I’m in a unique spot this year. As the resident “technology nerd,” I’m very excited about having computers in my students’ hands! I’m walking through this new phase of life along with the students as we all learn to be effective consumers of the technological resources and producers of computer-based products in the classroom. I’m also the parent of a 9th grader, so I’m experiencing the same things the rest of our parents are experiencing as our students learn to navigate this new form of learning.
Here are a few observations from my perspective as a teacher. Students who are typically more easily distracted are engaged by the technology. If I can find new and interesting ways to present material to them with their devices, they will engage in the content in ways that they wouldn’t have before. I’m so proud of my Chemistry 1 student who received a perfect element quiz after he produced a set of electronic flashcards and diligently used them to study. In the mornings there is a study hall in the room next door. I’ve never seen such a quiet study hall. The majority of the students have their devices out, and they are working hard! Sure, there’s probably students in there who are “playing” on their devices, but they are quiet and allowing those who need to work to do so in a great learning environment!
I can see ways that we can continue to use these devices as we grow in our comfort level and knowledge. I’d like to see students use the built in camera, along with our Canvas course management system, video tape while demonstrating lab skills in my chemistry courses, since at this level learning to use equipment is a key objective in labs. I imagine similar assessment would be practical in the sign language class. Audio recordings can be made for the music courses and language classes.
Technology can have the ability to isolate us from each other (my husband teases me about my candy crush pursuits!), but it also has the ability to bring us together. I feel like I have more opportunity to communicate with my students outside of class. Canvas has connected everyone in the class. We can have discussions about difficult concepts and problems. No longer is it just the students that have access to a smart phone who are able to be involved. The playing field has leveled because all students have the technology resources they need. The conversation can extend beyond the classroom. We can bring in experts to help us learn! My AP Chemistry class has access to lectures that other teachers around the country have made so that they don’t just have my instruction but can also hear and see the concepts from others. In the humanities and social sciences this is an even greater asset – primary documents and video of historical events can become part of the course content in new ways!
My honors chemistry students shared with me what they like about using technology this year. First, they like being able to type papers at school instead of waiting until they are home. Some of the students had to share a computer with siblings or didn’t have a computer at home so the Venue is a huge blessing. Second, many of the students are keeping track of all of their coursework on their device, and they like having everything in one place without having to take multiple binders home each night. Third, some have discovered OneNote and are more organized than they were before. Lastly, they appreciate new ways to study with electronic resources, websites, and study aids. One student said he has done a much better job getting all of his work in this year and isn’t losing his papers anymore since everything is in Canvas.
Obviously there’s much we still need to learn and many ways we need to grow in being great stewards of the new technology resources, but we’re off to a great start!