Harness the Power

Wind Turbines by xedos4

I have been teaching in this school for four years and therefore I have had the opportunity to get to know my students and work with them over these 40 school months. Some students have been easy to get to know right away, others I have had to use every bit of these four years to really understand them well. I have one student who has been, until last year, has been a bit of an occasional crabby patty (to quote a term from Spongebob). If this student did not like what we were going to do, I knew about it in no uncertain terms, it was written all over his face.

And then we unearthed it–his interest and passion. It happened by accident really. His classroom teacher and I decided to embark on two exciting activities: Mystery Skype and Independent- completely separate from the school curriculum, follow their passion and interest- Research Projects.

When the teacher and I introduced the topic and the idea to the class, you would have thought we just told this child that Christmas just became a monthly holiday. I began getting emails from the child telling me how excited he is to be doing these projects, or how much he loved the website I shared with him, how much he enjoys having the responsibility of the (insert skype job here).  The child began sharing his expertise with the class in such a proud way and asking to do more. The teacher and I were thrilled, of course, at how readily and excitedly all of the students took to these ideas; but for me, I was especially motivated by this one child’s response, and my goal is to use this excitement and interest and build upon it to keep him and the rest of the students engaged, excited and interested.

One always hopes to reach all of their students. My question is this, if we have the access to the technology to connect these students with their passions and incite in them an interest, why aren’t more teachers harnessing this power and using it for all it’s worth?

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Whose Best Interest is it Anyway?

Emotiguy Surprised by farconville

This afternoon one of my students told me that she worked on her explorer Glogster from home. She went to the site, logged in and added some facts to the glog she began in class with me earlier in the week. Now, no one asked this child to do that; no one even suggested that she do it–she chose to do this all on her own.

This is not the first time that a student has told me they worked on something at home that we did in class. I have had children write numerous stories on Storybird while at home, I have had students create animated movies in Kerpoof at home with friends. And I have had first graders line up with a piece of paper and a pencil so I could write down the link to what we were doing in class so they could try it at home. It is not these things that amaze me, though they do excite me. What amazes me is that more people are not tapping into these resources of excitement and interest for their students.

As teachers, we want students to write, and write a lot. Not every child likes to do this so it is our job to find ways to help make it more fun for them. When you have second graders asking to use Storybird so they can write and publish more stories, you need to harness that excitement and find more ways to excite your class so they want to write, even when no one is asking them to. It is the same with every subject: find what it is that grabs the kids’ attention and interest and use it for all that it is worth.

So why aren’t more people doing this? From what I heard the other day at a meeting I attended at another school, the response is “time constraints” and “state-mandated curricular obligations” that prevent them from trying out new tools. Basically what I heard (and have heard many times before in various chats) is that they do not have the time to teach the students how to use a new tool, it is easier and less time-consuming for them to use what they already know (Power Point), especially with everything else they have to do.

So, I ask, is it in the best interest of the students to have them interested and excited about what they are learning and doing, or is it in their best interest to just get it done because they have to?

Hmmmmm.

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