I dipped a toe into the digital ocean and found out I could dog paddle. I decided to try something VERY technologically manageable with my first grade class last week, which was just an extension of a lesson I had done with my students in the past. Historically, as I wrap up a science unit on Air and Weather and prepare to move into a social studies unit on Philanthropy, I always read an appealing book to my students called Knut - How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World (see my Shelfari). It provides a nice bridge between the two, seemingly diverse, topics in that we take what we've learned about air and weather, extend that to the topic of how we, as people, can have an effect on the weather through our actions (global warming), and how that can then have an effect on other species (shrinking habitat). This book, featuring the world's cutest polar bear cub, simply brings attention to the species as a whole and makes the survival of this endangered species more personal for the kids. In the past, after reading this book to my students, they were always hungry for more information about polar bears, their habitat and what they could do to make a difference. What a great segue into the topic of philanthropy, which is, after all, just an extension of our on-going first grade study of community and how we are all part of a whole, working together for the greater good. All that being said...how did technology help out with that, you ask?
After passing by my school's LCD projector in the tech room many times, I thought to myself, "Self, you really ought to learn how to use that thing so you can share interesting websites with your class." The words of a sage educator came to me...work smarter, not harder. So, as stated earlier, I dipped my toe into the digital ocean, went into school on a Sunday, dragged that scary piece of machinery into my classroom, figured out how to hook it up and gave it a test run. It was embarrassingly easy. On Monday morning, my kids got to meet Knut through a book. By afternoon, thanks to www.knut.net, 17 children had fallen completely in love with him as they watched him on a screen, drinking from a bottle, wrestling with a boot, and learning how to swim. By the end of the day, we had learned how to sing a song about him in German and had visited a polar bear habitat. On Tuesday, we learned a bit more about how polar bears live in the wild and then saw an animation about how the WWF tracks polar bears to see if their habitat is shrinking and their numbers are dropping.
The most challenging aspect of introducing technology into this lesson was figuring out how to STOP! I had designated only a couple of days to this and now realize that we could easily have pursued SO many links to SO many cool sites and activities that we could have continued linking and learning about this subject matter until June. As with all things web, it's difficult to cull through the volumes of information accessed, then decide what to keep and what to cut. At least now that I've seen the tip of the iceberg (pun intended), I have a million ideas about how I'll further incorporate this discipline-bridging activity next year.
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