Tech Tool vs Learning Tool

Tonight's #edchat discussion on how we move from the idea of tech as a 'tech tool' to a 'learning tool' was one I've had numerous times over the past year.  It was the perfect conversation to end my day. Today my 1st and 2nd graders with whom I have been working over the year on higher order questioning and shared inquiry based around classic stories began recording their book reports in GarageBand.

We spent the last week writing them, filling out information such as the title and main characters as well as the plot and reflection questions.  This week we were to begin recording our book reports to share with each other.  Of course, in typical School District of Philadelphia fashion, we found out 1 minute before our reading group time that this would be our last meeting together. I moved forward with our plan anyway, even if just to give my students a chance to record their voices.

My students had never used GarageBand before, so I spent a few minutes showing them the basics of creating a podcast with the record button, play button as well as how to delete recordings and move them around.

Within minutes they were recording their voices. They started by reading off of their papers, but many of them began ad-libbing, describing the story in detail in their own words. A few of them decided to begin reading the story they chose, stopping to listen to themselves and starting over if they didn't think it was done well.

As you can imagine, there was quite a din with all of them recording at once.

Unfortunately, in the video above, I had a very impatient student calling my name! However, you can tell how focused and engaged the students are as they ignore all of the background noise.  Amazingly, some of them didn't mind.

A few complained about the background noise, so I pulled out some copy paper, remembering the trick that Samantha Morra shared in her Digital Storytelling session at Educon this year.  The students rolled up the copy paper to create a little tube, focusing their voice on the microphone.  This helped cut out a lot of the background noise in the classroom.

As I moved around the room observing and helping students, I was amazed at how engaged the students were in reading their projects and their stories. I could hear them reading with inflection, which I don't often hear them do when we read out loud. I heard them reading and re-reading whole paragraphs until they got it 'right.'


The project I had planned as a simple way for them to share their book reports had turned quickly into a project that helped them build reading fluency and verbal expression skills.

A specific dialogue during tonight's #edchat conversation with Rich Kiker and Rebecca Petersen got me thinking: Can I pick a tool to teach content with or should the content lead to the tool?

In this case, the content led to the tool. This is how I tend to approach technology integration in general. Plan the lesson and the learning goals first, choose the tech tool last. However, I hadn't considered how the tool might help my students learn in other ways. So in the future, could I plan a lesson around GarageBand with the goal of increasing reading fluency?  Or would I plan a lesson on fluency, including my learning goals, keeping in the back of my mind how GarageBand would serve as a great tool to teach this skill?

Or is this a case of the chicken and the egg?

In any case, it was a powerful experience for me and my students with huge potential for learning.


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