Technology Explosion

The last two months have swirled by on a sea of technology-enriched learning experiences.  Technology usage and integration has exploded in my classroom and this blog post documents some of the tools and experiences that students have been engaging with.

Book Creator for Math Reflections
Students at the American School of Bombay are expected to keep a digital portfolio  “The purpose of the ES ePortfolio is to provide tangible evidence of student growth, understanding and reflection. The ePortfolio provides ownership for students’ learning and the direction for establishing new goals.”  I was noticing that students were tiring of creating the same kind of reflective posts within their ePortfolio so I was looking for a different way that they could document their learning journey for a multiplication unit.  I decided to use Book Creator and was happy with the result as it:

  • allowed students to tell a learnng story,
  • focused on process over product; and
  • allowed the integration and practice of other skills (fluency, visual literacy, digital citizenship)

I had worked with Book Creator in the past with students creating narrative stories and on reflection I thought that their learning is also a story to be told so why not create it in a book format.  Here’s a finished product:
How have you used Book Creator in a different way?

To really maximise the experience, my students need more opportunities to work with this tool so they can enhance their own skill level.  As you can see from the example, there are areas that I could coach into with this student regarding layout/placement of images and other tips and tricks of Book Creator. 

However, my goal is to build student Tech Toolbox.  I want students to know that this tool is now in their tech tool box and they can continue to build their expertise by using it for other purposes.  When needed, they can make an informed choice of what tool to use to suit their objectives.  I want to student to ask themselves, “What tool would best suit the situation?”  In a busy school year, I often find students are often taught to use a tool once in a particular unit and move onto the next without getting more opportunities for using the tool.  

Image by author
Image by author

Applying Our Coding Skills
Last year, my students participated in the Hour of Code and I saw how engaging and challenging this was for my class.  I wanted to build on this and use their developing coding skills to investigate patterns of the multiplication tables.  Students had previously created Spirolaterals of the times table (2-9) by hand and looked for patterns across different tables.  


flickr photo shared by Natural Math under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

This was challenging as students had to follow a sequence of steps and repeat (kind of like a code right?).  They were kind of coding themselves to make a pattern by doing a series of steps repeatedly.

Image by author
Image by author

This gave me the idea that they might be able to write a code using Turtle Art to create the spirolateral.  Some students found it easier to do it by hand, others found it easier to do using Turtle Art and this was an interesting class discussion in itself.  More about Spirolaterals for times tables.

Image of student work by author

 

Global Book Clubs
Students have also been using technology to participate in Global Book Clubs which is my Course 5 project.  Full details to come in a later post, but just as an update, the project has been very successful.  There was a visible increase in alertness in the classroom as they interacted with students from other international schools.  Audience matters as was evident in their efforts to produce blog posts and conduct discussions with depth and precision.  There has been a lot of blogging and commenting going on the last few weeks keeping me very busy as I’ve myself been captivated by what students are saying about their books.  There were also opportunities for students to skype with their groups.  

Home-School Communication
Lastly, with all the awesome work happening in the classroom I was feeling thankful that I was a part of a wonderful group of kids and getting to see their learning in action. I really wanted parents to see inside the classroom a bit more and see what I see. They get the weekly newsletter from me which gives a lot of detail of the learning that is planned for the week.  I decided to create a Closed Facebook group in order to post images and videos to bring the learning alive.  This has allowed for better communication with parents of the day to day learning moments.

Screenshot by author
Screenshot by author

Last Thoughts
Our school hosted a conference in February (ASBUnplugged) and I caught up with an old colleague.  I was telling him about the Global Book Club project that was getting started in the classroom.  He asked a very good question and that is:  “How do you make these kind of experiences part of the curriculum so that it doesn’t leave when the teacher leaves?”  This question or idea has been playing over in my mind since we talked.  It’s a valid and relevant question and at the time I didn’t have an answer.

My COETAIL course 5 project aims to weave technology integration, digital citizenship, global collaboration, visual literacy, English Language Arts standards and redefine practice; Then shouldn’t it (or something like it) be happening in all the fourth grade classes each and every year?

I’m wondering how our new approaches garnered through our professional development experiences are sustained and not left to become a once off.  I’d like to get some good discussion going on this point as I think it is probably relevant for all of us taking COETAIL course.  You may be thinking of this already and have plans to how you can take your new learnings, skills and understanding to a level beyond your own classroom and I’d love to hear how you plan to do this.

 

2 Replies to “Technology Explosion”

  1. Hi Tracy! Your colleague brought up a good question. I’ve been reading about your project and it seems like such a great experience for your students! But, I’m wondering if it’s a good idea to make something that works for one teacher and one group of students something that’s part of the curriculum and required of all teachers and all students, every year. We already have shared standards and objectives we have to help our students meet, but I would hope there is room for flexibility in how we help get them there. To me, the ideal would be an efficient way of sharing our successful projects and lessons with other teachers in our school, in the same way that we share them in online settings, in the hopes of inspiring each other and collaborating with one another. Often I think our ideas come up randomly in informal conversations with other teachers, and I think many teachers are sometimes too humble to bring up something they’re really proud of and could work well for others. Wondering what others feel about this, though…

    1. Hi Tara,
      I’m definitely an advocate of flexibility and choices and like your thoughts around sharing our projects to inspire others. I would not prescribe this exact project to any of my colleagues but I would encourage and support those that are looking for a way to integrate technology and form global connections by sharing my own experiences. Also, every educator’s journey is different. I wouldn’t have been ready for this 3 years ago even 1 year ago.
      There are two things I hope for:
      That I create a similar experience for my students next year. It won’t be exactly the same because I will continue to grow in my own skills and understandings of technology integration and redefinition. The project might happen at a different time of year, with different schools, and the students are different and may need a different experience – many variables that will play a role in how it might look.
      That I will inspire another educator to start their own global project – on whatever scale they choose.

Leave a Reply to Tara Barth Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *