Be the Light

Are you looking for a way to harness student enthusiasm? Do you have a student whom you can’t reach or who appears disconnected?

Then integrating technology into your classroom may be the answer.

It’s incredible what an instant â€hook†technology can be for our students, especially the creative kids who seem disconnected from traditionally verbal (teacher-student, teacher-student) direct instruction. In many cases, using technology to investigate learning topics empowers students who would otherwise fade into the background, giving them pride and a special place in the classroom community.

In her article, Does Technology Impact Student Learning?, Arlene Tschetter describes how the interest and behavior of one student — who had been retained twice so far and who seemed totally uninterested in school — completely reversed once a computer was integrated into the classroom. As Tschetter describes “dealing with a computer, learning, making mistakes, trying again, are all part of computer work. I believe the computer has helped the students to develop a habit of not giving up. It seems to be carrying over into all areas of their work.†For many students who are used to failing or feeling disconnected from their own learning, a computer may be just the thing to inspire their confidence.

I had a similar experience the first year I began using a PowerPoint-like program in my classroom. One student whom I had retained the previous year, Ramon, shied away from participation and was normally detached from group projects because of his low academic ability — he was reading at a 1st grade level in a 5th grade class. By the end of a group project on a Native American tribe, Ramon felt more confident and accepted by his classmates. On our celebration day, when his group presented their project, he was able to read aloud a slide he had created while his classmates and our special guests cheered him on. With the last word completed, he beamed with an unforgettable smile from ear to ear, feeling proud of his hard work.

The same year, Mark, my first ADD student, also appeared unreachable. He was highly sensitive, had odd behavior, and found it hard to communicate with his classmates, let alone stay still in his seat. The class didn’t understand his behavior and often deemed him as just plain annoying. Mark often spaced out during lessons and gave up easily. No matter what he did, he never seemed to fit in.

However, Mark did have one interest that always encouraged his enthusiasm: computers. He expressed an enormous interest in anything and everything to do with computers. Almost daily, he would tell me about what he researched on the internet the night before or how he had finally fixed a problem in the computer that had been nagging his family for weeks.

Not surprisingly, Mark became the class technology leader! Because of his technology skills, students turned to him for help and gradually began noticing Mark for his strengths instead of as an outsider. Mark even went to other 5th grade classes to help problem solve during their technology projects. Now in high school, he continues to visit me and detail his latest technology projects or experiments.

As educators, it’s essential that we remember to reach every child. Even though integrating technology in the classroom may feel nebulous and odd sometimes, remember Ramon and Mark when you look into the eyes of your disconnected students. By taking a risk and integrating technology in the classroom we just might unlock some paths that have never been seen by some children, inspiring their learning for a lifetime. It’s up to us to be the light.

Email:Karen VanWinkle

Resources:

Does Technology Impact Student Learning? By Arlene Tschetter

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