This year, at our school, every classroom has a full set of Chromebooks or Macbooks. Students have a Gmail account with access to the G-Suites programs. They are able to understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create using the technology in the classroom. Teachers have created lessons, posted them on Google Classroom, and assessed student learning using this technology as well. However, this looks different in every classroom, and most teachers have found what works best for them. I have heard from some teachers at other schools that they have been given a cart of Chromebooks with no training. Often they are afraid to dive in and try new things with students, fearing failure. Here’s what technology use looks like in our 5-8 middle school:
In an English/Language Arts classroom, the teacher has posted a PDF file on Google Classroom. The students open the file using the Chrome add-on Kami which allows them to annotate directly on the document. Before, the teacher would have needed to make 100 copies and ensure each student has the right colors of highlighters. In another classroom students are practicing for a vocabulary test that is coming up on Friday by using Quizlet, Quizlet Live, Flocabulary, Kahoot, and Quizizz. With these programs, the students can receive immediate feedback about their answers and the teacher can formatively assess their learning. Also, most of the students enjoy these programs because they are set up like games and competitions.
In a Science and Social Studies classroom students are creating one presentation using Google Slides about animal adaptations and another about important battles from the Civil War. They are collaborating with their partners by sharing the slides through Google Drive and giving feedback to each other to improve the finished product. Students research their topics using the internet and add images and videos to their slides. When finished, the students present their slideshows to the class. The teacher uses a rubric to evaluate their slides, presentations, and group work. Once all the presentations are complete, the class is quizzed about highlights from the slideshows.
In a Math classroom, the teacher has posted four videos to Google Classroom. These videos are created by Khan Academy and linked through YouTube. Students are given one week to watch all four videos, which lets them see the lesson presented another way. Once they have watched the videos, students must complete three assignments on IXL.com. Each time a student enters an answer on IXL, they get immediate feedback about the response and are given the correct path to solve it if the answer was wrong. Students must write down the problems from IXL, show work and answers, and turn in their papers to the teacher by Friday. The teacher still uses direct instruction, group work, and discussion to teach. However, much of the practice is moved from worksheets to online programs that assess the same skills.
All teachers still have the autonomy to teach their classes the way they see fit. Most teachers still use direct instruction daily with students. What has changed most for our school is the work that students are producing. Instead of making a poster, students can create a slideshow; instead of hand writing an essay, students can type one; and instead of doing a worksheet, students can practice online. As our school becomes more comfortable with the technology, the teaching and learning will only continue to improve and help students learn skills necessary for their future.
Jessica has taught middle school math in Putnam County Schools for the past 7 years. She first worked at Avery Trace Middle School teaching 6th, 7th and 8th grade math. Then she moved to Cornerstone Middle School, which is now Upperman Middle School, to teach 5th grade math. During this time, she has served as the 5th grade team leader, mentor teacher, 2015 school level Teacher of the Year, digital transition team member and mathematics instructional specialist. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies – Middle School and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, both from Tennessee Tech University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.
A global society is a connection among humans around the world. It is a sense of community. It is a system of networks and worldly relations. Too often, we are unsure of the boundaries that exist between societies and are discouraged or unwilling to cross them. Educators can help eliminate the uncertainty, encourage global awareness, and satisfy students’ curiosity. Obtaining the proper content knowledge, fostering creativity, and providing structure and support for learners can help guide them through the learning process.
With rural west Tennessee being my home, the Gulf of Mexico being as far south as I have traveled, Chicago being as far north, and having never stepped foot out west, I find it a bit unimaginable and extremely ambitious to attempt teaching students about the world as a whole. I feel confident in my ability, as a leader, to teach students everything they need to know about an individual society, such as the country, state, or community in which they live. How to form a global society remains a question to some, and I often search for the answer myself. While many practices, such as travel programs, allow opportunities for students to reach out in a global society, they are not all tailored to fit elementary grade levels. There are many resources and practices available to help teachers build awareness in their classroom.
Teaching students about our global community through a curriculum is one practice that I can identify with as a leader in my own elementary classroom. States within the United States, such as Tennessee, have revamped their previous standards into standards that provide rigorous instruction, critical thinking, and more complex text that increase student global awareness. The third grade Tennessee social studies standards cover the geography of the world. They include analyzing the globe, locating major countries, continents, and oceans, and identifying physical features of the world. I have been able to teach in themes, such as global poverty, global advocacy, and global citizenship. The standards themselves have added to my level of confidence in my ability to be a teacher leader in a global society.
There are many websites available with a plethora of lesson plans, videos, activities, and online text. The two sites, World's Largest Lesson and Newsela, help me build global awareness in my classroom. I use these resources to teach students about classrooms around the world, problems our world faces, and all sorts of news events from across the globe. A global collaboration website called iEARN allows students to learn through global projects and learning circles with participants in 140 countries. This year, the students in my class participated in a project that required them to research and discuss the causes of hunger in the world and brainstorm ways to solve the global issue. Each of these sites help me supplement the curriculum which I teach and meet a number of the state standards.
With technology growing rapidly, teachers are always hunting for ways to make it part of their daily practice. Skype can be used to connect classrooms with other classrooms, authors, and experts from around the world. It is a free service that allows classrooms to interact with others through video chat. Another way to connect classrooms is by assigning students to e-pals at other schools. Epals is a platform where students can make meaningful connections with other learners. Teachers can even assign students to online projects to work on with their e-pals. Merging these two forms of 21st-century communication can open up doors in our global society and break down global barriers in education, as well as address the standards that many United States classrooms teach.
Students have the world at their fingertips, and yet seem so detached from it. Barriers must be broken, and teacher leaders must be more transparent so that fellow teachers and students are active members of a global society. This begins with teachers removing the globe from the shelf and wiping away the dust that lies upon the surface.
Hayley teaches 3rd grade at West Chester Elementary School. She has been teaching with the Chester County School System for 4 years. Hayley is presently serving as a teacher leader/data coach in her school. She is also a member of the district writing team. She has led PLCs within her district and has attended focus groups concentrating on supporting Tennessee educators. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Memphis. She is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.
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