Sunday, April 24, 2016

Beyond "The Way We Have Always Done It"

Digilit Sunday

Today I am participating in Digital Learning Sunday with Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche.  This week Margaret has encouraged us to write about "form."  Although this is Poetry Month and many are thinking about poetry forms, I am thinking about "format" and the ways in which literacy can be presented.

The words "we've always done it that way" are words we as teachers hear and sometimes possibly even say.  There is something to be said about "tradition" and certain ways of doing things, but we also need to be open to the changing world of education through the use of technology.

Our school district has a research fair which is open to our 4th and 5th grade high ability students. The students research a topic, write bibliography cards and 50-60 notecards, create an outline, write a 7-9 page paper and give a 20 minute presentation.  What these students do at this age level is absolutely amazing. 

For years the students have used traditional presentation boards.  Many of the displays are quite extravagant, as you can see in this picture.  

The past few years it has been suggested to integrate more technology, but using technology brings with it a set of problems such as having the equipment, screens, and power sources.  Using technology has also been resisted by many because of those words, "we have always done it this way."

I was a research coach/facilitator for 6 years and for the last two years I have been a judge.  This entire experience is so valuable for our students.  Writing a research paper of this caliber gives these students an advantage and will be a benefit to them throughout their educational years.  But I am afraid if we don't find a way to use technology in this experience, the program will be eliminated.

This year's research fair was held Saturday, and one student bravely made the change in format.  She was the only one who did not have a presentation board. 

Instead, she had a screen as her backdrop and created a PowerPoint which included a video clip, as the visual to her presentation.  And it was magnificent.  (I even got to wear Harry Potter's sorting hat and drink butter beer!)  I was honored to be her judge and to see her raise the bar and set the new standard.

The research process has changed over the years with the use of the Internet and the access of information literally at our fingertips.  However, students still need to know how to thoroughly research a topic and synthesize that information into a well written paper. 

But because of technology, presenting the information has unlimited possibilities...if we are brave enough to think beyond "the way we have always done it."


  1. What a brave little soul! Technology does change the game for all of us. It helps with the research but to put it to work in the end product takes it to another level. Great stuff! Next year I'm thinking you'll have a few more like this one.

  2. That brave soul definitely raised the bar!! Her world is SO visual, so much more than words written on notecards as she explores her curiosities! And as teachers, we get to now work with these digital natives. What a fun ride it is going to be!!

  3. You are so right about the need to integrate technology into these research projects. I've been working on a project with some gifted 6th graders and have to say that the process of synthesizing information is hard. I question what we are doing prior to 6th grade that is making this almost painful to complete. I'm not sure if I'll write about it because I don't know the solution.

  4. This is the type of celebration that I love to read, Leigh Anne. Technology offers students so many possibilities of extending their world and researching different modes of presentation.