Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but STIC just saved my learning.

Tech integration tools

Spontaneous Technology Integration within the Curriculum of a University class STIC

Most of what I write is about pedagogical methods and activities within the k-8 setting, because this is the environment in which I teach.  However, I am also a doctoral student nearing the end of my program toward a degree in Educational Leadership with a specialization in teaching and learning theory. During my last class session, I was witness, and participant, to Spontaneous Technology Integration within the Curriculum [STIC].  Of course, this is of great interest to me because I am also a technology coordinator for a school. Therefore any sudden use of technology automatically captures my interest.  For those of you interested in the STIC that took place skip to that section, but if you want to understand this more read on. First some background…

Background

As has been the case with just about every class I’ve taken at the university, few students purchase their textbooks for the course until after the first class.  This is because 9 out of 10 times the professor changes the required texts that the bookstore has listed for the course, or the bookstore has the incorrect texts listed. This practice is so prevalent that professors have often commented to new students that they should refrain from purchasing the texts. Few students enjoy this reality but it creates a bit of a paradox for the first day of most courses.  That is, we have 4 hours to fill with instruction and almost no student with a textbook. Sure, some time can be used to go over the syllabus and the expectations of the course, but this in no way reaches near the 4 hour mark.  So what is a student to do when you have the rare teacher who expects you to have your textbook ready to go on day one?

STIC in Statistics

So my colleagues and I are sitting in the first session of our Advanced Statistics and Data Analysis course and the professor asks us to take out our textbooks to begin work on some problems and review.  Okay, momentary shock and horror passes and we quickly realize that something has to be done to make our class productive when about half the students do not have the textbooks. My colleague sitting next to me has the required text, however I do not and neither do two of my other colleagues sitting next to me. This is when STIC occurs for our own academic survival. Witness the evolution of students quickly (because instruction is occurring during all of this) problem solving this situation.

One of my colleagues takes a picture of the page we are working on with her cell phone, however the resolution on the phone is not great for macro photography required to get a clear picture of the text. While my colleagues are struggling with that, I pull out my Droid X change the photo settings to macro and quickly take pictures of the necessary tables and charts. Another colleague asks me to email her the picture and I proceed to do so.  However, email is a little cumbersome from the cell phone especially at the rate at which I will be expected to take photos and mail them… this is when it dawns on me… I have other options to make this streamlined.

Dropbox

I’m a recent adoptee of dropbox and have been using it mainly to sync my lesson planning program from my mac to my iPad as well as keeping some key files with me on all my electronic equipment. I quickly create a folder for my class and upload every image to the dropbox with just a few clicks from my phone. The URLs are then shared with my colleagues and BAM! They have instant access to the necessary material. In the meantime, my other colleague is using Evernote to take some photos and notes and sharing them with his colleagues. For me, this was a shining moment of students using the tools they have every day at their fingertips to solve a real world problem and improve the classroom instruction.  I can vouch that this approach solved our problem and we were able to proceed with the class at a regular pace.

Implications

Well what does this all mean? Have we finally reached a point where this generation of scholars is able to quickly adapt technology to suite its needs? I hope so.  In the meantime… I’m going to make this simple recommendation to you, my fellow teachers and students: Download Dropbox. Its free and it has potential to be used in a variety of ways that will revolutionize your life as a student and a teacher. As I said, I am new to Dropbox. However, I’m already beginning to play around with some ideas that may prove effective for classroom practice in the k-8 environment. Perhaps creating folders that students can upload and collaborate within the dropbox… maybe a shared dropbox for faculty collaboration… who knows… I’ll keep you posted as I implement some of these ideas.

Your Experiences

So, what are your experiences with STIC?  What have you witnessed within the classroom setting? Have you used Dropbox or Evernote in your classroom? Cell phones to improve instruction? Please, share your thoughts and ideas, leave your comments below, we can only benefit from the shared collaboration of the professional community to which we belong.