Digital Citizenship Infographic

Digital Citizenship is an important topic for students to begin to understand at an early age. Early elementary school is an ideal time to begin talking about how students can use digital resources responsibly and safely. According to Ribble (2010), Digital Citizenship is more than just a teaching tool; it is a way to prepare students and technology users for a society full of technology. Digital Citizenship is defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use. Being a good digital citizen means that we respect, educate, and protect others (Ribble, 2010). ISTE Standard 4 states that teachers should advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, as well as promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information (ISTE, 2017).

I created the infographic below using Piktochart and felt that elementary students would greatly benefit from a simple, yet information-filled poster that talks about digital communication, etiquette, and health, safety, and ways to deal with cyberbullying. Communication options have expanded rapidly in the past few decades, with people now communicating online via email, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to name a few. Ribble (2017) asserts that many users have not be taught how to make appropriate decisions when faced with so many digital communication options. Young children and teenagers are easily overwhelmed with so much access to instant communication.

Students also need to learn how to conduct themselves online, so I listed a few etiquette tips on my infographic. Often people act differently online than they do in person and it is difficult to tell when someone is being funny or serious. Treating others with respect and caring is just as important online as it is in the real world.

Finally, students should be aware of all the health risks associated with internet addiction and ways to use digital tools in a healthy and productive way. Parents should also be mindful of the amount of time their children are spending in front of screens and make sure they take frequent breaks and watch for signs of addiction. Cyberbullying is a related safety topic that has become a real problem the past decade. My infographic details a few tips for how my students can address when they feel they are being bullied online. The more our students know, the easier it will be for them to recognize cyberbullying and feel comfortable talking to a trusted adult about the issue.

As an elementary teacher, it will be my responsibility to teach my students about these digital citizenship topics and make sure they know how to become good digital citizens.

Piktochart Infographic

References:

Ribble, M. (2010). Raising a digital child. Away Magazine.

Ribble, M. (2017). Digital citizenship: Using technology appropriately [website]. Retrieved from http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html.

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). 2017. ISTE Standards for Teachers [website]. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-teachers.

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Modeling Safe, Legal, and Ethical Use of Digital Information

ISTE standard 4 states that teachers should understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices. There are several parts to this standard, but I will focus on one: teachers should advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources.

As a teacher, it is important for me to understand rules around giving proper credit to sources, make sure I use Internet resources responsibly, and make sure I am being a good model for my students. One particular blog post I have found particularly useful is “The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons.” The two basic rules are “1) You can’t use everything you find on the web and 2) There are resources you can use” (Burt & Waters, 2017). For example, images are one of the most problematic for people unaware of copyright laws. Photos for Class is a helpful website that automatically provides Creative Commons images with image attribution quickly and easily.

While I focused on one aspect of the standard, a colleague of mine focused on developing and modeling cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with colleagues and students of other cultures using digital age communication and collaboration tool. McVeagh (2015) discusses creative ways to teach global awareness including Skype in the Classroom and Google Field Trip. For example, Mystery Skype “allows classes to play a guessing game with each other to try and figure out where each of the schools [on the Skype call] are located” (McVeagh, 2015). These tools seem useful for promoting global awareness and could serve as examples for how to safely interact with other people via the Internet.

According to Hollandsworth, Dowdy, and Donovan (2011), it takes an entire village to teach digital citizenship. Parents, teachers, librarians, administrators, and students themselves must learn how to proactively deal with the issue of digital citizenship. Many approaches currently in place in most schools are more reactive than proactive. For example, there are Internet filters and outright banning of cell phone and other devices. However, this doesn’t restrict student use of technology outside of school and we are doing our students a disservice by not educating them on how to safety, ethically, and legally use Internet content and electronic devices. Just like we teach students how to enter traditional society with basic concepts of legal, ethical, and moral conduct, we should teach them these concepts and the skills to use in the digital society as well.

Hollandsworth, Dowdy, and Donovan (2011) assert that research shows that middle school and beyond is too late to begin teaching digital citizenship because most students have already adopted their own rules for technology use (see figure 1). Furthermore, many states do not have state standards that encompass digital citizenship, therefore it is not stressed in various academic curricula. Educators need to take it upon themselves to force the issue and be proactive about teaching students as young as early elementary age what it means to be a digital citizen.

