Today my colleague and I had the privilege of bringing several iPads and an iPod touch into a fourth grade classroom to focus on the goal of increasing the fluency of basic multiplication facts. It was exciting to see the look on the students’ faces as we unpacked our tools and laid them out on the table. We heard some “Oh look! It's an iPad!” You could feel the air change like static electricity in the room! We set it up with the goal of “Let’s see if you can be really fast with your multiplication facts today!”.
One interesting thing we could easily do was to modify the levels for each students’ level. We had three top math students in the class and so we pulled out some apps that still focused on multiplication but allowed the student to experience algebra with the same goal in mind. For the rest of the class we set it on easy multiplication facts.
In reflection of our time together I was amazed at how engaged these kids were with their activities. And then I thought, how is engagement defined in the 21st century?
The most recent issue of EQ (vol. 32, no. 4, 2009) provides this definition: Student engagement is a rendezvous between learning and the digital tools and techniques that excite students. These 4th graders were just that-very excited! The use of technology is key in engaging our students in the classroom, but technology for the sake of using technology is not enough. With these devices we were able to tailor the apps to the objective and tailor the apps to each child’s level. It was using technology to increase learning and student engagement. What a powerful way to run a classroom!
So the next time you choose to include technology into your lesson, ask yourself these questions. "How excited will my students be? Will this digital tool meet the needs of all of my students? And will this resulting engagement lead to a deeper understanding of the concepts being taught?" Hopefully the answers will be yes!