When classrooms reach the full promise of educational technology there is a unique moment. An epiphany. A student might express himself in a way he couldn’t before. A teacher discovers an innovative way of introducing content. A class collaborates in ways that make everyone feel more connected. In all cases, the realization is the same: the creative use of technology triggers new moments of creative learning.
I’ve seen it firsthand. As an educational technologist at Deer Path Middle School, I have seen my colleagues harness the full power of technology and have observed their students ‘creativity and students’ voices! – soar.
Reaching those moments wasn’t easy. For over a decade, we have been transforming our use of technology. We started like many others, replacing traditional materials with digital ones, and then iterated with tools and strategies like this technology looks like a booster instead of a barrier. Along the way, we’ve adopted iPads for every student and developed teaching approaches. We keep learning. Here are four best practices we have gleaned from our experience.
Cultivate creative self-expression
Like many schools, no two students are alike at Deer Path. Choice is essential. We are committed to creating learning environments that satisfy students where they are, challenge them to grow and provide them with multiple means of expression.
We can do it with technology. We use tools that help us better evaluate understanding currently, measuring competences and abilities – through students’ learning styles – and promoting student choice and action at all levels.
One of the tools we use is Logitech Crayon. We paired this stylus with iPads in our math lessons, giving students a new way to show their understanding of concepts. Students can now easily and clearly show their work instead of just relying on a keyboard or using their figures to graphically represent a problem. The screen recording feature allows students to capture themselves as they talk through the steps of an issue and show their work with the stylus. When a student gets stuck, these inputs help them get better feedback and interventions from their teachers.
Inspire new ways to interact with content
Self-expression goes hand in hand with commitment. To stay busy, children need ways to express themselves and move. Researchers have proven again and again the power of this type kinesthetic learning. Here, technology can unlock new ways to interact with content, while also encouraging movement and creativity.
In our school, movement is part of our biome unity. Teachers’ mail QR Codes that connect to different biomes in the corridor outside the science classrooms. Students use their iPads to scan QR codes, which are linked to ecosystem resources. Some of the most interesting resources are the 360-degree videos hosted on YouTube. Videos allow students to experience different environments by moving their devices. All the while children move and deepen their involvement with the content.
Cultivate connections inside and outside the classroom
The last way technology unlocks creativity is through connection. I’ve seen technology bring children and educators together through improved feedback loops, collaborative learning, and instant interactions. When our school moved to hybrid learning, where some students are completely remote and some are in the classroom, we paired students in different places and used technology to help them collaborate.
Students also use technology to make connections outside the classroom. During a non-fiction unit in our English-language art class, students used iPads as storytelling tools to bring the story home. Some have written poetry or created presentations. Many have chosen to record their family’s immigration stories through interviews with their parents and grandparents. The results have been powerful. Students captured emotional stories that deepened their family ties and their understanding of the immigrant experience.
Focus on student choice and creativity
These key moments in the creative use of technology originated from the same place: a constant focus on students’ choice and creativity. Our commitment to these elements has helped us realize the full promise of technology and continue to stimulate moments of creative learning.
Colene Hardy is the Educational Technology Specialist at Deer Path Middle School.
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