Georgia’s barrier islands are comprised of beautiful sandy beaches, maritime forests, and coastal habitats filled with diverse species – all of which are impacted by a number of pressing environmental issues. During her Changes to Georgia’s Golden Coast unit, Ms. LaRuth Allen wanted her 5th grade students at Brookview Elemenatry School to truly grasp this key understanding about their home state. Yet she faced a major challenge – none of her students had ever seen the barrier islands in person. Through the power of technology, Ms. Allen found a way for her students to connect with the environmental issues at play in Georgia’s barrier islands.
Ms. Allen’s 5th graders began the unit by gathering some basic background information about the barrier islands. Each student then selected a key environmental issue, such as endangered sea turtles, rising sea levels and climate change, or wildlife being in jeopardy due to coastal development. Students used video clips, articles, and websites to research their chosen threat to this diverse ecosystem, and engaged in a creative problem solving process to generate possible solutions to the problem.
Ms. Ridley shared information about her work in conservation and environmental issues that are important to her, then students had the opportunity to ask their own questions to aid in their research. Finally, students used what they learned during the unit to create billboards designed to persuade people to support their coastal cause. The students hope that their work to educate others on the importance of Georgia’s barrier islands will be featured on One Hundred Miles’ spotlight page.
This project is an outstanding example of how we can use technology to bring authentic learning experiences to our students. Through Ms. Allen’s carefully crafted unit, her students had an opportunity to engage in activities that have meaning outside of school. She connected her students beyond the classroom walls, allowing them to engage with a global community. Not only that, but technology helped her students build a deeper understanding, as connecting with an expert made the distant concept of the barrier islands more tangible and real.
“Education can change the world, but united with technology, it can transform the world,” Ms. Allen said, “Technology is the educational landscape in which students can make real-world connections, engage in creative problem solving and find answers to so many of their questions. Students are able to see the future through the lens that they create. My students rock with technology!”
If you want your students to rock with technology, too, here are some great ways to get started with using Skype to connect with experts:
KSU iTeach Instructional Technology Coach
Successful technology integration requires time, support, and reflection. Schools need to ensure that they have a network of mentors and coaches to support teachers' technology integration efforts. When we think about “mentors” and “coaches” we often think about teachers, expert hires, or other IT professionals. At Abbotts Hill Elementary, the METI, Linda Dickinson is giving the word “mentor” a new meaning. Linda has started a program at Abbotts Hill called Technology Titans. I asked Linda to describe the progam and how it began. According to Linda:
Abbotts Hill’s Technology Titans Group is comprised of one student from each of the second, third, fourth, and fifth grade classes (twenty students in all) and is one of our school's "Talent Pool" Enrichment Clusters (along with Art, Music, and PE). The group's purpose is to empower students to serve as technology emissaries. They were selected by the teachers as having shown a keen interest and skill in technology and also demonstrated that they take responsibility for their work and learning. These are the "go to" students in their classes for questions regarding technology and particularly regarding online resources available to students and staff. The children take tremendous pride in their role and its accompanying responsibilities, so much so that they requested group t-shirts and many wore them with pride weekly!
Since the beginning of the school year, the group has met three mornings a week for thirty minutes. The first semester was spent familiarizing the Titans with Abbotts Hill’s MackinVia Portal and its many groups and resources (https://fulton.mackinvia.com/Groups?rpp=60&s=0&mknsid=b89b0b90-8fd2-4c65-8ea6-c77ea5c6fa84). They focused on the Research Group (which includes county provided resources as well as links to many other student-friendly research sites), the Creating Products and Projects Group (which includes many online product creation sites), and the Online Story Time Group (which contains links to countless e-book sites).
On the two mornings each week when the Titans did not meet, the students were charged with teaching their classes what they had learned, thereby spreading the word and excitement about the myriad of online resources.
During the second semester, the Technology Titans created short newspapers to highlight their favorite sites within MackinVia. These newspapers were distributed to each of the classrooms and are also posted on the Media Center website (http://abbottshillmc.weebly.com/student-projects.html). The students then selected independent projects that they wished to pursue in small groups using resources available on the school’s MackinVia portal. Some worked on coding, others on iMovies, e-books, Kahoot creations, Concept Maps, and trading cards.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it is also true that it takes children to lead the way in terms of technology utilization. Abbotts Hill’s Technology Titans have provided the school with the support and excitement that classrooms needed to more fully embrace technology. The students had the opportunity to enhance their communication, leadership, and technology skills and were critically important in the technology education efforts this year.
Once connected, students had to use critical thinking skills to identify each other's locations. To do this, students were assigned different roles. Some students were responsible for asking yes or no questions, others recorded answers, and a separate team used Google Maps to identify the mystery location. Eventually Ms. Harcrow's class discovered they were talking to students in Birmingham, Great Britain, a city in England. After some general "getting to know you" discussion, the students shared some of their favorite original writings and published work with each other. According to Ms. Harcrow, they may continue to connect with their new found friends from across the pond later in the year. By using varied learning strategies like promoting an inquiry-based classroom and student collaboration, Ms. Harcrow is helping leading the way toward Personalized Learning in Fulton County.
KSU iTeach Instructional Technology Coach
585 Cobb Ave
Kennesaw, GA 30144