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March 1, 2013
Vol. 70
No. 6

Tell Me About … / How Technology Enriched Your Students' Learning

3-D Modeling Makes a Difference

After learning about forces, my 7th grade science students were tasked with building bridges out of popsicle sticks. They had to understand how different structures dissipate forces and apply that understanding to the actual building process. This required designing their bridges first. In years past, we drew designs on graph paper, but picturing a three-dimensional structure on paper was hard. This year, students designed their bridges in Sketch Up first, which enabled them to see exactly where each popsicle stick should go in three dimensions. They were more thoughtful about where to add extra strength to their bridges and they built bridges that were more symmetrical because they had created an actual three-dimensional model to guide them.
—Becky Smith, 7th grade science teacher, Harpeth Hall School, Nashville, Tennessee

Using Networked Calculators

A set of calculators equipped with wireless communication devices helps me network with my math students. The calculator system enables me to prompt students for texted responses. I can send computer files to students, and they can interact with the lesson content on their calculator. I can then view individual calculator screens and monitor student productivity with my laptop. If I need to know how many students understand the lesson, I can quickly collect and analyze the results with a few mouse clicks.
—Chris Nye, math teacher, Jackson-Madison County Schools, Jackson, Tennessee

Flipping My Teaching

Using videos, Google forms, and iPads at home, my students are taking charge of their own learning. Through this flipped teaching, reverse instruction, or whatever you want to call it, kids come to class with a background of information, and together we tackle problems ranging from the routine to the complex. Students acquire content outside class, which permits us to develop skills and context inside the classroom, promoting deep learning.
The depth of questions my students ask has increased dramatically. All students have the time to process information and ask cogent questions without the distractions of the classroom. What surprised me was that the deep questions were not always asked by the same kids.
—Brian Steffen, math teacher and dean of students, The Prairie School, Racine, Wisconsin

Students Taking Ownership

A class webpage has been a straightforward solution to many issues. On my webpage, I post lists of previewed sources that help focus students' investigation of topics. I now get more thoughtful responses and less regurgitation of the first link the search engine coughed up. The webpage has all the assignments listed, with the handouts needed. A class calendar of assignments, which many students sync to their smartphones, ensures they never miss an assignment posting. This practice has saved time and filing space as students print their own missing materials and take ownership of learning they missed.
—Kevin Richins, teacher, Lynden High School, Lynden, Washington

Gaining Greater Confidence

In my World Geography ESL Social Studies classes, students interview adult immigrants about their native countries. We use iPod Nanos to film the interviews, and students upload the interviews to a laptop and help edit the raw footage. Students are always nervous about meeting the adults, asking them questions, and recording their responses. But there are always a few "expert" students who know how to use the iPods for this purpose, and they teach the others what to do. Students' motivation and confidence clearly increase as a result of this project. Shy students become more active participants in class.
—Susan Schwartz, ESL teacher, Marsh Grammar School, Methuen, Massachusetts

Leveraging Digital Photography

My class of 5th graders recently used digital cameras to take pictures of arrays around our school building to help deepen our understanding of using arrays to solve multiplication problems. For instance, students found that a rug with multiple colored rectangles (7 rows of 5 rectangles each) helped them visualize 7 × 5 = 35. Instead of a traditional presentation of this lesson through the use of grids, the lesson became student led and student created. We achieved a deeper understanding of how arrays help us think about multiplication through a real-life application. We created a class book, and my students still refer to this lesson three months later.
—Bridget Brown, 5th grade teacher, Kirkwood School District, Kirkwood, Missouri

Going Paperless!

Going to a paper-free classroom has greatly improved my students' access to materials as well as their organizational skills. With every handout put online as a Google Doc and linked on my website, students can always access whatever they need. Students have learned to be responsible for making their own digital copy of the materials, putting their copy into their Google Drive, keeping their Google Drive organized, and passing in completed materials digitally. If they miss a day, they know to go get the materials themselves. The paper-free classroom has improved my practice, because I have no more messy handwriting to read and no more copy machines to deal with. I can leave more elaborate feedback than I would if I had to handwrite my responses. It also saves my district hundreds of dollars in copying costs while doing something good for the environment.
—Seth Wolfman, English teacher, Natick High School, Natick, Massachusetts

Using a Killer App for World Languages

As a world language teacher, I frequently use the Educreations app on iPads. I assign my Spanish I students to interview each other in pairs. Students write their interview questions in Spanish (peer editing along the way) and then read them aloud, providing oral and aural practice. They also write the responses to their questions in Spanish. Students in my Exploratory Languages course (an intro to world languages) have published presentations in Spanish and Italian on topics like greetings, colors, and days of the week. The Educreations software caters to auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners. Recently, my students presented this app at an iPad showcase at the county level.
—James di Carlo, world language teacher, Wake Young Women's Leadership Academy, Raleigh, North Carolina

Planning a Virtual Science Fair

My year 6 team wanted to conduct a science fair, but we faced many obstacles related to scheduling and learning spaces. So we designed and launched an inquiry-based Virtual Science Fair. We asked students to work in a team to design an eco-friendly device using the website Ed-blocs. They brainstormed and planned their ideas with Inspiration (education software with tools that encourage visual learning). They documented and reflected on their learning in Voicethread. The end result was terrific—lots of student-driven learning—and our obstacles of time and space became nonexistent.
—Janice Dwyer, ICT facilitator (primary), Chinese International School, Hong Kong

Going for Global Connections

As a teacher and instructional coach, I have facilitated student engagement in five global collaboration projects over the last three years. My students and I use a variety of Web 2.0 tools to communicate and collaborate with partners in other countries. Students use social bookmarking to share resources, a wiki to write collaboratively about their topics, and an educational networking site to engage in discussion forums, blog about their work, respond to one another, and—when time zones permit—instant message one another.
When students are doing real work with peers around the world, they become empowered to leverage technology as active participants in a global society. They teach one another—and me—as they problem solve and innovate together.
—Honor Moorman, associate director, professional development and curriculum, Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning, New York, New York

Blogging: A Game Changer

After having my own blog for a while, I decided to give blogging with students a try. It has been a game-changer! Blogs have given my kids a new venue to share their learning and their thoughts and helped them begin to develop their online presence in a safe, monitored place. Blogs have helped my students become better writers—more reflective and more excited. For many reluctant writers, it's been the motivation necessary to push them ahead. It's "real," it's live, and we have readers from all over the world!
—Jen Bearden, 5th grade teacher, Kirkwood School District, Kirkwood, Missouri

Recording Their Own Speeches

I noticed students in my communications course were struggling with developing attention-getting statements and understanding the need to practice their speeches. At our 1:1 laptop school, we have Audiology, a recording program, on every laptop. I modeled the program and assigned each student to record two minutes of his or her upcoming speech. Together, we listened to each recording, and I instructed each student to critique his or her recording. I could tell my students learned on many levels as they realized how they sounded in the recording and what additional things they needed to do to meet the assignment's time requirements.
—Kathy Abdul, teacher, Queen of Peace High School, Burbank, Illinois

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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