Figure 1 (Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., Donovan, J. (2011). Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village. TechTrends, 55, 4, 37-47.)

Figure 1 (Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., Donovan, J. (2011). Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village. TechTrends, 55, 4, 37-47.)

There are some curricula available online that address various topics related to digital citizenship. For example, Common Sense Media publishes a curriculum for grades K-12. It includes topics like self-image and identity, relationships and communication, cyber bullying and digital drama, and creative credit and copyright (see figure 2). One drawback I have to consider is the amount of time I will have as a busy elementary teacher to implement this type of additional curriculum. Perhaps I could use some ideas and embed them into the lessons I am teaching. For example, during a lesson about researching for writing a report, I could also teach students how to correctly cite and give credit for sources. I hope to keep these important topics in mind as I continue in my development as a teacher.

In the 21st century, all educators should work towards making sure students become good digital citizens. It really does “take a village.”

References:

Burt, R. & Waters, S. (2017). The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Faire Use, and Creative Commons [web blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.theedublogger.com/2017/01/20/copyright-fair-use-and-creative-commons/

Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., Donovan, J. (2011). Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village. TechTrends, 55, 4, 37-47.

McVeagh, R. (2015). 3 Creative Ways to Teach Global Awareness [web blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/blog/3-creative-ways-to-teach-global-awareness

Using New Technologies to Communicate with Parents

It is important for teachers in any grade level to be aware of new and evolving technologies and processes. Living in the digital age of the 21st century, we have an obligation to make sure our students are knowledgeable about the Internet, computers, and electronic devices, and how to use them productively. Technological skills are important to have in a significant percentage of job settings including medicine, engineering, architecture, research analysts, software developers, and many other professions.

ISTE Standard 3 discusses how teachers should exhibit knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative professional in a global and digital society. Being able to transfer current knowledge to new technologies, to collaborate and communicate with the community using digital tools, and to model effective use of such tools to support research and learning are critical skills for all teachers to have.

As a future elementary teacher, I am especially interested in learning about the various ways to use technology to communicate with parents and students outside the classroom. Keeping open lines of communication with parents has been shown to have a positive effect on student learning and achievement. O’Brien’s Edutopia article (2011) discusses a survey done by the National School Public Relations Association that indicates parents clearly prefer Internet communications, including emails, an online parent portal, e-newsletters, websites, and a telephone/voice mail system. Face-to-face meetings with parents are especially important but digital tools can supplement this information. Knowing whether parents have easy access to email, computers, or other electronic devices is important.

According to Pescatore’s Edutopia article (2014), the first step to determining which digital tools to use is figuring out the classroom needs, resources available, and goals to be addressed. Understanding what parents want to know is essential to providing a tool that they will use and appreciate. A colleague of mine shared an interesting article about the characteristics of parent-teacher email communication. According to Thompson (2008), the most common email topic was student grades, followed by scheduling meeting dates and times, and health issues including obtaining homework while the student is gone. Thompson (2008) also concluded that parents and teachers emailed less frequently than one might expect, with teachers typically spending 30 minutes to an hour per week communicating with parents via email. Email can be convenient for communicating at any time when people are available, however if an immediate answer is required, email can potentially be slow if the teacher or parent is extremely busy.

Teacher-parent email topics by frequency (Thompson, 2008)

Teacher-parent Email Topics by Frequency (Thompson, 2008)

Remind could be a potential solution to this problem. Remind is a texting service that teachers and parents can use to communicate quickly. Remind does not require the sharing of phone numbers, so this information can remain private if necessary. Teachers can quickly send messages to parents reminding their students to finish an assignment or to return paperwork for a field trip.

Figuring out the purpose of the communication is another consideration. I began to wonder what other digital tools are there available to use besides email? Do I want to simply provide information to parents via a classroom website? Do I want students and parents to be able to contribute to the communication? According to Pescatore (2014), a few options for one-way communication tools include Pinterest, eNewsletters, and photo sharing sites. Two-way communication tools include blogs, Google drive, social media such as Facebook or Twitter, and even live-streaming applications such as Skype.

