Edutopia's post, "The Balance of Screen Time," (September 23, 2013) raised some excellent points about students' use of technology. I believe there are two big questions: What do kids need to learn? What is the most effective way to facilitate this learning?
Too many times, parents and teachers (myself included) fall into the trap of using the latest and greatest technology because we can. Unfortunately in some cases, the engaging technology comes first, and the educational component can occasionally be an afterthought. That is one thing that I really appreciate about LPS. The focus here is truly on what the kids need to know and be able to do. The technology is just one tool to help us achieve that goal.
In my sixth grade LA classroom, the students just finished their Book Club unit. Throughout this unit, students participated in weekly Lit Circles to give them a chance to dig deeper into their novels. It was fascinating to watch these discussions get deeper and more advanced each week. During the last Lit Circle of the unit, I had the kids experiment with Cover It Live. The 8 person group in the middle held their weekly discussion as usual. The rest of the class observed and participated via computer. The kids who read the book were able to carry on a parallel discussion while the kids who hadn't read the book commented on the engagement of the participants and the high quality of their thinking. It took the Lit Circle experience to a whole new level!
Although I will always want the kids to have that face-to-face discussion time, I see the value in drawing in the rest of the class as well - both as observers and participants. Perhaps the most interesting part was when we debriefed at the end. The groups who had been observing shared what they noticed and admired about the discussion they had just seen. Then, they took that learning back to their own discussions and emulated those higher level skills. What a great day in LA!