Tech-savvy fifth-graders from Westmoreland and Guild elementary schools became the teachers at a recent statewide technology conference for educators, showing teachers from around the state how they can better use technology to enrich learning.
The students made presentations Nov. 28 at the Tennessee Education Technology Conference in Nashville, an annual event with several workshops spotlighting the latest innovations in classroom technology.
Using iPads and iPods, students in Tracy Brooks’s fifth-grade class at Westmoreland Elementary tapped their way through interactive educational apps that allow them to be creative in learning about subjects such as geography, vocabulary, history and math.
“Sometimes I think it’s harder for teachers to get engaged in it, but when we give it to students and allow them the opportunity to create and do, they learn so much more,” Brooks said.
“I’ve watched them get engaged in their activities and it’s not even like they’re learning; they’re very eager to do it,” she said.
Westmoreland Elementary this year received six iPads, and Librarian Tanisha Rhoads has been working with the school’s teachers to incorporate their use in everyday instruction using education-related apps.
Fifth-graders Jacob York and Canaan Grave demonstrated how different apps like Puppet Pals can be used for digital storytelling. Another application for the game Battleship taught them about latitude and longitude, the boys said.
“This app can help you with maps, grids, coordinates and that’s about it,” York told the audience. “And it’s awesome.”
QR codes in the classroom Generating their own Quick Responses codes — white-and-black square graphics sometimes seen in advertisements — teachers and students can make quickly-accessible reference tools that can be scanned for class work, explained fifth-graders Paige Akin and Avery Morris.
“If a student is absent, you could make a QR code and put it on their worksheet to show them examples of how to do their homework, and you can put them on calendars to remember homework,” Akin said.
“It’s basically a website,” Morris said. “If you scanned one in a horse magazine, it’ll probably take you to a website about horses. We found them on school supplies in our classroom; if you scan it, it takes you to that website.”
Guild students in Heather Hays’s reading class showed teachers how to use interactive Web 2.0 tools to enrich lessons for their students using examples of their own book report projects.
Rebecca Moore, 11, explained how she used Glogster, a graphic blog, to create an interactive multimedia poster about her favorite book “Fandango Stew,” a book she described as a “Western version of ‘Stone Soup.’”
“I made a video talking about the setting,” Moore said. “My favorite part was when they were all at a big party to eat the stew.”
With Voki, the students demonstrated how they make avatars complete with costumes and audio of their own voice to narrate. They use the avatars to then create commercials with the characters discussing plot, setting and the story’s climax with the goal of enticing readers to try the book they just read. Another app, Wordle, lets them create graphic word clouds using vocabulary from the book they’ve just read.
Quick learners The students are fearless when it comes to trying out new technologies for assignments, said Hays and Brooks.
“We don’t have iPads for every classroom, so I have to use whatever I can that’s on the internet. There are several educational apps out there that are interactive, free and easy,” Hays said. “If fifth-graders can do it, anybody can do it.”
Creating projects with iPads and using the interactive tools is a big hit with the students.
“I really like it because it helps me learn more and inspires me to do things. I actually went home and did some of them on my own,” said Tuesday Grenead.
Asked if it was difficult to learn how to use the tools, the students all shouted “No!” in unison.
“I thought it was cool to speak in front of people,” said Madison South, a fifth-grader at Guild.
The students are eager to use the tools at home, too.
“They can log in from home so she shows [her book report] to everyone who comes to the house,” said Jennifer Moore, mother of Rebecca Moore and an algebra teacher at Gallatin High School.
“It’s neat for me to see how, at this age, how technology literate students are becoming. It’s going to make my job that much easier when they get to [high school],” Jennifer Moore said.
Reporter Jennifer Easton can be reached at 575-7143 or firstname.lastname@example.org.