Kumar and Vigil (2011) assert that the Net generation, people born after 1984 who have grown up with digital technologies, should have the knowledge and skills to make the connection between technology, subject matter, and pedagogy, and be able to implement educational technology activities in the classroom. However, research indicates that undergraduates show limited or no transfer of technology familiarity to academic environments (Kumar & Vigil, 2011). Kumar & Vigil’s study surveyed 51 undergraduates in the college of education at a large private university and found that 98% used online videos, 68.6% used photo sharing, 52.9% used online forums, 47.1% used blogs, 40% used wikis and podcasts, and 32% used Google Docs in informal settings. However, respondents did not typically transfer this knowledge and use to educational settings. The graph below shows the large gap between using blogs, wikis, and podcasts informally and in educational settings.

Informal and Educational Use of Technologies (Kumar & Vigil, 2011)

Informal and Educational Use of Technologies (Kumar & Vigil, 2011)

I have maintained two personal blogs for informal use and this professional blog over the past decade, but I never thought about using a blog in an elementary classroom setting. The idea of creating a blog for my classroom and having my students involved in writing posts that parents can then read sounds interesting. I came across a blog written by a teacher and author that discusses ways to use technology in the classroom, including blogging. Ms. Ripp has written several posts about why students should blog in the classroom, how to do it, challenges you might face, and internet safety issues. She uses KidBlog, which seems like a safe, yet sophisticated way for students to blog about what they are learning and parents to observe.

I am very familiar with most digital tools mentioned above, however I haven’t thought much about using them in an educational setting. There is a lot of potential for richer activities for students to patriciate in that involve new technologies. On the continuum of integrating technology in education below, I believe I fit in the adaption and appropriation phases.

Continuum of Integrating New Technologies in Education (Kumar & Vigil, 2011)

Continuum of Integrating New Technologies in Education (Kumar & Vigil, 2011)

One issue will be determining which ideas are the best to focus on and implement properly and how much time I have to spend on these technologies. Another issue is making sure students don’t feel left out if they do not have internet access or access to digital devices at home. It is important to make sure we expose all students to the vast array of technologies available in the 21st century, so that they can be future researchers, engineers, and teachers for the next generation.

References:

Kumar, S. & Vigil, K. (2011). The net generation as preservice teachers: Transferring familiarity with new technologies to educational environments. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 27, 4, 144-153.

O’Brien, A. (2011). What parents want in school communication [web article]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/parent-involvement-survey-anne-obrien

Pescatore, G. (2014). Parent communication toolbox [web article]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/parent-communication-toolbox-gwen-pescatore

Thompson, B. (2008). Characteristics of parent-teacher e-mail communication. Communication Education, 57, 2, 201-233. doi: 10.1080/03634520701852050

ISTE Standard 2: Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

ISTE Standard 2 states that teachers must design and develop digital-age learning experiences and assessments. Specifically, teachers should incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity, enable students to manage their own learning and assess their own progress, as well as address diverse learning styles.

This complex standard has many facets and implies that digital tools are necessary for all teachers and students to use. One potential issue with this standard is that not all schools can afford to provide such expensive tools for each classroom or student. For example, iPads, laptops, Kindles, and other technology tools are incredibly expensive. However, according to a 2010 survey conducted by Grunwald Associates LLC and PBS, “teachers spend 60% of their time using educational resources that were either free or that they paid for themselves” (p. 6). Despite the cost and lack of funding, teachers seem determined to provide as many technological resources as possible for their students.

60% of teachers use free resources or pay for resources themselves

60% of teachers use free resources or pay for resources themselves

I have always enjoyed games and remember playing The Oregon Trail and Math Blasters in elementary school during computer lab period. This made me curious about how game-based learning could satisfy ISTE Standard 2. According to the survey, 56% of teachers value web-based interactive games or activities for student use in school and 54% of teacher report using Web-based interactive games (PBS & Grunwald Associates LLC, 2010).

