A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Some Appropriate Uses of Technology

Recently, I visited a 4th grade classroom that provided a prime example of appropriate technology usage, featured below, as well as a 3rd grade classroom which was using technology to respond to a class read aloud, Frindle, in innovative ways. I can typically size up a classroom in a matter of seconds. If class routines are clear, if students are being encouraged to build background knowledge broadly and inquiry is at the heart of the classroom, I know it's going to be a good day. Both these classrooms left me with a positive first impression.

Van de Walle would be pleased that the teacher in this 4th grade classroom has linked concepts to models, as well as models to procedures. Calendar Math provides a routine for daily practice of related understandings from which students can build new understandings. Students have used Math Investigations array lessons to explore the process of identifying all of the possible factors of a product. The class library is sorted by genre, and provides for a wide variety of reading levels.

The teacher left a clear and valuable lesson on non-fiction text features, along with specific instructions on which features to ask the students about, which was obviously a review, which provided a purpose for independent reading.

Students were given a 45 minute block to take notes for their research projects. Although the desktop computers were not being used, many students used netbooks, while others used books from the library, and a few used both netbooks and library books. All students knew how to go to the school district's online database for reliable information. Students remained engaged in the task, requiring minimal redirection, probably because everyone was allowed to do research on things that interested them: one student was researching her country, Korea, three students were studying mythology, three were studying sports, five were studying animals, etc.

Students used graphic organizers provided by the "school librarian" (the title has changed recently), which encouraged students to evaluate the quality of their resources. A key section of the organizer prompted students to generate questions about their topics. The research process had been modeled and discussed. Every students all knew to color code their notecards to keep various areas of research seperate.

In the 3rd grade classroom, in a different school, the entire 3rd grade team was all reading Frindle, by Andrew Clements, and responding via a quasi-Twitter format, with discussion starter questions and student responses for each section "posted" on a bulletin board in the hall, enabling anyone to "follow the feed." The teacher had posted the discussion "Tweet" on chart paper, using a # hashtag format, e.g., #13 & 14 At first, Nick feels like a normal 5th grader, but everything changes. How does he change on the inside? Students "tweeted" their response on a half page blue organizer, which left only enough space for 20 words for their responses, which required students to choose their words judiciously. For the final chapter, students responded to #15 How did Nick's battle with Ms. Granger end?

In both cases, technology was being used purposefully.