by Michael García – Brown Elementary
As an educator who came to the profession in a round about way, through my background in fine art- acquiring both my bachelors and masters degree in studio art- I had a natural inclination to connect creativity and teaching, as that was how I approached even my earliest learning experiences as a child.
Rote memorization and purely left-brained approaches never spoke to me as a student and they don’t as an educator either. I’ve also always had a penchant for exploring technology as an expression of human creative thinking being applied to our interactions with the world at large. It was only natural that I would find myself at the crossroads of both of those approaches in the classroom as a teacher as well.
What I’ve found in my 20+ years in the classroom is that students have become less and less creative in their problem solving as our field has honed in more and more on testing and focused more and more on the basics of reading comprehension and math problem solving. We’ve whittled away the fun and outside of the box approaches that can make the educational experience not only more enjoyable, but reflective of the real world in which getting from 2 +2 isn’t a direct line to equaling 4. Seeing the larger picture of situations often involves looking from different angles in a world that can often be presented in the classroom as 2 dimensional. In short, our students are not creative problem solvers. There are fewer and fewer MacGyvers in the making (if that reference doesn’t date me I don’t know what does.)
This is where I believe integration of technology in creative ways, can reawaken the dormant curiosities and multi-route modes of solving problems that our students need to be successful in the world. As with most of the content we share with our students, modeling is an important aspect of imparting the importance and proper use of the information. The “I DO” part of the I Do, We Do, You Do, is the first and important step in showing students how to correctly do the work we assign. It also shows that as adults we make use of the content. Just as students may see adults in their lives placing no importance in social graces and must explicitly be taught and modeled how to say good morning etc., if they don’t see it, they won’t know how to do it nor know its importance. It is our job to do that for them. Likewise, our use of technology in their education models its necessity not just as a means of entertainment and fun, as games on their tables to pass time, but as an ever increasing skill in the workforce.
Now as I find myself as a dyslexia interventionist which is a very prescribed and scripted set of programs, it felt as though there were no ways to be creative in the delivery. At first I felt stunted and like I could not be creative in any way (as I know creativity through my art practice and how I’ve taught for the last 20+ years.) But, I think technology may be a way for me to bridge that gap though. I have taken the plain black and white flashcards used daily in one program and made them into Google Slides with colorful clip art and animations as a way of making them more appealing and interactive. This has also helped because each group I work with requires me to create and set aside the cards they need to use for the lesson that day. This would have either required me to buy more sets of cards to sort beforehand or quickly sort and select the ones required for that given group each day. Now, I can create copies of the Slides and save into folders for each group for each day of the week as part of my planning, rather than having to scramble and do so with the physical cards multiple times a day.
Another way I will incorporate technology into my dyslexia lessons is by recording videos with consistent and accurate letter sounds (I find many teachers don’t teach students to clip and they will say for instance that the letter D makes the sound /duh/ rather than clipped /d/ sound.) There is no slipping up this way. Also, these videos show how to position the lips and tongue when pronouncing each letter sound.I also plan to create more animation heavy slides with syllables and joining them together to help students decode words.