Monday, July 6, 2015

Article Review #10: Teacher Development Research Review: Keys to Educator Success

Vega, Vanessa (2013).  Teacher development research review: Keys to educator success.  Retrieved from:

      There is no doubt that teachers are at the center of improving student learning.  Vega (2013) reviews current research in effective teacher development and details best practices used for ensuring educator growth and success.  
      The first best practice Vega indicates is effective administrator and teacher leadership.  She asserts that great administrators focus on developing teachers’ capacities rather than their limitations, and she recognizes that accomplished teachers are most knowledgeable about student learning and are ideal for leading professional development opportunities.  I agree with Vega’s point here in that experienced teachers do come with a wealth of experience and educational tools; however, novice teachers also have much to offer in what is “cutting edge” in education, especially in the area of technology.  Vega also highlights the necessity of a highly-effective teacher management system that supports quality growth in teaching.  This brings about a relevant question - what does a fair teacher evaluation system look like for both non-tenured and tenured teachers, especially if the ultimate goals is growth in teaching?
       The next best practice Vega presents is job-embedded professional development.  She identifies the following elements to be critical in the implementation of professional development programs: collaborative learning, links between curriculum and assessment, active learning, deeper knowledge of content and how to teach it, and sustained learning over multiple days and weeks (as opposed to the one-shot or fragmented workshop approach).  I also believe that professional development needs to be differentiated, just like we differentiate as teachers for our students.  This is important because it will allow us to improve our weaknesses and build upon our strengths as educators.
       Professional learning communities is the last best practice Vega recognizes to support educator development.  Vega indicates that PLCs are one step beyond professional development in that they provide teachers with not just skills to improve their teaching but an ongoing community that values each teacher’s experiences.  She presents four key characteristics of effective PLCs: successful collaboration, focus on student learning, continuous teacher learning, and teacher authority.  When I reflect on the PLCs that I am a part of, two in particular stick out to me – my grade level team and the mentor program in my district.  In both cases, I feel that not only am I helping or supporting the professional(s) in the PLC, but I am also continually learning from them.  That is ultimately what being a teacher is about – constantly growing as a learner of teaching.

Article Review #9: What Is Successful Technology Integration?

What is successful technology integration? (2007).  Edutopia.  Retrieved from:      

     The article, What is Successful Technology Integration?, defines technology integration as “when students are not only using technology daily, but have access to a variety of tools that match the task at hand and provide them the opportunity to build a deeper understanding of content.”  According to the article, technology integration also includes being open to change as it is constantly evolving, and so we, as educators, must constantly be learning.
     The article then proceeds to highlight several types of technology integration, or ways technology can become part of the learning process: on-line learning and blended classrooms, many project-based activities, game-based learning and assessment, learning with mobile devices, instructional tools like interactive whiteboards and student response systems, web-based research and projects, students created media like podcasts and videos, collaborative on-line tools such as Google Drive, and using social media to engage students.  As I reflect on these types of technology integration, many of these are the trends we have been discussing in class.
     The article finally addresses two frameworks for technology integration, SAMR and TPACK; and it defines the levels of technology integration as sparse, basic, comfortable, and seamless. 

     I believe the 21st century learner is doing more with technology than ever.  I look at the technology integration trends above, and I realize how important the need is for educators to stay current with technology as we navigate this ever-changing world.  If it hasn’t already, this will become a mark of an exceptional teacher. 
     As we move to 1:1 technology integration in my district, I can’t help but think about how the roles of the teacher and students are shifting.  Believe me, I strongly support that a teacher and her students are what is central to the classroom.  However, as students take on the roles of explorer and discover with technology, the teacher’s role will become one of a coach or facilitator.  That can be a challenging role for a teacher to take on, especially when she is not accustomed to it.  In today’s educational system, teachers have a lot at stake, and allowing the students to lead themselves and make many of their own decisions with technology at their side can provide some worries.  But what remains is the need to prepare our students with the skills to be successful in the 21st century workforce.  Technology is indeed a tool educators can use to help make that process seamless.

