Using Creativity and Technology to Deepen Learning: A Spotlight on Holmes Media Technology Specialist Lissa Blake
A kindergarten, first, or second grade classroom doesn’t look like it did 20 years ago. Teaching and learning has grown with a renewed focus on collaboration, group work, whole-child learning, and the purposeful use of technology. Maercker D60 brings this priority to the forefront with help of the amazing media and technology team serving our schools.
For Holmes Primary School, specialist Lissa Blake supports all teachers with how they use technology and collaborates to find ways to help students extend their learning, get them excited, and find new ways to express themselves. By working closely with classroom teachers, Blake can review curriculum and look for opportunities to take advantage of the district’s 1:1 devices and the class set of iPads to bring the subject matter to life.
Having been a part of the Holmes community for 20 years, Blake has seen a lot of change in how technology is used in the classroom and how much students already know.
“Kids today are really digital natives and know what they are doing with technology,” said Blake. “We use technology not just for them to watch videos or consume information, but to create using a variety of different tools. If they can record themselves or make a video, their learning can sink in deeper.”
Students spend a lot of time working in small groups, helping each other, and getting to be creative. Units often start with a story, whether it is reading or listening, and then taking their learning to the next level. First graders learned about animal life cycles and were able to create stop-motion animation videos with Play-Doh to actually show the cycle in action. Another example of a project is a non-fiction unit about animal habitats where second grade students were able to listen to biographies about different people who helped conserve habitats. Instead of just writing a report about their topic, students work on their retelling and acting skills to create green screen movies about the habitat and their subject.
Whether it is using Book Creator to create digital books to share their learning, or connecting with families via videos on Flipgrid and creating Google Slides presentations, students are digging deeper into their subjects. They can also collaborate with Pear Deck, a digital tool that allows students to participate together for classroom conversations and a great way to help personalize instruction. Second graders even got to use 3D printers to make keychains with their names in braille after learning about Helen Keller.
“We’re trying to make learning fun and the students are really in charge,” said Blake. “There is a strong purpose to using technology in the classroom and every day is different.”
The school year begins with library introductions, technology expectations, and device care instructions for students. Lessons are planned with a focus on using technology to help students be more expressive, collaborative, creative and use some critical thinking skills to share their learning. Prioritizing student safety, only approved educational sites are used and expectations are shared. Students are learning to use digital media properly, and to use care when researching or sharing online.
The district continues to promote and prioritize the 5Cs of learning for 21st Century learners, which are: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving, Communication, Collaboration, Citizenship (global and local), and Creativity and Innovation. Students can share their work with their parents at home via SeeSaw, a classroom-only form of communication similar to social media. Parents can comment on or send hearts to projects and images, and are able to have meaningful conversations about their child’s learning at the end of the day.
“We want learning to be fun, and at this age, books and technology can really harness that fun in a safe and engaging way,” said Blake. “Students are excited to work in small groups, be creative and be ‘tech-sperts’ helping each other learn. They love to learn about new technology and more ways to express themselves creatively.”