AT&T Classroom

I was pleasantly surprised when I was introduced to the AT&T Classroom.  I have never been exposed to so much technology in a classroom, let alone expected to learn how to utilize different types of technologies from first graders!

Before the kids arrived, I was not sure if I was going to be able to enter the classroom and get hands-on experience with the students and their devices.  I figured I was going to sit behind the one-way mirror during their class and take notes while Annette filled me in on what was going on. I was expecting the students to be fairly novice when it came to utilizing the iPads and laptops. I was also expecting them to get very distracted and off topic while handling these technologies.

When I arrived at the AT&T Classroom, I was greeted by Annette and Tom.  After talking with them for a few minutes, the students started to arrive and get settled.  I was very amazed with the students’ abilities and familiarity with their devices.  They introduced me to multiple educational, interactive apps, including Popplet and  TinyTap.

Popplet is a free, digital web-organizer that helps students create a diagram for a specific topic.  The first grade class in the AT&T Classroom was learning about polar bears, and created a web including different facts about polar bears.  The sub-topics were color coordinated, and included three facts branching off of them.  This is a great app that will aid young students in writing research papers and organizing ideas.

The other app I was introduced to was TinyTap.  TinyTap allows students to create their own games, and is a more personalized approach to education.  Students are able to create, play with, and learn from various tools TinyTap has to offer such as: games, puzzles, E-books, quizzes, digital textbooks, and more!  Students are also able to incorporate their own pictures in the games they create.  For example, the second grade class who visited the AT&T Classroom last semester went around Kent State’s campus and took pictures of living and nonliving things, while fourth graders took pictures of different angles and shapes.  These students were able to make games from their pictures that are shared all around the world through TinyTap!  TinyTap is not just for students, however.  Parents, teachers, authors, organizations and brands also use it too!  This is a great app that I can see myself using in my classroom.

Although the students were a little distracted when they shifted from different mediums of technology, their attentiveness inside of the classroom was excellent.  I was fortunate enough to get hands-on experience, and help struggling students with difficult concepts.

Overall, the AT&T Classroom, allowed me to work one-on-one with students, while also providing many different ideas and lessons that I can employ in my future classroom.

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Critiquing Elementary Lesson Plans

The first lesson plan I am going to critique is geared towards elementary students, covering figurative language.  I believe that the use of figurative language and creative writing is an extremely important topic that students should learn early and continue to develop as they grow older.

This lesson plan is very effective; it clearly states the objectives, procedures, and how the students will be assessed at the end of the assignment.  The lesson plan also connects with the Common Core State Standards for language arts and writing by demonstrating an understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.  The objective of this lesson plan is for students to do the following:

  • Create a PowerPoint show illustrating two types of figurative language. As an alternative, students will use an interactive online tool to create a similar slideshow presentation, using a site such as Zoho Show. (This site is easier to use than PowerPoint, and free.  Zoho Show also allows students to collaborate, even on different computers with a simple URL address).
  • Demonstrate understanding of personification by creating and interpreting simple examples.
  • Demonstrate understanding of alliteration by creating and interpreting simple examples

The lesson plan continues with a list of materials needed to complete the assignment as well as procedures for the students to follow.  Students will review the concepts of alliteration and personification using different interactive websites provided by the teacher.  They will then start to model their project following the slide requirements for their slideshow, also provided by the teacher.  Before the students begin working on their computerized slideshow, they will need to start brainstorming creative examples of both alliteration and personification using idea cards that may be either digital or non-digital. Once students complete the foundation of the assignment, they are ready to begin their projects.

Depending on students’ familiarity with technology, they have the option to start their power point from scratch, or use a pre-made template.  Each slide should contain examples of alliteration and personification.  Students should also color code and underline the word being personified (on the personification slide) and the alliterative letters (on the alliteration slide). If this project is completed on Microsoft PowerPoint, students will travel from computer to computer and look at their classmates’ projects.  However, if students completed this project using Zoho, they will be able to give their presentations using the interactive SMARTBoard, where students can narrate their own presentations.

