4) How has the professional development received through the graduate program empowered you to support the diverse needs of all students, advocate safe and ethical uses of technology, and develop cultural and global awareness?
The professional development received through the graduate program empowered me to support the diverse needs of all students, advocate safe and ethical uses of technology and develop cultural and global awareness.
Through my course work, I received professional development that helps support the diverse needs of all learners. I learned of assistive technology and how to use technology to differentiate teaching and learning methods for each student especially in EDU 612, where I learned in depth about the levels and purpose of assistive technology with the end goal of “increasing their chances of maximizing their degree of achievement and independence.” (Alnahdi, 2014, p.18). In EDU 553 I analyzed many tools and websites, looking at how and when they could be used to meet student needs – most importantly coming to the realization that it’s always best to “be clear about what the [teacher], school or district is trying to do before the IT team starts researching for the right device [or tool]” (CDW-G, 2013, p.11). Throughout the process I would ask myself – was this a tool that would be best for all students, a tool best for a certain learning style, or perhaps a tool best for a student with a specific disability? I also looked at when would be the best time for use – as a classroom support during instruction, as an after hours learning tool, or perhaps as a way to prepare students for learning.
In addition, learning in depth about learning styles and learning theories in EDU 511 contributed to me being more informed in my teaching practices in intervention settings and also led me to better understand and meet my student’s needs and learning preferences. Students may be visual (“Learns more effectively through the eyes”, auditory (“Learns more effectively through the ear”), tactile (“Learns more effectively through touch”) or kinesthetic (“Learns more effectively through complete body experience”). Additionally some students may work better in a group (“Learns more effectively through working with others”) or individually (“Learns more effectively through working alone”) (Farajolahi and Nimvari, 2014, p. 160). Knowing this I was able to put this knowledge into practice – for example, I had some students who were more auditory learners and benefitted from audio books and videos. I also had more tactile learners who benefitted from the use of manipulatives in mathematics and learning about sequence and the impact of chronological order through literally moving pieces of a story. I also worked with several students with (and without) autism who benefitted from the kinesthetic – whether it was a trip outside to measure the temperature which we would then graph, or simply a work break, where I would spend a few minutes with the student speed walking and stretching. Students always came back to their work with renewed focus and vigor.
Completing my Netiquette Wiki project in EDU 553 and learning about other areas of digital safety, such as cyber bullying, and social and ethical issues through other peers presentations led me as a teacher to better explain safety and ethical issues as well as professionalism on the internet to both students and peers. These skills will come into play as I design and implement a second grade blogging project alongside the librarian. Part of the blogging project will be tying in netiquette and internet safety along with the goal of building students love of and interest in books. In this, we lean towards a more Social Cognitive Theory of learning, where students can learn simply by observing others behaviors and seeing the consequences of that behavior, and the cognition plays a key role in the learning, rather than actually having to do something such as with Behaviorism (Omrod, 2012, p. 112-113). Think alouds and modeling the proper netiquette and internet safety is the means for students learning, as we aim for the students to not make mistakes in these areas through preventive measures and lessons.
My cultural and global awareness was increased through EDU 557 where I researched the educational systems and policies of multiple countries, as well as analyzed the results of international surveys. This led to a better understanding of the role, purpose, and direction of education in nations besides the U.S. I am now able to view educational decisions the U.S., and the state, makes with a more global perspective – and expanded my thinking, learning to look outside the United States for educational thinking and research. Many of the studies that I used for background research in my research project where in fact studies that had occurred outside the United States. Additionally, in EDU 621, I create a professional development plan for implementing an international pen pals project to support cultural and curriculum understandings in 6th graders, which helped me work through the feasibility of such a project, pros and cons of the activity, and be ready to implement such a, or a similar, program in my own classroom.