Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: March 2013

Recycling Athletics

I am in Mr. Gordon’s room watching students rehearse the final presentation of their G21 project. The students have researched the sales from the concession stand during athletic events, and have calculated the costs and benefits of implementing a plastics recycling program. In a few minutes, school and county administrators will join us to hear the proposal.

The students have collaborated to collect the data, research costs, and create the presentation slides. They are now ready to convince those in charge, and they sound great!



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Working Together

This morning I participated in Apple’s Leadership and Learning event in Richmond. I showcased some of the work our students have done in our 21st Century Classrooms. I also had the opportunity to listen to school leaders from around Virginia who shared their strategies for implementing new technology initiatives in their districts.

One particular issue seemed to stand out from everything I heard. Yes, we know implementing a 1:1 program is expensive and requires lots of professional development and additional support for teachers. We also know all stakeholders have to buy into the initiative. What I found surprising is that, in many school divisions, the people in charge of infrastructure and technology are not working in concert with the people in charge of instruction. In fact, I heard two different people say that they are successful at implementing instructional technology initiatives despite of, not thanks to, their IT department.

I am very fortunate to be working in Goochland County, where our small Tech Team covers all the bases without fighting. We are here for the students, all of us.

Photo Booth Green Screen

Ms. Johnson’s students will be creating videos to share their findings about artists and art. This is a tutorial I made a long time ago for elementary teachers, but I think it will work great for what this group of students is planning to do.

Ms. Johnson has had her students work on some amazing projects this year, and she shares really cool stuff on her blog. Videos are a new adventure for her, and I’m happy to be planning this with her.

 The finished products will be published to Ms. Johnson’s YouTube channel. Look for an update soon.

 

Memorable Experiences and Learning

Quick! Tell me about the very best worksheet you ever saw in your life.

Anyone? Anyone? I didn’t think so.

Yesterday John Hendron and I were at Goochland Elementary School interviewing students who produced videos to share at a school-wide assembly. They worked very hard to plan a story, write a script, rehearse, direct, film, and edit the videos. The pride in their work was evident as they spoke about how nervous they felt when the video was on the screen, and how great it felt when they realized the people around them liked the video. The making of the videos and the assembly was an experience they are likely to carry with them for the rest of their lives. The lessons learned in making the video— the planning, the collaboration, the focus on the finished product, and the freedom to be creative — will stay with them.

One of the teams of students we interviewed reviewing our plans for posting video online.

Making a movie or any project like this one takes longer than completing a worksheet, but the learning sticks. The investment in time pays off when teachers don’t have to schedule review days in which they will likely end up re-teaching what students can’t remember because the worksheets they were given to “practice” were so unremarkable and forgettable.

Take the time to plan and execute student-centered, creative projects, whether you use technology or not. It pays off and makes school much more enjoyable for everyone.

Standing Back

This week has been one of the most successful I’ve had in school recently, despite being out for two days.

On Wednesday and Thursday I was in Mr. Dacey’s room working with students who were making video tutorials for their peers using the ShowMe app on the iPads. We had had this plan in the works for a while, but Mr. Dacey was worried about the technology use. After many failed attempts with scheduled meetings to go over the details, we decided to just go straight to the kids and let them help us work out the kinks.

What happened in the classroom? Magic. The kids figured it out. They got to work right away without any difficulty. Every single student was engaged in creating the best tutorial possible. The only guidance we had to give was a reminder to the students to think about their own learning process. What questions did they have when they first saw negative exponents? How did they figure it out? What helpful advice would they give someone else trying to learn how to simplify expressions with negative exponents?

As all this was going on in Mr. Dacey’s room, the Internet was buzzing with the news that  Sugata Mitra had been awarded $1 million to continue his studies of how children can learn with technology with guidance, not interference, from adults. This is a quote from an interview in The New York Times.

At first I thought that the children were learning in spite of the teacher not interfering. But I changed my opinion, and realized this was happening because the teacher was not interfering. At that point, I didn’t become entirely popular with teachers. But I explained to them that the job has changed. You ask the right kind of question, then you stand back and let the learning happen.

We did just that, and the learning happened. The students answered most of their own questions, collaborated, exercised creativity in personalizing their own tutorials, and were far more engaged than if they had been answering questions on a worksheet.

Thank you, Mr. Dacey, for letting the learning happen.

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