Rachel Lawrence, math teacher and 9th grade advisor, is leading the Woods faculty in digital innovation in the classroom.
In her own words:
Technology in the classroom is important in so many ways. It's an essential life and career skill that students need to learn, just like they need to learn math or biology or how to write an essay. We often take for granted that "digital natives" know how to use technology, but increasingly students experience of technology outside of school is mostly app based and very informal, and students aren't automatically learning the kind of formal technology skills they will need for higher education and careers. Over the last two decades technology in general and the internet in particular has really changed the ways we can interact with knowledge. The ability to source information reliably, process it, and create a product from it is far more desirable than wrote memorization of facts, and technology allows students to practice those skills everyday.
I have always held the philosophy that the person doing the work is doing the learning. This means I try to spend as little time as possible working on my board while my students watch, and try to get them working themselves as much as possible. Using technology to have students look up vocabulary, view videos on key concepts, summarize content, etc not only can help move more of the action of the classroom onto them, it creates built in accountability. When students are working electronically and sharing work with each other and their teacher, they know all of their work counts. It's no longer separated into work that's collected for a grade and work that's not, it all becomes part of this common body of work that's shared.
Technology also helps streamline work flow for teachers and students. For example, teachers can post daily on Google Classroom with directions for work to complete. Students can learn to come in and automatically check Google Classroom and begin working with no wasted time. Teachers can have students sign in daily and answer a question from the homework or a reflection question from the day before, or take a picture of their homework and submit it through a Google form. Students can complete daily exit tickets through Google forms and teachers can have all the responses in one spreadsheet together to view and respond to, and then create customized feedback emails using a mail merge. These strategies make make-up work automatic for absent students, avoid wasting time collecting and returning papers, let teachers easily gather data on student understandings and misunderstandings on a daily basis, and create a shorter feedback cycle, helping students get corrective feedback when they need it most.
One of my favorite ways to use technology in the classroom is to facilitate student collaboration. For review at the end of the year I create a Google Slides document outlining the major parts of our curriculum, then assign students or groups of students to complete the slides for various parts. This creates a document that all students can access and use to help study for exams. Even more importantly, because they're working in Google Slides I can leave them comments as they're working helping to guide their work. Timely feedback while students are still developing their product is a game changer, compared to static feedback written on a paper after the fact. Students can also leave comments for each other, and you get to see a lot of the group dynamics play out as they work, helping keep tabs on who is completing what part of the assignment. As a bonus features like version history will let you track exactly which student in a group did what work, so no one gets a free ride.
There are so many great technology tools now, the GSuite, cross curricular tools like Formative or Quizziz, and content specific sites like Desmos. When used correctly rather than being an add on that creates more work and burden for teachers, they can help us work more efficiently and focus on the main work of school, learning!
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