Education

Using Technology Within The Classroom

A reflection on the Integrating Technologies Course 2018 at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College.

As an avid user of numerous technologies within my personal life, I see no reason for it not to transfer to the classroom as well. Where possible I try to keep abreast of new technologies and where I can use them in my line of work.

While it is true that we, as student teachers, would have looked at some of the technology in the course during the summer, it is always interesting to read of examples within the field I teach. Yet, at times the limitations of technology within the Caribbean public-school context can overshadow its use.

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As I look back on this past summer, where once again I was engaged in honing my craft along with many other teachers for the sake of earning my Diploma in Education, there are numerous things to note with regards to the Integrating Technologies Course and any subsequent endeavours on my part to apply some of what was learnt.

BEFORE…

I must confess that I wondered why I had to do such a course again. Many , though not all, of the concepts I had encountered during Induction back in 2013. Will this be a waste of my time? At this point, my expectations were not very high.

DURING

The pace was slow and my mind often wandered, which is not the state I wish to be in while in class. For those concepts which were completely new to me I wondered how practical they would be given the environment in which I teach and the lack of certain facilities. In addition to the lack of certain resources, who really has the time to plan and implement many of these strategies?

The smart board along with its accompanying Notebook app certainly captivated my interest but it is such a costly piece of equipment and as far as I am aware, there is none at my school.

Kahoot! was one of the more practical technologies for assessment I encountered. I loved its colourful appearance and also its game appeal.

Aside from the presentation of various technologies and how they could possibly be used in class, frustration often seeped into my soul. Too often, I felt as if I had been insulted given the dismissive comments of one of the tutors when presented with the challenges faced by teachers in the system.

I was not alone in my feelings.

AFTER…

I firmly believe that all of these classes should have taken place during the summer so as to afford individuals more time to practice certain skills before the start of the term. For instance, the use of vokis, blogs and online assessment tools like Kahoot! need to be reviewed thoroughly before class implementation.

Additionally, a needs analysis of student-teacher needs should have been done, either at the start or during the course, to assess the skill-set and  deficiencies of each individual. This would have allowed for greater differentiation within the class setting.

What really is technology?

The Collins dictionary defines technology as

the methods, systems and devices which are the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes.

Thus far my use of technology has been centred mostly on the presentation of information (music, photos, video etc.) and on some rare occasions to play a game but can these be considered taking advantage of this new era of digital learners?

Unfortunately, no.

More, I believe, can be done on my end to engage my students in more meaningful communicative activities.

Striving towards Technology-Mediated TBLT (Task Based Language Teaching)

Technology mediated TBLT capitalizes on this era’s learners

who are comfortable with innovation and integrates the learning of language and new digital, communicative, and multimedia literacies, all under the philosophy of learning by doing (González-Lloret, 2016).

From emails, games and blogs to virtual environments, the concept of using technology to bring about learner outcomes is an appealing one. There are some authors who deem it necessary to teach students through technological tasks and develop those technical skills while increasing learning interest in the language.

Too often students exhibit what is known as Foreign Language Anxiety but the use of varying technologies has been shown to have a diminishing effect on the anxiety filter among learners as it allows for interaction without fear or being ashamed as there are opportunities for do-overs.

Anxiety contributes to an affective filter, according to Krashen, which makes the individual unreceptive to language input; thus the learner fails “to take in” the available target language  messages and language acquisition does not progress. (Horwitz, E., Horwitz, M. & Cope, J., 1986)

Student Reactions

Thus far in my effort to use technology in a more meaningful way, students for the most part have been receptive. From the use of tablets in my third year to research places of interest within Latin America to the creation of student ads in my sixth year.

It heartened me to see their enthusiasm and overall creativity in the completion of certain tasks in the Target Language while employing various technologies.

Room for Improvement

Cohesiveness of activities calls for thorough planning especially when technology is involved. It is a time consuming practice and as is noted by Gonzalez-Lloret (2016) while referencing the use of games, highlighted the lack of time along with limited ability of teachers to develop their own games fully.

Too often, one may fail to account for malfunctions e.g HDMI cable issues, slow internet access or even a lack of power. I have learned all too well that a backup plan is necessary when hoping to use technology within the classroom.

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Bloom where planted

It was the summer of 2013 when I grudgingly did the teachers’ induction course at Erdiston. I say grudgingly because it took away 4 weeks of my summer vacation which meant less time to frolick and more early morning shenanigans like fixing lunch and finding something decent to wear (they said no jeans 😔).

Suffice it to say that I did enjoy those sessions for the most part. I do welcome personal or professional development and for those 3 and some weeks (I travelled to Jamaica on the last day of the course) I was challenged as to my preparedness as a teacher to effectively and efficiently complete the tasks given at any time.

In one of those sessions, the now late Harriet _____(that surname seems to be evading me) née Burke mentioned how as individuals we ought to bloom where planted and for some reason that statement has resonated with me over the last two years.

In life we may be placed in areas of discomfort, discord, doubt or plain disinterest but we should take every debilitating circumstance and make it work in our favour. Today is a gift that is why it is called the present.

I may not like where I am but I know God has a reason or purpose for this part of my life. The lives I impact may be few but it isn’t just for me to teach but I must also learn.

