Thursday, February 19, 2015

EdTech as a Motivator and Vessel of Knowledge

There's this girl in my class. She is an underperforming student, who has had a number of absences (a startling number, actually), and who is very shy and backward, with little self-confidence. As you know, due to my obsessive social media posts and my blog entry last week, we have recently received Dash & Dot robots in our classroom.

She. Loves. Them.

Not only does she love them, but she is good at them, and she knows it (I mentioned this in last week's blog post). I can see her confidence growing as she drives the robot around, making it perform whatever challenge we have lined up for the week. The thing is...she's learning the sight words while she does it. Also, (and there may not be a correlation here, but I like to think that there is) she is performing better in every subject. She's taking off. It's awesome. I feel that the educational technology in our classroom is what motivated her. The timing is right, and I can see the look on her face when she uses that robot...that's it. That's what got her going. She's having so much fun learning.

She's been tricked.

Free (in-app purchases), in the App Store.
It's not just her, though. It's others. I have several kids who have become better learners because of their desire to use the educational technology in our classroom. The class set of iPads has done wonders for my kids. I can find a variety of apps that can be used to support what I'm teaching in the classroom. Beyond that, I can find a variety of apps that encourage learning. One of the major iPad apps that we use in class is from Disney's Imagicademy. Mickey's Magical Math World is a very well-designed app that gets kids to use the math that they know, and then builds on it to teach them new concepts. Counting, Addition/Subtraction, Shapes, Numbers, covers a variety of mathematical topics and the kids are absolutely addicted to seeing their favorite Disney characters on screen. It is a favorite of my kindergarteners (and my kiddos at home). When it's time to use the iPads, Mickey is a huge draw for the kids, and they are being sucked into Mickey's Math learn. They've been duped.

Free on the App Store.
Todo Math by LocoMotiveLabs is another favorite of my kids (possibly their #1 favorite app right now), as it introduces and covers an amazing number of math skills and topics. It is very easy to navigate, and does a wonderful job of giving visual representations of math concepts. Some of the games designed for this app are downright genius.'s free. My students would sit at the iPad playing this game for hours if I would let them, and they would be learning throughout the entire process. I laugh because they have no idea what a great app it is...they just love it because it's so fun. Again...these kids have been hoodwinked.

ClassDojo is another great EdTech motivator that I use daily in my classroom. For those who don't know, ClassDojo is a way to distribute points to students based on their classroom performance and behavior. It's a great classroom management tool. The kids want the points. They need the points. I tie the points to rewards in my room (prize box, lunch with me, iPad time), and the kids really do try to earn the points through good behavior to get those prizes. That's part of the motivation, but the other part is that they love to see their points. They beg me to put them up on the screen. Sometimes I leave them there for a large portion of the day so that the kids can see the points change and hear the happy ring of a good point (or the very occasional sad tone of a "needs work" point). The students are working for those points, but they don't realize that they're practicing good citizenship and being a positive part of a community (by pushing in chairs, helping others, etc.) at the same time. They love showing what a caring classroom citizen they can be. Yep. You guessed it. They've been bamboozled.
Free on the App Store.

EdTech has a way of tricking kids into learning. Students love the technology and the novelty that it brings, but teachers love that it can accentuate the lessons that they are teaching. Without realizing it, my kids are using the new skills and concepts they learn to: navigate a robot, explore a Disney Space Station, roam around a world full of math challenges, or collect enough points to earn lunch with the teacher. They love to learn. They just don't realize it yet.

Message to my kids:
You've been tricked. Duped. Hoodwinked. Bamboozled.
Have fun learning!
(I know that you will.)

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