This week, I stumbled across a wiki my former 2nd grade students and I created during my last year in the classroom, and it evoked two reactions for me. First, it made me nostalgic for the joy of watching my students learn, and second, it strengthened my belief that today’s classrooms need to be student-centered learning environments.
I feel very fortunate for the opportunities I had as a teacher in Broward County Public Schools, where I had the chance to take part in their Digital Education Teacher Academy (DETA) and participate in GLIDES, which both stressed technology infused project-based learning. Not only were we given extensive training, we also had access to instructional technology coaches who helped us plan our units, modeled lessons, and guided us through the process. This helped to shape my teaching from teacher-centered, whole group lessons to student-centered, collaborative activities. I remember feeling slightly odd at first when we would work on our PBL projects – my students were so busy working and learning that I almost felt useless to them. Throughout the year, they got so good at collaborating with each other and using their peers to help solve problems, that I had time to focus on individual needs that I wouldn’t have had time for using whole group instruction. My students were building 21st century skills while maintaining a focus on curriculum content, and most importantly, they were learning and having fun at the same time.
While I couldn’t focus all of my instructional time on full-fledged PBL, I did try to incorporate aspects of student-centered learning into all of my lessons. The wiki we created, Healthy Choices Healthy Kids, came out of an idea around an initiative in Florida a few years back to include 30 minutes of exercise and/or health instruction into the elementary curriculum on a daily basis. Feel free to check out our wiki – don’t judge too harshly, it was our first attempt and we hadn’t gotten to the lesson on design and color choice quite yet! I love the creativity of 7- and 8-year old students 🙂