Integrating Techology in Class – Practical Steps

January 25th, 2012

5 Elements of a Successful 21st Century Lesson 

As teachers begin to embrace the integration of technology in their classrooms, strategies for success need to be hilighted to sustain momentum. Take a quick read and ask yourself where you stand in the practice of tech integration.
 
1. Begin With The End In Mind
 
In the end, we are asking our students to submit a product. Whether it is a picture, essay, podcast or skit – if we as teachers do not share the big picture, expectations and final marking scheme then it won’t matter what technology you attempt to use.
 
2. Have a Plan
 
Even the most seasoned teachers should strongly consider a formal plan for every attempt of integrating technology into the class.  Without a plan and at the first sign of trouble, we often revert to what is comfortable. If there is a plan then at least we may find recourse within it.
 
3. Accept Failed Attempts and Move On
 
Even with a detailed, well-thought out plan, some lessons are doomed to fail due to fire drills, school yard fights, in-promptu meetings, tournaments, illness, faulty projector lamp, downed network, sticky keyboard…. you name it! The most important lesson I attempt to impart on my teachers is to accept a botched attempt and move on quickly.  Avoid dwelling on what could have been and look forward to what could be.
 
4. Set Realistic Goals About Classroom Tech
 
When surveying teachers I am often blown away by the expectations they set on themselves. Most teachers believe that true integration for technology needs to occur on a daily basis for the better part of the day. The reality for any teacher who wants to begin integration of tech in the classroom should be 2 – 3 times a week at about 30 – 45 minutes each time. Start slow and move on – beginning with unrealistic expectations always leads to certain failure.
 
5. Direct Your Own Professional Development
 
Look to enrol in courses offered throughout the summer or evenings to develop your knowledge of technology and technology tools for the classroom.  There are so many new and interesting courses available specifically for educators, there has never been a better time to engage in professional development even from the convenience of your own home.
 
Anthony A. Carabache

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January 7th, 2012

Cutting the Chord

Our family household finally took the plunge and cancelled our cable service. Though mounting frustration with our cable company was enough of a reason, paying $80 per month for 500 channels that held no interest for us helped with the final decision.  The offensive barrage of commercial advertising simply sealed the deal. Bottom line was we were more willing to pay a subscription fee for a seamless commercial-free movie or show than to watch it butchered over an agonizing network-approved timespan.

The first couple of days were admittedly challenging for me but not so much to the rest of my family. I quickly came to some important realizations:

  1. There may be instances where we would need to pay for episodes and movies;
  2. We would definitely be consuming more bandwidth;
  3. We would have to think about what we want to watch.

The first two realizations are obvious but easy to manage once you know where to go to get movies and shows online. It is the last point that really hits you, but before examining the last point I’d like to share some of the strategies we have used as far as hardware and video sourcing without cable.

Our home has a PS3, Apple TV, and a couple of laptops. I use our PS3 to stream Netflix, watch Bluray, DVD and YouTube. If you don’t have a PS3 then Xbox or any other relatively new Bluray players can do all of the same things. The PS3 will also play a large variety of video formats – the most successful of which in my experience has been AVI. I use our Apple TV for shows that we have downloaded from iTunes mostly for our kids, and we have a monthly budget specifically for iTunes.

I had set out to eliminate hardware redundancy but learned that to get the most out of what’s out there, there is no singular set top or streaming video service that can cover all the bases – funny that an old laptop would do everything for you without a problem but where is that damned remote? If you are interested in learning more about set top media players you will find a great article here: 

http://searchengineland.com/internet-to-tv-streaming-players-compared-60304

The cable service was costing us close to $1000 per year with very little satisfaction (A rottisserie channel – really?). Even the on-demand viewing was often slow and we were at the mercy of a rowdy PVR that seemed to be in constant and noisy contact with the mother-ship! At a $1000 per year, there was no doubt in my mind that we could keep ourselves entertained and in touch without a worry in the world.

Now, onto this idea of thinking about what we want to watch – truly fascinating! Our televisions would no longer be a source of white noise spewing network trash and poor advertising into our immediate atmosphere.  We could also avoid the plague of 24 hour doom and gloom news channels. As a family we decided to give the television a specific set of purposes: to inform, educate and entertain – all on our terms, not the cable company’s.

Truly on-demand programming would now require us to really think about the quality of programming before we consume bandwidth or pay for an episode. Think about this folks: We are now going to actively participate in the process – essentially choosing exactly what we want when we want it. Simply mind-boggling isn’t it?

Without doubt this is much more cerebral for us as viewers. Turning on the boob tube to put ourselves to sleep ain’t gonna happen anymore – but maybe it should never have been that way to begin with. I can’t quite remember when the television was classified as a sleep assistive device.  The point is, we are taking control of a medium that we never truly had any say in and using it for its orignally intended purpose.

The hubris of the cable company as evidenced in Huffington Post’s article: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/12/30/cord-cutting-cancel-cable_n_1176651.html is more than obvious, but since the cable company also holds much of our country’s Internet bandwidth for ransom, it is almost understandable.

Our next step will be to cut service with my cable company as my ISP and move to a company that provides a healthier helping of bandwidth.

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