21st Century Learning

Of the programs discussed in the PBS video, New Learners of the 21st Century, I surprisingly found the Quest to Learn program in New York City the most comprehensive. At first I figured that perhaps it was because the segment on Quest to Learn showed an entire school based around the idea of learning through gaming and gaming development whereas the other programs were supplemental or the segments showed only pieces of a larger program. but after looking back again, I realized it was a comment from Dr. Gee that made me think that way. Dr. Gee explained how video games are intuitively designed to require the player to learn in order to finish, and with most video games, it means learning to solve problems in order to win. This idea, along with the description of the programs, confirmed my thinking that this was the most comprehensive program of those shown.

In one clip, a student described his classes as teaching the same concepts as other schools, but in different ways. As I gave more thought to it, I could see just how true that was. At the school, the students develop story lines for their games, requiring them to utilize their writing skills. In one instance, the class had to develop a game around a fairy tale, which required them to not only read and comprehend the story, but to also be able to interpret it into another medium and retell the story in an appropriate way. In order to do this properly, the student must be able to understand the main idea, important details, and sequencing; otherwise the game would not make sense.

Further, if the children are writing the code for their game, they not only have to apply math skills, but an understanding of another language as well. That is not to mention the critical thinking skills they must use in order to create the problem and then resolve it in an interesting manner that will keep the interest of their peers. Additionally, if required to create historical games, I am sure the students would need to research the context to a level of understanding that would allow them to create a virtual world for their game. Finally, the constant trial and error involved in programming and development allows them to consistently apply the scientific method. In short, the children learn all the skills they would need to from a traditional classroom, but do it in a creative way that allows them to take control of application. The concept is a brilliant idea, and from what I saw in the video it is well executed.

Clearly, this type of classroom setting would not be for every student, but if schools like that could be developed to accommodate different types of interests for method and application, that would be great. In fact, if each school had a similar program that allowed students direct application of what they were learning, I strongly believe that would have a large impact in how children saw relevance in what they are learning.

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SOL standard to focus on for the semester

This semester I plan to use the Grade Two Science Standard 2.5 Earth’s Resources. I chose this standard because I enjoyed my Earth Science and Oceanography classes in college and have since looked forward to creating interesting lessons to help my students learn about these topics while also instilling a love of learning about nature as well as a respect for it. The concepts in this standard are very important for children to learn, as they are real challenges that we face today and will face in the future.

With the advent of newer technology designed to study deforestation, erosion, and air pollution, it is imperative that children today learn what is currently being used so they might adapt in using or even develop tomorrow’s technology to help resolve these very important issues.

Earth Resources
2.8 The student will investigate and understand that plants produce oxygen and food, are a source of useful products, and provide benefits in nature. Key concepts include
a) important plant products are identified and classified;
b) the availability of plant products affects the development of a geographic area;
c) plants provide oxygen, homes, and food for many animals; and
d) plants can help reduce erosion (VA DOE, p.7).

From looking at the standard, it appears that there will be several opportunities to use technology to help create different activities to accommodate different learning styles. Options could include viewing satellite imaging to show erosion around areas where wetlands have been destroyed; or creating a long-term experiment and using time-lapse photos or video to see the difference between erosion speed for soil with plants and soils without plants. The class could even create an online journal to track the progress. Other options could include watching videos on the topics, and the children could possibly even create a virtual model to show the oxygen/carbon-dioxide cycle. And if ambitious, the children could create their very own public service announcement (PSA) on deforestation. These activities would be tied into non-digital activities, like field trips, in-class terrariums, books, and research to create a comprehensive learning environment for this standard.

I look forward to seeing this semester if my ideas now will be able to form into effective lessons that will technology to enhance the students’ learning experiences. I think that by observing and recording a long-term experiment, children will be able to hone their scientific writing skills. Also, by keeping a classroom online journal, the children will need to collaborate to agree on the entry. In writing a PSA, the children will need to be able to sequence a script and organize their thoughts and research. Finally, by creating a virtual model, the children would need to apply their understanding of the cycle in order to build their model. By using different technology to teach this standard, the children will get learn much more than the required material. I am excited to learn more about this standard and the ways in which I can use technology to enhance my lessons.

Works Cited:

Virginia Department of Education. (January, 2010). Science Standards for Learning for Virginia Public Schools. Retrieved from:  http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/science/2010/k-6/stds_science2.pdf.

Thoughts on History Tech blog

For this assignment, I looked at a blog that sparked the interest of the historian in me, History Tech. The blog is written by Glenn W., and primarily focuses on how teachers can use technology in their classrooms. As the blog’s author was a secondary social studies teacher, Glenn often posts about sites like Google Maps that offer innovative alternatives to teaching map reading and spacial skills. In addition to offering ideas on using technology in the classroom, Glenn also discusses ideas to improve general teaching skills, like posts about giving students teacher evaluation forms to complete as a way to help teachers reflect on how they can improve from their students’ perspectives.

History Tech site shot

The home page of the blog has selected posts scrolling along the top. “Most recent” posts are listed in the body of the blog with a teaser paragraphs and links to “read more.” Each post has an associated image, and that image appears with the title and date of the posting on the home page. Other pages on the blog include information on how to work with the author, a resources page, a page about a social studies site he built, and a page with podcasts. I found this layout easy to search and read.

Overall, I enjoyed this blog and will certainly read it again, as I would like to use some of his recommendations in my own future classroom. In fact, I have already made notes to utilize Google Earth, which I would like to use alongside paper maps to discuss changes in the application of technology that have occurred in just the last decade. Since I will be teaching elementary school, most of my students will have had these changes occur within their lifetime. I hope to have them compare the two formats as a way to begin building historical perspective and map skills. Additionally, though the blog might tend to focus on secondary social studies for application, many of the resources and posts transcend the subject and are about technology in education in general. In one post, for example, he discusses the usefulness of The Digital Public Library of America. In another, the usefulness of the Library of Congress blog.

Finally, I really enjoyed that Glenn does not simply advocate for using technology for the sake of using technology, and instead regularly discusses how technology, like all teaching practices, should aid learning. This is something we discussed in our first class, and it is something I agree is very important to maintain as a rule, as technology in the classroom becomes increasingly ubiquitous. 

Image from: http://historytech.wordpress.com/.