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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Again With the Time Thing...Sheesh!

So after I wrote the very first post to this new site, I took it upon myself to create a sample of "My Tech Integration Plan." This is an actual lesson I am teaching my 3rd grade students. We started today, and the kids rocked the house. Don't be dismissive because it's for small people...everything I know about effective teaching with technology I learned from 1st graders. Seriously. They require that you bring your A game. Anyway, as I tried to take a simple statement like "How to Use the Server" and turn it into a concrete lesson, I implemented the planning process I usually undergo when helping others develop lessons that involve technology. As I started listing what technical skills my students need to know, something became very clear to me.

There's no way I can teach this and actually expect them to learn it in one hour.

One hour. That's my weekly allotment. Now, don't get me wrong, their fabulous and wonderful homeroom teachers will reinforce this concept every time the kids turn on a laptop to work on any kind of file, and I know I won't be the only one delivering the message. But that darn time element is a tricky thing when technology is involved. It is essential in our planning to really think through the little steps that sometimes get assumed. Many a lesson in my early days went astray because a child misunderstood the concept of "clicking and dragging." Now that I know better, we spend a little bit of time every week reviewing our common "technology vocabulary" so everyone knows what I'm talking about when I use words like "menu" or "dock" or "window." While those of you with older, more experienced students won't need to devote time to these very simple skills, there will be others you need to consider. When you ask students to gather digital images for a project, do they really know how to do it? From legitimate sources? With proper citation? While considering the impact of the visual image on the content? Where should the images be saved? Does it matter? What format should they be in? Is there a size restriction? What will the images be used for in their finished form? and so on...  Each of those questions represents a skill that your students need to fulfill your request of "gathering images."

Planning is essential in all aspects of teaching. Thanks, Captain Obvious, you're thinking. In the early phases of planning with and for technology, however, we must account for many unknowns. Time gets lost in the unknowns, so the more careful your planning is from the outset, the closer you will stick to your goals. Making that list of things they need to know may be time consuming up front, but it will help you clarify your expectations for the project, and set your students on a path they can follow. And you'll be pleasantly surprised when you get to skip over things they already know...and save time in the end.

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