As teachers, we are encouraged to engage in “best practice” on a daily basis with our students. Our professional development often includes rationale to support new initiatives with “best practice” for students in mind. But, what about employing “best practice” approaches to learning with teachers in professional development? Integrating technology into education is not as simple as implementing a new program or learning strategy. It changes the game entirely.
Teachers often see results of technology integration and are expected to replicate these fabulous learning experiences without enough support for their own learning. Teachers love to know the details of how things work. They are the curators of learning management. In order to do this teachers, like students need a certain amount of context to understand the value of technology integration. Time is of the essence in all classrooms. However, the K-2 classroom presents even more dynamics of urgency for teachers. Large amounts of planning is being spent preparing the environment, and helping students manage behaviors, than in other age groups grades 3-12. When K-2 teachers are asked to implement and integrate technology into their classroom learning lives, they need to see it. Teachers appreciate the real classroom examples where the kids are being kids. Teachers also appreciate the candor of others who share their struggles across the journey. It is my hope to make my learning journey more transparent for K-2 teachers so that they will be able to adjust their teaching and learning environments in small ways with big results for engagement, student centered learning.
Greeting Slides for the Low Tech Crowd
Fifteen years ago I would have had strong opinions against using a slides presentation with five and six year olds. It sounds cold. When I am sharing a favorite read with my students, I like to be close to them. They are gathered on the carpet wrapped around me. It is intimate and personal. As soon as teachers see a screen in front of the classroom, it starts to lose the warm elementary feel. The screen often separates the teacher more from the students. It’s important as curators of learning we fight to maintain that gentle and close relationship with our little ones. But, as teachers we have the privilege to enter their digital filled lives and adjust some of their thinking about how to create a conversation including technological tools in learning. Get out your tools and lower that screen so students can see it from the carpet without craning their necks. I started by making a slide to greet my students at the beginning of the day. First it replaced the list of things to do on the board.
Then, I started changing it to fit some calendar objectives. So, in the beginning, yes, it was a thousand dollar pencil. But, you do what you know. Teachers need to be reminded there’s nothing wrong with that. The Morning Message encouraged by the people over at theResponsive Classroom
continues to be a meaningful way to start the day with early readers. Color coding high frequency words and using a “Dear Students” format is how I started the year on chart paper.
This might be a good goal to work for by the end of the school year. Let this one slide evolve for you over time.
Moderate technology Teacher Learners
Expanding the slides throughout the day may sound as simple as using an interactive schedule. We all know how much teachers love checklists. Each slide can have an objective for the lesson or “I can statement.” If your district requires certain learning objectives posted. This is an easy way to do that. Multiple slides might look like this:
Teacher with Advanced Technology Wisdom
For my math lesson last week, I linked a screencast in my math slide to help my students hear a lesson I had previously taught by a different teacher. I saw they struggled with the work and needed reteaching. I’m not suggesting these screencasts be the primary delivery method for lessons. Using Educreations, or Quicktime and posting through Vimeo could be another way to make screencasts to link into the daily template. Photos of students engaged in the objective can be added. Students can then talk from these images to the group, explaining their thinking during the task. Linking photos of student examples with other mentor examples, video, text, audio, can be powerful.
The Key to Student Engagement is Representing the Student’s Ideas and Thinking
Here is slide with students’ questions after an open ended research session. Students had problems. We talked about how problems are a very common part of the research process. I recorded their problems so we could come back to them the next day. Not only did I have plans for the next day, they were directly connected to what the students wanted to learn about. The plans were made specifically to answer the questions and problems pertaining to their own learning. There were also kids teaching other kids.
Together, the students and the teacher create the most relevant learning community. Through technology, the learning can transform content and process in a more organic way. The content and process can then be shared with a wider audience. Parents and other students in the school can celebrate the learning.