Research shows that one of the most important ingredients for engaging students is allowing them to create content for an authentic audience. One to one computer access opens up a world of possibilities for students to research, collaborate, create, and publish to the web for all to see.
My students are freshmen and sophomores attending a public school in Montana.
They are a diverse group including students coming from surrounding rural communities, the suburbs, and in town. As is true of many classrooms my students have a wide range of abilities, talents, and interests. Through class surveys I have consistently found that many of my students want the opportunity to do classwork that is authentic and meaningful.
Our school strives to provide all students with the opportunity to acquire knowledge, values, and skills that will help them be successful and contribute to a changing world. It provides opportunities to pursue interests in a wide range of clubs, sports, and trade related careers. We are blessed to be in an engaged and supportive community. However our school has somewhat limited access to technology, partially because the district has invested heavily in its teachers.
Computers are one of the most powerful learning tools available to students and teachers, and they change what is possible in the classroom.
Computers allow teachers to provide students with more feedback. With them it is possible to upload comments, videos, and resources specific to each standard in a place where students can access them any time. Computers can speed the grading process and give students instant feedback on how they are doing. They allow students to record evidence of and chart their progress over time, which according to research helps motivate students to work harder.
Computers allow students to become active learners who create rather than just consume material. They free students to investigate questions they are interested in. Students can create science blogs, podcasts, and webpages. They can collaborate online and comment on each others work. They can share what they do in class on web, and the world becomes their audience.
Student engagement is probably the most important ingredient in a classroom, and according to research students are more engaged when they have an authentic audience and real world problems.
Computers, while they are not a silver bullet, can help provide both of those. How many professionals today do their work without a computer? If we expect students to think that school is relevant, then schools should provide students with tools that they will use in their future careers.
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