Sunday, July 15, 2018

How should teachers use technology? Three ways to Strain out Unfocused Digital Learning Experiences

     I am an awful chef. One time, I was particularly excited about cooking a delicious pasta and vegetable recipe. However, when my taste-tester took his first bite, it was watery and the tastes were murky. Apparently, when you use canned peas, you are supposed to drain the pea water. Who knew? Well, when utilizing technology in the classroom, teachers sometimes use the latest digital tools without straining to determine the purpose of integrating the tool.
     Why does integrating technology bring upon sweaty palms even for the most competent chefs of educational pedagogy? Without setting an intention for the use of a specific digital tool, your lesson will water down the ultimate learning goal. According to ISTE standards for Students, students are labeled as “global collaborators” who “use technology seek feedback” with the goal of becoming “empowered learners.”

     I am sharing three ways to streamline the goal of utilizing digital goals to create a recipe of technology-integration success.

1. To Show Understanding: EdPuzzle (my favorite)
EDPuzzle allows students to view digital media with specific learning goals. Teachers can cut the video, add multiple choice/ short answer questions, and add voice overs/ comments. Teachers are able to either search from curated videos or develop their own by uploading videos and then provide digital feedback on student responses.

2. To Demonstrate Understanding: Mindmeister (digital organizers)
MindMeister has unlimited uses. Overall, it allows students to collaborate on a digital web that organizes information much like the synapses of the brain. Students can add questions and information, answer other students, or organize learning collaboratively.

3. To Experience Learning at a High Level: Weebly (online website builder)
Weebly’s simple interface and organized tool bar allows for quick website construction. Weebly allows you to drag and drop website elements onto the page almost like Lego construction.
     Gaming through Government, a Weebly learning experience that I designed, utilizes digital gaming, digital media on Edpuzzle, fast-paced quizzes on Quizizz, and a paper and pencil learning guide for students to document learning. The storyline of Gaming through Government is presented to students as an authentic context for playing the games, learning the content, and ultimately passing the five levels. Throughout the unit, students earn points to increase their rank from an intern to eventually the president. At the end of each level, students complete a Quizizz to demonstrate understanding of the learning goals.

My Findings
Students’ assessment scores increased by over 400%
91 % of students thought Gaming through Government was an effective educational experience
94% of students determined that learning experiences like Gaming through Government should be used in the classroom

     Even though I utilized several pedagogical strategies including game-based learning, gamified learning, and multiple digital tools, I strained out the extraneous elements that could have muddied the learning goals.  Just as you would add peas to a recipe, but do not want the whole dish taste like pea water, you want to add digital tools to a lesson, but with a clear goal in implementing the digital tool.

About the Author:
Rebecca Koza is in her 6th year teaching. She is currently a 5th grade teacher at The Arts Based School in Winston-Salem. She attended Wake Forest University where she earned a Bachelor Degree in Elementary Education with minors in dance and communication.  Rebecca also has her Master of Science in Education focused in Technology for Educators from Johns Hopkins University and her AIG certification from Wingate University. Rebecca enjoys using the arts and technology to develop high-level learning experiences for students.

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