EdTech 541 Obstacles in Integrating Technology into Content Areas

I chose three content areas to focus my content area activities on during this course.  For the first week I chose language arts activities.  Incorporating technology into language arts is easy if the infrastructure is in place within the school/classroom.  Students are able to use  computers and apps for reading and language arts/writing activities frequently throughout the week.  While I did not do any activities on math or science, these subjects are also easier to integrate technology with.

The second week I chose  social studies/primary source activities which was also easy as primary source documents are so easy to access now through technology.  Time in a computer lab is really the biggest obstacle when it comes to social studies.  Most teachers use their lab time for writing activities as the writing portion of year-end testing is now more rigorous than it ever has been before.  Obviously the solution to this issue is to combine social studies with writing activities if lab time is limited.  However, even a projector and single teacher classroom can still bring great opportunities into the classroom with rich historical content.

This past week I have focused my content area activities on art, health and physical education.  Of the three content area I chose, this by far was the most difficult to imagine working in my particular school.  Our students simply don’t get much time on a computer and there are no portable devices to be had at all.  While the assignment this week was so fun and I could envision using it in the classroom, the infrastructure is truly the biggest obstacle.  Even if my students all had access to iPads on a daily basis, they go to prep classes for P.E., art, and health.  Art would be the easiest to integrate and health wouldn’t be as difficult but P.E. might be the most difficult.  While I thought it was more difficult, it wasn’t impossible.  Most P.E. teachers use their time to really get kids moving although researching historical games would be a fun way to incorporate it.  Just this week I heard my 9-year-old daughter talk about how they were doing MAP testing.  She said that she hated testing but that her teacher made it fun because they took little breaks and did “Dance Dance Revolution.”  As I probed further, she said that nobody held the WII controllers, her teacher just put it on the screen and everyone danced for a little break.  I thought this was brilliant and had totally forgotten about gaming consoles and how they can be utilized in the classroom.  No, there is no points scored for the game itself, but it is certainly a quick and easy way to get kids moving when things get slow and tiresome in the classroom.  After thinking about this a while longer, I was reminded of the school I used to work at in Utah.  When temperatures dropped below 20 degrees, if it is raining, or if the air quality is poor, the students are held inside for recess.  With over 1,000  elementary-aged students in the school, this was a huge challenge for kids that needed to move.  The P.E. teachers would wheel T.V.’s into the common areas and encourage kids to do activities on the XBox Connect or Wii Fit programs.  No one held the controllers, they were just moving and having fun.

I believe the true art of teaching is being able to include multiple content area into one lesson.  If we don’t then we will never get through all the standards we are supposed to address.  With high-stakes testing at the forefront of the media and the fact that so many students are even taking those tests as early as February (with 3 more months of learning still to go), teachers absolutely have to get creative and include as much content  in the shortest amount of time. Teachers are also being forced to focus  on the content areas that will be tested the most heavily on which is just such a disservice to our students.

Sadly, one of the biggest obstacles isn’t really technology at all, it is time and the lack thereof.  The next great obstacle to technology integration is infrastructure.  I know that most of my colleagues would love to be able to use technology across all content areas but sadly, not all schools have the same opportunities for this.  Our school has one classroom set of iPads to share with the entire K-5 school.  This means that students get an iPad once a month if they are lucky however, when all students are logged on to the Wi-Fi at once, the bandwidth cannot accommodate them and they are routinely logged off multiple times.  Students visit the computer lab 40 minutes a week (two 20-minute sessions), which is barely enough time to get logged on and logged back off.

With all the demands placed on a teacher, I can understand why technology integration hasn’t evolved enough.  It is a sad reality and with Idaho being dead last in student funding across the United States, It isn’t likely to change anytime soon.  I get very excited about all the activities I have created and know how wonderful it would be to  be able to use them, but then reality of the infrastructure rears its ugly head.  In the preface of our textbook it states “Technology is, by definition, intended to be part of our path to a better life, rather than an obstacle in its way.”  I know that at my age of 42, I have many years ahead of me and that someday the State of Idaho will catch up and I will be able to use what I have been working hard on in this program.

Jen Crook – EdTech 541

Content Area Choice 3: Art, Music, & P.E.

Over the course of these last three Content Area Choice lessons/activities, I have combined my content area of third to fifth grade language arts/writing with other curriculum content areas. As per fourth grade Common Core State Standards, students study the Oregon Trail extensively. All three of my Content Area Choice lessons/activities revolve around the common theme of “Life on the Oregon Trail.” This art, music, & P.E. lesson will connect my current content area focus of language arts,writing, reading (fluency and comprehension) with the Oregon Trail activities.

