Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Fun Teachable Moment Today

I had the pleasure of visiting a school near here today to see the kinds of activities that the teachers and students were doing with technology. One of those classes was being taught by a third year teacher. He is the Special Education teacher there, and he's been using the various technology tools in some powerful ways with his students. They have a moodle class set up, and when they're in the lab they're totally focused on the tasks at hand. It was something to see.

But that's not the story.

They were studying water pollution and I sat down beside a senior boy and  asked him to show me what he was doing. He was fine with that, and he showed me the moodle class and "... all the stuff we can do in there." When I saw the title of the chapter they were in, I mentioned that I had seen a picture recently about the world's most polluted river. As I was talking about it, he opened a new tab and googled, "worlds most polluted waterways." He then clicked on the images link at the top. I hadn't suggested it; he did it on his own. As he did, I wondered, "How many times would he have done that in class if he had the opportunity to explore the ideas the interested him?"

The first image he found was this one: http://seawayblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/manilas-floating-rubbish-dump.html and the other images on that page. Then he found this one: http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread576911/pg1(the second image on the page). He sat there and stared in silence at that picture for a good while before saying, "That's just awful! How can they live like that?"

Indeed.

But, I really have a feeling that this little bit of self-guided exploration did more to bring home the idea of why pollution is an important topic than ANY Study Island lesson could possibly have done alone. As I got up to leave he was still going through the images. I said, "THAT'S why we study the topic of water pollution."

Oh how I wish kids could have more time for that sort of thing. When you hear about something that sparks some interest, check it out. Look at images. Post to a discussion forum. Share those images with the rest of the class. Talk about it. If we'd had time I would have shown him the two poptech videos I had mentioned in a previous blog post. I had his attention and his interest. That's the time to provide more.

Anyway, just a thought about the difference a computer in front of a student can make.

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