Author - Shauna Pollock

You’ve Gotta Hand It To Them – Using Educational Technology

Part 4 of 5 in a series by CUE guest blog editor Doug Robertson

handing students educational technologyWe have all been there, your students are totally unmotivated to learn and you have tried all the tricks in your secret teacher toolbox to make them engaged. Then, your district or board rolls out another new educational technology tool or policy. How can you possibly add something else into your already busy days?

Try something new. Hand the technology to your students and watch them take over their own learning. You’ll be amazed as they teach themselves, teach their peers and teach you.

Sound terrifying? It can be. In order to let your students become agents in their own learning, several conditions need to exist. You, as the teacher, need to start looking at your role differently. No longer are you simply the Guide on the Side, you are now a Collaborative Curator. You are the person who finds out what makes your students excited and helps them to find the best resources and tools to learn about that. You may now open your planning books and curriculum documents to your students and allow them to help select what they’ll be learning next.

You’ve probably seen the Learning Pyramid that tells us what we, as teachers, already know. Students retain very little of what they hear or read. However, they retain much higher percentage when they are able to learn by doing or, even better, teach others.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, why not literally hand some of the teaching over to your students?

In the winter of 2013, my grade 5/6 class wrote a proposal for a grant for a class set of Chromebooks. Less than one month later, two huge boxes of brand new Samsung Chromebooks arrived in our classroom. Armed with a carefully researched Acceptable Use Policy, the students began unboxing. Within the day, they were showing each other new discoveries.

Together, we created policies and plans for how the devices would be used in the classroom. One of the policies was related to Chromebook pick up and drop off. Every morning, the room where we charged our devices was opened for the first five minutes of the day. Throughout the day, that room is used by other groups and shouldn’t be disturbed. If you were late, you didn’t get your Chromebook that day.

Open Door Opportunity with educational technologyI had a chronically late student in my class. I had already taught her for a year and a half and she was rarely on time for school more than one day a week. She lived three blocks from the school. Her little brother arrived on time every day. From the first day we started using the Chromebooks, she was at school, early, every day for the rest of her grade 6 year. Her former teachers, from Kindergarten to grade 4, were all shocked by this sudden change in her habits.

The way a student approaches school when he or she is motivated, feels valued and heard, is a wonderful thing. They are easy to work with, for peers and teachers alike. Their enthusiasm is contagious and others want to be around them.

You may not have a class set of Chromebooks. You may. The tech itself isn’t the point. the point is to provide your students with tools and resources and let them figure out how to use them to demonstrate their learning.

Entering a classroom where the students are motivated and using technology effectively, you might notice:

  • Students sitting alone and in small groups;
  • It is difficult to find the teacher in the classroom, as he or she is likely working with students individually or in small groups;
  • There is noise. However, it is the Sound of Learning as opposed to the Noise of Nonsense; {Ed. Note: I love this turn of phrase and I’m stealing it}
  • When students need help or clarification, they go to a classmate instead of lining up at the teacher’s desk or in front of him or her;
  • Students are sharing devices, working individually on devices and using books, maps and chart paper to demonstrate their understanding;
  • Students are excitedly sharing discoveries with their teacher and classmates;
  • Students are eager to describe their learning process and goals with guests who visit the classroom;
  • Students documenting their learning by writing responses, taking photographs, filming themselves working, drawing pictures, and sharing on social media

Students who are empowered in the classroom carry that attitude with them in their school communities and at home.

We welcomed younger classes into our room last year to learn from our students about using technology. Each teacher selected a curricular area and a product. The grade 5/6s then designed a task for their younger Tech Buddies to work on. One teacher told us her students were studying habitats and wanted to make a slideshow. My students created a Google Form for them to gather information and then helped them each create an individual slide, which was added to a collaborative slideshow and posted on our blog. Every student took pride in being able to instruct, support and help another student.

Last year, a group of my students were asked to present about their use of technology. Ten of them created and shared a total of eight presentations about their use of social media, assistive technology, using technology for charity and the Maker Movement, among other topics. They presented these for their class and then at a board-wide professional development day attended by teachers, administrators and superintendents. Watching a grade 6 student bravely share about her experiences being on an IEP and the way she stressed and avoided her work for years was moving. She said that the Chromebooks “revolutionized [her] learning capabilities”. She was finally able to communicate effectively and knew her true voice could be heard.

One grade 6 student was always the first to volunteer to read an instruction manual or try a new device that came into the classroom. She took home a MaKey MaKey board and taught her classmates (and me!) how to use the circuit board. She experimented with our Sphero robot and was happy to teach others how to operate it. I heard from her parents that “technology is the new sex ed”. When asked to elaborate, they explained that their children come home from school knowing way more than they do and they are eager to share their knowledge! This student proudly taught her siblings, parents and even grandparents (via Skype) how to use the Google Drive and create a blog.

Transforming learning with educational technologyTechnology levels the playing field. All students can access learning materials and demonstrate their understanding. Technology can even disrupt the traditional classroom balance. No longer are the teachers the ones with the knowledge and power. When used properly, technology can place the power equally in the hands of all learners.

Hand the technology over to your students and see what amazing things happen.

Shawna Bio picShauna Pollock loves to create safe, inspiring places for kids. They need someone who believes in them. She helps them become the people they never knew they could be. She is the author of “Creating Classroom Magic: Using Lessons From the Life of Walt Disney to Create an Experimental Prototype Classroom of Tomorrow“.

shauna.pollock@gmail.com | teachercostume.blogspot.ca

OnCUE Connect

Sign up and connect to CUE members, resources, and more at OnCUE -- delivered to your inbox each day!