Teaching Children Effectively in the Classroom

Praxis:Prax”is, n. [NL., fr. Gr. ?, fr. ? to do. See Practice.] 1. Use; practice; especially, exercise or discipline for a specific purpose or object
Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

My definition of praxis evolved through my time in graduate school, where I was exposed to the ideas of reflective practice and had the opportunity to critically examine why teachers do what they do. Praxis, I believe, is the why of teaching as well as the what.

My praxis right now as a technology education teacher is function of the curriculum, the physical environment of my school, my education and training as well as my reflection on the experiences I have had as a teacher. In practice this is manifested in a continual examination of what is “effective.” I am fortunate enough to teach with in a technology enriched environment (over 180 computers, 5 windows NT servers all manner of peripherals etc.) and an innovative technologically literate staff. There is a temptation to continue doing what I have always done given the successes at Bishops College but it still isn’t quite perfect.

I am still seeking new approaches to integrating ICT into the curriculum, new ways of engaging students. Vital to the vision was the integration of technology in the curriculum outside technology courses. We have always maintained that technology must be more than an add-on to a traditional curriculum and that if technology is to be used successfully in schools, it must be integrated into the learning environment and made accessible to students whenever and wherever they need it. Today at Bishops College all students study technology and technology enriched courses (e.g. all students must make multimedia presentations and write an electronic term paper).

As a science teacher I always worked towards an inquiry based hands on approach making use of demonstrations simulations and traditional laboratory exercises as much as possible. Now that my role is entirely as a technology teacher I have continued in this direction to an even more constructivist approach. I believe that I have had great success with providing my students with the tools and access necessary for them to construct their own knowledge. while I am an advocate of this approach especially for technology education, I am still constantly amazed with the quality of the projects that my students produce.

Project Based Learning:
Project Based Learning examines central concepts of a curriculum, involves students in meaningful problem-solving activities. This approach allows my students to work independently to construct their own knowledge. Whenever possible the results in a relevant “real world” product. For example my students quite often produce a word processed resume which they are strongly encouraged to use in their summer-time and part-time job applications. I also strive to have my students bring projects assigned in other courses to the technology lab so they can use the skills acquired in technology education to research, design and complete those tasks. The skills and experiences involved in such a processes are essential in today’s working and learning worlds. Project Based Learning is driven by problem solving approaches, in technology education we call it the design process or the design cycle. As often as possible we integrate other disciplines, using the project assigned in another subject as a problem to solve through a technological solution.

Formative Evaluation
Over the past few years we have been investigating the uses of web based digital portfolios as a tool for students showcasing their work and as a means for evaluation. I have followed the work of Dr. Helen Barrett with some interest. Dr. Ray Pastore also has a very helpful site developed. Digital portfolios are especially useful to help students see the big picture. Some technology education courses can seem to be disassociated units of skills and projects. Having students create a digital portfolio over the course of the entire academic year sews a common thread through the projects allowing the students to see their course as a complete body of work. As the buzz phrase says Digital Portfolios show a “richer picture” of the students work. Periodic “show and tell” sessions are a fun way to provide students with constructive feedback on their progress.

I have found that allowing a student to improve a project after receiving an initial mark encourages them to take more pride in their work. This method of pencil marking as I call it, is also a reflection of the design cycle which is integral to the technology education curriculum.
For a number of years now I have been constructing some on-line quizzes. Usually my students help in this process by suggesting questions for inclusion in the quiz. Students can use these web-based instruments to check their own knowledge of the unit they are currently studying.