Reflecting back on the duration of my CEP 811 course, I came into it with an open mind and a true uncertainty about what I would be learning.  The only thing I did know for sure is that it would have to be about education and technology…pretty vague.  I’ve learned so much in the past 8 weeks that it seems impossible to sum it all up in a few short paragraphs, but here is my best attempt…

The constructivist (or project-based) approach to teaching has been a reoccurring theme that has dominated many of the teaching strategies that we have learned about.  What I like about constructivism is how it identifies learning as an active process that creates different roles for student and teacher.  Using this strategy encourages students to discover, research, and learn with a teacher as a facilitator and supporter of that learning.  I think that one medium in particular lends itself to constructivism: the Internet.

There are many web-based tools, programs, and websites that can be used to support a constructivist approach to teaching and learning.  WebQuests, blogs and wikis can all serve different purposes within the context of the classroom.  As I learned about and explored these tools, I felt that hearing about them was one thing, but to use them was another.  I don’t feel that I would have gained the strong appreciation for these web-based technologies without using them in my own learning in this course.  The strongest reason I can say this it that I’ve heard about all of these technologies before.  But by only hearing about them, without using them, I was able to easily brush them aside and continue on with what I had previously been doing.  By actually experiencing my own learning through the use of these tools, a truly constructivist approach on my instructor’s part, I was able to better understand and know the capacities of using these tools for myself and quite possibly, for my students in the future.

In this course, I have met my own goals, and become more versed in the many Web 2.0 tools that I can use to enhance my teaching and engage my students.  I have learned not only how to use these tools, but how to make them meaningful for my students.  I have learned that integrating technology is not something that happens on its own; a teacher must first experience this technology himself or herself, and then can build that technology and its ideas into a curriculum.  I have learned that technology is not a teacher on its own, but a tool for teachers to use with their students.  I have learned too many things to write on this blog.  But what I do know, as I look to the future, is that I will not stop learning about new technologies.  I will not stop trying new things in the classroom in an effort to better reach my students.  I will not be so set in my ways that I will close off any new ideas that may help me teach more effectively.  I will not live in the “They didn’t do it that way when I was in school” or the “That’s not the way we’ve always done it” mentality because the students are living in a different age, and its time that out methods and tools came into the 21st century too.  This is the 21st century and I hope to be a 21st century teacher.

After viewing the Michigan Merit Curriculum Online Experience Guideline Companion Document, I find hard to believe that I had not known about it before now.  I was aware of the State of Michigan’s Online Experience Requirement for students in grades 6-12; however, this document is a wonderful resource and addition to my ‘bag of tricks’.  Within this document, I have learned about so many resources that I might use in my history and algebra classrooms this fall. And with the school year fast approaching, I am thinking more and more about the applications of these technologies.  Two of the technologies I am currently planning on implementing this year are WebQuests and blogs.

In particular, I feel very strongly about my students having meaningful writing experiences, and therefore I am looking at using blogs to help my students write and think authentically about algebra.  I know many of you will think, or say, “There’s no writing in math class,” but I beg to differ.  The students write math problems all the time, but why not use a blog to discuss what methods we use to solve these problems, or real-life applications of the math we are learning, or even a personal reflection about learning math.  I feel that there is great potential using blogs in my math classes and I’m excited to see the results. On the topic of WebQuests, I have previously had many activities in my history classes that have reflected the some of the key ideas of a WebQuest, but I appreciate the flexibility of these online resources in being able to adapt to different curriculum and classes.  I have created one web quest in my CEP 811 class, but am eager to explore other quests that have been created.

Some of the resources I feel that I would have amore difficult time integrating would be test preparation tools and career planning tools.  As I teach primarily ninth grade, many of the test preparation tools come into play in grade ten and eleven as students prepare for the ACT/SAT.  Although career-planning tools are important, these tools are primarily used with our counseling office to assist students in planning for courses and post-high school education and training. Since our counselors do such a wonderful job in using these tools effectively with students, I feel that my own attempts at using them would fall short and not benefit my students.  All in all, this companion document has many benefits and resources, no matter what arena of education you work.

Today, I took a serious look at Google Presenter as an educational tool.  I had seen it before and have even dabbled in Google Docs, but had not used Presenter or even played around with it to see what its capabilities were.  One of the things I immediately noticed is how Presenter functions very much like Microsoft’s PowerPoint.  So much so, that it did not take very long at all to become acquainted with the program.

As a teacher, I could see great possibilities for me to use this to upload and post notes to a shared folder, that way my students could access my presentations.  I also thought of the great potential for Google Presenter to be used when my students are making collaborative presentations, especially for a project I’ve done in the past involving the 1920s.  For history especially, I can see it being used to share information with my classes, or to even to make flash cards as study guides.  There is great potential in being able to use, share and collaborate with a program like this online.

I am hesitant however, since I know that my school has a pretty hefty firewall and usually sites like this are blocked on school computers, which can be frustrating for both my students and me.  I also noticed that Presenter does not have many advanced features, such as slide transitions, animations, or addition of sounds, and had very few themes available to change the look of your presentations.   All in all, I think that the online accessibility of using Presenter has great potential, but I can perceive a couple of roadblocks with implementation…. especially with ensuring student security online.