For Teacher Appreciation Week this year, we flipped the script and asked teachers to tell us about a time when a student taught them something about technology. We planned to choose 5 winners, but got too many good submissions so we had to choose 6.
All of the submissions we received will soon be available in an eBook, and the top 6 are listed below. We hope their stories will inspire you to think creatively about ways technology can help connect with students and explore new resources.
My Students Introduced Me to Google Classroom
I remember when I first received a ChromeCart for my class—some of my students had already begun using Chromebooks in other classes. I was brand-new to the Google Chrome suite of tools, and I was looking for a way to share information and assignments with my students. One of them asked if I had ever used Google Classroom, and of course up to that point I hadn't. She showed me what it was and how she received information for her other classes. I immediately signed up and was amazed! It was one of the best tools for organizing the classroom and keeping track of students. I use it daily, and don't know what I would do if I didn't use this program. —Frank L., 10th grade teacher
Amazed by My “Digital Natives”
While visiting a campus last year, I had the opportunity to learn how to scroll on the Chromebook from a second-grader. At the time, our district was just beginning the process of looking into the switch from PCs and iPads to Chromebooks. It was amazing to watch first- and second-graders utilize the Chromebook to collaborate on a class project. They were experts! I noticed that one student was scrolling through a Chromebook application without using his mouse. I asked how, and he explained how to scroll using the touchpad. During the observation session, I was also impressed to see one of the first-graders share the document his group was working on with a new student, and explain how to utilize Google Slides to his new peer. It was just so refreshing to see students take pride in their ability, and to willingly work on the assignments with little assistance from their teacher.— Pat G., 6th grade teacher
“Reverse Mentoring” Rocks My Classroom
I learn something about technology from my students every single day. I call it “reverse mentoring”, and it keeps me ahead of the curve. But my single favorite technology tidbit that I learned from a student was when I was asked if they could use Google Drawings for a mock newspaper, instead of using the standard old tables in Google Docs. I had them make me a quick example, and it was so much faster and better-looking that we changed the assignment on the spot. This kind of thinking totally rocked my classroom, and is now encouraged among my students to find better ways to do something.—John G., 6th-8th grade teacher
I Cried Tears of Joy
The first time I realized my students had taught me something about technology was when I assigned a project with very basic instructions and told them to teach me what they've learned throughout the semester. When I received the projects back from the students I truly cried. I felt like I was a teacher for the first time in 15 years of teaching.
The projects I received were all technology-based—most of them forms of technology I had taught them throughout the year—but they were able to demonstrate what they knew by utilizing technology and not answering routine questions from a paper and scantron test. They were able to connect to the material, thrive on the knowledge they learned, collaborate with others in class, communicate in ways they had never before without feeling awkward or shy. They were able to put their technology talents on display while teaching me that technology is not about writing essay papers and collecting data.
Technology helps with student engagement and student creation, but most of all student freedom to be who they want to be without being judged for any disabilities they may have, such as test-taking anxiety. Technology allows them to "show what they know" in ways they could never do in a 10-page essay or 100 point written test.
My students taught me that if I truly wanted to know what they have learned from my teaching, I would have to provide a vehicle that would allow them to demonstrate their abilities to shine, and explore further than they themselves ever thought possible. Once they taught me this information that I desperately needed to know about my teaching, I was able to provide them with the technology tools and assignments that would allow them the freedom of not only expression, but also allowing them to leave their personal mark on every assignment they now create for me.
For this, I thank them, as I have become a better teacher knowing how to engage them deeper into the material and make them responsible for their learning. They now take pride in what they do and turn in amazing assignments that are relevant to the topics they have learned. I could not ask for anything more.—Liana P., 10th-12th grade teacher
My Students Found Their Voices
I teach a Special Needs class. A student with great need, extreme behavior, and emotional concerns thrives on the Chromebook. One day, some students were struggling to complete a journal assignment. They had the thoughts but could not get them down by typing. The student I mentioned went around the room and taught every other student—and the staff, including me—how to use the microphone feature. Because of his efforts, all of the students are able to speak into their microphone, dictate their thoughts (learning to use proper speech) and then go back and edit their work with the keyboard. WOW!! This was a huge milestone for our class.—Jill M., Middle School teacher
So Many Ways to Express Themselves
In our third Nine-Week-Unit, we were wrapping up the first half of Career Exploration. At the end of each unit, we complete a Summative Assessment which demonstrates the student's knowledge of the content. For this project, students were to create any form of digital media to explain the soft skills needed to be successful in school and how these skills would affect their future.
Originally, I had limited the assignment to only Google Slides, Google Docs, and Google Drawings. However, I had a student kindly ask if she could create an app, because she and her mother used to do it all the time. I of course said yes, and had her explain the process. She took me to Appypie.com and walked me through the steps and showed me all of the features. After 30 minutes of being “trained”, I quickly revised the rubric to include apps. From there I thought to myself, "Why only limit it to apps? Why not videos, websites, blogs, and social media posts as well?”
I found myself revising the entire project to include all forms of digital communication. The students were thrilled with their unlimited amount of freedom. At the end of the project, I had everything from digital posters and video games to rap videos about the content! I was amazed at how much engagement came from just letting the students show me what they know in the best way they knew how. As a first-year teacher, this opened my eyes to the endless possibilities for assessment and instruction.—Michael B., 6th grade teacher
We'd love to hear more of your thoughts or stories in the comments below!