Content Area Choice #3: Art, music, and P.E. learning activities includes two parts. The directions in Part One was to create an interactive poster. I chose Smore, a free interactive flyer tool. Part two of this lesson will involve an activity using one or more of the resources I linked in Smore.


Part 1: Interactive Flyer created with Smore

As per assignment directions: I need to have at least 10 “Arts” resources – with at least 2 from each of the “arts” areas: Art, PE, and Music, AND at least 3 of those links need to be some type of media – video or audio.

For children struggling with reading comprehension and fluency, reading primary source documents can be difficult to learn in any subject but particularly an unfamiliar time period as with the mid 19th century. Teaching through games, music, art, plays/readers theaters, etc., students will find a greater joy not only for the topic but for the literature they will encounter. Terms and definitions specific to the time period will make more sense if they have been exposed to it previously through an activity.

  • Art: Oregon Trail, The Play. Without movies, iPads, cellphones, television, etc., children had to use their imaginations. Children would often create plays and perform for their friends and family. The Bureau of Land Management National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center has a great resource for educators free for downloading. This 158 page document is full of resources, activities, games and stories to learn about the Oregon Trail. Pages 74-88 is a play written for students. This is a fun activity to not only learn about life on the trail, but showcase knowledge either in front of a camera or live to parents.
  • Art: Photographs. While students can read journals and diaries of life on the trail, nothing can bring the topic to life better than a good sketch or photograph. Combining a visual image with text is powerful and deepens understanding. Have students choose one photograph from the linked website and write a 5 paragraph story about what might be happening in the photo.
  • Art: Sketches. Cameras were available but not many people had the opportunity to own one. Instead of shooting a photograph with our cell phones, the pioneers relied on a paper and a pencil to record life on the trail. These were called drawings or sketches. This collection from the Library of Congress has many options for students to study and make connections to.
  • Music: Song Sheets. “For most of the nineteenth century, before the advent of phonograph and radio technologies, Americans learned the latest songs from printed song sheets” Library of Congress. This Library of Congress resource contains 4,291 sheets of music in the collection. Not to be confused with sheet music, song sheets are single printed sheets, usually six by eight inches, with lyrics but no music. Song sheets also contained art work. Students would enjoy browsing through the various songs/lyrics/artwork to get an idea of what was popular in the mid 1800’s.
  • Music: Campfire Music. Pioneers were very talented and enjoyed singing and dancing. While dragging a piano across the plains didn’t happen often, many people played the fiddle and other light-weight instruments for entertainment. This collection of audio music (accessible through YouTube) is a great sampler of music the travelers would enjoy listening to and playing in the evening after a long day of walking.
  • P.E.: Chain Tag and Blind Man’s Bluff outdoor games. Children on the Oregon Trail did not attend school like we know it. They were taught along the trail and they truly didn’t have much need for a physical education program like we have now. Children covered around 20 miles a day just walking. It wasn’t uncommon for children to rush ahead of the train to avoid the dust and play games with each other. Between the many miles of walking, playing games, and manual chores, children received no shortage of physical exercise.
  • P.E.: Fox and Geese game. With shorter daytime hours and less outdoor chores, children still needed to find entertainment in the winter. This games is best for snow because the shape of a wagon wheel is marked in the snow depicting quadrants and safe zones.
  • Video: Oregon Trail Old West Journey by Rick Thorne although over 15 minutes long is an excellent resource to use an introduction of the Oregon Trail unit. The video is filled with wonderful information and photographs.
  • Video: Pioneer Pride Dancing. Students in Mrs. Roberts class perform time-period dances for video production. As many 4th grade students learn the various dances during the Oregon Trail simulation unit, this resource would be a great way to introduce the idea to students and show them that other students had done it before AND had fun!
  • Audio: Buffalo Gals. Students will enjoy exploring various music from the mid 19th century. It is likely that many of the tunes/songs will be familiar and catchy enough to hear humming all day long.

Part 2: Lessons/Activities for Students

Learner Description: Learners are 4th grade students learning about the Oregon Trail through a variety of daily activities.

Teacher Note: All links in the flyer are click-able and will take you to the source for more information. In the flyer, there are 9 activity ideas. I will only be addressing and expanding on three.

Activity 1: Write your own lyrics!

