Fighting the Good Fight with Technology in the Classroom

Last Monday I had  a chance to present and talk with teachers at our local writing project site; the Chippewa River Writing Project. There were many great sessions where I took a ton of valuable information and resources away from the two sessions I attended. In addition, we had a spectacular Keynote speaker, Jim Fredricksen who is the author of  So, What’s the Story?: Teaching Narrative to Understand Ourselves, Others, and the World (Exceeding the Common Core State Standards). His ideas and thoughts on narrative are very thought provoking and have made me realize that it isn’t easy for students to write narratives.

My own presentation gave the teachers and pre-service teachers a sneak peek into the book I co-authored with Troy Hicks titled: Create, Compose, Connect: Reading, Writing, and Learning with Digital Tools due out March 6th. As I discussed with the participants some of the digital tools I use in my own classroom, a very interesting question was brought to my attention.

  • What do we do when the technology director blocks sites that are useful to students and won’t open them?

It is a great question and though I don’t have the answer, I can offer some suggestions that may help with your argument for implementing certain sites or apps withing your everyday lessons.

  1. Access and read your school’s acceptable use policy.
  2. Have face-to-face conversations with your principal.
  3. Discuss with colleagues what you would like to do and see what they are thinking – perhaps they can add support for you.
  4. Analyze your current technology situation at school. Will students have access to computers, iPads, cell phones, tablets, etc.?
  5. Why? Why are you using the app or site for your given lesson?

It occurred to me after the teacher asked the question that if the time is taken to thoroughly read the acceptable use policy it can work to a teacher’s advantage when it comes to trying to implement technology.  I hear teachers from time to time stating that the acceptable use policy is what was their demise when it came to their idea to implement some type of technology.  Though there is no doubt this may be true, I would approach it is how can it help my case.

After looking over the acceptable use policy, I feel it is vital to have a well prepared conversation with your principal and other administration.  Thankfully, I have a principal and a superintendent that sees the benefit of technology and they both understand how students are learning today.  Remember this too, Technology directors aren’t the final line of trying to open up a digital too.  I have overwhelming respect for Tech directors and the very reason they may not be allowing a site or app to be available is because the school may not have the capacity. However, administration should have the final say and it should be a collaborative conversation between administration and the director. It shouldn’t be left up to just the director. Thankfully, I also have a great tech director at our school which makes it easy where I teach.

The final point I would like to elaborate on is the why.  Why are you using the tool?  How does it benefit the students? Furthermore, I want to direct you to the info-graphic below.

Technology Purpose2

I want to give credit where credit is due for this take on using tech in the classroom. However, because I have seen it on Google + and Twitter several times…I have lost where it originated. I want to go out on a limb and say this is NOT mine and I did NOT create it.  The point of the info-graphic is to not turn people off to Prezi, blogs, or Wordles.  I perceive it as something for us to think about and remind us that we shouldn’t use these tools for just the sake of using them because they are cool or the students think they are cool.

Student engagement is something we all want, but we should also keep the student at the center of our lessons and ask the question: How are my students going to benefit from using this tool and how is it going to be used to further their education?

Just some thoughts to consider when trying to fight the good fight on using technology in the classroom.

Cheers!


CRWP Middle School Writing Camp: Day #2

With our second day of middle school tech writing camp complete, I am no doubt more fired up about the campers and their writing, but I am also exhausted.  Today was a huge poetry day along with tying up some loose ends with our writing yesterday.

We started today with the students writing 25 word stories in their composition notebooks.  I showed the campers the examples on Kevin Hodgson’s Prezi.  The campers enjoyed the many stories that were in the Prezi.  We then proceeded to share our own 25 word stories out loud.  Participants did an amazing job!  We then quickly transitioned into our poet coming in and speaking to them about writing and what it means to be a poet/writer.  Robert Fanning was our poet and he did a super job with his presentation.  He had the students create this huge word wall on our whiteboard and then he read some poems to the kids.  He discussed the power that words have, something that students today need to hear again and again. At the end of his presentation, he took the campers down the hall and opened a box full of words on pieces of paper.  He then had the students throw them in the air and once they landed, the students needed to form lines of poetry. He instructed them to be silly and non-traditional and I was impressed with how our campers worked on this.  I was even more impressed by one young man who had some really powerful lines.  Below are some pictures of the activity and the lines individuals came up with:

            

When our poet departed today, the students wrote three different poems.  They wrote something called a diamond poem where they started with a topic like female and then end up at the complete opposite which would be male in this case.  In addition to their diamond poems, they wrote haiku poems and then collaboratively wrote a poem that rhymed.  You can see student work on youthvoice.net. Their work is under CRWP and writing poems.  I encourage you to check out some of their work.

Throughout the time the participants were working on their writing they used Ipads for the duration of the day.  Some campers had experience with using Ipads, others did not.  Students were actively engaged in writing using Google Doc/Drive and Youth Voices.  There were very few gliches and overall, the students did a plethora of writing today incorporated with the use of technology. They finished out their day responding to other camp participants work on Youth Voices and trying to polish their detective skills by solving some of the staged scenes that were posted on to the Youth Voices website.

With all of the writing the campers have done so far, our goal for this camp is to look at a way we can incorporate the three major areas of writing the Common Core State Standards focuses on: narrative, informational, argumentative.  Yesterday we asked our participants to be detectives and try and solve a murder which led them to writing a police report, a great lead into argumentative writing.  Today, we focused on poetry, part of the narrative world of writing.  Thursday we will look at research, a type of informational writing.  Our adventure continues tomorrow as we embark on our writing marathon and hear another guest speaker.

Cheers!