In today's technology-driven world, it is incredibly important for teachers to achieve "technology literacy." By incorporating technology into classroom instruction, teachers can help give students the tools and skills that they need to become successful in the global job market/economy. Additionally, teachers can better serve a variety of different learning styles with the technological resources available. Having taken a Technology-Enhanced Learning course at William and Mary and learned how to incorporate technology into my own instruction, I feel that technology, when used well, can also greatly increase student engagement and make abstract material a bit more accessible. It can also help teachers to communicate and collaborate as a form of informal professional development. To achieve these ends, teachers need a framework for guiding their development of technology literacy. The ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) provides such a framework in the form of the following five standards from the NETS (National Education Technology Standards):

Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

For this standard, teachers must integrate their knowledge of content, teaching pedagogy, and technology to help students develop innovative thinking skills. They must encourage students to use technological tools to solve real-world issues and engage them in problem-based learning. Additionally, teachers should establish ways for students to use collaborative tools to reflect on their learning and creative process. Moreover, teachers should demonstrate the use of these collaborative virtual tools to enhance learning through communication. Personally, I find this standard to be particularly important, as creativity is ultimately the fuel for technological innovation. If we teach our students to use technology in their creative process, then we are bringing the whole process full circle. Perhaps with effective integration of technology into the classroom, our students can be the next forerunners in technological innovation.

Discussion Board Start Page

In my future classroom, I plan to use an online discussion board for students to discuss current events/controversial issues within the field of science. In fact, there are quite a few websites that allow you to create a classroom discussion board for free. The particular site I used is With my discussion board, I can list students as members, so long as they have email addresses. As a sample homework assignment, I have created a "Forum" about stem cell research. This assignment prompts the students to explore the stem cell section of the New York Times' health web-page, reflect on their findings from a particular article, and discuss how they personally feel about the controversy behind stem cell research. In class, students will be encouraged to respond respectfully to classmates' posts. Ultimately, the aim of the discussion board is for students to use technology to explore real-world issues,reflect upon their opinions surrounding these issues, and collaborate digitally with peers.

2. Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

At its core, this standard requires teachers to develop lesson activities and assessments incorporating technology. Moreover, teachers should tailor learning activities to fit the unique learning preferences of each student using the technological resources at their disposal. Furthermore, formative and summative assessments can better assess student learning if they include a number of different assessment tools, which can extend to digital tools. With proper integration of technology into instruction, teachers can also help students to guide their own learning. For example, a lesson I designed as part of a unit on DNA gives students the opportunity to explore a virtual manipulative to explore transcription and translation. Additionally, I designed a lesson regarding the properties of water that guided students to an understanding of hydrogen bonding, dissociation, and cohesion through the use of online animations. Without the incorporation of technology in this instance, students would have difficulty visualizing the various properties of water.

3. Model Digital-Age Work and Learning

For this standard, the teacher must demonstrate "tech-saviness" and use technology to gather new findings in their particular content area and incorporate these findings into instruction. Also, the teacher must use technology to better communicate with parents and students to improve student academic success. In my practicum placements, I have seen both of these requirements taken into account and accomplished successfully using technology. For example, I consistently use web sources to answer student questions that I could not answer without outside help. With regard to communicating with parents, I use PowerTeacher to share student grades and progress reports.
My Weebly Homepage

For my future classroom , I have created my own teacher web-page using Weebly for Educators, a site specifically designed to help teachers design classroom sites. My site has a number of components important for communicating with students and parents. For one, it includes a welcome page in which I introduce myself and my background and make it clear that I would like to work with them to optimize their child's learning experience in any way possible. Also, I have included my schedule, a school/classroom calendar, copies of my classroom policies, student make-up work, etc. Additionally, I have included a blog where I will post current events in biology to pique student and parent interest. Currently, there is an embedded Youtube video regarding sea turtle conservation included in one of my blog posts. Hopefully, this site will help me to serve as a model of effective technology use and enable me to better communicate with parents. Though I have not listed my email address explicitly on the page because I feel it is a security risk, I have provided a contact form for parents to send me their contact information and any comments or concerns they may have.

4. Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

As it's name suggests, this standard requires that teachers model digital citizenship. Part of "digital citizenship" entails being knowledgeable about copyright laws and fair use policies. Teachers must make proper use of others' works and educate students about when and how it is appropriate to use the work of others. Teachers should emphasize that there are circumstances where fair use protects educators and students from accusations of copyright infringement, but these protections do not extend to plagiarism. Additionally, teachers should use digital communication to enhance their global and cultural awareness. They should also take any possible opportunity to model this global and cultural awareness for their students and emphasize that many of the etiquette norms for non-digital communication still apply for forms of digital communication.

For my future classroom, I have drafted a letter to parents explaining how copyright law affects the resources that can be used in the classroom. Throughout the letter, I emphasized the importance of using a variety of resources, as it exposes students to the types of materials that are out there. Additionally, I discussed how students must also be careful to avoid plagiarism by being aware of copyright law. To give the parents a little bit more information about copyright law and fair use protections, I included a "copyright fact sheet." Hopefully, this will give parents a better understanding of my rational for using the works of other individuals frequently in class and assure them that I am emphasizing proper "digital etiquette" with their children.

5. Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership

This final standard hits at the importance of teachers modeling lifelong learning skills, particularly as it relates to technology. Under this standard, teachers must serve as leaders within the field of education by constantly exploring new research about student learning and technology integration. Teachers should also participate in learning communities at the local and global level in order to explore further new technologies and their applications within the classroom. The past two autumns (2009 and 2010), I have attended the Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) Professional Development Institute and have been very impressed to see teachers attending a variety of seminars put on by corporations attempting to show how certain digital tools can be used in the classroom. Teachers from all over Virginia seemed very much interested in these new tools and their implications for student learning, and I hope to be just as enthusiastic as a new teacher!

I have addressed this particular standard through a report I wrote regarding the use of Gizmos in the classroom. Gizmos, online math and science manipulatives provided by , are recent creations by a Virginia-based company. They help to make a number of abstracts more accessibly through interactive simulations that seem to better familiarize students with the material than direct instruction alone. Research backs up the effectiveness of these digital tools, and I look forward to using them in my own classroom. By drafting this report, I came to a better understanding of the nuances of the tool itself, the evidence needed to support the tool's effectiveness in the classroom, how the tool fits with state and district standards, and how to integrate the tool into lesson plans. During my student teaching, I have shared my knowledge of Gizmos with my cooperating teacher, and I hope to continue to collaborate in this manner and spread the word about new technology to other teachers.