The EdTech Kool-Aid?

Image from Pixabay.com

Image from Pixabay.com

I do edtech.  That’s what I do.  I like it.  It’s fun!  I go around talking to people about doing edtech, too.  And I’ll admit, most of the folks I talk to are edtech folks.  We have sipped from the Kool-Aid and we ain’t going back.

But sometimes people haven’t tasted the Kool-Aid.  They’re not buying this whole tech thing in general, and they really don’t want any part of edtech in their classrooms.  The first person I encountered with this opinion was sitting next to me at an eatery in San Antonio.  I was there for the ISTE conference, and I had stopped in for a quick post-conference dinner.  This guy was exactly my age, and was in San Antonio for business, but not for the ISTE conference.  When I told him what I was doing in San Antonio he said, “Why do we need technology in education?”  I probably choked a little bit on my quesadillas.  That, and I totally didn’t have an answer for him.  Why do we need air?  That’s what I was thinking.  “Why don’t we?” was my response to him.

In one of my edtech grad school classes one of the students was STAUNCHLY anti tech.  I could never really figure out why she had taken the class, but she participated in the tech activities under duress, and was not going to use tech at all in her classroom.

Tech is such an integral part of my life, and figuring out ways to make tech work for teachers to enhance student learning is so ingrained in me that when I encounter people who are closed off to the idea tech in the classroom it first makes confused, and then it makes me take a step back and question my beliefs a little bit.  Did I drink from some tainted Kool-Aid?  Did it wash my brain?  Is the joke on me?

I’m probably not edtech Kool-Aid brainwashed, but it’s always a good reflective practice to consider the opinions of others, particularly when they are divergent opinions from your own.  Understanding where folks are coming from doesn’t mean you have to agree with them; it simply makes finding a middle ground easier.  Considering the  points of view of others broadens your horizons to new ideas and thinking.  It’s a soft skill that we need to be sure we are teaching our students so they can be creative problem solvers and successful communicators now and in their futures.

So what say you?  Why do we need tech in our classrooms? (Please don’t choke on any quesadillas…not on my watch.)

Pairing Digital Storytelling with Research

Creating a digital story puts a modern twist on writing that combines multiple student standards into an engaging project with a fun end product.

One way to introduce the power of digital storytelling with younger students is in combination with student research projects.  The digital story could be an engaging alternative to a standard research paper or report that incorporates a host of technology application skills with the writing process.

Consider these steps in an elementary class research project on landforms, climate, culture and the geographic regions of the world:

Students work in groups to research a geographic region; they collect information, images and source documentation about the region.

The teacher creates a starter story (see Prezi example below) to engage students and give them a model to follow for the creation of their own digital story.

Students use the teacher template to create a travel adventure story told from the perspective of a class mascot or pet; information and images from group research are creatively incorporated into details of the story.

Students work collaboratively in groups to record audio and embed images in their digital story.

Students present their stories to the rest of the class and/or an authentic audience from outside their own classroom.

Once the group digital story is completed, students have a good foundation and can apply the elements learned in the process to create independent digital stories.

Digital Story Starter Example

Click HERE if the embedded Prezi below does not load properly.


 
By assembling research facts into a digital story similar to this one, students are achieving multiple objectives including:

  • locating, evaluating, synthesizing and presenting ideas and information
  • participating in the writing process (drafting, editing, revising)
  • evaluating written composition for coherence and relevance to the topic
  • storyboarding and planning
  • managing and manipulating digital files
  • navigating digital hardware and software
  • evaluating and applying technology tools for meeting creative needs
  • respecting the intellectual property rights of others; abiding by copyright and fair use guidelines

Five Reasons Your Students Should Blog

cartoon-145013_640

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Although I never had the opportunity to use blogging with my students, I am a big fan of the idea of incorporating blogging into the classroom, even with young students.  The following are my top 5 reasons to include student blogs as part of your classroom routine.

1.  ELA Skill Building

To get better at reading and writing students need to do a lot of reading and writing.  Why not add blogging into that reading and writing repertoire?  It’s a new and different medium for practicing those English/Language Arts skills (spelling, capitalization, clarity of written expression, elaboration in writing, reading critically, considering authors’ purposes, etc).  Students will not doubt enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to occasionally shift from pencil and paper to screen and keyboard.

2.  Authentic Audience + Feedback

The real power of blogging is writing for an authentic (and possibly wide) audience that provides constructive feedback to the student author.  It’s exciting for students to know they have “fans” who are waiting for another installment of their writing.  It creates genuine motivation for students to provide quality writing that their readers can easily consume.  Now spelling, punctuation and clarity of organization matter:  we want our readers to understand our message.  Now elaboration, tone and imagery makes our writing stand out, and hooks our readers to want to come back for more.

3.  Technology Integration

In Texas we have technology application student standards that begin in Kindergarten.  They are standards that are intended to be integrated into the general curriculum where possible rather than taught separately in isolation.  With the increase of technology devices in classrooms, this task is becoming easier.

Blogging is a great way to incorporate the teaching of technology skills.  Students have to know the basics of operating a computer (or a mobile device) plus the blogging application in order create and maintain a blog.  They are utilizing keyboarding skills, spacing, font attributes, inserting images, saving drafts, publishing, and knowing where to point readers in order to access their blog externally.  Through commenting correctly students are practicing global communication and collaboration skills as well as digital citizenship.  Digital citizenship also comes in as they cite sources of information and images.  And, naturally, blogging allows students an avenue to showcase their digital creativity and innovative thinking.

4.  Parent Connections

Blogging is a great way to connect parents to our classrooms, keep them up-to-date on what students are learning and how they are doing, and extend the walls of the classroom beyond the school day.  Parents can read and comment on their students’ blogs (and the blogs of other students if you decide to open that option) giving students encouragement and solidifying that home-school connection.  Parents can keep up with the topics being studied so the “What did you learn in school today?” conversation transforms into “Tell me where you learned all that awesome stuff about the three-toed Amazonian tree sloth!”

5.  Privacy

With tools like Kidblog, teachers can set up a main classroom account and assign student login information.  Students do not have to create individual accounts; this protects their privacy.  Teachers can also assign (or students can chose their own) code names to protect the actual identities of the students in their classroom.  This is particularly helpful for younger students.  Teachers have control over who can access student blogs.  You can limit viewing and commenting to just the students in your class or you can allow collaboration with another class in the same school or district.  Once a teacher feels the class fully understands digital safety and citizenship, the blogs can be opened to wider audiences…the ultimate goal behind classroom blogging.