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Thursday, May 22, 2014

How Technology Has Engaged All Learners

This week I am giving some guest bloggers the opportunity to share their ideas with you. This is a guest post from Scott McKenzie

Every student can succeed.
That is what I want to talk to you about.
Every. Student. Can. Succeed.
We just have to find the way to help them do it.
This year… technology has leveled the playing field in my class for all students.

When I was young I didn’t fit in at school. I dreaded Valentine’s Day. Everyone would bring in cards for the people they liked. I would bring in one for each classmate and go around and hand them out. Then I would sit back at my desk, and try to hide the fact that my bag was empty. I would quickly stuff it into my desk. I didn’t fit in, and I wasn’t engaged in school. Later in high school I was told that I wouldn’t be able to pass advanced courses, and that I would never go to University. I eventually graduated with an Honours degree and went on to get my Bachelor’s of Education.

I share my story with my students every year, I mention that I didn’t feel like I fit in, that I was told I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my dream and go to university. I try to share with students that everyone is important, everyone has a voice, and their dreams are always worth pursuing.

As educators we have to be open, and willing to seek out alternative ways to enable learners and foster success in our students. If we show we believe in them, and give them tools to truly become successful, then we have earned the title "educator".

Have you ever felt like you didn't fit in? Imagine being 2 to 3 grade levels below everyone else in your class, and trying to fit in. Imagine how hard it would be to disguise that fact in class every day.That was the reality for several of the students who came into my class this year. They struggled in school, and everyone knew it. They didn't fit in.

This year technology was our secret weapon. With technology my students could get past the hurdles of not being able to read, or spell at grade level. I brought in BYOD, so everyone could use technology, and everyone looked the same. Things were going better, but technology is not perfect, and the motivation dropped off, as they sometimes still struggled. I was searching for the key, but I forgot to ask the most important people in the room. I never asked the students I was trying to help. One day I assigned a task in class. I offered them the choice of several ways to complete the task. Many of the choices involved technology.

One boy approached and asked if he could use Minecraft. It was a game he played regularly at home on his iPad. It was something he was confident doing. I took a chance, and said yes. The speed and efficiency he worked at was literally stunning. He completed the same work as the others, in the same time limit. Letters that were often formed backwards, or even upside down were perfectly written for all the key points. Visual images explained all the concepts he had learned, and he even shared!

Since that day Minecraft had become a viable option in my class. All the students who struggled with reading and writing were proficient at Minecraft. Visually they could map out how to show their work in the 3D landscape. Other students worked with it as well, and that is when the magic happened. The students who were used to being the lowest were suddenly helping others in the class. They became our experts, working with others to help them be successful. They gained the esteem of their peers, but more importantly, they gained their respect.

Now when students are given a challenge, every hand goes up. Everyone feels empowered. They never miss class, even when they are sick! They have become fearless, they tackle every situation with this new found confidence, and work away at problems until they are solved.

Through technology we were engaged as a class, working together. We had built a community that everyone felt a part of. where every student is successful.