I teach anywhere from 30 to 36 students every hour for 5 hours each day. I am told that the key to helping my students succeed is to build relationships. Building relationships is very difficult when there are so many of them to reach in such a short amount of time. Some students naturally are drawn to their teacher and others need more time to build those connections.
One fortunate twist of fate for me was the ability to win two grants from two separate sources that funded the purchase of 36 Chromebooks for my science classroom. I have been one of the few teachers in my building to be working on integrating the use of these versatile devices. Through the implementation of what is called a blended classroom, I have been able to have more time to get those connections with individual students that I had a very hard time doing in the past.
Blended classrooms involve the use of technology to introduce topics and give students a chance to explore on their own, going at their own pace and, to an extend, their own interests within a topic. While they are doing this, I can be free to have a demonstration going with a small group or have mini conferences with individuals about a concept they may be struggling with. I am so happy that I have been able to have this ability to get better connected with my students, however, almost all of the rest of the teachers in my building do not.
It is incomprehensible to think that in our day and age, students are still going to classrooms where they sit in rows and read or watch a presentation and do worksheets when they could be taking a trip with Google earth to visit a volcano or see the time lapse of receding glaciers and changing coastlines. They should be able to blog about their experiences and hear back from a fellow learner in Puerto Rico, who they get to talk with on a whole class Skype several times per year. Online simulations of how atoms work or the reason why we have seasons, are all experiences that are available to science students when their teachers have access to technology. Creativity in the online environment is also so much broader and students can have a global audience to shout out their ideas to.
All students in all classrooms need to be connected with their teachers and the whole world through the thoughtful implementation of online experiences, but this cannot happen when the devices aren’t available or are in a separate room and are extremely outdated and keep breaking down. We need increased funding that will support the addition of modern technology to our schools and give our students an equitable experience that will prepare them to be creative, collaborative global citizens that can make a difference for our future.