Since I began teaching middle school two years ago, I’ve had to adjust to a building where teachers and students have little access to technology. The transition has been difficult. Moving from a school where I had fairly liberal access to a school where I have almost none is like slowing down to 35 miles per hour after you’d just been driving 70. You want to move faster–it seems viable and safe–but you don’t because the speed limit or traffic patterns don’t allow it.
While teaching at the high school, I learned to integrate seamlessly into my lessons.
Now I feel impaired, like I am teaching everyday without a thumb or an arm.
If I feel like that, imagine how my students must feel. They use computers–phones, laptops, e-readers, tablets, and video game consoles–nearly every minute that they aren’t in school. During school hours, kids are forced to power down. No more real world, kids!
But I am excited for next year because my team will have access to Chromebooks. I’m as anxious for the opportunity to use working computers in the classroom again as I would be for an upcoming vacation. And the best part: Blogging.
Three years ago I was looking for a more engaging way to teach the Transcendentalism unit to my sophomores. (See the list of resources at the bottom of the post.) My unit objective was for them to apply their understanding of the movement and create a blog that illustrates its influence on contemporary society. I also required the students to solicit an expert in the field to provide them with feedback about their blogs. (You can read the posts I wrote about the experience on the site Becoming Conscious.)
The process of creating authentic pieces of writing that showed they had something to say involved a great deal of research on the part of the student. And guess what? They did the research without complaint. In fact, I would argue that they did it enthusiastically. They also supported their ideas with research and proofread their posts carefully. Why? Because they knew that their audience was more than just their teacher. Their audience could be the world. The pressure to perform, to sound like an expert, was real and motivating.
The project was an overall success with the students. Many of them had never blogged before. Many of them created Twitter accounts so that they could connect with professors and authors. There were so many layers of learning occurring every day during the course of that project. The experience allowed me to connect with the students on a different level because I was reading and conferencing with them about their writing. I saw their complexities more keenly and developed a unique bond with them.
I am looking forward to having similar experiences next year with 8th graders.