"The veterans of our military services have put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms that we enjoy. They have dedicated their lives to their country and deserve to be recognized for their commitment." - Judd Gregg
Veterans Day at Benton Community is an event like no other. Seeing the inspiring display of patriotism by students, staff, and community members is a true honor. The amount of time and work that goes into the preparation by high school administrators, staff, and students and elementary music teachers and students makes this event a must-see by so many.
A group of third grade students at Atkins Elementary took it upon themselves to raise money to support veterans on an Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. This group of third graders came up with the idea with the help of their teacher, Kim Lynch. They decided to have a day where families could come into the school and have holiday card pictures taken. The money raised would then be donated to the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. During the planning stages, students wrote letters to photographers asking them to donate their time. We are so fortune to live in a community where talented individuals are ready and willing to help students in any way they can. Students did all of the work in planning and preparing the event from drafting the letter to families about the event to writing the speech that would be shared at the district assembly and memorial dedication. Students were all-in all of the time with this project. They felt ownership over what happened within their project and were drivers of where they were going. Students knew that obtaining the outcome they desired was dependent on the work they were willing to put in. Thanks to the amazing work of students, Mrs. Lynch, and many other volunteers and families, the group was able to raise approximately $1,400 to donate to the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight.
Not only did these students learn about different reading and writing ideas, they learned about what it means to be part of something bigger than themselves. They also learned what it means to be part of a supportive community. When I think of what it is that makes Benton Community "A Place to Belong", my mind goes to opportunities and experiences just like this. If you,or someone you know would like to contribute to this project, please contact Kim Lynch at Atkins Elementary.
Recently, Jonathan Wylie, our Tech Consultant at Grant Wood AEA asked me to reflect on how I've used Web 2.0 tools with students. Check out all of the resources on Jonathan's blog or listen to The EdTech Takeout, a podcast put on by Jonathan and Mindy Cairney. Below are my reflections. Please let me know if you are interested in reflecting on these questions with me or if you have any questions about my reflection.
1. How do you decide which tools to use with your students?
In order to decide on what tools I’d like to use with students, I think back to my purpose. As a first grade teacher, my students needed extra practice in some specific skills like word building. If my purpose was to provide them with a practice opportunity of a skill they needed to build, I would give them a tool that helped them fulfill this need. Most often, I like to use technology to help students go deeper with their learning by sharing what they know. In these situations, I provided students with a choice of a few different apps that would allow them to share their learning with a more diverse audience outside of the walls of our classroom. Other factors I considered when deciding what tool to have my students use was how intuitive the tool was for young learners. Could students use the tool with little to no adult support? If I could answer yes to that question it was a tool my students used often. They need to be in control of their own learning and work the some of the struggles they encountered through using the tool on their own.
2. What obstacles, if any, need to be overcome to obtain permission to do a project with Web 2.0 tools?
Using Web 2.0 effectively requires a mindset that is open to failing forward. Teachers using these tools must be flexible thinkers and make meaningful connections to student or teacher passions and content that already has to be covered. Teachers using these tools also must be willing to be the facilitator of learning rather than the driver. Students can use many Web 2.0 tools independently to share what they know. Teachers must be okay with allowing students to be creative in building and sharing their knowledge. As far as permission goes, teachers need permission from their administrators to try something new and know that it is okay if it doesn’t work the first time. Also, obtaining parent permission to share student work is important. Almost 100% of the time, parents are okay with it when they realize the teacher isn’t sharing first and last names and see and understand what type of learning is occurring when students are given permission to share. In my experience, all it takes to cure a hesitant parent is to show them the work of other students. After seeing other students showcase their learning with Web 2.0 tools, they ask to see their child’s work. They, in turn, share with grandparents, aunts, uncles, on Facebook, etc.
3. What advice would you give to a teacher seeking to replicate your efforts?
Try something! Start somewhere! It is easy to keep the iPads in your classroom stacked in the corner without a charge. However, it is even more rewarding when you get to witness students creating and using the tools to share what their learning as a result from being exposed to the content you’re sharing. I encourage teachers to start with an area of interest of their own and go all in. Think about a thematic unit or topic that you love. What resources, books, posters, etc do you already have? What can you find online? How can you facilitate experiences for your students to learn more about the topic? What skills in reading, math, and science do you have to cover? How can you embed those skills into this topic/content? Give it time. It’s okay to spend a month or more on a specific topic. We need to be okay going deep instead of just stopping at the surface. Going deep takes time. Create an experience your students might never get to have if it wasn’t for you as their teacher. Connect with an expert on that topic. Most of the time, experts are excited to hear that students are learning about their passion. Invite families in. They need to know and see what is going on during their child’s day. Giving them a glimpse into what is going on will allow them to support your classroom in more ways than they already are. Share. Share. Share. Share everything along the way. When you’re done, take a day to reflect with your class. You’ll have loved the learning journey so much, you’ll start on another topic before you know it.