How do you know so much about instructional technology?
"There are far more things that I don't know than I do know. I learn about new technologies all the time. The most important thing that I do is constantly wonder how I could use something in the Social Studies classroom."
When you are planning, how do you ensure you are doing higher level activities with technology & your students?
"Technology based projects and mini-projects are great when you're knee deep into a topic. We don't have to wait until the end of a topic to bring technology based learning. Mid-way through a topic students have background knowledge and a well thought out project condenses learning enabling students to express their learning in different ways.
In short, when I'm making a project, I want students to take their academic discourses - the stuff we learn in the classroom - process the info and then give it back to me in an entirely new format. Students can't successfully write scripts, shoot commercials, act out materials or make digital shorts online without deeply knowing the content."
What suggestions do you have for someone who gets easily stressed out trying to implement technology into his/her classroom?
"Expectations, planning and practice are key.
Step #1: Students need to know explicitly that the world's most boring alternative assessment is waiting for them if they can't stay on task.
For beginners, start with a more basic project - a web based comic strip, for example. Go through the whole process of creating an account, how to log in, how to select characters, a background and of course having a script ready to go. Write down the questions you had and make them a "troubleshooting" section in your directions. If you're going to show 30 young ones how to do something, it's best to have it down cold.
Once you're comfortable with the process of making a project on your own, make a super great example to show your students and a rubric to go along with it. How many key words do they need? What groups of people will be interacting? How many frames must you have? Teachers know a great project when we see one. But take that extra time to go over the rubric and show students how to create a great project gets them excited to do the work and gives them a clear goal to reach.
Don't worry if the project was awful the first time around. Your students had a blast making those projects and are dying to see each others. Embrace this. Put as many as possible on display. Give the kids sticky notes and let them leave comments for each other. Laugh about the goof-ups and praise the things that went really well. Then, do it again next month.
Watch the difference."
What is your philosophy of teaching?
"I describe my teaching style as the purposeful application of new technologies built upon a strong base of traditional literacies. While STEM courses receive the spotlight in American education debates, I believe that the Social Studies can be at the fore of a progressive educational agenda as well. The intelligent integration of modern technologies facilitates the learning of core historical concepts. Students learn to not just absorb, but construct knowledge, develop their creative abilities and sharpen their research skills.
Technology centered learning isn't about forcing fun into the lessons, but allowing it to come organically by giving students new and exciting ways of expressing what they have learned."
Stay tuned to hear from our next Techie Teacher of the Month!