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I am not forgotten

  
Have you ever felt forgotten? I have suffered with that feeling most of my life and as I reflect I know I am not the only one. 

This thought came to mind as I sat for almost 3hours to be seen by the doctor and this was not my only period of waiting for the day. Last week I had my sister check that it was good for me to see the hairdresser today and the report was…”sure! Tell her she can come for seven o’ clock in the morning.”  

Now let me just say that getting up early is never an issue, getting up once my period has started is where I have a problem. I managed to bring myself from a horizontal position just before 6am but the going was slow. Here in Barbados we just concluded a long weekend for the Easter period and I, by virtue of my profession, was now on a 2week vacation.

I was late, but knowing my hairdresser, I would still reach the salon before her. I arrived at the salon at 7:25am and not a car  was in sight. No worries, I had my phone and some catching up to do of a series I was watching. Fifteen, Twenty, Forty minutes passed before I saw any movement, my bad, it was just a student who was now in the same boat as I. I tried to find a personal number for my hairdresser praying that, even after the issues my phone experienced some time back, I would be able to reach her.

Long story short, she had forgotten my appointment. Her apologies came quickly because no one can afford to lose customers, especially loyal ones at that.

My point in all this is not to highlight man’s inefficiencies. This could have easily been a blog post about the lack of professionalism in my country but I must give God the glory because where man falls short, God’s goodness and mercies are even more obvious.

In our imperfections, He is made perfect! When it seems like no one cares, God’s eyes and ears are ever near. He sees all I go through and today could have been a day to be angry, justifiably so, but His love brings peace and joy to my soul.

When troubles assail us as they surely will, remember that Jesus is master of the storm. He alone can speak to the waves. He cares for you and He cares for me.  Every detail of our lives is of importance to Him.

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

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How to Make Healthy Smoothies: What I’ve Learned

Sooo Fabulous!

Strawberry raspberry coconut smoothie

Recently, healthy smoothies have been a huge part of my daily routine: for breakfast, post-workout fuel, dessert, or just because.

During the past few months, I’ve had my share of hits and misses with flavors, texture and temperature but I think I’m finally beginning to master this thing!

To help out my readers and friends starting or re-starting a healthy journey, I’m sharing a few tips and tricks for making smoothies, which I hope you will find useful. Enjoy!

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Travel

Too much…

There are times I think that I have too much patience. I waited close to half an hour or perhaps even more to get an error sorted and I stood there and smiled right through…am I crazy? Let us start from the beginning.

Today is now day 3 of a 10 day trip with students to Puerto Rico. The first two days we did quite a bit of walking. The first being our tour of Old San Juan on foot starting at The fort at San Cristobal. Yesterday we didn’t go to the waterpark as planned due to its closure until May so we ended up trekking through the rainforest of El Yunque to bathe in the COLD waters of the waterfall.
So I am staying with two students at a house within about 15-20minutes walking distance of the school where they (the students) will take classes in Spanish about Spanish 😉

This morning I tried to be a good chaperone alerting my charges of when they were to be at the school and even ensuring that I did not leave the house without them. Safe to say they were up before six but by seven when we should have been leaving the house, they were now sitting to eat breakfast. Now before they went to bed I reminded them that we would eat around 6:30am in order to get to the school in time for their placement exams at 7:30am…. Should I mention that at 7:30am we were now 5minutes into our walk and nowhere near the school or that I resigned myself to being late knowing that I myself did not have a class.

My problem started here as I let myself drift behind the students I was escorting and in remembering that the prepaid phone I bought for the week needed a top-up I proceeded to stop at a nearby gas station and purchase $15US in credit just to be on the safe side.

To be continued….

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A song in my heart

Although I have not taken to singing out loud like once upon a time, I couldn’t help myself today for some reason. I normally have some pep in my step or at least I like to think so but today I left home with a song and it carried me throughout the day.

God is so good!

No one could steal my joy today, I was in that good a mood and now as I type, I am reminded that the redeemed of The Lord shall return with singing and that everlasting joy is theirs :).

Happiness depends on happenings yet joy springs from so much more. Life has a way of serving up curve balls ever so often and yet there is something I can smile/sing about.

The interesting thing is that I heard the song for the first time while driving with my padres on Saturday and it has been on my lips since…

Indescribable, uncontainable, You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name, You are amazing God. All powerful, untameble, Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim You are amazing God…

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Self worth?

I was conversing with some friends in recent times and I realized I could say with all certainty that I was content in my personal life i.e I no longer felt that once strong desire to be in a relationship with anyone of the opposite sex. Granted I still admire the fine specimen that are out there but I recognized that my identity needn’t be tied a person with whom I might be romantically inclined.

My identity can be found in Christ, any sense of worth or self validation as I have realized , has come as a result of Jesus coming to die for me. I who deserve none of it because of a sinful nature I was born with.

This new-found feeling is both surprising and exhilarating. Surprising from the point of view of a once boy-crazy female with a love of boy-bands yet exhilarating as I feel as if I can serve my Lord with little to no distractions.

We all have our hindrances and setbacks and when we are able to overcome it is a most wonderful feeling. GOD IS GOOD!