The purpose of my action research project was to discover the most effective educational technology practices that can be used at the Elementary school level. Too me, this is and was a very important question because many teachers do understand the importance of technology use in the classroom, but they may not know the best ways to implement technology into the classroom. In my quest for discovery of effective practices, I consulted three main sources: current literature, teachers and students. I consulted current literature because if professionals have already studied the topic, there is probably insight to be learned. I also reasoned that teachers and students could and should be consulted about what practices they find to be effective, because they are primary sources who can easily provide real and significant insight.
I thought it was quite interesting that the current literary research, along with the findings from the teacher/student questionnaires were quite consistent. The research states that teachers should not be primary sources of information, but teachers who provide students with structure and advice, while they monitor progress and assess accomplishments. Interestingly, in my survey, many of the teachers stated that they thought technology would be more effective if it was used for critical thinking and collaborative learning opportunities as opposed to just teaching the lesson and assigning work. Most of the students also stated that they would rather use technology, such as iPads on a regular basis to help them complete their work. They also liked the idea of doing group projects with others. The most interesting point both teachers and students made, was that they were very frustrated with the current computers/netbooks and SmartBoards in the school. The students actually hate the netbooks because they said that they were way too slow and took forever to turn on, and some did not even work. Not surprisingly, the teachers had the same complaints. This leads me to conclude that if technology is to be used in the school, there must a commitment to investing in “quality” and “updated” technology. To sum up my findings, investing in high-quality technology, professional development for teachers and using technology to leverage opportunities for student-driven learning that encompass collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication are all essential strategies for using technology effectively. The most popular applications that both teachers and students loved the most were EdModo, Twitter and Bitstrips. Teachers and students were also very open and excited about Blended Learning and wanted to see the model implemented in the school.
These results relate to my teaching practice because I work with students on a daily basis and I use technology in my instruction. When I am working with my students, it is imperative that I understand how my students learn best and what methods will be most practical for them. I want to give them the greatest opportunities for success and I want to make sure that I am helping nurture 21st century skills that will carry them forward in life. I also want to be a positive example to my fellow colleagues and exchange ideas and insights with them to help better the overall school community.
In completing this project, I’ve learned that technology is not something to be used to fill time and entertain. I have learned that technology must be used with a purpose. To make certain activities more rich and engaging, technology could and should be used. It should also be used to differentiate instruction regularly, because most students are already self-sufficient and well-versed in the technological world we live in.
Based on my results, I would do a few things differently. First of all, I only gave the questionnaire to teachers and students in my school, therefore my results would definitely be skewed towards my own school community. I also believe that I should have included both administrators and parents in my questionnaire. This would have created a greater balance to my study. Clearly, using questionnaires given to teachers and students in my own school creates a limitation. My school is not necessarily representative of all the other schools in Toronto, or Ontario for that matter. The positive is that I can still use the results to my own advantage because I work at the school and can use the results of my findings in my every day practice.
My inquiry project raises quite a few new questions. For one, will school boards invest in teacher professional development in the area of effective technology use? If so, what will teachers need to learn exactly? Will our school boards invest in high-quality technological tools? What are possible negatives to using technology in the classroom? How do we avoid them?
Over this course, my understanding of my own teaching has grown significantly. I have come to realize that I must provide my students with the best quality education possible. This means that I must give my students opportunities to succeed in preparation for the real world they are living in. I now have many more tools at my disposal that I will use in my classroom. Ironically, even though I have learned so much in this course, I know I am just scratching the surface. There is still a lot for me to learn so that I can give more to my students. There is substantial room for growth and I need to constantly strive to be better. I have also gained more confidence in my own ability to use different types of technology in the classroom. I am now willing to take risks that I might not have been willing to take prior to this course. I would like to thank Anthony Perrotta for helping guide me during this course, sharing his ideas and insights, and facilitating engaging and practical lessons/activities that I can actually put to use in my classroom.