Thank you to Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for hosting DigiLit Sunday. Please visit her site to read how other educators are integrating technology into their reading and writing workshops.
"I'm not sure. Try it and let's see what happens." This statement, or something similar has been my mantra this year.
I decided before school started that I was going to change the way I introduced different apps and digital tools (I wrote about our core apps in an earlier post.) into my classroom. We are using more of a "explore and discover" approach. The technology integration teacher and I have worked closely in figuring out how to best introduce apps to the students.
We began with a quick, informal check on students' familiarity with our core apps (Pixie, Explain Everything, iMovie, GAFE, Notability). For each app, I drew a continuum that ranged from "Never Used" to "Expert." I gave the kids round dot stickers to place on each continuum. It gave us a quick look at where our class was as a whole.
For our first round, we put kids into small groups and assigned an app to them. I created a Google document for each too that I shared with them in a Google folder. We let the kids explore the app, with little input from us. We wanted to see what they could do on their own. Some groups discovered a lot of different things about their assigned app, while others got stuck and didn't get very far. It was a little messy to say the least. However, I think that messiness is important. When I reflect on how I learn new digital tools, it's not always a linear process. More often than not, I go round and round, trying something, finding it doesn't really work and then trying something else. The kids go through the same kind of process when they are learning on their own. So, even though it took more time than we anticipated, and we didn't get the results we thought we would, it was still time well spent.
For round 2, we decided to give them some guiding questions. The questions varied according to the app. There was one commonality: How do you save to Google Drive? This skill is essential as it will allow students to easily share reading responses, writing projects, notes, etc. with Miss Moore and me.
I added the questions to the original template. We mixed groups up and let them go. It was time well spent. Not everyone got to every question, but everyone did discover something. Feel free to copy the template and tweak it for your own use. We then asked the students to share what they learned. Their work is also saved in the Google folder, so students can go back any time they need a refresher. In addition, as students discover new features of the apps, they can add their discoveries to the document.
This week we will create a chart that will help us categorize what apps will be good to use for different kinds of work. For example, we are currently doing a small research project on space. It will be important for the kids to know which tools will be good to use for note taking and which ones might be good for presenting their information.
All of this information is in a shared Google folder that the kids can access any time they need it.
We are spending quite a bit of time at the beginning of the year to lay the foundation for a strong digital reading and writing workshop. These tools will become a regular part of our workshop, alongside the more traditional tools.