One of the rules in the school where I teach is to “make responsible choices” throughout the day. I know what that generally looks like for my first graders in their day — respect your friends, complete your work, and use what you already know to make good decisions. Recently I have expanded that understanding to digital literacy.
Last week I posted this inquiry: “What student learning would use of technology and/or digital media provide support in an authentic way?”
I then went about a plan structuring ways my class could use digital tools to support their digital literacy, reading, writing, and inquiry about rocks. As I reviewed my plan I realized that my students weren’t getting the opportunity to make those responsible choices when it came to choosing digital tools. My plan included what tools matched what task. And I had to ask:
“Doesn’t the ‘authentic way’ include student decision-making and choice?”
How would my students learn to choose an appropriate digital tool for their task if it is not a part of our inquiry? So this week our project-based learning began with a sharing time. We began by charting all the digital tools and devices the children knew. They contributed everything from cell phones to iPads to SmartBoards. We also added the uses for these tools as we listed them.
Then we revisited our learning content about some properties of rocks. Immersing the rocks in water and seeing them bubble was exciting and did provide some inquiry about why that happened. How could we share our findings and get some answers? And it was back to our chart and the question: “Which tool for the job?”
My first graders were quiet when I asked them about a responsible choice for a tool that would help us share our rock findings. They seemed to not know what I meant, so I chose an analogy: “If you are getting ready to go to school and you need to brush your hair and your teeth, which tool would you get to brush your teeth and which one for your hair?” After the giggles, they shared their common sense answers.
Then we started to make decisions about the best digital tool for capturing the information about our rocks. After reasoning that the rocks had bubbling action for different periods of time, the students decided using the iPads to video the rocks in water was the best option of the tools we had available. Also, we could use apps on our iPads for writing text about our videos.
The power of their responsible choices and decision-making continued as we decided on the best communication method to an expert geologist. Questions and wonderings about the findings prompted a discussion about ways to get answers. After learning about the ability to contact a geologist, we looked to our chart to figure out the best tool and method to share our information. Interestingly, the first suggestion by a student was to use my cell phone and just make a call! We talked about the geologist needing time to look up our answer and that we really believed our videos had valuable information. The tools of choice chosen then were using either the iPad or laptop because they were easy for typing in text in an email and for sending videos.
The simple chart listing the digital tools and uses has really provided my class an anchor for other times in our day when we are looking for a responsible choice to support our learning. Recently, I have been reading about how to start having Genius Hour in my class. I believe that creating a context for the students to be able to make informed choices about digital tools will support them as they use their literacies in learning about their own interests.
Our class just made our list of “wonderings” to launch Genius Hour! Learn about our progress in my next post.