My Classroom Strategy: Using Digital Resources Help Students Synthesize
This past winter I put together a Google presentation for my students to use as an independent learning contract. The objective of this presentation is to guide students through activities that will enhance their understanding of the geography, culture and symbols of a European country. It allows them to do this by offering digital websites, games and activities to help them conduct research and record information. It has some required activities and some choice activities. Finally, it leads them to produce a presentation to display and express the learning they have acquired about the culture, geography and symbols of that country. Finally it gives them practice using a variety of digital resources that are new to my second graders.
This spring the second graders began studying Europe. We started by looking at the world map to describe where the continent of Europe is located in the world in relation to the other six continents and the oceans. Then we used two websites called Can You Name the Countries of the World? on www.sporcle.com and Geography Genius: Flags of the World. on www.primarygamesarena.com. The students explored some books and images online and chose one country to study. Daily we have been visiting a different European country via Google Maps and/or Google Earth to explore Europe. Soon after the students were introduced to the independent learning contract and they began to use it almost daily with great enthusiasm.
The students started with games I created on Quia that helped them learn necessary vocabulary and a Geo Spy Game that helped them learn the location of European countries on the map. Then they used websites such as Ducksters, National Geographic for Kids, FX Top, and World of Tales to do some research and gather information. They used Google Docs to create a spreadsheet to record facts and information and Google Presentation to demonstrate the information. They also used the Jigsaw Planet website to create a puzzle of their country map and Smart Notebook and Google Drawing to draw their country’s flag.
Using this independent learning contract has synthesized information for my students because they are using different topics about their country to explore in multiple ways and multiple times. The culture, the geography, and the symbols are all being explored and explained in various ways and with excitement and enjoyment. The combination of having choices, using various digital resources and putting all of the elements together in a final presentation format is creating a synthesis of understanding about the country they are studying. Gardner states in chapter 2, “The Synthesizing Mind” of Five Minds For the Future, that “The ability to knit together information from disparate sources into a coherent whole is vital today.” This has been a driving force to me for giving students opportunities to explore topics of study with choices and technology integration. The knowledge of managing the technology they are using is also being synthesized in projects such as these.
Below is a link to my European Country Independent Learning Contract that I developed as a course requirement in the EDIM503 Course: Differentiation Supported By Technology. The final format fulfilled the course requirements and included some elements that I have since changed for my second graders such as the points and scoring criteria and the times and dates posted for the assignments. I hope you enjoy viewing it.
Gardner, Howard. (2007). Five minds for the future. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.