The following is written by Michael Drezek, a K-12 Technology Integrator at Lake Shore Central School District in New York. Follow him on Twitter and check out his bio at the bottom of the post.
In various circles online and in person I sometimes hear things along the line that classrooms today do not look much different than they did 50 years ago. Usually, someone is setting up to make the point that schools are slow to adapt to advancements outside school walls. They’ll show you a dated image of a classroom in black and white and a current image in 2017 of a classroom set up exactly the same. Regardless of what a classroom may look like at first glance, what is happening inside of many classrooms today is exciting and is setting the stage for one of the most exciting periods in history for education.
Educational technology in the classroom, when integrated effectively, is paving way for a powerful shift in learning, particularly technology that allows students to be creators and not strictly consumers of content. A blended learning approach helps pave the way for this shift. Blended learning approaches are opening up new and better opportunities for learning. It may look different for everyone, and that is a good thing, but one thing that true blended learning accomplishes is placing students at the center of the learning experience. This approach accelerates learning. Technology is empowering both teachers and students while contributing to this acceleration. The Center for Accelerated Learning describes what is needed in an optimal learning environment here. One guiding principle that jumped off the page at me relates to creation.
Learning is Creation, Not Consumption. Knowledge is not something a learner absorbs, but something a learner creates. Learning happens when a learner integrates new knowledge and skill into his or her existing structure of self. Learning is literally a matter of creating new meanings, new neural networks, and new patterns of electro/chemical interactions within one’s total brain/body system.
Learning is creation. These three words are at the heart of my beliefs on technology integration and transformational learning. In my role as a Technology Integrator at the district level, I am able to co-plan lessons with teachers, push into classrooms and support students along the way. We have a shared vision of improving learning with technology. When planning these lessons, I rely on the classroom teacher to pull in the learning standards while I place an emphasis on the ISTE Student Standards. Blending these two is key to an engaging and empowering learning experience. One tool that has sparked some transformational learning experiences at Lake Shore Central Schools is Buncee. It keeps coming back to creation. With Buncee one can create in so many different ways. We must empower our students to create. This drives learning.
Everywhere I turn I see more and more teachers sharing creative uses of this tool. One can explore the variety of uses in various content areas here, here and here. Our district uses Google Classroom as a digital learning hub. Having Buncee for Schools and Districts allows us to connect our Google accounts seamlessly. Even without the Schools and Districts plan, any user can use Google Single Sign On for easy access.
What I really love about the above image is the only item in all caps – CREATE! The exclamation point captures the excitement that usually follows when that button is clicked. Like an artist with a blank canvas, the possibilities are far and wide with what one can do next. Backgrounds from the Buncee Library creatively animated by their team and backgrounds with Creative Commons licensing powered by Pixabay set the stage for creation. I appreciate the attention Buncee has paid to copyright. It is a great talking point with our students around this element of digital citizenship and the fact that Buncee is modeling it for them on the platform is wonderful. ISTE Student Standard: Digital Citizen, check!
After setting a background, there are a seemingly endless number of individual media items to add to a Buncee creation. Buncee doesn’t narrow itself to fit into one particular content area better than another. The variety in media types and uses opens pathways to integration that work in any classroom at any level.
Take a look at the media types above. Think of the potential in your own classroom. How could you use this to get your students to create? What would it help them connect to? What would it change for the better?
Once a Buncee is created, where it travels can make a big impact. The ‘Share’ button helps to get creations to the intended audience. Students can share to peers, students to teachers, teachers to students, teachers to colleagues, and both teachers and students with the world. I have found our “Buncee-Creating” students and teachers happy to show off their creations. Using the Share button to publish work to an authentic audience is powerful. The Buncee Buddies program has been a game changer for our classrooms seeking to boost connections based learning and global collaboration. Every student deserves the experience of learning in a classroom where the walls have been flattened. ISTE Student Standard: “Global Collaborator,” check!
I’ll start with how I would use it from a math teacher perspective. I left my math classroom in 2014 to take on a technology integration role. At that time I was teaching under the flipped classroom model using my teacher website and some screencasting software. Students had to ask 3 questions as well as rate their level of understanding on a 1-5 scale for each lesson in their notebook. Our collaborative problem solving took place in class. At that time I did not know of Buncee. I have regrets that I didn’t get to use it regularly with my own students. I could have embedded my video lesson, added stickers and animations to support the concept, motivational messages, used the freehand drawing tool on this virtual canvas to show procedural thinking and highlight key concepts, linked QR codes to additional support resources, and built in assessment with the free and multiple choice questions to track student understanding. I would have also made sure my students were creating with Buncee to make those key connections. Students could have recorded video reflections using the built-in video tool, posed questions, created drawings and even uploaded images of math work to be shared with peers for analysis. Knowing the potential Buncee has for transformational learning, I do find great joy in sharing it with our teachers of all content areas as they seek ways to integrate technology into their lessons.
