but with additional unique affordances, such as a multitouch screen and a seemingly endless variety of applications, that promote previously unseen possibilities for mobile learning” (p. 15). With its multifunction features, iPads and tablets give students a sense of the stability of a computer, yet the portability of a mobile device making it ideal for a classroom setting. With hundreds of thousands of applications, teachers can use them to further reinforce academic concepts for diverse students. iPads can be used for quite practically any subject matter and used by nearly any student.
From solving complex math equations to reading a book, an iPad is becoming more prominent due to its universal nature. As more enter the classroom, new skills will be expected. Hutchison, Beschorner, and Schmidt-Crawford (2012) report, “Digital texts can require different skills, strategies and dispositions, collectively referred to as new literacies to read and navigate them. Thus it is important that teachers understand these differences and integrate digital technology into the curriculum to provide students
with opportunities to learn these new literacies” (p. 16). Young children will be exposed to a new literary adventure with the use of an iPad, thus growing new skill sets. This will apply to not just reading, but science, history, art, music, etc.
As a student myself, I have to say I do not use my iPad as productively as I would have imagined a student would. This discovery made me realize that despite it being a popular personal mobile device, it is still a newer tool in the classroom. Why is that so? It may be because there is a gap between a mobile device’s personal and academic use. Young learners are savvy with its use for gaming and skill practice, but are they using its functions to perform academic tasks such as highlighting, creating presentations, researching, and creating and advancing skill sets?
Unfortunately, by the time I acquired my iPad in 2010, I was out of college and did not learn to use it an academic way because I did not have a need for it in that way and it was not seen in many classrooms yet. Now four years later, iPads are seen in pre-k classes to teacher education courses. Although its presence has increased, I still feel elementary educators struggle to use iPads in the most productive way. Teachers are still going through a learning curve themselves as they learn to use iPads to enrich their old material and may not have the guidance or skills to create learning experiences that will elevate students’ skills.
From my perspective as an elementary teacher in an urban, lower income setting, technology is very slowly emerging. With a smart board and a few classroom computers in every classroom, a computer lab, and a laptop computer cart for every grade level to share, these are the mainstream technology devices in our building. We have a smart board table that I have never seen used, one ELMO projector for the school, and no iPads in sight for anyone. Despite the slow climb, technology use is what you make it, with the tools that are available. I use my smart board everyday and try to incorporate academic computer use as much possible, but others simply use it to fill time. I feel in order for a school to use technology effectively, there has to be an initiative to want to use it whether it comes from the district, administration, or the teachers. When a school lacks up to date resources and/or has staff that lacks the drive to want to use it, the priority of technology greatly diminishes. In order for our country to eventually get on the same page when it comes to technology use, it will take a community effort of funding, training, practice, effective equipment, productive student and teacher use, etc. How is technology treated where you are?
There are several directions that technology is going in for young learners in the future. iPads are promising because they can give elementary teachers an extra hand at monitoring individual progression and an individual learning experience for diverse learners. There is still a learning process for educators to transition its use from personal to academic, but with a plethora of iPad resources and functions, it presence in the classroom can no longer be denied. Despite what new technology is seen or not seen in classrooms all over the country, it is important for educators to keep a positive attitude towards technology use by incorporating it into instruction the best they know how. With emerging technology comes more education about it which is still a struggle, but as time goes on, iPads, tablets, and other mobile devices will become second nature tools such as paper, pencils, and textbooks.
Hutchison, A., Beschorner, B., and Schmidt-Crawford, D. (2012). Exploring the use of the ipad for literacy learning. Reading Teacher. 66(1) 15-23 doi:10.1002/TRTR.01090
Mobile technology has taken this generation by storm with almost every teenager with a smartphone glued to their hand, but are they using them in the classroom? Are mobile devices useful tools in the classroom for academic purposes? According to Techopedia (2014), “A mobile device is a handheld tablet or other device that is made for portability, and is therefore both compact and lightweight” (para. 1). By being portable, it can allow a student to learn on the go or detached from their school desk. Students can access thousands of applications of a variety of topics and interests that are interactive, informative, and suited for their needs. As much as young and adult learners use mobile devices in their personal lives, its use in the class is not as developed as educators may seem.
