Technology is a powerful tool for learning that can be used effectively to help students develop the skills necessary to succeed in school and beyond. Students can develop transferable knowledge and skills as they engage in learning experiences that require them to construct knowledge. In order to facilitate these types of deep learning experiences, an adjustment in traditional instructional practices is necessary. These ideas are supported by the Common Core State Standards.
The Common Core identifies a spiraling set of skills necessary to prepare students for success. The standards are designed to teach students how to think. They call for increased comprehension combined with the ability to clearly express learning. The seamless integration of technology into the Common Core-aligned curriculum supports learning through active participation and increases opportunities for all students to have access to the tools and information they need for success.
With increased Internet connected portable learning devices in our schools, access to information is readily available in a variety of formats and often in the palms of our students’ hands. While it’s safe to say that many schools are wired, it’s time to combine digital tools with innovative instructional practices to get our students plugged in. The strategies for teachers below support the idea of shifting instructional practices by using technology as a tool for learning rather than as an addition to a traditional unit of study.
1. Help students uncover knowledge
Instead of teaching scripted curriculum defined by a textbook, consider putting your teaching skills and expertise to better use during the instructional planning phase by designing Essential Questions to drive the learning. These Essential Questions should require students to construct knowledge and allow them to express their learning in original ways. There is no room for answers that simply require a copy and paste and worksheets become obsolete.
A good starting point for designing Essential Questions is to examine the required content and use Bloom’s as a guide to develop complex questions that require students to use higher level thinking skills to answer. Take a look at the Common Core and try to fit several of them into the process students will use to express learning. Make sure to dedicate an adequate amount of instructional time for students to answer this complex Essential Question.
2. Eliminate the front of the classroom
To fully engage students in the learning process; the focus of instruction must shift from the teacher in front of the classroom to the actively engaged student. The teacher’s role must shift from one who delivers content to one who facilitates learning, or serves as a guide on the side. This type of classroom is a busy, noisy and productive place where teachers interact with students to help them construct knowledge and, of course, the teachable moment comes alive. To extend the walls of the classroom, teachers can take advantage of online learning platforms to provide students with resources, feedback and the time they need to learn and create something original to express their learning, 24/7.
3. Encourage collaboration
Promote real world learning experiences and help students develop 21st century skills by encouraging collaboration. Let them discuss, present ideas, consider points of view and make decisions in order to increase their stakes in their own learning. Make it meaningful, personal and relevant and seek opportunities to collaborate with experts and other students across town or across the world.
4. Informally assess students
Make good use of the time you spend with students every day as a facilitator of learning by taking advantage of opportunities for informal assessment, and then pull together groups for re-teaching and challenge. In addition to observations and conversations in class, an online learning platform can provide students with 24/7 access to digital tools to connect with teachers and classmates for guidance and feedback. Use online discussion areas, electronic exit tickets, back channels and digital bulletin boards to encourage questions and reactions from all students. In addition, use frequent informal assessment to gauge the effectiveness of your instruction and make adjustments to maximize the learning experience for each student.
5. Design lessons with flexible learning paths
The concept of Universal Design for Learning suggests that teachers should design learning experiences to provide students with multiple means of engagement, representation and expression. Access to multimedia can provide students with flexible learning paths to meet many unique learning styles. Resources can include video, audio, text and images to provide students with information in a variety of flexible formats. Introduce students to digital tools with supports to meet their special learning needs and empower them to become independent learners. Choose learning platforms that provide students with opportunities to express their learning in a variety of ways and level the playing field for all learners.
6. Provide students with built-in tech support
Create short and relevant screencast tech tip tutorials to provide students with instruction at the time they need it. Teach students to take advantage of the pause button to conquer learning at their own pace. Publish resources online for 24/7 supports. Instead of spending valuable instructional time teaching the same tech skills over and over again to individual students, just teach it once via a screencast and concentrate on the content.
An example of a 5th Grade Project
- What inspired the colonists to start a revolution?
- How and why did the colonists work together to overcome injustice?
- How did conflicts with Great Britain during Colonial times impact our lives today?