A Technology Integration Dream
The Wellness Team at Elmwood School made an important decision this year. They realized that the method they were using to deliver lessons wasn’t working as well as they had hoped, student engagement wasn’t enough, and quite truthfully as teachers they weren’t having a lot of fun.
Traveling from room to room for two years, this dynamic and reflective team decided to make a change. Regardless of the location, learning would be exciting for all. Their desire to move from connecting with classrooms to connecting with each student drove them to a better place. Through collaboration, innovative thinking, and a whole lot of risk taking, the Elmwood School Wellness Team took a leap with 21st century teaching and learning.
They knew if they could up their teaching game, students would up their learning game so they took it upon themselves to start with increasing digital tools. They studied the ins and outs of Kahoot, Quizlet Live, BrainPOP Jr., and Google Classroom. Playful assessment, engaging content, and digital assignments with opportunities for feedback were hugely important to each of them. They utilized these tools so consistently, second and third graders went from waiting patiently for their health teacher to arrive with a cart of devices to jumping out of their seats with anticipation.
Of course it goes well beyond that. The hype around 21st century skills was growing in the building and the Wellness Team decided to not only jump on board, but lead by example. Through Quizlet Live, they pushed students to work together, problem solve, use resilience, and have a blast while learning. Each of the teachers set up their own Google Classroom for all of their health classes. They worked together to develop a Google Slide project where students would be able to choose a particular topic in partners and become responsible for creating and presenting to their classmates what they learned. They owned their learning, relied on each other, and became the teachers. The results have been astounding.
After just four months, this is what the Elmwood Wellness Team shared with me:
We all have had positive experiences from our new iHealth instruction. When we wheel in a cart of iPADs, Chromebooks, or laptops you can hear a “buzz” in the room. Students sit up taller and you can see the them react in a positive manner – they are smiling and seem happier. They are also more receptive to our content area and it has certainly expanded my technology knowledge. Students are taking responsibility for their learning and no longer have to sit quietly for whole group instruction for more than a few minutes. It has made our staff more interdependent as we rely on others to help us out. Just as importantly, students have been allowed to step-up and become our teachers OR our own “Techsperts.” They love that title and the role/fact that they can teach/help me. Our iHealth transition has also reinforced the fact that no one person knows what all of us know together. Using technology has brought excitement back to my health instruction for both me and my students and I am constantly thinking and creating new possibilities for our instruction. Developing an educational approach like iHealth is all about expanding skills and knowledge. All you need is courage, tech support, and collaboration. – Chris Basile
I feel like the relationships with my students have been more positive as I have become more of a facilitator and coach. Relationships have improved among classmates as well. The students are invested. Just in watching their recent presentations, they’ve received much more information than they would have otherwise and when their classmates ask them questions, the answers are amazing. I’ve heard kids talk more than they’ve ever talked before. They’re asking questions and they’re sharing. All of a sudden kids that tend to be quiet are speaking up for the first time in health class all year. I’ve learned a lot and it’s not as hard as you think. It’s intimidating but once you jump in, you and the kids learn from it together. They’ve learned so much about content and technology. It’s really fun to teach Health again. – Jan Gill
Now that students are actually teaching, the engagement is insane! When we did the Google Slides projects, the kids learned new skills but had to work with others. They dove into cooperative skills and problem solving skills and as the teacher, I had the ability to talk one to one or two to one. I can now have a good three to five minute conversation with each student. Because of this, my relationship with each child has been much stronger. Just the overall excitement for learning when students see the cart-I don’t know if I could go back. – Beth Ryder
What are students saying?
It’s better than before, because you can have more things that happen. Before there were limits to what you could do and now, the amount of things that you can do got bigger because technology sometimes pushes the border of what you can do with a pencil and a paper. You can do more with a computer.
It’s more fun to play with people, do hard work, and problem solve.
I find that it’s more fun, because you aren’t just sitting in your seat listening to the teacher. You’re actually always doing something the whole class. Sometimes I used to get bored, but when you’re doing an activity instead of listening to the teacher explaining a topic, it’s better because you’re working with other people and also if you don’t understand something, for example, Quizlet would show us what we got wrong and it would stick more to my brain instead of the teacher going over it.
All health teachers make learning fun by using technology. My project partner helped me a lot with animations, background, and layout. I worked hard at getting the facts. He would put them all in and added extra things to make it much better.
We get to use technology and technology is easier to use than pencil and paper. We got more work done. Instead of using worksheets, we got to research with websites so we learned more. I thought that was pretty productive. I felt proud to present. It was our creation so it was kind of nice to feel noticed.
We can show our class that we’re teachers. It also gives us the chance to put our expertise to work. We are using iPads, laptops, and computers at home and some students are really good at it! Also, if we were just taking a test instead of playing Kahoot, we might get stressed out, but when we do the game, it still tests our knowledge, but it’s fun.
I hope others are inspired not only from this technology integration dream, but most importantly from this Teacher Dream Team who I can’t wait to write about again next year.