This summer I have been teaching Project Based Learning to a small group of 7th & 8th grade boys at a camp in Philadelphia. My classroom is a Study Lounge in a dorm with a dry erase board that barely erases, desks with chairs attached and carpeting throughout.
I have been teaching an Ecosystems unit to my campers in a carpeted room with no sink, few tables and ALMOST NO TECHNOLOGY!
As a lab teacher, it has been a struggle as well as a good reason to reflect:
Do my students feel as frustrated as I do? Can I teach without technology? Can my students learn without technology?
My lessons this summer are very hands on and interactive to meet the needs of boy learners (see Kent Manning‘s blog Motivating Boy Writers). Still, I felt like I wasn’t doing my best teaching sometimes because I didn’t have access to a computer, and even if I brought my laptop in there is no wireless connection. I had to reserve a special room just to show them some Discovery Education Streaming videos I had found about what we were studying. I began to worry: “Can I teach without technology?”
I found myself struggling to engage my boys in the short 1-2 page reading selections we completed despite trying several different methods for making the experience as engaging and interactive as possible. I tried Think, Pair, Share, I tried to do a Jigsaw activity and I tried just the plain old ‘read it’ technique. My students had trouble concentrating, and even if they didn’t have to read the whole selection and knew they would be teaching their peers about what they read, they did not seem motivated to read. What I failed to mention is that they were reading selections about animals they had right in front of them in the classroom.
Then, today I was actually able to squeeze my boys into the only computer slot available all week. We had recently gone on a trip to the Schuylkill Environmental Center and hiked around for a few hours. We saw Bullfrogs, Wood Frogs, Snapping Turtles, American Toads and more! I decided to have them use Glogster to create a research report on an animal we had seen. Once they saw what Glogster could do, and I reviewed the assignment and the kinds of things they needed to find out about the animal, they were instantly motivated. Even those who struggled to read or concentrate were quickly able to find the information they needed and then put it onto a glog. We only had an hour to complete the whole project, but I was proud of what they turned out.
for the full glogs: http://mbteach.glogster.com/WF & http://mbteach.glogster.com/wood-frogs
I couldn’t help but wonder: are we all 21st Century learners? I felt like a better teacher while using technology and I watched my campers become truly engaged with the content they were reading. Does this mean that my students NEED technology to be successful learners? Or am I just a better teacher when using technology?
Are we reaching a point where we as teachers are becoming ‘Digital Natives’ like our students and therefore require these techie tools to be successful?
There are students across the world learning new things every day (and surpassing us in test scores & job readiness) without the resources that we have. What are the implications of this?
Some links on this topic:
Teach Paperless: What Makes a Good 21st Century Teacher? (this is a great blog about learning in the 21st Century)
techLEARNING.com (a website dedicated to Technology in Education)
Education World-Technology Integration (a site with resources for teachers trying to integrate technology)
Cool Cat Teacher Blog (a blog about successful teaching and effective tools in Educational Technology)
Free Technology for Teachers (a great resource for free online tools for teachers)
One thing I would like to find: studies, posts, etc… explaining how we don’t need technology to reach our students and to be effective teachers. Please advise!