Why is technology important to education? When you think about it, our students of today have never lived in a world without the Internet. Computers have always been around during their lifetimes. We’ve heard the various statistics about how the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not even exist in 2004, and that we’re now preparing students for jobs, many of which do not yet even exist. It has been estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than an 18th century citizen encountered in a lifetime. Whatever the case may be, technology has the unique power to engage students.
While our use of technology is growing within the district, one device seems to have really struck a chord in schools. Most elementary schools now have document cameras, which are replacing overhead projectors. Document cameras capture and share on a large screen the real, three-dimensional object, whether a book or an object. It has the ability to zoom in and magnify whatever is held within the view area. Whether it is student work that is presented to the rest of the class, information the teacher is sharing with the class, or the veins of a leaf that are magnified a hundredfold, students love document cameras and are eager use them. Once students become actively involved in their learning, that’s when the magic begins. Of course, it just seems like magic; it’s really the hard work of teachers using innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
For example, at one of our elementary schools, a teacher shared with me that, knowing she had to be absent for a couple of hours one day to attend a school workshop, she decided to use the video capture feature of her document camera to record the procedure for doing long division problems. She left the video clip on a classroom computer and instructed the substitute to just hit “play” when they reached the math lesson, and the students could continue reviewing the procedure.
Upon her return the next morning, the teacher learned that the students loved the clip demonstrating the process of long division, and had replayed it a number of times and begged her to play her “movie” again when it was time for math. She agreed while she worked with another group of students.
The teacher was amazed at how much the group benefitted from the simple video clip containing her voice and actions. They replayed it a number of times and would pause and work on a section at a time; they used the slider bar to move to a specific point in the clip, discussing the how’s and why’s, helping each other. These students had really taken ownership of their learning, and the teacher assured me she was going to use this document camera feature as a regular element in future lessons. Their improved individual grades attested to the success.
Collaborative learning at its best!
Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org