    • Students will collaborate and work together to write a verse to a song.
    • Students will perform together for video and publication.
Activity Directions

It has long been proven that music is a valuable teaching tool. Most people remember their alphabet and the order of the letters by frequently humming the song while alphabetizing words thanks to the catchy tune of the alphabet song. Many students have learned all 50 states through song as well. It is also interesting to note that students can learn about history through songs such as those I referenced in my flyer. We can question, “what was the author thinking about when he/she wrote those lyrics?” “What were the circumstances of the economy at the time?” “What can we learn from this particular song?”

      • The teacher will divide the class into 4 groups.
      • Each group will be responsible for writing one verse to the tune of Buffalo Gals. Students will need to review the resources for this activity and understand what a verse is.
      • The Students will practice their verse and prepare to perform in front of the class.
      • After students have rehearsed as a group several times, the teacher will direct each group in round-robin style to come in on the cue of the music. This version of music does not include any lyrics. Students will need to listen through a few times before performing.
      • After multiple rehearsals, the teacher can film the song and publish it to the class blog or Edmodo site.
Connection to Content Area

The writing of lyrics is a language arts/writing activity.

Activity 2: Quilt Activity

Teacher will review the purpose of quilting (via the resources linked in the flyer), the history of quilting and even how it applies to math skills. While quilting served many practical purposed, it was also considered quite an art. Most quilts involved very detailed patterns of geometric shapes as the design. Although some quilts include a picture, most during this era were of geometric shape and design.

      • Students will create their own 4×4 paper quilt block (or more than one if time permits)in a repetitive geometric design.
Activity Directions
      • Teacher will pre-cut multiple 4×4 pieces of white paper.
      • Students will read about and complete a KWL chart on the history and artistry of quilt making from the websites provided in the links on the flyer.
      • The teacher will show several examples of patchwork quilts from Google Images.
      • Students will use colored pencils to create their own 4×4 quilt block and design it attractively with repeating patterns. A ruler and pencil is highly recommended.
      • Teacher will attach them all on a bulletin board for display.

Examples of quilt designs

Connection to Content Area

Students will read about and complete a KWL chart on the history and artistry of quilt making.

Activity 3: Pioneer Games

Pioneer games have been popular for many decades. Only in recent years have children opted for electronics over physical play. Exposing children to fun games of the past is a great way to get children active and having fun as a group.

      • Students will read the directions of the games and then play at recess or P.E.
Activity Directions
      • Have students follow the links to the games linked on the flyer. Have a class discussion and possibly even use the SmartBoard to visually demonstrate how the game will work.
      • Discuss the rules for play
      • Practice and play during recess/P.E.
Connection to Content Area

Students will be required to read and use comprehension strategies to learn how to play a new game.

English Language Arts Standards – Writing – Grade 4

Research to Build and Present Knowledge


Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.


Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Social Studies Standards Grade 4

Standard 2.1 Students will understand how Utah’s history has been shaped by many diverse people, events, and ideas.

b. Explore points of view about life in Utah from a variety of cultural groups using primary source documents.

c. Explore cultural influences from various groups found in Utah today (e.g. food, music, religion, dress, festivals).

e. Explain the importance of preserving cultural prehistory and history, including archaeological sites and other historic sites and artifacts.


Audio Recordings Turkey in the Straw. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/item/afcreed000091/

Books Dancing and prompting, etiquette and deportment of society and ball room. (1864). Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/resource/musdi.002.0?st=gallery

Children’s birthday games – Blind Man’s Buff. (2011, July 6). Retrieved from https://birthdaycandles.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/childrens-birthday-games-blind-mans-buff/

Early Settlement of North Dakota. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ndstudies.org/resources/activites/es/pioneer.html

English Language Arts Standards » Reading: Literature » Grade 4. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2015, from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RL/4/

History of Quilts. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.quilting-in-america.com/History-of-Quilts.html

Library of Congress Home | Library of Congress. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/

Picnic games. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.greatgrubclub.com/picnic_games#.VRYlSUY2xNN

Pioneer Quilts: A Comfort Through Hardship. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.womenfolk.com/quilting_history/pioneer.htm

Teaching Cross-Country Skiing: Fox and Geese. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/fox-and-geese-creates-fun-while-learning

The Oregon Trail: Education Resource Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blm.gov/or/oregontrail/files/TBKS_opt.pdf

Thorne, R. (2012, October 6). Oregon trail old west journey. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_E7MJu34sQk</p>

Willow Springs. (2013, July 29). Pioneer pride dancing. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=du7SxV0o6K8</p>

Yoshikarter1. (2011, February 20). Oregon trail II music – “Long, long ago” east town theme 2. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/M4pDXmysNyc?list=PLAE18021362A0EFBF

#EdTech 541


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s