Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Every Day Use of Tech in the 7th Grade Classroom

For me, technology in the classroom has always been about extending learning and providing opportunities that wouldn’t (or couldn’t) happen in the traditional classroom.  If the tech tool isn’t doing something more efficiently and effectively than I can by using a traditional teaching strategy, I keep looking.  There are a few tools that have fundamentally changed my 7th grade Language Arts classroom.  A lesson I taught recently over the myth of Icarus incorporates some of my favorite tech tools.

“The Flight of Icarus” is a story in our 7th grade Language Arts textbook.  The topic is always appealing to students (they tend to love Greek mythology), and the responses that I garner from the reading and activities are truly exceptional.  This lesson occurs toward the end of a unit on myths, legends, and folktales and precedes the writing of a piece of folk literature that represents/mirrors a civilization that is studied in Social Studies (the Easter Hemisphere). 

The tools:

OneNote- I have been experimenting with OneNote for over a year and absolutely love the flexibility that it gives me in the classroom.  Paired with Office 365, my students have access to their class work through any mobile device.  OneNote Class Notebook allows me to “deliver” documents to students, create comprehensive lessons, and allow students to collaborate in a dedicated space.  I, as the teacher, can see all of my students work, but they can only see work shared in the collaboration space. 

Office Mix- Office Mix is a PowerPoint add-in that I installed a year ago.  It allows you to take your traditional PowerPoint presentation to an entirely new level by adding opportunities for response questions (and analytics), audio recording, inking, and incorporating screencasting.  This is truly a valuable tool that allows you to “flip” parts of your lesson so that students can work at their own pace and replay any information within the lesson.  The added bonus of being a simple add in to PowerPoint makes this my go-to tool for creating tutorials and quick lessons.
Verso App- Verso is an AMAZING online tool that allows students to have online discussions with one another in a safe and engaging environment.  The key aspect that makes Verso stand out among many other tools like it is that student names are hidden in the program.  The teacher has access to all names, but students don’t know exactly who they are having an online discussion with in the program.  This creates an environment that encourages authentic discussions (not just discussions among close friends).  Students can give comments a “thumbs up” and can reply to other students.  They don’t ever know who they are responding to because all students are called “respondent” in the program.

The Lesson

“The Flight of Icarus” lesson began with students visiting their OneNote Notebook.  They saw directions that asked them to plug in their headphones and click a link to the class Office Mix.  After viewing a video clip of the myth “Theseus and the Minotaur,” students entered responses to constructed response questions about theme and created predictions.

The lesson continued in Office Mix and instructed students to read the selection out of the textbook, looking for key points and concepts.  About half way through the reading (and after a few guiding questions), students were asked to complete a section of the reading by using dyad reading partners.  At the end of the selection, the Office Mix directed them to log in to Verso and complete a discussion question.  Students were asked to respond to the question and reply to two classmates.

Finally, students were asked to combine the two myths (“Theseus and the Minotaur” and “The Flight of Icarus”) into a comic that would illustrate the central ideas and themes present in the paired set of myths.

Things I love about this lesson:

1.       Students get to work at their own pace.

2.       Not all work is independent.

3.       Students discuss their thoughts with some ambiguity so they are free to truly express their ideas.

4.       The product/assessment is a fusion of their understanding of the central concepts from two texts.