We’re a month into this 1:1 initiative, and it’s impact is staggering. As a long-time proponent of more technology in the classroom, this is exciting. But it comes with some serious changes on how that instruction is delivered. The main idea of incorporating technology isn’t to replace what you already with an electronic version. The idea is to move to a more collaborative, problem-solving model of class work. This is a combination of problem-based, project-based, and inquiry driven models. SAMR is the main tool used by educators to explain this. We should be replacing what we’ve done with more engaging work.
We introduced Chicago by doing a webquest. Students worked together to research a broad spectrum of historic Chicago events and people. This give them a quick, but important, introduction into both the history of our city, but the wide availability of resources available to study Chicago.
Our first major unit was Chicago History. Instead of memorizing dates of Chicago history, we explore its great tragedy – the Great Fire – and look at how we rebuilt Chicago. So many valuable questions come up – where do people live?, where do we put industry?, what does our town value? – and student worked together as a means to research, then answer these questions. An example of this is Google Classroom. It’s simply the best way we’ve been able to interact with kids in and out of school in a
We introduce what happens with a “lecture.” Students took notes by asking questions – a theme we’ll constantly revisit as this year goes on. Instead of writing down facts, students use what they learn to think more deeply about the content. We also spent some time studying various Chicago events with a Webquest. Both are designed as Redefinition and Modification-level tools to introduce background knowledge.
Students then did a simulation to rebuild their cities. This was great – no technology – kids got to use colored pencils to design their city based on this work. As much as I love tech, a departure from it is necessary. We don’t want to overwhelm kids with change (or lose them in the screens), but also because the tactile practice of doing work like this is important. Students worked together to decide where to put all of the important components to their cities.
Finally, we researched a little more and prepared presentations. We served as pseudo-commissions to design and pitch a new Burnham-like plan to rebuild this great city. Students used G-Class to leave comments and ask questions during the presentations.
The final point is the most important. This is all fun, but did students learn? And if so, how did we measure that (gotta worship the god of data in this new world of education :)? Simple. We have several forms of formative feedback built in. Kids competed in a Kahoot to show what we’ve done. We, almost daily, turn in work via G-Class for my assessment. And finally, students write. A LOT. We cite evidence. And we stress the metacognitive process as much as possible. We need to daily ask ourselves what we’re learning. If we’re not learning anything, why not? If I have a off day, I need to recognize that. And if the kids have zoned out, that’s fine (they are junior high kids), but recognize how to make it up.
The first 3-4 weeks of our “Learning Never Stops” reality has been so much fun. I’ve never had students more engaged. Sure, it’s a TON of work on my end to make sure we’re using these things right. But the result is seeing students lead the work in the class to solve problems and design solutions. Isn’t that what we’re going to ask them to do in 10 years anyway?
(*I’ll consider this pot incomplete until I can get some screengrabs up.)