Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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3rd Grade

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Sometimes there are teachers you just need to celebrate…..and that is this blog post (and the next).

This week is only two days old but I’m already excited at what teachers who are finishing our COETAIL course are producing. The final course has them implementing everything we’ve learned in the four classes before into units or lessons within their content area. It also calls for us, the instructors, (Kim, Dennis, and I) to observer a lesson where they implement everything they’ve learned and using this rubric have a discussion with them about what we observed in their lesson and room.

The last two days have been even more special in the fact that I was able to observer a 3rd grade classroom and an IB High Level English class (11th grade). I wish everyone had the opportunity to see the whole spectrum of learning as I do.

Monday I sat in a 3rd grade classroom and watched, talked to, and just smiled in amazement of what happens when we let students be creative with their own learning. I’ve talked about Mike Jessee’s classroom many times on this blog (here and here). In my opinion, he’s an amazing teacher that gets inquiry learning at a level that I myself struggle with. I’ve never witnessed a teacher that has been able to freely give control over to students like Mike does. I think his most favorite phrase is, “I don’t know…what do you think?”

His lesson on Monday was not the original lesson that his project outlines called for. No, the project called for students to create VoiceThreads, or to keep working on the VoiceThreads they stared in earlier science units. There was only one problem…when Mr. Jessee told the students they were working on VoiceThread the student’s energy disappeared. Wait a minute…they didn’t want to use this cool tool? Why not?

“It allows me to be creative”

“I can show what I learned and create my slides the way I want to”

“I created a VoiceThread, but it didn’t allow me to show what I know so I wanted to make a Notebook file that allowed me to show what I know…but I linked it to my VoiceThread…see…watch”

Yes…those are direct quotes from 3rd grade students on Monday as I watched them work on their SmartBoard Notebook files.

You see….when Mike saw the energy disappear from the kids eyes when he mentioned VoiceThread he asked them what they would rather do….without hesitation they asked if they could use Notebook instead. The students wanted to create their knowledge not just talk about it.

Here is where Mr. Jessee went wrong. He allowed the kids to create Notebook files for their Student-Led Conferences (Here’s one page from each student). Students had the creative bug and they wanted to be creative…they had the freedom to create slides of who they were as learners and now they wanted to create slides of who there were as scientists.

Mr. Jessee gave students the choice of creating a VoiceThread or a Notebook file. All but one student created a Notebook file. The one student (quoted above) is a verbal student…he can explain his learning better verbally then he can through writing. The problem is the one picture in VoiceThread didn’t allow him to “show” his creativity so he created a Notebook file as well….and with a little help from Mr. Jessee he was able to link it to his VoiceThread.

Mr. Jessee listened to his students and didn’t realize until they spoke up that he was actually standing in their way of being creative.

On Monday I saw what the students were creating. They’ll be posted soon on the class blog, and what they have created is so individual, so amazing, so 3rd grade that I was literally in awe.

I watched students check their spelling using the built in dictionary app on their MacBooks. I saw students literally draw….on the screen….a crayfish. I saw another student choose a background that was blue and green because, “It’s like their habitat”.

There’s only one problem with the project….the kids don’t want to stop! They have one more day to finish and they don’t want to stop creating their learning…in a way that represents them.

This is what we’re talking about….allowing students to be creative, getting out of their way, listening to them, and just allowing them to create their own learning and show us what they have learned through that creation.

The data that Mr. Jessee will be able to get out of these personally created masterpieces is more than any test would have told him. Misconceptions, big moments, and knowledge….and recorded individually and posted for the world to see (soon).

This is it….this is technology being used in amazing and authentic ways in allowing students to create and show their knowledge. This is why every student should have access to a laptop when they need it to learn…even in 3rd grade….we need to give student access to these amazing creative tools and then get out of their way and watch them create masterpieces!

BTSN parents Blogging!Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working closely with a couple of our 3rd grade teacher looking at their mapping unit and using Google Earth. I talked about the lessons I was helping with a couple blog posts ago.

What has been really great about this project is how I’ve been able to support and differentiate the project at a teacher level based on their comfort zone and knowledge of technology and still meet the learning outcomes.

Ms. Tulli’s students just posted their KMZ file that you can download and learn about landforms from the kids. If you have time the kids would really appreciate what you learned from their landform project. You can leave a comment on their class blog.

Ms. Tulli and I sat down at the end of last year and marked this unit as a place to integrate technology. This year we met, looked at outcomes and came up with a plan. Ms. Tulli had never used Google Earth before in the classroom and was ready to stretch herself to not only learn the program but use it in her class for learning. The final project is great, I only wish I would have videoed the class on Friday as they sat with partners and got to take the tour and talk about the different landforms together. The conversation was fantastic, they were excited to see their placemarks and those of their classmates. Now we just need some comments from the community (yes…that means you! šŸ˜‰ )

BTSN parents Blogging!Next to Ms. Tulli’s room is Mr. Jessee’s room. We’ve been working on the same project only looking at a different product. Instead of place markers with information we’re hoping to record the students voices and video their tour. So they will be creating a video tour of their landforms giving information. We’re hoping to be finished with the project next week and I’ll post their final .kmz file here so you can take the tour.

With both teachers we started with what we wanted the students to learn and then found a way to get to that understanding. As a supporter to the project, I allowed the teachers to tell me what they were thinking and then supported them in that outcome. By working this way I could get a feeling for what the teachers’ comfort level was, what they wanted out of the project and then could help structure the lessons around the teacher, their skills, and the outcome to get to the product they were after.

BTSN parents Blogging!We talk about differentiating for students, and what I think this project shows is how you can apply that to teachers as well. Produce two great products while at the same time supporting the teachers where they are within their technology comfort level and guide them in learning something new. There is more than one way to meet outcomes, there is more than one way to learn a skill or a program like Google Earth. The projects might be different but the outcome, the learning, is the same for the students.

Thank you to Ms. Tulli and Mr. Jessee for taking a risk with me and trying something new, learning along the way and in the end, producing some pretty cool artifacts of learning.