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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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One Small Change: A Sixth Grade Teacher Tries Technology to Inspire Science Learning

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

INTERVIEW WITH LAUREN MOYER

For this week's STEM theme, I wanted to share an email interview I conducted with one of my 6th grade teachers who used some tech to enhance her Science instruction. Our school has little access to technology and this teacher did not have extensive PD or training before the lesson described, but simply expressed a desire to 'give it a shot.' Hopefully her story shows how even a small change in instructional approach through the use of technology can have a large impact for both the students and the teacher.

Student learns the phases of the moon

What grade do you teach?

6th Grade

Describe a lesson in which you used technology.

I used technology in a lesson that involved teaching the phases of the moon. The students had an interactive lesson in our computer lab. The students got to come up to the interactive board and move the moons into the correct phase order.

How much technology do you have in your classroom for your students to use?

We have one computer in the classroom.

Why did you want to bring technology into your classroom?

I wanted to bring in more tech because I see the students excited about learning the few times that they got to experience it. I also think that there would be more interest from the students if they got to see things through tech, use more tech, and have interactive lessons.

Do you think the technology made a difference in how successful your lesson was? Why or why not? Yes, it was successful because I was teaching the rotation of the planets and phases of the moon using different color tin cans in my classroom or just showing unrealistic pictures out of a book or worksheet. Technology allowed my students to paint a picture in their head and actually find a way to relate the words they were hearing to something.

Did you have any apprehension about using technology?

Not really. I am willing to learn and get ideas about anything that involved technology.

Would you use it again? If so, what kind of lesson do you think you would plan?

I would love to use it again! Lesson on Egypt for Social Studies would be cool.

Any other thoughts about using technology with students?

The more the better. It is how our world functions now. White boards and markers are ok sometimes but all day has got to be terrible.

Comments (9)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Mr. Stapleton's picture
Mr. Stapleton
6th Grade Teacher and Tech Integration Specialist, Seoul, Korea

There is such a technology-deficit in schools today (partly because of the economy), yet, we live in a society technology driven? How can we expect students to not only be completely engaged with a lesson when technology is missing, but also to grow with the global community? I'm not saying that every class needs IPADs or special technology to do incredible things, rather - a laptop cart, an available computer lab, or more computers in the classroom is all we need. This year I have had the fortune of sharing a laptop cart with five other classes. As a result, I have tried to utilize them as well as I can - and I will say this, my students are so excited to learn what we will be doing that day on the laptops. What if you don't have trainings? What if the district hasn't installed much software on the laptops? My answer: Free, web-based teaching/learning tools. I have developed a blog that discusses this exact thing - what tools I have discovered and how I am or will use these tools in the future. Technology is an important facet of 21st century learning - and it doesn't matter what district you're in - all society is hand-in-hand with the advancement of technology (and those skills are needed for jobs).

Visit here if you need more tools for the classroom:
http://tech4teacher.wordpress.com

Harry Keller's picture
Harry Keller
President at Smart Science Education Inc.

How is using an Interactive White Board (IWB) different from having magnetic images that you move around on a metal board? You don't have to have expensive technology to do this sort of lesson.

How do all students learn equally well when only one gets to do the moving? If you're providing an interactive, technology-driven lesson, then all students should have access to the technology simultaneously.

These two comments point up the futility of IWBs in classrooms. They weren't created for this venue, and, despite Herculean efforts, they rarely work well in them.

Technology may well provide the means to escape from our current education problems given our lack of political will to do the right thing as, for example, Finland did. But it's not just technology, it's the American way of ingenuity, invention, and innovation to implement incredibly impressive interactive learning. We must apply our great skills to education instead of simply adapting something from the business world and calling it education innovation.

Let's get behind our education entrepreneurs in a huge public way and get more innovators to try their hands on education. We must have all hands on deck if our future is to remain as bright as our past. Recognize and fund our education innovators.

Obama having lunch with Zuckerberg is just the wrong way to go. Zuckerberg did nothing for education except by accident. Find people who are betting their lives on improving education and take them to lunch.

