A showcase of middle school students work took place on Wednesday, a day that had been declared National Digital Learning Day for hundreds of schools around the country.
From explosions in on-line book reviews to videos of seventh grade math wizards solving equations at the speed of light, technology has changed education forever. No longer does a student have to plow through the clouds of procrastination, lamenting the five page handwritten report.
These days, students work overtime in the classroom because they want to. Book reports, algebra and social studies have become fun. To prove it, Ellen Townsend, seventh grade reading and language arts teacher, gave an assignment that required students to come up with a controversial subject, find statistics, and develop reasoning to support their ideas.
To middle school students in the past, the project may have induced groans and woes, but not anymore. Internet accessibility of information and speed of research enabled Townsend's class to develop thorough websites to prove their points.
One project included using a poll to develop data. Students posed a question and had everyone they know respond to the poll via the website or by texting. Not only would the yes or no response be recorded instantly and before their very eyes, but all comments scrolled down as they came in, allowing the student to include more than just pure data.
A social studies report about the Middle Ages had students researching art of that time. Their assignment was to place themselves within the art piece. (See the gallery for some of the art projects the students developed.)
In another social studies report, eighth grader Ferdous Shaker developed a webpage for the Bill of Rights. The page is designed with clip art, panels that tell about case studies, and an embedded video. The page could have been done by a high tech ad agency.
“Some kids like doing reports with books and paper, but I am more of a hands on learner,” Shaker said. “I like to type. It's faster than writing. It's not any easier but it's more fun and allows my thoughts to go through.” She exclaimed triumphantly, “No more writers block!”
Showing off a video where students create algebraic equations, eighth grade teacher Mickie Rutledge said, “The students work harder when they have to teach somebody else."
The video was aimed at teaching other people how to do the equation. "They remember it better because they taught it. That is the essence of why they really get it.”
Rutledge said that in order to create the math video, the students had to take on the challenge of learning how to do the equations first. “They definitely learned better. Making the video reinforced what they have learned. Learning it to make the video was very motivational.”
Many of the math videos were done in only 80 minutes, over two class periods.
The library was packed with teachers for the after school event. Eighth grade teacher Doris Murphy described the process of keeping up with technology. “We (the staff) have been meeting all the time. There is something new every week. There is so much that it is hard for us to keep up with it and learn it all individually, but as a school we can do it. And it's interesting to see that what works well in one discipline can also work equally well in another.”
Principal Derek Muharem described the event as a way for teachers to showcase what they have been doing or plan to do with technology in their classrooms. Judging by the student's work, the options seem limitless.