February 2nd, 2009 Posted in Assessment and Learning, Expression, Liam O'Marah, Your Stories
To coincide with the Activexpression feature currently on Planet, I took time out to catch up with an Activexpression enthusiast, Lynne Harvey, a fourth grade teacher from Monterey Ridge Elementary School in San Diegeo, California.
Lynne’s blog article is a true testament to her desire to involve all her pupils in her lessons, all of the time, and to positively embrace new technology, whilst inspiring others.
Here’s Lynne’s story:
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” ~ Authur C. Clarke
I recognized the “magic” the first time I saw an Activboard and an Activexpression Learner Response System in action, and I didn’t need a sales pitch to convince me I wanted, and needed, to add them to my instructional tool bag. Watching a demonstration of the equipment at a technology expo in my school district about two years ago, I immediately realized their combined capabilities were nothing short of, as Arthur Clarke describes, ‘magic.’
Of course, acquiring this new magic wasn’t easy. Activboards were just hitting the market in California and my district had only a handful that were installed and being used in classrooms, and they were mostly at the secondary level. With the help of a grant I was able to convince my district’s IT department that my elementary school site needed to pilot this new ‘advanced technology.’ The response systems, then Activotes, were put on the back burner.
Waiting on the Learner Response Systems was the right decision because a short four months later, Activexpression was released. It took some doing, but I was able to find the funding, and was one of the first of two teachers, out of over 1,000 in my district, to get them in to my students’ hands. Teaching and learning in my classroom and across the school has not been the same since!
The dictionary defines Promethean as: daringly original; boldly inventive or creative, inspiring. If you have used any of the Promethean products, you will probably agree - I know I do. The Activboard alone changed my entire approach to instruction. The mundane became exciting and the typical lesson was transformed into a mesmerizing tool for learning. The magical Activexpressions added yet another flare that helped engage and inspire the teaching and learning of my ‘digital natives’ - as today’s students are often referred to.
The generation of students we are all now working with are growing up knowing nothing but the fast paced, constantly changing information age and need an engaging curriculum to develop their skills and knowledge base while motivating and retaining their attention and interest. The Activboard and Activexpressions provide well designed tools to accomplish this, and more
First and foremost, using Activexpressions to respond to questions or exercises gives every child a voice. There is no longer the question of only calling on the select few that have their hand in the air; or having shy students sitting back and not participating; or unmotivated students letting others around them do the work. Every student responds and wants to be engaged and involved!
Since the units look like a cross between a calculator and a cell phone they attract students’ attention and curiosity immediately. From the first day of this school year when my students saw the Activexpressions they wanted to use them for everything. After one or two exposures to what the various buttons did the students caught on very quickly to the how to’s of operating them and have become very adept at using the devices.
“Are we using the Activexpressions today?” is how I am greeted practically every morning. The students don’t care if it is an exercise, quiz, test, opinion gatherer, or discussion generator, so long as the Activexpressions are included at some point during the day.
Having five different modes for students to respond allows for a wide variety of uses and more open-ended questioning. Some of the ways I’ve utilized the Activexpressions are:
- Beginning a unit of study to see what background knowledge the students have. This can be done with a range of agree-to-disagree on a Likert Scale, or a series of True / False questions about the topic.
- Gathering opinions about a topic before it is studied, then returning at the end of the unit to see if opinions have changed after instruction and in-depth discussion has been valuable to both the students and myself.
Checking for understanding as we are moving through a unit. Asking several objective questions about the main concepts with the True / False or Multiple Choice options.
- True / False and/or Multiple Choice modes can naturally be used at the end of a lesson or unit to measure the retention of skills or knowledge as well. The feature that allows you to save the responses to a spreadsheet allows for instant grading too - a huge time saver.
- A game-like format flipchart to review for a test is always a popular way to study.
- Texting a response gives every student the chance to be included, then sorting or graphing the responses allows everyone to see trends in thinking. I have found that one word or short phrase texts work better than sentences.
- For anything with numbers, there is the numeric response - calculations, math equations, problem solving. For a non-standard math problem it is affirming for the students to categorize all the responses that come to the board, showing the variety of thinking and strategies being used by students.
- Back-To-School Night in the fall - my entire presentation was done on the Activboard. At the conclusion I had a ‘quiz’ for the parents to participate in so they could use the Activexpressions and see what their students would have access to. The parents all wanted to return to fourth grade the next day.
All this has happened in one short year. This month, 21 new Activboards are being installed on my campus. This occurred because of the interest teachers generated seeing my Activboard in action. I am now training those teachers how to use the software and create engaging flipcharts. Several sets of Activexpressions are also on their way. These ‘magical tools’ have created a cultural shift in how teaching and learning is bring approached on my campus.
As Stewart Brand writes: “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” I am thrilled that the magic of Promethean technology has arrived on my campus.
Lynne Harvey, Fourth Grade Teacher
Monterey Ridge Elementary
Poway Unified School District
San Diego, CA., USA
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