Adventures in Technology: My AP US Government Class

Prior to taking my AP US Government course, I had never  taken an online class before. Naturally, there were a lot of things I wondered about. I had owned a laptop since the fifth grade. I knew how to create a Googledoc and edit footage on iMovie and GarageBand. Still, I never considered myself to be a technology whiz, so I was a little anxious about taking a course online. The first thing that I was required to do for the course was to set up accounts on a plethora of programs, including VoiceThread, WordPress, and Vimeo. It was a lot of technology to take in at one time, but I had no choice but to do my best and see where I would go.

Surprisingly, things ended up not being so difficult. I successfully uploaded a recording to Vimeo. I sentout my first “tweet” on Twitter. The only program that really gave me any difficulty was Voicethread (I occasionally had trouble with the “comment” function), but by asking questions and learning more about the program, I was able to figure everything out. Overall, I don’t find it frustrating to work with new technology. Although I may occasionally run into difficulties, these challenges are also a part of the learning process. By overcoming these challenges, I know that I’ll be more prepared to function in a highly technological world. Today, knowing your way around technology is a must in the workforce, as businesses and governments are communicating with one another in whole new ways.

This brings me to my final point of what I like best about being in an online class. Taking an online course enables me to discuss important issues with people from various locations who have different experiences and opinions. Just a few weeks ago, our AP US Government class watched the State of the Union Address and discussed it on Skype. We have also had several engaging written discussions on different political issues. Overall, I feel that the technology in an online class really helps to facilitate meaningful communication, and I can’t wait to see what we’re going to learn next!

Images courtesy of http://voicethread.com/ and http://vimeo.com/.

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17 comments

    • Hi!

      Thanks for your response! To answer your question, there isn’t really any single technology that I’ve found to be most appealing–I feel that enjoy all of the programs that I’ve mentioned above in my article. They’re great for communicating and having meaningful discussions.

      Thanks again!
      Melissa

      Like

  1. Nice reflection. I’m wondering- in other classes you have taken what kinds of technology have you used? Have they been used in meaningful ways? The reason I ask is I teach HS history in MA and constantly wonder how other teachers and students use tech in class.

    Good luck with class.
    Steve DeBoer
    @WHS_mr_deboer

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    • Hi Mr. DeBoer,

      Thanks! To answer your question, in other classes I’ve primarily used programs such as iMovie and Garageband (and of course traditional programs like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). These programs have been used to facilitate collaboration and creativity among students, as it often takes a group effort to put together a narrated video. Since you teach history, perhaps you could use iMovie to have your students create short documentaries on historical events.

      Thanks again!
      Melissa

      Like

  2. Thanks for your perspective, Melissa!

    One thing I think is really interesting about your account of technology in your online class is that its chief use is to connect with others. Instead of putting together a video presentation just to say that you have done so, you are using Vimeo and Twitter and Skype to communicate. I think often classes that are set up to have the tech as an end unto itself feel forced, while those that use the tech as a medium for connection and expression succeed with it.

    Does that observation square with your experience?

    Thanks,
    Rob

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    • Hi Mr. King,

      Thanks for your response! Yes, I completely agree with you in that technology is a means to encourage meaningful communication instead of an “end unto itself.” The great thing about learning through discussions and/or debates is the fact that you get to see a number of perspectives, not just your own. From that point, you can learn how to defend your own ideas and learn from the experiences of others.

      Thanks again!
      -Melissa

      Like

  3. Hello, Melissa.

    The challenges of technology can sometimes make life difficult yet the rewards can be tremendous. In my case, I started using computers in 1975 while at university. I’d sit working on a computer with only a telex printer to punch holes in cardboard tape in order to store programs. Cassette drives were making an appearance but floppy disks, hard drives, CDs, DVDs and Bluray were a long way into the future for the 8K RAM PDP8 computer I used.

    Educational computing started in 1981 for me as I was in a pilot program in a small country school. Over 30+ years of educational computing, I’ve seen so many changes and huge leaps in capabilities. I still see new things coming along to try and have kept my fascination with the technological advances. I have used all of the features you have mentioned and have become known to many classes around the world because of my visits to blogs and the commenting I do.

    How else would I have come across your post had it not been for a tweet pointing me in the direction of the “OSG’s AP U.S. Government & Politics ” blog?

    Many years ago I predicted the explosion of ideas that would lead to online learning. With this ability available, it no longer matters greatly where you may be in the world as long as you have a computer and good access to the internet.

    A quote from you, “I feel that the technology in an online class really helps to facilitate meaningful communication, and I can’t wait to see what we’re going to learn next!”

    This is the attitude that will take you forward. 🙂

    @RossMannell
    Teacher, NSW, Australia

    Like

    • Hi Mr. Mannell,

      Thanks so much for your response! I think it’s great how you’ve been able to participate in technology’s progression over the years. Indeed, I feel that technology has a number of great benefits, and it will really allow us to learn through meaningful dialogue. Thanks again!

