Tag Archives: tools

With a Twist: SOLC 2019 Day 25

School has a reputation for being routine, dull even.  Students learn through reading, writing and repetition.  Take in information, lather, rinse, repeat.

But does learning have to be like washing your hair?

I’ve learned over my many years of teaching that novelty and doing are essential to learning, but both need to have a purpose integral to the goals of the learning.

Today was all about the wire.

We’ve learned some fish basics in preparation for a deeper inquiry into grunion–a very special fish native to our area that depends on the pull of the moon for the signal to lay their eggs on our sandy beaches.  We studied about angles, creating fish from the 360 degrees of a circle, then cut a mouth and caudal fin measured with a protractor to understand categories of angles.  And, inspired by Alexander Calder and his circus (have you read Sandy’s Circus?) as well as his magnificent mobiles and stabiles, we made wire fish.

My favorite kinds of projects are those that people can’t believe are possible for kids. Long strands of pokey wire and pinchy pliers are not the usual fare of an elementary classroom.  And yet, students couldn’t wait to handle these materials.  Equipped with floral wire and pliers, students turned and molded.  They twisted and pulled, curved and bent, all the while telling the story of their emerging fish.  Buttons became eyes and scales, even the lighted appendage of an angler fish.  I coached and encouraged, pushing students to elaborate on their basic ideas–to push past my example and envision new possibilities.

Students also encouraged and informed each other as I watched new ideas take hold.  I noticed confidence in students who are sometimes tentative, the challenges of the intricacies of wire.  We commiserated about the problems that come with sweaty hands. Eventually, little hands, emerging stories, and big ideas twisted together with  buttons and colorful wires became a school of fish.

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The next twist is still to come as we assembly each small collection of wire fish into a fishy mobile swimming from a piece of driftwood.  There’s a special surprise as well…but I’m not ready to tell about that yet.

 

 

 

 

Integrating Digital Learning

Today was Digital Learning Day.  And I’m all for focusing attention on digital learning to cast a spotlight and encourage more widespread participation.  But I’m also thinking about the ways digital learning doesn’t fit in a day.

A glance at my Twitter feed today showed students blogging, making movies, writing arguments, voicing opinions, speaking out against bullying, creating digital stories, exploring stop motion animation, using QR codes, tweeting 6 word literacy memoirs, having silent discussions on digital discussion boards…and lots of collaboration, experimentation, and students and teachers learning together.  I’m excited that so many of the examples of digital learning I saw were about students creating and producing rather than a passive use of the digital.

But I’m wishing for an “Integrating Digital Learning” day or week or month or year.  I feel like we need a push for districts and schools and educators to think carefully about the ways digital learning can and should be integrated into the overall school curriculum,  We could still have a “try something new” with Digital Learning Day to encourage experimentation and push educators and students to continue their learning about the possibilities of digital learning, but also focus attention on intentional integration of digital learning…which would also highlight the very real needs related to digital integration.

It’s hard to integrate digital learning when you don’t have access to digital devices, or when the internet is spotty…or sites you need access to are blocked.  When the digital devices can’t be depended on, it’s hard to make plans to seamlessly integrate their use into the day to day plans for learning.

As we talked about Digital Learning Day with our students this morning, they reminded us of ways we use digital tools that have become so commonplace that we take them for granted. They pointed out that we (their teachers) use our computers (and printer)  to print their math “sticker problems” and we depend on our Apple TV devices to allow us to share work wirelessly from our laptops…and our students to share their work from their iPads.  We use the document camera to display song lyrics and share poetry and computers for showing digital video clips.  My teaching partner and I also regularly use our phones to snap photos of students in action, documenting and highlighting student learning.

And then there are the iPads.  Many of our students gather in the classroom before school to work on programming with Hopscotch, continue a blog post, or practice math on a district-wide digital math program.  They love this informal “workshop” where they share discoveries and support each other in this unstructured learning environment.

We aim for our devices to become as invisible as pencils and paper.  Today we needed to count the money we had raised for our micro loan.  We suggested that students use the whiteboard function of Educreations to keep track of their calculations as they counted a portion of the cash.  They document their process…and we don’t need paper.  (Although we did have one group who found that they needed paper and pencil!)

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We also embarked on our digital story project…an opportunity for students to tell the story of our micro loan project.  Students examined an example of a digital story, noticed the parts, considered potential tools, and set to work. In teams they will develop a digital story, so today was all about the planning…figuring out what story they will need to tell in their finished product.  They are already talking about the iterations they will need to go through…and can’t wait to draw pictures to digitize!  This is not a one-day project.  We hope they will be done by the end of next week!

The biggest difference for us on this Digital Learning Day was that we highlighted, both in class and publicly, the ways digital learning takes place in our class.  Digital learning is becoming routine in our classroom, and we often don’t notice whether we are using digital tools or not.  Some of our most successful digital projects often include more traditional classroom tools like pencils, paper, paint, and books as part of the digital process.  And I think that is what we want with digital learning.  Digital is another option.  Sometimes it’s the best option, sometimes it’s not necessary…but it’s nice when we can choose to use what works best, not what is least expensive.

Although Digital Learning Day has come and gone, our students will continue their digital learning.  What will learning look like in your classroom tomorrow?  How do you integrate digital learning in your teaching and your students’ learning?