When my Principal came to me 3 years ago and gave me an Ipad and suggested I trial BYOD in my classroom, I thought this will be fun and a nice way to grab students attention. I am definitely an early adopter and love giving new ideas a go and have been very fortunate to have Principals who give me free reign to do so, so off I went. I immediately became an app hoarder, downloading every app that I could find relevant for education. One place I did find great for finding good free apps is www.smartappsforkids.com and I still get my daily emails from them although I now only briefly glance at them to see if there are any apps on my must have list that have gone free rather than madly downloading them all. I was well and truly in the substitution mode of thinking for technology integration looking for apps that the students could use to practice fractions, times tables or any other subject area I was covering at the time. And you know what, it did engage and the students thought I was awesome, but did it really make a difference to their learning? The answer was “No”. I had taken my first steps in the journey but I was far from content. I could see the potential but was not sure how to unleash it.
Six months in to this journey and I discovered Lee Crocket and his “21st Century Fluencies” and my eyes started to open. He said “it is not about hardware but headware and heartware.”
I quickly jumped in and adapted a unit they had suggested on their page using a game that my students were right into and that I had no idea about “Minecraft”. I was really nervous as I had no idea how to use Minecraft myself (and to this day I still don’t) but I had faith that the students didn’t need me to know. I think this was the first time I had given up real control of my teaching and handed over to the students. This is the first unit I have ever did that I sat back at the end and just said “Wow” that was amazing. The task was for students to write a short imaginative narrative which would be the basis for a video game. Once students had written the narrative, concentrating on developing strong characters and vivid settings they then developed a walk through for their video game describing all the different choices a player must make in the game and the actions they had to take to successfully negotiate the game. Then they were allowed to build the different settings in Minecraft with their final task being to deliver a multi modal persuasive sales pitch using screen shots of their Minecraft developed settings as to why their game should be developed by a video game company.
The results were staggering to say the least. Productivity wise I now had students who all year I could only get to write a couple of sentences writing 500 or 600 word stories and for those go getters in the class, it really unleashed their creative juices but the best part was that it had empowered students to become collaborators and mentors.
Finally the penny dropped, the power of Ipads or any other technology in the classroom is not the apps but the freedom of expression they allow. It’s not about the great app I found for the students to compete against each other in maths although yes they do have a place, but what it is about is giving the students a means to show their learning in a way that they enjoy, understand and excel at! I had finally dived into the ocean and was heading out of enhancement and into transformation.
This was amazing and I wanted to capture it and keep it going so I headed to Dr Google to find out what other teachers were doing in their classrooms. I had never really looked at blogs before but I stumbled across mrsevonsthirdgrade.blogspot.com.au and it changed my thinking and now reading other teachers blogs is the most valuable PD I do during the year. To be able to get an insight into someone else’s classroom like that and to see the practical applications of the technology they are using is invaluable. So I read, I researched, I played and I fell in love with this way of teaching.
At the start of this year I was lucky enough to be invited along to some PD sessions run by Lee Crocket and his writing partner Andrew Churches and I got to spend a couple of days working with them and the journey continued but with the peddle to the metal. When I saw the possibilities and fully understood how I can achieve my vision for my classroom I was so excited, and 12 months down the path I am still just as excited and can’t wait for school to start again at the end of January. I was however also very disappointed for all the students I had taught beforehand and I felt I had let them down and hadn’t prepared them for the world which they will have to live in. So now I will not leave a stone unturned or miss an opportunity to allow these students to reach their potential and to reach their lofty goals!
The what I did I will share over a number of posts and I hope this will help me refine my thinking so I can continue my journey.