I’m Back and I’m Smarter than Ever

I’m back after my hiatus (don’t even ask about my novel…. only made it through 15,000 words), and I’m determined to do a little more blogging through the year.

As for that whole Smart thing, that was a not-so-clever play on words due to the fact that my classroom is now full of SMART technology. I applied through a grant at our school to get a SmartBoard, Airliner Pad, and clicker response system. In all honesty, I’m a little overwhelmed with all of the new toys at the moment. Getting all these new toys mid year makes it hard to implement them, and I can’t wait until summertime when I can fully plan and integrate this technology into my curriculum. My students, on the other hand, are chomping at the bit and constantly beg to play with the new “toys.”

Just playing spelling games and word sorts on it has been fun for my at-risk literacy students. They really like the tactile nature of passing the Airliner pad around and playing with it. Many of these students don’t get to interface with high-touch technology much due to their backgrounds, so it’s awesome to see their faces light up when they get to play with these high dollar tools.

The clickers have a lot of potential, but they’re going to require a paradigm shift for me in the way I look at things. The ability to instantly gather data and generate reports on the fly is powerful. For instance, here’s an exercise we did today:

We did an ACTAAP Reading item as practice in class (25 minutes to read a passage, answer 8 multiple choice questions, and write a constructed response). They did all of this on their own paper. At the end, we broke out the clickers, students logged in, and they quickly keyed in the answers to the multiple choice questions with their clickers. From this, I could instantly see whole-class statistics on the concepts contained within each multiple choice question (over 50% of two of my classes struggled with the main idea of the passage and most struggled with the vocabulary question). Not only that, but I was able to use this data as a platform of discussion of the test with the students as we went through and talked about test-taking strategies, word attack strategies, and main ideas. Having that data instantly available was extremely powerful and kept the students engaged.

The main problem I have with it is the limitation imposed by “standardized” testing. I don’t usually rely much on multiple choice type testing, preferring short answer and essay assessments. It’s going to be a shift for me to start doing more of this type of testing. It’s a balancing act, but I will say that the power of that instant hard data weighed pretty dang heavily on the scales.

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