This week I chose to tap into a subject area that, for me, was never one of my strong points. The subject was often dry and taught primarily through lectures once I got to middle school. After elementary school, the only distinct memories I have from the subject are writing position papers and writing definitions in extreme detail. In elementary school I can remember being assigned multiple projects, which forced students to take a hands-on approach to understanding the subject material. I will never forget the tri-fold I created about the state of Georgia in 3rd grade or the permanent burn my mom now has on her hand from helping me hot glue the model together. What happened to that hands-on approach to Social Studies and History after elementary school, I will never know. The subject became completely unengaging. However, “the inclusion of technology may help make this subject more engaging, authentic, interactive, and relevant to the learners” (as cited in Schrum & Levin, 2009, p.71). The authors mention computer games like Carmen San Diego and SimsCity; both games that I loved to play as a child. I never thought of these games as educational; they were simply fun. I never played them in school and when I reflect on the reasons why I have to wonder how much of an effort my teachers put into finding out about our interests. Or was it because they were not familiar with these types of games? Did they think because they were “games” they were not educational? I think it would be interesting to interview a veteran teacher and get their perspective on the use of technology in the classroom.
As I was reading through the different ideas for integrating technology in Schrum & Levin’s chapter on “Other Technology Tools to Consider” I often caught myself thinking, “Wow, that would be so cool!” I was engaged with just reading about WebQuests and virtual field trips that I never knew existed. The most surprising thing to read was finding out that WebQuests originated in the mid-90s. It is now 2011 and this is the first time I have ever heard about a WebQuest. It is disappointing to find out these technologies were available to my elementary and middle school teachers and never implemented into lessons. Personally, if these digital tools were integrated into Social Studies lessons, I may have had a completely different opinion about the subject area.
Schrum and Levin again educate teachers on the ability to expand the classroom walls; a common theme that I think has been evident throughout all of our course readings on the needs of a 21st century classroom. We have also discussed the unfortunate budget cuts that have hit our school districts and are making it difficult to fund educational workshops on implementing technology. Yet, “the cost [of WebQuests] is only the time it takes teachers to locate and design a lesson plan and a trip guide for their students” and a computer (Schrum & Levin, 2009). This dedication of time can take a boring and ineffective lesson and make it an innovative, engaging, and significant lesson that asks students to critically analyze and develop higher order thinking skills. It would be quite the transformation and I think it is definitely something to highly consider! I know I will!
Happy Spring Everyone!