Teachers Value Many Types of Digital Resources

Teachers Value Many Types of Digital Resources

I found an article on edutopia that discusses ways to use games to enhance learning for upper elementary and middle school students. Game-based learning isn’t simply students playing games in your classroom for fun. Nor do games substitute for the teacher. Games can be a useful AND fun activity that helps students get engaged with learning and relating games to the real world and real life events.

According to Farber (2016), games can be a shared experience, similar to taking the class on a field trip. An example is the game Minecraft and how students learn the mechanics of the game in order to survive. This can be related to how pilgrims had to understand their new environments when settling in a new area. Next he discusses games as text where the student would make choices that affect and tell a story. These stories can then be related to historical events that are similar. Finally, Farber (2016) talks about games as models. For example, the board game Pandemic illustrates how disease can travel via networks all around the world, which relates to how disease spreads during plagues like the Black Plague.

This article led me to search for benefits of game-based learning. In addition to games providing a different learning tool for addressing different learning styles, games provide motivation and engagement for students. Peters (2016) asserts that games include rules, definite objectives, measurable goals and competition, and promote a sense of achievement for all participants. Students have goals that they try to accomplish and assess their progress over time. Games also provide immediate feedback for students about whether or not they made a good decision. Peters (2016) also discusses how games promote cognitive growth, digital literacy, and skills development such as hand-eye coordination, spatial skills, and fine motor skills.

Another colleague suggested using a whiteboard called a Promethean board for interactive “calendar time” each day in order to satisfy ISTE 2. This whiteboard would provide students with a collaborative way to discuss the date and weather, as well as talk about the calendar and planning. While not a game by itself, I could see this tool benefiting student learning by providing a stable and predictable environment.

I think that games, whether web-based or not, can be an engaging and helpful tool for students to learn. It is important for game-based learning to incorporate all aspects of the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework in order for the activity to be as beneficial for students as possible. I will need further research to determine how to incorporate assessment methods into game-based learning.

TPACK Model

TPACK Model

References:

Farber, M. (2016). 3 Ways to use game-based learning [web article]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/3-ways-use-game-based-learning-matthew-farber

PBS & Grunwald Associates LLC. (2010). “Deepening Connections: Teachers Increasingly Rely on Media and Technology.”

Peters, J. (2016). 5 Main advantages of game-based learning [web article]. Retrieved from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-methods-tips/129304-advantages-of-game-based-learning/

ISTE Standard 1: Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

ISTE Standard 1 states that teachers should facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity. The standard further states that teachers should model creative thinking with technology and promote student reflection using collaborative tools in both face-to-face and virtual environments. As a future elementary teacher, I wanted to consider how my third grade students could use technology to enhance student learning and creativity during literacy instruction in particular.

One way to enhance literacy instruction is to use technology such as digital storytelling to assist students during various stages of the writing process such as planning, drafting, and revising. According to Robin (2008), digital storytelling involves combining information or stories with various types of multimedia including computer-generated text, videos, music, and images that can then be played on a computer, shared online, or even burned to a DVD. Digital storytelling can help promote technology skills including digital literacy, global literacy, technology literacy, visual literacy, and information literacy. As students participate in digital storytelling they “develop enhanced communication skills as they learn to conduct research on a topic, ask questions, organize their ideas, express opinions, and construct meaningful narratives” (Robin, 2008, p. 224).

One research study about the effectiveness of digital storytelling indicated that students thought more deeply about their story and were able to clarify their thoughts before and during the process (Sadik, 2008). Furthermore, “digital storytelling provided a unique opportunity for students to acquire new media literacy and IT skills” (Sadik, 2008, p. 502). The study also found that students were dedicated to the task and took pride in their digital stories (Sadik, 2008).

7 Elements of Digital Storytelling

7 Elements of Digital Storytelling

Writing narratives is an important skill for elementary students to learn. Many students struggle with planning before beginning to write. Once they start to write, they have a difficult time writing down all of their thoughts in the correct order and with an appropriate amount of detail. Bogard and McMackin (2012), explain how students can use technology at all stages of the writing process during writing workshop. First, students map out on paper the key points of their story with drawings of important events. Next, students can use Livescribe Pulse Smartpens that contain a camera and a microphone to record their drawings of various points in the story and also add audio narrative. Students collaboratively discuss their audio recordings of their stories and revise and edit. Finally, video editing software such as iMovie and PhotoStory can be used to provide visuals such as images, photos, video clips, and scanned pictures as a final creative touch to finish the personal narrative.

