Making Learning Fun

As I went to be after class last night, I couldn’t help but wonder why a lot of teachers do not use the technology that is available to them.  The opportunities are fantastic and will definitely increase learning in the classroom.  All of a sudden ‘find North America’ on a world map becomes a lot more fun because you are using Google Maps and are finding it with the click of a mouse.  I would love to see a lot more teachers be open minded about technology and bring their school into the 21st Century.  Be open minded, be creative, be teachable! Learn, learn, and learn some more.  Learning should never stop.

When using technology, educators have to realize that it takes more than just one attempt to learn how to use whatever resource you are using, such as Google Apps, iMovie, wikispaces, and blogs.  It is a new language and culture that you have to learn; you can’t just read the manual and understand.

I was blog surfing this morning and came across some interesting points.  One point was made in a post by Lisa Thumann about a middle school language arts teacher who was really questioning how using technology would benefit her students.  This teacher was against using technology to assist her students in finding their voice and becoming better writers because “when she was a student, she learned to write just fine without a computer.”

Yes this may be true, but not all students learn the same as they did 10, 20, or 30 years ago.  In fact, not all students learn the same way as they learned yesterday.  It is a new world out there and teachers need to recognize that students are not the same as they used to be.  They are unique individuals born in a completely different generation than they were.  They learn by multimedia, visuals, experiential learning, by sharing their ideas with the world by posting on a classroom blog.  And students don’t have to just share their ideas by writing essays or descriptive paragraphs either.  They can use voice thread projects, podcasts, or recorded videos of themselves sharing their thoughts.  The Lipsky team does a nice job of this on their class blog.  Not only will these students feel that their response is valued, but will feel excited because their friends made through the collaboration of their teachers, who live across the world will be able to listen.  Mom and dad can listen at home too and be proud of their child’s work.

Students can really find their voice when using a classroom blog to express their thoughts.  Teachers can post creative writing suggestions or questions for their students to answer too.  I would have loved this when I was a student.  Not only would I get to use the computer, but I would be more willing to share my thoughts since I knew that people would be reading it.  One teacher posted the question “What do teachers need to know?” for her students to respond back with some advice for teachers about what would help them learn.   Students post their thoughts, teacher reads and is able to her what her student’s like and what they don’t like and is able to take those thoughts into consideration and make adaptations in his/her lessons.  This way, the teacher is meeting the needs of his/her learners and the students are feeling respected and are given the opportunity to enhance their learning.

I found some of the responses to that post made by the students very interesting.  It was repeatedly said that  school needed to be more ‘fun’ to help them learn.  And it was also said that they wanted less homework.  So learning needs to be more fun and there needs to be less homework (hmm sounds like the same thoughts I have about many of my university classes hehe).  So lets use technology to spruce up the lessons; lets research on Google what it was like to live the life of a SK pioneer and record our information in the form of an interview.  Then lets record our interviews by using Garage Band and turn it into a pod cast and post it on our class blog.  Then for homework, we are to listen to some of our peer’s interviews and comment about their final product (peer assessment?).  But this homework doesn’t really feel like homework because it is kind of like watching our friend’s videos or looking at their pictures on Facebook and that is pretty cool . How much more fun could a research project be?

So lets allow students to have the opportunity to break down the walls that are holding them back from learning in the new ways that the 21st Century is bringing.  Let us teachers hop on board and begin the journey with our students so that everyone can learn in a way that is best suited for them.  Be open minded, be creative, be teachable.

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14 responses to “Making Learning Fun

  1. I really like your post. I don’t think there’s enough “play” when learning for students no matter what their age. Your example about the teacher hesitant to use technology also raises another query in my mind. If our children are going into a world saturated with technology, shouldn’t we be responsible for showing them how to use it in a safe and informed manner? Teaching with technology is about so much more than having fun to me, it’s about teaching our children about the world we live in. Thanks for provoking some thought with your post.

  2. Great post Sarah. When I offered my kids the chance to respond to “What do teachers need to know?” I had no idea that the responses would be so honest, serious and heart-felt. I learned so much about my students. This is definitely something that I will be doing every year from now on out. I started teaching 10 years ago, and I look back now and find it hard to believe that I was the same person. The pedagogy was there, and it’s important to remember that sound instructional foundations are what make using technology effective for students – it’s not magic. As you said though, it makes learning more fun. As teachers, we often underestimate fun! Fun = motivation for many students. The learning comes and begins to be more and more intrinsic.
    Great post – I’m excited to be working with your classes this spring!
    – Kelly Hines, 4th grade teacher, NBCT

  3. Katie Warren (Techy Nana)

    What a great post! It is filled with optimism as well as a challenge to teachers to take a risk and learn right along with their students.

    As a teacher who dragged her feet I realized that technology was not going to go away so I chose to learn how to use it before it passed by me (see my blog post at http://is.gd/hKmK ). Making that choice has allowed me to grow and mature as a teacher in ways I never imagined.

    Congratulations to you on your desire to learn and recognition that learning is a lifetime experience!

