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."