Teaching Tech: Integrating Technology Into the Classroom
Technology has become an essential part of our daily lives. With smart phones, computers and tablets galore, it is easy to forget what powerful tools we have at our disposal. At Corlears teachers are taking that power and putting it in in students' hands; showing them how to use technology as a tool for creation, not consumption. By supplementing curriculum with technology, students learn how to utilize these tools to support their learning process and explore their imaginations.
Led by Educational Technology Specialist Zach, students of all ages explore a variety of tools and programs that support their educational development and expand their classroom curriculum. While classroom lessons and technology use might seem disparate, the combination of the two gives students a richer, more holistic understanding of a given topic. This year, as the 8/9s students studied the Woodlands, they used technology to further explore the topic by creating digital diagrams of forest layers. During culmination, laptops were on display in the classrooms and students proudly walked parents and fellow students through their diagrams. The use of technology in the classroom coincides with curricular goals. As Zach puts it, “technology is a tool that supports the content they’re already learning in the classroom.” As each grade level is exposed to more complex tools and software, they build a number of practical and applicable skills that will carry over into other areas of learning and last a lifetime.
The use of technological tools begins early on and grows in complexity as the students rise through grade levels. For younger children, engaging in tasks such as drawing or writing the alphabet on an iPad improves their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and supplements their emerging literacy. Learning to use a program and recalling steps that must be completed to reach a goal strengthens sequencing, an important component of reading comprehension. Older children have the opportunity to delve deeper into critical thinking, group work and begin their introduction to more complex technological tasks like coding and robotics. As students learn with the use of a variety of tools, they engage higher order and executive brain functions. As they problem solve and plan for their end product, they stretch their intellectual capacity and build self efficacy. With guidance from Zach, students are learning how computers and other tools can support them as active learners.
Using technology not only allows children to build a variety of skills, but empowers them to become media makers, not just consumers. “Kids’ default view of media is as entertainment and information consumption,” Zach says, “it’s our jobs as teachers and parents to show them that technology can be used for creative purposes.” As he works with the students, Zach gives them the tools they need to explore their own creativity and each other’s. This year, the 8/9s worked together to create a claymation film during Project Time. Collaborating over the course of 8 weeks, these students wrote their own story, creating characters and elaborate sets in the process, and successfully executed the detail oriented process of making their own film entitled “The Eruption.” The deep learning that comes from such a project, as with all Corlears curriculum, is multi layered. Goal setting, time management and teamwork were essential elements in the process, and ultimately responsible for successful completion of the project. Not to be dismissed is the social aspect of this undertaking. Working with a group to agree upon goals and a vision is no easy feat, but these students were able to successfully execute their project by collaborating and learning from one another. It is because of the rich learning that takes place during the process that the focus remains on empowering students through media creation.
Technology use at Corlears is integrated into the curriculum, serving as a means to build and support students’ emerging skills. The incorporation of technological tools and software supplements classroom learning and offers students even more venues for self expression, collaboration and skill building. Ultimately, the content of each class drives their technological exploration, displaying the various ways one can engage with a given topic. Through a combination of classroom learning and use of technology, Corlears students become empowered and develop not only a love of learning, but a love of creating.