Teaching Screenagers

Teaching Screenagers
My life in the fastlane

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Differentiation: Technology levels a playing field

This week I had the opportunity to team teach with a colleague. It is so rare in the middle school world to be able to teach with another adult in your classroom. Sure, people come and observe, you may be able to catch a lesson or two on your prep period, but it isn't the same as collaborating all day with someone.
This past week over half our students went to sixth grade camp. Holly French and I decided to put our classes together and experiment with a new program using the iPods called Storykit. Our students created Haiku poems, downloaded images to match their work, and then created a 6 page book highlighting themselves as authors, and the poetry they had written. I would put a sample here but I haven't quite figured out how to download and share it yet. That will happen later in the week and I will post some student work.

The project itself is pretty great. Next week students will read their work, building an oral component into the lesson and we will once again use our fluency scoring guide to monitor our progress as performance readers.

But I think the greatest lesson of all this week, was that using technology as a tool levels the playing field. I had my intervention class and my honors class working together on this project. I would defy anyone observing the students working together to declare who was honors, and who needed extra help. In fact, it would have been impossible. All the students were engaged, coaching each other on what they learned about the program as they produced their books, and no one waited for someone to do it for them. By the end of the day, one of my students wrote a ten step list on how to use Storykit so when our classes return they too will be able to use the application quickly.

I read an article this weekend that I have attached to this post. It is called
"Are You Making These Four Differentiation Mistakes?" by Robyn Jackson at ACSD.

Here is a quote describing one of these mistakes:
"Differentiating by achievement level rather than by students' current learning level. Some will tell you that there are three kinds of students - high, medium, and low. But this distinction is not very useful. There are times when a student you consider to be in your high group will struggle with the content. Other time, students in your low group will sail through an activity, outperforming the students in your high group. Because students bring a variety of skills and experiences to the classroom, classifying them as high, medium, and low doesn't really help you adjust your instruction effectively to meet their complex needs. These static groupings also limit students. Once you start thinking about students in these ways, it is difficult to see them any other way. Differentiating by achievement level often results in lowered expectations for struggling students and extra work for advanced students. Lowering the target for some students while raising the learning target for others is not differentiation - it's tracking. Real differentiation takes into account where students are at a particular point in time. It doesn't label kids "low", "average," and "advanced"; it groups students by their current understanding of the content and processes involved in a particular learning activity and then provides students with the targeted supports they need to successfully master that activity."

Are You Making these Four Differentiated Instruction Mistakes? - Washington, DC, United States, ASCD EDge Blog post

This is something that I have always believed, and in grouping our students randomly this week, this was action research proving that exact point. As we look to using technology in our classes, it shouldn't be about replacing core learning, it should be about offering a variety of options for students to use to display what they have learned, and more importantly, how they learn it.

Something interesting to consider til we post next week.

P.S. Check out some of the blogs I am following, and please feel free to suggest some other sites out there that would be helpful as we move forward.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Teaching Screenagers

 This is my new term of the month:


A term that combines two words to describe "teenagers who are online" and who are "always looking at the screen."
Also defined as: "wired teens or the much sought after marketing demographic of 18-24 year olds who grew up in front of a TV/computer screen."
See also : generation Y  mouse potato  

The cover of Educational Leadership 
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership.aspxboasts  dedicates a full issue of their magazine dedicated to this concept. As I become more and more engrossed in this iPod adventure, I am quickly coming to realize these are difficult waters to navigate. Each day I evaluate not only who I am teaching, what I am asking them to accomplish, but how will technology enhance or deviate from my objectives for the day?

Daily I am inundated with articles about technology in the classroom. Here are links to just a few of the articles that appeared in my inbox this week.

Does Facebook inspire us or stress us?  Read each of these and decide for yourself.

Stressed out by Facebook? Study shows some users experience anxiety

 How schools should use social media to communicate


Is technology expanding or lacking in our countries rural areas?

Digital divide persists as Obama reaches out to tech leaders on innovation, education

Rural districts use technology to expand distance learning
Do we push forward in technology creating 1 to 1 schools or do budget restraints make that impossible?

Report sounds warning bell on implementing education reforms
An iPad for Every Student; Now What?

  What is our role as teachers of social justice and digital citizens? Oh, and by the way while we are at it, lets make sure we cover every standard emphasized on the California STAR assessment. Keep on pace, but innovate, that is the message of the day. And most days I think we do that pretty well.

As the CST looms over the next few months, I am coming to realize more and more that the children I teach and interact with each day are so much more than a single test score. Being part of this project has forced me to put my lessons under an entirely new lens. So the next obvious step, is when will the assessment we use to judge the success of our students match this innovation in instruction? If we put the world in their hands as a resource, and take it all away when we assess on paper and pencil, is that really an accurate reflection on what we have learned together this year?

So one answer is to have multiple assessments. Not wanting to wait for the next big thing to be created, our class has decided to create our own reflection/evaluation.
Each student will still take the  California STAR assessment, however, they will also create a digital portfolio, highlighting some of their best creative work this year. What that looks like remains to be seen, but I am sure I can find some ideas on line! 

Another interesting article and website

Closing the Achievement Gap Without Widening a Racial One - California Teachers Association

http://sdawp.ucsd.edu/  San Diego Area Writing Project

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What is a Digital Footprint?

Working with students in technology is a joy and a challenge. What I have discovered about our journey is that my students don't truly understand the idea of "Digital Footprint" or that your life on line stays with you. This week some students attempted to go to some sites that were not appropriate, and others just wasted time looking up images or information off the topic. I took the opportunity this week to teach a lesson on Digital Dossier. Take a look at this video, it was a great discussion point for our class.

After we viewed this video we discussed our roles and responsibilities we have as Digital Citizens. I find it fascinating that our kids are so immersed in technology, yet they don't know that what they put out there stays out there. Food for thought as we move forward.