What I Learned from my Book of Choice The book “What Should I Do?” was very frustrating to me. The premise is that there are “dilemmas” in urban education that do not have clear answers. Dilemmas of assessment and working with diverse learners apply to my school context. I am constantly struggling with assessing my ESL and special education students. My hope in the implementation phase of my Imagine IT project was that I could incorporate these students more fully into collaborative projects. I felt I was semi-successful in this endeavor for part 1 of Imagine IT, but still have a long way to go.
What I Learned from my Student Focus Group My awesome sixth grade homeroom students surprised me in the focus group phase of the project. I asked eight of them to spend about 30 minutes with me to discuss the idea of more fully incorporating diverse learners into our classroom projects. I included a hard-working new ESL student in this focus group. The students were very compassionate and understanding about the struggles that diverse learners face in a large, content-heavy class. They shared specific ideas about how to include these students in projects more fully. They also offered to rearrange the seating with each of them serving as a “table captain” whose job it would be to model for all of the students in their group how to act and what to do in science class.
What I Learned From My Colleagues My colleagues shared great ideas about incorporating more “modeling” activities into my instruction, meaning small groups or individual students would create models of systems such as the circulatory system, water cycle or erosion and deposition. One colleague shared about a new 7th grade ESL student who got excited about building a circulatory system model. This student was able to show in a model what he could not explain yet in English. This was very inspiring to me.
Implementation Takeaways and Insights After a field trip to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, in which we literally walked through the process of treating sewage and wastewater in Chicago, I asked my 6th grade homeroom students to create public service announcements about the water treatment process. They were offered the choices of youtube editor or powtoons to create their products, since these were the programs I was familiar with after the summer workshop. One of my students asked if his group could use animoto to create their video. I was not familiar with this program but asked the student to show it to me. Another group was interested and watched the tutorial as well. These two groups ended up creating their videos through animoto. They were the two best videos in the bunch. Some of the other groups struggled with completing their PSA in three days and ended up with an unfinished project. One group who was having technical challenges, asked to create their PSA as a poster with pen and paper. What they submitted was excellent and is displayed outside of my classroom door.
My insights in the implementation phase of “Where Does the Water Go?” include an appreciation of what my students bring to the table in terms of ideas, compassion, prior experience and technical ability. I am listening to my students’ ideas and incorporating them into my instruction when feasible. In round 2 of this project, I will provide more clear instruction and differentiation for the PSA project, possibly allowing students to give a class tutorial about using various media programs such as animoto.