“God has given us more than fourteen billion cells and connections in our brain. Why would God give us such a complex organ system unless he expects us to use it?” – Dr. Ben Carson
I am blessed to work in a school that is full of professional educators. The kind that come to work with open eyes and innovative ideas. That strive for students to THINK and use their brains while creating and completing assignments. I remember when I was in fourth grade. I sat at my individual desk and scrawled vocabulary words into my composition book every day. Zoned out, tired, and bored; that was my status on a daily basis. I don’t have one positive memory from my 4th grade teacher in the 90s. I didn’t have an ipad, I didn’t use my imagination, and I didn’t have any choice in what I did all day.
My very next year in school, however, was very different. My fifth grade year was revolutionary. I felt alive and engaged. I remember many of the activities we completed in class. We read Hatchet together, and I cringed as Brian fought for his life in the wilderness. We wrote in a composition book every day, but we had a choice in what we wrote about (I wrote about a boy named Greg almost every day). We had a choice in my 5th grade class and a teacher that cared about her students. I didn’t know it at the time, but in 5th grade I was in a classroom that was following some strategies that can be found in a reading workshop model.
These two classrooms were in the same school with the same opportunities and supplies, but they had one major difference. In one I had a teacher who saw what her students needed and cared about. She also made sure her students were engaged and had to think through and about daily assignments.
In my mind, that is what creates a positive and progressive classroom. I am blessed to have a classroom of today, and some would consider it a classroom of tomorrow. We are extremely lucky to have iPads, but as an educator I understand it isn’t what tools we have, but how we use them that matter. Not all of my students use their IPads as their first go-to tool to seek out an answer to a question they have, but most of them do. It’s a choice they make. The students use these tools seamlessly, and to them it is just like having a book or a Smartboard. It is not just our “new normal”, it is essential to have these tools at their disposal.
Schools from all over the city, state, and country come into our school to visit and see the 1:1 IPad initiative. What a lot of them walking away saying is, “this is how the classes work every day?” Students in my classroom and our school are engaged and independent learners and workers. Students in my class not only care, but take accountability for their work.
Before leaving for spring break two students were having a conversation near my desk. “I love using Keynote. Here is my project on fractions. Oh, and this keynote is about Venus.” The student proceeded to count all of the keynotes he had completed within the year. He was not only excited about the work he had completed, but he was also reflecting on how much he had done. What slipped by this student is the fact that he had to first learn about the topics he created a presentation on prior to creating his keynote.
Students must think, learn, and grow to use these tools effectively. They can work in pairs or by themselves if they choose; on hard paper or on an app. Students can search in Safari or in an index in their text book. The important thing is the students are thinking and becoming independent learners and workers. Going into the last quarter of the year, I am going to focus on giving my students an even bigger voice in the room, and make them THINK more. I agree, with Dr. Carson, why would God give us amazing brains if he didn’t intend for us to use them? Even if the “us” is only ten years old.
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