  4. A great post. For me, someone who has been teaching 22 years, all of this is very exciting. My biggest challenge is finding time to play with things myself before I can even imagine what the possibilities are for the classroom. It took me weeks to figure out Twitter and now I am addicted. I think for those of us that didn’t grow up with the tools of the 21st Century, we sometimes don’t even know what the possibilities are. And we need to allow ourselves time to play and explore. And I agree that we need to be teachable:-) Many of us are very excited about it and excited about what kids are doing with new tools for communication every day. Being open to new learning is what keeps the job so interesting and energizing.
    Thanks for the post–great thinking!

  5. Very thoughtful post. I agree with everything you said. Learn, learn, and learn. Don’t you find that you’re happiest in life when you’re learning?

    Regarding your comment about finding places on Google Earth vs a book or map. One of the neatest lessons I saw was when teacher zoomed in on a country and had a student come up and take the controls. Then the teacher asked, “By looking at this country from this altitude, what types of businesses thrive there?” “Huh” “Yes. For example, would this country have a large agriculture base? How about a fishing industry, etc?” The teacher invited the rest of the class to help out. Well, there was no water around anywhere, so fishing was out. The land appeared mountainous, so agriculture was out? Really? Do any crops thrive on these kinds of mountains? What can you learn by zooming in? Turn on the terrain and tour the area. What did you learn?

    You get the idea. But THIS is what the teacher was able to do with the kids while using the technology that could NOT have been done without it, and that’s the key, isn’t it? Otherwise, it’s just a very expensive replacement for something we already had.

  6. Sarah:

    I wanted to respond to your first paragraph. I think many teachers are afraid to use technology because they are afraid of not knowing everything. There is no way to have every answer when using technology. I constantly learn new things from my students. Some teachers (who shall remain nameless) get their confidence in teaching from knowing that they are smarter than their students. That point of view makes it nearly impossible to use technology – the students will always know more than we do.

  7. Your points about being teachable are spot on. Technology aside, if teachers are not willing to learn, the possibilities in the classroom are significantly diminished. I like what you’ve said!! Thank you.

  8. I agree with you about giving students the opportunity to find their voice, use tools that are part of their everyday world in their learning. I also believe you are definitely on the right track in terms of experiencing for yourself what you are saying students should be experiencing. Many times I think teachers jump into using a tool they do not fully understand themselves. When this happens projects have a tendency to fail because the teachers doesn’t have a clear objective in mind. I strongly believe a teacher has to understand the tool and use it in their own learning before they can make the shift to how it will impact the learning of their students. Through your blogging you are taking the steps to understand how powerful a tool this may be for your students, well done.

  9. This is a great post with really interesting and concrete ideas for teachers!

  10. “when she was a student, she learned to write just fine” – in order words, she is going to teach in the style that *she* likes to learn in, regardless of whether that is is the style of learning best suited to all, some or even any of her students.

    I would say that the single greatest difference between a merely competent teacher and a good teacher is whether they teach in multiple ways to address the multiple learning styles of their students — and they know about their own preferred styles and consciously work at teaching in multiple modes, even those they may not be the most comfortable with.

    And one of the things that makes a great teacher is they can make their students aware of the students own styles of learning by letting / getting to help teach to each other.

  11. Sarah,
    I’m thinking that if that individual isn’t open minded in their personal lives, they are not going to be teachable in their professional lives. How do we combat this?

    I know enthusiasm is contagious, but it’s also exhausting. Any suggestions?

  12. The creative learning is fantastic, but I’d like to emphasize again the power of 3rd party feedback.

    I had a 1st grader last year whose teacher did a Gingerbread story unit – the kids read many different versions of “The Gingerbread Man,” wrote and illustrated their own versions, and presented them in class. My husband volunteered to stream the presentation part.

    There were about 20 people from all over North America watching and interacting in the chat room including MANY sets of grandparents who would otherwise NOT have been able to be that involved.

    The kids were already proud of their books, but getting that kind of positive reinforcement, especially for kids that young, made a huge impression on them and boosted their love of learning and school.

  13. Lisa, I agree that you have to stay open in your personal life to be teachable in your professional life. If you are not open minded then how will you be willing to try new things in regards to professional and personal development? Educators need to remember that to be ‘professional’ one is to continue professional development, and professional development does not mean to teach the same unit with no changes 30 times/years in a row.

    And yes enthusiasm can be exhausting and hard to maintain at times. What about appointing a few of your students who catch on to ideas quickly as ‘experts’ to help their classmates out. This will not only save you from answering the same question over and over in an upbeat manner, but will allow the students to take responsibility for their own learning.

    As for enthusiasm for motivating staff who hesitate to try, I hope to remind them that they have to at least get their feet wet before judging the temperature of the water.

    Just some last minute thoughts before I turn in for the day 🙂

  14. I love your post and every response. I encourage other staff to use technology in small ways through my wiki. I find links and lessons for them based on what I know they will study or touch on in their classrooms; two of the staff always use something.

    The kids appreciate the small things we do in class — they really want to do more. I know I don’t need to know everything — the kids will learn web stuff with just a nudge. I need to tack my requirements to the tech projects, but sometimes I think we’re stuck on standards that are behind the time. A look at your video on your “About Me” page is proof of that. Your composition is clear, concise, logical, and engaging. That’s what our kids want to do to, and where I should be in my classroom.

    So, like you, I’m being “teachable” and moving forward with my students at my side…

    You’ve started a wonderful journey.

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