As I look back over that last five years I have realized that my views on technology in education are constantly shifting. This is likely due to the fact that technology is changing so rapidly and I’m always looking for new ways to adapt my techniques and make things better for my students. When I first started using technology it was simply about the fun and the engagement that the students experienced when using technology. I always wanted learning to be fun because in my past experiences as a student I didn’t really enjoy school. I wanted to change that for the students that I taught. My first 2 years were mainly about having fun and learning through fun games on the iPads. I was able to take advantage of a few apps at the time like the Teach Me apps. The great thing about some of these apps is that they were fun and engaging, but they were also collecting data on the students learning at the same time. As a teacher I believe data can be very useful and I think the best way to capture that data with young kids in a stress free playful environment. I definitely saw benefits in my students learning and their love for school. However, as I continued to explore and discover more resources and ideas from other teachers around the world I realized there were more opportunities for technology in education.
I started to discover the power of personalized learning. The power of new technologies is that they allow us to do things that were not possible before. It took me about 3 years to finally collect enough iPads to make a 1-1 environment with my students. With an iPad in the hands of each of my students I could now personalize their education. I slowly started to discover how I could have students all around the room learning at different places and discovering what they needed to learn at that time. Students come to teachers at a variety of different levels. I was able to identify where they were and pinpoint what they needed help on thanks to apps like Nearpod and Kahoot that let me see in real time where my students were. Once I knew where my students were at I was able to provide them with personalized activities. There were still some challenges during this time as I didn’t have a great way to collect and provide feedback on a lot of what they were doing. It wasn’t long though before I heard of some great tools out there to help with that problem. There are amazing Ed Tech companies working on new solutions all the time. Many of them are working with educators to solve these problems. To solve my problem I started using Showbie.
Showbie allowed me to take learning to a whole new level. I got the idea from iPadpalooza in 2015 and then I developed it further at the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute. The idea was to create an autonomous classroom environment. This Idea also came from Sugata Mitra and his hole in the wall experiment. I wanted to provide my students with learning opportunities that they could explore freely on their own or in groups. I started working on these task cards that would provide some open ended topics to explore in a variety of ways. The goal was for the students to be able to grab a task card and use the resources in our room and their iPads to develop understanding of the concept. How they arrived at their understanding and what resources they used were up to them. My students that year really enjoyed having a choice and a voice in their learning. It was amazing to see around the room the various ways that they showed understanding. To show their understanding they would use Showbie and upload pictures or videos to explain what they learned. This allowed me to see what they worked on and sometime I could even see the process that lead to their understanding. This was very valuable information to have as a teacher.
My role in my classroom became more of a facilitator. I would walk around the room and monitor their progress and provide feedback as they worked. When needed I could sit down with a student or a group of students and offer some questions and guidance. My students learned how to be true learners through this process.
In the future I want to help teachers realize the power of student voice and choice. Giving students voice and choice in the classroom means that they own the learning process. I want students to enjoy the learning process because they are always going to be learning. If you are interested I have some sample task cards on my task cards page. Also feel free to check out my book in the iBooks store on Automated Learning.