This is a long overdue post about some of the basics of using technology in the classroom. A lot of this came about as I was trading thoughts with Amanda Ballard, a middle school social studies teacher in Owensboro, Kentucky.
Amanda was wrapping up a revolutionary war project, where students were asked to create a wiki to show arguments for/against colonial rebellion. She shared some of the successes and struggles with the project.
From our email exchanges, I realized how careful we have to be as educators when we try to introduce a technology piece into a lesson/unit. For many of us, we are subjected to a new textbook, or even revised standards, so we are often in a state of upgrading/modifying/enhancing on a very frequent basis. It might be tempting to see technology as another tool in our bag that we might "slip in". Yes, we hope to jazz up the students, but we truly want them to be using the tools and methodologies of today. Why not a wiki to show colonial rebellion - better than a Pro-Con T-chart...!!!
When we do any project-based activity, it's fair to say that exemplars go a long way toward letting students see what we will be expecting from them. If we budget our time correctly, walking students through exemplars (good, bad and ugly!) gives them a chance to ask questions and gives us a chance to point out some specifics in depth of information, style and presentation. However, I rarely see any mention of exemplars when teachers talk about technology-based projects. We assume students are 'tech-savvy' and can immediately translate our concepts of a wiki, blog posting or facebook page into reality.
It got me thinking that we have so many how-to sites to help us learn HOW to use some new tool, but no way to easily round up samples for students to review. Maybe we should start thinking about putting out the call for student exemplars. We could create an exemplar website and have pages of links that teachers can go to when we start a project......?
We're busy putting together our own PLNs (which is great) - we need to make sure we tap into that and provide students with authentic instances of this technology.