Wireless computer labs, the Internet, and blogging allow students to connect with the world, help foster curiosity, and create real-time learning. Students are empowered to look beyond the familiar, ask questions, and discover. This past school year, my fifth grade students, the 109’ers, were able to do just that. We used technology to enrich their study of geology, culture, language arts, and mathematics.
My students first researched the Arctic region and spent a month studying its geography, climate, traditional cultures, and animals.
We then met and discussed our findings with a friend of mine, Doug Clevenger, a.k.a. “Arctic Doug.” Clevenger is a documentary photojournalist, and he helped us discover how geography, language arts, science, and mathematics connect to the community far outside our door. We bombarded him with questions and developed a classroom blog we affectionately named Top of the World (http://arcticdougand109.blogspot.com).
He took us along on his assignments, and we had many cyberadventures. We met interesting people, played hockey, and went ice fishing. We witnessed a solar halo—known as a sun dog—and saw huge mounds of earth-covered ice called pingos. We learned the traditions and norms of the Inuit people, compared climate, and met other fifth graders from a school in the village of Tuktoyaktuk.
We blogged two times a week as a whole class and documented our learning through the use of ULead video-editing software, Excel graphing, Internet researching, and expository writing. We used technology as a means for expression and as an illustration of concept mastery. As the project developed, we became acutely aware that we live in a global community where people, cultures, and life experiences are both alike and different from ours.
The ULead software allowed us to create multimedia presentations to illustrate what we were learning. We mastered animation, created movies, and added narrative voice-overs. These presentations were taken on tour and presented to our community at a board of education meeting.
Students learned the traditions and norms of the Inuit people, compared climate, and met other fifth graders from a school in the village of Tuktoyaktuk.
Doug Clevenger, a.k.a. “Arctic Doug,” is a documentary photojournalist. He helped students discover how geography, language arts, science, and mathematics connect to the community far outside their door.
He took the class along on his as signments, and together they had many cyberadventures. Students met interesting people, played hockey, and went ice fishing.
As we compared climate, we were able to collect data and create spreadsheets and graphs. This use of technology, in conjunction with blogging, demonstrated multiple modes of intelligence. Students of all abilities and language levels actively participated in our unit of study.
This project improved my teaching and continues to do so today. I am using more primary sources for content material, and I’m consistently integrating multiple disciplines. The success of this project has served as a model for other classrooms in my school and has led to the creation of a grade-level blog. Our school is now providing more authentic learning experiences that honor and respect student choice.
The implementation of technology in the classroom is essential. Students are able to easily access up-to-date information and apply it to their studies. They have become empowered to communicate understanding in a differentiated manner using varying modes of intelligence. This is exciting and directly affects student engagement and, consequently, achievement. They are able to learn from the world outside their classroom and actively participate in a global community of learners, which is the essence of all learning.
Diane Randolph is a fifth grade teacher at Washington School in Schiller Park, Illinois. During the past 10 years, she has used technology to engage students and help bring learning alive.