Teri F.'s picture
Teri F.
Elementary School teacher Southern California

I am in the same situation that you are with only one computer in the classroom. I think your lesson sounds very interesting and seems like something that my students would be interested in. They really enjoy interactive lessons and seem to get more out of them and retain more information. I really need ideas to make science and social studies more interesting for my students. I don't want them to just read out of the book.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger

[quote]So what software was it exactly that showed the phases of the moon?[/quote]

The software shown is Promethean's software, which is free. The lesson was adapted from a lesson http://prometheanplanet.com where teachers share resources with each other.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger

Harry, I couldn't agree with you more. I think IWBs are over-rated. However, showing the rotation of the moon in 3D is SO much more powerful that a flat model. The activity shown in the photo was only part of a larger lesson that involved simulations and video.

The lesson was not about how awesome IWBs are but more about having access to a variety of ways to expose kids to concepts and content. This teacher has NOTHING in her classroom, not even a projector!

[quote]How is using an Interactive White Board (IWB) different from having magnetic images that you move around on a metal board? You don't have to have expensive technology to do this sort of lesson.

How do all students learn equally well when only one gets to do the moving? If you're providing an interactive, technology-driven lesson, then all students should have access to the technology simultaneously.

These two comments point up the futility of IWBs in classrooms. They weren't created for this venue, and, despite Herculean efforts, they rarely work well in them.

Technology may well provide the means to escape from our current education problems given our lack of political will to do the right thing as, for example, Finland did. But it's not just technology, it's the American way of ingenuity, invention, and innovation to implement incredibly impressive interactive learning. We must apply our great skills to education instead of simply adapting something from the business world and calling it education innovation.

Let's get behind our education entrepreneurs in a huge public way and get more innovators to try their hands on education. We must have all hands on deck if our future is to remain as bright as our past. Recognize and fund our education innovators.

Obama having lunch with Zuckerberg is just the wrong way to go. Zuckerberg did nothing for education except by accident. Find people who are betting their lives on improving education and take them to lunch.[/quote]

Harry Keller's picture
Harry Keller
President at Smart Science Education Inc.

Actually, according to the article, she has a computer and an IWB, which is a very expensive projector. Imagine what other technology that IWB money could have purchased, maybe even a dozen computers and an ordinary LCD projector.

At the sixth-grade level, it's important to get students involved not just in 3-D but in reality. Models are great for aiding understanding if you use them well. If you have to put Styrofoam balls on the top of caps, have a student walk around that capped person with a flashlight, and have another sketch the results, then do so. You might have ten groups of three doing something like that. (Simplistic thought just for illustration.)

Have all students become involved and engaged. My most salient point is that IWBs don't really do that.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger

She has one computer on her desk for her use (attendance, grades, email) and no projector or IWB in her room. She brought the kids to the computer lab to use a projector (IWB wasn't really necessary for the lesson).

I understand your points, and I think it's important to be critical of our uses of technology, but in this case, just having access to the videos and simulations turned the light bulb on for her kids. As for engaging each student, the 15-20 min lesson was followed by a hands-on project that each individual student completed. (They glued the phases in order on a black strip of paper and labeled them all.) Also remember that she is not a Science teacher and is only allowed (no joke) 2-3 45 minute periods for Science a week.

Thank you for your insightful comments.

[quote]Actually, according to the article, she has a computer and an IWB, which is a very expensive projector. Imagine what other technology that IWB money could have purchased, maybe even a dozen computers and an ordinary LCD projector.

At the sixth-grade level, it's important to get students involved not just in 3-D but in reality. Models are great for aiding understanding if you use them well. If you have to put Styrofoam balls on the top of caps, have a student walk around that capped person with a flashlight, and have another sketch the results, then do so. You might have ten groups of three doing something like that. (Simplistic thought just for illustration.)

Have all students become involved and engaged. My most salient point is that IWBs don't really do that.[/quote]

Harry Keller's picture
Harry Keller
President at Smart Science Education Inc.

Thanks for information that I did not glean from the article. This teacher deserves kudos and a huge raise. It's amazing what some teachers can do with little.

I have heard about very limited science in elementary school. The severely limited access to science in middle school (1.5 hrs/week) is something that should shock us all. My children did not experience that.

I have great sympathy for problems with literacy and numeracy, but believe that the other areas of history and science provide context for learning those skills that can, in the right hands, allow students to connect to those basic skills while learning really important thinking skills.

What are we to do as a country to fix this problem?

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