Despite the course title “Teaching for Understanding with Technology”, the heart of CEP 810 at Michigan State University is how we, as teachers, can leverage technology to connect with others in education so that we all may foster the best learning practices in our students with or without the latest technology. It is a wonderful course that has left me with plenty to contemplate. Here are my top takeaways and future goals thanks to CEP 810: Teaching for Understanding with (or without) Technology.
The expert verses novice mantra and a dose of TPACK
The first week’s readings from Bransford, Brown, and Cocking’s (2000) How People Learn have stayed with me. I have been reflecting on the differences between expert and novice learners, and experts as teachers in the EFL classroom. Native speakers practically inherit their language without any conscious effort. There are so many elements of one’s native language that were internalized at a young age, but which second and foreign language learners must painstakingly memorize. That is why it can be dangerous when native speakers enter an EFL classroom of students who are learning by a completely different method than their teacher did. This is where two of the elements of the TPACK framework are made so obvious. These perceived “experts” in content knowledge may not have sufficient pedagogical knowledge to teach effectively, causing frustration or worse indifference in students. Without even getting into the technological knowledge to engage students, the class has ground to a halt. I am lucky to work with professionals who understand this difference and take it very seriously, but trying to understand material from the students’ perspective is something all teachers must consciously remain aware of at every moment.
Expand the personal learning networks of my school’s K-6 EFL students
After reflecting on and expanding my own PLN with the help of Instructors Rimes and Keller, I realised how important it is to have a variety of inputs for learning. I wish to give my EFL students and their parents more opportunities and guidance in practicing and learning English outside of the classroom. This blog has and will continue to serve as a platform to display my coursework as I progress through the MAET program at Michigan State University. But more importantly, the experience of managing this blog has inspired me to create another that will support the new curriculum my department has worked on for nearly two years and has almost finished. Blog posts would be a space for general reflections from teachers, but this would be secondary to the website’s purpose as a reference for students, probably via their parents, indexing links to phonics videos, grammar games, songs, and all the other fun resources my colleagues and I already use in class. Such a resource would give students more chances for self directed study and ultimately greater control over their own learning.
Repurpose technology in order to teach creativity
As I look for ways to integrate technology into my EFL classroom and hopefully advise others on doing the same, I have broadened my focus. Rather than only searching for the perfect phonics video or grammar app, which are still effective and will be needed for the reference website previously mentioned, I must also consider how to repurpose technology and other classroom tools. When teaching anything, good examples are key for guiding students towards understanding. Teachers being creative with resources in the classroom serve as excellent “Do as I do” examples for students to be creative in turn. Nothing could be more important in the 21st century.
Technology for the youngsters?
One question I have been left with and plan to pursue via my PLN regards technology in the kindergarten classroom, specifically creating situations where students can create freely. I’d like to move beyond the usual phonics or grammar game and give the kids the opportunity to make something that can be shared with an audience. I have used Storybird successfully in 1st-6th grade EFL classes to accomplish this, however, it is still a bit too advanced for EFL kindergarteners. I am confident I will find solutions among all those connected educators out there.
As was made clear to me by diagramming my PLN and during the course’s networked learning project, I have benefitted greatly from numerous free online resources. Now that CEP 810 has helped me establish some future goals, I hope that in the process of accomplishing said goals I will contribute to the dialogue on 21st century education and become a resource for others.
Language_Errors_Novice.239 [Online Image]. Retrieved March 1st, 2015 from http://www.interfaces.com/blog/the-cognitive-wheel/