Or: A Brief History in Time.
I am fortunate: my teacher education from Eastern Washington University placed the emphasis of learning on doing — projects that focused on objectives but demanded critical and creative thinking on my part as designer and the students part as learner– and me as the main learner. It was not a “sit and git” program: it was active learning and doing as a teacher with students. Projects, Socratic dialogue, and lots of feedback and peer sharing were the norm. All done without technology. We used ditto machines, if you can imagine that! We chose our own path to the objectives and shared our learning with each other. Sound familiar?
And this was far earlier than John Hattie’s research:
So I already believed in my reflection of each day and in student agency. “Can a kid do it?” was a question we learned to ask — if so, then the students should do it, not the teacher. I also understood that students need background knowledge and vocabulary to begin understanding new content, but also that we could discuss and learn together in different ways rather than definitions and lectures to build that knowledge. Today, the Right Question Institute provides key strategies for teachers in building knowledge and questions with students, and that was part of learning in my classroom since the beginning, whether in first grade or eighth grade. Engaging students in active questioning and learning is key to motivation and attitude; my classroom has always been productively noisy.
As students build their knowledge, they are sharing, conversing, and creating — sketches, diagrams, labelled illustrations, posters. We worked at the higher end of critical thinking in Bloom’s taxonomy. My class frequently transformed from individual, small group, team, and whole class sharing, according to content and individual student needs. I could listen and preview their work, and determine who needs more scaffolding to succeed, and who needs an extension and stretch [differentiation]. In order to create, we need knowledge and we need to synthesize: we need all the thinking skills to succeed.
These strategies also show that my role was a guide in helping students construct their learning of the content. Even without technology, I knew that “Students do not and will not finish all the material at the same time or even finish all the same material, but teachers keep the big ideas, what students must learn, in sight so that all students complete basic levels of comprehension” [p 13 Integrating Technology in the Classroom, Boni Hamilton, Teachers First Book Study]. There was always student choice and voice, with technology or without, and always a flexible attitude in content and strategies to allow for fumbles, errors, and events or people that still didn’t work out. So we adapted our plans; we solved our problem another way.
In 1999, I was fortunate again by being accepted into the Bill and Melinda Gates Teacher Leadership Project, which provided intense training and the technology [our district purchased Macs] to implement strategies that focused on the 4Cs of Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity.
I understood that all students have a right to access in technology, that the world is changing rapidly, and that my job is to provide the guidance and projects to help students become literate in these new tools as well as the content.
As the cloud developed, I knew and wrote back then:
“Students today enjoy the connectedness of social networking; it is part of their very being. My goal is to bring instruction into that cloud to teach the content required in ways that inspire online responsibility and ethics in this new, very public world.”
I am thankful for the support of my administration and my families as they encouraged both me and my students to be creative, critical thinkers and digital citizens in the global world.
My tools were simple: apps on the Mac [word processing, spreadsheets, keynote, iMovie] and wikis at the beginning. The focus was the content, and the tools helped us collaborate, create, think through, discuss, refine, and present. Wikis connected us to university students and other students around the world. Yet, we also continued snail mail pen pals. Everything is a choice based on content and need.
I should say also that I didn’t “teach” the tool. I teach them how to start — to log in and a basic tour. Then students have time to explore and learn together, then share out the best of what they learned. Then the tool becomes another way to share learning together. As Boni says on page 7 our her book:
Build your technology integration on simple tools that require students to do the work.
With Google Suite, everything kicked up another notch: collaboration was so much easier; connecting within and outside the class so accessible, and conversational feedback and support so timely. And the 4Cs expanded to:
I know that all students can learn, that learning is by doing and sharing and reflecting, and that students choose the tools and content that meets their needs to meet our overall objectives. We learn together, to quote Boni again [page 7]:
When you debrief them, you’ll be surprised at the unexpected lessons they have learned from each other, and you’ll enjoy learning along with them.
What does Tech Integration Look Like?
#bookstudy Week 2