Technology in the Classroom

I’m currently living my dream job. The American School of Bombay embraces innovation and preparing our students for the future: “The future is now at ASB – Technology is an integral part of ASB to support creativity and innovation, so that students actively participate in shaping the future.”  

ASB is a mission driven school, We inspire all of our students to continuous inquiry, empowering them with the skills, courage, optimism, and integrity to pursue their dreams and enhance the lives of others.”, and technology plays an important role in actualising this mission.  We are surrounded by human resources to help make this happen.  Our tech team support us by being a part of our planning and teaching and providing professional development through various avenues: blogs, online learning platforms (ASB Academy), and, on-site conferences (ASBUnplugged). We have tech support on each floor that support us minute by minute to ensure a smooth flow throughout the day. There is also an onsite research and development team who are constantly innovating and exploring new technologies. I’m literally surrounded with technology and it’s so much a part of our everyday lives that I hadn’t realised how infused it is – it’s in my DNA.  Technology is an important part of who we are and supports us in our endeavors to live the school mission.

This is the big picture.  So what does it look like in my classroom?

Students use their laptop throughout the day for a variety of purposes.  Read more about my thoughts on technology integration.  I would say that technology is used at various points of the SAMR model. It is used to substitute many school related activities/tasks which often makes us more efficient at what we do.  For example, students might use an online dictionary to find word meanings rather than traditional dictionaries.  The print dictionaries are still there, but not often utilized as they find it faster on their laptop. Laptops are used for skill practice (e.g. IXL), research (online databases), reading (a suite of online reading resources are available).  But for all these uses, we still do them in other ways too.  For example, we do math skill practice through simple games, we do research using informational books, we read self-selected literature from our school libraries.  Technology is used to do not only enhance learning in these ways, but to transform learning and create new tasks – previously inconceivable.  For example, students have opportunities to create their own media (images, videos, digital stories), contribute to global projects (e.g. If You Lived Here, Hour of Code), and have an authentic and global audience for their work (blogs). 

Photo by ASB
Photo by ASB

I like the categories that @amandashaw used to describe tech usage:  Research, Collaboration, Publishing, Communication. Technology is used for all of these purposes in my classroom.  See where they fit when I describe a typical day using technology:

Students arrive to school and follow some routines including taking their laptop from their bag and putting in the laptop storage shelves. They’ve learned to manage their laptop by bringing it to school charged, and know how to take care of their device. Later that morning, a group of students are investigating words with particular latin/greek derivatives and use online dictionaries to search word meanings. During math workshop, an independent math group may use IXL to review content while another group is using iPads to explore tessellation using an application like Amaziograph.  While involved in a provocation exploring the central idea connected to the unit of inquiry students use a backchannel such as TodaysMeet to record questions, observations, wonderings. Later in self directed independent work on their projects students are using our online research hub to find suitable resources for their research topic while others are finding images to support their digital photostory using VoiceThread.  During the reading workshop, some students may blog about their reading on the class blog. There may be some students publishing their written work during writing workshop using google apps.  Later on, students reflect on a recent field trip to see a musical event and do so by relistening to parts of the performance on their computers and write a response on their e-Portfolio (google site). And just like that, our busy day is done. Students go home and may continue working on some of their projects at home.

Photo by ASB
Photo by ASB

My goals is to support and facilitate students’ learning and help kids acquire tools and attitudes to be successful in an ever increasing complex and technology-rich world. The best place to do this is school as they can experiment, build confidence, and take risks with a safety net.

A technology rich classroom is like cooking.  There are many ingredients, you need to balance all the ingredients, the quality of the ingredients matter, and they all impact the end result.  Also, like cooking you have to keep testing and modifying to keep the perfect balance.


flickr photo shared by NicoleAbalde under a Creative Commons ( BY-ND ) license

May your classroom be blended perfectly for optimal student learning and engagement.

Empowering Our Students

Empowering Our Students

The internet is a powerful medium with vast potential.  Students have at their fingertips all they need to share their voice, ideas, projects, and work.  It’s a powerful tool because of its capacity to connect with many and varied people in a short period of time.  It’s more powerful than other mediums because of its two-way nature.  It also gives students a way to make an impact and spread global awareness.

As educators, I believe we have an important job in guiding and empowering students so they can take advantage of this tool.  If we want our students to make a positive impact in their world using technology (and without), we should be asking ourselves ‘What skills, attitudes, knowledge and understandings do students need to acquire in order to be able to do that?’ and then work towards providing an environment that supports those critical things needed. This question is no different if we were working towards a different end goal.  And the answer could be described by a school’s mission, values, and the curriculum. So essentially what I’m saying is that it is the child’s education (day to day, month to month, year to year) that empowers them to make a positive impact in their world.  That being the case, what we do in our classroom and how we spend our time with kids is critical.

Taking action and empowerment is not about technology, but technology certainly gives students a tool to accomplish change, take action and/or take charge.  How many of your students felt compelled to help our neighbours in Nepal this week?  Did they send emails asking others to support charities?, Ask to do a fundraiser, or Make a poster to create awareness? They have an innate desire to take action on matters that are important to them.

What is essential for this to happen is a learning environment where student can take ownership of what and how they learn, where through modelling and practice they become self directed learners who have multiple experiences of learning through authentic performance task.  Through their units of study, students can be exposed to multiple technological tools that can support students in sharing their learning in appropriate and authentic way.  When the time comes, they will have a toolbox to reach in to and find which tool best fits their goal.


flickr photo shared by jrhode under a  Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Stand back and look at the year and list all the tools that students have used and which students could then go on and use for other purposes when the need is there.  Are the tools they’ve been using varied, relevant and can be used for a range of purposes?  Go ahead and make a list.

