Thursday, September 20, 2012

Exploration Thursday

A good friend, Andrea, has a day she calls "Expedition" day in her classroom.  Her students explore topics of nonfiction and wonder on these days.

Last year, I borrowed her idea, and had Wonder Wednesdays in our classroom where we used nonfiction texts and websites like Wonderopolis to dig deeper into topics of interest.

This year, I decided to have a day I call Exploration Thursday, which was originally just meant to be a Wonder Wednesday transplant, but due to an exciting opportunity for the 5th graders in my school, Exploration Thursday has become a day where we launch new thinking, and it has become much more than that as well.  Truly every day is a day for exploration.

Let me explain.  This year, my forward-thinking principal decided to give all the 5th grade classrooms a variety of technology tools to use in the classroom.  Each room has 3 iPads (grateful for a PTO grant that jump-started those acquistions), 4 desktops (they were previously in our room), 6 laptops (one of the school's laptop carts was broken down, and redistributed to each 5th grade classroom), and 5 - 6 iTouches (a teacher wrote a grant several years ago for these and decided not to use them so they have been redistributed to us as well).  As you can see, a wonderful situation to have.

But talk about needing to change my mindset -- even though students weren't always composing the same things in previous years, everyone did use the same tools - Pages, Keynote, KidBlog - to demonstrate learning.  Now, we are in the fabulous position of having even more tools that demonstrate learning, but we can't all use the same tools for the same things.  So my thinking about tech tools needed to evolve.

Luckily, we have an amazing tech team in our district who come out to work with individuals on needed PD, and the conversations that have already occurred regarding this new learning have been wonderful.  I've already had conversations and personal meetings with 4 of the tech personnel and I love how supportive they are of this learning opportunity.

Exploring Popplet
Last Thursday, I was just going to introduce the iPads to the students.  Well truthfully, they are fairly tech-savvy, so it would be more accurate to say I introduced the 3 apps that I thought might be new to them.  I quickly demonstrated some very simple "how to" regarding the apps Explain Everything, Skitch, and Popplet.  Then students were paired up and asked to produce a product in each app.  I know this won't come as a surprise, but the students taught both me and the two district tech folks in the classroom things we didn't know.  It was so fun as we plugged their iPads into the SmartBoard to see what they had discovered and produced.

Students taught me you can pictures to Popplet boxes!
However, once again, everyone was showing their learning using the same tools.  I know there was purpose behind spending this time early in the year getting to know the new apps so they will know the various tools available to them, but now it's time for the "what's next".

I've very excited about the next steps proposed by two of my tech friends, Trish and Beth.  We're going to think about each of the devices in the classroom, and brainstorm all the possibilities for each to show learning; we'll be building a toolbox of many tools, no matter what device we use.  I'm really looking forward to all the Exploration of Learning that will occur in our classrooms this year.

And we're going to look at authentic rubrics to assess some of this formative information the students will be creating.  I promise to share more about that next week; I have 2 more meetings scheduled with my tech friends as we think through authentic use and assessment.

I know this will be a topic for several blog posts throughout the school year, so stay tuned...


  1. This sounds exciting!!!! Cannot wait to hear the details as this unfolds over the coming months. Exploration energy is contagious!

  2. What a great experience! I can't wait to follow your journey on Thursdays. Please let me know the 3 apps :)

  3. What an exciting journey for you as well as the class. I can't wait to learn more about exploration. Please share the 3 apps that your shared with your class. Thanks!

  4. Love this, Karen! Can't wait to hear more about it as you learn.

  5. Karen,
    Pretty jealous of the technology in your classroom. I'm imagining all you will learn. I look forward to having conversations about all that is happening in your classroom.