Thursday, May 23, 2013

"10 Years Ago, I Created a CD..." said a teacher.

I have been mulling over something that a teacher said to me last week as we began a project, and I just can't get it out of my head! This great teacher (I am not being sarcastic...he is a wonderful teacher) said, "Jen, can you find the civil war music we put on CDs ten years ago so the kids can put them into their iMovie projects?"
I, of course went digging around in our computer lab cabinets and found the pile of CDs, but as I was digging for the music, I thought about what that means for this teachers' curriculum and how he integrates technology. What it means to the students experiences and engagement in my school and how technology is used in the curriculum.
I have been working with teachers to think about their curriculum, the tools we have available to us and the way that they design the learning in their classrooms. There are some, like this great teacher, who use technology for specific parts of the curriculum and do the same project year after year. 
The idea that in May, we make a Civil Rights movie with music of the time, images taken from a Google image search and then put into iMovie with full sentence descriptors scrolling over the images, prevails, even today! 
I have been assisting with this teacher on this project, and don't get me wrong, the students are engaged. They are collecting facts, searching for images on google and then going to YouTube and selecting background music for their projects. 

I am struggling with this type of technology use in the classroom for a number of reasons.
1.  The teacher comes up with the essential questions.
2.  The students collect facts and retell the facts without creating anything new from the facts they have learned.
3. The production of the movie takes 10 days for 30-40 minutes a day!
4. The students are grabbing audio and images from the web without any regard for copyright.
5. The students are checking off each item on the rubric as they create.
6. The students don't have a choice of product. Everyone makes a movie.
7. The students watch 6-8 final projects in class, on the same subject, often with the same facts explained.

I love that the students are engaged, and they are collaborating, but oh my! there is a lot of room for improvement in this instructional design!
My job as the technology facilitator is to work with the teachers to change, evolve and look at their curriculum as a changing, fluid program.

This great teacher and I are going to be working very closely next year, as I implement my, "Adopt a Teacher" program (described on my blog last week). We will look at the design of the lesson, and hopefully, shift the question generating to the students. Then, I will recommend that the students are offered choices of final products. While the curriculum unit is going on, we will look at copyright laws, and certainly, the students will be encouraged to use EasyBib (which can easily be saved into GoogleDrive with one click sign in)

to create a bibliography. In addition, the National Library of Congress has an amazing selection of primary sourced images, music, interviews, etc. available. The resources are so much richer than using Google Image searches. I use any opportunity to showcase this great resource to kids! Finally, the students will be given the learning standards instead of a rubric, and then encouraged to grade themselves based on the learning standards. Each group will generate 3-5 higher level questions that can be answered by others as they review their learning product. The end products will be shared on a social media site like Edmodo, and then the students will be asked to review the final projects outside of class.
Students will post their comments and reviews on Edmodo. 

 When I think about my teaching style, I find it amazing, that each May for 10 years, that someone would be teaching the same topic in the same way.
I guess, I am looking for other ways to encourage this great teacher to look at his "May Civil Right Movie Project" and transform it into a more student focused blended learning lesson.
Reach out to me @jmaclaurin on Twitter with your ideas.

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