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.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Article Review #4: Assessment and Instruction of Multimedia

Ostenson, J.W. (2012).  Connecting assessment and instruction to help students become more critical producers of multimedia.  Journal of Media Literacy Education, 4(2), 167-178.

     In Connecting Assessment and Instruction to Help Students Become More Critical Producers of Multimedia, Ostenson (2012) presents the struggle in teachers of how to assess students work with multimedia.  He explains the importance of designing assessments that are authentic and having instruction and assessment tightly integrated.   Ostenson also suggests that while text plays an important role in multimedia, image and audio are likely to play even larger roles in conveying meaning.

     Ostenson (2012) highlights the following criteria (and includes generic rubrics) to be helpful in both assessing and teaching writing in digital genres:
1.       Evaluating the use of images: focus on emphasis, lighting, angle and color to assess and teach critical and purposeful use of images;
2.       Evaluating organizational elements: focus on how to sequence images as well as how to effectively transition between images to convey meaning;
3.       Evaluating the use of audio:  focus on the quality of audio and the appropriateness of it in it being purposeful and strengthening the visual presentation;
4.       Student reflection: focus on student self-reflection and how they have learned to make effective choices in multimedia presentations.

     Ostenson (2012) asserts that our job as teachers is to “help students develop their critical thinking skills needed to make the most of new technologies and teaching” (p.174).  This, in turn, will allow students to develop more authentic media literacy skills. 

     Understanding by design.  Assessment drives instruction.  Always work with the end in mind.  As teachers, we have all heard these phrases.  If we know what we want our students to learn, how do we get them there?

     It is obvious that if teachers are purposeful in choosing multimedia tools to enhance the curriculum, then this will support student mastery of learner objectives.  Yet even more important, students gain the necessary understanding of critical media literacy skills for the 21st century.  Instead of assessing a traditional piece of writing, how can we move our students into composing with different media like podcasts or screencasts?  Furthermore, are we prepared to assess multimedia work so that students become more purposeful in how they use media?  It is a shift in instruction and assessment, but as we all know in education, shift happens.

     As educators, we need to challenges ourselves and “how we learned” in using more traditional forms of communication so that our students can benefit from engaging in new, cutting edge technology and media that will improve their overall digital literacy.