Building instruction and assessment for students that is grounded in best practice is key to student learning. While technology is a powerful tool. It is just that. I believe it is critical that when working with teachers to build upon how they are utilizing technology in the classroom, that the learners, the content, and the assessment of the learning come first. Once these are designed, teachers can develop ways to introduce technology into the classroom. While there is a time and place to teach a new tech skill. It is the curriculum and the students which should drive the learning; technology is just the vehicle. The following are ways in which I have integrated technology within my classroom to further engage students, enhance lessons, and collect data from assessments.
Integrating Computer Science
During the school year, I have begun to build lessons and units which integrate computer science directly into the curriculum. Oftentimes, people see computer science as a separate discipline requiring lessons of its own. However, I believe, especially at the elementary level, computer sciences places is integrated within the current standards. Several examples of how we have done this in each discipline are listed below:
- In Science, we utilized breadboards, Scratch for Arduino, LEDs, and Arduino boards in order to build circuits which turned lights on and off. We did this as we discovered and developed our understanding of what makes lights work, conductors and insulators, and the flow of energy through a circuit.
- During Math, students worked with area and perimeter and the MBOT in order to write code for a robot to travel around the perimeter of their ship in order to collect data similar to the way NOAA might collect data of actual shipwrecks.
- As we worked through map scale in Social Studies, students utilized the Ozobots and Ozoblockly during a challenge in which they took a "road trip" around the US and calculated the distance that they traveled on their journey.
- In order to write stories in Language Arts, students had the opportunity to choose a method of their choice. several students worked using Scratch to write their story using code. This not only reinforced computer science concepts, but also required students to think greatly about sequencing, plot, and the characters in their story.
Project Based Learning
As an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme school, we plan 6 units of inquiry around 6 major themes. In the final year of the program, students participate in exhibition. Exhibition is a project based learning project design to celebrate all students have accomplished within the program and serve as a reflection of their accomplishments. The project can center around any topic. However, this year, after getting my students involved in redesigning a portion of the classroom, students became very interested in the idea of what the "ultimate" classroom might look like. The students embarked on 2 months of research and the opportunity to engage with special speakers from different fields. In April, students will return to their research by taking action and creating a final presentation to share with the community. Below, is the ongoing blog documenting our experience.
Digital assessments can be a powerful way to quickly gain data about students progress and report findings back to parents. Using Google Classroom as a learning management system in order to connect students, students have completed assessments using Google Classroom, Google Forms/Docs/ and Slides, Wizer.me, Socrative, EdCite, and EdPuzzle. In addition, through use of several add-ons and apps, I have been able to send students and parents feedback digitally with Doctopus/Goobric and Flubaroo.
To frontload and provide valuable review, this year, I began flipping my instruction at different times throughout the year in math. Using various videos from YouTube, Kahn's Academy, Investigations, and videos I had created, students gained knowledge on key skills we were studying in class. To check for understanding, students completed a question in Google Classroom, Google Forms, or EdPuzzle. This data was valuable the next day when I went to build my student groups, providing insight on what students had prior knowledge and which ones might need extra support.
Integrating Digital Tools
Digital tools have been integrated throughout our entire curriculum. Below are some of the ways I have integrated these tools:
- Google Classroom is used on a regular basis to post instructional materials such as articles, links to related material, assessments, notes, and interactive assignments. In addition, students are encouraged to use it to interact with their peers, ask and answer each other's questions, share materials they find, and interact with the teacher.
- Students are encouraged to email me with questions they have about assignments and homework. Working with our technology director, we restricted students accounts to emailing teachers to provide a safe way for students to interact with their teacher digitally and have their questions and concerns heard outside of the school day in efforts to begin the shift from parents responsibility to their own.
- Bring your own device allows students to interact on their own device which aids the connection between home and school. Students have the flexibility to switch devices when needed in order to promote problem solving in a variety of situations.
- Students have been exposed to using two devices at once when working in projects such as online research or interactive programs which make switch screens more challenging.
- Exposure to Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, and Sites has given opportunities to students to select tools which work the best for their situation. Through integrated lessons, students have learned how to troubleshoot basic problems and consider design and visual literacy when creating materials. and projects.
- Through the use of STEM technology such as Makey Makey, Little Bits, Arduino, Scratch, Code.org, Circuit building, and Breadboards, students have had the chance to learn in a hands-on environment about 4th grade science concepts.
Connecting with the World
As part of the EdTechTeam Cohort, I created a project designed to connect with others around the world in order to learn more about landforms. Using Twitter, Google+ Communities, my personal learning network, and coworkers, I created a form to collect pictures of landforms from around the world. We ended up getting over 150 submissions of pictures. Students then used Google MyMaps to plot the pictures and study more about the landforms. To conclude our unit of study, students used their knowledge gained to write about how they understood our central idea, "The surface of the earth changes over time." On a teacher workday, several students volunteered to come in during the day in order to make several videos reflecting upon what we had learned. To see the scope and sequence of this procject, visit: http://missburke4th.weebly.com/how-the-world-works.htmll.