Love God. Love kids. Love to teach.
Guest Post By: Janelle Sievert, Assistant Adminstrator, Curriculum Director, and Resource Room Staff at Zeeland Christian School located in Zeeland, Michigan. Zeeland Christian School serves students in grades PreK-8.
Love God. Love kids. Love to teach. At Zeeland Christian School, we pray that these words are at the heart of who we are and what we do every day. When we look at each area of our school, we continue to try to do the very best that we can to put these words into action, and technology is no exception.
We spend a significant amount of time talking about and planning for technology. From equipment needs to more complex issues such as what types of experiences we want our students to have through technology, the conversation is never done.
Several years ago, ZCS implemented a one-to-one laptop program in middle school. Technology at the elementary grades was also more fully integrated by using iPads and Macbooks. As we continue to find the right balance for technology in our classrooms, our goal is not to increase screen time. We view technology as just one of the tools that students can use, knowing that there will be times that other tools will be a better choice.
As we think about integrating technology into our classrooms, we’ve tried to focus on what we want students to do versus what we want students to make. An example of “doing versus making” would be to say that we want students to use technology to get feedback from someone outside of our school, instead of saying that we want students to make a keynote presentation. All of our students in grades 4-8 maintain their own individual blogs where they post finished papers, pictures of projects, and other artifacts of learning. We also have them document their learning by posting projects that are in progress. We continue to work to connect people outside of the classroom with each child’s blog, with the goal that they provide feedback and dialogue with the student about his or her learning.
We want technology to enhance the educational experience of our students by enabling them to do things that they couldn’t do otherwise. Our students have used technology to build relationships with people around the world. We’ve had classes Skype with students in the Philippines and Costa Rica, allowing them to form relationships with and learn from people they otherwise would never have encountered. Our 7th grade students had the chance to do a Google hangout with a former ambassador to Africa as part of their Africa project. Students have used technology to record themselves reading children’s books, and the videos have been sent to schools that have very few books.
Next year, our middle school will be moving into a new building addition that includes two large project rooms. We are currently planning what technology we want to have on hand in those project rooms to allow our students to create products from ideas that they design. We envision our students coming up with ideas of how to demonstrate their learning, using their laptops and software to design a product, and then going to the project room and using a 3D printer, laser cutter, or even foam core board to create a prototype of their design.
While our students are doing exciting things with technology, the vision is greater than cool projects. We have to ask how we can use technology to reclaim the world to the honor and glory of God. When we see what our students are using technology to do, we have great hope for the impact that they will have on the world and the way that they will use it to bring people closer to our Savior.