As stated above, bring your own device is becoming the hot phrase in up and coming classrooms that allow students to use personal mobile devices for learning, but although it is welcomed, not all classrooms have adapted this motto. Sarmiento and Glauber (n.d.) report that “Despite the high numbers of middle school students using lap tops, smartphones and tablets for homework, very few are using these mobile devices in the classroom, particularly tablets and smartphones. A large gap exists between mobile technology use at home and in school” (p. 3). If students are using them at home, why not at school? I feel a gap exists due to a few setbacks that can make an educator fearful of utilizing them. One factor that Wainwright (2014) points out is “Many schools current wireless network infrastructures just are not designed to handle the amount of activity and the number of devices that are sucking up bandwidth in BYOD environments” (para. 2). Another is can it be used without distracting students from effective instruction by allowing them to have access to texting, “facebooking”, and internet surfing. Lastly, with different devices comes different technical support issues that can be overwhelming for one IT technician to handle (Wainwright, 2014, para. 6).
Can these gaps be closed? With time, training, and effective modelling for educators and students, I feel mobile devices will become normal tools in the classrooms in the next 5-7 years. Mobile devices will require monitoring, technical support (mainly from the teacher), and productive instruction that does not focus on the device, but uses it to enhance engagement and understanding.
The students of this time are quite fortunate to have readily available secondary instructors at their hands at all times, whether in or out of the classroom. With my love of technology, I could imagine what my learning experience would be if I had access to these devices when I was younger, but luckily as an educator myself, I can embark that journey with my own students. Sadly, my school is not equipped with tablets or other mobile devices besides laptops which some don’t even consider to be a mobile device due to its weight and a constant attachment to a power supply. Reviewing statistics and information on mobile devices for this week has shown me the many benefits, but how can they help if they are not present in classrooms? In my opinion, the major issue with its lack of appearance in classrooms is the lack of funding and attention on how its personal use for students can raise interest. I wish to use mobile devices in my classroom because I have a true passion for technology and would love to incorporate them into my instruction to avoid using one dimensional teaching methods. The reality I have learned is that although they are prominent pieces of technology in our lives, they have not fully reached our classrooms.
For the educators that are fortunate to use mobile devices in their instruction, they are able to reach students in new ways that other educators may not be able to. Students enjoy using them because they are familiar and student friendly. It strengthens their skills in subjects they love and peaks their interests for subjects they admire. Two out of three students (67%) who use laptops in class say that it helps them learn math [and] science better and more than half of all students who use tablets in class (55%) say it helps them learn math and science better (Sarmiento and Glauber, n.d., p. 3). With an application for almost anything, subjects such as math and science, which were once very textbook reliable, have come alive with mobile devices that allow students to perform functions and review concepts outside a paper and a pencil. Mobile devices have the abilities to open minds and make the learning process more pleasurable, but it will not happen overnight and will not be seen in every classroom anytime soon.
Virtual Reality Activities: Are they useful in education or still a work in progress?
When I think about virtual realities, I think of how far education has come since hundreds of years ago, but when I begin to search for virtual realities geared towards elementary students, not much is found. This makes me wonder, are virtual realities as useful and futuristic as educators may believe? Can they truly transform our current classrooms or are they just out of touch play activities?
Virtual realities can be defined as virtual worlds or multiuser virtual environments (MUVEs) that are characterized by 3-D virtual environments that simulate real-world objects and interactions and are available to multiple users simultaneously, on a global basis” (Reiser and Dempsey, 2012, p. 334). In virtual worlds, people are expected to socialize virtually, create new spaces, form groups, and engage in real world experience in a digital way. It can be used for educational purposes in several fields including the military, medicine, and education. What makes virtual worlds attractive is its ability to give users an opportunity of exploration. For example, newly recruited soldiers can manipulate equipment, weapons, and run through procedures in a safe space without the risk of danger. New residents can practice medical procedures on a virtual patient to avoid and learn from mistakes.
I do not have any educational experience with virtual worlds, but I have personally used The Sims for my own entertainment. I feel if I had used virtual realities in a class setting, it may have broadened my experience to certain concepts such as outer space, ecosystems, and the human body. I feel one of the things that lacks in American education is the chance to explore freely and openly with others while learning. In an ideal learning environment, virtual worlds could instantly allow students to communicate with other students, possibly apply their learning, and create rooms of what they’ve learned to share and build with others. Knowing the technology I have available in my own classroom, I know that including virtual realities into my instruction would be rather difficult. I would also have to create a world for my students to explore due to the limited resources that are readily available.
