We are about to embark on a new journey. You will watch your babies transform into pre-teens, no longer elementary students, but 6th graders at the middle school. I am transitioning with them, from the Spanish teacher to Social Studies. Mine is easy; I know who I am as a teacher and just have to change the physical location and the subject I am teaching. The students have to figure out who they are and who they want to be. This self-awakening starts in middle school and continues through high school and potentially college.
The theme of all these changes is trust.
I need you to trust the teachers. We are trained professionals and want what is best for your child and all the students we teach. Trust the learning in the classroom. The classroom of today should not look like your memories of school; the chaos goes hand-in-hand with creativity. Trust your child. I trust them from the start, and they consistently live up to my expectations.
Our district is BYOT. The bring your own policy is only successful if students are bringing devices. It is not required of every student, since most of the activities will be done in partners, I am hoping for a majority.
Trust your student to bring a device if they have one. The requirements are the ability to connect to the school wi-fi to access websites, enter text, and hopefully take a picture. The school trusts the students and provides a few netbooks per classroom. I trust the students with my own devices: an older iPod Touch, a netbook, and a Windows Surface tablet. By sharing my devices, I hope you understand the importance that technology plays for their education in social studies. Yes, there is a textbook and paper atlases, but there are many more authentic learning experiences if the students can explore through online resources.
What might this look like? Check out the Edcanvas collection of resources specifically for Social Studies in a multi-device, multi-platform classroom. The game changer with technology is formative assessments that provide instant feedback to the teacher and the student. This can change the flow of a lesson, mid-lesson if necessary, to best meet the needs of an individual class. The tools that help to accomplish that best are Socrative, Infuse Learning, and Edmodo. There are tools to present materials in engaging ways, like Edcanvas, Nearpod, and Educreations. You can not teach geography without interactive maps, which can be found in the digital version of the textbook, Google Maps, and National Geographic. The Internet is the key to unlocking global information, history, culture, and language. I want to guide them to appreciate a global view.
Trust the BYOT policy. The K12 Horizon Report for 2013 says that learning with mobile devices will be a trend during the next year; the report is based on research and a panel of professionals. There are additional advantages to students using their own devices. The students are familiar with the functions, so they will be less frustrated. They can be more innovative and creative if they know the capabilities of their device. What if they don’t know how to use their device to do anything except play Candy Crush or take selfies on Instagram ? We have a club for that (with a website but no app). The BYOT Club meets every other Monday to demonstrate how to use apps for academic purposes through fun challenges.
So trust your students to be excited to learn with technology and that the teachers will be there as guides. If you have questions, ask, because I want the parents on my side.