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Apr 19

Tech in the classroom #AprilBlogADay

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Craft Stick Bridge in the Structural Stress Analyzer

Technology is a part of our everyday lives, so it just seems logical that it would be a part of daily classroom life. I’m in a great position in my classroom, and I rarely have to plan ahead to use computers. My classroom connects to a computer lab that is just for the use of our CDAT program. Generally, I share it with just one other teacher. We have three other computer labs available for our students, and it is usually pretty easy for me to assign students to do something on the computers. Additionally, all of our computers have double monitors, and we encourage students to work together on one machine, especially during projects.

So how do I use the technology? We have an online course management system, so sometimes I’ll post virtual labs and discussion questions for my chemistry students. For engineering, students have learned how to do some basic code, as well as software programs widely used by engineers like Autodesk AutoCAD and Inventor. During projects, students have work time where they work together using the computers to get done what they need to accomplish. This can vary based on interests and skills of the student groups. Basically, I provide time for students to use the tech tools for what they need to accomplish.

We are also a bring your own device (BYOD) school, so students can access wifi through the school network on their devices. I have dabbled with using interactive lesson software like Nearpod. Unfortunately, the signal strength isn’t good enough in my room for all students to actively participate. I really wish it was better because the students really enjoyed using Nearpod when we tried it in class.

We also have some other really cool tech tools for our students to use. You can see my awesome structural stress analyzer in the photo. This is to check the structural integrity of structures my engineering students build. We have used it to test paper platforms and craft stick bridges, and tomorrow we’ll be testing toothpick towers. We also have a large format poster printer. Right now, students are planning out posters for their Maker Fest booths. Recently, we received a 3D printer (a MakerBot), and already students have designed and printed objects related to various projects.

To me, talking about tech in the classroom is like having a long discussion about how we use pencils, paper, and markers. They are all tools. We use them all the time. It’s hard to imagine a classroom without them. I realize we do still talk about how to set up notebooks and how to incorporate artwork. I think technology is the same way. It’s a tool. We’ll always talk about new ways to use it and new tools to incorporate, but we must remember that technology is part of our everyday lives. We shouldn’t be able to imagine a classroom without it. There should never be a question about should we use it because the answer is always yes. So what cool ways do you use tech in your classroom?

2 comments

  1. Bridget Grubb

    I’m a UC Berkeley student and had a field placement for my Education class this semester at the local high school. We taught a lesson using technology, and just as you said we had one device per pair. We will be looking at the relationship and communication between the person who is controlling the computer and the other group member without the computer. How do you find this is different from allowing everyone to have their own device or to be working in larger groups? What were you striving to foster by having them do pair technology work? Thanks!

    1. Janelle

      We actually vary how we use technology based on what we have available for a given day and the demands of the lesson or project. For pair work, it’s often for coding as there is research that two coders working together are more efficient. In terms of other projects, it’s often one computer per group that we are able to provide (groups usually vary from 3-4 people), but groups often have more tech available to them if one or two students bring a laptop or tablet. This year, we added tablets to our available tools, and we often use those one-to-one for virtual labs or other class based assignments. So really, there is no one right way; it totally depends on the goal for the assignment, project, etc.

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