Meme · Professional Development · Web 2.0

5 Steps to Create Self-Taught Tech Learners in Your Classroom

raptor projectI read an article recently called They’re Not Natives, They’re Digital Tourists! – basically the gist is that students aren’t as naturally tech-savvy as we think they are – the myth of the 21st century learner, if you will. The author makes many good points, and I largely agree with her. I see students every day that still don’t know how to save a file correctly on the school network. This would seem baffling, but it’s really not. I think I’ve narrowed it down to three reasons:

1. They don’t save things enough on the network to really know/remember how to do it every time.

2. They are incapable of doing it.

3. They know if they raise their hand, the teacher will do it for them. So why bother learning it at all!

I tend to think the answer falls far too commonly in option number three. So how do we change this behavior, especially when we want our students connecting on blogs and social media, creating films and building websites, and generally navigating smoothly around Web 2.0 sites like it’s no big deal? It’s so easy to just say, “Kids today love technology! They’ll figure it out!” Not true, and that is dangerous thinking. But can they figure it out? Absolutely, and it’s easier than you think to create a classroom full of self-taught technology learners.

First and foremost, technology can’t be a “drive-by” activity. If you are going to follow the steps outlined below, educational technology needs to be firmly integrated in your classroom, otherwise the students will forget the skills they learned, and the skills will lose their importance. Students need to see the value in whatever tech skills they are using, and it needs to be applied to the curriculum in a meaningful way.

So if you’re ready to make the jump, and you’ve decided that you want a program/app/website (iMovie, Prezi, etc) used pretty extensively in your classroom, here’s 5 steps to make it successful:

1. Locate/create a bank of online tutorials – let’s say you will be using iMovie pretty regularly in your classroom. Locate online tutorial videos – like these, for example – and put them on your class website or a place that is easily accessible. (Maybe you’re a tech all-star and have made your own videos, but it’s not really necessary). **Want bonus awesomeness? After a class becomes proficient, have THEM make the tutorial videos. It will be your own Khan Academy!***

2. Determine which tech skills are important – make sure you locate videos with the relevant skills students need to complete their projects. When I teach iMovie, I focus on: importing and exporting videos, and adding pictures, picture motion, sound effects, music, voice, text over black and text over a video. I determined that those were the skills necessary for the students to immerse themselves in the basics. Again, make sure that each skill is covered in a video.

3. Give the students guided playtime – it’s tempting to just say, “Play around with the program for a while to get comfortable.” While this has some benefit, it’s not in the students’ best interests. I recommend “guided playtime” – give the students a list of tasks they need to complete in a practice project. For iMovie, I gave students a list of the skills from Step Two, and they needed to create a practice movie that showcased each of those skills. Just give them a checklist (click here to see the one that I used) that the student will mark off as they complete each skill.

Then, I would show them what a finished practice film looked like – and give them a gentle shove from port. The students are still “playing” with iMovie, but they are doing very specific things – adding transitions and pictures, etc. If you don’t do this, students will spend an inordinate amount of time goofing around in PhotoBooth or playing wacky sound effects over and over to their hearts’ content (trust me, I’ve seen it). The fluidity of their final product isn’t terribly important – I let the students use whatever clips, pics and sounds they wanted. I was more interested in them mastering the basic tech skills.

4. Locate your all-stars – what’s awesome about guided playtime is that students are learning at their own pace. They aren’t rushed to keep up with someone else – and if they need help, there are other students around them who are checking off skills. AKA, there’s a teacher sitting right next to them! Take a walk around – evaluate in-progress practice projects, and when you see someone has mastered a skill, announce it to the class! Maybe write the student’s name on the board – “Jared is now a tech all-star at adding transitions. See him if you need help.” Or, have all the skills written down on the board, and as students complete a skill, have them write their name under a task that they wouldn’t mind teaching. Within no time, possibly every student in the class is now a teacher, which saves you time from answering the same tech questions over and over again and lets you focus on what’s really important: content and project facilitation. And really, what’s better than students teaching students?

5. Make sure everyone gets 100% – this is important. Don’t accept a practice project if it isn’t perfect. Forcing the students to do everything right will result in better projects down the road when the content really matters. I can’t stress this enough – the more comfortable students are using the technology and creating practice projects, the better their creative projects will be when the chips are down. Follow the previous steps, and In no time at all students will be creating projects as slick as this. (sorry for the low res, I didn’t have a higher quality version of this project.)

Sound cool? This system worked wonders for me when I taught applied technology. It made the students the teachers, allowed for self-paced learning, and freed up my time to work with students as the content and project facilitator. Give it a shot.


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