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I’ve posted in the past about my feeling skeptical if an engaging curriculum utilizing technology would be more beneficial to students than an engaging curriculum without extensive tech use. I’ve also shared, though, about how I am certainly open to be proven wrong, and that I hoped to teach two classes of the same subject next fall – one using laptops and the other using the engaging classwork I’ve used in the past. I’d use a variety of evaluations, including student self-assessments, and compare the two at the end of the school year.

I’ve now received enthusiastic support from administrators and other staff to try this experiment. To ensure that I have time for the other classes I want to teach during the regular school-day, I’ve decided to teach the laptop class during what we call “zero-period” – one hour prior to the official beginning of school. I’ll be doing it with a Social Studies subject. I announced the laptop class one day last week (making it clear that I wasn’t sure what the subject of the class would be), including the early starting time, and received fifty sign-ups within a few hours. Obviously, I won’t be able to take that many, and the fact that it will be in zero-period might skew the results a bit, since it’s likely the most motivated students will be in that class. But I’m not planning on this being a super-academic research project, anyway.

As a sort of “run-through” to explore ways to integrate technology more into my day-to-day teaching, I’m converting one period of my double-block Intermediate English class in January to a Government class. We’ll be in the computer lab three or four days each week. This will give me an opportunity to experiment prior to the fall.

I’m very committed to the overall goals of the Government class as I’ve taught it before. These include using it to help students not only learn about how it works theoretically and in reality, but how they can develop their own capacity, and the capacity of their communities, to make it work more effectively for them. Keeping those goals in mind, I have a number of questions I’ll be asking myself as I plan for the spring. These include – How can students use technology to help…

  1. deepen the relationships they have with their peers in the class?
  2. increase their understanding of the nuts and bolts of our local, state, and federal government?
  3. learn more about governments in other countries, and how our government is perceived around the world and why?
  4. gain a greater sense of understanding of how government affects their local communities?
  5. (since many of the students will be recent immigrants) prepare themselves to pass the U.S. Citizenship test, and also learn what it means to be an active citizen in a democracy?
  6. connect with their peers throughout the schools, and with their families and neighbors, to learn more what concerns they have about their lives?
  7. prepare for and carry-out community improvement projects?
  8. strengthen their ability to read, write, speak and listen in English?

I’ve got a number of potential answers that I’m mulling over, and which I’ll share in my next post. Does anyone else have additional questions, or ideas for answers to the ones I’ve listed?

6 Responses to “I Wonder If This Is Going To Work…”

  1. [...] just written a post on our group blog, In Practice, titled “I Wonder If This Is Going To Work…” For those of you unfamiliar with “In Practice,” it’s a blog written by teachers [...]

  2. Mathew says:

    Fascinating experiment. I think I agree with your hypothesis that engaging technology is not necessarily better than generally engaging teaching

    The very best teachers I’ve seen use no technology at all and I only wish I could be as effective as them at delivering instruction. Technology is just one more tool.

    However, whether or not the technology integration teaches content more effectively than very careful planning, well chosen realia, and a handsome and charming teacher in the front of the room, students will increasingly need technology skills to participate in the global marketplace of the future. For many low income students, if we don’t provide them with technology use opportunities in school they may not get those opportunities elsewhere. I think we have to provide them with digital opportunities for that reason alone.

  3. mrferlazzo says:

    Mathew,

    I agree that our students need opportunities in school to develop basic technology skills. I suspect, though, that this kind of knowledge can be developed without tech necessarily being a key part of a curriculum. To me, the key question will be this: Does having students use computers everyday in class result in greater student achievement and provide an aide in their development as life-long learners?

    Of course, the other challenge is developing assessment tools that can effectively come-up with answers to these questions.

    Larry

  4. Jose says:

    Larry,
    Your post brings us back to the basic question: What is the goal of tech use in k-12, to develop skills (typing, research, etc..) or as an means to learning? We have seen a few exemplary teachers use technology tools to transform their classrooms into hubs of learning. For me the litmus test has to do with how a student is able to construct new learning. Gone are the days where the teacher is the bearer of all knowledge. Starting at the Elementary school level we must find ways to allow our students to build meaning on their own. By the time they reach high school there is a familiarity with the tools that allows for independent learning. This needs to happen in each of our individual classrooms. Tech tools provide the avenue to 21st Century Learning. I agree with you; it isn’t easy to develop and assess these methodologies but, nevertheless change needs to happen.

  5. [...] days ago as a way to reflect on all the posts I’ve made since February,  prepare for some technology experiments I’ll be doing in the classroom this coming semester, and to have a little fun.  I thought [...]

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