Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wow! It Engages Teachers, Too!

Recently I was leading a professional development workshop in gifted education with teachers at a private school near my home. It was a group of about 25 educators who were from a variety of private schools and who taught a variety of subject areas and grade levels. We were working on the standard foundational training in gifted education required by law in Texas for teachers of gifted students and following the standards set by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, our state advocacy organization. (NAGC and CEC have also set standards for teachers of gifted students.)

The first activity I always do is a simple matching activity that asks participants to match "big names" in gifted education with a description of their contributions to the field. It is a wonderful pre-assessment for our day. It is exceedingly rare that participants correctly match more than two or three correctly. When it happens, I know I'll need to adjust my questioning and activities to accommodate the participant's needs. Usually, participants look at the paper, look at each other, and comment on how few they know. There are a few moments of nervous laughter as they discuss a few and try to guess, but often pages are left quite blank waiting for the answers to be given.

This time when the group began the activity, something different happened. They looked at the paper. They looked at each and talked about the few they knew. Then, they whipped out their cell phones. In every group, there were at least two people with digital devices who began seaching for answers. These are devices they carry with them, not devices I provided. As they found information, they read it aloud and the group discussed which answer fit the new information. As I observed the groups, every participant was engaged in the search for the answer. Even if they weren't on a device, they were discussing and debating the found information. My pre-assessment took on a life of it's own.

I've been working with teachers to embed technology tools in their classrooms. I've been telling them, and trying to show them, that technology tools engage students in a meaningful way. Turns out, it engages teachers, too!

Do you have a similar story about technology engaging students or teachers?