Imagine asking students to write a research paper without teaching them how to write an introduction, body and conclusion first. How about writing the equation of the quadratic formula on the board, and just giving students a set of problems to start solving with no prior instruction?
These types of tasks are nearly impossible for students if teachers do not break up the learning process into small chunks aimed at meeting the students where they are and then building on them to create new knowledge, otherwise known as scaffolding.
Meeting with several teachers recently calls to mind a couple of instances that serve as a useful reminder why scaffolding not only applies to teaching content, but is also imperative to employ when introducing new technology into the classroom. I want to share experiences from two teachers that I work with and demonstrate how scaffolding would apply to each situation.
The first experience I want to share is about a teacher that I met with that expressed concern about the students not wanting to take notes on their laptops using OneNote. The teacher noted that many of the students did not know how to use the stylus and that they were falling behind when taking notes.
In turn, the students resorted to the old paper and pencil route. However, when the teacher was asked if they had given the students time to get to know their device, or practice using the stylus, the answer was no. In another instance with a different teacher, we talked about not having enough time to teach students how to use technology in addition to teaching the content.
Feeling pressure to utilize the latest and greatest websites, this teacher asked the students to create a presentation using “Prezi” as the culminating activity for a project. Many of the students had never used Prezi before and had no idea where to begin. This resulted in some students becoming easily frustrated and more focused on the technology then the content.
Although these situations at first glance could be perceived as upsetting for the teachers, or even somewhat of a drawback to technology integration, they actually were quite valuable experiences. In both cases, the concept of scaffolding as it applies to technology integration was proposed as a solution.
After much thought and reflection, these teachers took a step back to reevaluate their approach. What they realized was that scaffolding was so common place when teaching content, it did not occur to them to apply this strategy to introducing new technology. This happens easily because we assume that our students are so tech savvy to begin with.
How to Apply Scaffolding
Let’s address the first instance where students were not taking notes on their laptops. Whether it’s some type of hands on manipulative in Math or a map in Social Science, it’s always a good idea to give students some time to “play” with it before using it in class. Computers, websites, or new applications are no different.
Helpful Hint: Never assume that your students know how to do anything when it come to technology.
Activities to complete
Scaffolding of skills in OneNote
· Begin by giving students some free time get to know OneNote. Introduce them to the drawing feature (“Draw”) and let them go to town. (5-10 minutes)
· Using the stylus to write/draw
· Changing colors
· Inserting shapes
· Then start providing them with some structure. Show them the “Home” ribbon and explain how it is similar to Microsoft Word since there is a good chance the students are familiar with that program.
· All of the above
· Change font
· Change font size
· Change font color
· Bold, italicize, underline
· Next, give them a series of small tasks to complete in OneNote. For example…
o Have them create a “Personal” binder by creating it from scratch.
o They will create 3 tabs along the top.
§ Tab 1 – Biography
§ Tab 2 – Interests/Hobbies
§ Tab 3 – Pictures
o Finally, show the students how to share binders and ask them to share their personal binder with another student in class.
· All of the above
· Binder creation
· Creating tabs/pages
· Typing in OneNote
· Inserting pictures
· Sharing binders
As you can see, the activities break up the learning process of OneNote into small chunks aimed at meeting the students where they are and then building on them to create new knowledge/skills which will eventually prepare them for taking notes every day in class.
Taking time to do an activity like this will eliminate problems in the future, allow teachers to use instructional time more effectively and provide a better learning experience for the students. The scaffolding of skills in the column on the right builds upon each other to increase the students’ proficiency. Here is another way of visualizing the scaffolding taking place.
Overall this turned out to be an extremely positive learning experience for our teachers. After revisiting the concept of scaffolding and applying it to technology integration, these teachers are feeling confident and excited in their approach going forward.
This is a first look in a series of posts that will address the importance of scaffolding in technology integration. What is an example of a time where you could have applied scaffolding to introduce technology into the classroom for your students?