As I conduct classroom walkthroughs with my fellow administrators, we often discuss the role of technology use in the classroom. One of the indicator areas on our form is “student technology use,” which we mark if students are using technology. The next indicator, “technology is used to enhance the lesson,” is a little more tricky. There are times when technology may be used, but we have to consider whether or not it is really enhancing anything about the lesson.
This is one of the struggles for administrators and teachers alike when it comes to technology. We have invested a lot in technology, including money, time, and professional development. So how do we use it to really enhance the educational experience? The SAMR model helps to define what we are talking about and looking for, but we need more ideas for digging deeper and increasing relevance into the lives of our students.
First off, we should define what this means. Digging deeper into a subject or concept means that students go beyond the surface level knowledge of that subject. This has more than one effect: It gives the student a deeper understanding of the concept and also increases relevance for the student, who can see how a particular concept connects with others. Finally, it usually allows the student to take the knowledge or concept and apply it to learning across the curriculum.
What are some mindsets we need to use with students to help them not just learn the surface knowledge, but to apply their learning in a deep and meaningful way? Here are some ideas:
How Is the Concept Used in Industry?
This question almost always increases relevance for students. If students know that what they are learning will actually be useful someday, they are more likely to be motivated to learn about it. Even if the student doesn’t plan to go into that field, they understand that there is a context in which the information will be useful. Coding is a great example of this—not everyone will be a computer science major, but almost everyone will be in an industry with a degree of automation. Knowing how linear expressions work could help in many fields. Teachers need to continually come back to how information is relevant in order to show students that applying the knowledge does happen at some point down the road.
How Does the Concept Apply to Something at the Next Level of Learning?
Many times in education, we use the “the next grade is going to be so tough, so you better be ready!” speech. Teachers use this to motivate students to be more responsible, which is good, but the same can be used for the content they are learning. If students know that what they are learning is a stepping stone to the next level, they will learn it more deeply.
What Are the Origins of the Concept?
This one doesn’t work for everything, but for some topics, this knowledge is critical to fully understanding the idea. Take something as simple as the light bulb: Why was it invented in the first place? What problems did it solve? What impact did it have on homes and communities? For this example, the deeper knowledge can allow the students to not only see where and why things come about, but also how ideas can impact humanity for the better over time. Any chance the student has to learn more about the progression of the idea—from its origins to its development to its future plans—can increase how the student sees the knowledge as relevant.
These are all good ideas for increasing motivation, relevance, and a deeper understanding of the concept, but what role does technology play in each of these areas? Here are a few ideas for resources to help connect the dots for students about industry, the next levels of learning, and the origins of where the concepts come from:
- When showing students how concepts are used in industry, there are many tools to choose from. This teaching channel video is really good, and there are also some content-specific resources like these great tips for math.
- Curriculum scope and sequences help students to see how concepts build on one another over the year. The NGSS is set up this way and makes a lot of sense, but so do most Common Core areas. Make sure that as a teacher, you know where students are going next in their learning.
- Allow students to look up the story behind the learning through history.com. Teachers can also incorporate the concept of historical context into standards on ancient history and make a cross-curricular study.
The key is for teachers to never give up on reinforcing how relevant their learning is and how deeper levels of learning are required for all different content areas. How do you get your students to dig deeper? Let us know in the comments below!