Incorporating Technology: Opportunities to Encourage Adaptive Expertise

Author: Patrick Baker  • 

We made an exciting change this past year: all of our 6th grade students had a laptop with them in class. We recognized the benefits of digital learning and literacy as well as the fact that this is where our world is headed, so we want to prepare our students to not only function in a digital world but to be successful in using their digital skills. We want to allow our students to face and overcome some of the difficulties of using technology so they can build their sense of adaptive expertise as technology continues to shift and change.

What does that look like in the classroom? One of the biggest changes of having laptops in our 6th grade classroom was that it allowed for greater collaborative and independent research – we did it more and, I think, better. The students did several research-based projects throughout the year, such as our Civil War Living Museum; instead of having to reserve a computer lab or students doing the majority of the work outside of the classroom, students were able to dive deep while in the classroom, using a variety of resources to tell the stories of their Civil War figures. Doing this kind of research in class also allowed us to talk about questions like, “What makes a source trustworthy?” and “Why do we want to use multiple sources?” Having multiple types of resources at hand also appealed to different types of learners; some watched videos from or found photographs and paintings while others read primary source texts and listened to a reading of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

When it came time to write the stories of their Civil War figures, the 6th graders could immediately start brainstorming, drafting, and revising using things like (for mind-mapping) and GoogleDocs (for drafting). GoogleDocs also made it easy to share their work both with me and with their peers to get (and give!) comments and feedback from multiple perspectives.

Having laptops in our classroom took our history study and writing practice to a new level, and we all saw and experienced the benefits of that change. It also allowed us to talk about digital citizenship and using technology appropriately. As last year’s 6th graders move into 7th grade, they will continue to hone those digital literacy skills and practice being good digital citizens, using their growing adaptive expertise to navigate challenges and learn new skills.

– Sunni Winkler: Middle School Humanities Teacher

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