Using Technology to Make Instruction More Relevant and Accessible

P4:Practice the integration of appropriate technology with instruction. Integrating technology appropriately means using technology to engage students, provide authentic learning opportunities, and to enhance and deepen student understanding. Technology has become such an integral part of students’ lives. For example, although my high school has a pretty lenient cell-phone policy, rare are the days I conclude a lesson without having had to ask a student to put away his or her cell phone. Consequently, I often feel like technology is my adversary, a catalyst for distraction and disruption. Still, I am trying to reimagine my perspective of technology and consider ways I can use technology to support instruction rather than distract from it. This is a reflection is evidence of a time during my internship in which I used technology to bridge gaps between students and content in order to increase student interest and make learning relevant and interesting.

When I told my sophomore students that we were going to begin a unit on Shakespeare’s Othello, there were many moans and groans. I asked students why and they said Shakespeare’s language was too difficult, confusing and hard to understand. A fellow student teacher and I racked our brains to create a gateway lesson using technology that would encourage students to see the lyricism and themes of Othello through the lens of hip-hop in effort to show students that the language Shakespeare uses is not something they have to be afraid of—we decided to try to provide a new perspective. We created and projected a Prezi to create visual interest and organization for the lesson, we watched a Ted Talk presentation, we listened to rap and hip-hop, we evaluated lyrics and connected those to themes all in effort to make Shakespeare language more approachable and relevant. During the Ted Talk video, students are asked to differentiate between hip-hop lyrics from popular artists and lines from Shakespearean plays making Shakespearean language more accessible by exposing the lyrical quality inherent in hip-hop, and iambic pentameter is compared to the rhythm of popular hip-hop beats by rapping popular lines from Shakespeare. I paused the video frequently and had students vote whether certain lines spoken were from hip-hop or Shakespeare and students were surprised to see that it was difficult to differentiate between the two.

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Also, as a class, we looked at an online article from The Atlantic comparing modern hip-hop and rap artists to Shakespeare based on the number of unique words used within their respective works. We discussed the implications and why some artists might forgo lyricism and “the imparting of knowledge” in order to sell albums. Then, we listened to specific lyrics of such artists by way of the internet, and analyzed the lyrics for themes common in hip-hop. According to a New York Times article, “Under the Influence of…Music?” from 2008, teenagers spend an average of 2.5 hours a day listening to music and so we had students make a list of common themes found in the music they listen to, then we connected those to Shakespeare in order to explain that Shakespeare uses lyricism as a social commentary just as does hip-hop.

This lesson employed a variety of technologies and mediums that not only engaged students, but also gave them a context with which to connect to Shakespeare. Through the use of technology, we established connections (that might otherwise have been impossible) between their world and the world of Shakespeare. As a result, students found the classic works of this English playwright to be less daunting, abstract and removed. Although employing the use of technology does not come naturally, after seeing students interested and excited about Shakespeare as a result of this lesson, I will continue to strive to incorporate and experiment with technology as a teaching tool to make learning more relevant and interesting for all learners.

Hope Reflection–H3

H3-Honor the classroom/school community as a milieu for learning. This standard suggests that it is my responsibility to honor and participate in the many different types of learning events and activities offered in my school community. Believing this, I participated in many different after-school events to support and participate the interests and passions of my students. One particularly memorable event I attended toward the end of my internship was BHS’s 9th Annual “Spoken Word Night.”

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This evening is celebrated each year as an opportunity for students to express, explore and share what cannot be seen on paper— a performance of word-based poetry. More than twenty students showcased their own work and the meaningful works of other poets. The evening was organized and orchestrated by a student who explained that this event was so close to her heart because it was an occasion for her to experience her peers in new way, an opportunity for her and her schoolmates to peel off some of the layers that otherwise insulate them from one another. She remarked that there is something remarkably beautiful and intimate about seeing students share pieces of their soul, pieces that would otherwise be imperceptible or concealed in daily hurried hallway greetings or lunch-time chats. And this is what it means to honor the classroom and school community as an occasion to learn not only academically, but also in every other way—to learn more about who we are as human beings and how we fit into the greater human story. As I began my Master’s program to become a teacher, a professor shared a quote from the longtime Harvard University professor and distinguished twentieth-century educational psychologist, Jerome Bruner: “We need a surer sense of what to teach to whom and how to go about teaching it in such a way that it will make those taught more effective, less alienated, and better human beings” (Bruner, 1996, p. 118). This quote has become the foundation for my personal philosophy and as I begin my teaching career, I will be actively involved and supportive of student events such as “Spoken Word Night” in order to encourage all aspects of student interest, growth, and development.

Hope Reflection: H5

H5: Honor student potential for roles in the greater society
My understanding of this standard means providing engaging lessons and units that support the development of skills relevant and relatable to the lives students will lead outside of the classroom. Accomplishing this includes explaining to students the ways in which the learning they are doing within the classroom connects to life in “the real world.” My goal is not only to provide a scholastic education, but also to provide students with access to lessons that encourage them to consider who they are and how they fit in and contribute to the world around them.
During my internship, before I began teaching a unit on debate and persuasive writing and speaking, I crafted a course rationale to provide students with this information. In the course rationale, I explain how the various skills I would teach within this debate unit, would center on developing civic awareness and navigating difficult social issues in the hopes that students would have the opportunity to engage in a more equitable, democratic society. As supported by IDEA, my rationale explains: “debate inherently ‘teaches the principles of tolerance, nonviolence and respect for different points of view’ (IDEA). Training in open-mindedness and the patient and purposeful consideration of varying perspectives is essential to developing well-informed opinions and views.” After presenting this to my students, I learned how crucial it is to be explicit about the purpose behind the lessons I teach, to establish credibility with students by providing authentic learning opportunities and activities.

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Additionally, this perspective provides a self-check for me as an educator: if I cannot explain to students why what we are learning matters, I should rethink why I’ve chosen to teach that lesson in the first place. Too often students have this conception that high school is simply a hoop they must jump through before getting to “real life”—there is this major gap between what happens inside the classroom and what happens outside of the classroom and my goal and next steps include closing that gap. When students understand the value, significance, and “real-life” application for skills and content they are learning, they are increasingly more likely to be engaged in the classroom and to apply skills learned, to contribute and fulfill roles outside of the classroom.

Works Cited: IDEA. “WHY DEBATE?” International Debate Education Association. 2011. Web. Idebate.org