This past Fall 2009, students at Van Meter junior high and high school have experienced a new wave of learning in their school environment, as all students 7-12 grade and teachers were issued their own Mac Book - laptop. This has been quite a change and learning experience for both teachers and students, since the majority of computers previously within the school were PC operating systems. Teachers were issued their Mac Book in the summer, hoping to get a little more experience in before the students got theirs. As time has progressed so has the knowledge, skills, and confidence in using these Mac Books. But don't get me wrong, there is still so much more to learn. But that's what keeps the "thrill" in teaching. Opportunities arise creating "teachable moments" all the time.
As a 7-12 grade art instructor I was a little more reluctant to the idea of going to a "paperless environment", since most of what I do involves paper. However, I have quickly found many great uses for these laptops and perhaps in the process saved some paper as well. In addition to every student having a laptop, they also have access to wireless Internet, student email, grade access, class websites were teachers can post course information or even daily assignments, and many other cool tools that came with the MAC package. With all of these useful tools available to students, the learning, processing, creating, and critiquing has changed. I have been able to focus more on differentiation, and R,R&R (Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships), allowing my students to "create" using a plethora of tools from their toolbox of knowledge. I still cover the same information, but allow students to take ownership in their learning and experiences. Students are able to connect their learning to real life situations and experiences.
For some classes supplies such as clay, paper, and canvases are still a must. However, with the laptops students can access relevant YouTube videos, take their own pictures using the built in camera on their laptops for project ideas, research artists styles and examples, complete online assessments or surveys, as well as critique and brainstorm ideas using etherpad. In more advanced level classes (Adv. Art I and II) students are allowed to express themselves through a variety of ways, with or without technology. Students create a project proposal regarding what they want to learn and create. Once they finish a project, they turn in an evaluation rubric critiquing their final outcomes. Throughout the project time frame there are periodic critiques, to critique learning and brainstorm new ideas for future projects. Projects this year have ranged from large packing tape sculptures, paintings, drawings, ceramic projects, to stykz animations, PowerPoint presentations, and even creating wikis to showcase their own artwork.
Even though we are only half through the school year, I can see across the board what a huge impact a little technology has created for these students. The networking possibilities are endless. It has been such a great experience to see even 7th graders become such experts in such a short time. Students who would normally "hide in their shell" have willingly come out to demonstrate or show what they have created.