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.