Click the link below for an example of a digital story that talks about how math is important in everyday life. While not an example of a personal narrative, the basic principles of digital storytelling are the same.

http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/view_story.cfm?vid=93&categoryid=6&d_title=Mathematics

Another technology to consider for promoting student learning and creativity is using iPad apps for creating stories. A colleague of mine indicated that iPad apps such as Rory’s Story Cubes, Write About This, or Mad Libs could be useful for engaging students with technology to promote their literacy skills (Lee, 2013). I think that incorporating some iPad app use in my classroom would be a good way to make literacy fun for students who may not enjoy it much. However, I would want to carefully monitor student use of such applications to ensure that they are being used appropriately and productively.

I had never really considered using digital storytelling or apps in my future classroom. Now I believe these technology resources could be very useful for promoting student creativity, engagement, and collaboration. One shortcoming of using digital storytelling is the amount of time spent up front becoming familiar with the technology myself and then making sure students are able to effectively use it. I could see it being a very time-consuming process to implement in the beginning. In the long run however, this technology allows for significant redesign of a historically paper and pencil task of writing a narrative, which can greatly enhance student learning and creativity during literacy instruction.

References:

A Day Without Math [web video]. University of Houston Education. Retrieved from http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/view_story.cfm?vid=93&categoryid=6&d_title=Mathematics.

Bogard, J. M. & McMackin, M. C. (2012). Combining traditional and new literacies in a 21st-century writing workshop. The Reading Teacher, 65, 5, 313-323. doi:10.1002/TRTR.01048 http://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=a9h&AN=70857266&site=ehost-live

Lee, D. (2013). iPad apps for creating stories with primary children. Illinois Reading Council Journal, 42, 1, 23-27.

Robin, B. R. (2008). Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory Into Practice, 47, 220-228. doi:10.1080/00405840802153916

Sadik, A. (2008). Digital storytelling: A meaningful technology-integrated approach for engaged student learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 56, 487-506. doi:10.1007/s11423-008-9091-8

The 7 Elements of Digital Storytelling [website]. University of Houston Education. Retrieved from http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/page.cfm?id=27&cid=27&sublinkid=31.

EDU 6989 Observation Reflection

As part of my field experience class at Seattle Pacific University, I observed several teachers at B. F. Day Elementary School over the past two months to gain a better understanding of the curriculum, culture, and the daily life of teachers there.

Demographics

B. F. Day is located in the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle, Washington. It is the oldest continually operating school in the city. The “building is a designated historic landmark having undergone state-of-the-art renovation in 1991” (About B. F. Day Elementary, 2016). It is a relatively small elementary school with approximately 330 students and 21 teachers. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI, 2016), for the 2014-2015 school year, about 58% of students are Caucasian, 12% are Asian American, 10% are Hispanic, 8% are African American, and 12% are two or more races, making the student population moderately diverse. Approximately one-third of students quality for free or reduced-price meals, 16% are transitional bilingual, and 13% qualify for special education (OSPI, 2016).

Curriculum and Teaching Styles

B. F. Day uses the “mini middle school” system where the 4th and 5th graders have several teachers throughout the course of the day. This program is meant to help prepare them for the transition to middle school. I mostly observed the 4th and 5th grade literacy, science, and math teachers, but I also observed the physical education teacher and the art teacher. After my observations of the “mini middle school,” I am not convinced it has a positive effect on students. Instruction time is lost with as many as three transitions a day, not including transitions for recess and lunch. The students also have four or five different teachers who all have different personalities and ways of managing their classrooms. Expectations are different almost every hour depending on which teacher the students are with at that time. Additional observations in future years would help determine the effectiveness of the “mini middle school” program.

The curriculum included math, science, and literacy/social studies as the core subjects, with art and physical education on alternating days. In the math classroom, not once did I see learning targets shown anywhere, essential questions being asked, or instruction occurring. This may be an unfair assessment, given the fact that my observing was very sporadic and I generally spent the majority of the time with the science and literacy teachers. However, I frequently observed the math teacher handing out worksheets rather than actually teaching. Most of the students expressed boredom with math and were frustrated that they were forced to do so many repetitive worksheets they felt would be irrelevant in their futures.

