In the spirit of all things green and feeling lucky, I decided today was a day to celebrate those instructional media tools that are truly the pot of gold under my rainbow. These tools have transcended learning for my students and helped me become a better educator and relinquish control to my learners. In the words of Abigail Adams:
“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.”
When we think back on our past learning experiences, what sticks with us? Do we remember fondly the bubbling in of multiple choice questions, the flashcards, the worksheets? NO!
When I reflect on my past learning experiences I remember my awesome teachers. The ones who made every lesson come to life, took us canoeing for reading 50 SRA books, had personalities larger than life. I remember dear, sweet Mrs. Figdore who taught reading, but knew I struggled in math and helped me with my multiplication tables during my reading block. She was differentiating before differentiating was a word. Then there was Mrs. Shaffer! That woman was full of spark and loved to challenge her students to go further and do more than they ever envisioned with her scrappy repartee she was quickly one of my favorites during high school.
Finally, there’s good ole Coach Stauffer! This man changed the course of my life and I wish he were still alive to know it. When I was told by my school counselor that my GPA wasn’t competitive enough and I should consider my alternatives, he laughed and said,”Redheads are scrappers and they don’t go down without a fight. You want to teach, teach. Start here. I removed your quiz paper from the stack, check these over for me please.” With those words I was back on track. An educator I admired believed in me, so I could make it happen. Eighteen years later, I thank Coach every day for changing my momentum and path.Which teachers do you remember and why do you remember them? These teachers were my 4-leafed clovers that helped me find my luck and sparked my path towards lifelong learning.
Students also remember the challenges we give them. The opportunity to conquer the impossible and overcome it is always valued and teaches our students lifelong skills that are invaluable. Here’s a funny for you! I was out late one evening with my husband enjoying a beverage and dinner. A former student sat down at a table nearby. I didn’t think she recognized me, but I was very wrong. A while later she proceeded to come over to our table and said to my husband, “This sassy redhead assigns some tough projects! I will never forget the salt dough map she made me build. It was messy, hard, and took forever but it was the best grade I ever got.” Lesson learned, the challenges stick. Our students may grumble and groan because the projects don’t come easily for them, however the lessons they learn and the perseverance they demonstrate will stick with them long after they have left your classroom. Projects with open opportunities and choice are definitely worth their weight in gold coins.
In addition to awesome teachers and challenging projects, there are some amazing instructional tools that can make life easier and spark creativity for our learners that always make this leprechaun feel lucky! In honor of the 4-leafed clover I will share my top 4 tools for increasing student creativity.
- Screencastify– an easy Google extension that allows our students to record not only themselves, but their screens as well. I love when students share their learning with others through screencasts. Instructional videos don’t have to be bland, or boring. They are even more engaging for students when they are created by their peers and posted on a Youtube channel for all to view. Everyone knows that once you teach a topic you’ve got it on lock too!
- Google Maps– explore unknown places near or far. Add videos, pictures, and take your students on a tour. Even better, allow them to create the tour for the students in their class. Field trips are expensive, but Google Maps is free!
- Touchcast– if you want to record your students making a newscast or report, Touchcast is the way to go! Sign out an iPad from my office and allow your students to make their reports and news come to life! With different vApps to apply to their broadcasts, students will love the options they have to be creative.
- Google Sites– allow your students to create their own ePortfolios, webpages about historical figures/events, or even create their own digital Breakout! Google Sites gives students the ability to create their own websites with ease.
I wish all of you educators are Happy St. Patrick’s Day and if you feel like allowing your students to chase some rainbows, you will reap many pots of gold in return.