Article Review #8: How to Choose the Right Learning Management System

Ash, K. (2013). How to choose the right learning management system.  Educational      
           Week, 6. Retrieved from:

     In the article How to Choose the Right Learning Management System, Ash (2013) has compiled suggestions, based on the research of various experts, to evaluate the different learning management systems available.  It is necessary to take the time to make the right decision because once an LMS is in place, changing it can be quite burdensome to teachers, students, and parents.
     Ash (2013) gives seven tips on how to choose and LMS that is a best-fit for a district:
1.      Start with determining what you want from your LMS and how it fits in the overall                    teaching and learning structure of your district;
2.      Include a mix of people in the decision making process;
3.      Play an active role when viewing and exploring LMS product demonstrations –    
         request to see functions work;
4.      Pilot the LMS;
5.      Talk to people from other school districts already using the LMS your evaluating;
6.      Evaluate the price of the product;
7.      Remember that this is a relationship that will continue for years so make sure the 
         company is a good fit and it is reputable.
Taking these seven suggestions into consideration, I can begin to reflect on how a cloud-based LMS, like Google Classroom, can impact my district and whether or not it seems to be a best-fit.

     When thinking about Google Classroom, I know that our wants as a district include the use of Google since we are moving to Chromebooks with 1:1 technology.  I also understand that there is a need to organize classrooms via assignments, grades, and learning materials that Classroom can offer while integrating other Google apps.  The decisions making process to go Google has been a long one, spanning 2-3 years by our district Technology Committee consisting of multiple teachers from each of the three schools in the district as well as a Technology Director.  I personally have yet to explore and use Google Classroom but know of several teachers in the district who have piloted it this past school year.  My goal is to become familiar with it to determine how it best fits my classroom as my students move to 1:1 this coming school year.  What is a definite positive about Google Classroom is that it is free; however, with the constant updates and changes that come with Google Drive, I am sure Classroom will have similar occurrences.  We, as teachers, just need to be open to and willing to “roll the punches,” so to speak.
     So is Google Classroom a good fit for District 13?  When taken all of the above suggestions into consideration, at the moment - yes.  But I am sure with the ever-changing world of technology, I will be re-evaluating this question in the years to come.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Article Review #7: Technology in the Classroom: Helpful or Harmful?

Clever, Samantha (2014, September 15).  Technology in the classroom: Helpful or harmful?  Retrieved from

     In the article Technology in the Classroom: Helpful or Harmful?, Cleaver (2014) presents a few negatives and some positives of implementing technology in the classroom.  It is evident that technology engages students and their learning; however, Cleaver claims that test scores have remained the same and therefore questions the effectiveness of technology integration.  My question to that is, are we looking for technology to raise test scores or instead prepare our students to be 21st century learners? 

     According to Cleaver (2014), “Educators who receive new technology must first learn how to use the equipment and then decide whether or not it supports class objectives and curriculum.”  That is, technology provides a challenge for teachers in the amount of time needed to learn the new technology as well as deciding where this technology best supports the curriculum – or not.   I agree with this point because it is something I continue to struggle with as an educator.  Where do teachers find the time to invest in this time-consuming process?

     On the other hand, Cleaver (2014) also explains that technology is indeed beneficial to student learning.  One way technology does this is by personalizing or differentiating for student learning, such as giving students games to play that scaffold or adjust the skill being practiced.  Cleaver also states that educational technology can be an extension of the school day where students enjoy playing school-related games on the computer.  Finally, Cleaver addresses a benefit of educational technology for educators.  This being the immediate feedback/data that many programs offer to teachers in order to assess student progress.  It is evident that the benefits of technology integration outweigh the negatives.

     In this age of Common Core and RtI and PARCC (did I leave any out?), we should never do technology just for the sake of doing it – who has the time for that?  As educators, we must continue to strive to make sound decisions on how technology can best support the curriculum, thus proving that the role of the teacher is still so important in the classroom.  I am fortunate that in my district, I have a technology coach who I can collaborate with.  This kind of support ensures that the technology tools I use in my classroom best support the curriculum and student learning.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Article Review #6: The Effectiveness of a PRS

Shaffer, D., & Collura, M., (2009).  Evaluating the effectiveness of a personal response system in the classroom.  Teaching of Psychology, 36(4), 273-277.

     In Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Personal Response system in the Classroom, Shaffer and Collura (2009) evaluated the effectiveness of the use of clickers during an introductory psychology course.  