In stark contrast, the literacy teacher had learning targets for the week posted on the board, as well as references to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Reading. I graded a few worksheets and papers for her during one of my observations using the rubrics provided by the CCSS. She also used rubrics for the end of unit projects students completed and scored them on a scale of 0-4. It appeared that she used this information to improve her instruction for the rest of the unit and for future years. She also often had students turn and talk to their neighbor about answers to questions and other topics. This teaching technique seemed to work well at gaining student interest. Students were also interested in the social justice unit in their literacy class. Many liked the fact that they could choose a book from a list of books provided related to a social justice topic.

The science teacher often used PowerPoint presentations to give direct instruction, which usually included a learning target. No standards were referenced. Students seemed interested in science, especially when doing experiments such as the erosion and deposition of soil. It is unclear to me how he evaluated student progress and achievement. In general, if an experiment did not go well or the students appeared to be confused, he would simply revisit the experiment the next day to correct any errors or misconceptions. He often used sentence starters as a way to get the students to start writing a summary about a topic such as erosion and deposition. I assume he graded these summaries and took that information into account when working with particular students, but again it was hard for me to make a fair judgment based on the short amount of time I spent observing.

Child Abuse Prevention

Child abuse prevention and reporting is a critical aspect of being a teacher, counselor, principal, or other professional school employee. As part of Seattle Public Schools, B. F. Day follows Board Policy 3421 adopted in April 2012 by the district with regard to reporting child abuse:

All professional school personnel who have reasonable cause to believe that a child has experienced abuse, neglect, or exploitation shall report such incident to law enforcement or the Children’s Protective Services Staff at the first opportunity and in no case longer than forty-eight (48) hours after the finding of possible abuse or neglect.

I am sure these guidelines are reiterated at the beginning of every school year with training occurring every three years after initial employment.

Culture

Rules and expectations are posted in the hallways and in classrooms and are reinforced by faculty and staff daily. B. F. Day is in the first year of implementing the social and emotional literacy program called RULER, which stands for Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing and Regulating emotions. They also utilize a school wide curriculum called Second Step to teach social skills. I saw posters about these programs in the hallway and in classrooms, but never observed them being referenced by teachers. I often observed students misbehaving in the hallways, in classrooms, and on the playground. Students are expected to transition between classrooms quietly and in line order, however many times students were talking and continually out of line and had to be corrected.

I generally observed good behavior in classrooms, however the math teacher struggled to maintain order in her room. On my first day of observing, I walked into a chaotic classroom where the teacher was doing very little to control her students. The math teacher asked me to help two girls with their math worksheets in the hall outside the room. The girls continued talking and were off-task the majority of the time I tried to help them. Once one of them tore up the math worksheet right in front of me and refused to do it. There seemed to be no consequences for their actions. Needless to say, the math teacher had no idea how to gain student interest in math and failed to keep students in line. She is taking a position at a different elementary school next year.

The other classrooms I observed were much better behaved. The literacy teacher indicated that she set behavior expectations at the beginning of the school year and students seemed to respect her more than the math teacher. As part of her behavior plan, she set up a classroom meeting one afternoon a week for her 5th grade classes. Every student had to compliment at least one person for something and all students were given the chance to discuss important topics such as playground issues, school or community events, and their personal lives as they felt like sharing. Students took this classroom meeting seriously and really enjoyed discussing topics.

The science teacher also set up classroom meetings for the 4th grade classes, which they appeared to enjoy. For general classroom management he used a computer/cell phone app called ClassDojo. This app allows the teacher to quickly award or take away points for each student based on their behavior. Students can gain points by being on-task, participating, and helping others. Points can be taken away for off-task behavior, talking out in class, or other distracting behaviors. At the end of the week if all students had at least 15 points, the teacher would allow them to play on the playground for the last 15 minutes of class. I think this was a great motivational technique for maintaining student engagement and behavior.

