Punahou’s Summer Technology Lab

Today I attended two sessions of Punahou’s Technology Lab School.  This summer’s lab school theme is Creativity and Innovation covering such engaging topics as “Geotools in Education”, “Immersive Environments”, and “Creative Expression”.  The focus of these few days is on “Creative Expression”.  The first session presented by Punahou Spanish teacher, Jose Gigante, focused on ways to use online tools to spice up the classroom.  He shared a number of free applications, some more well known than others, such as:

  • Moodle – an easy to use course management system that serves as a “centralized learning center”
  • Twitter
  • Yammer – similar to Twitter but for users that have that same email server
  • Etherpad – web-based word processor, great for online collaboration
  • Voicethread – a very cool multi-media tool that allows for students/teachers to comment on video via text or audio
  • Slideshare – web-based application that allows users to view presentations regardless of whether they have the software (PowerPoint or Activinspire, etc.).  Able to embed a slideshare presentation into Moodle so students/teachers can watch the presentation without opening PowerPoint, etc. 

 Oh, and, Mr. Gigante used his iPhone to move through his presentation using a keynote application!  Very cool.  Mr. Gigante’s main message was that these are the kinds of tools that students use on a daily basis and that by integrating them within the classroom, student engagement naturally increases.  I also appreciated that he emphasized the need to embed such tools and resources within one platform (i.e. Moodle) to create a “centralized learning center”, enabling seamless and efficient use of technology.

Next up – Revision Baseball!  I attended an interesting presentation by Tedd Landgraf and Tom Earle (my 8th grade English teacher way back when) focusing on using a game format to engage students in the writing revision process.  Mr. Earle clearly stated a need or problem – helping students learn and refine the editing and revision process – and shared a very creative solution to address the need.  Basically, students learn and practice editing and revision skills by playing Revision Baseball.  The game kicks off with a student projecting her paper on the board and reading it aloud to her peers.  Then, students have three minutes to individually identify editing or revision issues.  One by one, students come up to bat and identify the error or weakness in the paper and provide an appropriate revision.  The empire (a.k.a.  Mr. Earle) awards a “single” for simple editing remarks such as a missing comma or misspelled word, a “double” for identifying sentence fragments or run-ons, a “triple” for more complex revisions such as weak thesis statements or inadequate evidence, and a “home run” for students that not only identify, for example, a weak thesis statement but provide a better, revised thesis statement. 

We saw from a video of the classroom that students are engaged and supportive of others, highlighting the collaborative nature of the game.  What I thought was so powerful was that students learn from each other – there is a natural transference of skills from student to student.  Students modeling how to revise a paper. 

Tedd concluded the presentation by pointing out that this approach can be successfully implemented in a low-tech classroom as well – a true sign of good, innovative pedagogy where the learning goals and process take precedence over the technology.