What can the MAET program do for you? Well one semester in and I can tell you exactly what it is doing for me: it is making me feel like a dog chasing my tail. I mean this is the best possible way because, well I know the possibilities but I just can’t seem to catch it. This is exactly where my wicked problem presents itself. I love technology. My school does not. In the past five years, we have gotten document cameras and projectors. The students have a single computer lab, which seventeen classrooms must share. Now that doesn’t seem to bad, until I tell you that this computer lab is only available daily from 8-9:45AM. When I student taught and completed my internship year, I was spoiled. We had SmartBoards, COWS (computers on wheels), iPads, computer programs, etc. Now this isn’t a pity party, as I understand that as teachers, we use our resources, which is exactly what I am doing. So I use the technology we do have; last semester the children published their best writing by capturing images and recording their voices to a digital storybook program. It was such a meaningful experience and kids can’t wait to do it again. But, what they didn’t see was the fact that after the kids did all of this, I had to pull of the pieces together in order to create the published story. I have no problem putting in the time for the kids, but the students also need accountability to complete the task. This would be easy, if they weren’t novice six year old computer users. So, my wicked problem is: how can I hold each of my first graders accountable with their technology learning with the resources I have to use?
Well the solution appears easy enough: just use what I have! But it is much more complex that that. Technology should not be just added to an assignment for technology sake, but added specifically with good pedagogy in mind. One of the easiest ways to keep the children actively engaged, while holding them accountable is through project based learning. According to the Buck Institute for Education, project based learning is rich in standards and it inquiry based. But more than that, project based learning has an audience! An audience is something that can be easily used with technology. Skype is being used in the classrooms more frequently. Skype provides a sense of community to the users, is flexible, and most important in my school, budget friendly (Galloway). The plan will be for my students to teach students from another state about our school and town.
A friend of mine teaches first grade in North Carolina. The two of our classes are going to complete the same project based learning activity within the next month, except my class is going to teach her class and likewise. I will group the kids, assigning specific tasks. For example, one group is in charge of telling about their school. Another group will have to research about life in their own community (what do kids do in Tawas for fun). Maybe another focuses specifically about the classroom rules and routines. To differentiate, I can even assign a higher level task such as to focus on specific issues that the students face daily. Within those groups, the kids are responsible for documenting using video/photographs/pictures, doing "research", drafting, editing, and publishing. This is where the technology comes in use; the students will need to use cameras for pictures, perhaps computers for research, and specifically the use the Skype to share all of the information with the other class. I am optimistic that this will help solve a problem, as if the project is student directed and not teacher driven, the students will have to be accountable.
Galloway, Megan. "Skype in Elementary Classrooms." Connextions. 05 Oct 2009: n. page. Web. 20 Jan. 2013. <http://cnx.org/content/m32296/latest/>.
"What is PBL?." Buck Institute for Education. N.p.. Web. 20 Jan 2013. <http://www.bie.org/about/what_is_pbl>.