When classrooms reach the full promise of learning technology, there is a unique moment. Epiphany. A student can express himself in a way he could not before. The teacher finds an innovative way to introduce content. The classroom cooperates in ways that make everyone feel more connected. In all cases, awareness is the same: the creative use of technology evokes new moments of creative learning.
I saw this first hand. As a teaching technologist at Deer Path High School, I saw my colleagues harness the full force of technology and watched the creativity of their students – and the voice of the students! – rise.
Reaching these moments was not easy. We have been changing the use of our technology for more than ten years. We started like many others, replacing traditional materials with digital ones, and then we repeated with tools and strategies technology feels like a booster instead of a barrier. Along the way, we adopted an iPad for each student and developed learning approaches. We continue to learn. Here are four best practices we have learned from our experience.
Nurture creative self-expression
Like many schools, no two students are the same in Deer Path. The choice is essential. We are committed to creating learning environments that meet students where they are, challenge them to grow, and provide them with a variety of means of expression.
We can do this with technology. We use tools that help us better understand understanding currently measure competence and skills – in different learning styles of students – and promote the choice and freedom of students at all levels.
One of the tools we use is Logitech Crayon. We paired this stylus with the iPad in our math classes, giving students a new way to show their understanding of concepts. Students can now easily and clearly show their work instead of relying solely on a keyboard or using their figures to chart a problem. The screen saver feature allows students to catch themselves talking through the steps of a problem and show their work with their stylus. When a student gets stuck, this data helps him get better feedback and interventions from his teachers.
Inspire new ways to engage with content
Self-expression goes hand in hand with commitment. To stay engaged, children need ways to express themselves and moves around. Researchers show again and again strength of this kind kinesthetic training. Here, technology can unlock new ways to engage with content while encouraging movement and creativity.
In our school, movement is part of our biome unit. Publishing teachers QR codes which connect to different biomes in the corridor outside the science classrooms. Students use their iPads to scan QR codes that are associated with ecosystem resources. Some of the coolest resources are 360-degree videos hosted on YouTube. Videos allow students to experience different environments by moving their devices. All the while, children are moving and deepening their commitment to content.
Cultivate connections in and out of the classroom
The last way technology unlocks creativity is by connecting. I have seen technology bring children and educators together through improved feedback, collaborative learning and interactions right now. When our school switched to hybrid learning, where some students are completely distant and others are in the classroom, we paired students in different places and used technology to help them collaborate.
Students use technology to make connections outside the classroom. During a block of non-fiction in our English Arts class, students used the iPad as a storytelling tool to bring the story home. Some wrote poems or created slideshows. Many chose to record their family’s immigration stories through interviews with their parents and grandparents. The results were powerful. The students captured emotional stories that deepened their family ties, as well as their understanding of the immigrants’ experience.
Focus on students’ choices and creativity
These key moments in the use of creative technologies grew out of the same place: a constant focus on students’ choices and creativity. Our commitment to these elements has helped us realize the full promise of technology and continue to challenge moments of creative learning.
Colin Hardy is a specialist in learning technology at Deer Path High School.
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