photo by D’Arcy Norman www.flickr.com
Okay, so it’s Maniac Monday, and I’m finally posting that interview for you about using technology in the classroom (a third-grade classroom) and an eMINTS program. If you aren’t familiar with eMINTS, then you will want to check out the link. In a nutshell, simplified terms, an eMINTS classroom uses technology and real world problem solving to enhance student learning. This is usually done with providing several computers for students (such as one computer for every two or three students), a SMART Board for the classroom, and hours upon hours of teacher training. The eMINTS program may look different in different schools, according to the amount of funding received. Here is an interview with Melissa Kirchoff, who teaches in the Francis Howell School district, in St. Charles County, MO:
Margo: Thank you, Melissa, for joining us today. I tried to explain what eMINTS means, but I know you can do a much better job! So, what does it mean to teach in an eMINTS classroom?
Melissa: The eMINTS philosphy revolves around using authentic, real world problem solving situations. It is inquiry based. So my role in the classroom has changed. I think of myself more as a facilitator or coach than a teacher. I help the kids to become curious about topics in our curriculum, form questions and interests, and then guide them in their research towards the answers. An eMINTS classroom becomes a true learning community. We all learn from each other and help each other out when needed. We are learning to be lifelong learners.
Margo: That sounds AWESOME! I love that eMINTS causes a classroom to become a true learning community. It sounds like teachers, even without the technology, could benefit from this type of training. What are two useful ways that your students use computers and the Internet to meet curriculum objectives?
Melissa: Hmmmm . . . two useful ways. There are so many useful ways we use the technology it is hard to narrow it down to just two. The Internet gives us an unlimited amount of information on every topic imaginable at our fingertips. So we can use it for research on whatever we are studying. I try to bookmark acceptable websites at a variety of reading levels to meet the needs of all the students. The Internet also connects us with experts all over the world that we can chat with. The Internet also gives students an authentic reason to write–they publish work online and use ePALS to email a penpal, a classmate, or me. The computer is also used by students to prepare presentations that can be shared with the class or school about what we have learned.
Margo: I am out of touch! I never heard about ePALS until you and I started discussing this topic. Just briefly glancing through the website, it is amazing. So, let’s switch to parents now. As a teacher, how do you use technology to communicate with parents?
Melissa: I communicate with parents a lot through email. But, I also have a class website that keeps parents informed about what is going on at school. I also post reading logs, sample book reports, and other forms that we use frequently on the website so parents/students can access them at home if needed.
Margo: Great ideas that all teachers can use, whether or not that they have a lot of technology at their fingertips. And using technology in the classroom and with parents saves some trees! What are two ways teachers can use a website, blog, Twitter, or wikis with students to enhance their educational experience?
Melissa: The use of websites, blogs, Twitter, or wikis enhances students’ learning experiences by helping them to connect school and home and by giving students an audience for their writings, thoughts, ideas, etc. I have really been amazed by the number of students who will go home each day and get on the computer to continue learning about something we started at school that day. The next morning, they will come in to school and tell about what they discovered or share new questions that they came up with because of what they learned. They are still excited about it the next day! Unfortunately, many districts are tightening up their Internet security making it difficult to use many of these tools in the classroom.
Margo: Yes, we had a discussion about that very topic of school districts having to increase Internet security on another Maniac Monday post with Leigh Brockway, who teaches in La Puente, CA. It is too bad that people who abuse the system are making it difficult for teachers to teach the way they want to. But to end on a happy note, I am so glad to hear that your students are so excited about learning. That is terrific! Thanks again, Melissa, for taking the time to share a little bit about your classroom with us today.