Teaching ELA in a computer lab is a dream come true but I feel that I must use these resources often. I inadvertently learned an important lesson from my daughter. Last summer I came across an idea to have the students make a faux Facebook page to share what they know about a particular character from literature. Derrick Waddell was even kind enough to make and share a template on Google Docs. While visualizing how students could use Creative Commons photos to make their characters come alive, I demonstrated how to use the template. I pushed to the back of my mind how difficult it was to highlight the text box and input information and how limited the information that could be shared was. I had a new tool and I was going to use it!
The students had an equal if not more challenging time using the template. They spent too much time locating pictures. The information for the characters was concise, impersonal, or generic. I was disappointed.
A few weeks later, my daughter, who teaches the same subject at my school, decided to do the activity and asked for the template. Since she has limited access to computers, I found an MS Word template and emailed that to her. She ran it off, modeled. and met me at busses with some of the results. They were wonderful!!! With pencil and crayon, her students spent their time thoughtfully deciding what their character’s liked, who their “friends” would be, and what their “friends” would post on the character’s wall.
While delighted for her, I realized what an utter failure my lesson had been. Why? Because I used technology when something less complicated would have been better. Since then I have reflected and decided to ask myself a couple of questions before I plan.
- Why am I using the computers?
- Does the effort equal the result?
- Is there a simpler way to yield the results?
With these guiding questions I can then plan more successful instruction. Now what to do about Myfakewall??????
*A disclaimer – I am no expert on Google Docs and my experience using templates may be unique. I am in no way dissuading others from trying this method