The First Howdy Dewar News Crew
The next year, my role changed a bit. Instead of being a resource teacher, I was back with a homeroom. This time my homeroom was going to be a self-contained third grade EIP class. Third grade in Georgia is a critical year in reading. The students must pass the Reading portion of our standardized tests in order to promote to fourth grade, and I was about to be given a class of students whose average reading level was first grade. How was I ever going to get these students to where they needed to be? I finally decided I had to figure a way to fit digital projects into my classroom as a permanent fixture for several reasons:
- Engagement – Digital Projects caught the attention of students who were already starting to feel dejected by school. School was completely separate from their home lives of video games and TV. This was a way to bridge that gap and put the spark of interest in their eyes.
- Deeper Understanding of Concepts – Through the projects students internalized and owned the material. The students were thinking critically, problem solving, and creating. Using thinking skills so much more powerful than simply memorizing.
- Genuine Audience and Purpose – No longer were they just doing static work for the teacher. This was a project they could share with the world. They had a voice and a reason, beyond a grade, to make the product their best work.
- Necessary Technology Skills – The world is digital now. The students need to be taught the skills and the thinking needed to work with it professionally.
- Pride and Confidence – Even in third grade my students were already aware of the fact that they were struggling in school. They were acquiring the “I can’t” attitude. That attitude needed to change for them to succeed. They needed something that they could feel pride and ownership of to start the swing to “I can”.
I still struggled with the time and scope factor, but I was also determined for every one of my students to be on or above grade level when they left my room at the end of the year. I needed to do something drastic to get them there. With this in mind and with some great advice from a fellow colleague, I created a classroom that looked like the typical gifted class and where the term EIP was not uttered. Digital projects, both individual and collaborative, became the norm through two main year-long projects that were daily fixtures in my classroom and then a splattering of digital storytelling projects throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong, we wouldn’t just be doing digital projects. Our normal third grade curriculum was still there and taught in the classroom pretty much like any of the other third grade classes on my hall. But the digital side of my class was going to be my trampoline to bounce the students up to where they needed to be.