Monday, October 02, 2006

Jump In!

A colleague of mine recently asked me about age appropriateness when using PowerPoint for classroom projects. I initially answered that fourth grade was age appropriate, but went on to elaborate on the effective uses of slideware versus its sometimes meaningless implementation. During this conversation, it occurred to me that my personal philosophy regarding effective technology integration has really evolved over the past few years. It was not too long ago that I actually had students creating book reports in PowerPoint. I cringe when I think about the lack of creativity I brought to that assignment!

My point here is that there is a definite process in learning how to integrate technology meaningfully. I believe teachers must take the plunge and try to enhance curriculum and their own productivity with technology tools. At first, it can be a painful and time consuming process, but hopefully these experiences will give teachers motivation to improve. We need to reassure our colleagues that it is perfectly okay to be innovative in their classrooms, and that part of their own learning process involves stumbling in the classroom occasionally. That’s how we improve instruction for our students; technology-based projects can and should evolve with thought and experience.

For example, I have been in my current position as a computer science instructor for the past six years. My first fifth grade class created a HyperStudio project called All About Me, based on an idea originally found in a published book on HyperStudio. Kids created five cards including a title card and ones labeled Hear Me, See Me, Watch Me, and More About Me. They designed and decorated each card, added some text, recorded their voices within HyperStudio, and included a digital photo and video of themselves that I had shot. It was a fun project, but not as rich and personal as I would have hoped.

This project has changed over time because I’ve found ways to make it flow better. This year, my students will either use a photo I’ve taken or a photo they created themselves using Apple’s built-in iSight cameras and Photobooth software. They will also draw a portrait of themselves using Art Rage 2, record an audio file in Garageband, and make a movie entirely themselves using iMovie. Finally, these digitized items will be displayed in a slideware program called eZedia MX. My students own these projects now and I can’t say with confidence that my students six years ago felt the same. This project has improved over time because I’ve given kids more control over the process and more choices regarding content. I’ve also learned to organize and scaffold the process over time.

I hope that we can elaborate on and share ideas such as this here in the Infinite Thinking Machine. I look forward to learning from ITM readers and bloggers!