School has started just about everywhere. My Twitter feed was awash the past few days with school supply shopping, teachers gearing up, librarians preparing, and parents rejoicing. It is a time of educational renewal, when all things are still possible and we still have hope that this year will be The Year of Something Wonderful.
Unfortunately, many of our students will come the first day, admittedly tired, but hopeful to a classroom that neither reflects learning or the real world outside of the classroom. One of my friends, a young teacher, sent this tweet from a technology training last week:
Now I know not every classroom or school has access to computers. Not every student has a computer in their home or a public library nearby. While the lack of technology in the classroom and in the school is an issue (a big lumbering issue), this is not an issue that most teachers can address. An understanding of that technology, how the technology affects students, and how technology is shaping our culture is something teachers should be well versed in and addressing in their teaching.
Sadly, many of them are not. There are a myriad of reasons for this, training, time, desire, but the reasons matter less than the lack. Something is missing from our educational system. That link is challenging, but keep some of those ideas in mind.
For teachers who want to address these issues, but do not have the technology resources to do so, there are still ways to use the ideals behind the technology in your classroom to engage your students. You can use ideas, like crowdsourcing, which stems from the connectivity of dispersed individuals, and use them in a non-wired environment.
Here is an example of how to apply crowdsourcing to a project in a History class:
Have the students brainstorm, as a class, current events and things they have seen and heard anywhere (online, tv, radio, Facebook, Twitter, WOM).
Then, instruct the students to rank the list, by multivoting. The top winners are the ones the class will focus on for the week, month, or year.
Depending on the number of topics and students in the class, break the class into groups and assign each topic to a group.
Each group then takes that topic and:
● researches the history of that event. For example, a story about civil rights might lead the students to research the Civil Rights Movement in this country.
● come up with possible solutions to the problem, conflict, event. What are the pros and cons of each choice. Which outcome do they think is the best? Which outcome do they think is the most likely?
● In some way, allow the students to evaluate each other’s work. You could end the projects by having the students vote on their favorite solutions/project/presentation. You could have them present to other classes or teachers and have the entire school vote on the best solutions.
This project would be greatly enhanced with technology and being able to use the internet, but if that kind of access is not available to you or your students, a good reference section at your library will meet all the requirements of this project.
The key in the above example is that the students, not the teacher, chose what they believe are important events in their world, they chose what part of history to focus on, they chose the solutions, and they chose which project was outstanding. Choice matters to our students.
Think outside the classroom and put some faith in the abilities of your students. Crowdsourcing, even in small ways, can engage students of any age in the learning process.