“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much” – Helen Keller
When I was a junior in college, I took an Introduction to Technology in the Classroom course. The Smartboard was the new, hip gadget and you were praying you were lucky enough to get a classroom equipped with this new technology for your student teaching. During the time I took this technology class, I was required to go see a class that was in the forefront of the technology movement and our professors suggested a local middle school was the “best of the best”.
When I went to observe I saw a 7th grade social studies class in which every student was equipped with his or her own desktop to use and the teacher had a Smartboard. Fantastic right? Wrong. From my observation each student was plugged in to researching a certain topic on an individual desktop and partitions separated the students. There was no talking, there was no asking questions, and the only sound one could hear in the room was the dull buzzing from the computer fans. The teacher sat and graded papers, while the students worked in isolation.
I decided that day that if I could choose between technology or community, I would choose community any day. What I hadn’t opened my mind to was the idea that technology could be used appropriately. I didn’t have the opportunity to observe a classroom in which technology and community were used together, especially on an upper level classroom. I am sure people thought I was crazy thinking this way. Community centered classrooms ended after kindergarten, right? Just ask my husband, he remembers school as an endless parade of worksheets and reading things that he could care less about.
This is what makes creating a space for cooperative learning so important. It places the emphasis on what an individual needs and establishes an investment from that individual. iPads are such useful and appropriate tools. This tool was built for community. You can’t pick up a desktop and take it from point A to point B in the classroom. You can’t carry a desktop over to a friend who can help you with an application. An iPad is a versatile, functional, and essential tool for a classroom built around a community of learners.
Every year, I recreate “the wheel” in some way. This year, I am focused on making a space in which my students can create and work together toward a goal. I despise when a group can not stay on task and work independently, and one of our class goals is to “work together” with an emphasis on work. My students are definitely not perfect and we often need to discuss “talking for a reason”. If I let this fourth grade class go completely, they would talk about everything from last weekend’s football game to who is “dating” who (I still don’t understand the concept of 4th grade dating).
However, when this class is “on”, they are “on”. The only buzzing in the classroom is found when pairs of students problem solve and help one another complete and turn in assignments or master a learning goal. “Can I help Joseph with this?”. “I know how to upload to Box through this app”. “You are missing your sentences in your vocabulary book. Let me show you what I did.” All of this buzzing can be found in a classroom that is structured for community.
So what kind of “buzzing” is happening in our classrooms? Are we bringing life to our classrooms or are we sucking the life out of our students? Shaping a space for creativity or killing the creativity inside of our students? I hope I can create a group of helpful and focused students who are willing to reach out to those around them!
Share or like this with the world below. Comments and Questions are always welcome!