Technology as Praxis

EDCT 552: Technology Praxis Reflection:

“The notion of praxis is essential to one’s view of teaching and learning as reflection, actions and change are inherent to these processes” (EDCT 552 Syllabus, 2009).

A shift in thinking about technology

Technology Praxis has been challenging for me on many levels. Not only was the technology aspect of the class challenging but the shift in thinking about technology was challenging as well. I have come to understand that technology is much more than a teaching tool that we can use in our classroom but a “as a change in practice and relations” (Parker, December 2, 2009). My conception of literacy has gone far beyond the ability to read and write or use a computer. I need to think beyond the computers in my classroom as isolated “stand alone” units but as a possible part of everything we do and how we do it. The how is where the shift has been most difficult for me to implement or know how to implement.

Although I am fortunate to work at a project-based integrated curriculum school, I have come to realize how much I do think of technology as a ‘helper’ to the kinds of projects that we do rather than a way of approaching curriculum differently. In the last article we read for this class by Coppola, I was fully hit with this realization. The projects and approach to curriculum in this article could have been a description of our school in terms of constructivist practices, staff collaboration on planning curriculum and implementation, etc. There was one huge piece missing however… constructivist teaching as a goal with computers/technology utilized to help reach that goal.

Computers are part of what we do at our school but they are not part of changing what we do and how we do it; pedagogy. This has been a huge “aha” for me. Does this mean that I now know exactly how to make this pedagogical shift? No; it means that I understand the necessity to do so and I will need support, guidance, help, and collaboration of my peers in order to make it happen.

My teaching does include much reflection of my own practice which leads (and will lead) to action and change in my classroom and hopefully my school. EDCT 552 has allowed (and demanded), much reflection which has and will continue to change my approach to teaching. I have come to fully appreciate that a systematic change (in terms of technology) is interdependent upon my own philosophy of education shifting. This shift must happen first in order to experience a shift in pedagogy and curricula.

Implementation of technology within the classroom and or/community practice.

Although my level of achievement in this area could be seen as limited, I am very proud of what I have accomplished in terms of this goal. I now have a class blog and website and ideas that I have acquired from my colleagues in EDCT 552 about how to use these tools  to make learning more real and relevant to my students (ex: IM-ing with students, literary analysis using the class blog, etc.). I have also created an e-portfolio of my work that I believe could be implemented with my students to showcase and evaluate their work. In addition, I have completely redesigned the “Skills Class” (see e-portfolio under “skills class”) at our school using many of the ideas and practices learned in EDCT 552. My classroom blog could be more active and used more regularly and effectively as part of an everyday practice and my website is just a skeleton waiting to be filled but the point is… they are in place. With more time to practice and play myself, I believe that I will be able to not only develop these sites but my implementation of them with a goal of changing how I teach. I have already been asked by my colleagues about the design of my new “Skills” class. Although no one at our school would consider me a “techy,” my colleagues are coming to me for input and advice about how they might implement some of these technological tools. It’s kind of ironic; I have the ideas but have a hard time implementing them due to a lack of tech skills and my peers have a lot of tech skills but not sure how to use their skills to change their practice.

As mentioned in the first part of this reflection, this class has been a struggle for me for several reasons. One might say, “I am not technologically inclined.” I do not mention this so that it may be used as use as an excuse in any way.  I mention it because feeling this way in a class has been very instructive to my teaching practice. I am used to knowing what goes on in class. I have always done pretty well in school and it is a comfortable place for me. This has not been the case in EDCT 552 and I am sure that many of my own students experience a similar feeling on a daily basis.

I make assumptions every day that I am being understood, that students are learning and that if they can’t figure something out, they will get help/support to do so. This class has taught me that I need to slow down, step back and know that there are many students that don’t understand the language spoken (by me or their peers), that they may be lost at times, and that some need much more help than they are getting from me or other students in class. I am an adult who can use the resources I do have to get my questions answered, to get help when and where I need it, and to advocate for myself. Many of my students do not have these skills. So, beyond remembering what it feels like to “not know what’s going on,” (Algebra comes to mind), I know that I need to make sure that all of my students are feeling supported in their learning process. I also need to teach them how to get the help/support they need when they don’t understand something. I have let them know that it is okay to feel a little lost at times (through my own stories about EDCT 552) and that this is part of the learning too. One could call this a shift in my approach to teaching but I would describe it as more of pedagogical “wake up call.”

One more thing…

ON Friday, December 4th, I sat in the conference room at our school with the assistant principal and four other girls. We were meeting based on the allegations that a student had forwarded a text from a friend to another student who in turn forwarded it to yet another. The text was filled with racist, icky, mean-spirited commentary and based on some MySpace postings that had originated with one of the girls. “Here we go again,” I thought to myself. An hour later, I am not sure we got to the bottom of who sent what or who said what or where the origin of the message…point being, we were cleaning up another media-generated mess.

My final project for EDCT 552 made an argument for making media literacy a part of the curricula in our schools. Based on the readings and discussions we have had in this class, I now realize how behind the curve we (schools in general) are in terms of media literacy. As I noted in my paper it feels as if “we are running behind” just to catch up with our students. When I read in the report put out by the NCTE stating that “…57% of the respondents felt that the development of 21st century skills occur most frequently outside of school environments rather than in school,” (NCTE: Writing between the lines and everywhere else),  it was a big old wake-up call for me. What were my students learning in school that had any relevance to their lives outside of it? I was afraid (and embarrassed) to say, “not much.” I am trying to change this fact. I have been interviewing students about their “media” lives. I am finding out what media my students use and how they use it. Who uses MySpace, who are gamers, who are the producers of media that cause much of the drama at school? The students are anxious to share what they know and how they know it. I am using them as a resource to change what I am teaching and how I am going about that teaching. I have asked them: “What do we need to learn? How should we learn to do it? How do we stop the “icky” stuff that is happening outside of school that has an impact on our lives at school? My final project for EDCT took these ideas into consideration and I have implemented them into a media literacy project I will use in January. My hope is that my students become more critical of the media they consume and produce… that they “think before they kick.”

I would not have moved in this direction without the knowledge I have gained in this class. Media literacy is a part of digital literacy and I am now convinced that we must make it a part of what we teach and how we teach or we will continually find ourselves in the conference room cleaning up the messes that are students have created. We are not going to change anything by merely reacting to it; we must be proactive in our approach to media literacy. As the syllabus for EDCT 552 noted, reflecting upon our own learning and teaching can create change if we choose to take action. I believe I have done so through my work in and beyond this class.


~ by mlbryan on December 7, 2009.

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