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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

TUIT: Melissa Young, Wright Elementary

One more full week at Painted Stone Elementary!  Time truly does fly after spring break.  As I near the end of my embedded tours -- my last three week stint will be at Simpsonville Elementary starting on May 4 -- I realize that the hardest thing is often finding time to loop back and check how things are going at schools I have previously visited.

It had been several weeks since I had visited Wright Elementary, so I recently emailed out to Wright staff to see how edtech integration is going.  One of the responses led to the Q & A below, and a well-deserved #ShelbyTUITshoutout for Melissa Young, a fourth grade teacher who specializes in math and word work.  In particular, her discussion of using edtech to differentiate led to some interesting anecdotes and insights.

Melissa, introduce yourself to our readers.  How long have you taught at Wright? Where did your learning of integrating edtech begin?

I have taught at Wright since 1998 after graduating from the University of Kentucky. I think my initial integration of edtech began when I applied for the Intelligent Classroom. I do recall not having to order Vis a Vis Markers and transparencies and being elated that I could show student thinking and work under the document camera. I was one of the first recipients or first group of teachers to receive the equipment and really just began to implement and use whatever I could get my hands on from additional PDs, blogs, and peers. I am also following your blog!

Tell us about some of the ways you are integrating technology this year.
One of the things that I have done is create the “Menu” of Activities to differentiate instruction from your training on ELL and Differentiation.  To be more specific, I created a Fraction/Decimal Centers Menu based upon students who had and had not mastered the standards from our fraction unit. There were several students who needed to work towards mastery of three different fraction standards. As well, we were in the middle of our decimal unit. Therefore, the centers that I created focused on the following by trying to incorporate the usage of the MacBook Airs, iPads, and digital cameras. Students were given the opportunity to play two games focused on comparing decimals and fraction/decimal equivalencies. Since I didn’t have enough iPads, I recorded the instructions and modeled how to play the game on my RCA SmallWonder cameras. Then, when or if students had questions or needed to see the game modeled, they could watch the short video clip. I wanted to put the video clips on the iPads but I couldn’t guarantee that I would have the same iPads checked out each day.

For two additional  centers, using the MacBooks, I created a template in which students watched video clips on the standards. One standard focused on students being able to multiply fractions, and I had them watch a short “music” video on the procedures for multiplying fractions. It had a very catchy melody that several were singing. (I was trying to hit those auditory and kinesthetic learners.) There were several links and websites that the students could access like to complete the paper practice in their notebook, type in the answer, and receive immediate feedback. I used several different websites like Khan Academy to help provide the additional instruction and practice. The students enjoyed the centers and having the option to go to a variety of different stations based upon their needs. 

I had one student that went to one of the centers who had met mastery so I was a bit confused on why she was there. However, after conferring with her (mastery was set as 8 out of 10 questions correct) she stated that she felt that because she only met mastery by answering 8/10 instead of 9/10 or 10/10, she needed to practice that standard some more to make sure she had it. It was eye opening to me because had I assigned students to go to particular centers based on simply meeting mastery, I wouldn’t have had her rotate to that station. It was an “aha” moment for me that if I give the responsibility of learning to the students (and don’t carry all of the workload) that they will make those decisions to ensure that they understand the content. 

Glad to hear how edtech is making differentiation easier!  In what ways did you try differentiation before technology?

To differentiate before integrating technology, I still used the workshop model and attempted to address as many multiple intelligences and trying to accommodate every subgroup or population in my classroom. However, I would go through and explain each center or activity in depth and model which took a great deal of time when not all students would rotate to that station. However, I think when that aha moment hit was when I could use just one device for a group to view or browse websites such as Math Playground or Khan Academy that would provide students with sample problems that they could work out in their notebook that I could check when monitoring. The students liked the immediate feedback of the websites and the “hint” buttons to get them started. In addition, when introducing games focused on helping students develop their understanding of the content or to practice in a “fun” way, I would have to review the instructions or intervene and model again. However, by creating videos, students could watch the game being modeled without me being pulled to that group. You really hooked me in with the endless possibilities of how I can incorporate the few devices we have without having that desired one to one ratio of each student having a device. Therefore, when you focused on "these are the things that you can do with just one device," you encouraged me to think outside the box of how I could use one device per group or center/station activity. I really felt like there were several of "me” in the room and that students were engaged in learning. 

I'm flattered and happy that I could help. What edtech tools are you looking forward to using in the near future?

I am really looking forward to those edtech tools that are going to allow me to formatively assess students, collect data, and make those instructional decisions during instruction instead of assessing at the end of the lesson, etc. I use a great deal of student self-assessments during the lesson; however, my students and I don’t always agree on whether or not they “have mastered the standard." I think something like using Plickers embedded into the lesson is going to help improve instruction and monitor student understanding. 

Thank you, Melissa, and congratulations!

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