Spotlighting Eric Crouch, First grade teacher
Double Churches Elementary, Columbus, GA
Imagine a classroom where students begin their day by scanning a QR code for their assignments; where students create video book reviews, respond to learning through video responses and blogging; a classroom where digital story-telling, videography, and photography are typical mediums students use to share with others what they are learning; a classroom where students use digital whiteboard videos to teach other students concepts and skills on iPads. Now imagine these students are first graders!
When I started teaching I wanted to make school something better than what I knew it as; something that would keep my students wanting more while seamlessly integrating technology and life skills. I immediately knew that I wanted to bring something bigger to my students, not just to my class, but to my school and ultimately to the district. After my first six months in the classroom, I knew something was missing; we only had two-class computers and a laptop. With first graders I was a bit hesitant to just give them technology. Then, I was introduced to donorschoose.org. Donorschoose.org was a game changer! Within two months I had a class set of iPods and four iPads. The last two months of school were so packed with learning, I just knew that I had to do more.
I was approached by MEEF (Muscogee Excellence in Education Foundation) after winning First Year Teacher of the Year about my use of mobile technology in the classroom. They were looking into a grant sponsored by Verizon Foundation that would bring mobile technology into several classrooms and they wanted me to be the lead teacher for K-5. I happily agreed and would later receive almost an entire class set of iPads. I was then able to pass on the iPods I got through Donors Choose to other teacher in my school, which led to a technology explosion in the building. Donors Choose caught fire and teachers in every hall began posting technology projects for their students.
Upon entering my classroom at the morning bell, students are greeted with a full-size mini-basketball hoop, because that's just the kind of day "you're going to have"! The students come in, grab their iPads, and test on their Accelerated Reader books they read overnight. Students celebrate their reading achievements with monster dunks! For the books they really enjoyed, students respond to their books with a video blog on YouTube. Then they come to the carpet and practice spelling words on their iPads. On the days we have morning work, students routinely scan the QR code on the SMARTboard thus retrieving either the audio file I previously recorded or a typed message telling them what to do. The students love the element of surprise and I think that is why the QR code is so neat to them. Another thing that the kids love to do is share! Check out our class blog.
Did I mention how engaged and eager my students are with the integration of technology throughout their day? When people visit my classroom, they are first, in awe at what my students are capable of doing. Then they are reluctant to leave! I strive to create a stimulating atmosphere that beacons to curious young minds with the latest, highly rated, most appealing apps out there.
One of our favorite things to do is use Puppet Pals for digital story telling. It's a great app and the kids get a chance to express themselves in creative ways. Then we move right into writing where students research topics, characters, settings, look up words they can't spell using Dragon Dictation, and even take photos, printing wirelessly to our classroom printer, for a project. The iPads changed the way we do everything! During Social Studies and Science, students do research using websites I have found and linked to QR codes, then head outside to photograph plants and wildlife on our iPads bringing the outside world into their classroom! Students are able to grasp concepts at a deeper level by experiencing their world and then reporting on them.
During English Language Arts we play a little game I call, "figure it out". It's where the students write two adjectives and two nouns on their iPad and hand it to a neighbor for them to make a funny story out of. This has enriched our vocabulary so much just because of the desire students have to stump a neighbor! The more challenging the group of words, the more excited and creative my students get. We use an app called Chalkboard for almost all of our ELA mini-lessons and activities.
Of course we don't use the iPads for everything. At lunch, we just use a regular fork and tray! But then we are back in the room and it's Math Bingo time! We use a great app called base Ten fun that has a game called Math Bingo. It is fantastic! The students all start at the same time, each on their own level and boom, we are off!
The students get so intense when someone wins; the other kids keep playing because they are so focused on identifying the number in base ten blocks! During Daily Math Review, we would normally use pencil and paper. Then I thought, why not use iPads for that as well? The students love every minute of it! There are so many great apps for math, it's unreal.
I will admit at first, I was very skeptical about how much my students were ready for. Then, I realized that it was I who was the obstacle, not the technology. We use our iPads all the time now and I couldn't, nor wouldn't, have it any other way. Having the class set of iPads has allowed me to offer my students a much more rigorous and in-depth curriculum. Most importantly, my kids work so hard and effortlessly, that it just makes sense to integrate technology throughout most everything I do! Of course reading about my classroom is one thing; visiting it is quite another story. Come and experience it for yourself. It is common to hear today's teachers say that they are limited on what they can do in the classroom due to the lack of materials. In my classroom, that is not the case thanks to the Verizon Foundation. The only thing that can limit my students is me, and there is no end in sight for the great things that are still to come!
Eric Crouch, First Grade Teacher @ Double Churches Elementary, Columbus, GA
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