WOW Wednesday: Carol Fenton, BMS

When the opportunity was given last spring to enroll in the WOW Academy, I didn't hesitate! As a teacher who could be facing retirement soon, I could have stayed in a zone where my comfort in the classroom was "just right," but I knew I was doing a disservice to my students by not moving forward in a technical sense. The students had to come first so I delved into the learning feeling overwhelmed and, at the same time, inspired by all of you that I worked with last summer.
THEN the Chromebook cart arrived and mine had a big sign on it, "GUILT." If you don't make use of us, you are being a poor steward of this electronic magic carpet ride that is waiting to take your kids to so many worlds beyond what YOU can do. So I began my small and fearsome steps to erase those letters bit by bit.

My first big decision was where to house all of my lessons, and after receiving some sage advice from Jessica Johnston, I decided to continue expanding my BISD teacher webpage.  Students get there in a snap and easily locate my lessons and enrichment activities. This served my students quite well but it lacked in fluidity.

My colleague and technical guru, Shannon Zwahr, started talking about her Sophia Lessons that she had developed for her students so I decided that it was time to move forward. After all, I was making progress and finding that many of my insecurities about exploring new ways of learning was dissipating.  So I started designing Sophia lessons for my students. My lessons usually have an intro to the course of study, a lesson where students record concepts learned, and an activity at the end which can be vocabulary enrichment or a game related to the learning. When the students see "Sophia Lesson," written on my activities for the day, they get so excited. It inspires me to do more for them!

I asked my students to share their thoughts about learning with Chromebooks and here are some of their responses:
Mason E. stated, "One of the things that I like about the Chromebooks is that my teacher can send videos to us and we can play the video and replay and pause it as many times as we want."
Maggie H. states, "You can stop and go at your own pace."
Troy L. states, "When we do the Sophia Lesson, it is fun but educational at the same time."
Marcoantonio B.  shares a different point of view, " What I think is, it's cool that they are actually letting kids be on a computer and trusting us."
Travis B. states, " I like Chromebooks because you're learning and having fun at the same time. In our Sophia lesson on the solar system, the planets rapped about the solar system. Who doesn't like singing planets?"
Ashley H. reflected on her needs as a learner by stating, "I can stop and look at the video for as long as I need to look at them so I don't have to rush."
Markell L. remembered an activity that we did on energy and had this to say, "Energyville was fun because you can learn how to run a city or how much energy your city will need and it will come in handy if you want to be a mayor or a person who works on energy."

My thoughts. I am amazed at how intense my students are when they have a lesson to do independently. They communicate with me individually as they learn something or discover something unusual. Since they are not speaking in front of the whole class, they are more comfortable in having these one-to-one conversations.  Overall, their success rate is high so I know that these lessons work and provide another avenue for my students to learn.

I so look forward to providing some creative, individual projects for the spring and know my students will be ready because I am ready. And where is that big GUILT sign? I can't seem to locate it!

With gratitude to Ann DeBolt, Kim Strauss, Jessica Johnston and the support of BISD for allowing me to participate in WOW academy and be a recipient of these wonderful learning tools,

Carol L. Fenton
BMS, 5th grade Science Instructor