As for the faculty frustration, it was clear that the literacy teacher did not appreciate the lack of control the math teacher had over her students. During lunch I would often sit in the teachers’ rooms while they worked on their lessons for that afternoon or answered emails. Sometimes the other 4th and 5th grade teachers, with the exception of the math teacher, would join us and talk about how their day was going. Often I heard lamenting about how they wished the day or week was over and that it was summer break. Other times they felt energized about how well a lesson went that morning or how a certain student was successful at something. They seemed ever hopeful that things would get better, which was encouraging.

In summary, the school culture seemed to be one of rowdy and sometimes disengaged students, as well as frustration among the 4th and 5th grade faculty, mostly in relation to the math teacher and particular students egregiously misbehaving. It is unclear whether the students I observed were as disengaged in prior years or whether their rowdiness was a result of a poor math teacher.

As for my overall experience, I enjoyed getting to know the teachers at B. F. Day Elementary School. They welcomed me, a complete stranger, in their classrooms and allowed me to assist with experiments, grade student work, supervise the playground, inventory science kits, and perform many other tasks. B. F. Day has a handful of dedicated teachers and I am hopeful that next year’s math teacher will be an immediate improvement for the 4th and 5th graders. I hope to have a chance to revisit the school in the future. Having this chance to observe a local school gave me a better understanding of how classroom management can impact the learning environment. Building positive relationships with students and other faculty, clearly communicating expectations and enforcing them, as well as creating a compelling curriculum can make teaching incredibly rewarding.

References

About – B. F. Day Elementary. (n. d.). Retrieved May 28, 2016, from http://dayes.seattleschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=2199&pageId=35328

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2016, from http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?groupLevel=District&schoolId=1120&reportLevel=School&year=2014-15&yrs=2014-15

Seattle Public Schools Board Policy No. 3421. April 4, 2012. Retrieved May 28, 2016, from http://www.dayes.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/Migration/Departments/HR/3421.pdf

Academic Standards and Technology in the Classroom

The United States education system and academic standards have been a hotly debated topic the last several decades. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, attempted to hold all states accountable for the performance of their schools with little assistance in determining how to improve poor-performing schools. NCLB expanded the federal role in public education through annual testing according to state standards, annual performance tracking, improving teacher qualifications, as well as changes in funding. The responsibility to develop academic standards and assessments was left up to the individual states. Fifteen years later, NCLB has been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act, and many states have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Math.

I have yet to fully understand the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and how they differ from prior standards. CCSS seem to be the closest thing to national standards the United States has ever had. I think it’s a good thing to be able to evenly measure academic abilities of the majority of students in the U.S. (some states have not adopted CCSS, including Texas). At the same time, teachers need to quickly become familiar with the new standards so that they know what their students are responsible for learning. I struggle with knowing how much flexibility I will have as a future teacher. On one hand, I like the idea of knowing what I will need to teach, but on the other hand, enabling students to have a choice in what they are learning can be beneficial. According to Noddings (2006), educators have a choice to either work with the student’s internal motivations and interests with proper guidance, or to externally motivate them to provide incentive for them to learn what we think they should learn that will benefit them in the future. It is important for teachers to recognize student interests and encourage them, but at the same time make sure students learn critical academic skills that will open up more possibilities for their futures.

Another controversial topic is the use of computers and other electronic devices in schools. While computer games can help build social skills including collaboration, team work, and being part of a community, they can still be misused and deprive students of more enriching activities (Evans, 2008). According to Evans (2008), “as a result of increase time spent with computers, video games, and TV, the current generation of elementary students will experience an estimated 30 percent fewer face-to-face encounters than the previous generation” (p. 308). Learning through human interactions is so important, especially for preschool children. It is also important for older children to know how to use technology responsibly and ethically. Just a few weeks ago at a school I’m volunteering at, I saw students abusing their access to iPads in their math class. They were supposed to be playing math-related games, but several were on YouTube listening to music or generally wasting time on other applications. If not monitored, students will abuse electronic privileges, and it is our job as educators to teach them appropriate ways of interacting with them.

References:

Evans, Dennis. (2008). Taking Sides: Clashing Views of Controversial Issues in Teaching and Educational Practice. 3rd Ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Noddings, Nel. (2006). Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.