      -Melissa

      Like

  4. Hi Melissa,
    My name is Evan, and I am a student at The University of South Alabama. I am currently learning all about educational technology in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class. My stepfather always said that a computer is only as smart as its user. I feel like my computer is getting smarter every day. The first time I took an online course was through Troy University in Troy Alabama. Believe me, I was just as anxious as you were. I soon found out that I tended to retain information better with most online courses as opposed to the classroom. I think the reason for this was that there was not a teacher around to answer all the simple questions, and it was up to me to find out through personal research. Through that process, the information would stick. However, all that being said, I did not feel the same way about the math courses I took online. For math, I think I would rather be in the classroom. Do you feel like you are retaining more knowledge through your online government class, or would you rather take this kind of course in the classroom?

    I feel the same way you do when it comes to being able to communicate in the “global classroom”. The fact that we can express our opinions in writing and not in person is in many ways a very productive and positive thing. We don’t have to deal with certain biases and stereotypes that may be a part of the classroom environment. I also like the fact that we can express our opinions more freely online without the reservations we might have in the classroom. I think you called this “meaningful communication”. Do you plan to take online courses in college?

    I took a little time to explore your high school and some of the other blogs in your class. I think you should consider yourself lucky to be able to take this kind of course in high school. I am really impressed. I want to teach high school seniors when I get my degree, and government is the course I would prefer if I get the choice. When I was a senior in 2003, my government class was the one I felt prepared me the most for what the world had to offer. I still play golf with my old government teacher just to pick his brain about life and politics. I hope you get as much out of this course as I did. From the look of things, you may even get more.

    I hope you continue to post on your class blog so that I can come back and check it out later. If you would like, you can come see my blog, and I would welcome any comments you may have. I will be writing a summary about your blog and my comment about it on my blog at the end of this month. You should be able to click on my name at the top of this comment for a link. Well, so long until next time, and keep up the great work.

    Like

    • Hi Evan,

      Thanks so much for your reply! To answer your first question, I feel that I’m really learning a lot through my online government class, and I don’t feel that the online environment prevents me from learning better. Since American government is such a discussion-oriented subject, my online course is great in that it allows me to share and interpret ideas with students all across the country. To answer your second question, perhaps I will take online courses in college since I am now familiar with a wider variety of technologies. Thanks again, and best of luck!

      -Melissa

      Like

  5. Hello Melissa,

    I am Keiko, and I am an international student from Japan and a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I am learning about technology in education in this class.
    Your post makes me think. Actually, many children can not use the problems such as VoiceThread, WordPress, and Vimeo in Japan because there is rarely technology tools in Japanese education system. However, I could know technology help students to learn, to understand, and to communicate through this class. I think taht teachers should use technology tools such as computer, iPad, iPod and PowerPoint presentations and teach more clearly. In contrast, I think regular class needs because students have to communicate and speak with friends and teachers face to face. This is important for them to improve their speaking skill. Therefore, I think both regular class and online class are important for students to learn.

    Thanks,
    Keiko Ito

    Like

    • Hi Keiko,

      Thanks so much for your response! I’m so glad that you shared your perspective on technology in the classroom. Indeed, technology is a really important tool that can be used to help students communicate, understand new ideas, and share their opinions. Thanks again!

      -Melissa

      Like

  6. Hello Melissa,

    I think you made some really good points about technology. I have taken a few online classes and they can be overwhelming at times. If you make sure you follow the directions given by the professor you will be just fine. As you stated in the blog taking online classes allow us to communicate with others. We are able to see things from different aspects and perspectives because everyone is required to post. I think online classes are great. I too wasn’t technology savvy when I entered Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. His class is very different from any online classes I have taken. I can honestly say the projects and assignments we do are all new experiences for me. This class will broaden by horizon on technology and allow me to learn how technology can be used with students in my classroom.

    Like

    • Hi LaShunda,

      Thanks for your response! Indeed, understanding technology itself is a challenge prior to taking an online course, but once you become familiar with it, you are able to see all of the benefits it provides. Thanks again, and best of luck in your own online course!

      -Melissa

      Like

  7. Hi Melissa,

    I was terrified to start my Education Technology class. It has so far been a rough journey. There is so much technology that I need to learn to use and become familiar with. I on the other hand have not had good experiences with my online classes at South. The ones I have taken have been memorization courses where I don’t learn very much because there is no active participation. I am glad you have had a more positive experience. Are you planning on taking anymore online courses? Good luck.

    Ash Baumann

    Like

    • Hi Ash,

      Thanks for your reply! I’m sorry to hear about your challenges in your own online course. Hang in there–at the beginning the technology might seem overwhelming, but once you become more familiar with it, you’ll be able to have an easier time working with it. To answer your question, I may perhaps take more online courses in the future, especially since I now have a better understanding of more technological programs. Thanks again, and best of luck!

      -Melissa

      Like

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