I’d like to propose a model for a technology-infused lesson that could be modified to fit any curriculum, any topic, almost any level. It works in small groups, large groups, and whole class. Over the past several years, among other things, I’ve tried to develop a tangible, realistic way for students to engage in inquiry, harness the power of technology and learn to do the things they will need to be able to do in the real world — and for teachers to spend their time being facilitators, guides, and coaches of their students. This is where I’m at so far… Perhaps I’ll explain the history behind it and the progression of it later. But I’ve tried it, and so have others, and it works. Here’s the progression:

1. Find 3…

It all begins with a search. The search topic can be teacher-generated, student-generated, or it could come from the next logical item from the day before. In this phase, students use their search skills (and develop them along the way) to find artifacts. These could be models, videos, tutorials, games, or a host of other types of digital media. For instance, you could have student search for 3 samples of (concrete examples in [brackets])

  • the best model of a ________ [cell]
  • the best video on how to _________ [solve a problem involving mixed numbers]
  • the most ________ [descriptive short story]
  • the best summary of ___________ [the Declaration of Independence]
  • the best solution for __________ [bullying behavior]
  • the best online game to practice ________ [multiplying fractions]

 

2. Develop a Rubric

Next, have students develop a rubric to assess the value of the artifact. Since this is being done in teams or even as a whole class, a shared Google Doc is the way to go. In order to do this, they will need to do more searching, as they engage in trying to figure out what makes an artifact of this sort “good”. During this phase, students will inevitably have to immerse themselves in the content surrounding the artifact. Teachers could suggest resources like the state standards to introduce them to some of the aspects of the topic. They can also search online for ideas on how to evaluate the artifact and synthesize their own.

 

3. Evaluate the Artifacts

In this phase, students use the rubric they have created to evaluate the 3 artifacts they have found. They should be able to establish the order of the artifacts based on their evaluation as high, medium, and low in quality, relative to each other, and the rubric should be used with fidelity and as objectively as possible, since any revision that takes place can be done in the next phase.

 

4. Evaluate and Revise the Rubric

Students should revisit and revise the rubric based on the experience of using it. Each group should be given guiding questions like:

  • what were the strengths of our rubric?
  • what was missing from our rubric?
  • did the outcome of our use of the rubric really match our sense of the quality of the artifacts?
  • how could we revise the rubric to make it even better at assessing the quality of this type of artifact?

If there’s time, use the revised rubric to evaluate the artifacts a second time, or find another resource to assess based on the revised resource.

5. Focus on the Best Artifact

Based on the group’s assessment of the best artifact, identify the specific strengths and shortcomings of this artifact.

 

6. Create a Better Artifact and Acknowledge the Work that Has Come Before

Using the best artifact and the analysis of its best attributes, add to the artifact or create a brand new one incorporating the strengths of the artifact. The new artifact should be evaluated based on the revised rubric. In creating the new artifact, students should then acknowledge the work that was done on the original artifact that helped them create an improved artifact.

 

Some Strengths

In following this lesson progression, students have the opportunity to exploit the available online resources, engage in high-order thinking through such activities as evaluating (phases 2-4) and synthesizing (phase 6). Students can do this with virtually any connected device, whether it’s their classroom Chromebook, their phone, or other device. Yet, by design, the technology does not isolate the students. It doesn’t require any special web platform, service, or special expertise on the part of the teacher. Learning is a necessity along the way, as students are confronted with the need to know in order to become the evaluator (phases 2-4). Along the way, they can build “soft-skills”, learning how to search, collaborate, and cite resources (phase 6). It also tends to take a little bit of the temptation to cheat out of the equation since students are starting with something they can actually do (searching), exploring what’s available (phase 1), and, rather than starting from scratch, simply building upon something that has already been created. Finally, it takes the teacher off the stage, puts students at the center, and allows them to move from being simple consumers of the internet to actually contributing to the wealth of online resources, artifacts, and models.

This is not the perfect model. But it works, and I invite you to give it a try. If you do, I’d love to get your feedback on what you have changed — and maybe, just maybe, we can make it even better.

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