When I walked into my first college computer class in 1995, the room was filled with Macs, PCs, and loads of potential. I hadn’t been exposed to computers before that, and I thought to myself, “Wow. This is pretty neat, but it’s not my world.”
Fast-forward to 2018 and we’re now teaching students who were literally born with technology in their hands. They have technology at their avail and they always will.
Pro-digital since day one
At Shiloh Point Elementary in Georgia, our school has been pro-digital since day one and is one of the nation’s leaders in integrating tech into the learning experience. We know that these kids need choices and anonymity in a world where it’s all too easy to get lost in the shuffle. Using the word “ownership” as our battle cry, we work hard to ensure responsibility and independence among our students.
I do this on the first day of every school year by introducing myself and telling my fourth-grade students, “This is your classroom, not mine.” I let them know that they’ll be working on their own and taking care of our classroom. I’m here to help them, guide them, and teach, but I also give them the freedom to do what they want to do. This encourages collaboration among the kids, who learn a lot from their peers.
I’m always available when called upon to help, like when a student is having trouble with a math problem, but for the most part they’re on their own. The bottom line is that when kids understand what I’m teaching, they don’t need me standing in front of or over them; they can go out on their own, move ahead, and explore what we call pathways. They don’t have to wait for me to get to a particular lesson.
The power of student voice
One valuable tech tool that supports my teaching style is our itslearning learning management system (LMS). Using the LMS’ social discussion pages, for example, students can talk about and collaborate on lessons without me being there. I encourage them to take risks and do what they want, and what they come up with is pretty amazing. For our class book clubs, students use the social discussion pages to share vocabulary words, ask questions, tell each other about the words they’ve found, and then add their own pictures to illustrate that newfound knowledge.