Inspired Ideas
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Inspired Ideas

Getting Digital in My Gifted Classroom

By Language Arts Teacher and Guest Blogger Jill Beane

Recently my school district developed Gmail accounts for all students K-12. Therefore, at my junior high, where I teach 7th grade Honors Language Arts, students were given emails that could only email teachers and students within the district. As an educator, I thought this was a great idea and that my colleagues and I finally have a common way of reaching students. I was also excited students would be able to utilize web tools without me having to create “dummy” accounts for them.

Little did I realize that these “digital natives” would be so helpless using a basic email account, let alone the ability to collaborate via Google products such as Google Docs and Google Drawings and the other Google options available to them.

With my excitement brewing, I decided to jump into the deep end right away with the grand idea of going completely all-in, using G Suite with my students — so I dusted off the Google Classroom I had created in one of our many professional development sessions, and updated it with my current students. I selected an appealing theme, worked on the layout, put various items in the stream — and then it was time to have the students sign in. I didn’t anticipate the amount of questions and lack of confidence I’d be hit with by my 51 honors students (my students range from academically talented to students gifted in multiple areas).

I think the general belief is that because tweens and teens always want to be and are on technology, that they know how to navigate it naturally.

I found this to not be the case in the using of email and signing in to Google Classroom. Since I was sitting at the teacher computer at the back of the lab, I didn’t realize how many students were taking notes on what to do. I turned on the projector and began to model the formula for their email address (their passwords had been set as their network login passwords), how to find the invitation email to our Google Classroom, and how to get find the first assignment. After a few minutes of quiet, one student approached me and said, “Where do I go to find Gmail, and how do I sign up?”

In looking around the room, I quickly realized that at minimum, between a third to a half of the class, were staring at me wondering the exact same thing. I then asked, “How many of you have never had or sent an email?” The number of hands that went up was more than the number of kids awaiting more in-depth instruction. Their reasons were pretty similar — “My parents always email questions for me.”

I guess what I learned that day was three-fold:

  1. Model every step for students when using new technology.
  2. Students are comfortable with gaming and social media, and they are not afraid to play with new technology — but it is not something they know how to use with educational intent.
  3. Educators and parents need to teach students how to communicate and advocate for themselves. I’m hoping in having these emails — this will increase.

Jill Bean has been a teacher in School District 308 for the past 16 years. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and middle school endorsements in English/Language Arts, Social Sciences and Gifted Education. She received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL, in 2006 and her administrative degree from Aurora University, in Aurora, IL, in 2008. She lives in Montgomery, IL with her husband, two daughters (Madyson — 9 and Kennedy — 7), and her cat, Tanner.

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