The Power of Technology


I have heard many teachers balk at the move to technology integration in the classroom. I love technology but I also love the feel of an actual book in my hands. This past year, I decided to do take my morning work and put it on the computer. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would have the impact it did. 

We had read the book Wonder and LOVED it! I built my entire classroom culture around "Choosing Kindness" and implemented growth mindset activities and goals. I wanted a way to continually reinforce what I had thought... enter the precept journal!

We spent an entire day setting these up, decorating them, and getting them ready. I painstakingly picked out quotes and wrote them on the board every day. My students reluctantly opened their journals and wrote two words and shoved them back into their desks. Some of my students decided it wasn't even worth digging in their desks to write their two word response. It was not working. 

I learned about Padlet at a professional development over the weekend and decided to try it on Monday morning. I set up our 4 classroom computers with the board I had created. I wrote on the board the precept of the day AND the link giving them permission to use the computers to do their morning work. 

THERE WAS A LINE! 

A line people... A line of students clamoring to do their morning work. I was shocked. The first day it was only half my class arguing over who was taking too long and writing to much. Yes... writing more than two words. Writing in actual complete sentences. Writing in paragraphs. Descriptive, beautiful, intelligent thoughts spilled out on post-it like notes in response to today's thought.

Then it happened... one of my students who is never engaged came and asked if he could use graphics instead of words. He has an IEP. I can barely get him to write one word let alone two. I said he could if he described why he chose that graphic. I thought I made a huge mistake when he walked away and not to a computer. 

Memes, Graphics, Videos, Oh My!

A week or so later, by now my entire class was in line and those paper journals had been long forgotten was that same student on a computer happily typing away. He had inserted a meme and was explaining how the joke applied to the quote and how we need to learn to laugh at our mistakes even as we learn from them. He wrote THREE paragraphs! The most he has ever written before. Ever. His IEP says he can use a computer to write but he still refuses. This... this had him writing!

Now we all know we have the fair police in our classroom. Those students who want to make sure everyone is following the rules. They... they were at my desk tattling about how HE was not doing it right as HE was adding in images. My response, "Is he answering the question appropriately? Is he writing his response as well as adding in graphics?"

Student: "Wait... what??? We can do that!" Teacher: "Sure... why not?"

Graphics chosen by students to represent their thoughts on the Padlet
question written on the black sticky note. For student privacy, I am not
sharing the actual Padlet with you. 

Me Too!

And so the excited turned up a notch. My other class heard about this and demanded in on the action. Their homeroom teacher had seen the excitement so the next day, I went and set up the padlet site on her 4 classroom computers. Now both classes were collaborating and completing their morning work. 

But it didn't stop there... When the classes would meet up at lunch, recess, in the hall, or where ever you would hear snippets of "I disagreed with your response this morning because... ." or "I really liked how you said.... " 

The writing assignment had become a discussion. It was referenced throughout the day. It was thought of when a problem arose. It was used as a new means of communication. Students took the idea and ran with it. Soon they were creating their own Padlets for group projects. 

A Community is born

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better than students eagerly awaiting to do their morning work... it did. 

Our buddies down the hall in third grade had heard about it. They wanted to try it. They weren't babies and so off I went to set it up on their computers as well. Since it is a website and anyone with the link can type... we now had school-wide collaboration on our morning work assignments. 

4th Grade (my room)... 5th Grade (my other class).... 3rd Grade (our buddies)... and 2nd Grade (the 5th Grade buddies).... all working on and talking about the same thing!

You would see kids giving a high-five and saying "way to describe kindness this morning." Once we had a 5th Grader tell a 3rd Grader that his response was "babyish" only for the 3rd Grader to explain why it applied so well that the 5th Grader had to apologize. 

"No Problem," said the 3rd Grader, "everyone has a P.O.V." THEN they laughed and started singing the Flocabulary song we worked on a few months back "Everyone wants to know my P.O.V. First person is you, second person is me, third person is she, third person is he." Smiles. Fist Bumps. Back to class. 

A simple idea became more powerful that I ever imagined. A simple thing transformed a school. The students became writers, made connections, and learned to respectfully defend their positions. That is the power of collaboration. That is what teachers work for and strive for everyday.  

And that... that is the power of technology!


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