A Time to Reflect

Photo by Pixabay is licensed under CC 0

As my Michigan State University class, Teaching Understanding with Technology, comes to an end, it’s a perfect time to reflect on everything that I’ve learned and decide what I still need to learn and where I want to go next.

New Ideas

I was already aware that technology is all around us, but I hadn’t considered that educators should rethink how we teach our students who are learning new things at a very rapid pace outside of school, via the internet, games, and many apps. After reading works by Will Richardson, James Paul Gee, and Henry Jenkins, I came to learn that we need to capitalize on the technology resources at our students’ fingertips, but also teach our students HOW to best access and analyze new knowledge they gain. This is certainly a process that begins with teachers adopting new ideas. It will be strengthened when we try new techniques and resources out with our students, then share our struggles and findings with our colleagues.

Another big take-away was the concept of TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge). TPACK highlights three core areas of teaching and learning: Content, Pedagogy, and Technology, stressing that all three must be considered together, not as separate entities. Teachers are naturally flexible and responsive in their planning for and instruction of students, but incorporating technology into the art of teaching content is one that should and must be done.

Technology Use” by mrsdkrebs is licensed under CC 2.0

New Technology

This course opened my eyes to technologies that can support me, professionally and personally, and my students.

Technology for ME

Originally, I had never considered Twitter as a professional platform, but I have fallen in love with it. Every morning, I read a few articles or watch a few videos; I am guaranteed to learn something new that can benefit my teaching. In the afternoons, I check my Feedly account for new newspaper and magazine articles, as well as blogs I follow, related to exactly what I’m interested in. They have so much! From education to technology to food to travel, it’s basically Nicole’s Daily Newspaper. Evernote Webclipper helps me save articles, pictures, or parts of articles that I find on the internet and want to remember later. Evernote, itself, has made me more productive (read my article here to find how) and organized as an educator and social butterfly.

Technology for MY STUDENTS

There is an infinite amount of resources out there for our students to tap into, in and out of school. Fairfax County shares a list of over 600 apps that have been proven useful to teachers and students every year. They’ve narrowed it down, but it’s difficult to say any teacher has the time and energy to sift through that list. Luckily the Center for Learning and Performance Technologies compiled the top 100 from the previous year to assist us. Educanon helps me take videos from the internet and make them more interactive by intermittent pauses and directions, which is perfect for the Flipped Classroom approach (see an example lesson plan here). VoiceThread is perfect for encouraging discussion amongst students; it’s incredibly motivating. Of course, my favorite is Google Apps. All our students have google accounts, so preparing templates allow me to support students and differentiate. I love that students can work on the same document and make and receive comments on each other’s work in real time.

Next Steps

There is still a lot I need to learn about copyright and I plan to read Renee Hobb’s book, Discovering Media Literacy: Teaching Digital Media and Popular Culture in Elementary Schools, as a start. Incorporating technology well takes a lot of time and I wonder how I will be able to continue building my toolbox of technologies, while also creating great lessons for my students and keeping up with the other requirements I have as a teacher. Life is about balance and now I have another (huge) piece I need to consider. I also would like to know more about using technology as a formative assessment tool, so I’ve registered for a class through American School of Bombay Online Academy.


I started this graduate certificate program for a number of reasons: I felt I was falling behind my colleagues that were more tech savvy, I realized how much information is out there to learn and knew I needed guidance, and I’m interested in pursuing a doctorate in Educational Technology and Educational Psychology through MSU and wanted to know if I would enjoy their style of presenting material online before I applied. Extremely pleased with all that I’ve learned and my progress as a 21st century teacher, I’m thrilled I chose this program. I know there is still so much more to learn, but am happy and excited to be on the never-ending journey.

21st Century Lesson Plan

There are many technology resources at our fingertips, and teachers need to ensure that the ones they choose to use in the classroom support meaningful learning objectives and their students’ development of understanding through play. Thomas and Brown (2011) recognize that “A growing digital, networked infrastructure is amplifying our ability to access and use nearly unlimited resources and incredible instruments while connecting with one another at the same time” (p. 18). The classroom of the 21st century, then, should look very different to that of the 20th century.

I have created a lesson plan for a class of fifth grade students that balances meeting common core standards and allowing children the opportunity to create, problem-solve, and evaluate. To help me create an effective 21st century lesson plan, I used Renee Hobbs’ (2011) list of core competencies: access, analyze, create, reflect, and act.

An essential question of this realistic fiction writing unit, “How do writers engage their readers in a short story from start to finish?” is powerful and overarching. Every writer wants their story to be well-liked! As an introduction to the unit, this lesson plan begins with students watching a video that summarizes and gives fresh ideas for the different key elements of a short story before class (flipped classroom strategy): setting, plot, and characters. The Educanon video was created to automatically stop after each key element and challenges students to process the ideas presented, then brainstorm ideas for a story of their own. They will do this in a GoogleDoc template, to equip the students for easy sharing with future partners and teachers, and to reinforce the idea that nothing is set in stone, as many do when they write in notebooks. The template includes tables, bullets, text boxes, and colors – all of which students are free to work within or modify to their liking. By using a template, I am helping them deepen their capacity to use tools within word processing well.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

When students come to class, they now share their ideas with a writing partner by exchanging documents. A follow-up video prompts students to analyze their partner’s work and problem-solve issues that may have arisen in their planning (lack of conflict or weak themes) by commenting and revising their GoogleDoc. The preparation before a real conversation allows both people the time to think things through and the ability to get their thoughts out in a focused, yet open way.

By giving my students the focus from the video to concentrate on small pieces at a time, I am setting them up for success. GoogleDocs and collaboration with classmates and me gives them freedom and the knowledge that there is no “right answer”, but there are techniques to make your short story more effective.

Your comments on my lesson plan and its rationale are very welcome.


Bergman, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. USA: International Society for Technology in Education.

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Retrieved from: http://www.newcultureoflearning.com/newcultureoflearning.pdf