Saturday, February 14, 2009

Riding the train

My students and I had a great week of technology-infused learning.

First, I had the pleasure of wheeling the wireless lab (a cart containing laptops) into my classroom. Until now, other teachers had been monopolizing the cart; I would see it being moved from here to there, to the same rooms every time. I always wondered how those teachers were using them. After talking with the computer teacher, I signed out the lab and was pleased to learn I would be able to keep it for two weeks. Awesome!

So this past week, during the literacy block, I had planned to use the interactive website Into the Book to review and practice using specific reading strategies, such as making connections and visualizing. The site allows students to read passages and practice applying these strategies for comprehension. However, once every student had a laptop at his desk, I was reminded of all the little things you have to go over with 13 kids who are using laptops for the first time. And in my case, it's ELLs who have not had the same access and experience with computers to begin with.

"Open it like this."
"Turn it on... press the power button."
"Press Ctrl and Alt and Del...at the same time...where are the keys?...... Here, and here, and here..."
"Enter the log in..... enter the password.... take Caps lock off!.... Didn't work? Try it again....."
"Type this address into your browser.....

And on and on it went.... 13 times. Wow.

When we finally got going, the kids loved Into the Book. There were, of course, some passages and vocabulary they needed my help with. Overall, the site was useful for my ELLs. We also reviewed some keyboarding skills, so they'll be ready for next week, when we'll try using them during Writer's Workshop.

The second highlight of the week was the grand entrance of the Smart Board, brought to us by the Math coach. We had planned for her to do a 45 min. lesson on attributes, but when she saw how excited my kids were, she ended up staying all morning. She showed us how to set it up, how to use the various functions, and she also did several activities involving math and language arts. The Smart Board is amazing! I was so grateful to her. It was like having my own real-world hands-on training. I'm ready to use it every week in some way. I know I will.

If we are to move our students along academically and linguistically, each and every one of us ought to try new things. I for one do not want my students to be held back by language; technology is for everyone. I know there is some reluctance out there, people who are not yet ready to give things a whirl. And I certainly recognize that time is a factor; I always wondered how I would ever "integrate" technology into my teaching.

Now, it's even more clear to me. It's about making some thoughtful changes and keeping the kids engaged. It's reaching out, teaching, and encouraging each other. This kind of teaching is like jumping on a train and going to exciting places with the most enthusiastic, wide-eyed travel companions.

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