Recently I got an email from my elementary division head. Our school is piloting a 1:1 netbook program this year, and our administration is interested in how the program is going and the different ways the netbooks are being incorporated into our curriculum. I started putting together a list, and even surprised myself at how much the availability of wifi-ready technology engages my students and supports instruction during the course of a regular school day.
1. Keyboarding – Each morning students grab a netbook and practice keyboarding skills. With daily practice, they are improving quickly. Reluctant writers are frequently students who just despise the physical act of writing. They write as little as possible, because they don’t want to have to actually “write” it. Once they can type, they are much more willing to craft longer pieces. Programs like BBC’s Dance Mat Typing make it fun to develop keyboard skills.
2. Internet Research – Because it is so convenient to “look it up” online (and fun, too), students will quickly offer to look up the answer to a question using the kid-friendly search engines we have identified and bookmarked on our class Diigo page. Research is also fun when you are trying to solve a mystery! My fourth graders look up clues given by classes in other schools who join us for Mystery Skype calls and try to figure out where their new friends are from!
3. Global Awareness – Why use a paper map when you can use Google Earth? We’ve used animated models to help us learn about the earth’s rotation, revolution, and the changing of the seasons. We were also able to easily see the earth’s hemispheres and find locations on earth by latitude and longitude.
4. Extra practice – Proofreading or practicing multiplication facts is dull and boring on worksheets. But when students can practice using interactive games, I’m finding that they spend much more time and effort to get the answers right.
5. Blogging – When a piece of writing is going to be turned in for only the teacher to see, a student is more likely to put forth minimal effort. But tell that student that their piece will have a world-wide audience, and they begin to imagine who might read their post, and what they might ask about it. Soon they’re writing with their audience in mind, and use their author’s voice to ask questions and encourage reader comments. As a result (and with a little help from their teacher’s twitter network), they get a variety of feedback and encouragement from all over the world. It’s quite the motivator!
6. Digital Storytelling – Using sites like Storybird, Storyjumper, Zooburst and Little Bird Tales, storytelling comes to life. Would you rather write a story on notebook paper, or create your own pop-up book or self-drawn and narrated tale?
7. Collaborative Learning – Group work just got fun. With collaborative documents like wikis and Google docs, students can be part of something bigger. They can merge individual work into a comprehensive piece, or collaborate to create a presentation or write a story.
8. Connected Learning – Through the Global Read Aloud Project, we’ve enjoyed a shared literature experience with over 3,000 other students across the globe using Edmodo. Students were attentive and engaged, knowing that they would be able to use their netbooks to get on the group Edmodo page and respond to questions, take polls, and make predictions about the story.
9. Eager Readers – With the netbooks available anytime, students can grab one as soon as they finish a book and take an Accelerated Reader quiz. Knowing that they are required to take a quiz, they read more carefully. Most of them are excited to push themselves to higher-level books and see measurable progress in their reading/comprehension ability.
10. Passion-Based Learning – Above all, the convenience of 1:1 netbooks provide students with the opportunity to learn about anything! By allowing time for students to construct their own learning, we teach them that they have the freedom and the power to learn about whatever interests them. This encourages our students to pursue their passions, and become life-long learners.
Count me a believer. Our 1:1 netbooks are providing a great return on investment. Technology isn’t everything – but when it is easily accessed and used to support learning, it motivates students and encourages collaboration, innovation, and creativity. I applaud our administration for taking this initiative, and look forward to many more days of learning ahead.
Photo: Patti Grayson
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I love all of these ideas, Patti!!!
Nice to see that traditional (small) laptops are still valued under competition from trendy but less functional new bits of tablet technology like iPads. Really enjoyed looking at the links to the resources you make use of. Thanks for sharing.
Andy – Thanks! The netbooks are perfect for my 4th graders. With a keyboard that is 88% of a full keyboard, they are easy for them to use, easy to put on a desk (and still have room for paper), and easy to store!
A very useful post for teachers everywhere. I have been promoting the notion of SDL (self directed learning) within our teaching environments and getting some negative feedback about “this isn’t teaching” etc…
As you show, it isn’t teaching but learning. It’s an effort to increase student involvement and use class time effectively. So much of class time is “off learning”. Your 1-1 keeps students on task, engaged and with powerful tools to promote student learning/discovery.
I’ve bookmarked this!
David – Thanks! There is a great quote that says, “Teaching isn’t filling a pail, it’s lighting a fire…”
Why, when we are teaching our students HOW to learn, how to validate sources, how to collaborate, how to follow their passions, etc. can folks say we aren’t teaching?? Yet somehow if I am standing at the front of the room, droning on about facts they won’t remember in a month or could easily look up, that’s better???
Thanks for adding your positive message about student-directed learning!
I would love to learn more about how you use the Diigo activity. I’m assuming you have pre-selected a set of search engines.
How do students save to the class page? Do each of them have their own account? Or do they just use a tag to get it there?
What topics work the best for this kind of assignment?
I have tried this kind of work in the past using a Google spreadsheet as the collection point. The trouble I had was that students quickly realized they could look at websites that other students had already posted…and started copying each other. So instead of finding lots of resources, we amassed a spreadsheet of the same resource over and over.
I love all these ideas and hope that you might have some help for me.
I’m curious about the Diigo activity too!