This is the latest in a series of blogs by partners of the Fluency work.
By Melissa Fritter
In the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson stated, “...that all men are created equal...” Although this may be true at the moment of birth, within one minute on this Earth, each one of us becomes a unique individual. Whether it is how and when we speak, how we walk, the color of our eyes, hair, or skin, the way we smile, the manner in which we dress, what we find funny, sad, curious, or the way we learn. Educators are very much aware of this as soon as students walk into a classroom from Preschool through University and beyond.
When I first joined the Data and Technology Fluency Project a few years ago I began to look at my values in my own life as well as in my classroom with a new perspective. I truly began to look at my students in a new light. I decided that I wanted to delve deeper into discovering what makes each of my students unique and how can I foster the love of learning in order for them to continue to develop his or her individuality while still teaching the content standards required.
As a Library Media Specialist I am in a unique position in the respect that I do not have an exact curriculum I am required to teach, therefore I have redesigned my teaching style and content delivery various times over the years. However, since becoming a part of the D&T Fluency Project I have attempted to reflect more on what I am teaching and how the students are learning. Currently, I am working with students on STEAM projects during class, as well as some online STEAM projects during the COVID-19 quarantine period. The STEAM projects enable students to not only work together toward a common goal, but see the value in what each student has to offer and allow them to be heard.
This past school year, I had first graders build carnival rides out of EMIDO building kits. It enabled students to talk to each other about what they were building, if they could attach them together to create a larger ride, how their ride worked and why they chose the specific “sticks” to build them “that way”. The interaction and discussion was lively and interesting. Students learned about what worked and what didn’t which gave them an opportunity to employ some of the Mindfulness techniques we discuss daily at both of my elementary schools.
Second graders worked on a “Me” Google Slides presentation in which they listed information about themselves and told about their favorites (color, food, sport, book, etc.). With second graders, logging into their Google accounts was the greatest challenge! It was wonderful to be able to have them share information about themselves and their families while acquiring necessary computing skills that will help them in the future.
Third and fourth graders learned many problem solving skills and teamwork through the completion of hands-on STEAM projects such as building huts, bridges, igloos, etc. These activities are another valuable opportunity for students to showcase their strengths and work together to determine what strategies work and decide what needs changed in order to find success.
Fifth graders worked diligently this year to produce stop motion animation videos on iPads using Stikbots. This lesson was certainly one where the teacher was learning with the students! We learned together the pitfalls as well as successes throughout learning the software and finding glitches in it as well. Students wrote interesting stories and then used the Stikbots to bring them to life. A truly challenging experience for us all.
Throughout the year students learned that not “all men are created equal” because each
student brought their own individuality into each lesson in the Media. Teammates learned to
listen to one another, respect each other’s ideas and learn from each other. Using one’s unique
personality allows thought processes to be different in each group which enables each project to
be an authentic representation of the group, not just carbon copies of each other.
I believe the Data and Technology Fluency Project has made me realize that I do not want nor do I need a room of robotic students doing everything the same way to get a cookie cutter result. I want to encourage students to be themselves and begin to discover what they like and dislike, what they do well now and what they haven’t mastered YET and how to get along with one another building compassion and empathy while building projects.
How will this look in the future with everything that has happened since March? I am not sure; however, to quote my husband’s beloved US Marine Corps mission, we will “...improvise, adapt and overcome any obstacle in whatever situation...” so that students will be able to continue to work together and learn from one another.
Melissa Fritter graduated from West Liberty State College in 1994, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education. In 1997, she began teaching full-time for Ohio County Schools, WV, which led to the pursuit of an additional certification in Library Media Science (PreK-Adult) in 1998. She then went on to earn a Masters Degree in Educational Administration in 2008. Melissa currently is a member of Cohort 3 of The Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University). Melissa’s special interests include spending time with family (including the family dog and cat) and reading as much as possible.