I enjoyed reading this chapter and it really got my wheels turning. My school district does a really respectable job supporting teachers with productivity tools and technology related to our curriculum. However, during this “pandemic season”, we were caught off guard for sure. I teach in a different county than my wife, so I got to see how two different systems handled the situation. I feel Cobb should have been better prepared for the situation, but when I mentioned the idea of a LMS to my administrators in a Zoom meeting, I was told that it wasn’t that they didn’t want an LMS, but because the system is so large, it isn’t feasible to get enough licenses for the software. Money is unfortunately a barrier that exists regarding productivity tools. Cobb does an excellent job of developing solutions to some technology problems in house, which is something that many other systems do not have the resources to do, but regarding having an LMS that is comparable to Schoology, it appears we were caught off guard. We were left to teach during this digital learning phase using ad-hoc resources, and as we saw in our reading, there are good options out there so that was fortunate. I am familiar with and use several of the resources listed in our textbook, but there are so many it’s overwhelming. It takes time to learn how to incorporate them into our curriculum. The example lesson plans and tables with examples immensely helpful.
The biggest and best productivity tool(s) I use in my class would be Office 365 and its associated resources. I incorporate Office 365 into much of my curriculum. I have (OneNote) Notebooks created for my classes that my students use. Word and PowerPoint are included in every Office 365 account, and it makes saving their work so much easier in our projects. Sharing files with others for group assignments is easy with Office 365. I am a huge fan of Office 365. Cobb uses iRespond systems to create test banks and to administer tests. This is a tremendous resource. My favorite part is that it grades the test for you and syncs with our gradebook. I don’t know a teacher alive who would have a problem with that. iRespond also has notable features, randomizing tests to prevent “wandering eye syndrome” (p. 146). I use SketchUp and SolidWorks for 3D modeling and 3D printing along with my 3D printer that I have in my class. KhanAcademy is a great resource I use with my eighth graders for learning HTML and CSS. This is a resource that aligns more with our module two reading (OER), but it is a great tool, and I feel it's also helpful regarding productivity. I tried teaching HTML/CSS without KhanAcademy in the past and it wasn’t as successful. One last thing I want to mention about these resources and productivity is that they are Internet-based. This makes things so much more convenient, and my students can always do work outside of my classroom which makes them more productive.
Something I agree with and have also noticed in my classroom is mentioned by Roblyer and Hughes (2019) on page 104. In a computer lab, you must “set guidelines and expectations early with students regarding technology. Problems can and do arise and it is important to communicate with them early on”. Every semester, I spend a week or more going over things regarding my lab, computers, and communicating on the web. I would also add that you need to reiterate these guidelines consistently as well.
The textbook helped me think of some things that I want to start integrating into my classroom. The design elements listed on page 127 are extremely insightful. The suggestions are a mix of good pedagogical strategies and good strategies regarding accessibility and differentiation. I am going to think about my lesson materials in a different way from now on. I sometimes put too much information on slides and handouts. I need to differentiate my support materials to make it easier for the student. I need to think about diverse ways to represent my information. If I can incorporate more visualizations and less text, I feel it will help. Also, in this same vein, I intend on incorporating more flipped classroom strategies into my curriculum. I already screencast a good deal and it is helpful, but I want to assign more of that as homework and use my class time to assess and give feedback. Also, formative assessments can be given outside of the classroom, so I can identify students to work with in class and use my class time more wisely. Making these changes will also help me better “model information organization” (p. 122) and this is a goal worth reaching for. Lastly, I have noticed a problem with middle schoolers and their written skills. I have in the past incorporated writing into my lessons, but over time, I have slowly minimized how much writing I include in my lessons. I intend on getting back to including more writing and reading into my curriculum, because I feel the need for it is so strong. Roblyer and Hughes mention it often in their book and make some other good points regarding word processing (p. 119). The dynamic group product (p. 119) is another idea that I can see a lot of potential in. I do a good deal of group work and often there are those students that don’t contribute the way they should. I have deployed a few strategies in the past to address this, but if for example a paper is being written, and all the students had to write a paragraph each, it would be much easier to assess and grade them individually. Not to mention the teamwork they would need to use to be successful could be used to assess each other. Taking this approach is certainly more engaging than a traditional approach to writing.
These are just a few of my thoughts regarding my reading in module three. Teachers have come to rely on productivity tools. It's always good to analyze options and talk about it with teachers in the field. I have taken away several added resources and strategies that I will use in my classroom.
Roblyer, M.D., & Hughes, J. E. (2019). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching: Transforming Learning Across Disciplines. Pearson. (Original work published 2010)