I was recently asked by a friend of mine, who is going through a teacher preparation program, to respond to a series of questions about technology in my classroom. As a current English teacher in a South Korean elementary school it may surprise the rest of the world how little technology i see used everyday at my school. One-to-one, not a one. BYOD, nope. APCATBOTD, All Phones Collected At The Beginning Of The Day.
In fact, I did my own informal survey of several students in the 5th and 6th grade and not a single said they regularly used their smart phones as a learning tool. They all had smart phones, they all had data plans and access to the internet twenty-four-seven, yet it never occurred to them that the thing was anything more than an entertainment and communication tool. It was astonishing for a much ballyhooed techie country like South Korea.
I think my answers about the limited use of technology in the different classrooms I have worked in over the years will surprise no one. The common barriers are cliche at this point; lack of PD, device access, and access to integrated lessons that are at least enhanced, if not transformed, by technology. I’m working on it, I’m motivated to experiment, I’d love some good PD and, in the mean time, I’m improvising to leverage technology any chance I get. PLN, PLN, PLN!
Here is the transcript of my Ed Tech Interview:
At what school and grade level do you teach? How many years of teaching experience do you have?
I teach 3rd through 6th grade English as a Foreign Language at Ansim Elementary in Yeosu, South Korea. I have about eight years teaching experience, in my own English classroom, as a bilingual instructional assistant at a Seattle public elementary school, teaching adults, children, in American and many countries abroad.
Have you had any opportunities for professional development to help integrate technology into the classroom? If so, please describe. If not, do you want to learn more about integrating technology?
While I was an instructional assistant with Seattle public schools, we were given our own iPads to support English language development in ELL students, along with math support. However, we were given no professional development support and we had to find our own apps to support learning and design our own ways to integrate the technology. It was an interesting experience in how much work it is to truly leverage technologies for learning and how easily they can become expensive paper weights without the proper training and time for prep.
While I was going through the Teach-Now program, there was more PD on how to integrate technology, of course. In my current school district in Korea, there does not seem to be any push to leverage technology in the classroom to support or enhance learning and therefore I have received zero tech PD here. I have tried to use the knowledge and practices I gained from the Teach-Now program to integrate the limited tech that I have in my classroom and even let the students use learning apps on my own smart phone sometimes.
Describe your classroom simply, highlighting the technology available to you.
I have a large flat screen monitor connected via HDMI cable to a computer. That’s about it. Students have their smart phones taken away from them at the beginning of the day. I teach a couple extra classes after school and try to utilize my students’ smart phones then, BYOD style.
What’s your motivation for using technology in the classroom?
I particularly like the SAMR model for tech integration in the classroom. I think technology can have a motivating power over some students, it can facilitate collaboration and authentic learning via publishing or researching on the web with other students and experts in a field. It can also allow students to exercise their curiosity whenever and wherever they want if they know the tech tools and resources available to them on the web. Tech can also encourage and enhance parent-teacher communication and collaboration.
Which form of technology do you use the most? Why?
I use Quizbean.com to create English vocabulary and target language mastery tests. I am planning a digital storytelling unit for 3rd and 4th grade to create stories collaboratively using StoryBird.com. I have used smart phones to look up and translate new words for students. I use ClassDojo for a visual class management system. I use them because they are free and effective in engaging my students.
What are some of the challenges of using technology in the classroom?
The limited hardware or devices I have available to me, the culture of tech integration for learning in my school and the students’ limited ideas about what a smart phone is for, ie games and texting friends. But most of all it’s the lack of identification and training on curriculum aligned technologies to support English literacy. This makes it so that I have to do all my own research on what technologies I want to use, how they work and how they would fit into a lesson and achieve what language objective.
Please provide a brief example of a lesson that went well and that integrated technology. Why was it successful?
I have created learning centers in my extra classes, where students are working at different stations independently or in pairs, practicing a language acquisition target. The most popular center is the computer station where students independently take a quizbean.com quiz on new and old material that they need to master. Students love the visual elements of it, and the continually updated score that indicates their level of proficiency or mastery. They all want to get 100% and conquer the test.
Please provide an example of a lesson that integrated technology but it didn’t go well. Why was it unsuccessful, or how could you improve it?
I can’t say that I have enough experience in experimenting with new technologies at this point to give an example of a lesson that fell flat. I hope to have that opportunity to fail with tech integration and learn from it and improve one day soon!
Do you have a tech coordinator at your school? If so, what’s his/her role, and have you utilized those services?
No, we do not have a tech coordinator at my school. We have IT professionals, but no one who is in charge of integrating tech into the learning.