Last week, I was lucky enough to find myself back in a 7th grade English classroom at Chippewa Falls Middle School in north central Wisconsin.
Yes, I said lucky! I have a confession to make. I loved school. I loved elementary, junior high, high school, undergrad, and graduate school. I was as competitive in school as most fantasy football owners are with their teams. My goal was always to learn and to earn that “A.” Ever since my freshman year in high school, I succeeded at that too (except for the “A” that was followed by a minus in Sociology my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. After years of therapy, I’m happy to report that I’ve moved on).
I realize that I may be in the minority. Everyone learns differently – today more than ever. With kids today being accustomed to technology, bringing it into the classroom is not only fun, it’s critical.
Assistant Principal Derrick Kunsman (@dkunsman) invited me in for a morning of observation at the school. I was able to attend Mrs. Fay’s English class filled with 7th graders and Mr. Zabrowski’s (@MrZTec) Emerging Technology class filled with 8th graders. I was amazed at the engaged learning going on.
“Who wants to present first today?” asked Mr. Z. Nearly all of the students’ hands shot up. They presented using a fun program called Prezi (prezi.com) and talked about the lasers of the future that don’t even require a screen. The use of these lasers may someday help in emergency situations to get information out to people when other methods are not possible. It was so interesting to me, and best of all, these 13- and 14-year-olds were introducing me to the future.
As part of their project, students had to build a 3-D model to show how the technology would look. After two presentations—both involving lasers—they moved to the computer lab next door and engaged in an educational team game of Minecraft. In the game, students are required to incorporate 3-D models of new technology that they have researched, such as an invisibility shield. Knowing that my own children love playing Minecraft, I couldn’t wait to get home and tell them about how this is being incorporated into a real class at school!
After this class, I got to travel to Mrs. Fay’s English class. This classroom was equipped with Google Chromebooks at each desk. The 7th-grade students started the class by graphing their scores on a recent assignment so they could see whether they were getting better or worse in categories such as organization and voice, tone, and fluency.
After that, it was time to review class-identified examples of grammar problems and Latin stems, which the students had reported on Twitter. For this assignment, students snap a photo and post to Twitter using the hashtags #cfmsgrammarproblems and #cfmslatinstems, so these posts can be reviewed in class.
After this interactive discussion, it was time to listen, follow along, and discuss A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Listening to Ebenezer Scrooge talk with Marley, with accents and all, it was just like I could visualize the story in my mind. After each small section of the book, Mrs. Fay would ask questions and the hands just shot up to answer them.
The last 10 minutes of class incorporated an online Kahoot! quiz that the teacher had created. The program works like the popular quiz games used at sports bars across the country. Points are awarded for correct answers and the speed at which each child was able to answer. After each question is asked, the top 5 places are displayed on the projector screen. With no prize besides pride, these students race to answer with the hope of showing up on the leader board.This certainly isn’t the classroom I grew up with back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Education has had to continually evolve to include changing technology, and educators like Mrs. Fay and Mr. Zabrowski have done an outstanding job at trying to stay ahead of the curve. Hats off to them and all of our educators out there. As a mom, I am so encouraged and inspired to see these dedicated teachers, knowing how my girls will be taught in our schools.
My advice after this great day at the school? Stay connected to your local schools. Ask questions about the technology that kids are using in class. You’ll be amazed at the age of students and the vast abilities they have.
Keep up the great work educators! I hope to earn an “A” in #SocialSchool4EDU’s ability to contribute to sharing this inspiration with teachers across the U.S.