Van Buren Elementary, Thompson’s “best-kept secret” Nichole Schlagel – principal, gets creative with limited technology resources. They leverage limited resources, clever instructional design, and team work to help students be innovative thinkers and content creators.
Without technology, 5th grade teacher Steve Rauer’s students would be slogging through a long, drawn-out 2-digit division unit. Keeping students engaged, and thinking at deeper levels, is important to Rauer. Last week he designed a “Long Division Scavenger Hunt” that kept them motivated. This week he’s integrating technology to help elevate the depth of knowledge they’re accessing.
“I wanted to increase the DOK students use in their thinking from level 1 where they just practice a skill, to level 4 where they actually teach it. Plus, it needed a little ‘spicing up'” Rauer shared, continually scanning the work space for students needing help. The assignment on this chilly Monday in January was to create an instructional tool other kids could use to learn algorithm steps for 2-digit division. Rauer encouraged them to “think outside the box” and offered a variety of methods to complete the assignment: create a magazine article, record an instructional video (after viewing several models), etc.
Students, most of whom chose to record either a screencast or an instructional video to make a teaching tool, began to work in teams. Rauer had iPads ready and loaded with tools students might need. Van Buren shares technology across grade levels so today students had a 2:1 ratio, 2 students for every 1 device. This helped encourage collaboration. When they ran out of whiteboard space to record solving math problems, he offered up his promethean board to a team who wanted to learn a new screencast tool.
Observing students was a special privilege. More than some of them being my own former students, and more than the 100% student engagement in what might otherwise be tedious practice, the true inspiration was one student’s comment: “I like recording myself. I’m better at technology than math.” Technology was helping make math more accessible to a child who might resist the learning without it.
What stood out in Rauer’s instructional design was the collaboration and innovation students jumped into. They sought new tools to solve everyday problems, and in the process personalized their own learning journeys. Van Buren truly is one of Thompson School Districts best-kept secrets!
By Jeannie Sponheim