I think it is safe to say Rivercrest School District has “gone Google”. Our staff and students have embraced Google as a platform. Our district has enabled us to put a device in the hands of every 4th-12th grade student. We are definitely connected and equipped. And it’s no secret that most of our students love technology. It’s no secret that I love technology. It opens up a world of opportunities.
When I was in high school, Mrs. Key’s research projects meant having to make several trips to the library, search through dated encyclopedias and magazines, and write information on those little index cards. Now, current information is at my fingertips anywhere, anytime. And let’s not talk about that torturous bibliography page. Do you know how many times I retyped those because my comma or period was in the wrong place. Where was easybib or bibme when I needed them?
I learned to type on an electric typewriter with correction tape as my only way to hide any slip up I made from the well trained eyes of Mrs. Byford. The thought back then of being able to use something like Google Docs to write, edit, and share my work would have been mind blowing.
I remember the day I received my Old Man and the Sea reflection paper back from a state-wide competition with an honorable mention award attached to it. Counting Mrs. Key who assigned it, Mrs. Byford and Mrs. Pounders who critiqued it for spelling and grammar errors, my mom who read it because of its obvious journalistic qualities (ok...out of parental duty), and the five judges who read it, a total of nine people read that essay. The idea that some day something I wrote could be instantly shared with anyone in the world through a simple tweet or post just wasn’t in the realm of my imagination.
We thought it was great when the teacher rolled that big, ugly cart with the TV into the room so we could watch an educational video or even an occasional movie...finally a break from worksheets, chalkboard notes, and lectures. Today, our students create their own movies with phones and computers and edit them with far better special effects than the first Star Wars movie I watched. We stream movies and video clips to our devices without even thinking about it...and get frustrated when it stalls or buffers.
To think I could learn anything I wanted by watching a simple YouTube video or taking a MOOC (massive open online course) makes me wonder how different things might have been. Would I have taken advantage of those things or gotten caught up in social media, crazy cat videos, and Candy Crush.
In my lifetime, technology has definitely been a game changer. But technology in education is not a silver bullet It cannot be an add-on, baby sitter, or gimmick and say that it is “engaging students”. It is simply a tool - granted, a very powerful one but not necessarily the right tool for every task. Choose the right tool for the job. If we keep our focus on sound pedagogy and learning, the impact technology can have in our district is endless.
Google Fun Facts:
Users in our domain have created
Other interesting statistics:
And just who are our top users?
We worked with each group of students during center time to model the activity. Students read the sight words and scanned the QR codes to check their work. Picture instructions were displayed to remind students of the process in case they needed assistance.
Just think of the QR code possibilities!
Resources for creating a QR vocabulary center:
Have you ever heard of Edcamp or maybe the word “unconference"? An edcamp is basically a gathering of people who have the desire and passion to learn in an open environment. Sessions are not planned until the morning of the event, and everyone in the a session has a voice. To be simplistic, think of it as a coffee shop type conversation about a particular subject. Where that conversation goes depends on who is in the room.
I was first introduced to the idea by a fellow educator I follow on Twitter. When I found out there was a technology edcamp forming within driving distance, I encouraged a couple of colleagues to attend with me and set out on a Saturday to see what it was all about.
This is what I discovered. There was no high-paid keynote speaker and definitely no death by powerpoint. The whole atmosphere was relaxed and conversational from the moment we walked in. There was a huge board with sticky notes close by. The board was divided into sessions times and room numbers. We were encouraged to think of a topic we wanted to know more about or that we knew something about, write down the topic, and stick it on the board in one of the session slots. If we chose to do this, we “owned” that session...which meant nothing more than we started the conversation.
It was the most amazing day of learning because every session was exactly what we made it. Conversation flowed freely. There were no stuffy, prepared presentations - everyone contributed and took control of their own learning.
I knew this was a great model that I wanted to share, and I am extremely thankful for an administration that allowed us creative freedom in designing this opportunity. The impromptu sessions are a little intimidating at first, so the "unconference" idea morphed into a mini technology conference. Our staff was given opportunities to volunteer (ahead of time) to lead sessions on topics of their choosing. Kristy Graham and I organized the event with several priorities in mind.
We called the event Technology Show and Share. After a brief opening session with instructions and encouragement, everyone was able to choose three sessions from a list of topics. We had 18 staff members step up to lead sessions, and based on the conversations we heard and exit tickets we read - “This really provoked thinking!”, “I loved this format.”, “...great day of learning” - the day was a success!
Dana Lane is a Technology Coordinator, and Kristy Graham is an Instructional Technology Specialist - both at Rivercrest School District. They are passionate about technology and learning and enjoy sharing this passion with teachers and students.