Thursday, December 19, 2013

High School Students as Professional Education Consultants

Last week my students helped me explain how we use smartphones, tablets, and laptops in our class daily to learn in new ways.  I had to opportunity to present to a group of teachers and administrators at the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence conference in Disney World (where is was 75 degrees) while still at Reading Memorial High School in Massachusetts (where it was 12 degrees). Thanks to some fine work by many members of our technology staff, we were able to video conference with the professionals in Florida along with Jennalee Anderson's 7th grade classroom nearby in town using Cisco's Jabber software.

Nine of my sophomore history students helped me explain how we use devices in class every day.  I'm the one wearing green standing in the back.  Our library media specialist, Sharon Burke, is standing next to me in the middle.
My students used iPads, iPad Minis, iPhones, Surface tablets, or any other device they bring to school and use on our BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) wifi network.  They talked about how we used their devices in class the day before to learn about the Temperance Movement in the early to mid 19th century.

QR Codes: They demonstrated how they use QR scanning apps to access all the resources and links needed for the lesson.  This keeps our class paperless and allows them to access class materials anytime day or night.  There is no text book or handout packet to lose or forget in a locker.
Scan this code to see resources for our recent class on the Temperance Movement.
Skitch and Evernote: They showed how they upload primary source images to Skitch and then annotate them as they evaluate their meaning within the historical context.  Then they add that image to Evernote, which they use to keep track of everything they learn in class.  No need for a spiral notebook or three ring binder.  These are examples of publications created by temperance activists annotated by a student.

Backchannel: Students talked about online chatting, called backchannel, during documentary films in class.  They explained that it saves us time because we don't have to have a discussion after the film is over since we've already had it.  The discussion is much more lively than a typical teacher-directed classroom discussion. Also, they like it better than filling in a worksheet as they watch.
Click this screenshot to read the transcript of our backchannel chat while viewing part of Ken Burns's Prohibition.
Throughout our short presentation I was amazed at how well they spoke and demonstrated the apps.  They also understood how their learning had changed because of the activities the devices have allowed us to do.  I asked the participating students to write a short reflection about participating in a real world professional presentation to adults and how it made them feel.

Participating in the national conference was a really great opportunity. It was cool to be a part of something that may help other schools successfully integrate technology into their classrooms.

I enjoyed being able to share a bit of my everyday life to people who could make a difference in schools.

It was interesting to talk with other people who want to learn about BYOD. It was cool to see how the use of iPads had changed middle school classrooms. I wanted to show other people how our paperless classroom functions.

Demonstrating the benefits of piloting a paperless classroom to an unknown yet interested audience was a unique experience.  Being able to show teachers the advantages of using a device oriented curriculum will hopefully help transition classrooms into a more technology encouraged environment.  As technology use improves so can the quality of learning.

I was so impressed by a few things they recognized:

  • They were presenting to a broader audience and therefore indirectly making a difference in classrooms across the country.
  • Their learning has changed because of technology integration in our history classroom.
  • Not only were they presenting about BYOD, they were learning about other ways BYOD is being used in other classrooms.
I learned that I need to provide my students with more opportunities to share their learning with broader interested audiences. Perhaps a new year resolution is in order.