- Emergency Preparedness Distance Learning - October 18, 2016
- Educational Renaissance: Veteran Teachers Vest in Change - October 10, 2016
- Breaking out of the Norm with Breakout Edu - April 29, 2016
- Mini Thought Bubble on Performance Assessments - April 12, 2016
- The Sensibilities of Mind Mapping - March 15, 2016
- Pioneering Nearpod - January 28, 2016
- Classroom Work Flow Before the Holidays - December 15, 2015
- Surviving the Doldrums of Education - December 1, 2015
- E-Sub Plans for Educators - November 17, 2015
- Presenting Missing Histories - November 2, 2015
You may know me as a proponent of 1:1 digital technology in the classroom. But I begin my year with two traditional forms of learning: face to face communication and lots and lots of paper. Earlier in the summer I retweeted this comment found through an #edchat: "I teach critical thinking not apps." This is true in a sense. It simultaneously gave me both frustration and an "aha" moment. True, teachers should focus on skills and not the latest gizmo or exciting novelty for their classroom, but let us not make the mistake of thinking that apps are shortcuts to learning. Application of knowledge through the introduction of tools is what teachers do all of the time. We can not, nor should we, ignore the ease or availability of digital technologies that students access. More than ever, educators need to be invested in the exploration and experimentation of applicable tools for learning while providing a fail safe to fall back on when the choices made are less than satisfying. My "aha" is the realization that paper is that base for balancing traditional teaching methodology with the following changes:
1. There must be more than one pathway for achieving a classroom goal.
2. Teachers need to model success and experimentation (er...mishap) with digital apps
3. Students engage when they can choose from a selection of choice applications for achieving learning targets or goals.
4. Paper is a choice application.
Our school technology team must prep 700 iPads with class apps, safety programs and personal settings. This takes a couple of weeks to accomplish which gives me time to get to know students and help them build classroom portfolios. Power outages, family crisis, violation of digital citizenship have factored in limiting student access to a mobile device but it should not disrupt a student's ability to learn or to view learning as flexible. Student portfolios are kept in crates by the door for immediate access and engagement. Graphic organizers include daily records for vocabulary, summative analysis of current events and geography inventories. Starting students with daily routines eases the transition to digital tools and meets the needs of students who struggle with literacy skills. Initial activities require students to establish lists or sketches of what they already know. For example, students keep their first freehand map of the world. All year long as they increase in their fluency of geography they can refer back to this initial map and chart their own progress. Grades based on progress become a source of pride. Students will use a variety of digital apps: puzzles, flashcards or spy games that give them some personal connections to geography but that map portfolio is where they document the accumulated knowledge.
I enjoy beginning class with a survey question to engage students in the study of words. Especially when we begin with simple terms that we think we know until we try to brainstorm related terms or illustrate our knowledge. Asking students to put a term in their own words becomes an engaging informal discussion. I teach the etymology or roots of words and let them choose how to record that new understanding . With digital technologies, students discover how to share vocabulary terms in Quizlet or they become Twitter fans of @membean. A plethora of cartoon videos can be found that demonstrate the power of a particular word. These tools increase student access and contact with literacy but the notebook is still the best documentation of how that understanding is applied.
@JimCollins did his best to document "How E-Reading Threatens Learning in the Humanities." From my own experience, I find just the opposite. If students treat digital and paper as the same technology it is possible that very little can be gained from them. Paper can be annotated and carried anywhere, no battery needed. Despite the battery issue E- readers can do the same. I actually use the accessible dictionaries, have words pronounced for me, follow tangential images or videos accompanying that reading. E-readers give students multiple experiences with a space, an idea, a word and my students use them in this way. In truth, some readings will always be best experienced through paper whereas most current news worthy events are best read online.
I think understanding the current state of the world is the result of shared discussion, evaluation of a story told and choosing what reporters or programs to follow. Being able to substitute one source for another is a great way to engage in literacy. Again, I start students in class, all together studying one event. I am able to poll students, request predictions share video coverage of an event all within the walls of the room. I model dissection of a news story repeatedly. I teach them how to categorize events and judge the validity of a source. I can engage them in accepting the value of more than one source before I move them forward with digital databases. Students actually enjoy discussing one source of news over another, using feeds to aggregate these sources or discovering apps for following a story. Releasing students to make choices in what they learn and who they follow to learn forces them to seek relevance.
I keep a bulletin board updated with images, polls and or surveys in a hallway near the classroom. In the first few days of school students post something to this board. I post images, table or snapshots of quick facts with requests to leave a comment Even though it is static, they know to scavenge the board for in class clues or answers to questions. They know that their search for patterns is slower that the instant response of social media tools but they seem to enjoy this pace. It is a pace they own. So, in conclusion, while I am excited to jump into a second year of the 1:1 iPad classroom paper will play an important role in setting students up for success. Paper really is all about that base.