School: W.E.B. Du Bois Elementary School
Text: The InterACTIVE Class: Using Technology to Make Learning More Relevant and Engaging in the Elementary Classroom by Joe and Kristin Merrill
Study Group Leader: Kelly Flowers (3rd Grade)
Study Group Members: Robbie Jewell (4th Grade), Lyllien Noonan (Intermediate Diverse Learners), Nora Schmiedel (1st Grade)
Goal: Utilize suggested practices and pedagogy seamlessly in the classroom to increase student engagement by 20% at the close of the school year.
As the district rolled out their new vision for remote learning, that now incorporated a full day of instruction, we decide to look at challenges we faced at the close of the previous school year. In all of our conversations, one topic remained constant; student engagement. Students attending class, remaining in class and participating in class had become problematic and while the world continued to spiral out of control, the one place where students were safe and comfortable, the classroom, was also spiraling. Yet we were determined to reach our students! We quickly decided that we would use the technology provided in the book to incorporate more of what students liked and , “THAT” would increase student engagement. Our GOAL: Utilize new technology seamlessly in the classroom with 70% of our students actively engaging in two new interactive applications per quarter.
Sounds great right? Well we learned, around chapter 3, that we were far from the truth! By mid January, we realized that our students’ interactions/engagement was directly tied to our practice and NOT the technology. Our pedagogy was changing and the thought we initially had about what students would be able to do had also changed. We were building greater relationships with students and parents while altering our own mind set to reflect more on HOW we were teaching as opposed to WHAT we were teaching. This led to our new and final GOAL: Utilize suggested practices and pedagogy seamlessly in the classroom to increase student engagement by 20% at the close of the school year.
RATING AND EFFECTIVENESS OF THE PROFESSIONAL TEXT
Collectively, we rated this book a 5 out of 5 as it made a major impact on our point-of-view surrounding student engagement. It fundamentally changed our initial group goal, that focused on the technology, to a focus on our practices. We enjoyed their easy to follow format, complete with a table of contents and additional resources in each chapter. They even added interactive QR codes throughout the text that gave insight to their own energetic and personal classroom experiences. Our take-a-ways mirror that of Dr. Charlie Miller who said it best in his foreword, “The learning experiences shared across these pages all accomplish three essential pedagogical elements: They engage students. They amplify student voices. They empower students to believe they can accomplish the unimaginable.” We have recommended this book to administration as a resource for everyone in the building, as the knowledge we learned took flight beyond our four walls and we recommend it for anyone ready for next level teaching.
IMPLEMENTATION IN THE CLASSROOM AND REFLECTION
As we come to the close of a remote school year and this project, we can see the difference in our students and in ourselves. They are more confident, attendance is up, they take charge of their learning, they aren’t afraid to be heard, and students who did not attend Meets sessions are now leading them. Parents are now highly informed, they participate in planning, and they help supply students with resources needed to learn. They are our co-teachers in the field and this work is not possible without them. Yet there’s more. WE have changed! Our relationships are better (parent and student), student choice reflects what they learn and how they account for that learning, and most importantly, music (Jewell), humor (Flowers), movement (Schmiedel), and novelty (Noonan), our specialties, are planned and implemented in daily interactions. Now as great as this sounds, please know that it came with bumps, mistakes, hiccups, and small volcanic eruptions and it’s still NOT seamless! Yet it’s better than before!
Our initial target audience were our students. Yet the more we dove deeper into our text, the more those practices became a part of our talk in teacher team, ILT, and LSC meetings. What started so simple became practices that other colleagues were beginning to see and use as well. This book has assisted in the implementation of practices school-wide that have become beneficial to any teacher that embraces it and any student they teach.