Solving problems as a team

Before I began my analysis, I wanted to pick out 3 videos that I felt would give me a solid overview of technology from different contexts.

I examined Case 1 – a secondary STEM “shop” class, Case 5 – an elementary science classroom, and Case 6 – a middle school life science class.

As I examined each of the cases, I noticed that a recurring issue that teachers would often face was their personal lack of knowledge in how to use the technology. From statements made by the preservice teachers, retiring teacher and current teachers, they found they were most successful when approaching technology as a team. Students were often the solution to teachers who struggled to get started.  They all learned by doing, by becoming self-taught and self-directed. I wonder how much time needs to go into finding which technologies are worth exploring with the students if the technology is not already familiar with the teacher?

Another issue that was raised was time. Teachers in these cases felt they sometimes struggled juggling the curriculum with the technology integration. Interestingly enough, however, none of the students mentioned feeling pressured from time when applying aspects of technology to science or math. Often it felt “seamless” and was “infused” within what they were working on (Case 5). Teacher M in case 1 did a miraculous job of explaining how he overcame this issue by using complex layering of the projects and making sure it related to real life problems. Through a problem-based approach, he would knock off multiple areas of the curriculum and beyond. Meanwhile, the students were applying and analyzing a variety of aspects in their learning that a traditional class could not accommodate.

Throughout the cases, many similarities arose in how the technology was being used successfully. Self-direction was a key component for the teacher and students to be risk-takers. Having some students become experts, many more were able to learn from each other as well. This tied into the collaboration aspect that was prevalent in each. Although some classes became loud, such as the class in case 5, there were many opportunities for students to get up and discuss their ideas with others. I really liked Teacher C’s method of creating a collaborative class atmosphere by taking the role of ‘coach’ for a ‘team’ rather than an instructor for her pupils.

Finally, it seemed that project-based or problem-based learning was an important component to successfully apply technology within the classroom. Students were no longer exploring a single concept, but were exploring a complex layering of real-life issues within a project. Case 1 presented a bridge building project that had the students question what the components for the construction might be. It was not explicitly stated, and neither were the techniques that they ended up discovering. I loved how open each project question was that Teacher M presented. Once the students had completed the project, the challenge wasn’t over. The teacher added another layer of making the structure as light as possible, exploring tension from an entirely new lens. This method of teaching using real-life problems seems to overcome issues of time, by combining multiple curricula, and knowledge, by making it a collaborative process.

In a science or STEM specific classroom in secondary such as this, the approach appears to be relatively simple to implement, given the expertise of the teacher in that field. In the elementary classroom, however, where teachers have more general knowledge, how might these problem-based projects be created, I wonder? How do we make good use of technology and make it applicable to the problems they are exploring if the science and math content at that level is so vast?

2 comments

  1. Great post, I think taking the time to break your class into stations with ‘experts’ at each station is a great way to spread the load that technology can weigh on the teacher more effectively. I find out as we explore various platforms which students feel the most adept in the areas of technology that we explore. For example I have one student who loves raspberry Pi’s and is the head of that specific station, or another that really enjoys 3D modeling in Tinkercad, etc. I found I was stretched way to thin trying to help out every student as fires inevitably pop up quickly when using tech and class focus is compromised. Students as leaders and expert is a very effective way of reaching that longterm memory system that Information Processing models often reference. The attention they must apply to the positions they hold turns into automaticity and they gradually start to create new strategies for dealing with increasingly complex and varied problems that arise when addressing a goups unique needs.

  2. Jocelynn

    I like the fact that you brought up the fact that teachers “…often face was their personal lack of knowledge in how to use the technology.” I ?
    personally just bought a Ricoh Theta 360 camera. It is easy to use — basically one button and it takes a picture or a video. The problem I had is how to take it off the camera and share it. Right now it allows you to share on Twitter and Facebook because they have the software to properly view it. How do I incorporate this fairly new tool into my classroom? Will it engage my students?

    I wonder if you could elaborate what you mean by “… ‘coach’ for a ‘team’…”. How would this look like or work in a classroom with 7 or 8 teams?

    A good next step might be to include literature in your posting.

    Christopher

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