Julie A. Cunningham

Academic Advisor

Technicolor Dream Classroom

9 Comments

As educators, we dream a lot.  At least, I know I dream frequently about what things will look like in my future classroom. And I like my future dreams to be bright, brilliant and colorful.

If I were to create my dream classroom at this point in my educational development, it would highlight the following:

  • Regular parent communication & relationship development. I envision using group SMS messaging to share snips from the day as our class is discovering interesting things, a class blog with daily student generated video, audio or text sharing their learning to parents as well as a global audience,  and regular positive contact with parents via phone and email before there is ever a need to discuss discipline or performance issues. I feel strongly that is it my responsibility as the teacher to build the bridges between home and school.
  • Spaces designed for collaborative learning. I envision tables rather than desks, floor space for gathering, comfortable seating for readers, computers as a bank with space for 3 students to group around a large single screen. This includes the use of an online classroom, such as Edmodo, to share resources and differentiate instruction among students and provide parents a place to view student assignments.
  • Technology used regularly  for learning information as well as creating. In a perfect world, I want to teach in a 1-to-1 device classroom…. that would preferably be each student with an iPod Touch or iPad (to be used as a mini-computer, creation device, camera, Flip video, calculator, podcasting tool, literacy support, Edmodo app, etc.) and  a small bank of power desktops for intensive activities like video editing or group learning and construction of understanding. It’s essential that the device be a means of creation, not just a way to take in information.
  • Regular collaboration with partner teachers. This is so important to me.  I should probably place it first. I believe this needs to include some time to organically grow together and energize each other, not just deal with day to day logistical issues. I would like to see this other places- like a coffee shop, where we’re just sharing and learning, not performing in front of a building PD team.
  • Literacy instruction using the Daily 5 method. I would include student blogging as a working with writing choice on the menu, as well as the traditional options. Audio books and ebooks readily available via iPod touch. Creation using StoryRobe app, Storybird, Little Bird Tales, etc. as well as paper methods.
  • Math instruction using an adapted Daily 5 method. I think math could also be very effectively taught using this same principle of student choice.  I see options like : Working with manipulatives, Illustrating mathematical thinking, Drill using a computer program or app similar to FasttMath (until mastery), Games- both board games and selected computer games, Programming using Scratch, Real-life math skills centers (no-bake cooking), Mini-city creation (create city based on lot size, percentage of green space, height, width, area, perimeter, etc.) ((a la Pernille Ripp @4thgrdteach )) , and small group differentiated instruction.
  • Minimal to no homework. I really believe that homework negatively impacts families in the short period of time they are able to spend together. I do think students should be reading at home, but logging minutes creates a student attitude of ‘watch the clock’ rather than enjoyment of reading.  I would have students logging the book they are reading and the page they are on, rather than a specified set of minutes.  I have also found that providing a central space (blog) with engaging links, video, and content as well as an online classroom, creates a culture of extended learning as play. I’ve been amazed how many students spend free time at home further exploring a project we created in class. They need time to be creative and think. I am especially opposed to ‘parent homework’- projects that become a competition between parents rather than authentic student created work. Math practice can occur effectively within that Daily 5 model.
  • Quad blogging.  My students would be getting to know three other classrooms in different areas of the world in order to increase their global understanding.  We would learn with them by reading their class blogs and Skyping with them, and doing cross-cultural collaborative projects within Edmodo (online classroom). This meets so many standards and content areas, it’s hard to catalogue.  For example, my students this year have really learned about time zones, hemispheres, holidays, language differences, cultural differences, etc. through questions like “When can we Skype with our buddies in Australia?” Students had to learn the time zone difference, relate it to their time, and calculate when it would be possible to speak during our respective school days.  They created a list of questions, and were prepared to answer questions.  They answers some questions in blog posts.
  • Teaching concepts using the power of video.  The recent brain research shows that students retain 90% of what they are shown via video up to two weeks later…. Using Discovery Education, BrainPOP and YouTube, I would talk less, watch more, and ask questions based when the video ends. Better a 3 minute clip than a 15 minute whole group instruction opportunity, plus the video would be added to the class blog/online classroom for students to refer to from home or as they need a refresh.

Those are some of the more important things I would include in my ideal classroom , and also a large part of why I want to be in a single classroom, rather than a whole school technology situation like a Computer Lab.  It’s very difficult to build cross-classroom relationships when you are not in the traditional classroom setting- I do the best I can with my class blog right now, but the content we add is not as relevant as it should be. Also, every resource and application requires student account creation, which is time consuming an limiting with a larger group.

What would you include in your technicolor dream class? If you’re already in the classroom, are you still taking the time to dream?

[Note: Dreams can be a reality.  Take a look at how Kathleen Morris is running her Literacy Block…. be still my heart! We just need to keep dreaming, and work towards making those dreams a reality.]

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9 thoughts on “Technicolor Dream Classroom

  1. What an outstanding post. It’s too easy to get bogged down by struggle and disappointment of our district’s technology situation. I find myself forgetting to dream.

    This was a timely and powerful post. Thank you for you help in keeping the dream alive.

  2. Awesome, you have captured so much of what 21st century learning is all about. I love the student voice and choice, self directed, discovery learning approaches you refer to. Couldn’t agree more with your thoughts about homework, clocking minutes reading etc. All of that sucks the joy and sponteniety out of learning and makes it a chore rather than what it should be.

  3. Great post, Julie. You certainly describe the type of learning environment I would have appreciated as a student.

  4. Loved your post! When you know you are “there for the long haul”, with patience and persistance dreams can become a reality. I’ve been teaching at this school for 21 years. I got the English room, was able to turn it into a learning center and have recently got a new computer (though without Internet).
    Keep dreaming!

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  6. I think you know that I am right here with you. Dreams are important.