     The participants of this study included 177 students enrolled in four sections of an introduction to psychology course.  Data was collected regarding student learning and reactions to using the clickers from the first three sections.  The last section did not use clickers.  In the first three sections, students answered four size estimation questions during the lecture using clickers.  The results were displayed to students and included the correct answer.  These students then answered questions evaluating their use of clickers in the classroom compared to a lecture style format that did not involve the use of clickers.  The fourth section did not use the clickers and instead responded to the four estimation questions by raising their hands.  These students did not answer questions related to their method of engagement during the lecture. 

     Two measures were taken during the study: student learning and student reactions.  With student learning, Shaffer and Collura (2009) asked eleven questions on the exam that were covered in the lecture.  They compared the performance of the clickers class to the “nonclickers” class.   The clickers class answered 84.49% of the eleven questions correctly while the nonclickers class answered 81.45% correctly (p.275).  With student reactions, Shaffer and Collura (2009) analyzed the questions given to the three sections that used clickers.  Students thought that using clickers produced more interaction, and made the lecture more interesting and entertaining (p.276).  In general, student reactions to the clickers were very positive.

     One point that cannot be overlooked in this study is how clicker use actually increased student participation.  Shaffer and Collura state that posing an anonymous answer was appealing to the students (as cited in Draper & Brown, 2004; Kennedy & Cutts, 2005; Wit, 2003).  Through the use of clickers, students did not have to worry about having in incorrect answer; they were more willing to participate and to take a risk.  A large part of learning is being a risk taker.  Being a classroom teacher, I see students shy away from participating in class because of the fear of having the wrong answer. Clickers are just another tool students can use to help bridge participation among all students in the classroom.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Article Review #5: Technology Engagement at the Middle School Level

Spires, H., Lee, J., & Turner, K. (2008).  Having our say: Middle grade student perspectives on school, technologies, and academic engagement.  Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40(4), 497-515.

     In Having Our Say: Middle Grade Student Perspectives on School, Technologies, and Academic Engagement, Spires, Lee, and Turner (2008) researched what engages students to achieve in the middle school grades.  They assert that “the manner in which new information and communication technologies are being used suggests that children are creating understandings and knowledge in new and different ways” (p.497).   Has our educational system changed and developed to meet these new ways of learning?  The goal of the study was to gain student insight into this matter.

     The participants of this study included 4,000 middle school students who were part of a North Carolina statewide after-school program.  The students took a survey and were also part of focus groups to gain additional information on student views about school, technology, and academic engagement.  Quantitative result were gathered from the student surveys, while qualitative results were collected from the focus group sessions.    

     Spires, Lee, and Turner (2008) organized the survey results into four areas.  First, the highest frequency users of computers reported that they use computers more at home than at school.  Second, the majority of students reported they learned word processing skills at school, but rated themselves as high users of digital music, video games, and cellphones – all technology related skills learned outside of school.  Third, students ranked that using computers and doing research was the school activity they liked best, while listening to a teacher lecture and doing worksheets they liked least.  Lastly, the majority of students said they used the Internet to find information rather than looking in a book.

     Spires, Lee, and Turner (2008) found that the following four technology-related themes emerged from the focus group data collected in this study:
I.         “Do You Know Us?”: Students use a variety of technologies outside of schools for many different reasons.  Technology is an important part of their lives and there was concern that teachers don’t understand this.  The uses of technology inside school were more traditional (word processing, testing, etc.)
II.      “Engage Us”: Students voiced that they enjoy conducting projects that use technology as a tool to gain new learnings.
III.    “Prepare Us for Jobs of the Future”: Students understand the importance of technology skills in the professional world and want to be prepared for this.
IV.    “Let’s Not Get Left Behind”: Students felt strongly about wanting improvements in technology in their schools and recognized the possibilities of where technology could take them in the future.

     How do educators successfully merge the required content of our curriculums to the revolving world of technology in which our students live?  Based on the finding of the above research, it is clear that students want more access to technology in school because it engages them in the learning process.  So how do teachers and districts meet these demands?  With students learning technology at a faster pace than most adults, it makes sense for students to have a voice in determining how different technology tools can impact their learning.  This will not only engage them as students, but empower them as independent learners.