Stop – Collaborate and Listen: How to Make the Most out of One Tech Period a Week
Vanilla Ice had a point, although I think he got the order wrong and missed a couple of verbs. When it comes to teaching technology to every class in the school within a limited time frame (for me, it’s one period per class per week); it is imperative to Stop, Ask, Listen, Suggest, and Collaborate (but that would have wrecked the flow of the song, I get it).
After the initial couple of weeks of school, filled with introductions and diagnostic activities, the Instructional Technology teacher really needs to stop and decide how to teach the various technology skills for each grade level. Usually, in a classroom, I would teach new content or a new skill, but never both at once. If I wanted to introduce new content, I would utilize the skills that students already possessed. If I wanted to teach a new skill, I would do so using familiar content. When teaching tech, I mainly focus on skills and I don’t have time to teach new content as I only see each class for one period a week; therefore, I have to use content that they are already familiar with. Knowing the curriculum for each grade level helps, but in order for student learning to be authentic and meaningful, I need to know exactly what and how they are leaning in their classrooms.
That’s why it is crucial to ask the classroom teachers about what is being discussed and taught in class before planning tech lessons. This is not always easy as classroom teachers are very busy, trying to manage all of the subject areas that they need to teach, not to mention all of the things not related to curriculum that come with having your own classroom. A good starting point is to attend grade level meetings to get a general idea of what topics are being discussed and when, but I found it more effective to approach teachers during their ‘off’ time (recess, lunch, planning time) and casually ask what they’re working on in Math, or Language, or Science, or Social Studies. I sometimes ask if there’s a particular area that the students have shown interest in (so I can plan an activity to draw on their interest) or that they are having difficulty with (so I can develop lessons that draw on the knowledge they already have and help them further their understanding).
I listen carefully to what the classroom teachers share with me and others during their ‘off’ time and sometimes get lucky when they suggest I help them with a particular topic. I never say ‘no’ when a classroom teacher requests my help to integrate technology with a topic that’s being covered in class, even if I don’t know how to help. Furthermore, I don’t usually ask, “What would you like me to do?”, unless they offer an idea to begin with.
Instead, I try to suggest ways that I could help, or if I can’t think of any I tell them that I will look into it and get back to them when I have some ideas. Then I do my research, ask my Twitter PLN for suggestions, and come up with ways to help the students further their understanding and the teacher to cover the required curriculum or meet other learning goals.
As long as the teacher sees the potential value in my project and how it will yield a greater mastery of content, allow students to show their learning and be creative, it is time to collaborate. There may be some preliminary work that will need to be done in the classroom, like brainstorming or drafting, but by that time teachers are usually willing to spend class time on it when they know what it’s leading up to.
This year I have had the privilege of collaborating with many teachers at my school. One of my favourite projects was making a video for a song that a grade 4 class has written the lyrics to and performed at one of our assemblies. Their teacher, Ian Douglas, is someone I’ve successfully collaborated with in the past. He mentioned to me that his class was writing a song about honesty, and asked if his kids could put together a slide show to go along with it during technology class. I loved the idea and suggested we use Frames to make a video for the song.
Each student picked a line from the song at random that they had to create an illustration for. Understandably, they were very excited about this. After all, they were contributing to the video for a song that they have written and were going to perform (sing and play guitar) in front of the entire school. I had an opportunity to teach them a program they have never used before using content that was very motivating for them. They learned how to add text, change fonts/sizes/colour/background, add clipart, animate, and choose an appropriate transition for their slide.
Once everyone was done I compiled them and put them in the right order. Their performance at the assembly was a big hit so we wanted to share the song with the world. I asked Ian if he could record the audio for the song with his class so that we could add it to the Frames movie and post it on YouTube for the world to see. He was all for the idea and his students were really excited at the prospect of having an audience beyond the school. Once the recording was done we added it to the Frames movie and adjusted the timing so each line in the song matched each corresponding slide. Once the video was ready I took the students through the process of uploading it onto YouTube, with them compiling the description and deciding on the tags for the song.
Students were very proud to see the final product available on YouTube for the world to see, they could not wait to share it with their friends and family. Ian and I were also very pleased, and we both knew that it could not have been done without our collaboration. We were proud to have given our students a great example of what can be accomplished if we work as a team.
This post was also published on the Creative Educator website.