This week made me realize that often students can be our best resources. Educators often tweet questions about how to best use a tool or a program in the classroom, and for years, I’ve been trying to figure out all of the possible options. As I converse with other teachers, consultants, and administrators on the benefits and uses of various tools and programs, I realize that the people that are missing from this conversation are the students.
Last weekend, I received an email from a student of mine. She’s gone on vacation for two weeks, but she’s concerned about what she’s missing. She asked me if she should FaceTime in for any of our math lessons. I started by emailing her the .jpg images of the math lessons for the week, along with some additional information, and asked if just reading the information would be enough. She still had questions though, so we arranged a time for her to FaceTime. Not only did she stay for the lesson and the project overview discussion, but she also joined a small group, and worked on the initial planning for the project. Amazing! I would have never considered using FaceTime in this way, but this student knew what she wanted and was willing to take time out of her vacation to make this work. I love that!
Then comes the group of students in my class that have showed me the power of using Minecraft for learning. Last week, a group asked to create their media text for their Social Studies project using Minecraft. Then this week, when I introduced our Math Art Assignment, the students asked to use Minecraft to create their “art.” Not only did they make the shapes in Minecraft, but they determined the area and perimeter of each one, and they even considered visual display. On Wednesday, one student said to me, “I never would have thought that Minecraft could be used for learning, but it really can!”
It was then Friday when I heard again from the student that’s away on vacation. She knew we were working on our Museum Day Projects in class, and she wondered how the projects were going. I spoke to her group, and they wondered if they could connect with their third member to finish things off. How could I not encourage this? The group then used my iPad to FaceTime her, and their iPhone to text her. It was fantastic! They used tools and programs that they usually use for personal reasons, and they used them for academic purposes. Students were engaged, on-task, and collaborating well — even between countries! 🙂
I know very little about FaceTime, Minecraft (which I often call, Mindcraft), and iMessage, but the students know more, and they can teach me what they know. More so, they can teach me how to use these programs to show what they’ve learned and to learn well with others.
How do you give students a voice in what tools and programs to use, and how to use them? How do you work together to ensure that they’re used well in the classroom environment? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!