Was reading an excellent post called I Did Leave it Up to Them. This is someone after my own heart because this is precisely what I'm trying to do too. I knew this was going to be a great post; listen to this
I gave the students a choice of tools (i.e., iPod Touch, Nintendo DS, iPad, and Livescribe Pen), and they were able to use any of the tools in any way that they wanted, as long as they shared their learning with me.
I think this is so smart. Give them a number of tools that they know how to use and then let them decide on the best way of giving you back the information. I did this with our Mastodon Project but since it was so early in the year, we didn't have network resrouces working yet, so very few of them utilized technology options.
Aviva is a 1st grade teacher, so her post really is evidence for people who might be skeptical that young children can use technology. But probably the key to making this work is the modeling step she speaks about so well. It seems to me that it is a forgotten step quite often. You have to use the instructional tool so often in front of students that they get quite familiar with it. I know that I had to not only show how to use the temperature probes, but also them use them in several demos before I asked students to use them for their own investigations.
I experience this in the past couple of weeks in my own room. I wanted students to use probeware as an efficient means of data collection....which should free up time to help them focus on the analysis of what was happening. The first couple of weeks they struggled to see how the graphs and tables revealed any patterns....and now don't even notice that they're using a tool. They are focused on the science. Even when I didn't have laptops on which to use the software and had to transfer them to a different interface on a handheld device, they were still able to do the analysis.
I think both of us are focused on empowering students to find their voice and to communicate with us. Choice is a huge motivator and incorporating new technology tools with appropriate modeling makes it all possible. I love the idea of "Letting Them Choose".
On a completely different note:
Another huge idea that this post included was I've been thinking about reflection, too. And Aviva speaks about using smaller size paper to get students to write more. I've done this when we read.....students are very resistant to reader logs in science class. But they're totally content with creating mini-summaries and WOW facts (thanks Stephanie Harvey for this great idea). Aviva read about it from Zoe Branigan-Pipe wrote how to improve audio feedback for her students who were writing their first lesson plans...she used sticky notes to amp it up.
Don't you just love how all good teaching circles around and around?