Technology: Research and Communication

In my last post I discussed the beginning of my tech journey in the classroom.  As mentioned, I was the one using most of the technology.  However, as my teaching evolved, so did my approach to technology.  My students are the ones who need exposure to technology. They need practice using technology as a tool to both research and to communicate.  In Talk Like Ted, author Carmine Gallo asserts that “ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century” (3).   Gallo goes on to detail a TED talk by civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson in 2012. (Watch it here!)  Stevenson delivered a speech that ended in an 18 minutes standing ovation, the longest in the history of TED. (Don’t know TED?  Click here!) His talk, which appealed to his audience’s head and hearts, resulted in a combined $1 million in donations to his nonprofit, Equal Justice Initiative, in just one day. That is over $55,000 for each minute that he spoke.  Wow.  This demonstrates the power of an idea.  As teachers we need to show students possibilities, show them what they can do with their ideas to possibly change the world.  From presentation and listening/speaking techniques, to critical thinking, to use of technology and multimedia-these are skills that our students need to be taught.

Questions to consider:  How can technology help you to extend the learning beyond the classroom?  How can you encourage the use of technology both as a way to research and to communicate?   How can you use technology to create a wider audience for student products?

Main Standards Focus (yes, there are many others!): 

    Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others. 
    Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

A Note about Skill vs Content: We must look at our subject specific content not as material that needs memorization and not as ideas that need to simply be restated back to us on scantron tests.  Instead we need to teach students how they can use the content they learn to connect to new ideas and to present powerful presentations that appeal to audiences and move them in some way.  All of the information we teach our students can easily be found on the internet…what they can do with that information is what will matter in the future.

Research and Communication:  What technology do I use to help my students both research and communicate?  My next few posts will introduce you to various resources my students are currently using.  I am going to start with something simple… Google Classroom.  Yes, many of us use it.  But how are you using it?  I use it not only as a place to detail our agenda for the day for absent students or as a means to assign and collect essays and other assignments.  I have the students use it as an online discussion board.  Google Classroom questions allow students to interact with one another.  I give the students a prompt that mimics the AP Language and Composition exam.  The prompt asks them to read current events and join conversations that are happening in our world.  The prompt includes links to outside sources for their research and hits Reading 1.  Here is an example:

screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-8-28-40-amStudents read these “Articles of the Week” and then respond.  Once they post their initial responses (Writing 1, 4, 6, 10) they see what their classmates wrote and can engage in a discussion with one another.  The responses will begin a discussion thread.  In this way they are engaging in conversations about material outside of class time.  They are thinking about ideas and arguments.  With particularly controversial topics I have had students come in to class the next morning begging to have a Socratic Seminar or classroom discussion on the topic.  Technology allows me to take the learning beyond the four corners of our classroom, to engage the students, to assign writing for a wider audience, and to encourage collaboration (yes!  Remember the 4 C’s that go into 21st century learning?).  I notice that as the semester progresses they attend to precision (Math Practice 6) even more and begin to use links to other sources they researched on their own.  They incorporate stats, pictures, videos, links to outside sources- anything to help them make their claims-all without me prompting them to do so.  This would be an ideal way to bring current events/relevant articles into your curriculum and would work for every single content area.

If you are not a fan of Google Classroom you may want to check out Canvas.  I used Canvas for three years before switching to Google Classroom this school year.  Honestly, I am not sure which Learning Management System I like better because there are pros and cons of each.  Below are some student responses from Canvas last year (not their initial response, but their replies to what other students have said). The article they read included links to other sources and videos and claimed teachers gave more attractive students higher grades.  The study included data from face-to-face classes and online classes.  Please zoom in to one of the “geniuses” Ryan Meyer included as an example…yup, that is our very own Greg Borish!


And two more…



Back to our questions:  How can you use technology to extend the learning beyond the classroom?  How can you encourage the use of technology as a way to research and to communicate?  How can you use technology to create a wider audience for student products?

Getting Started:  I can help you get either Google Classroom or Canvas started, just email me or stop by F-12!  And, trust me, there will be trial and error (as with any new technology or approach in the classroom).  I can let you know the right way to set up the technology, but I can also guide you through how to have the discussion about proper online etiquette, what to do if someone is inappropriate or it gets too heated, how to manage the grading (Canvas is easier for this), and what to expect for their first responses/replies (modeling is needed!).  I’ve been there…so let my pioneering help you avoid some of the pitfalls.