If you know me well at all, you know how passionate I am about Educational Technology. If you are a colleague of mine, then you have likely heard me go on and on about how much more technology my students need. I love watching my students work with technology, on their own and in groups. The room just feels “right” when they are in that mode, not listening to me go on and on about any given subject, but rather using what I have shared with them to interact hands on and collaborate with their peers. That is what learning should be.
We have been working on pictographs (or picture graphs as our new Common Core text refers to them) with my 3rd graders. Typically this is not a hard concept for 3rd graders to learn, but I saw an opportunity to easily infuse some technology so I did. I thought it would be more meaningful for my students if they made their pictographs on the computer rather than drawing them out by hand. Now that our school finally has a second computer lab, we can go to the lab once a week again. So I taught the pictograph lesson and worked through the related workbook pages with the class and told them they would demonstrate their understanding of the concept in the computer lab. They were very excited.
I have gotten more comfortable with creating screencasts (tutorials) and thought I would give it a go. I created two for them…one on how to make a table in MS Word and another on how to save to a flash drive. I reviewed both with them in class, and made them available via Discovery Education’s Board Builder as students do not have access to YouTube in my district. The steps were outlined in the Board Builder I prepared along with the videos, so students could watch the tutorials as often as they liked. It was amazing to watch them in the lab. I had several students that were right on the mark, watching videos, trying it themselves, and helping others who were confused. I have never been a teacher to demand silence when students work (apart from silent reading) as I know communication is a must when collaborating, and the noise in the lab was all relevant and on task. Students were engaged and working hard at making their pictographs.
After we returned to class I asked them how they felt about things, because I feel reflection and feedback are important. I braced myself for them saying they hated it, but it was quite the contrary. They enjoyed it, some found it easy, others found it hard and challenging, but one of my students made a comment the class didn’t understand, especially my “gamers.” She said she felt making her own pictograph in MS Word was more fun than playing a video game. Many students expressed their surprise at this statement, but I had her explain. The gist of her meaning was that she got to create something on the computer, instead of just play a game. I found this not only deeply meaningful, but it supports my long held belief of why technology in the classroom is so important and so much more than “drill and kill” software programs. Students need to create, they WANT to create and we need to provide them the technology to be able to do so. Allowing them to create to demonstrate their understanding of the material they have been taught is so important to their lifelong learning and retention of information.
My class did so well with Word and pictographs that next week in the lab they will be learning how to make bar graphs in Excel!