Mrs. Mansfield's Middle Ground
Classroom Uses of Technology

Although I hope that my access to technology will increase in time, I currently employ a number of technological resources.  Technology is used in two basic ways in my classroom.  The first use of technology is to support the teacher while the second involves supporting the learner.  

In the domain of the teacher, technology is used as a productivity tool and expertise-building resource.  I currently use Microsoft Office and web applications to keep records related to students and materials.  While hardly cutting edge, these basic applications allow me to document a body of evidence that can be easily searched, sorted and compared.  For example, I maintain my lesson plans for each year in a word processing file. This allows me to quickly access the previous year’s lessons and search for necessary information via keyword.  It allows me to keep and maintain accurate records of instruction, making changes quickly and easily in a format that is much easier to transport than a traditional lesson plan book. 

I also record information too extensive for physical files.  I have documents related to reading materials for various genres, including lexile levels, reading levels, and page length.  I maintain records of resources such as rubrics, reading lists, and graphic organizers from districts around the country that I can then easily access for use in my own classroom. I also maintain records related to classroom management, which help me track, identify, and address concerns, thus limiting them.  

Technology is also an important communication tool.  Unlike years ago, when teachers had to rely on memos, telephone calls, and notes home, technology has increased both the frequency and ease of communication with other school employees as well as families.  A vast body of evidence shows that parental involvement is a significant factor in student achievement. These communications may be specific to the student or more general, such as updates about classroom events and units of study.  I use a number of methods to collaborate with my colleagues and communicate with students and parents on a daily basis.  These methods include e-mail, google documents, Skyward grading system, as well as my weebly website,

In addition to increasing my productivity in these ways, it has also allowed me to differentiate instruction by removing obstacles that have prevented me from doing so in the past.  Two examples which I will discuss in further detail include the sweatshop mini-projects and wiki-based literature groups.  These will be discussed in more detail when I explain student uses of technology.

As a secondary teacher, it is vital to develop expertise in one’s content area.  Although I am highly qualified to teach both English language arts and social studies, it is a priority for me to stay abreast of new developments in these fields as well as education in general. The Internet enables me to access vast sources of information on a specific subject, to learn how other educators have approached similar problems of practice, and to conduct scholarly research.  In addition, I am able to use RSS feeds to create a steady flow of information from the electronic media that I have deemed most valuable. In addition, I harness the power of social bookmarking to keep track of my favorite resources while cataloging them for access by others, whose bookmarks I may access in return.  Even professional development is available at no or low cost online via the world wide web, YouTube, various intermediate school districts, and education-oriented sites such as Discovery Education.  Finally, I also advance my professional credentials not only by taking traditional university courses but also by taking online courses.

Just as I use technology to increase my efficiency and knowledge, my students use technology as a means of accessing and processing information.  My students receive information from a variety of sources.  Examples include movies from Discovery Education, outline maps from a variety of sources, as well as a variety of readings. They also work directly with materials I have created for them using Microsoft Office or web-based applications such as puzzle makers.  In addition, students search the web for relevant resources. Yesterday, social studies students used the internet to find articles, websites, and photos to use on a variety of “mini-projects” related to sweatshops as part of our economics unit.  Student use of technology allows me to differentiate instruction and provide choice to my middle school students who may choose from a variety of project ideas or propose an idea of their own.  The lesson in this case is differentiated according to both student interests and ability.  

Students also use simulations such as StocksQuest and webquests, such as the Indus Valley WebQuest which I modify to fit our curriculum. The webquests often use an inquiry approach to develop knowledge while building research skills, which are increasingly important given the amount of information students will have to process in their lifetimes.  I have also created web-based applications, such as the Meriwether Lewis: At the End of the Trail  webquest, which I adapted from an existing lesson. The Corps of Discovery: What was Its Greatest Achievement? DBQ is an inquiry-based lesson that I conceptualized and created to build historical expository writing skills.

Students also use technology to create content and build skills.  My eighth grade ELA students write “life lists” which they post to our wiki, Mansfield’s Middle Ground.  This is done as a community builder but also provides an opportunity for me to introduce the wiki, create excitement, and teach the requisite technology skills for future wiki use.  Students also use the wiki to respond to literature and engage in thoughtful literature discussions.   Unlike a face-to-face discussion, online discussion provides opportunities for students to reflect on their ideas and those of others; it also increases writing engagement.  It also allows me to differentiate instruction by differentiating materials. Students are assigned one of four texts based on their reading level, reading confidence, and genre experience and interests as self-identified in a survey I administer at the beginning of the unit.  Regardless of text, all students are provided with challenging intellectual material enriched by the opportunity to construct understanding by socially collaborating with their peers online.

Moving Forward with Technology