GENERATING OR EXPLORING, or WHY DO WE HAVE THE LAPTOPS TODAY?
It is easy to get overwhelmed when you are trying to incorporate technology in the classroom. A simple way to zoom out and gain perspective is to ask a few simple questions before you begin work on anything from a mini-lesson to a full unit of study. Specifically: Do I want the students to generate or explore? Or both? Generating = making stuff. Exploring = researching and learning about stuff.
Questions to help lesson planning:
1. What is the end, culminating project supposed to look like?
2. What existing models can I use as examples?
3. How much scaffolding is required?
4. What does the scaffolding look like, step by step?
5. How long should the project take?
6. Can students work on any or all of the project from home?
If the above questions seem too general, try pretending that you are asking these questions about an iMovie students are supposed to make in which they create a Public Service Announcement. Imagine how you would answer the questions. If that hypothetical doesn't work, plug in your own.
1. What is the purpose of the research? What do I want students to learn/accomplish?
2. How structured is the exploration? Am I providing links? Or are students conducting their research from scratch?
3. If I am providing links, what are they, and where do they lead?
4. If the students are conducting their own search, do they have criteria for determining credibility of sources? How much scaffolding is required?
5. What does the scaffolding look like, step by step?
6. How long should the project take?
7. Can students work on any or all of the project from home?
Of course implementation and differentiation of lesson plans is highly complex. But the above is suggested as a way of backing away for a moment to see the overarching purposes of using technology. At the end of the day, the laptop and all of the millions of destinations it promises, are only as useful as the plan in which they are embedded.
Are the students generating or exploring? Or both? Once I know the answers, I can plan.