Over the past few years, I have adopted more and more technology usage in my classroom. This year has been my biggest year of technology integration in my classroom.
Currently, in my classroom, we have a hybrid 1:1 at times. We have a school board supplied kit of 6 iPad minis for student use, and one for teacher use. We have multiple school kits that can be signed out when needed. As well as the addition of students that bring their own device (BYOD). This brings me up to a complete one to one ratio when I need it. I wanted to share some of the unexpected benefits of using technology in my room. I also believe that this would be possible if I only had half of the iPads as well.
Communicating using Technology
Students this year have shown a tremendous capacity to use the devices within our classroom to communicate with each other, with me, with their parents, and with members of our community.
Students use google drive to communicate with each other. They share ideas about topics to write about. Ask questions and respond to others’ work. They are beginning to use their devices as a form of communication with their parents. Whether it is texting a picture of our agenda board to their parents, or using google calendar to keep themselves organized.
They ask questions, send reminders to me, or solicit feedback in a way that is on their terms. They don’t have to wait in a line in front of me to get their questions answered. I can write them notes about what we are conferencing about for them to reflect on later when completing subsequent work.
Never before have I had a set of students that have embraced technology so authentically, and without my explicit direction. They are comfortable with the devices and the apps that we use. So they simply use them to meet their needs.
Working in Groups
Working in groups in a collaborative process is essential for students in today’s classroom. One of the biggest challenges with group work is often keeping everyone in the group accountable. Technology has changed some of the ways that group work and collaboration happen in my classroom. As I am finding out this year, many of these are not planned ways of collaborating, but my students solving problems and finding solutions to working together more authentically.
Through our extensive use of google drive and other google apps for education, students have discovered the benefits of collaborating on the same assignment at the same time. All students are accountable and everyone can write at the same time. Watching students co-write various things for our writer’s workshop and seeing their writing improve is amazing! And it’s all through watching and learning from their peers, and the authentic discussions that result when two people try to plan the same story.
To allow students the ability to share their work with their peers to solicit feedback from a peer to improve their work in a way that does not negatively affect the integrity of the original work is amazing to watch. The collaboration between peers is stunning and the progress that results in skills with little intervention or direct teaching from me is astounding. Guiding writers instead of teaching writing has been a welcome shift to teaching and learning in my classroom.
Additionally, google drive has allowed for students to collaboratively share notes and information through social science. This benefits all learners. It shows a collaborative nature that is fostered by using technology in the classroom, not as a gimmick or one-off, but as an integral part of our classroom. Having technology available at the point of instruction is imperative to this success.
Allowing students to show their thinking in unique and interesting ways has been fostered by our access to technology. Students are finding and using a variety of tools to share their thinking in creative ways that even I could not plan or envision. For example: using Minecraft. I use it to model various learning concepts, as inspiration for creative adventure stories, or as a way to share student learning using their interest and passion for video games. It astounds me how much I have learned over the past few years about the world of video games.
The benefits of students using tech and being the leaders in using the tech to solve their own problems is so important. It has transformed my teaching and student learning. Even the most resistant children have developed strategies using technology to share their thinking. I challenge you to be open and let technology into your classroom. You don’t need to know everything or even something about what you are doing the students in our classrooms are digital natives. Expect problems, model your flexibility, and take risks in your classroom for yourself and your students.