Part III: The Total PACKage

Context

Students attending the after school program through Project Healthy Community at Schulze Elementary are primarily African American and come from low income families. As PHC is a non-profit organization, funding comes from donors in Detroit and metro Detroit communities. With that being said, the after school program runs Monday, Tuesday and Thursday  from 3:45 pm to 6pm. There are a few program leads who are consistent with the students; teaching and guiding them.  In addition, there are various volunteers that join students each day to enrich, mentor and serve as caring role models. The after school program provides homework opportunities in addition to exploration and play time. Students are provided a dinner meal and get down to business on their homework during the first hour. Focus is on literacy as well as math support and tutorials. The second hour is a planned enrichment; incorporating arts, physical activities, educational learning in areas of nutrition, social skills, team building and imagination. There are guest educators teaching science, kids empowerment and nutrition and urban farming, all broadening the opportunity for outside learning and enrichment.

PHC has its own classroom at Schulze where there are basic tables and chairs, a carpet area, and dry erase boards. There is also coloring supplies; however, this often runs low when used too much. Classroom posters have been donated to bring life to the walls, student work also assists in creating a colorful after school space. When volunteering in this space, it is as if digital technology didn’t exist. Even though students are making connections with volunteers, their prior knowledge and one another, everything they are using is low tech.

Content

Although there is no specific content that technology will fix for these students; there is still significant learning that can happen. Students that attend the after school program have trouble being motivated to continue doing school work after the school hours are over. Their parents are at work and the kids will never get the proper assistance they need to complete their homework. With the support of the PHC volunteers, students get the support they need to increase their neural networks and strengthen or complete their existing networks of information to prepare for the new information they will receive the next day (Zadina 2014).

Students receive worksheets or workbooks for homework and students may forget the directions or methods to solving a problem. With the proper technologies help and with volunteer’s support, students can research these answers to provide understandings while also applying their knowledge to other concepts and gaining new perspectives. While low tech can be great, students also lose interest in topics. By using high tech tools, students can find their motivation again to increase stamina and interest levels.

Technology

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In order to transform Project Healthy Community’s after school program, six Chromebooks would be best. Chromebooks are inexpensive, secure, easy to use, promote collaboration and have endless possibilities. Students at Schulze Elementary need a digital technology that is simple to figure out because these students are not exposed to computers on a regular basis. Also, volunteers using the technology alongside the students must be able to pick it up quickly. The capabilities of Chromebooks are endless; a kindergartener and a fourth grader may be different, but a Chromebook can best suit the needs these level learners.

Pedagogy

Enhancing learning by using Chromebooks for the Schulze Elementary kids isn’t just for fun. There is pedagogical reasoning behind it; specifically, cognitivism and motivation. Students may be forced to learn information by memorizing facts; however, when asked to retrieve that information from their memory months later, it has vanished. People learn successfully because learning is a process that builds of off knowledge and experiences that are previously stored.

Students in the after school program are learning in school all day, but sometimes they come home and forget what their teacher taught them that day. If students are able to relearn that information or process later on and then transfer that knowledge to another medium, it allows them to retain the skills. With the assistance of Chromebooks, students can take their prior knowledge or learned knowledge from that day and produce or create patterns from their preexisting knowledge through games, videos, collaboration activities, etc.

By using technology to represent their information in new ways, students can make more sense of what they are learning. They will therefore ‘wonder’ more often and think about how topics are intertwined. Creating videos, digital posters or infographics, slides, or playing educational games all aide in making the imperative connections needed to retain and retrieve information.

Motivation also plays a key factor. Students in this day and age are motivated when a new technology is presented to them. With the slew of applications and educational activities online, students don’t even realize they are learning. These activities make their learning and in turn, the teachers teaching stick. These activities may be simple, relatable and unexpectedly form relationships to new knowledge and prior knowledge. If these students could use Chromebooks, their achievement levels would be that much higher (Heath & Heath).

The Total PACKage

According the Punya Mishra, the TPACK framework shows teachers that using tools that were once knowns as toys can be beneficial in the classroom…if used the right way. Incorporating the right amount of technological, pedagogical and content knowledge all within the proper context, you find the ‘sweet spot’ of successful TPACK (Mishra & Koehler 2009).

After explaining these three separate areas above, it is very clear to me how Chromebooks can be integrated organically within the after school program. Students in low income schools and homes don’t often graduate or feel smart enough to go above and beyond in school. They have a fixed mindset. They don’t think they can do it. But according to Carol Dweck, they just can’t do it YET (Dweck 2016) . By utilizing Chromebooks in the after school program, students can feel a sense of accomplishment when playing a game on phonics. They can feel accomplished when they create a video describing the states of matter. Students learn facts, but they don’t retain those facts unless they are used in a variety of ways. If they are able to investigate multiple representations of a subject or content area, they have a better understanding.

Along with Dewey’s primary impulses for knowing, students must communicate and express their ideas. During the school day they may inquire and their curiosity surfaces, however, they need to construct those essential patterns and present the content in a new way. Without Chromebooks, the students will be forced to continue memorizing facts instead of manipulating them to better fit their learning needs.

 

Allen, J. (2016, January 30). 5 Benefits of Chromebooks in Education. Retrieved July 31, 2017, from http://www.coolheadtech.com/blog/5-benefits-of-chromebooks-in-education

Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books.

Heath, C., & Heath D. (2007). Teaching That Sticks. 1-11.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2009, May). Too Cool for School? No Way! Learning & Leading with Technology, (36)7. 14-18.

Zadina, J. N. (2014). Multiple pathways to the student brain: Energizing and enhancing instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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