Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Like Riding a Bike

I have not had a class full of students use laptops / netbooks in almost 6 years.  I have to say it was even better the 2nd time around.  The excitement was so genuine that they completely forgot about the 98 degree heat & humidity (day 3 of heatwave).  They were ENGAGED.  Why were they so engaged?  Could be any number of reasons.  It could have been because we were using a new tool.  Or was it because we were using a tool that is relevant to their everyday life (90% have a computer at home)?  Or was it because we were exploring our classroom website?  It could have been any one or combination. 

Although I may not have quantifiable data why they were so engaged (although I heard all of the above while they explored), I do know what I observed.  I saw children attentively observing me as I used Interactive Modeling to show them how to take the computers off of the cart, carry them to their tables, open them, turn them on, & then later return them to the cart to recharge.  (Then the power of Interactive Modeling is then seeing them do as I had just shown them with incredible care!)  I saw them helping each other log in, type in a web address, navigate through the web page & linked sites.  I heard them recommending links to each other.  I heard them asking each other for help.  I saw & heard them become excited about educational websites.  And, I heard the disappointment when we had to stop exploring, and then again when we only had time for 3 friends to share. 

At first, this may sound as if my 3rd graders had a free - for - all on the www, but they did  not.  They participated in a carefully planned Guided Discovery.  Their goal for today was to explore the home page of our classroom website, and focus only in the "white space".  This may sound boring, but if you've had an opportunity to visit the site, you know that the home page is rich with links.  They were intrigued by all of the 'favorite websites' finding vast resources for their interests in math, science, iPods, & more (interestingly, I noticed a large number interested in those 3 things).  Even though we have been to our Twitter page about a 1/2 dozen times in the last 3 days, they ventured there as well.  They explored the Gmail link (preview for tomorrow), curious as to where it would take them.  I could tell that they wanted more & encouraged them to continue their exploration at home tonight while reassuring them there will be more to come in school.   Based on the number of children who have been reading at home, without prompting (70%), I anticipate a large number of them venturing onto the website tonight (Hmmm...how could we display that data?).

Looking forward to tomorrow & the many days to follow!