When assessing students, the teachers must ensure that students demonstrate that they are comfortable using PowerPoint or Zoho software, and display proficiency in the specified content areas.

I think this lesson plan has the potential to be very beneficial for students.  It not only enhances the level of collaboration among and between students, but also helps facilitate the students’ learning from each other.  What I also find valuable about this lesson plan is how it purposefully integrates technology, and can easily be comprehended by students in elementary school.

Another lesson plan I am going to critique is one that I observed – personally — at the AT&T Classroom.  Before I continue, let me tell you a little about the AT&T Classroom.  It is located on campus at Kent State University that elicits 21st century learning.  The classroom is equipped with technologies — iPads and laptops available to every student — as well as a large interactive SMARTBoard, an Apple TV, and a digital presentation station.  Local teachers bring in their students for a half-day, daily, for six weeks during which they utilize these digital tools.  For more information regarding the AT&T Classroom, visit the AT&T Classroom website.

This lesson plan is also geared towards elementary students; however in this lesson, students are learning about coding and programming games.  This lesson is technology-based in which students use their iPads and the app “Hopscotch” to create their own games.  To learn more about this app, visit the “Hopscotch” website.

As I observed this lesson plan, I noticed how clearly the instructor related it to the students.  The objectives, procedures, and assessment were precise, unambiguous, and easily understood by the students.  The objectives of the lesson are quite simple:

  • Students will code their own game by following along with the instructor’s step-by-step instructions
  • Students will demonstrate their knowledge in game coding using “Hopscotch”

It is now time to get to work.  Since the students are only 7-8 years old, they are unable to completely code games by themselves, so they follow along with the instructor while he/she demonstrates the step-by-step process.  This process is very sequential and it is crucial that students pay very close attention.  Students create new rules — such as “move forward 100” or “jump at 500,100” — to move the different objects in the game.

Once the students have completed the coding process, it is time to try out their creations.  They are assessed on this assignment simply based on whether or not their game works properly.

I find this lesson plan very valuable to students.  Not only are they introduced to new technologies, but they are also learning and understanding complicated skills.  As technology keeps improving, the demand for people who are able to demonstrate coding skills increases tremendously.  Without the implementation of technology in this lesson plan, kids would not get the hands-on experience, or be able to fully understand the process of programming and coding games.

Integrating Technology in the Classroom

In our dynamic, technology-saturated world, it seems like a “no-brainer” to incorporate technology into classrooms.  Young children are adapting and attaching to these new technologies faster than adults; so why not try to create a fun, beneficial learning environment with these technologies?

The problem with this strategy is too much of it can be a (potentially) bad thing.

Technology is a tool for learning, it is not the learning itself.  Technology does not have to be incorporated into lesson plans unless, of course, it has the potential to make the lesson more effective and efficient.  Students must be engaged with the technology, not distracted by it.  I plan on teaching young children ranging from first to third grade, and it is my job to enforce that.  Since my major does not require a specific concentration, I hope to incorporate technology into all subject areas, as applicable and necessary.  Technology will allow students to learn the material in a fun, more interactive way but will also enhance their skills within the 4 “C”s.  Technology will allow students to be creative and share their ideas with one another and possibly with other students, internationally.  Different classrooms have different learning principles that help to intensify and reinforce a student’s learning experience.  Inside my classroom, I feel as though it would be appropriate to employ behaviorist learning principles.  These principles include:

  • learning is a passive process and is the result of a stimulus-response cycle
  • teaching and learning strategies focus on creating opportunities for students to perform for rewards and avoid negative actions.

In my experience, both inside the classroom and out, I found that young children tend to learn more efficiently when given a reward for their good behavior.  Behaviorist technologies are very simple, advantageous, and enjoyable for young children as well.  Examples of these technologies can be found at http://www.funbrain.com.

The use of technology has the opportunity to transform learning throughout millions of classrooms.  However it cannot and should not be the focal point.  Although I am an advocate for technology for learning, I am also an advocate for the “old-fashioned” way of teaching.  Bill Gates brings up a great point in his quote:

“Technology is just a tool.  In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”

Teachers play such an important role in a child’s education, and no form or amount of technology can ever completely replace them.