Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The World At Their Fingertips

Skip: Initially, the most striking feature of the 45 minutes I spent observing this project was the purpose-driven attitude of the students. They entered the lab, logged on to PowerSchool to check their grades, did a quarterly reading assessment using STAR Reading, and then got to work on their states projects. There were no directions from Larry, and everyone was immediately engaged. During my 30+ years of observing K-12 students interacting with computers, I've rarely seen such self-responsibility. So often, computer lab time is spent trying to get everyone on the same screen at the same time and dealing with the behaviors that inevitably result when some students get there quickly, others not so quickly, and others who would rather play a game. In this case, every student made their own plans for using the time effectively, helping each other as needed.

Larry: As Skip mentioned, we attempt to utilize our time in the computer lab to the utmost.  At this time, we really have 3-4 projects or instructional zones occurring simultaneously.

  1. PowerSchool - Our district utilizes PowerSchool Premier as our student information database.  This allows students, parents, and teachers to view grade performance, both current and past.  I personally have adopted the practice of not going home until all work has been graded and entered for each academic day.  Admittedly, there are a few assignments that required more than one day to grade, but...
  2. Google Earth - At this time the students are in the process of building a Google Earth file (KML) that contains outlines and embedded information for the 50 states.  Each state is outlined and highlighted using the polygon tool and then specific state information is either copied/pasted or typed directly into the outline structure.  The students are basically seeing and creating the growth of the American states and observing westward migration and expansionism as they work.  Eventually we will re-color the states to reflect the Civil War as well as other historical events.
  3. Excel - While the students are building their Google Earth files, they are also using Excel to track progress of specific state information.  Eventually this will lead to our ability to sort a large amount of information using the features of Excel.  Along the way, we are also learning various text features in terms of fonts, colors, sizes, and attributes.
  4. Safari and/or Firefox - Lastly the students typically have 2 browser windows open in order to search information needed with their other projects.  They have learned by having two windows and sometimes three, they can search specific information in each window without having to lose other information.

All in all, 60 minutes of very focused time and attention.

Skip: This short video demonstrates some of the strategies that the students have developed to pursue their various projects. Most have 3 or 4 applications--Google Earth, Google Search, Excel, 50States.com--opened in tiled windows on the screen so that they can switch between them as needed.  Some students used extra time to start up Moby Math or IXL.com and work on their math tasks. It was exciting to see how independent and focused they all were during this period.

These students have the world at their fingertips, literally and figuratively.

No comments:

Post a Comment