Today, I decided to make a concerted effort to put myself in the shoes of a student, because, as great as these new technology tools are for teachers, the focus needs to remain student-centered. As a 21st Century educator, there is undoubtedly a constant paradigm shift in the methods, tools, content, and standards deemed important, but one thing that doesn’t change is the necessity for a provision of freedom, exploration, and excited learning for students. For the sake of confidentiality, the student’s shoes I filled and followed today was named “Jeff.”
Jeff took a math assessment yesterday, and did well. Rather than review content he was already confident in and had demonstrated his knowledge of, Jeff was given the opportunity to create a presentation and a quiz, and then peer teach with other high scoring students to help those not scoring as highly understand the content.
“This moment is all about learners having an amazing new freedom to learn, not teachers having an amazing new freedom to teach. I’d love to see 2013 all about making that shift in our thinking around education.” -David Wees
For Jeff, he did have this new amazing freedom to learn…not through traditional instruction or lecture, but through working collaboratively, implementing technology presentation tools, and teaching his peers.
In order to facilitate this freedom, while still effectively instructing and keeping learning as the focus, there are a few crucial elements to be on the lookout for. This piece, from a blog on the principles of change, lists 8 specifically.
Two of these key principles really stand out to me through technology-specific work, especially regarding today’s peer teaching work: Opportunities for Innovation and Critical Thinking. The students utilized an app called ShowMe for their presentations, which did an awesome job of facilitating both of these key elements.
Despite some initial entropy on my part regarding the effectiveness of this tool, once it was in action in the classroom it became clear to me that it definitely enhanced the learning.
The app itself is relatively simple. Students are given a blank workbook with a dashboard allowing them to draw, write, change colors, add pictures, and record their voice.
Once their blank canvas is filled with information, sketches, and jpegs, the students voices record over the images, creating a presentation much like those often associated with Khan Academy or RSAnimate. Not only does this innovative tool get students fired up about presenting, but the idea of seeing a product similar to those they’re used to seeing professionally done excites them as well.
But how to present something created on an iPad? AppleTV. Classrooms are equipped with wireless devices allowing students to connect their iPads to the projector in front of the room and project their projects full screen while still operating and controlling from their desks.
It is technology usage like this that is exciting and practical, not distracting, not taking focus, and perhaps most importantly, not creating content atrophy. The students are learning by teaching, allowing them to obtain the deepest and most founded form of learning…understanding something to the level at which you can actually help others understand it.
So, what about Jeff? Well, as you would have likely guessed, Jeff was able to sit back and watch his presentation with pride. He was able to innovate, critically think, solidify his learning, and have the satisfaction of seeing his peers understand because of his work. This is what the technology integrated classroom is about: Exciting new opportunities to learn…not to distract, not to “revolutionize teaching,” not to change the focus, but to learn.