Presenting the Total PACKage
As I have mentioned before, my school (which has 725 students in 6-12th grades) is not capable of providing the experiences that I feel would cause students to gain a deeper understanding of the various content that our teachers teach. We cannot afford field trips; the only dissections we do at the school are on worms, and that only happens because the teacher voluntarily uses their own money to purchase supplies.
While the students do have access to Chromebooks and we have building wide Wifi that is capable of carrying all the bandwidth that we want, the two-dimensional nature of the devices do not accomplish what I am hoping for. Our students vary from world travelers to students that have never been outside of Person County, and I am hoping to find a way to take them around the world without leaving their seats. Our students run the gamut from academically gifted to learning difficulties. This tool would meet the needs of both groups. It would provide ease of access to information that is sometimes more difficult for students with reading difficulties to access. Additionally, it will open up a world of opportunity for our academically gifted students to become more aware of the world around them and spark interest that can lead to further exploration.
The area of content is somewhat complicated for my setting. If I were still an Ancient History teacher, I would say that students have a dramatic issue with connecting the role of geography to human events. For instance, why has the area that Israel currently resides on been a battle field continuously throughout history? Additionally, students are unable to truly grasp how landforms determine a wide array of decisions that a group of people makes.
In general, however, I would say that what I really want students to learn is the ability to connect what the teacher says with something they see and experience so that they can deepen understanding and ask well-informed questions.
In researching these issues (and failing a humongous travel budget for the school), I came across these. I first experienced Google Cardboard at church when one of my friends told me about a video that he watched using it that felt like “he was right in the middle of the action.” This is an example of a video that could be used in a science class. You can find a variety of teacher guided field trips here. Regardless of whether we utilize an immersive three-dimensional video that students can use to “be there” or if it is a teacher directed field trip using Google Expeditions, students will gain a deeper understanding of the topic at hand. This is the most economically savvy, long-term solution for our teachers to essentially take their students to places that were previously impossible for them to explore. While it is possible to cobble together the different pieces to make a kit that is less expensive, these kits are designed to work seamlessly and would be more readily accessible to teachers and students without the extra hurdle to make it work.
There are elements of various theories that one can bring to bear when attempting to foster a desire for deeper understanding. The first that comes to mind is Aesthetic education. The thought behind this is that the students will have an opportunity to see how beautiful science (and history) can be, which will foster a desire to learn more. Additionally, a key to educational success is finding ways to motivate students to want to learn rather than be compelled to learn. I believe that the technology that I have chosen will have an innate ability to almost literally draw students in without the need for extrinsic motivation. Additionally, one cannot underestimate the role of attention in the educational setting. If an instructor can provide a learning experience that captures the attention of a student, the student’s ability to learn will be enhanced. With that said, the aspect of this that stands out as the most significant is the opportunity for Experiential learning. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory posits a cycle of four elements. These are Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization, and Active Experimentation. In order for this to truly work, the students need to do more than just put on the headset and look about. It is vital that students engage verbally, as well as in writing in regards to their experience. They should actively reflect on what they see and attempt to conceptualize those observations with what they have previously learned in order to push forward to gain a deeper understanding. Perhaps, the use of this tool may even lead to experimentation to learn more.
- The Total PACKage:
Now that we have looked at the individual elements, let’s look at them collectively. Is the technology tool integral to successfully accomplishing my desired outcome (deeper understanding of the connections between various elements in whichever curriculum that is being addressed)? As stated above, if you insert videos instead, students will not gain what they need to truly feel and see what it is like. There is no experience. Are there some things that can be done without this technology and still have a meaningful impact? I would say yes, but I would also say that there are other concepts (the Great Wall for example). There is no picture or video that can replace the feeling of looking out at the Great Wall and being able to turn around to see it extending toward the horizon in both directions.
The tool will allow students to draw conclusions based off of what they see rather than simply hear a story or a lecture. They will be able to observe lions in their natural habitat while looking around and being in their midst. They’ll be able to determine how various creatures work together in underwater colonies rather than see a diagram in a book.
While it is possible that students preconceptions will alter their perceptions of what they see and experience, the dialogue that will take place as students talk through what they have learned and what they believe will be an opportunity to suss out those misconceptions.
While this particular outcome and tool to reach it focuses primarily on two of Dewey’s impulses (inquiry and communication), the lesson(s) could be adapted to allow for expression (represent your understanding with an artistic outlet) and construction (create a representation that you can use to explain your understanding of the big idea). This would also open up an opportunity for students to show their understanding (knowing) in a multitude of ways rather than just verbally (whether out loud or in writing).
In short, when I take the context of my school (economically challenged and in a rural setting), the desire to help students to seek out understanding rather than just be told, the need for students to be engaged, my concept of the importance of the Experiential mode of learning, and the technological tools available, I have come to the conclusion that this tool is the best way to accomplish the goals that I have set out in my context.
This is the third of five parts, which are Part I: Brief project description, Part II: Outline the transformation you would like to see in your teaching and your students’ learning, Part III: Presenting the Total PACKage, Part IV: Evaluation, and Part V: How does your project connect with other key issues in educational technology? If you prefer, you can view the project all on one page here.