Sunday, June 10, 2012

Technology-Infused Classroom…3 Ring Circus?

Haven’t most of us been to a circus? Elephants performing, trapeze artists flying, lions roaring, clowns clowning…our senses on overload trying to keep up! It seems completely chaotic initially, but then you slowly begin to realize the choreography, the precision and the planning that makes the “chaos” actually a finely tuned, and superbly organized performance. It’s quite amazing! And it is the technology-integrated classroom that often reminds me of such an event. A circus? To the inexperienced observer it may seem as such at first. But every activity within this classroom has a purpose, a goal.  There is the ringmaster, also known as the teacher, who is orchestrating the entire show and whose job is to ensure all circus performers, or students, are achieving their goals by providing them with a safe environment and the “tools” needed to successfully meet their objectives.  Just as in the circus, not every performer has the same talent nor requires the same tools to succeed, so the teacher’s job in the technology-enhanced classroom is to make sure the right tools are being used at the right time to support the curricular goals of each student.  And what works for one student may not be the best fit for the learning style of another, which is why you may have many different “acts” occurring simultaneously but all working toward the same, overall goals….like a circus!

What technology does that traditional methods do not is that it provides a variety of tools that increase engagement, deepens understanding, and fosters collaboration and communication both within and outside of the classroom.  To see a well organized, technology-integrated classroom in action means that you may very well see many activities playing out synchronously as the students move seamlessly from one activity to another as real learning taking place. During these activities, students encounter new, sometimes unexpected, problems, and know how to use the technology available to locate information, apply knowledge, and find solutions. The technology also provides the students with opportunities to reflect on their learning and express themselves and their understanding in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them. At the center of all this is the teacher, the “ringmaster”, moving from “act to act” coaching, guiding, advising, assessing, and modifying to ensure a stellar performance! The days of row after row of students all moving at the same pace and completing the same activities are fading away. They are being replaced by classrooms that, like the circus, have no walls nor events being played out in isolation. Each circus act is interrelated to the other, building the tempo, setting the stage for the next event…these types of classrooms are active, alive, engaging places where students can explore the world and discover how they can contribute and make a difference in it.

So the next time you step into a technology-infused classroom, look for the different “acts.” You’ll see students using technology to create, collaborate and communicate...and each student “performer” will know his role intimately. And the ringmaster? Well he will be doing what he does best…ensuring that every performer has the tools and the training needed to give the best performance he can! Then just sit back and enjoy the show!


Marlo Gaddis said...

I love the analogy. It made me think about the teacher as ringmaster. What skills do the ringmaster have to have in order to perfectly coordinate the circus event? Do those same skills apply to teachers coordinating a tech-infused classroom?

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