Shelly Terrell’s 16th goal for the #30goals challenge suggests making a small change in your environment to show that learning takes place everywhere. I have a great 5th grade teacher who has really embraced technology this year and stepped out of her own comfort zone in order to make learning more fun for her students.
When I first started working with Mrs. Thornton at the beginning of the school year, she was very scared of the technology that we have on our campus. I often heard the phrases, “I have to do WHAT?!” and “Why would I use that?” In October I handed out the grade level iPod Touches and each grade level team discussed how they wanted to utilize the devices. Mrs. Thornton’s comment was, “I don’t know what I would do with one in my classroom so someone else can use mine.”
In just four short months, Mrs. Thornton’s attitude has completely changed. It all started when I emailed out that I had recorded some novels that the students were to read and they could be put on the iPods for students to listen to while in her classroom. We have a large group of struggling readers in that grade level and Mrs. Thornton saw the opportunity to give those students some extra help. She requested 5 iPod Nanos. By Christmas, Mrs. Thornton was requesting MORE iPods for use in her classroom. I gave her 5 more.
With 10 iPods in her classroom, Mrs. Thornton decided to purchase several audio books. The next time I visited her classroom, she pulled out a box of audio book CD’s and asked if it would be possible to put all of those books on the iPods as well. When I replied positively, she was so excited. Her reply was, “I’m finally seeing the need for iPods in my classroom.”
About a month ago, I emailed my campus a link to a blog post highlighting different ways to incorporate technology in the reading classroom. Needless to say, there were several ideas that Mrs. Thornton wanted to try. Unfortunately, a few of those ideas wouldn’t work on our campus or didn’t fit her needs. However, there were two ideas that were doable.
First, Mrs. Thornton inquired about blogging. We set up a time to meet and discussed her ideas student blogs. We then set up each of her classes in KidBlog since it had a great deal of security features and is easy to use for both students and non-techno-savvy teachers. I then scheduled times to teach the basics of blogging and blog safety to each of her four classes.
The day after I introduced the blogs to the students, Mrs. Thornton called me and said, “Did you forget to tell me something?” I inquired what it was that I had forgotten to tell her and she said, “You didn’t tell me that I would get all these alerts when students posted on KidBlog. I had a whole page of red email in my inbox last night!” I laughed, took this as a good sign that the students were excited about the assignment, and then asked what she did. To my surprise, Mrs. Thornton told me that she clicked the links in the email and then “did what it said.” Wow!
The other idea that Mrs. Thornton wanted to try was using the voice memo app on the iPod Touches to record students reading in order to practice fluency. Mrs. Thornton asked the teacher who was keeping the 5th grade iPod Touches if she could have just ONE iPod Touch. We tried the app out and discovered that it required an iPod microphone. We didn’t have any on campus so I ordered 5 from Monoprice. When the microphones came in, Mrs. Thronton wasted no time implementing the use of the iPods for fluency practice. Within a few days, she had asked the rest of her team members if they were using the other iPod Touches and acquired those not being used. She now uses 4 iPod Touches along with 15 iPod Nanos in her classroom daily.
Mrs. Thornton didn’t stop at blogging and iPods. Yesterday, I showed Mrs. Thornton the Kidspiration software. We searched through the pre-made templates together and she found a template for vocabulary words that matched her current curriculum and teaching method. She immediately scheduled the computer lab so she could use the template with her students TODAY! When I saw her this afternoon the first thing she said was, “We had a really good time in the lab today. It was a really good day.”
Mrs. Thornton has completely blossomed this year with her use of technology in the classroom. She has gone from not believing she needed it and thinking it wasn’t relevant for her classroom instruction to being willing and open to trying new things with her students. She’s excited about our next adventure, Flashcard Machine, and now says, “I feel empowered!”
How’s that for changing an environment?