The essential question at H.C.Crittenden Middle School focuses on active learning, risk-taking, rigor, and wellness. “Technology has allowed us to support the areas we think are so important,” said Ms. Kim Lapple, HCC Principal. “By incorporating technology into our curriculum, we have provided a program for all students that keeps them engaged in their learning.”
“When we first transitioned to online instruction in the spring of 2020, I had to change my approach to teaching mathematics overnight,” said HCC math teacher, Ms. Tori Barthel. “We found that the Google extension Kami met our needs. Kami is an educational PDF and document annotation application. This technology is used as a digital pen and paper to improve productivity and collaboration by using interactive tools. Students are able to edit math documents and hands-on worksheets quickly and efficiently. As students became comfortable with the extension, we watched the quality of work improve and witnessed the simple joys of playing with color and font,” said Ms. Barthel. “During hybrid instruction, we have re-embraced paper and pencil for some assignments, but integrating Kami and giving students the freedom of choice continues to be a great motivator.”
Nearpod is another innovative technology that HCC students and teachers are successfully utilizing to make lessons interactive. “I am using Nearpod to engage students remotely and in-class,” said sixth grade teacher, Ms. Mary Staudt. “They can watch preselected videos, play games that reinforce content, and complete assignments.” Teachers create lessons that contain quizzes, videos, and collaborative projects accessible through a code. The teacher moves the class through the work, allowing student interaction as they proceed. Teachers can also opt for the Student-Paced mode, which controls the lesson’s flow, or the Teacher-Paced mode for full classroom activities. Ms. Staudt said, “Students respond to questions on a message board or privately and look forward to assignments taught through Nearpod.” Students participate in activities together, as a class, which has been a positive learning experience and community builder.
In Grade 7, social studies teachers pivoted the Revolutionary War Monologues unit to reflect pandemic restrictions. Students used various forms of technology to create smart, educational, and entertaining presentations. “As in the past, students choose an individual from the Revolutionary War time period to study,” said social studies teacher, Ms. Stacey Iskovitz. “Their person’s defining moment was organized through Research Padlets, a web application on a digital wall.” These were color-coded notes with areas for facts, questions, and teacher comments. Students used a Peer Editing Padlet, another useful technology tool, to provide feedback on their monologues.
Students videotaped their presentations at home using props, scenery, and costumes. The teachers created screencast guidelines and were given instructions via Zoom for virtual backgrounds and a teleprompter application. “Students’ monologues were recorded on different devices, but everyone’s final performance was uploaded to Flipgrid, a video sharing interactive technology tool. Seventh-graders and teachers had a pajama party in class to binge-watch the presentations,” said Ms. Iskovitz. “Although we were dealing with restrictions this year, the addition of technology helped make for a rich and memorable experience.”
Teaching chorus requires creativity and reimagination during a time when singing is not permitted in schools. HCC chorus teacher, Ms. Kate Smith, said “My goal has been to preserve the sense of community and camaraderie critical to social and emotional growth and, at the same time, teaching the performance and literacy skills necessary as a member of an ensemble.” The technology tool that most supports the choral program at HCC is Flipgrid. “I have used it to post assignments to the class board where students submit a clip of themselves singing,” said Ms. Smith. “They create filters and emojis into their screenshots and videos, providing a fun, non-threatening way to sing.”
Another program, Music Prodigy, allows students to practice and receive immediate feedback. “It aligns with our music literacy curriculum, assigning short musical examples for students to practice and submit,” said Ms. Smith. The program gives students feedback that is critical, but limited in the current learning environment.
Teachers at HCC are using the program GoGuardian to monitor student progress and communicate with students privately during classes. GoGuardian Teacher is the chat feature that allows teachers to send messages to specific students or the entire class. “Screen monitoring is another handy feature,” said HCC technology teacher, Ms. Dawn Selnes. “It is difficult for teachers to see what students are doing behind their screens, and GoGuardian Teacher allows a window into their devices and can determine whether they are off-task or need help.” Students’ screens are seen in real-time enabling teachers to redirect the student, if necessary. Teachers can close and push out tabs for students when they see they are struggling to stay focused or while searching a topic online. “Many teachers have reported GoGuardian Teacher as a ‘game-changer’ for hybrid and remote learning,” said Ms. Selnes.
The essential question is alive and well in HCC and being addressed throughout the building. “Although this has been a big learning curve, our staff has embraced technology brilliantly,” said Ms. Lapple. “We are confident in the education we offer because of the strong partnership between students and teachers.”