Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sorry. Not sorry.

Currently I’m taking a class on how to effectively technology into the classroom called Introduction to Blended Online Teaching. This course should more aptly be named It’s Not About the Technology,Stupid.  What? Not about the technology?  Confused yet?

The whole purpose of technology integration is to be better able to meet the needs of students. Therefore, the tech should serve a purpose. Read: no electronic babysitters people.  First, ask yourself what you are trying to do. Then, find/ use the technology to help you do that.

Tech doesn’t replace teachers. Unless it does. Let me explain.

In my resource room I am constantly stretching myself to meet the needs of my students. I provide a two and a half hour reading and language arts block to some extremely adorable, always funny and pretty needy kids. I group my kiddos by ability, not age. Every day they have four stations:  with me, my assistant, and independent centers. The fourth station varies. Two days a week they have speech therapy. Three days a week they work on spelling/phonics work. Everyone, that is, except for Tyler.

You’ve never met him, but you already know Tyler. He’s extremely adorable and street smart. He's driven by a motor that never seems to stop. He pretty much hates everything that happens indoors, which includes school. He also has no business working on spelling work for five days a week. Definitely not the best use of his time.  

I knew I had to act fast or Tyler was going to be renamed Trouble. I needed something that would allow me to target what Tyler was going to work on. I needed it to be motivating. I needed to hold him accountable. I also needed it to be something that wasn’t going to take me FOREVER to prep for him.  After coming up short I called in for reinforcement: my tech coach/work brother.

He hooked me up with this program called Scootpad. It’s web based and allows teachers to assign standards that students need to work on. You can determine the number of questions and the number of sets that you would like for students to answer. Each student can be different. Kiddos get immediate feedback on whether they are correct. It isn’t game based or super distracting.  But here is why I really like it.  Any time a students answer a question correctly they earn a coin. Teachers can set up a reward center in the program where students can redeem the coins that they earn.  Examples of rewards that I created by Tyler are eating lunch in the classroom with a friend, extra Lego time, fast food lunch of choice (that one is 1,000 points.)  Tyler knows that if he doesn’t answer a question correctly he doesn’t earn a coin. This has encouraged him to slow down and think about what the correct answer should be. This program doesn’t work well on tablets, so I have Tyler work on a Chromebook at my table while I am working with other students. Because it isn’t gamey, it does not distract the other students. The only frowny face about this program is that it costs money, but since I pretty much break even after buying super awesome toys, games and apps much needed supplies with my own money I’m not really gonna sweat it. Seriously. It’s a drop in the bucket.

Typically I would be very against a program like this. I am not the “drill and kill” type of teacher. I pride myself on differentiation. But when used carefully it is a reasonable teacher stand-in (minus my charm, warmth and ability to deliver an entire lesson in a Mary Poppins voice.)  It allows me to “work” with Tyler when I am physically unable to. He is motivated and held accountable.  He is working on skills that I know he needs to work on. Quite simply, it meets his needs, and that’s what it’s all about.

Full disclosure: Scootpad has not paid me to write this review, but I wish they would.

All names have been changed to protect the (not so) innocent.


Jess said...

I agree that technology does not replace teachers. I do like using computer programs that fill in the gaps and extend learning though. My school uses a program called iReady and it meets standards we are teaching. So it reinforces skills taught and differentiations to met the needs of all my students.
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