You know the old idiom, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” In educational circles, this happens so frequently that it’s easy to lose sight of what is still relevant. We all know that as educators we need to keep changing to grow and there are outdated mindsets that are not productive in today’s schools. We also know that our students deserve access to opportunities to apply updated literacies and a shift in how we engage students. What we can’t forget is the wisdom of the amazing educators who came before us and developed meaningful lessons 10, 15, even 20+ years ago. The essence of those lessons and classroom management techniques are still valuable, so rebooting the classics with an updated twist is a way to keep the ‘baby’ when we change the ‘bathwater’.
Reboot: Sharing Student Work
Take sharing student work for starters. Teachers have long known that students need opportunities to share their work both as an incentive to create a quality project as well as an opportunity to develop presentation skills. The essence of those goals is still valuable, but do we really need to dedicate an hour or more of class time for students to stand in front of the room to present their projects one by one? Our students will be citizens of a world that will not require passive listening skills. Today’s classrooms have more options that will give students the same opportunities with the extra benefit of skills they will need for their futures. An option for rebooting this classic is to have students use the free online tool FlipGrid to record their presentations, then comment on their classmates’. If there are enough devices, every student can share, respond, and be active learners at the same time. The incentive for quality is still present, with the additional component of creating with technology, practicing respectful and responsible Digital Citizenship, while producing a digital artifact that could be easily shared with parents or global partners, curated in a digital portfolio, and used for assessment.
Reboot: Name Sticks
What about the tried and true method of using craft sticks to choose student names for random groupings? The objective is for teachers to be able to fairly select students in a random manner. This simple goal is still relevant in today’s classroom, but could be rebooted with contemporary flair. One example is for teachers to create a digital Random Name Picker with Flippity. Once it is set up, it can be used over and over again without the risk of a misplaced or lost craft stick. This is also an opportunity for teachers to model creative and positive uses for technology. Or if you have the resources, why not take it one step further and have students create their own name sticks with Tinkercad, then 3D print them for use in the classroom? Students feel a sense of ownership and purpose by creating their own name sticks while learning a valuable skill that can be put to use with other 3D printing projects throughout their academic careers and beyond.
Reboot: Classroom Discussions
Consider this as more food for thought; evaluate how classroom discussions are conducted. Giving every student an opportunity to ask questions, share ideas, and learn new concepts is still as relevant today as it has always been. Teachers continue to play an important role in shaping ideas and dispelling misconceptions. However, there are many ways to increase student participation while giving even the quietest students a platform for expressing ideas. For example, take a look at Pear Deck as a way to keep classroom discussions interactive while students engage in active learning strategies. Or create a backchannel during discussions with tools like Google Classroom or Padlet that can capture student ideas and thinking to allow for formative assessment to inform instruction. Students don’t have devices? Consider encouraging 100% student participation in a teacher-led discussion with the tool Plickers. This allows teachers to quickly poll for understanding as well as conduct real-time surveys of student opinions.
I challenge you as educators to take a look at your current practices. Is there one thing that you could reboot? Don’t throw it all away, but take a moment to target something that could make a difference in your classroom. You can keep the original wisdom and intent while increasing the relevance to today’s learners. Their futures depend on it.