400 minutes. A typical school day is about 6 hours 40 minutes which translates to 400 minutes that the students are with us. To be honest, I had not given it thought. We are on a 7 day rotation so usually I am caught up in which letter it is barely even thinking about which actual day of the week it is let alone getting to the nitty gritty of thinking about the time. But in one of the opening chapters Empower, by AJ Juliani and John Spencer (one of the books included in #IMMOOC round 4), that is exactly what we are asked.
“What are we doing with all of this time? More importantly, what are our students doing?”
So for me, someone who goes in and out of classrooms working with students and teachers on integrating technology, I don’t have a personal classroom of students. I have multiple classrooms of students with whom I spend between 30-45 minutes once or twice every 7 days. And since I also work cooperatively with our science teacher once a rotation with our 4th and 5th grade students I can add another 90. So what are my students doing with their 60-180 minutes and what could I do differently to make it better for them?
At the beginning of this year, I started with a survey asking my students what kinds of things they like to do and where they see their strengths during our technology time. I like surveys and use them after each project to hear back from the students what worked, what they liked, what they might do differently, and what I could do differently. So for this survey, what I heard from the students was that they like being creative, they like the videos we watch for digital citizenship lesson, they want more choice for projects, and (many– most actually) like coding. So now I am using these results to make changes to our class time. The students have more choice in the type of projects they do to share their learning, they are able to choose the best place for them to work in the classroom, and they have more time to explore on their own and then share back. They are using tools like Flipgrid and Today’sMeet to share their voice so everyone has a chance to be heard. They are working together and at times on their own. They are creating things to teach others. It’s a start.
“Scientific principles and laws do not lie on the surface of nature. They are hidden, and must be wrested from nature by an active and elaborate technique of inquiry. ”
During my time with the science teacher, we are using a constructivist approach when introducing different topics and concepts. For example, when the children started using Little Bits, rather than give them the guide book to how to use them (a recipe for success perhaps but not a recipe for learning), the students work together in teams to figure out what each bit does, which pieces they can connect together to do something different, and then make real world connections. It was great seeing the “aha moment” when a student made the connection between the power bit, the button, and the light bulb bit and the light in their refrigerator that turns on when the door is opened and off when it closes. When the students were making paper circuits, we could have given them a template to follow that would definitely work, but we wanted students to make the connection between the copper wire, the +/- sides of the battery, and the short/long end of the bulb. We wanted them to have time and space to try and fail and try again.
“We only think when confronted with a problem.” ~John Dewey
What else am I doing with the time I have with the kids? I’m trying to give more wait time so as not to value speed and allow for more students to have time to process the question and formulate their response. I am trying to wean the kiddos off of the spoon and encourage them to “figure it out” and then giving them the time to do so.
It is not enough, but with time . . .