Teach, Play, Design, Share

It’s time for another presentation!  My administration has asked me to present to a number of senior school staff at an upcoming PD session in February about technology in the classroom.  I’m the only teacher presenting so I feel honoured.  However, I have given the “Web 2.0 chat” to numerous groups and am feeling like I need more than just the tools (they are very valuable but you can only introduce the same things so many times without losing interest.)

In my attempt to retool some things, I plan to focus on is how to introduce a new piece (or pieces) of technology (hardware, software, web 2.0 tools) to students. An tool that has been presented well will engage a student to learn and present continue in new and interesting ways.  My experience has been that the best way to do this is to teach, play, design and share.  In that order. Usually.  This type of introduction is an adaption of the three part lesson model (mind on, actions, consolidations and connecting.)

Teach

In my opinion, you should never teach one tool exclusively.  In most situations, I show students numerous options for “getting the job done.”  For example, I will demonstrate and teach PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi and Google Docs Presentations when I’m having the students complete a presentation.  When creating comics, I will show Comic Life, Bitstripsforschools and other online comic generators.  More than one tool allows for choice with students choosing the one that best meets their learning needs.

I introduce the tool in a similar way as I would introduce a new unit, I hook them in.  Some suggestions for this might be:

  • Ask leading questions: How do you present information after you have complete research?  What problems have you encountered using Microsoft Word in the past?  What is Skype?
  • Show Samples: Showing what other students have done in the past using the new tool is an amazing way to get students interested.  Draw out the unique features of the tool and they have been used.
  • Real Life Application: Why is this tool important to the student’s real life – answer this before you start?  I will sometime show how I use the tool in my personal or professional life

Next, I would show some basics of the tool (software and web 2.0) in the classroom using a SMARTboard or by linking the iPad to the laptop using AirDisplay.  I find the touch capabilities a huge advantage when going step-by-step through things – especially when including the students in the actual “doing” of the steps.

In some cases, students decide that they don’t want to use the technology but instead compete the assignment the “old-fashioned way.”  I love when this happens.  The students always seem to look for my reaction to this display of power and are surprised when I don’t give them a negative response.  Letting students choose the type of technology they use means that they may choose to use no technology at all. It is about their learning goals – not you forcing what you feel is best down their throats.

This is where I usually get the “Yeah, but I don’t know how to use that technology myself.  How am I supposed to teach it?”  I have helped teachers out with this one by going into their class to teach a specific technology or spend some time one-on-one with them to get them up to speed.  Once immersed in the tool, it is amazing how quick it is learned.  Also, many teachers learn Web 2.0 tools rather quickly once they play themselves.  Finally, students will find many of these tools extremely easy and might even be able to assist the teacher in their learning.

Play

In the “play” step, you allow the students to experiment on the tool without focussing their attention to the assignment itself.  This will be a hard for some teachers as lab space and classroom time is extremely precious. It is amazing what happens when you lets students experiment with a new piece of technology – they learn things that you would never have expected.  It ends up minimizing the complications in future periods and allows the student to focus on their assignment without trying to navigate something they have never used before.

The best part of this play period is the learning that takes place among students and staff.  On many occasions, I have been taught something new by a student about the tool that I did not know going into an assignment.  There is nothing better than the pride shown on the face of a student when they share something new.

Yes, things can get nuts during this play period.  As with the image on the right, you will get the things you don’t want during this period (in addition to the things that you do what).  I feel that it is better to get it out of the way, deal with any issues and move forward without issue.  Also, it gives you a chance to work out the “kinks” in the system before you get down to work.

Design

This is the independent part for students.  They get to create a final product that is usually extremely impressive.  I’m always excited to see the reactions of students who have traditionally struggled in school when they complete their first assignment using a new tool.  They are often surprised at their work and comment about things not being that hard after all.

Share

A salient feature with Web 2.0 tools is the ability for students to share their work with their peers and the world in addition to submitting it to their teacher.  This provides an authenticity to the assignment.  One student in my classroom, in preparation for a presentation to school board staff, commented “Doing something for a purpose, where you know you will have to present to real people, makes an assignment more interesting.”

Furthermore, I usually have a discussion with the students about the technology used and how the assignment went: what went well?  how did the tool work for you?  would you use this tool again?  etc.  This reflection on the technology allows student to decide if it something that can be placed in their Digital Toolbox for the future or if it wasn’t worth the aggravation.

Thoughts?  Is this method similar to what you use in your classroom?  Does it make sense?

I’ll let you know how it goes…

j.

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2 thoughts on “Teach, Play, Design, Share

  1. Great post Jeff. I love how the ‘task’ is the focus, not the technology. After hearing your students share their presentations to the audience of teachers and professionals at the meeting last week, I can vouch for the fact that they feel empowered by their work and the choices you give them.
    Good luck with your presentation to 7-8s on Web 2.0 – I’m sure your passion will shine through and create some converts!

  2. Congratulations on having your leadership recognized. I agree with the important time needed for students to play. This is where they take chances which carry over to their project.

    A final step I always have my students do after presenting is reflect on the presentations they’ve seen. The independently write about the effective and ineffective strategies used. This keeps them focused on everyone’s presentation and allows them to think about what they’d change in their next presentation.

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