As you may remember, I am currently working to bring a school from zero technology integration to full technology integration in a one to one laptop setting. I am working alongside a WONDERFUL teacher who is eager to learn with her students. The school initially asked me if I would just teach this group of middle school students technology as a separate subject. I explained why I would rather work alongside the teacher so that both students and teacher could learn technology together and we could integrate it into the learning that was already happening in the classroom. They agreed and I am now working with the teacher to weave technology into the learning that is already happening in the classroom. On Fridays, I model how to use technology within the learning they are doing. Today the learning focus was astronomy. I had the students start out in Capzles where they are building an interactive timeline of the astronomy events that they are learning. Each time they learn about a new discovery, historical figure, or space mission, they add images, reflections, and information to their timeline. I have to say, the Capzles interface is turning out to be the perfect place for them to collect all of their learning and creations in one place!
Throughout the week, students are keeping a night sky observation journal on Capzles. Not only are they studying about historical figures who made astronomical discoveries, they are adding their own discoveries to the timeline. Capzles lets students add blog posts right within the timeline. Students are taking pictures, and writing about their observations, reflections, and questions as a nightly blog post. In addition to adding their pictures to Capzles, students will also be uploading their photos to Planet FOSS where they have the opportunity to view other students night sky observations and add their own.
Today I taught the students how to add a YouTube video to their timeline. I have to admit, this isn’t the one-step process I would hope for (either the ability to use the YouTube embed code or just copy/paste the link to embed). Students first searched for videos about the moon using NeoK12. Then they click on the YouTube link within the video so that they can view the video in YouTube. In front of the YouTube URL the students typed “kick” so that they could download the video to their computers. From here, they can upload the video to their Capzles. You can view my step-by-step instructions for that process here. Even though it isn’t a simple one-step process, it still isn’t difficult and it gave students the opportunity to practice downloading and uploading files- bonus tech skills that are built-in is always a good thing!
After students learned how to embed video, we headed over to the site We Choose the Moon. If you haven’t seen this site, it is a MUST. It has been around for a few years and is absolutely incredible. It drops students right into the Apollo 11 mission and gives them the chance to “re-live” that experience. The students were totally engaged and excited to look through the pictures, video, comment on the fashion of the day, how much technology has changed, etc. The dialogue as they explored and completed the interactive was incredible. This interactive let students travel back in time and made them feel as if they were witnessing history first hand. Incredible. Reading a text-account just can’t do an event like this justice. During the interactive one of the students casually mentioned that he didn’t believe that we had ever really been to the moon, he thought it was a conspiracy theory and started pulling up websites supporting his claim. This led to a lively class debate.
I remembered seeing a Myth Busters episode where they busted those moon landing conspiracy theories. I pulled up the YouTube video on my iPad for students and we watched as the Myth Busters busted each one of the conspiracies that the boy had found online support for. It was an AWESOME learning experience for all of the students as they learned about perspective, atmosphere, vacuums, and light.
You know what I love about technology? It spurs and enables learning experiences. Without technology in that classroom today, the conspiracy theory student might have mentioned the theories he had heard. Kids would have chuckled and rolled their eyes and that would have been the end of it. Because we had access to technology, the conspiracy theorist was immediately able to pull up evidence to support his claim. He even had some students who were initially rolling their eyes believing that the theories might be true. Other students immediately jumped in to support the opposing view, that Americans had indeed landed on the moon. This is authentic learning at its best. Students practiced searching, taking a position, forming a persuasive argument, debating, and going through the scientific process of hypothesis, experimentation, and conclusion. None of this was in our learning plans for the day… it was SO much better than anything I could have planned. We were able to immediately pull up a Myth Busters episode on YouTube (yet another example of why filtering policies need to be re-thought!). The class ended with students making plans to re-create some of the Myth Buster experiments so that they could see the outcomes first hand.
Today reminded me of why I am passionate about technology in education. It also reminded me of why I love learning.
Best quote of the day from a student: “This is cool, I thought we would just learn about technology, I didn’t know we were actually going to get to use it.”
What a novel thought, using technology as a tool to learn.