Photo by author.
Photo by author.

I know I have hit the right mark in my class when kids come to school asking if they can share something they’ve made at home after being exposed or taught something at school, or when they start using tools for different purposes.  This happened last week after we’d had a couple of sessions using TurtleArt to explore the concept of angles in regular polygons.  Through these two sessions students learned how to program the turtle to make a polygon and figure out the relationship between the number of sides of a polygon and the angle needed to turn the turtle. TurtleArt was introduced to me last year by Gary Stager who was visiting our school.  He ran this session with the support of our Tech Coach.  This year I felt confident to use it in my geometry unit myself.  I got an email that night from my student asking if she could share a project she created that night at home.  The next day she came to school excited to share.

Screenshot by author.
Screenshot by author.

She had taken the skills and knowledge from class and applied it to a totally new project and created a piece of art.  Of course, the ripple effect was the fascinating to watch as others started to think about what they could do with the tool.  It’s a mindset or natural curiosity really and we want to promote that in our classrooms.  We want students to wonder to themselves ‘I wonder how else I could use these skills I have.’  It’s only a matter of time that they start applying the skills to things that matter to them – friendship, social issues, solving problems.

Also, last month, a couple of my students had been working together on an independent project in their spare time, staying in for recess, using 5 minutes here and there.  I didn’t pay it much attention, I just new it was busy and exciting work for them and they always went into a small closed room off our learning space so as not to disturb others (I work in an open learning environment).  A few days later, they were ready and asked if they could share during the morning meeting.  It was to my surprise and delight that they’d created a musical instrument out of various materials and constructed a piece of music with it.  They’d planned and rehearsed their performance and then delivered it in such a way that audience participation was encouraged.  So as well as having tools to work with, another essential item is time.  Kids need time to explore their new skills, knowledge, understandings and follow their passions.

Photo by author.
Photo by author.

This week ask your kids this question:  ‘What do you want to do with your computer?’  And listen to what they say.  Do they say, I want to make a presentation, play a game, write a report, make an infographic.  Behind all of these tools or software I bet there is a deeper desire.  Kids may be conscious or unconscious of this and you can help uncover their real desire to use their computer.  Then ask them, ‘What do you really want to do?’  Probe deeper for the underlying desire they have.  Do they want to connect with like minded kids, spread their work to a larger audience, or document their thinking  This image created by Bill Ferriter really resonated with me when I came across it.  It made me stop and think about some of the conversations I have with my students about the use of technology.


flickr photo shared by William M Ferriter under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

We know there is a lot of things kids can do with technology, but let’s make sure the learning environments that they spend their time in empowers, promotes, supports the potential of technology.  Read Svitak Adora’s article for ideas around supporting students: Five Ways to Empower Students.

 

References:

Svitak, Adora. “Five Ways to Empower Students.” Edutopia, 8 Feb. 2012. Web. 2 May 2015.

 

Application of Learning – Final Project

For the final project I chose a grade 4 unit that I am currently teaching and will teach again next year in order to provide an opportunity to revise a unit and apply my new learnings and understandings from Course 1 while it is fresh in my mind. Some of the changes I’ve been able to implement for this year as the timing worked out and others will be included next year. Right now, students are at the point of designing their own projects so I’ll be able to reflect further in a couple of weeks and perhaps share out some of their work. I wanted this unit to reflect my key learnings for Course 1 which include:

  • my understanding of the connected nature of the internet and its potential and power to transform learning
  • the importance of developing a technology-enriched environment
  • an understanding of the characteristics of the digital natives we teach and learn with every day, and my growing awareness that they have unique funds of knowledge which we can help develop, enhance and build on
  • a focus of intentional planning of the use of technology so it can bring added value to already great teaching and learning environment but in addition provide opportunities to do new things in new ways as well as old thing in new ways

I also wanted to be intentional and aware of my decisions of technology usage (how and when) in this unit and how it connects to various ISTE Standards. While I could see evidence of the standards at various points I wanted to be conscious of it so that I could not only ‘use’ it but also assess students abilities or applications of the skills in order to inform myself about them as a learner and possible next steps in learning. I wanted to hit on multiple standards even though I was only assessing two. In addition, I wanted to be sure the technology was used purposefully throughout the unit and not just at the end so I looked for opportunities where the use of technology would enhance during the research stage as well as used for collaboration, publishing and communication.

As I wanted the learning to be personally meaningful to students, they each developed their own GRASPS project. This is itself was a big learning opportunity as it brought up many conversations about setting a purpose (what’s our goal), and therefore what would be an authentic way to inform/persuade my audience about the topic. So this lead to big discussions and really pushed students into thinking beyond just using a Google Presentation which is their go-to tool. It also encouraged students not to start at the point of choosing a tool. Instead, like when teachers are planning we are starting by thinking of goal or what we hope to achieve and then think how best can I get there and how best can I show/share learning.

Later in the process students did some brainstorming of ways to inform so we could get the idea that there are many ways to share information and we should choose the most appropriate based on our goal and audience. We turned it into a A-Z of tools. I think it is something to leave up for the year as a tool to refer to when thinking about sharing content. I also wanted to be mindful of not starting with a tool/product (e.g. make a video to share learning) as I don’t believe this would allow for true alignment between the goal, role, and audience.  Some of their ideas included:  website, video, blog, presentation, Digital Photostory, Infographic, article.

IMG_4471

Here is the revised unit: