Out of all the classes I teach at Moretown School, the time spent with my fifth and sixth graders is truly a model of 21st century teaching and learning. While there are elements of a “traditional” library class firmly in place that you might recognize from your own schooling, such as fostering a literate community through rich book discussions, nurturing a love of reading with book groups, and a mention here or there of Melvin Dewey, there is much that we do that is collaborative, that ignites creativity, and develops the critical thinking skills essential for today’s information packed world. The integration of technology into learning is a passion of mine, brought to the forefront through our vibrant 1:1 netbook program.
Students come to the library with their Dell Latitude 2120 netbooks in hand, every week, for lessons and units structured to take advantage of these incredible tools. A recent in-depth research unit had students evaluate sources from print encyclopedias, Wikipedia and WorldBook online. Sounds like a boring unit, that is, until students watched Michael Jackson’s The Man in the Mirror video, a montage of powerful clips and footage of historic events from the 20th century. Suddenly hooked, students choose a person or event from this video to research, evaluate information from all three sources, synthesize the facts to answer a higher-level question and share what they discovered to their classmates. Teachable opportunities abound in a unit such as this and ones that are essential as students navigate the Internet. My aim is to present learning opportunities that allow for investigation, questioning, communicating, and creating. We know that technology isn’t the panacea for our students’ successes, present and future, but it is essential that they know how to use tools that empower them and their learning. It is essential that they own their own learning.
To further deepen their engagement in learning with technology, in collaboration with their classroom teachers, I have introduced the Google Apps in Education suite of educational tools. These include a school domain email address (which can be used to send emails to other Moretown students and teachers) and access to Google Drive (document, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing). I continue to be amazed by how responsive our students are to these new tools, which allow for even greater independence and collaboration than ever before.
Hand in hand with greater access to technology comes a greater need for responsible, safe, and respectful behavior online. In this aim, our school counselor Jason Stevenson and I are co-teaching a cyberbullying unit, with the end product being a series of cyberbullying public service announcements animoto videos aimed to inform parents, teachers, and administrators. Be on the lookout for these very soon.