Innovate to Educate Entry
East Brunswick Public Schools
Kelly Grotrian, Secondary Social Studies Teacher
What innovative technology initiative or project are you most proud of, and how has it improved teaching and learning in your school/district?My innovative technology initiative has been Video Based Questions (or VBQs) which utilize Google Forms, video/media, and questions that allow students to control the pace of their own learning. As a social studies teacher, we have dealt with and used Document Based Questions a great deal and I felt that many of my students would simply 'hunt and peck' for the answers to the questions without necessarily engaging with the material, so I decided to create another way for my students to work with content through the use of video. While many teachers use video in class (put in DVD and press play), students are often seen staring out the window or doodling on their paper. The VBQ gives the student complete control of the video - allowing them to pause and replay as many times as needed, without disrupting their peers, in order to answer the questions. This format is not feasible in the previously used one-video-full-class-viewing situation. VBQs have allowed students to control the pace of their learning, have fostered a deeper level of engagement, and allowed learning to continue outside of the classroom as they are given access to the Google Form from any device.
What were some of the biggest challenges to your initiative, and how did you meet those challenges?Some of the biggest challenges were whether giving this level of 'control' ('Here's a chromebook, headphones, and the Google Form - let me know if you need help!') would result in students simply not doing the assignment or becoming distracted by other websites/games online. I used VBQs with my academic level Juniors and my AP US History students - and both levels were full-on engaged the entire time. No two screens looked alike, but as I and my administrators walked around - the only sounds you heard were fingers on the keyboards, you saw students staring at screens with headphones on/earbuds in and from the back of the room - all eyes were on the 'right page'. In reading their responses in Google Sheets, I could tell they were comfortable sharing their opinions and did in fact 'do the assignment'. I think the nature of providing students with tools they are comfortable with (technology) negated the fears I had.
What are the three biggest components that need to be in place for tech innovation to succeed are:
|In order for ed-tech innovation in education to succeed, teachers and administrators must be on the same page - I had 100% support from all of my administrators in this endeavor. I had the idea in late June of 2015 and have not looked back since. It was suggested that I write an article (which appeared in eSchool News in October 2015) which then led to two more articles (for TPS-Barat, grant funded organization through the Library of Congress) as well as other presentations on how VBQs can be used with any grade level in any content area.|
|Aside from the partnership between teachers and administrators, you want to ensure stable infrastructure within the building - I understand the resistance to using ed-tech when your wifi fails to work more often than it does work.|
And finally, in order for ed-tech innovation to succeed, you want to be full-on committed to the value of it with your students. It's not a 'show' for when administrators come in - let the students know that you see this as their future! If they know that you see there's real value in learning this way, they will buy into it completely. This is not about doing what's best for the teacher, it's about preparing these students for their future careers and training their brains to function in different ways. Plus, most children are more tech-savvy than staff - so I think they enjoy when we take a vested interest in something they are already experts in.