Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Adding tools to the digital toolbox

Our Grade 3s set themselves a goal of learning 6 new tools this year - one new tool with each unit of inquiry.  So far they have used Animoto to make public service announcements about water, Prezi to make presentations about local NGOs and SpicyNodes to make a mindmap to organize their research. Last week I was reading a book where I came across the term "solution fluency".  This described how a student could solve a problem using a toolbox of resources that s/he had collected over the course of his or her time in school.  The idea behind solution fluency is that students "need a variety of experiences with multiple tools so that they can add them to their digital toolboxes, and they need to know what tools to choose for particular tasks".  I've started to think about the tools that the Grade 3s have added so far this year and what new tools they could add during the final 3 units of inquiry.  I want to avoid the sort of tools that are only useful at a surface level because they are fun or easy to use.  I want to make sure the focus is on the learning and not just a new tool and that the tools are engaging, but that they also promote creativity and critical thinking.

In the book Digital Learning Strategies, which is about assigning and assessing 21st century work, Michael Fisher writes about 6 questions it's important to ask when considering whether digital tools should be used for classroom tasks:
  1. What is the learning objective? (and can we offer students choice in the ways in which they demonstrate their learning?)
  2. Is the task worthy of a digital upgrade?  It's important to redesign the task rather than bolting the technology on top.  Digital work is about interaction and creation, not about access and consumption.
  3. Will the digital tool increase or decrease the cognitive rigor of the task?  He writes about the 4 levels of cognitive rigor (recall, application, strategic thinking and extended thinking) and suggests that digital tools that only help with recall are not worth using.
  4. Does the digital upgrade involve collaboration, communication, creative problem solving or creative thinking?
  5. Do all students have access to the digital tools?
  6. Are the students involved in some of the decision making?
I'm hoping that by the end of the year, 3rd Grade students will have more tools in their toolbox - which will in turn promote them making choices and decisions about which tools they want to use to share their learning.

Photo Credit: Stitch via Compfight cc

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