I have observed something pretty amazing since the 1-to-1 technology movement in my class. Students feel quite comfortable and take pride in sharing their technology knowledge or tricks with their classmates. The learning energy is obvious and clear as this happens. This is so cool to see and participate in, regardless of the class or subject.
This "Sharing" first surfaced last year in a 6th grade specific class called Middle School Skills and Support. Years ago this class was called Positive Transitions, with a plan of support students with changes that come with the elementary to middle school progression. We meet every other day and the class has changed dramatically since the infusion of personal devices for all students. I am very fortunate to work in a district that values this academic step with this 42 minute class. In addition, our principal has been so supportive and simply awesome, empowering us teachers to retool this class for 21st century learning.
The class begins with teaching and reinforcing the soft skills of organization, study skills and time management techniques for the new independence these 11 and 12 year olds now have in middle school. We continue with teaching students how they are part of various learning communities as small as a classroom to grade level teams and even an entire school. The FISH Philosophy is the theme for all 6th grade teams and introduced in middle school skills or as we call it MSS. The four philosophies are; choose your attitude, make their day, be there and play. 6th graders have no problem with the play part for sure.
Though none of the topics listed in the previous paragraph are a tested standard, most educators would agree they are extremely valuable. Then came eLearning2 to our district and 6th grade. Every student had their own personal device, with most having chromebooks. This class was the perfect place to teach new soft skills of device management and digital citizenship. So our MSS class was retooled again, except this time the technology plane was flying and we were making modifications in the air.
As one might imagine, the students were extremely motivated to use this learning tool on most anything they could. That was the first lesson, to establish that their chromebook was a tool and not the holy grail of learning. The classes did appreciate the reality that they were the first 6th graders in our district to have this instant access power of learning at their finger tips. As we established new behavior and learning expectation norms something unique had taken root and was growing. By table groups and class, students started looking out for each other when being distracted with their screen.
We built in at least 2 weeks of Google Skills lessons into each quarter. The lessons went far beyond Google Apps For Education, but it was a fitting name. This is where the neat sharing began. Let's say we were introducing the basics of Google Slides for classroom presentations. There would be a normal bell curve of knowledge from, I don't know what a presentation is to animation slide transition explorers. It started by table as one student would do something new and cool with their presentation. A beginner would ask "How did you do that?" Suddenly two students that have no connection beyond this class were sharing and learning from each other. I gave it a little push, having students walk around the room to see what others were doing with their project. This became a buzz of learning and excitement. By the end of just one 42 minute class the technology knowledge gab had narrowed in a noticeable fashion.
I thought there had to be a way to take this technology device motivation and bring it to my science class. It isn't like technology wasn't a part of my physics classes, for we use the tools daily. The quest was bringing technology sharing to content learning. Inspired by @MsMagiera - Jenny Magiera's TedxBurnsvilleEd, it was time do a summative project that allowed creativity and still hit the standards. The Grand Portage Project was born. The expectations was to map a route from our school to Grand Portage. The route there was to be in current time and returning by mode of travel for 1800. Using My Maps in Google, they created their ground travel each way. I will summarize the entire project when completed and I can assess its merits in future posts.
Though early in this sharing classroom learning focus, the project brought regular moments of goosebumps on my arms. It was so cool to see the creativity and SHARING between students that rarely talk to each other. The digital format to share their journey was open for each student to select. There was another learning area hit as well and that was what I gained. Student interest and knowledge openly shared. Our classroom community became closer and more trusting of each other. I learned about many new tricks that a 6th grader can see from their perspective. Sharing the Classroom Learning is powerful and energizes this old educator.