Brookline High has always been about giving students core competencies, and the new 21st century core competencies include digital and technology literacy. The ways that we learn are changing every day in terms of our new definitions of knowledge, our new modes of accessing that knowledge, and the new global audience to which we all now have access. BHS faculty have been actively exploring and experimenting with how to enhance student learning by using the new tools available to us. To support faculty learning this year, I have committed resources to support professional development focused on instructional technology and digital tools in the classroom.
BHS teachers are using the digital world to support and enhance learning in ways simple and complex. Here are a few examples:
- Sustained silent reading on any digital device allowed in an English class.
- Smartphones used in a printmaking class – all students viewing the same design website for examples and inspiration.
- Many science teachers use the GoodNotes application on the iPad for note taking during class, which is projected onto the board. The notes are saved and posted on Canvas or a teacher website for future reference by absent students and learning center.
- Google docs for writing submissions.
- Canvas (our learning platform) used for online discussion and for peer feedback.
- Playing Free Rice, an online vocabulary site that donates grains of rice to hungry people for every answer students get right.
- Studying for vocabulary quizzes on the application Quizlet where an English teacher posted words for students to grapple with.
- Science teachers teaching the use of Excel to make graphs and manipulate data.
- Trying out GPS applications from UMASS Lowell for motion tracking.
- Spanish students exploring the city of Madrid using Google's interactive maps.
- Students trying out the iPad to read via iBooks or the Kindle app to take advantage of dictionary and notetaking features.
- History teachers exploring a new reading app called “Subtext,” which allows a teacher and class together to read, annotate, and discuss online text resources including digitally-available books and news articles, web articles, websites, blog posts, documents.
- And one history teacher reports the results of using a class set of Chromebooks, which were donated by the PTO this year. (Thank you PTO!) She reports that: “The results are astounding! Our students are showing huge leaps in their tech literacy. They are learning to troubleshoot tech issues in real time so that we can help them learn how to deal with any issues that come up. The sophomore and junior classes haven't used a sheet of paper in a month. Yesterday, our entire junior class worked on one Google Doc evaluating (in real time) student thesis statements. That could NEVER have happened on paper. In our classes, the student binder is actually an online Google folder that can never be lost. Students also enjoy access to their teacher's online Google folder to reference when they are absent or may have missed notes in class.”
There are many more examples that I’ll share in a future blog. Of course our use of digital tools and learning is a complement to our face-to-face instruction that still includes old-fashioned, treasured books! In fact, the senior seminar I co-facilitate on Friday mornings recently read David Gergen’s Eyewitness to Power to launch our discussion about presidential politics. We occasionally Google for an answer to a fact we don’t know, but the course is a wonderfully traditional seminar discussion. Our goal at BHS as teachers is to blend the traditional and the new digital in ways that work for us and our students.