Being part of a 1:1 device pilot in my classroom this year has been challenging and a lot of work, but I have loved every minute of it. I’m fluent in educational technology, so I have been able to access wonderful tools to assist with learning, and feel that I have effectively used the classroom time to support learning rather than detracting from it, (good thing, right?!) But when you’re in the middle of something, it’s hard to see the impact. Until today…..
For the last 5 years, a good friend and amazing scientist/engineer, Larry Bartoszek of Bartoszek Engineering, comes to talk to my kids about space and all things galactic, the things that we study in 5th grade. I’ve watched the kids respond to him in the same kinds of ways over the years. There are some questions that come from what I’ve taught, a few stray comments and questions, and some dead space where I’m sure the kids are having trouble keeping up.
This year, using our 1:1 devices, things changed. During the unit, when kids were interested in something specific, or had a question that wasn’t answered in the text, they were able to research things on their own right at the time of interest. Not when they got home, or when we had time in the computer lab. At the end of the unit, I asked them to identify something they wanted to learn more about and research it independently and write a blog post. I had second thoughts when I saw they types of texts they were trying to read online. They seemed way over their head, geared toward scientists, or at the least high school or college level. I let them finish since they were engaged, and then we moved on to Social Studies and I forgot about it. Two weeks later, my friend Larry came to give his annual space talk. I could not believe the difference! The questions and comments were incredible! Their understanding of our galaxy was dramatically different than years past. Their questions showed deeper understanding than ever before.
I wish I had thought to write them down, but here are a couple questions that I remember. What exactly is a Quasar? Is Antares the biggest star we know about in our galaxy? How close will Pluto be to the sun when it becomes a Red Giant? Would Mars be the same temperature as the Earth is now and support life at that point? Can a black hole be destroyed?
When Larry asked about a soon to pass by asteroid, many knew the name and the size. When he talked about nuclear fusion, many knew that two hydrogen atoms fused together to create helium and resulted in an explosion. To be fair, I did explain fusion, but not in that detail. They knew of prior asteroids that had hit Russia and Mexico. They compared sizes to the one near Earth now. None of these things were covered in our unit. They were able to connect what they learned in the lessons, extend that by what they investigated on their own, and tie it to Larry’s talk. Amazing.
Ok, there were the typical questions like: Since cats always land on their feet, and buttered toast always lands butter side down…if you tape the buttered toast on a cat and drop it in a black hole, what will happen? But hey…they are 10 years old.
But hey, look at all this… they are 10 years old! I am continually amazed by the capability of kids.
All in all, that one snapshot left me speechless….unless you count the words in this post…but that would be like the buttered cat comment.