Technology is a Gap Closer

Like many of us my good friend, Daisy Dyer Duerr@DaisyDyerDuerr, drives the value of integrating technological learning experiences into the classroom. Of the many values she speaks on, technology serving as an experience gap closer for students is at the top of her list. We both have experience working in rural schools and talk about how lack of cultural experiences is a barrier teachers have to get creative to work around in all schools, not just rural students.

We are in a rural school system about 30 minutes north of Charlotte, North Carolina. My current school serves largely a rural area, covering about 1/3 of county. Our school population is about 65% free and reduced lunch. We have great kids and supportive families, many are very involved and care about their kids but many also have other priorities. While its not surprising that many have not been out of the state of North Carolina [state line is about 75 minutes away] it does catch you off guard how many haven’t been to Charlotte not on a field trip or educational experience. This isn’t about judging experiences or decisions of our families, its about respecting the priorities that our families and its a call for us as educators to use resources at our disposal to serve as gap closers.

Last week, our tech facilitator Jerry Pittman,@wrmstech, helped close the opportunity gap for several classes of students using @googlecardboard. Our 6th grade Social Studies teachers are exploring ancient China, and saw exploring the Great Wall as a means to really engage kids. Our media specialist @wrmsreads, and Mr Pittman, regularly attend our collaborative planning meetings to involve themselves in curriculum talks. He was invited to help plan this part of the unit. He thought of the integration and usage of GoogleCardboard to help with this learning experience. He and Ms Kennington, our 6th grade social studies teacher planned this day and activity down to the detail.

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I’m struck by how small efforts on our parts make huge differences for our students. The ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and sheer amazement in the room really let us know our students had a deeper learner experience than just from watching a video or reading some online materials.

Takeaways from this experience:

  1. BYOD: Even though our school and school district is 1:1, this would not have been made possible if the teacher had not permitted the students to bring their personal devices and Mr Pittman had not given clear instructions and set expectations for what they were to do;
  2. Engagement: We hear so much from teachers that if students are allowed to bring devices, they will get distracted. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Like most things in the classroom, its about expectations being set and having the determination that learning will be engaging and fun. Its ok to design learning that will blow students’ minds wide open;
  3. Have clear learning targets set: A good friend of mine, Bill Ziegler @DrBillZiegler has mantra – don’t chase technology, chase learning [spoken like a true digital principal]. From this video, you can see that design and outcomes were set early. This is what makes great teaching. We look for technology to enhance learning experiences and create next level excitement and engagement. I speak to principals and teachers regularly about the perils of reversing this process. Its critical we get this right.

You can read about Mr Pittmans firsthand experience in his blog post here: A Day in The Life of Using Google Cardboard in A Classrom He is a connected educator and welcomes connections.

This virtual field trip experience was about kids and giving them a learning perspective that they can really communicate and appreciate.

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