Instead of me just telling how I would use Buncee, let’s take a closer look at what teachers are doing with it in the classroom. I took to some of our Lake Shore classrooms to see how they were blending Buncee into their instruction.
My first stop was Grade 3 at Anthony J. Schmidt Elementary School in Angola, NY. Sara Ware also started using Buncee to connect her students globally through the Buncee Buddies program. They are connected with a classroom in Australia. You will find an intro pen pal letter here. She saw right away that the kids were hooked and wanted more. Sara found ways to regularly get students creating for day to day activities. In working through Module 3B of the Engage NY ELA curriculum, students learned of wolves through stories, folktales and fables. Students selected a characteristic of the wolf in Lon Po Po and created a Buncee on this describing word. View a sample here and here. They also read the book My Librarian is a Camel and learned how books are delivered around the world while also studying various countries. View student samples here and here. ISTE Student Standard: Knowledge Constructor, check! Students also collaborated on a fun holiday book for parents adding letters, Cinquain poems to work on writing skills. View samples here, here and here.
My next stop was Grade 2 at Highland Elementary School in Derby, NY. Renee Gutowski started using Buncee to connect her students globally through the Buncee Buddies program. They are connected with classrooms in New York and Ontario, Canada. This Grade 2 class has also used the iOS app to create on iPads. Cross platform access helps our younger learners who are comfortable using iPads. On this particular stop I was able to join the class as they celebrated their Buncee Buddies global pen pals with a live streamed concert from Grammy-nominated artist Brady Rymer. The concert was themed around peace and love. Participating in this concert helped make connections to the four pillars of global competence as outlined by the Asia Society, and also helped the classroom meet The National Core Standards for Arts. A special moment came when a class from Kenya at Cheery Education Center Skyped into the concert to sing a song for the class. I captured the moment here. Renee’s class ended up winning a contest for the event and will have Brady Rymer perform a song of their choice live through Skype. Students are currently creating a Buncee around the quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It is sure to reinforce the importance of spreading kindness and the power of global collaboration.
My last stop was Grade 7 French Foreign Language class at Lake Shore Middle School. Madame Denise Drew asked students to create what they’ve been learning in class about food. Here are a few:
Kiara even recorded her menu order in French using the audio feature. This feature encourages creative communication and can help develop speaking skills, especially for the students who are shy to speak up in class. ISTE Student Standard: “Creative Communicator,” check!
I asked these students their thoughts on using Buncee. Kiara added, “I like how it makes me be very creative.” Ryan said, “It allows me to express my imagination better.” Corinne said, “I love my last slide so much!!!” Joshua said, “I can see myself using this for all my classes.” Aiden added “It’s magic.” Not long after my visit here, the following week I noticed one of the students using Buncee to illustrate the water cycle in Science class. Another student was using it in a STEM Hub to design a portion a STEM challenge solution. These students chose the tool on their own when not required. ISTE Student Standard “Empowered Learner,” check!
With what can seem like an overwhelming amount of technology tools to select from, it is important for teachers to narrow their focus and build a technology toolkit that includes tools that are dynamic, social, and safe. These tools should lend themselves to social learning experiences, engaging discussion and sharing instead of fostering working with the tool in isolation. These tools should amplify student voice and must be user friendly enough that students do not need to spend crucial time learning how to use the tool. Buncee meets the mark on all of this. The only way to truly experience it for yourself is to jump in and bring some added creativity and fun to your classroom. We have and are not looking back.
Whether a school district is 1:1, provides access to carts of laptops and/or tablets or is bring your own device, many more possibilities open up when technology tools are used to connect, create and change. We need students to connect to concepts. Many times this doesn’t happen until they create. The creation is what leads to change. Change in what was previously possible. Change in approaches to learning from students and change in ideas for further blended learning approaches from teachers. Ultimately, change in learning outcomes for the better. In a successful blended learning environment, creation is at the center. Creating is empowering. Creating is learning. I hope our Buncee story connects with you and creating with Buncee changes your learning experiences for the better like it has for ours.
I am the District Technology Integrator/Teacher Leader for the Lake Shore CSD. This is a TOSA position I’ve held for three years after spending ten years teaching Mathematics at the Middle School level. I am passionate about finding meaningful ways to integrate technology in the classroom and understand how it can empower teachers and students allowing for learning to happen that was never before possible. It is my focus to help teachers take some risks in their learning and teaching, stepping out of their comfort zones. Supporting them and serving as a resource is something I take great pride in and work tirelessly toward. Ultimately, I am driven by creating experiences for students that will stick beyond my time in their classroom. I lead professional development in my district and present regionally. I am a Google Certified Educator, Microsoft Innovative Educator & Trainer, Apple Teacher, and Buncee, Flipgrid, Seesaw, Bloxels, CueThink & CoSpaces Education Ambassador. I was recently named 2016 NYSCATE Outstanding Teacher.