Is there anything more enjoyable than having time to try, to experiment and to explore?
In Andrew’s McPhee’s Grade 5 classroom on Salt Spring Island, learning is measured while observing the growth of students’ interest and problem-solving skills when confronted with various technology challenges. The SD64 district team prioritized Andrew’s classroom for a 2016-2017 Tier 2 Classroom-based solution so Andrew began the year by introducing the students to apps to help them share stories (Check out “A Toontastic Start to the School Year”). Impressed with the increased engagement and motivation he witnessed when technology was in students’ hands, Andrew now has his pupils experimenting with green screen, coding apps, ‘makey-makey’ and even a classroom drone.
Students confidently explore how things work, plan experiments and pursue new ideas, thinking and re-thinking when things don’t go as planned. In their own version of “genius hour” students constructed a track for a Sphero robot to follow, made a weather report using the Do Ink app and green screen, created a target and programmed the drone to launch and shoot at it. Andrew emboldens their creativity, eager to answer their questions but challenging them to seek their own answers and explore options. Students can be heard to happily exclaim: “Hey, I read the manual and found out…” “That was a cool idea to make a weather report.” “Hey, look what I did!” and “Just a sec, I’m going to do it again!”
The integration of technology into Andrew’s classroom creates opportunities to prepare his students for a world where critical thinking and life-long learning are already essential. He facilitates discussions about what makes a respectful digital citizen at a point, early in their lives, when many of the students are not already completely immersed in social media. In so doing, he is laying the ground-work for a future where a responsible digital presence will be critical.
Students take ownership of their accomplishments, each expected to fashion their own e-portfolio for self-directed parent-teacher conferences and reporting. For this task, Andrew chose the relatively simple format of Google Slides where students could upload images and video of their classroom creations, comment on their own successes and re-set their personal learning goals following a teacher-directed template. Students, teachers and parents all had input and feedback to share regarding student learning for the term in a format that is recorded and saved in the student permanent file.
Andrew clearly enjoys technology and the opportunities it represents for his students. His classroom exudes a remarkable enthusiasm, sense of contentment and an energy to absorb, create and expand learning. Always a great place to visit, leaving Andrew’s class always makes one curious for what the next chapter might bring. Until next time, Andrew!