When I was first encouraged to use more technology at school, I was a little nervous. It wasn’t because I am technology illiterate or anything; I am always looking to learn about the latest and greatest means of teaching and the tools to use while doing it. I was mostly nervous that I wouldn’t be able to effectively teach content and incorporate technology into my daily routine. I quickly learned that building technology into the daily routine was not difficult at all; actually it was much easier. I also noticed that by using technology more often in my classroom, the behavior of my students improved drastically. I was able to talk and students listened intently to what I had to say because they knew they would soon get to use the computer and do a task that was engaging, meaningful, content oriented and “Fun.” I was thrilled.
What I had decided as a teacher was to do units in my class that taught basic skills and use the computers as much as possible, but to end each unit with a project which would showcase all of the skills learned in that unit. Our latest unit was an Autobiography Unit. Students did a formal Autobiography and typed it out like we had typically done in the past. The project part was them presenting their lives to me in a digital way using one of several choices:
- A PowerPoint doing an AlphaBiography
- A slideshow that had them use each letter of the alphabet to describe who they are)
- A GoAnimate in which they would create a cartoon character who talked about their life to another character
- An XtraNormal which would also let them create a cartoon character who talked about their life to another character, but was a different cite
- A Glogster which would be an online digital collage to which they could upload pictures, videos and text
I was unsure of what to expect back from the students since I had never done anything like this before. The results I got were amazing! I had engaged, active learners in my classroom from the minute they walked in until the minute they walked out (which was 5 minutes late and I had to write passes because they wanted to finish).
With this type of project, my students were automatically using critical thinking skills because they had to figure out how to present their lives because I left it open-ended. By the second week of a three week project, students were doing cartoons, Glogsters and PowerPoints that were far more superior than the examples that I had given them. Actually, they began teaching me how to do some of the cool things that they had learned! It was a truly rewarding experience as a teacher.
To end the unit, we did a Gallery Walk in which we put all of the desks in a circle and students opened their projects up on one of the computers in the room. Students went desk to desk viewing others projects and leaving positive comments on sticky notes on the desk with the project.
Here is a sample of one of the projects my students created:
Here are a few student responses to the project:
“I loved the Autobiography Project. We were able to do different tasks instead of just pencil paper work or a poster. I really liked that we were able to be creative with it and had multiple choices to do our projects instead of one choice like I said before: just paper and pencil. It was fun. I would love to do more projects like that.” ~Lanice
“I loved working on GoAnimate and figuring out how to do a video and make it about my life. I loved creating the stories of my life through the stick figure people. I kept wanting to learn more and more about how to do the videos so I played with it all night long at home. I spent two hours one night trying to get pony tails on all my girl characters. It was the funnest project I have ever done in school.” ~Deztani
This post was written by Laura Cross, an English Language Arts teacher at Akron Buchtel Innovation-STEM 7-8 Middle School.
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