This post is written by guest blogger Chrissy Boydstun, English teacher at Mansfield High School in Mansfield, Texas. Chrissy was also one of the original members on the TASA on iTunes U project, and was named Mansfield Secondary Teacher of the Year last year.
This article supports the New Learning Environment inCreating a New Vision for Public Education recognizing the redefined instructional role in the classroom. I.C
I.C . The potential of learning anywhere, anytime, “any path, any pace” must be embraced.
My personal philosophy when it comes to integrating technology into the curriculum is born out of a desire to expand the parameters of learning beyond the class period or even school day and instead, allow students to build upon concepts and ideas they have been instructed on as they strive to make learning their own.
Isn’t that the true goal of education? Not checking a box as you complete a course but instead reflecting upon the change in who you are, what you know and how you will use new skills to your benefit no matter what course in life you find yourself in. Learning must exceed expectations, not measure up to current standards.
I teach English at the high school level but hopefully, students take away more than just knowledge of reading and writing from my class. I want to challenge students to think critically and apply that skill to whatever may come.
With that in mind, it is my daily goal to think outside of the box when it comes to how my students apply what they have learned. Students need to be proficient in a myriad of skills in order to meet with success in this demanding world where the landscape changes drastically with the emergence of the latest and greatest tech each year.
A typical day begins with an assortment of apps that seamlessly integrate with each other as they form a foundation for 21st Century education. It is no secret that I love and use three of these foundational apps every day. My students quickly learn the function of iTunes U as a platform for instruction, Metamoji Note as a simple means for digital annotation and Showbie as the digitized “turn in tray” – all three critical to interact in my paperless classroom. With support from my district in the form of 1:1 iPad integration in grades 7-12, it makes this daily routine one that simply requires a charged device.
Once these basics are covered though, it allows for more sophisticated integration of technology. I love the ability for students to “tell their stories” using Adobe Voice, a suave app that produces a quality commercial with little effort on the part of the student. What’s even better is that it gives them a voice – as is indicated in its name. Instead of a mundane “meet and greet” at the beginning of the year, we hit the ground running using this app so that students can bring the stories of their own lives to life for their classmates. The impact it makes to watch them learn with ease how powerful technology can be as it comes alongside them in the classroom is a lesson worth its weight in gold. We can then build upon that knowledge from that point on, pivoting back to this app several times throughout the year as they create meaningful, reflective projects.
Because I believe true learning comes from creating, a big focus in my state-tested English I class in the spring involves a multi-faceted project I have dubbed: Teach the EOC. Though I am never going to be someone that focuses solely on a test, I do believe that students should feel confident going into high stakes testing. What better way to help build their confidence than by orchestrating a lesson on their own and teaching their classmates. But alas, I get ahead of myself. Let’s back up a bit. We take time to benchmark periodically throughout the year. In my district, this takes the form of TEKS Checks – a test at the end of each six weeks that tests skills learned within that time frame in a format that is conducive to the state test. These assessments allow me to evaluate where individuals are throughout the year. I think this is instrumental in preparing students; they need to be treated as individuals, especially when it comes to reinforcing skill sets. In a class of 30, I will not have everyone struggling with the same concept, so building in lessons that cater to specific needs is critical.
I have a student-created iTunes U course that allows students to go to the specific skill they need work on (divided by reporting categories, TEKS and then SE). Each lesson includes a student-created video, created by partners who have to introduce the TEK, explain what it is, walk their classmates through a sample lesson with guided questions they answer for them and then a few questions posed at the end (without answers) for homework. The goal is for students to watch the videos, take notes, build confidence as they check their answers and get instant feedback on whether they are correct or not, and then finish with a few homework questions they must submit to me (along with their notes) to receive credit during EOC review time.
I love it that the course began with no sample videos but after a few years now, it includes multiple videos for each skill. And each video is different so students could watch the same skill presented in a variety of ways, thus reinforcing the concept even more expansively.
Let’s face it – I have gone over these skills all year long but for some, hearing it from a peer will help the information connect in a way it never has before. Plus, then they actually “own the learning,” to quote Alan November. We know as teachers that when you have to teach a concept, you begin to interact with it on a whole new level. What a great way for students to experience that same transformative process!
And did I mention my favorite part about this project? I use Knowmia as the platform students create videos with because it isn’t just a whiteboard video app; it includes a video inset where I can (and so can the kids) see who is teaching! Talk about taking ownership! When students realize they have a stake in the project, when they understand others will be watching it (for years to come) and know exactly which part they were responsible for, it ups the anty. And the videos submitted reflect that!
So, the basics…
Students begin with picking a partner and then selecting a SE. They then get to go through any material they want as they formulate their lesson. I have a multitude of resources at their disposal or they can select their own. They map out how they want to teach the skill and divide up the work. It is imperative that each partner has an equal part (something that must be reflected in the finished outcome). Like I said earlier, they must include guided questions so that individuals watching can pause the video, answer the question, then restart it to hear the answer that follows. Finally, they end with a few questions that they give me answers to separately. I want those watching the videos to prove they learned from it and submitting notes and answers to questions helps with that assessment.
Students are given a project rubric so they know what goes on each slide. They also have a checklist so they can see that everything asked for has been included. Finally, there’s a video evaluation form that students fill out as they evaluate videos they watch in the weeks to come as we do 5-10 minute EOC Reviews at the end of class periods.
I love the end result – individualized tutoring, from peers, in a focused environment. And because of tech integration, it is not only possible, it is transformative to the way students approach their learning from that point on. They begin to break down the barriers between teachers and students and realize instead that learning is a two-way street requiring them to jump into the driver’s seat if they want to get where they desire to go in life.