Today’s contributor: Jose Luis Perales Jose is a first grade teacher at George I. Sánchez Elementary.
I teach first-grade Spanish-English bilingual students on the east side of Austin. We are a Title I school, where up to 90% of the student population comes from low income households. With that said, I always have to keep in mind that many of my little ones do not come with much knowledge of how to treat or utilize technology as a resourceful tool. Many students do have a background on some applications, such as Google, and YouTube, because I’ve seen the occasional parent hand their youngsters their cell phone during parent conferences to keep them busy. However, I wanted to teach my students about new possibilities of how technology could be utilized in our classroom, and have my students choose how they used it for their class work.
The first semester with this particular class was one where I mainly focused on what it means to be a positive digital citizen, how to use BLEND, and some housekeeping rules. I taught them how to log on using their personal QR code, how to take care of our laptops, and even how to neatly put away our headphones. I then integrated BLEND into one of our units of studies when we covered procedural writing. The students loved using the technology. For our second semester, I was ready to take it a step further… I wanted to give students more freedom for our unit in their animal research project.
At first, I was nervous to think about how I would have my students working independently on their projects, and how they would be utilizing BLEND to help them achieve their research. However, I also began to get excited because I knew that I had prepared my students well enough and I was eager to see what they could do. I also began thinking about everything that could go wrong, so I planned my BLEND module in a kid-friendly way that walked my students through the entire animal research project, including many videos of myself in an attempt to duplicate myself in the classroom. With that, I also began including for the first time into my modules, discussion boards where my students could post questions to my instructional videos. Here, I could keep track of their progress and just respond to any issues they were having along the way. Of course, I needed to take time first to introduce them to how to view a video on BLEND, which led to some fun lessons on watching a video of me, then responding to it via text or a video response. The students had a blast doing this! All in all, the students were really getting excited to put their new-found skills into practice.
Within our animal research project, I then gave my students many choices, from choosing whether they wanted to work alone, with a partner or group, choosing their own animals, and choosing between Spanish or English to present their project. The big decision after this was for them to choose how they would present their animal. Students got to choose from presenting their findings via a PowerPoint presentation, a poster board, a book, or a diorama. The students did such a wonderful job in following my guidelines, I believe, because we had many discussions about them and I would tell them why I was setting those guidelines. At the end, I asked how the students felt about the entire process and they said they loved being able to have all the choices they had, as well as all the new skills they had learned and used with our technology during this project. For this school year, although I have had many challenges, I am becoming excited to begin teaching these important skills to my new students!