For two days last week, while I was teaching in-text citations to 7th graders, my classroom looked like this:
Oh. My. Goodness. Where are the computers? Where are the tablets? The SMART board is off? Why am I not integrating technology in my “21st century” classroom?
As a teacher, it is my charge to:
As I plan my lessons, I consider how students will best acquire knowledge and demonstrate their learning. Thoughtfully. According to Merriam-Webster, technology is “a manner of accomplishing a task.” Technology can be a computer, a white board, a camera, or a pencil and paper.
In this particular lesson, my aims were for students to understand what an in-text citation is, why they are used, and how to correctly create and insert an in-text citation using MLA format. At the point in the lesson pictured, where they were independently creating citations and writing sentences with in-text attribution, students needed support materials: MLA citation rules, exemplars, and a piece of text. Having all of these materials visible at the same time was paramount to their success, and opening up 3 or 4 separate windows on a 13” laptop screen would have been cumbersome and confusing. I knew this was a task that most of them would grapple with intellectually, why muddle it even further by forcing them to grapple with technology as well?
I’ve been grappling with the term “21st Century Skills” for the past several months. I was attending Brian Miller’s session online at Global EdCamp this past summer and he said that instead of “21st Century Skills”, we should refer to what our children must know as “Essential Skills.” I agree as I feel the term “21st century” connotes utilizing electronic tools. It is essential for children to utilize computers, apps, tablets, and the like; but it is also essential for them to know that in some cases a piece of paper and a pencil are the correct choice. Our job is to give our students the complete toolbox, as well as demonstrate when to use which tool.
As my students worked through the activity, their English teacher and I circulated - looking over shoulders, providing feedback, asking questions, and answering others so that they didn’t stray too far in the wrong direction. Anyone walking into the media center during these lessons would have seen the students utilizing the support materials not only for themselves, but to help one another: comparing their work with the exemplars, consulting the MLA format rules, talking with their neighbors about the different ways to reference a source. They were thinking about what they were writing and internalizing it, not worrying about locating letters and symbols on a keyboard or rearranging tabs and windows. Their focus was on the task not the tool. No matter what the century, that is an essential skill.
In the Neverland areas of my mind, a brand new box of crayons is a magical thing. One whiff from an open box of Crayolas® and I am transported. There is something so hopeful in the bright colors and crisp sharpness of new crayons standing at attention in their neatly tucked rows of eight. The coloring trend over the past year is no mystery to me. Coloring is soothing and calming, a release of sorts from the bonds of work and worries.
Our Makerspace has an array of crayons and coloring supplies, so this past Thursday – in celebration of National Crayon day - I offered passes to 20 6th graders, on a first-come first-served basis, to come eat lunch and color in the media center. After announcements only two students stopped by to secure passes and I thought that perhaps I’d had a misfire with this idea; but later, as 300 6th graders streamed past the library on their way to lunch, I was mobbed.
Much like our 7th grade jigsaw puzzle lunches, crayon day was a noisy affair. There was much laughter and jumping up to go find exactly the right color or admire someone else’s work. As students left, I was handed a few completed works to display and many of them asked if they could have a few extra pages to take home. Throughout the afternoon several small groups of students stopped by to see me. They hadn’t been able to procure a pass for lunch, but heard I had “lots of coloring pages”, could they possibly have some?
According to my students, being a 6th grader can be stressful and coloring is a great way to “just have fun like a little kid.”
I guess we all have a bit of Neverland in us.
As a teacher librarian in a 6-8 middle school, when I'm not dreaming up all sorts of tactics to get books into my students' hands, I am seeking new ways to harness technology to help them learn.
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