Wanted: More Technology

Picture this scene.  The bell has rung.  Students are filing out of the classroom to head to the playground for recess.  One of my students lags behind.  He is one of my reluctant writers.  Before heading out, he utters the words that any teacher would like to hear.  He says, “Mrs. Kozak, I want you to know that I love writing.  I am having fun writing about my animal.”  That comment really warmed my heart.

As a teacher, I try to approach instruction with excitement and enthusiasm.  Some days are better than others, if I must be honest.  For the past few weeks, my students have been working on informative writing.  They have been working on writing animal reports.  I have had to alter my plans a bit since we do not have access to the computer lab this month.   I had plans for students to type their report in the style of a news article with pictures and captions.  However, the computer lab has been closed so that 3rd through 5th grade students can take the Smarter Balance Assessment.  This means my 2nd graders have limited access to technology.  We are unable to do any research, word process, or blog about our learning.  It’s gotten to the point where I have invited my students to bring in their own devices to work around the issue of no computers.  It is frustrating at times, because only a handful of my students have a device to bring in.

Tonight in one of my Twitter chatrooms, we talked about the SAMR model.  It’s a way to integrate digital learning that leads to high levels of student achievement.

SAMR Model

The basic level is substitution.  The highest level is redefinition.  It is difficult to get students to redefinition when you don’t have the technology to do it.

That’s why I value the comments my students make about their learning.  Even with limited technological resources, we are making do.  I wish I had a cart full of iPads or Chromebooks, but I don’t.  Somehow, I have got to give my students a 21st century education, but I am lacking the tools to do so.  I was given one iPad to use with my group of 26 students.  I am still trying to figure out how to utilize it so all my students can get their hands on it.  If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear it.

My students are so amazing.  There are so many things we could accomplish if only we had the resources.  I am ready to show them how.  All I need are the technology tools.  In the meantime, we will keep plugging along.  I will have to find other ways for my students to show their creativity.  That means that I will also have to get creative!  Am I up for the challenge?  I hope so!

 

Digital Learning Day 2014

Happy Digital Learning Day 2014!  Today I celebrated with my 2nd grade students.  For National Day on Writing, I had discussed the idea of upstanders and bystanders with my students.  We wrote about it, and I had mentioned this in one of my previous blogs.  I believe I even tweeted something out on Twitter a while back.  That’s when I heard from Jayne Marlink (@JMarlinkCWP), Executive Director of the California Writing Project.  She mentioned that one of the components of Digital Learning Day was going to be “Upstanders, Not Bystanders:  A Digital Call To Write and Call to Action.”  I loved this idea because I could connect it back to what my students did for National Day on Writing.

I was excited to participate in Digital Learning Day, but the closer it got, the more I realized it was going to be harder than I thought.  I do not have technology in my classroom where every kid could have access to it.  Many schools have iPad carts or have instituted a Bring Your Own Device policy.  However, my school did not have any of those things in place.  We have one computer in each classroom, a computer lab, and a mini-lab in each building that consists of 12 computers.  These computers are in a common area in the building we call a mall.  The computers in this mini-lab have to be shared between eight classrooms.  My school is also in the middle of MAPS testing, so the computer lab was closed so classes could take the test.  It was a dilemma, how was I going to give my students the chance to get their hands on technology during Digital Learning Day?

I woke up this morning and realized that I had reserved six of the mall computers for small group activity.  I usually meet with small reading groups and have students work independently in centers.  The computers make up one of my center activities on Wednesdays.  I decided I would read the book, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, by Patty Lovell.  It is a fun story about a young girl who doesn’t let a bully get her down.  She even gets the bully to be a friend by just being herself.

Molly

After reading the book, I had my students write in their journal about the importance of being an upstander.  Then, they wrote a promise about how they would be an upstander themselves.  As students finished writing, they were able to go to the mall computers and type what they wrote on their blog to share with others.  Since I only had six computers available, I had the other students draw posters encouraging others to be upstanders while they were waiting for a computer to open up.  Here are a few of my favorite posters.

upstander1

upstander3

upstander2

It worked pretty well.  In fact, the 4th grade teacher across the mall commented on how quietly my students were working.  We were having a fun time while we were doing our work.  I got to walk around and take pictures of my students drawing and blogging.

blog

The best thing is that I learned something new on Digital Learning Day.  I downloaded the app Animoto on my iPad and learned how to make short videos.  I was able to share the videos of my students participating in Digital Learning Day.

I was pretty proud of myself.  I figured out a way for this day to work even though I do not have access to a lot of technology.  I was able to make do with what I have.  I was happy to be a participant in this day of digital learning and not be a bystander.  I think my students had a wonderful time, and I did, too.