Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Google Just Right for Constructivist Tech Lessons

How many of you have been aware that Google has a contest every year that lets students compete to make a doodle for the Google logo?  The contest Doodle for Google always has a theme (something in relationship to helping) and is open to any student, whether home schooled, private or public.  This year Google added an educator's page, (you can find the link on the home page for Doodle for Google, and of course you can Google it) which includes videos of the Google doodle team talking about what this kind of creativity is all about, and videos of the team talking with classrooms who are making their own Google doodle, and even lesson plans for teachers to do a unit on D4G, broken down into three lessons, for four different age groups: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12.  As an elementary tech coordinator who also teacher K-5 classes in a computer lab these lessons really hit the sweet spot for me.  First I don't teach typing or skill/drill in my lab.  I know there's a place for it but with only 50 minutes a week with them, and that usually only for half the year, teaching them the joy of using tech to explore and discover, to empower their learning experience, to construct their understanding is my priority.  We hardly ever play games (even problem solving ones) in the computer lab, except when we create them ourselves using a coding program like Scratch or MicroWorlds, but I still want my students to come out of class saying, "that was fun."  And the lessons from Google really seem to be on that constructivist tract that I believe is paramount to making tech learning engaging.  I particularly liked two parts of two of the lessons, ones that I could apply to more than just the D4G unit.  The first was about getting students thinking about what inventing / creating, coming up with ideas to invent something.  What I loved about this idea was how it showed that sometimes simple ideas can be great.  Often students are dismayed when they have to complete something that seems overwhelming to them, but when I say I invented something that will make the world a better place, healing people, staying off infection, making them feel better, and then I hold up a bandaid, explaining how it was invented, I almost always see that light go on, with students creativity being unleashed.  Other part of one of the lessons I am using is about how students can help each other refine what they've created.  Using the acronym TAG, standing for Tell them something you like, Ask them something about, and Give them a suggestion, students can help each other edit their work.  Since having come across this and using it in the D4G unit, I have found most students respond really well to "TAGing" their friends for almost any work they are producing in the computer lab.  Since so much of what we do in the lab involves them being creative / constructing something, the TAG moment really helps to take their work to the next level. 

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