Final reflections on CONT-702

As I wrap up the final module of my summer AQ, Integration of Information and Computer Technology in Instruction, Part 2, I am prompted to reflect on my learning. And what better place than a blog for doing that? 

Module 1: A Vision of 21st Century Learning

Module 1 focused on setting the stage for technology integration by emphasizing the philosophical and pedagogical basis for integration technology in the classroom. For me, this was really valuable, as one of my primary goals in the course was to develop my understanding of what it really means to integrate technology in a meaningful way, and not just as a fun add-on or an excuse to try out new tools (because, let’s face it, I really like trying out new tools!). Using technology can help to shift the classroom environment from the traditional, factory model of churning out clones to one that values innovation, creativity, problem-solving and collaboration. As the technology integration specialist at my school, I have a particularly important responsibility of vetting technology tools before introducing them to my colleagues, and so it is key that I ensure that I have this framework in mind at all times.

The suggestions of my fellow candidates of a couple of specific technologies piqued my interest as well. Anchor FM, a tool for creating and distributing podcasts, got me thinking about how easily podcasting would fit into my Comm Tech curriculum, and further discussions and modules really solidified for me the value of podcasting for developing student skills of communication and critical thinking. 

Module 2: The 21st Century Classroom

Module 2 focused on exploring inquiry-based, flipped, and blended learning. In this module, I was able to solidify my belief that going fully “flipped” in my classroom is not the way to go, but at the same time, I recognized that there are so many more ways of blending learning than simply using screencast videos to teach concepts. The value of blended learning was made more apparent, not just in its ability to support more personalized learning for students, but also in the way it takes advantage of existing resources and tech tools to free up the teacher to do impactful work beyond direct instruction, like providing more feedback and personalized support to students.  

The major assessment for this module was the creation of an inquiry-based lesson plan, and I was so excited to be able to take a couple of loose ideas that had been rolling around my brain for a while and fashion them into a coherent project plan that I will actually be able to use come September. 

Module 3: Instructional Strategies

The third module brought with it two more tasks that had immediately practical implications for the upcoming academic year. I got to explore augmented reality as a new instructional strategy and developed a project for my work with the grade 7 guidance classes next year. I also was tasked with creating a teacher workshop using one of several instructional strategies, and so I was able to create a complete resource for a Tech Breakfast for teachers in the fall, a practice I started this past spring and plan to continue. Two birds, one stone! 

Module 4: Connect!

This was another valuable module that focused on various ways of connecting – to students, to other teachers, to parents, and connecting our students to the wider world. I had two major takeaways from this unit. First, I want to be more proactive with my communication with parents to ensure that positive communication sets the tone for the year. Rather than communicating with parents only when something is going wrong, I want to share good news stories and successes from our class. Second, reflecting on the PLN that I have, between Twitter, blogging, reading blogs, and using Google Hangouts, I realized what a huge impact that my PLN has on my professional learning on a daily basis. I feel gratitude for having the opportunity to participate in these forums and learn from others who are far wiser and more experienced than I am. As a result, I want to share my experience with the faculty at my school, so I plan to run a Tech Breakfast all about dipping your toes into the PLN water in order to start taking charge of your own professional development. I got some great feedback from fellow candidates about making sure that this is done in a low-pressure way that is not intimidating.

Module 5: Skills for a Digital Age

Finally, module 5 focused on digital citizenship and 21st century skills. I got to explore new resources to support digital citizenship in the classroom, and I uncovered several ideas (from course readings and other candidates’ posts) for embedding these lessons as a regular part of my Comm Tech class. My work with the grade 7s on digital citizenship as part of their Guidance classes will benefit from the variety of resources, especially those from Common Sense education, that I discovered. 

Final reflection

At the start of this course, I made a commitment to myself not to use any existing projects or activities as a basis for my coursework. Instead, I would create something new for each task, and try to use new-to-me technologies, or tech tools that I wasn’t very comfortable with yet, in order to stretch myself. Although it meant that several of the tasks and assignments took me longer than perhaps they could have, I feel as though upon completion, I now have a whole new set of classroom activities that I can implement next year. Because I’ll be teaching a new course, doing this also helped me to get more familiar with my new curriculum and set up several activities and projects that I will be able to use in my planning. Going beyond what I already knew and did in my class forced me to think creatively and try new things, and I’m grateful for having done that. 

Going forward, I still hope to explore many of the instructional strategies that I didn’t have a chance to explore in depth, and I still feel like I could continue to hone my criteria for selecting and using technology in order to ensure impactful and transformative learning for my students. But I’ve expanded my PLN, engaged in meaningful discussions with my fellow candidates, and used a significant portion of my summer to grow as an educator and renew my commitment to life-long learning. So I would call that a success. Thanks for everything, CONT-702!