Tech Tip: Technology Boosts Creative Learning and Strengthens Skills
When classrooms reach the full promise of instructional technology, there is a unique moment. An epiphany. A student can express himself in a way that he could not before. A teacher discovers an innovative way to introduce content. A collaborative classroom makes everyone feel more connected. Either way, the achievement is the same: using technology creatively triggers new moments of creative learning.
I saw this first hand. As an instructional technologist at Deer Path Middle School, I’ve watched my colleagues harness the full power of technology and observed their students’ creativity – and student voices! – ascend.
Achieving these moments has not been easy. We have been transforming the use of our technologies for more than ten years. We started like many others, replacing traditional materials with digital ones, then iterating with tools and strategies to technology feels like a booster instead of a barrier. Along the way, we adopted iPads for every student and evolved teaching approaches. We continue to learn. Here are four best practices we learned from our experience.
Nurture creative self-expression
Like many schools, no two students are alike at Deer Path. Choice is key. We are committed to creating learning environments that meet students where they are, challenge them to grow, and provide them with multiple avenues of expression.
We can do it with technology. We are using tools that help us better assess understanding in the immediate term, measuring skills and abilities – across student learning styles – and supporting student choice and action at all levels.
One of the tools we use is the Logitech Crayon. We’ve paired this stylus with iPads in our math classes, giving students a new way to show off their understanding of concepts. Students can now easily and clearly show their work instead of relying solely on a keyboard or using their numbers to diagram a problem. The screen recording feature allows students to capture themselves as they talk through the steps of a problem and show off their work with their stylus. When a student is stuck, this information helps them get better feedback and interventions from their teachers.
Inspire new ways to interact with content
Self-expression goes hand in hand with commitment. To stay engaged, children need ways to express themselves and move. Researchers have repeatedly shown the power of this kind of kinesthetic learning. Here, technology can unlock new ways to interact with content while encouraging movement and creativity.
In our school, movement is part of our biome unit. Teachers post QR codes that connect different biomes in the hallway outside the science classrooms. Students use their iPads to scan QR codes, which are linked to resources on the ecosystem. Some of the most interesting resources are the 360 degree videos hosted on YouTube. Videos allow students to experience different environments by moving their devices. All the while, kids are moving and deepening their engagement with the content.
Cultivate bonds inside and outside the classroom
The final way technology unleashes creativity is through connection. I have seen technology unite children and educators through enhanced feedback loops, collaborative learning, and instant interactions. When our school transitioned to blended learning, where some students are fully remote and others in the classroom, we paired students in different locations and used technology to help them collaborate.
Students are also using technology to make connections outside of the classroom. During a non-fiction unit in our English class, students used iPads as storytelling tools to bring the story home. Some wrote poems or created slideshows. Many chose to record their family’s immigration stories through interviews with their parents and grandparents. The results have been powerful. Students captured moving stories that deepened their family connections as well as their understanding of the immigrant experience.
Emphasize student choice and creativity
These key moments in the creative use of technology were born from the same place: a constant focus on student choice and creativity. Our commitment to these elements has helped us realize the full promise of technology and continue to spark moments of creative learning.
Colene Hardy is an instructional technology specialist at Deer Path Middle School.
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