I'll admit it, "Goosebumps" is kind of an odd title for a post. The truth is, however that for the past couple of days I have had goosebumps - a lot. The excitement in our classroom has been palpable, and you would be hard pressed to figure out exactly who in the room is more excited, the students or myself. The excitement for me at least comes from the authentic, and meaningful learning, the demonstration of skills that have been mastered, the evidence of teamwork and collaboration on the part of my students. The excitement for them is partly due to being able to use some pretty cool new tools, but I think they also are able to recognize their growth, and are excited to share their learning as well.
This week we were able to login to our Google accounts for the first time. It may not sound like much at first blush, but there are now 24 third graders that have access to amazing possibilities for collaboration, both synchronously and asynchronously. Students, that as a result of the features of Google Apps for Education, are going to have numerous opportunities to collaborate and share with peers at both a local, and global level; sharing their work, receiving timely feedback, revising, editing, and sharing some more. Pretty powerful learning in a nutshell. Being able to access our Google accounts also made it possible to login to the new Chromebooks that we are piloting for the next 6 weeks or so. We are pretty impressed by the versatility of the Chromebooks, and are using them to access online practice for ELA and math, to post to our blogs, to engage in coding tutorials, to conduct research, to take notes, and present information, and see a number of other potential uses.
Students also got their hands on our buildings' iPads yesterday, and were able to work on some basic block coding using a couple of different apps (Hopscotch, Daisy the Dinosaur, and Kodable). There are so many layers of skills that go into coding, even at the most basic level. Everything from problem solving and logic, to the ability to hypothesize and predict, analyze and evaluate, to learn independently and in collaboration with others, and certainly to develop risk taking and perseverance. It is truly wonderful, and inspiring to see a group of students sit and tackle a problem and a program, that would honestly intimidate many adults, with little to no formal instruction.
Finally, we are extremely fortunate this week to be able to work with one of the District's traveling Nao Robots. I'm going to be honest, this tech tool and I know it is just a tool, a vehicle for learning, is awesome. I mean, having a robot was something I dreamed about when I was a kid. I loved The Jetsons and envisioned having a Rosie of my very own, of course what I got for Christmas that year was Robie the Robot, an RC controlled device, whose abilities were pretty limited. Anyhow, back to the present and to my third grade classroom, where we are now using Choreographe software to program a humanoid robot, it isn't difficult to imagine the level of excitement in the room. And as excited as I was to have this robot in our classroom, it actually doesn't compare to the feeling of watching the students engage and learn with it. One of the absolute highlights for me, was watching one of our struggling students take the lead in his group, grabbing the manual and reading to his peers, explaining what they needed to do. He was so determined to access this high-level text, to understand what they would need to do and to execute it, it was nothing short of amazing. I was equally impressed by another group, and their willingness to work as a team, to trouble-shoot and to encourage. This is the power of technology in the classroom.
I know there are many skeptics out there, but I think their skepticism comes primarily from a lack of understanding, and a little bit of fear. Integrating all of this technology can seem overwhelming, but you really do not need to be a computer expert to take advantage of Google Apps for Education or coding in the classroom. What you do need, is a willingness to try, to make mistakes and in many regards just let the students drive the learning. It may be a little uncomfortable in the beginning, but the rewards are tremendous, and the learning is important.