Connecting through Technology
A key tool for educators is to connect a new concept to prior experiences. As a bilingual educator with students of low SES, I quickly realized that their prior knowledge was limited. As I talked about different landforms and places I had seen, my students were either staring into space or completely off task. I soon realized that they could not make a visual connection to the content.
The next day I decided to bring some pictures into the classroom of childhood vacations that showed the different landscapes. Just looking at them to see me as a child gave them reason enough to get involved. This is how it all began. I thought that if showing them pictures of actual places, rather than the illustrations in the text would hook them, I could only imagine what would happen if I took them to these places.
Our students today are wired differently, they require different techniques to get them involved. It was best put by John Couch, vice president of Apple Computer who said: " We are all digital immigrants" trying to teach the "digital natives" (Hunnicutt, 21). Needless to say, our district could not send us all over the United States, but it did provide us with a computer, a television and Averkeys. I immediately used the technology at hand and we toured the world. Amazingly enough, the students not only learned about landforms, as the TEK called for, they learned about geography to its entirety.
My favorite lesson thus far was one that I presented on telling time. One of our TEKS in second grade math is the concept of time. My first year I remember drilling my students with flashcards, calling out different times as they showed their answer on the Judy clocks, and showing them the time on a clock as they wrote the answer on paper. I thought after practice they would catch on, yet, the students still struggled.
One day after technology training on using Unitedstreaming.com I realized I could be doing more than the "drill and kill." I found a video clip on the history and function of the clock. The students were hooked from the moment they were able to climb inside of one and see how it works. We then went to the Greenwich website where we took a virtual tour of the Royal observatory and viewed the Greenwich Mean Time clock. Throughout our tour we learned of why astronomers needed accurate time back then and why it is still important today. Next, we discussed the parts of a clock as each student explored their own. Another activity to make the connection to the concept was that of giving each student a copy of our schedule and I asked questions like: "If we go to specials at 1:35 and it is 1:05, how much time do we have left to finish our math?" By the time we got to showing and reading time, the students had a connection between the concrete and the concept.
This brought on a new wave to making connections. Throughout the year I used websites like brainpop.com, kids.msfc.nasa.gov, and whitehousekids.gov to expose them to new terminology while giving them something to connect to visually. After seeing how much my students benefited, I now start my new lessons with a clip every time I can. My students began to succeed and I saw their newfound love for learning. Theorist Jerome Seymour Bruner was right when he advises to: "respect the ways children think and teaching to those ways" (Carrol, 325). This was the beginning of technology in my classroom.
Carrol, Joyce A. and Edward E. Wilson. "Jerome Seymour Bruner." Acts of Teaching. Eaglewood, CO: Teacher Ideas Press, 1993. 323-327.
Hunnicutt, Lane. "Digital as a Second Language." TechEdge. 23.2 (2003): 20-21, 34-35.
Alejandra Rice is professional from: Johnson Elementary in Bryan, TX
©2010 Alejandra Rice All rights reserved.