Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Getting Beyond the WOW and to the WHY

My school is transitioning to a 1:1 school next year.  I have the privilege to be on the Digital Transition Leadership Team.  We are looking at trying to make this transition easier for the teachers on our campus.  Our biggest concern is having our teachers embrace the transition and see how this can radically enhance our students' learning.

As I think about it more, I know it is important to stress that technology integration needs to get beyond the WOW factor and into the WHY.

Technology is so exciting and full of a lot of wow factors.  Using virtual reality, augmented reality, amazing creation apps, and so many other tools can really impressed the students.  As teachers, we must get beyond the WOW and into the WHY.  We are still the teacher.  We still create the learning experiences for our students.  The digital tool is just that, a digital tool.  This is a big push for me. Get beyond the WOW.  It is so hard because there are so many things that are so cool.  If the students can't see the WHY, then the learning experience has been lost.

A few weeks ago, Google Expeditions came to my school and demonstrated virtual reality for the students.  They were wowed like I've rarely seen them.  It was insanely impressive.  Students all day were talking about how awesome it was and were complaining if there classes weren't doing the activities.  I know I will definitely use it in my classes.  But, now I need to figure out the WHY of the experience.  I know the students would love spending time virtually visiting places, but it will get old quickly if that's all we do.  To incorporate this meaningfully, I must find the WHY of the tech integration.  I could have my students look through the Google cardboard every day, but without framing it correctly, I would just have a flashy show without any content or a valuable learning experience for the students.

I know a lot of different apps and tools that I could do something different every day next week. However, if the learning is not the focus in my planning, my "cool" lessons will be nothing more than busy work.  It's funny how students can see right through things.  They have no problem calling you out on assigning them busy work.  Just because it is using technology doesn't mean that learning and deepening understanding is the focus of the lesson.

Teachers, as you start to integrate technology more in your lesson planning, don't forget what you've learned about good teaching and learning.  Wowing the students, although impressive in our day-in-age, will only get you so far.  They want to learn in the classroom.  They want to use their technology.  It is our job to integrate technology and learning in such a way that the students can see the WHY of the technology, and allow themselves to be wowed by the learning that just happened!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Stream Teaching, part 4- Small group rotations

45 students, 3 teachers, 8 groups, 2 campuses...

Today, we tried something really different in our stream teaching pilot.  We did small group rotations.  Small group rotations is a great teaching strategy.  We wanted to see if we could take this to the next level and do the groups virtually.  Although we experienced a slow start getting the technology working for us, it ended up being a success.  Here's what we did.

Mr. Irvin at Jones and I created 5 minute videos for 2 different stations.  The students would go to this station and listen to our videos discussing geographic models and take notes.  After that, the students rotated to another station with some guiding questions about the videos they just watched. Here the students were able to interact with the students at the other campus to process the video they watched.  This deepened the level of understanding of the students.  After they completed the guiding questions, they moved to another station where Mr. Irvin and I were there discussing the aspects of the models and answer any questions they may still have.  I was fielding questions from both schools via the computer.  It was pretty cool discussing with the students on the other campus and helping them understand the concepts even better.

The students then went to a station where my senior intern discussed another aspect of economic growth a country may use.  She was excited to work with the students at the other school as well. This gives her even more experience working with a diverse group of students.  

I really love the potential this has for the students on both campuses.  I felt more connected to the students at Jones today more so than I ever have in the past.  I was having discussions with them about the content just as I would my own students.  I didn't see them just as the students on the other side of the computer today that Mr. Irvin teaches.  I felt they were my students as well today.  I wanted them to understand the concepts.  My students were discussing with them as well, and that makes the connections even more powerful.  Previously, it's just been our two classes joining together as whole groups and connecting using digital tools like Padlet or Google Docs.  This put us face-to-face with the students and it was an immensely successful day.  I am very excited about the possibilities this has opened for us for the rest of the school year!