Today’s Contributor: Steven Morris
I am the lead Science and Technology teacher at Brooke Elementary. I have been teaching for 3 years. My first year I started off as a 1st grade teacher, but quickly moved into teaching 4th and 5th grade science. I am currently the Campus Innovation Coach, as well as the head coach for our award-winning robotics team.
Over the course of my three years teaching, I have noticed that students love to play on computers. I have always wondered why – Why are they so intrigued by games like ‘Cool Math’? Why are they so engaged in Dream Box? and, Why are my students so fascinated with YouTube?
After careful observations of students not only in my classroom but in other classrooms, I have realized that they are enjoying technology, not because they are creating something, but because they are learning from it.
I try to push technology into my lessons as much as possible. The apps and websites I have used vastly range in what they do; I will mention some of them later. But for the most part, I have seen that students gain more from what they “see” than “do”.
What do I mean by that? During one of my lessons over alternative energy resources, I gave one of my 5th grade classes the option to either create a PowerPoint, Poster, or skit over a different alternative energy. The entire point of my lessons was: 1) to have students understand what alternative energy resources are and how we use them and teach their peers, and 2) have the opportunity to create a PowerPoint. My bet was that only the brave would choose to create a PowerPoint even though I let them know I would help every step of the way in creating it if need be. To no surprise, out of the 5 groups, only 2 chose to create Power Points.
After every presentation, it seemed as if the students using the “cool” technology to teach their energy, did not make a difference in having others, including themselves, understand what alternative energies are and what they are used for, from those who taught with the ordinary anchor chart poster. I have seen this trend over and over again in other lessons. Students learn the same amount of information, if not, even more, from research, watching informational videos, and playing games, rather than creating things using technology. Students find using technology even more engaging when they have fun!
In my 4th and 5th grade science classrooms, students are constantly asking for blended learning assignments using BLEND on the Canvas platform. Students are thoroughly engaged because each lesson can easily be differentiated for students with academic difficulties and include fun websites to gather information from. Students have created documents where they have had to type out their responses or were able to record a video of themselves if they were uncomfortable with their spelling and writing skills.
Students also have the opportunity to check out cool websites like National Geographic and watch video clips on Youtube to help introduce or cement in concepts learned in class.
My students love to watch Brainpop and StudyJams. These videos are very informational and include excellent quizzes at the end of each video. Discovery Education is another excellent resource if you are looking for videos jam-packed with informational content.
I have found that creating Quizlets for those early finishers has been a great help in giving those students something extra to do while also sneaking in that learning. They enjoy reviewing the flashcards and playing the Gravity game. I have also assigned quizlets as homework.
If you are ever uneasy about incorporating technology into your classroom because you are afraid of failing in front of your students, it is okay. It is important for students to see their teachers fail as well. It helps boost their own confidence in using technology for any purpose. I have failed many times trying out new things but learned so much by it. My students have seen me go through the process of problem solving issues and eventually work them through. Every educational moment counts.