Waiting to board my flight back to Texas, I sit and reflect on my visit to Delaware and the Colonial School District. I had the pleasure of touring three schools on Friday before attending the Colonial Tech Conference on Saturday. I was amazed at the level of technology use and technology integration within the school district. Every classroom I visited had a device, mostly Chromebooks, for each student. In addition to devices, every student was using Schoology as their learning platform.
In a middle school classroom, a teacher was using Schoology to differentiate instruction for students. She had printed packets of worksheets for students to fill out as they completed individualized WebQuest over a Social Studies unit they had recently completed. Students were engaged in their computers and navigated websites through their Schoology course. Each student had a different colored packet to differentiate learning. I loved the idea of using a Learning Management System (LMS) to differentiate for students. The reason I love the idea is students within the classroom are not aware of others abilities when they are all working within Schoology. However, the colored packets made it visible again as to what levels students were on. The students may not have known what level each color represented, but they were aware that they were assigned specific colors for a reason.
Another way to differentiate without students being aware might be to have each WebQuest packet in a different Google Form for students to complete. Students could use Google Draw to find objects used within a certain time period and describe how these objects have evolved into current use. Google Apps for Education has endless possibilities for differentiation. I remember how much I hated as a kid being pulled out for Dyslexia classes. I knew I was different than the other kids, and even worse they knew I was different than them. It is important we consider our students emotional and cognitive effects when differentiating is made visible.
Colonial School District allows their high school students to choose a college and a major while in ninth grade. Students are allowed to change majors in ninth grade if they provide justification as to why they would like to change majors. Within the four different college structured programs, students have the option of up to 20 different majors to choose from. I visited the business college where culinary students prepared a 5-star meal for our visiting group. I had the opportunity to hear students speak about the use and integration of technology within the district. It was no surprise when students said they preferred both face to face and digital classroom instruction. I have heard many students express this as we integrate technology into our everyday classrooms.
Our tour of Colonial School District concluded with classroom visits at Carrie Downie Elementary. While at Carrie Downie I visited four classrooms where students were using technology, in all but one of the four students were quietly working on individual devices. In the last classroom I visited students were in groups of three or four using their classroom Twitter account to have a discussion with another class in our global community. Students were collaborating on how to record their Twitter conversation for later reference. Each student was engaged, but more importantly interacting with their peers. Their teacher Ms. Burke was not quietly monitoring, but instead actively questioning students to get them thinking.
When integrating technology into our classrooms we need to always consider is it purposeful. Students need to develop collaborative skills digitally and in person. If every student is sitting quietly on a device completing an assigned online tasks how is it any different than putting a textbook in front of their face and assigning a chapter to read and answer questions over. It is crucial to the development of our students that we allow them a plethora of learning opportunities both digitally and hands on. The maker movement is sweeping the nation because educators are seeing the importance of allowing kids to explore and create with their hands and technology.
Saturday, while attending Colonial Tech Conference, Richard Byrne @rmbyrne spoke about the importance of allowing students to create their own videos through YouTube. He showed a video an autistic student created to educate his peers on life through his eyes. He walked his attendees through how to create and edit a video within YouTube and spoke of ways to allow students voice and choice through digital media. Again, allowing students to make and create not just absorb information from a website linked through an LMS.
After touring these schools, I began questioning my own use of technology with my students. Through Project Based Learning my students are allowed to use technology to show their mastery of standards. My team and I have incorporated many High Yield Strategies provided to our district from Lead4Ward for student collaboration. These High Yield Strategies have students moving around, collaborating, and analyzing the topics of study. While planning we first look at the standard and then our High Yield Strategies before thinking about how to integrate technology. This is where I believe many teachers go wrong. They are thinking of the technology before the standard.
Justin Schleider @SchleiderJustin had a session this weekend about the SAMR model. If you do not know Justin, he is a physical education teacher in New Jersey who has successfully integrated technology into his PE classroom. I sat in his session not only because he has become one a my greatest friends, but because I was amazed at the number of PE teachers whom just like he were integrating tech in their gym class! Nick Endlich spoke about the Menu of Production and Consumption he created to help guide his tech integration. Holy smokes! PE teachers are INTEGRATING not USING technology in the gym and classroom teachers still can not figure out the difference! We have a lot to learn from these guys.
This weekend has me analyzing the integration of technology and its importance to students. Not to say we do not need to use technology in our classroom, but we need to stop and think is it purposeful. When you come into my classroom it is loud, students are engaged, asking each other questions, and sharing ideas. We are not a perfect class, but we are learning by collaborating with each other and people beyond the walls of our classroom.
Needless to say, my experience in Delaware was a great learning experience. I met many great educators and took away many great ideas. Although the learning was the most beneficial of my trip, the connections I made and the people I met were the most memorable moments of my trip. I went to Delaware to visit and learn from my friend and principal of Carrie Downie Elementary Doug Timm. I stayed with a friend from Voxer, Rosy Burke who teaches 5th grade at Doug’s school. Saturday, I met up with Nick, Brian, Sarah, Justin, and Chris whom I all know from my PLN built from Twitter and Voxer. My biggest takeaway here is that no matter how you connect get connected with like minded people. Sarah, Rosy, Justin, and Doug are some of my best friends and I would have never met them without the power of Twitter and/or Voxer and of course EduMatch. Get connected, build your PLN, and grow professionally and personally!
See for yourself the amazing things going on in Colonial School District located in Newcastle, Delaware by following the hashtags #TechCSD and #CDdolphins. Also, follow the educators who make Colonial who they are @DougTimm34 @Rosy_Burke @TomGavin @TaraAmsterdam and @PeteLeida
If you’d like to know more about the high yield strategies I use in my classroom visit lead4ward.com/instructional-strategies
Last, if you would like to grow you PLN by connecting with the educators I learn proper use of technology from daily follow @Rosy_Burke @SchleiderJustin @NicholasEndlich @btcostello05 @sarahdateechur @DougTimm34 or get connected by joining EduMatch.education founded by Sarah Thomas.