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Contributors: Cindy Hughes, Kellie Grant, Rachel James, Jennifer Duarte


How Integrating Technology is Changing My Classroom

How Integrating Technology is Changing My Classroom

From the blackboard to the Smart board, teaching has changed drastically in my ten plus years in education. This year in particular has been a journey into the world of D2L, Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks and working with my colleagues on our TLLP project. Implementing technology in the classroom has made my lessons more engaging, students more accountable for their learning and providing descriptive feedback more immediate.
In the classroom, coming up with interactive lesson plans for every subject and every lesson is time consuming. This year I have been using D2L (Desire to Learn) which is an elearning website set up by the Ministry of Education in Ontario (https://wcdsb.elearningontario.ca/). On this site I have been able to use activities that have already been generated that are grade specific and align with the Ontario curriculum. These activities are located on OERB (Ontario Educational Resources Bank) and are easy to embed right into the D2L site. By incorporating them into the site students do not require any other passwords to access the activity and are not searching the internet to locate a website or URL address (which use to be very time consuming and could lead them finding inappropriate content). The students in my class are able to navigate the site easily and look forward to the online activities.
More recently, my students have become familiar with some Google apps for education such as Google docs and Google slides. They become excited when they are able to share their work with me and their peers. Last week I shared Google doc file with them. In groups they had to fill in a portion of a table on the shared file. In real time we had the entire class filling in their portion of the graphic organizer. We were able to edit and ask questions. It was really neat to see the table filling in on the Brightlink in front of the class right before our eyes. Students were providing feedback to one another and all students were participating at the same time.

Using technology in the class daily with the Chromebooks has really helped keep the low-level learner interested in academics and allows for them to be part of activities at an entry point suited for them. For example, most of the activities on D2L have an audio component and gives instructions orally and in writing. This allows for struggling readers to participate but understand the activity without much intervention from the teacher. They are able to review activities done at school, at home. Strengthening this connection between home and school has made the students more accountable for their own learning.

Gone are the days in my classroom when a student says "I left my assignment at school," or "My USB didn't work." Using Google docs and slides for assignments gives students the opportunity to work on projects they started at school, at home as they wish. I am noticing that the students who rarely handed in work on time before, are more eager to complete tasks because they have the technology to help them along. For those on an IEP, the fact that they can complete drafts on a Google Docs is a lot less threatening or cumbersome than writing something out by hand multiple times.  The stigma of being the only kid with a laptop-which was a sure sign of an IEP is gone.

Having the Chromebooks daily has also allowed for the students in my class to feel comfortable using the tools on Google with my support and that of their peers. Together we work through how certain features worked on Google Docs and Google Slides primarily. I really think that having them work in collaboration with one another has improved their confidence in technology. Being able to work side-by-side coaching them along when needed gave them more accountability towards learning. In my class two student share a Chromebook. When they are not working on a group or partner task, they must split the time allotted between themselves and thus learning the ropes of time management and sharing.
According to Black, Harrison, Lee & Wiliam (2003), “Descriptive feedback is the most powerful tool for improving student learning.” One of the newest tools that I use to provide descriptive feedback with Google is the ‘Share’ and ‘Comment’ capability on Google docs. When students are able to share their work with me, I can comment on a draft and highlight specific errors or give positive reinforcement much more timely than in the past. I still believe that having face to face teacher-student conferences are very important. In a busy school day of a Junior split grade class, getting to meet with all students in one lesson/day is not always feasible. Now I am able to give feedback even when students aren’t at school and I don’t have to keep their work to correct it. They are able to continue to work on a task and I can still give suggestions or comments simultaneously. Students are also sharing work with other students and becoming more proficient at giving feedback to their peers.  
Having the technology so readily available in the classroom is transforming how I teach and is moving my own learning curve in yet another direction. I am surprised at how quickly I have made the shift towards using technology in education to this degree. In this past term especially, students show that they are enthusiastic about learning in all subject areas whether it be an activity on OERB or video that engages students critical thinking on D2L. Students in my class have ownership over their learning and are able to access activities that we do in class, at home. They are taking part in building their knowledge when they conference with peers in person or when sharing documents to complete a group task. Providing more timely and useful feedback during a task is just another way technology is moving my students towards building success. I am embracing this change and hope that others will also see the great benefits of allowing technology in this manner into their classrooms.

Jennifer Duarte

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