Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Final Course Reflection

Anticipation for this class was high for me. I felt that I already had a good handle on the “Technology Link” having participated fairly recently in a Web 2.0 practicum where I had created a blog and tried a variety of Web 2.0 tools. Through this class I wanted to expand my understanding of how best to integrate technology into the curriculum. The course has been an exercise in frustration for me. This is not due to the course work itself, but to hardware issues. Two days before the course began, my desktop succumbed to a what we believe to have been a virus. After a disheartening weekend attempting to get connected through a practically new laptop, the first day of the course found me computerless once more as my laptop crashed during an automatic update. It was another two weeks of literally hours spent conversing with tech support and continual problems after a complete restore on the laptop which included a home visit from a technician. Meanwhile, I was carrying my school laptop (an outdated and slow machine) back and forth from school to home so that I could keep up with the course material. Add that I am now using Go Course instead of Brighten. So this was an additional learning curve as some processes are different in the two programs.. Once my new laptop was functioning again, I faced the task of getting up to speed with Vista—finding where the usual features are located cost extended time on all tasks. It has been a most disheartening experience, but has given me a much better understanding of what some of my teachers, students and parents experience when confronted with technology that I consider “everyday”. I believe this experience will help me to express more empathy with them as they struggle to master such everyday activities as circulation in the library and access and use of our online databases. I will need to prepare better lessons on new (and existing) technology that does not assume the skills that I take for granted. And I need to be infinitely more patient with those who are not yet there with technology. Further, as a result of this course, I have rethought much of my current instruction in the library and am revising not only how it is presented and how the students can make more choices on how they will learn it. I am trying to convince teachers to use wikis with students in the upcoming science fair projects. The groups can post, share information, organize their findings and track their progress better with a wiki that will be accessible not only at school, but also at home. More frequent interaction and ease of sharing information will make the whole process not only easier, but more transparent for the teachers for assessment. Updating information and making revisions will also be facilitated.
Much of what I discovered in this course has helped me engage in some fruitful discussions with my Campus Curriculum Integration Technologist. We have formed plans for helping our teachers and students to further their use of technology in practical ways.
Although I was able to submit assignments on time, I found my attitude toward the course was definitely clouded by my experiences. This resulted in my struggling to complete the assignments and the readings and postings on the discussion boards because I was not having fun with it. Although the readings presented me with new perspectives and I have more interesting research to do now, I found myself procrastinating on the work simply because of the intimidation of the hardware issues.
I wanted to do more with my blog, but after making the first post and adding my avatar, I lost momentum. I was able to make all the required blog posts and also commented upon and followed a few other blogs. But I had hoped to do more with the blog than that. Blogging is an exciting way to communicate with stakeholders. I have participated in a number of online communities, blogs and wikis. Although the blogging habit is not part of my daily routine, I do check my facebook account almost daily. I believe blogs are a great way for schools to keep stakeholders informed about a variety of school events and issues. Through blogs, administrators, teachers and parents can voice concerns, bring up topics for discussion (although this may be better handled in a wiki) as well as pass on mundane information. Additionally, I can see students using blogs to report their daily progress on projects, homework, course work and more. Students can publish their work for review not only by their teachers, but by a larger and more varied audience. Many schools like mine require students to do a journal. a blog could be even more motivational way for many students to accomplish this. Although blogging presents some issues, primarily those concerning safety, these are not insurmountable. Since blogs are “out there” on the net, students could be vulnerable to any number of predators or missteps. Course readings presented some quite practical suggestions on dealing with safety issues as well as allaying parental fears. Blogging and social networking is here and now and they are tools our students choose to use for interaction. We need to not only allow them these tools of choice, but also prepare them with the skills and discernment to use them wisely. We can use these same tools to efficiently and effectively communicate, share and continue on the learning path together.

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