TEACH-nology 101

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Smart Inclusion Research Seminar hosted by Alberta Education at the Fantasyland Hotel. I was introduced to Alex Dunn, a Speech Pathologist from Ontario. Although the presentation was mostly centered around technologies that would help those students who have communication barriers, we also discussed technologies that would help our more mainstream students and this is when I perked up.

The technologies that we were introduced to included the Nintendo DSi and the iPod Touch as well as Interactive White Boards, all of which have made their way into my classroom. My learning around these technologies came when I learned about Pictochat for the Nintendo DSi. It was explained that the students could use Pictochat to talk with one another as well as the teacher. This got myself and my teaching partner Michelle, evaluating and assessing how we might be able to implement this tool in our own classrooms.

Michelle & I immediately jumped to using Pictochat in Math class. We decided on Friday that we would bring together our two groups of students (approximately 45 of them) together into my classroom and team teach the Math lesson while simultaneously, using Pictochat with the students who happened to have their DS’ with them at school. Below is an exerpt from a letter I sent home to the parents explaining what our combined Math class looked and sounded like:

In our everlasting quest for making students more engaged in our lessons, Ms. Kershaw and I have embarked on allowing the students who already have a Nintendo DS, DS Lite or 3DS (or any other of the DS family members) to bring them into Math class. Why you might be asking? Well there is a very cool function on the DS called Pictochat that allows the students to join a chatroom (that is not on the internet) and carry on a conversation. The way it worked in our combined Math class today (50 students & 2 teachers & 1 student teacher) was that the students who happened to have their DS’ with them at school brought them in (and I borrowed one from someone) and we all joined a chatroom together. As we were going through the lesson, the students that had a DS were able to ask me questions about the problems, indicate if they had finished the problem or to share their answers. This in turn allowed other students to answer a peers’ question or to discuss how they got an answer and explain their thought process. This also allowed myself and Ms. Kershaw to get around to more students to see where they were at and assist as needed.

At the end of the lesson, we asked the students  to reflect on how they felt today’s lesson went. The majority of the students indicated that they felt more engaged because they were able to work ahead and didn’t have to wait for everyone else to catch up.

*Today went by really quickly and I enjoyed being as a big group.  I think pictochat would be a good way to communicate without interrupting peoples thoughts.  Although I will not be able to bring my DS without an email from my teacher.
* I feel that our math class went really well today.  It feels like we went more smoothly than any other day.  Using pictochat would be helpful instead of leaving the person that you (the teacher) were helping.
* I feel good about today’s math lesson because we learned that we could use electronics for questions.  We could use it by asking questions, and give someone an answer to THEIR question.
* I like that we are trying to incorporate technology into our math.  The math seemed to move faster than usual.  I see that Pictochat has helped because there was less noise and people could work at their own pace.  If there was a question it was easier to ask plus if the question was already asked you could look back.
* Today I feel that math class was a lot funner and I learned a lot from this lesson.  Using pictochat helps and probably others by asking questions, learning a different way, etc.
* I think the math group went really well I like how we get to use the DS’s.  I think the pictochat is really useful. It would be nice if the school could have DS’s.
These comments from the kids are some of the many reasons that  I love teaching! After using one of the students’ DS’ for Friday’s Math class, I went out on the weekend and bought my own DSi to use in my classroom. My students were thrilled to have the opportunity to teach me how to use my new tool and one of them even offered to stay in a lunch break and teach me all about the cool funtions!

I had many students bring in their DS’ today to use for Math class and they are super pumped to get to do it again!  It would be great if all of my students could have a DS to use in the classroom. Some kids have brought “extra” Nintendo DS’ that they had a home for other students in the class to use but there will always be a few who will not be able to get their hands on that tool. It is my hope that by doing this in the classroom, more parents will see that Nintendo DSi’s and iPod Touches are not simply a technology for playing games or listening to music but that they can be TEACH-nologies too!

Now of course, the students felt that we needed to have some guidelines about how to use the TEACH-nology effectively in the classroom because they don’t want to lose the tool if people are abusing it. I gave the students 5 minutes to discuss with their table mates the guidelines they felt were important for us to incorporate. At the end of the 5 minutes, I had the students share their ideas with me and I wrote them onto a large chart paper. Next, I gave each student 4 stickers; I had the students line up and place one sticker at a time onto their top 4 choices for the guidelines that we should have which I then converted into a new poster (This is called “Dot-mocracy”). These are the guidelines that the students came up with:

-We will use our own names in the Picto chatroom
-We will indicate when we are done a question with a check mark and not give the answer away
-We will not play games while we are to be in a Picto chatroom & we will only discuss the math questions being talked about

Tomorrow will be our second day using the Ninteno DSi’s in the classroom. We will be having one of our administrators join us in the room to take pictures so that we can make our teaching and learning practices around our use of TEACH-nololgies public on the school’s blog site. I am very excited to see what tomorrow will bring!



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Carolyn Cameron
    Mar 12, 2011 @ 13:41:52

    Thanks, Jessie, for leading the way with the use of the students’ personal technology devices in your classroom. I am looking forward to seeing how your work in this area progresses as you continue to collaborate with your colleagues, utilize flexible groupings and incorporate technology as a tool to meet the needs of your diverse learners.


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