Monday, September 12, 2016

Getting them Hooked and the Importance of Engagement

Getting a chance to get out on the water these days doesn’t happen as often as it used to. I
have a wonderful wife and three small children ages six, four, and one. Things tend to be pretty busy, so if I get some time to fish, either by myself or with any of my children, I really try to make it count. In the past when I could be out on the water for hours I may be using a specific bait that would target the big bass on the lake. It didn’t matter if it took all day to catch a fish, the one I caught would be worth the wait. Plus, I could get back out there the next day and try again. Now, it's a little different story. I want to use a lure that is going to allow me and my daughter or son to catch the most fish we can. This lure that I choose has  to be effective for all sizes and types of fish. As a dad and a fisherman I have to know when it is time to go after that one huge fish or keep everyone engaged, excited and keep fish swarming the boat. It’s about being out on the water and most the time I’m just helping the kids fish without actually doing any fishing myself.

This same concept of using a tool to get the most bang for your buck definitely applies to my work with teachers and students. I am not looking to introduce a tool to a teacher that they may end up using with an individual or small group of students. Our teachers’ time is extremely valuable, I really have to make it count. The resources that I bring to the table, especially with teachers that don’t have a high comfort level with technology, are ones that can be applied to various situations and used with a variety of students and classes.

periodic table.jpgFor example, I may be asked to work with a set of Chemistry teachers during their PLC time. I can arrive to this meeting ready to provide a training on the best interactive periodic table out there. The use of this table can provide images, videos, historical information, you name it. But, the focus of this tool is narrow. Students can use it primarily only when they are working with the actual chemical elements. Instead of a training on using an interactive periodic table I may come to the teacher meeting with a tool that allows students to create an interactive timeline. Using this timeline, students can create an engaging, informational, presentation-like-timeline that includes images, audio, video, text and interactivity. Students are still learning about and working with the chemical elements, but they may be doing it by creating a timeline of chemical element discoveries. One of the timeline tools I promote with staff was developed by Northwestern University’s @knightlab and can be found here.

This emphasis on a tool that has the ability to be applied to other areas of Chemistry or different content areas has such a greater impact on teachers and students than one that has a narrow focus. A Chemistry teacher can now give an assignment regarding how the modern atomic theory came to be or the life of a chemist and students can use this timeline to create a product to explain their understanding. Students can walk into an art class and develop a timeline regarding the Renaissance or they can go to History class and create timelines representing a variety of concepts, people or events. The application of this tool spans all subject areas.

Don’t get me wrong, those specific tools and resources available, like the interactive periodic table or 3D solar system that can be virtually manipulated are extremely important and valuable to our students’ education. As teachers and technology integration specialists we should become comfortable applying their use in our classrooms. But, just like fishing with my kids, we have to know when to go after that lunker bass or simply keep everyone engaged, excited and coming back for more.