Friday, April 2, 2010

Innovative Ways to Engage Learners with Cell Phones Using Research-Based Strategies are a variety of free and easy ways to enrich instruction and engage learners using cell phones, but because the idea of using a cell phone as a learning rather than a social tool is so new, teachers often need justification to support incorporating such tools into the classroom. Sharing ways cell phones can be used to enrich instruction and engage learners using research-based instructional strategies is a great way to convince administration, parents and guardians that incorporating cell phones into instruction makes sense. The book Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert Marzano, Debra Pickering, and Jane Pollock outlines nine instructional strategies that are most likely to improve student achievement across all content areas and across all grade levels. The strategies are:

1. Identifying similarities and differences
2. Summarizing and note taking
3. Reinforcing effort and providing recognition
4. Homework and practice
5. Nonlinguistic representations
6. Cooperative learning
7. Setting objectives and providing feedback
8. Generating and testing hypotheses
9. Cues, questions, and advance organizers

In this first of a series of posts focused on each strategy you will be introduced to some ways cell phones can enrich instruction and engage learners in the first strategy.

Innovative Classroom Practices Using Cell Phones to Identify Similarities and Differences
Looking at the similar and dissimilar characteristics of a concept or idea enhances a students understanding of and ability to use knowledge. Teachers can directly present similarities and differences, accompanied by deep discussion and inquiry, or ask students to identify similarities and differences on their own. Teacher-directed activities focus on identifying specific items. Student-directed activities encourage variation and broaden understanding. Graphic organizers provide one good way to represent similarities and differences but don't easily lend themselves to enhancement with cell phones. Here are some ideas for ways that strategies to identify similarities and differences can be enriched with cell phones.

  • Comparing: Teacher-directed example
    In teacher-directed comparing the teacher identifies for students the items they are to compare and the characteristics on which they are to base the comparison. This provides focus for the type of conclusions students will reach.
    • Subject: Social Studies
    • Topic: Women in History
    • Lesson Overview: The social studies teacher will increase students understanding in women's role in history with a study of women in politics such as Shirley Shirley Chisholm, Geraldine Ferraro, Condelisa Rice,and Hilary Clinton. The teacher will share a video documentary to give students a common platform of knowledge and information about these historical figures. The teacher will ask students to take notice of the similarities and differences between each politician on characteristics such as background, major responsibilities, and notable achievements. Students will be asked to review their notes and use Poll Everywhere to select one reflection to text about each characteristic to each of the three polls set up. One for background, another for major responsibilties and the third for notable achievements. The teacher will demonstrate a model for each characteristic in class. When the students come together the next day, the teacher will project responses for students to review and then discuss what the reflections mean.
    • How technology enriches the lesson:
      • Students can get to the thinking faster because class time is not spent on calling on select students to read heir answers. All answers are already collected before class begins and class time can move to the making of meaning.
      • All student voices are heard. This gives every student an opportunity to contribute and participate as every student's input is collected.
      • Teachers can know in advance if students have grasped the key concepts and relevant points and adjust instruction accordingly before, not after the lesson since feedback is collected before class begins.

  • Comparing: Student-directed example
    In student-directed comparing the students identifies the items they are to compare and/or the characteristics on which they are to base the comparison.
    • Subject: Literacy
    • Topic: Elements of literature
    • Lesson Overview: Students are engaged in a unit of study the major elements of literature (i.e. universal theme, point of view). Students are asked to select two stories they've read in the selected genre and to compare them on the literary elements. Students will describe what they learned about the stories' literary characteristics using The teacher will create a page on her website or wiki where student work will be shared. Each student will create a Voki that provides a verbal telling of the literary elements of their story. Once the Voki's are all placed all the page a site is now set up for all class members to learn from one another by clicking on the various Vokis. Students and families should be encouraged to listen to multiple Vokis and even comment back.
    • How technology enriches the lesson:
      • All student work is published so that it is shared with other students in the class as well as families. As a result students can learn from each other.
      • The Voki format promotes conversation. Students can listen to their classmates and provide thoughtful responses on the topics of interest to them.
      • Creating a class Voki page is an excellent way to bring student's families into the conversation and a great way to encourage their participation.

  • Classifying: Teacher-directed
    In teacher-directed classifying students are given the elements to classify and categories into which elements should be classified. The focus ins on uderstanding why items belong in the categories in which they are placed.
    • Subject: Physical Education
    • Topic: Knowledge of Sports
    • Lesson Overview: Students watch the olympics and asked to classify various events in categories of those that require mainly strength, those that require mainly precision and accuracy and those that require about an equal amount of each. In class students describe how they categorized events and defend why they put them in specific categories. The teacher will set up polls on Polleverywhere listing all the Olympic sports allowing students to text one of the three answers: strength, agility, strength and agility. As students watch each sport and record their answers, the poll is instantly tabulated graphically for class review. The charts can be embedded into a webpage or wiki and ready for class discussion.
    • How technology enriches the lesson:
      • Student responses are not collected in isolation. They become part of the collective whole. Once a student responds they can see how their answer compared with the answer of others and the entire class response can be seen instantly upon arrival to class.
      • All graphs can be shared on one wiki or web page making an easy-to-understand visual representation of results.
      • Discussions can be richer when a collective intelligence is shared, rather than "just" one student's opinion.
      • Narratives, collaborative Google documents, or the recorded discussion of each item can be shared on the web page or wiki to give life to each poll.
Cell phones are powerful tools to enrich learning for students identifying similarities and differences. Stay tuned for my next post focusing on how cell phoes can support students in the research-based strategy of summarizing and note taking.

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