Midway through my Masters of Education program I selected two courses that expanded my understanding of the importance of technology use in the classroom. Learning with Technology (EDUC 5105G) introduced me to the concept of multimodality and the theories that support Web 2.0 tools for learning, and Technology and the Curriculum (EDUC 5303G), where I learned about meaningful use of technology and reinforced the concept of Digital Literacy.
“Digital literacy includes, but goes beyond, simple technology skills. Just as traditional literacy goes beyond comprehension to include the more complex skills of composition and analysis, digital literacy includes a deeper understanding of, and ultimately the ability to create a wide range of content with various digital tools.”
~ Digital Literacy in Canada: From Inclusion to Transformation (2010, p.4)
Artefact #1: Critique of Web 2.0 Tools
I have used Bitstrips.com, a Web 2.0 site, with a great deal of success over the past few years and it was interesting to critique it based on it's theoretical merit rather than simply on previous success (although that would still influence my decision to continue using it). My definition of mulitmodality is being able to create and share meaningful learning through a variety of media types and the use of Bitstrips.com certainly falls into this category. The site allows students to create a digital avatar of themselves and then use their character in a comic strip. The site is very user friendly and even Grade 1 students can quickly navigate the backgrounds and props available. The creation of comics can be used to include deeper thinking on many of the concepts we learn about, such as character education (bullying), math, science, social studies, and connect these concepts to real-life scenarios.
This assignment was significant for my growth as a learner by tying together my personal and professional interests with the learning theories that support this type of technology use. The advent of Web 2.0 sites have allowed me to incorporate constructivist learning into my technology-rich practice of teaching by giving students the tools to learn, collaborate and create on a common platform. I have found sites such as Animoto, Storybird, Bitstrips and many others to be incredibly helpful in engaging and motivating students while allowing them to create meaning through authentic tasks. This assignment also helped me understand that simply introducing the Web 2.0 tool was not enough to engage students and have them produce meaningful assignments, tasks need to be open enough to allow for creativity and connection with diverse backgrounds, yet still structured enough to focus students on the end product and include clear expectations.
Artefact #2: Meaningful Use of Technology
I enjoyed creating this assignment for the Technology and the Curriculum course (EDUC 5303G) because I was able to use my professional experiences with a Web 2.0 technology to demonstrate meaningful integration of technology, but at the same time I learned something new and expanded my repertoire of multimodalities by using Jing to create videos. This assignment asked us to examine a Web 2.0 tool, in this case Animoto.com, and provide three examples or lessons for meaningful use of the tool in the classroom. In addition to the creation of the artefact, I also really appreciated that our class posted our assignments on a Wiki page (found here) to use as a resource for learning. I have used the link to the site several times for tips and lesson plans and also shared the site with colleagues.
I refer to Web 2.0 technology as 'the great equalizer' as I have found that students at all levels can be successful when using these sites. Several years ago I taught ICT to an intermediate special education class where all 12 students in the class had been identified as having a mild intellectual disability (MID), and together we created personal history videos using Animoto.com. Since that time I have used Animoto.com with a number of intermediate classes and I still use the videos from the MID class as outstanding examples of high level work. All 12 members of that particular class were fully engaged in the activity, worked together to problem solve and overcome obstacles, and could connect what they were learning in class to their real world experiences. To date this continues to be my most successful technology integration experience and one that I will continue to use as an example in future.