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Thursday, December 18, 2014

"It's not me, it's you" - Looking at educational technology from the eyes of a student instead of a teacher

As educators, much of the time we look at how a 1:1 environment effects OUR classroom, how it disrupts OUR classroom, how we have to change OUR way of teaching and thinking because that's what we know firsthand but for the past few days I've been thinking on the positives and negatives from the student's viewpoint.

What does a student gain from the above scenario? 

Advantages:
1. Small group instruction that allows the teachers to have eyes on all 5 of the students papers at one time while they work the problems in this math class.
2. Small group instruction that allows the students to feel more at ease with saying "I don't get it."
3. Instructional technology that allows the teacher to have reports that immediately show what the struggles are for EACH student.
4. Instructional technology that allows the students to work at their own pace.
5. Instructional technology that let's students have some control over what they will "learn" or "review" next.
6. A classroom of movement that allows students not to get bored because of rotations set up in 15 minute segments.
7. Multiple teachers in a classroom that allow students to learn same unit from a different voice.
8. Ability grouping aids teachers in meeting the needs of more students individually.
9. So far, students are saying "this works for me" and grades are improving.
10. Math facts are finally being reviewed on a regular basis.
11. Math facts are being acquired.

Disadvantages:
1. Ability grouping - in theory, only as smart as the smartest student in the group.
2. Distraction of movement.
3. Cost and availability of multiple teachers in a classroom.
4. Cost of devices and software to create this blended learning rotation model.
5. Classroom size limitations.
6. Math facts review using technology is "boring."

While there are both advantages and disadvantages, we are seeing that this form of classroom is giving these students a positive learning environment that didn't exist for many of them in the past. Their grades are improving and their confidence levels are increasing as well. Fortunately this math teacher saw she was not meeting the needs of her students in the way she had traditionally taught and she looked for new ways to teach them. For these students, it is working. This teacher gave up the control of the "front of the classroom" and the learning environment became messy and somewhat noisy during rotating times but it is working. It isn't about her, it is about the student. 

Instilling a sense of confidence in a student that has historically struggled in school is huge. If we can do that, and help that student to see small, daily improvements, we have the opportunity to keep that student engaged. I look at my own college age child and I see what a little confidence has done for her. She graduated as an average student from high school not thinking she was good at school. So much so that she considered not even going to college. That being said, she just finished her first semester of college with all A's and B's. I realize there are many factors that play into this change but what I am seeing now is a yearning and zest for LEARNING. If we can help our students see the benefit of learning, we as teachers have taught them the greatest thing we can teach them....to become lifelong learners. 

I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt, the classroom demonstrated in this video, gives these students a daily dose of positive reinforcement. I want that for all of our students, every single day. I want to find ways to make that happen for them. I want to meet them where they are. I want to help preserve their self-esteem and to help them feel confident in their self-worth. I don't think technology is the way that happens, I think meeting each child's individual needs is the way that happens- technology just sometimes manifests itself as the tool to make it work. 


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