Staying aligned while using Technology

Today’s Contributor: Marian Stamman

My name is Marian Stamman and this is my 8th year teaching at Bedichek Middle School. Throughout the years I have attended many different professional learning events but two years ago I participated in the Research Experience for Teachers program at UT Austin over the summer and among many things learned the basics of coding. This was so amazing to me and opened up my view to worlds surrounding me that I’d never taken notice of before and since then I have been extremely interested in integrating technology at Bedichek. I teach 8th-grade science, which means that we have a STAAR test. For this reason, whatever activities I have planned for students MUST be aligned to standards and assessed for student understanding. 

When I first started trying to use technology I thought I could just use it when we had an “easy” TEK, one that the students typically test well on anyways. That not only limited the number of times I felt I could use technology but would also be extremely frustrating if for some reason the students didn’t test well on it afterward. I realized I couldn’t see technology as a throwaway lesson or it would become just that. Now I use technology purposefully and always make sure it is aligned and students are still assessed for understanding during the lesson. Padlet, Playposit, and BLEND discussions are my most frequently used tools with my students. There are much more available but I will share a little of how I use each of these for now.

Padlet is the quickest and easiest tool even if kids are only one to one with their phones. There is a search tool for the students to find pictures on the internet, so for example, today I had the students search up a picture of a Spiral, Elliptical, and Irregular Galaxy and post them in the correct column to do a quick assessment of their understanding of which galaxy type is which. As I approve pictures they become available for other students to see, which allows all students to participate eventually, even if they are stuck at first. I also really like that Padlet can be shared through a link in a Blend page, or through displaying a QR code, making this accessible to students with and without Chromebooks. 

Playposit is an external tool available under the assignments tab in Blend. It allows you to use youtube videos (or any videos), embed questions in them and share these with your students to then complete individually. You can monitor the student’s responses both as they complete the video and questions as well as afterward. 

Blend discussions are also a great way to get students reading and writing in a way that they may not even realize they’re doing it. You can embed a video, picture, question, etc. When planning these, I always just start with, “What do I need my students thinking about?” (alignment) and “How can I tell whether they understand?” (assessment) You can have students write their own answers and if appropriate, respond to other students’ answers or question them further on their responses. 

These technology tools are helping me build a classroom where my students are not only successfully learning the science standards but are also learning technology skills that will help them feel comfortable in a high tech career in the future. It took a shift in my thinking and making sure I was being responsive to the styles of learning that my students had to make this happen and I’m looking forward to becoming even more fluent with integrating technology. 

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