Learning Something New

I have taught for 3 years in various capacities, not yet finding a permanent resting place. I’ve had quite a journey already, in my short 3 years of teaching. I have had to learn and adapt to new curriculum, schools, staff, and demographics. But my most recent job is leading me to places I didn’t expect to be.

When I got a term position to teach Graphic Technology at Westwood Collegiate from April to June of this year, I was excited at the prospect of working in an art program. Since I can remember, I have always enjoyed drawing, painting, building, improvising, and most of all, creating. And now I would get to teach that along with my passion for using technology.

Before the term started I visited the Graphic Tech Lab and met Zbigniew Cichosz. Right away I could see he had a exciting and well-structured program running. Under his direction and knowledge, students were motivated and creating unique pieces of digital art with the latest technology. Since taking over his class, I have done tutorials; read websites, blogs and magazines about techniques; and put in hours of work into learning Graphic Technology and Digital Photography. Although I am new to this vocation, learning something new for me is nothing new.

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My dad bought our family’s first home computer in 1995, when I was starting grade seven, and I was ecstatic. I eagerly helped setting up all the cords and hardware, wanting to know everything I could about this “futuristic” machine (it even had a CD-ROM!). After the initial setup, my dad and I set to exploring every bit of operating system.

This introduction of mine to the PC coincided with the boom of the Internet. I was part of, what I consider, the first generation of the Networking Age. The generation that got exposed, from a young age, to the Internet at its coming-out party. I got a pen-pal, read about computer games, and researched (kind of) and word processed my first essay.

All through high school and university I saw technology rapidly evolve, and I was there at the fronts to make the most of it. Whether it be gaming, information gathering, writing, social networking, banking, or creating; I was using technology as my preferred medium.

When I began the Faculty of Education, I quickly came to understand that the ability to use technology productively and creatively was an essential skill for the future. I became interested in how to use ICT in the classroom in new and interesting ways. I had a simple philosophy: technology I grew up with advanced quickly, and it seemed it would only continue to do so. Therefore, I and my students must advance with, and learn, new technologies or we would miss fantastic opportunities.

While student teaching at my first placement, I created interactive presentations, quiz games, and videos. Students would do web quests, online research, and produce some original work. It was good start, but I had a vision of something more interactive.

My vision of using ICT for interaction was realized when I met teacher Chris Harbeck. It was during my second teaching placement at Sargent Park. He wasn’t my cooperating teacher, but I still got to see his class, read his blog, and get introduced to a network of technology teachers.

What impressed me wasn’t just the technology he used, it was how he embedded technology into the classroom. Technology was the medium that students used for learning and reflection, and technology was the medium for assessment and evaluation. His use of technology in the class was exactly what I wanted to emulate.

Since that time I have been pursuing how to use ICT as a learning and assessment tool in interactive, creative, and authentic ways. I’ve had many successes with ICT in my classes whether it be a four-five split or grade eights, EAL or special needs students, all can use technology to some degree. My students over the years have created: photographs that explain human rights; blogs that track their learning about ancient Egypt; videos to relay a message about safe transport; online posters to explain culture; and different forms of poetry using online fridge magnets. The opportunities are boundless when you dig and explore ICT.

And now here I am, teaching Graphic Technology.  I have enthusiastically jumped into learning this fantastic, digital medium and I have come to develop a genuine respect, interest, and enthusiasm for digital art, graphic design, and photography. Graphic Tech is just another new horizon on the technological landscape that I want to learn, explore, and share.

Moving forward I have a new vision, and this is where a great opportunity lies. I want to infuse and develop my use of ICT in the classroom along with my budding knowledge of Graphic Tech and Digital Photography. With access to computers, mobile devices and an email address, students will be able to take their work  one step further into the digital age. They can learn, explore, upload, share, discuss, and reflect on their learning, all online. My students could use online photo sites to store and share photos; upload previously made art into a digital poster to make it interactive; create their own video tutorials; publish and contribute to blogs to document their learning, creations, and reflections; and ultimately learn to use ICT and social media as a powerful learning tool in a safe and ethical way.

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