As I progress through the coursework in IT&DML, I am finding that the foundation that is being built continues to get stronger. Supporting the use of technology in a school is but one part of the challenge of my position. The other, being the reading consultant/coach, is to provide teachers with the tools they need to create engaging lessons. Module 4 is of exceptional interest because it really validated what I knew in the back of my head; students need to be creative. Being an online content “constructor” is what students today need to be engaged in in order to be independent learners.

I think I may need to back up a bit in order to explain… In our district, we use the Response to Intervention (RtI) model to target instruction for students and provide necessary interventions in order to support students academically. This image shows the tiered levels of intervention. 

(https://www.glastonburyus.org/parents/srbi/PublishingImages/SRBI_Pyramid.png)

This is a simplistic view of what my life has been for the last few years, but it does show you what is important. My district calls our intervention model SRBI (Scientifically Research Based Intervention) and the behavioral piece is so intertwined with the academic. It was an easy task to address the academic side of the triangle and provide supports with programs and structure that would give students what they need. However, there has always been a disconnect between certain students with what they can achieve and how they perform. Alas, the behavior side of the triangle. Not so easy to figure out. Not explored as readily as creating programs to address targeted areas of weakness. Not enough resources to help students who had “behavior/motivation” issues.

What this meant to me was that the teachers needed to address how their lessons would engage and motivate learners. The behavioral piece is not necessarily the student who acts out or has other social/emotional issues. These issues plague the “disengaged” student. The student who has ability, but no desire, or avenue, to express his/her learning in a way that is relevant to themselves. Let’s face it, middle school… it’s all about them. 🙂 When I would work with students during intervention time, and would see what their skill set is, I would find myself in a difficult situation. I know I had to provide targeted instruction, but I can see these students craving some time to be independent and creative. It’s difficult to see students who do get that outside time with being creative, and then having that put on hold while they are in school. I know that the sides of the triangle would be different if we were able to make more of a shift in teaching styles to inquiry based learning.

Using the technology we have in the classroom, I would “bribe” the students to get through what I needed them to, and then they can have time on the iPads and Kindles. What a motivator! The students would show me different interests, games (educational and not-so-much educational), and whatever else interested them. It was a nice mix of targeted instruction and time to do what they love. And, it was a positive behavior reward for the students. No behavioral issues, go figure!

As a beginning teacher, you worry about addressing the curriculum. You don’t have that bag of tricks yet that more experienced teachers have. But what newer teachers do have, is experience with technology. I feel that my role is to cultivate the learner/teacher understanding of what technology can bring to instruction and what students can provide for teachers themselves.

The skills that are needed for students to be online constructors is a tweaked version of what they need in the classroom. Formulating questions, searching, sorting and sifting through sources, validating the credibility, knowing purpose… all of these skills transcend from paper to Internet. Accessibility is different for students and teachers. Giving students one example to take apart is much different than presenting students with multiple pieces of text to sort through and create their own background (Manderino, CRA, 2012). Problem solving skills, having an authentic audience, awareness of privacy and identity and how do we support engagement are the beginnings to jumping on the road of creating and constructing online.

I will share Mimi Ito‘s video clip with teachers when we get back. She compares online activities that students have today with social growth – just like talking on the phone, or being outside playing too long instead of doing homework. It’s a different avenue for students to bond with others. I feel that teachers who do not have a firm understanding of the social growth that can be fostered through technology (ex. gaming, blogging) will be hesitant to open up their classrooms to it. I realize there is a long road ahead, but the understanding and belief that we can maximize what students are already doing and making it a teachable experience is priceless.

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