A second grade teacher, Beverly Ladd, from North Carolina is teaching Geography in a whole new way: Skype! Her classroom is trying to find 50 classes from other states to Skype with and share geography and cultural norms. She set up an open Google doc where classrooms can sign up to do a mystery Skype with her classroom. This is a wonderful way to use technology to extend learning and make it more authentic. Rather than reading about other states, learning from the local "experts" in an inquiry-based way is something that these students will remember, and this would be very difficult to do without the aid of technology!
A web-based project called the Michigan Student Caucus is a collaborative project between university students and middle and high school social studies students. The project supports a deep dive into politics, government and advocacy work. University students help to scaffold and support secondary students on their understanding of state government, by using authentic policies and real life issues in Michigan and the state government of Michigan. The secondary students are able to research policies, and even draft their own bill, which they introduce to the Michigan state government at the end of the semester long project. Students form all over the state of Michigan collaborate through the website, and through their co-construction of their own bills and policies based on authentic information from the state of Michigan.
Engagement: The website allows students to co-engage with other students in learning about government and drafting bills. The website helps them focus on the learning goals.
Enhancement: University students are able to help scaffold and support the learning through the website discussion boards and private messaging. They can also personalize the learning for the secondary students through the website.
Extension: The website allows the students access to work on real world policy.
This assignment by Sara Romeyn of Bullis High School has always stood out as an extremely effective use of technology to meet learning goals. Sara has the students do a deep-dive into a historical character. They research the character's thoughts, ideas and writings. Then they create a Facebook FanPage about their character, updating it often and responding in character to other historical characters of their classmates. Sara encourages them to work outside of school hours, when they are already on Facebook to extend the learning. She also encourages them to consider how their character would respond current political issues. In the end, the students participate in a virtual salon, where they are all online, in character responding to each other's posts.
Engagement: The students are co-engaging through their characters by both asynchronously and synchronously responding to each other's Facebook posts. While Facebook can be distracting, by using a tool that the students are already engaging with outside of class, they will see their classmate's character's posts show up in the general feed and prompt them to respond.
Enhancement: Facebook allows students to post different types of multi-media about their character and share their thoughts with others. It also allows the teacher to weigh in through replies and push the student's thinking. Facebook gives students an opportunity to be reflective and monitor their thinking. Note, the teacher should be modeling how to do this. Finally, Facebook allows a lot of conversation to be happening at one time, something that would be difficult to capture with only traditional learning tools.
Extension: The way that Sara set up the assignment, allows students to connect with everyday political culture and historical character's perspectives. In addition, students can participate 24/7. Finally, the students learn how to have a positive but constructive dialog online about politics.
In this lesson (via the TIMS website), middle school students studying animal habitats and behaviors were able to extend their learning by selecting the appropriate technology to document different animals in their natural habitat.
Engagement: Students co-use the technology tools. They are purposely selecting tools that help them meet their end goal (focus on the time-on-task).
Enhancement: The tools allow the students to collect the data, as well as scaffold their understanding of the data (putting it into easy to read charts/graphs).
Extension: The technology tools allow students to document the animals in their natural habitat and study them, using the authentic data that they collect.
In this lesson (via the TIMS website), high school students are interested in learning more about puppy mills and how to help stop them. They decide to put together a PSA on puppy mills. In order to do so, they use a variety of technology to meet their end goals. First, they research puppy mills on Google. Second, they use technology to interview an expert. Next, they map out and write their script. Then, they create their PSA podcast with Garageband and finally they share it out to the world. This is a wonderful example of the following areas of the Triple E:
Engagement: Students are co-using the technology tools. They are working together on all the aspects of the project, giving them opportunities to reflect and monitor each other's work. They also co-engage through the tools with their interview of the expert. They are selecting tools that meet their end goal, rather than choosing tools prior to knowing what they want to accomplish.
Enhancement: Without the technology tools to interview their expert, research puppy mils or create their podcast, this would be very difficult to accomplish.
Extension: Their virtual interview allowed the students to connect to the real world of puppy mills!
It takes a village to support children in using technology tools for their cognitive growth. Often, parents want to know how to help their child use technology to learn and not just for pure entertainment. The Cooney Center has put together a nice report highlighting some easy activities where parents can co-engage with their children on using technology tools. Below we highlight some of these ideas and modify some to include other digital resources:
Liz Kolb is a clinical assistant professor of education technologies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She works with over 150 preservice teachers every year on integrating technology into K-12 teaching.
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