Are there positives to virtual realities in the classroom? According to Harris and Reid (2005), “Virtual reality play potentially offers children with disabilities the opportunity to participate in games otherwise inaccessible” (p. 22). With virtual technology such as the type seen in the picture above, students with disabilities may be able to experience concepts equally to students without disabilities. It can even the playing field when it comes to learning for all. Are schools ready for these types of tools? Most schools in America are probably not equipped to handle virtual reality tools due to the lack of reliable computers, laptops, and funding for more sophisticated virtual reality tools. Online programs such as Second Life may be free to download, but can an educator guarantee that the content will be Common Core aligned and suitable for all learners? When using virtual realities, much preparation is required to ensure the educational experience is in fact educational and not simply social networking in a digital space.
After several failed attempts to experience virtual realities firsthand, I finished this week feeling as if virtual worlds still are in need of development before they could ever be fully implemented into classrooms for elementary students. Elements of consideration would be security, academic integration, safe social interaction, and creation of personal virtual worlds. Currently, I feel virtual worlds are focused towards older students, but with more development, elementary students will engage with new content and diverse users in the future. Virtual realities have a place in education, but at this point, in my opinion has not reached a point that it can be considered mainstream enough to satisfy young learners like expected.
What are the best memories you have of school? Most of them probably center around playing games with others in the classroom. Games have always had a place in the classroom, but with the explosion of the internet and new technology being created everyday, games have made more of a statement now than ever. The question is: does gaming help with classroom instruction?
Children are attracted to games because of its playful nature. Games have been seen as a resource for learning for years. According to Reiser and Dempsey (2012), Jean Piaget felt “a child could rehearse newly formed concept to make it fit within what they already knew and understood (assimilation)… and imitation is used to build entirely new mental models (accommodation)” (p. 323). Gaming can help children see concepts in new ways and help to discover concepts independently. It allows them to explore freely and practice without the pressures of being graded.
Another great asset to games in the classroom is its ability to adapt to each student and provide instant feedback to help sharpen their skills. One way a game can do this is to “gradually [become] more complex, require more contributions from the learner, and are accompanied by less support” (Reiser and Dempsey, 2012, p. 325). Teachers may use games to provide students with experiences and situations that they may not be able to effectively. Every student may interact with a concept differently than another and games can help to guide students on a one-on-one basis, which can be challenging for just one teacher. By providing specific feedback, students can take more direct instructions to build their skills.
I personally feel games have helped me as a learner. I may not remember every lecture my teachers gave, but I remember the experiences and games we played to drill a concept into our heads. Games help to create experiences. My students become fully engaged whenever learning is turned into a game of some sort. It is due to this engagement that they become more attentive and more willing to participate. Games have a way of evoking different elements such as social learning and problem/project based learning. Children enjoy interacting with others while trying to overcome a challenge. Through these playful experiences, young learners can focus and learn not just from the game, but from the players as well.
When my students are playing games, whether online or with a group, I like to listen to their dialogue, ask questions about strategies, and get an idea as how what they are learning. Are they learning from the game? Are they learning from the trial and errors of their opponents? Are they learning at all? Games have become quite popular in the classroom because of its goal-orientated structure. When learners feel there is a goal in site, they are more likely to work hard to achieve it. It motivates them to fulfill the goal. Dirksen (2012) states, “Games satisfy one of our three innate psychological needs-namely, the need to experience competence, our ability to control and affect our environment, and to get better at it” (p. 134). Playing games can make learners feel accomplished as he or she utilized skills to get through various obstacles. When gamers unlock achievements or get to the next level, it encourages them to learn and apply more skills. It also teaches them that when they fail, they have another chance to start again with another strategy. It builds self-confidence and creates reassurance that one is capable of learning and succeeding.
One of the most important pieces of a successful educational game is how relevant it is to what is being taught. Reiser and Dempsey (2012) report that “Everything a player is asked to learn in an educational game should be relevant and contextualized such that players should not have to learn something that is not used, nor use something they cannot learn” (p. 325). Games in the classroom should always have a purpose. Students should walk away with a stronger sense of the content due to a game’s ability to learn through situations and scenarios. In the end, games definitely can be used as educational reinforcements due to their many benefits. Gaming can also help young learners to realize that succeeding may not happen the first time, but with perseverance, much can be accomplished.
This video gives some insight as to how educational games can help to enhance the learning experience in the classroom.