PBS Digital Media Learners of the 21st Century

While watching the PBS Digital Media New Learners of the 21st Century, what caught my attention the most was Quest to Learn, the school for digital kids.  In this school rather than sit in front of textbooks and learn like in a traditional classroom, the kids use technology to enhance their learning.  They learn through trial and error and by playing video games and other such things.  While this school still has the traditional classes such as math, science, social studies, and language arts they have different more interesting names. Before I watched this video I was a little dubious about using so much technology in the classroom and if the students would really take the technology and learn from it instead of playing with it. Through this video I saw how the students really were learning.

The students learn math skills through making games. The teachers pose guiding questions to the students and through trial and error they determine how to make an interesting game.  This approach still uses assessments, the teachers will stop a student part way through and have them do an assessment, usually drawing some kind if a diagram.  The school still follows the standards for their state but they are able to incorporate technology and other skills into the curriculum as well.  The students tinker around on the computer and combine subjects such as math and language arts in creating these games. I found it interesting in the video when they were talking about making a game with Aesop’s fables.  The students are learning about the components of a story and what makes up this story as well as doing s sort of Reader’s Theatre with the kids.

What I find most interesting about this approach is that through making the games the students are learning problem solving strategies, how to break a more complex problem up into different problems that are easier to solve.  I didn’t think of this before watching this video, but a game really is just a set of problems and you need to use problem solving skills to get through the game. Using video games puts the concepts into a format that the students are interested in. They are not just being taught the facts that they might need to know for the future but they are using hands on strategies to work on these problems.

This documentary has really made me think about media and how we can use it in the classroom.  Before watching this video I worried that students would take advantage of technology use in the classroom or that it would encourage anti-social behavior or worse encourage destructive behavior.  Now I see that using technology in the classroom can be so much more, it can be a tool and a great asset to students. Last week while I was subbing in a 5th grade AAP classroom I was able to see some of this first hand.  All of the students in this class had their own laptop or were using a school laptop. They did all of their math, science, social studies, and language arts work on the computer.  I would walk around periodically to make sure the students were working and to answer any questions they might have but in truth the students didn’t need me at all. If they didn’t understand a concept they looked it up using their inline textbook. Early finishers could play educational games like free rice. The students were also using google docs for a collaborative social studies project.  In all between this video and my classroom experience my ideas about technology use in the classroom have certainly changed.

4th Grade Virginia Studies SOL

The SOL that I have chosen to focus on is from 4th grade Virginia Studies

VS.8 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the reconstruction of Virginia following the Civil

War by

a) identifying the effects of Reconstruction on life in Virginia;

b) identifying the effects of segregation and “Jim Crow” on life in Virginia for whites, African Americans, and American Indians;

c) describing the importance of railroads, new industries, and the growth of cities to Virginia’s economic development


I think I can have students do a variety of projects with this standard.  I can be very flexible while teaching this information. The students can choose how they would like to explore this topic by creating their own project- they can write a paper, create a power point, make a creative project or game, etc or use different media resources such as Grolier online.

iLearn Technology blog

I chose to look at the iLearn Technology blog.  This is a blog for educators about how to integrate technology into the classroom.  This blog was created by Kelly Tenkely.  She spent a year as a 2nd grade teacher, 7 years as a k-5 technology specialist/teacher, and 5 years as a technology integration specialist. While she no longer is in the classroom, she still works with technology and education.

This blog offers various websites that can be used in the classroom as a way of incorporating technology into students learning.  Each post contains a website, as well as a description of what it is, how to integrate it into the classroom environment, as well as some tips.

I found this really interesting and helpful.  A lot of times I feel like I have all of these cool apps and things that I can use in the classroom but I just don’t know how.  This blog really helps to clear that up.  Kelly gives you her own idea of how to use it in lessons but you can of course come up with your own ideas as well. I feel that sometimes all you need is that little spark of inspiration that can get you going and really thinking about how you can use something.

The way this blog is laid out is really simple and easy to navigate. Within each post she has a bolded header saying “What is it”, “How to integrate [name of the program] into the classroom”, and “tips”.  There are plenty of links to what she is talking about so it makes things easy and you don’t have to look all over the place to find out what she is talking about.  There are also lots of visuals included so readers can see what things are supposed to look like.