By Francisco Alderete, Academic Technology Coach
“Student expectations are the same for all. There is no sit and get. Students are taking ownership of their learning.” These words are evident in Mr. David Romero’s fifth grade classroom at Michael Elementary. Students in Mr. Romero’s classroom are finding their learning is taking on a different more meaningful trek in the real-world use of technology. And, according to them, it’s engaging.
Students in Mr. Romero’s classroom come from diverse learning backgrounds. Like some Northside classrooms, the mix of students includes those receiving Special Education services. In this case, Ms. Kathy Miller is the collaborative Special Education teacher who provides support to those students.
In their most current Google Classroom assignment, students are handling the mastery of Science TEKS and KUDs and in the process will create webpages to express their learning. Along the way, Mr. Romero is using Google Classroom and Google Apps like Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings (GAFE) to scaffold the learning for students.
“I see the use of technology as an equalizer in the classroom. All students can have access. I can provide use of JAR cart laptops or student mobile devices. I can book the TIP Lab as needed. Most of my students - about 21 of the 24 - have access to technology at home. For those that don’t, I ensure they get their share here at school.” Mr. Romero explains further, “The technology also allows for me to meet the instructional modifications in individualized education plans. Those that need reading assistance - students with dyslexia or those with low IQs and reading ability - can get it with Chrome extensions. Those with dysgraphia can use Spell Check. The use of technology itself is engaging, so these students rise to the academic challenge just because they are in front of a computer screen.”
The work they are doing is meaningful. Students are studying forms of energy and their uses in our everyday life. They are understanding systems and making connections across systems. They are researching alternative sources of energy for the purpose of making their community a better place to live. Students will understand that energy moves through a system and that this transfer of energy, often times, results in transfer of heat and/or light. In other words, these students are doing and learning science. The end goal is not the Google Site they will create. Instead, respectful, authentic tasks which tie back to student interests, grounded in solid learning objectives (TEKS and KUDs), and facilitated by educators who care about the needs of their diverse students - all these are components of quality teaching.
Throughout the period, students in Mr. Romero’s class, gather in their collaborative groups with each taking their turn at leading academic talk about how to best complete the tasks which will get them to the end of this science unit of study. All the while, Mr. Romero and Ms. Miller, float from one grouping to another facilitating that learning. Where will they go from here? Surely to bigger and better things. How do I know?
The guide-on-the-side philosophy Mr. Romero practices is focused on student success. It is summed up in a favorite quote,"Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose!” by Coach Eric Taylor - Friday Night Lights. Mr. Romero say it can best be taken to mean, “Do it with focus, with all of your heart, so you can't lose.” Google Classroom and GAFE is one way Mr. Romero provides students with that focus while meeting the needs of each student and expecting each student to own their learning.