Technology: It’s Not Just for the Students

In case you were not aware, today was #DigitalLearningDay. As far as I’m concerned, just about every day in my classroom is a digital learning day, but I am not one to pass up an opportunity to show off my EdTech prowess and design something extra special for the occasion.

For the past week, I worked with one of my favorite teacher besties who is also my across the hall classroom neighbor to build out an Escape Room activity. It was pretty rockin’ if I do say so myself. Even our admin team thought that it was a great learning experience for our kiddos.

Me and my across the hall teacher bestie with our Digital All-Star stickers and rocking our AVID shirts! <3

We built it around a theme of mythology because that’s where we are in our district curriculum and both of our classes just finished reading Pandora’s Box in our textbook. We created lessons that were a mixture of digital and analog.

The information that we projected on the board during the escape room activity. One side directs students to Mount Olympus when they “escape” the room, while the other side describes the consequence of a five-minute term in the Underworld for students misbehaving or cheating.

(Yes, it bothers me that the second “underworld” is not capitalized, but I realized it too late to fix it. #EnglishTeacherProblems)

One station had a box full of puzzle pieces and students were tasked with sorting the pieces, putting together three separate puzzles, then flipping those puzzles to reveal the summary of Pandora’s Box written on the back. They then put the summary in the correct order to get their escape code.

8th grade students putting together puzzles.

We also used a mini Jenga set to create a vocabulary matching station, where the numbered terms in the correct order created another escape code.

8th grade students matching vocabulary terms on Jenga pieces to definitions on a page (while hiding from their picture-taking teacher).

We cut apart an expository article and tasked students with putting the paragraphs back in order.

8th grade students organizing the paragraphs of an expository article about Greek mythology.

In another station, students scanned a QR code to access a Ted-Ed lesson over the story of Pandora’s Box and the multiple choice answers created the escape code.

8th grade students sitting on the floor of my classroom as they watch a Ted-Ed video and answer questions.

It’s STAAR testing season, so we even had a STAAR passage with questions in a Google Form. We set up the feedback to provide a letter for each correct answer that spelled out the escape code.

8th grade students reading a STAAR passage. After reading, they will scan that QR code in the middle of the table to access the Google Form of questions.

Once students completed each of the tasks, a final QR code took them to a final Google Form where they entered their codes. If the box turned red and said “Keep trying!” they knew they needed to fix their code. Once all of the codes were entered correctly, they were given a certificate and allowed to “escape” the classroom.

Each individual station took quite a lot of thought and preparation. We made copies, printed the expository article on colored card stock, created and printed QR codes, created Google Forms with specific formatting, and then when all of the lessons were created, we had to think through the logistical aspects. The biggest hurdle was just figuring out how we would combine our classes, as our schedules are not the same. Our junior high does a block schedule for English and Math, where students get two class periods of each; however, in the case of our two classrooms, the “block” is not always continuous. For instance, I have a group that starts third period and comes back to me eight period, and she has a group that starts third period and comes back to her fifth period. I have two preAP classes in the afternoon that come at a different time on alternating days, and she teaches and AVID class sixth period. It took some thought, some chocolate, and a couple of headaches, but we figured it out and made it work.

This was our attempt to figure out how to do a proper station rotation with four very different class schedules. Don’t try to decipher it. We live it and don’t quite understand it.

It wasn’t exactly easy, but it also wasn’t too hard, and it is something that we can re-use next year, and we could use the templates and ideas to create another escape room later.

While this is all well and good, and I am so excited about how great both of our classes did with the activity, that’s not my big takeaway from today.

I’ve been stressed recently, as I always am during STAAR season. I’ve been full of anxiety. I’ve shed tears. I literally just a few nights ago had a nightmare about administering the STAAR test and not being able to get the students to stop talking or the cell phones to stop going off and the administrator I called to help me just warned me that if I couldn’t get them under control, I would lose my teaching certificate. We’re more than a month away from the test, and all of this anxiety is already threatening to take from the Teacher Tired I wrote about two years ago to full-on actual teacher burnout.

But today was different.

I’m exhausted and my back hurts, but I feel so good about what we accomplished.

Every Thursday, I teach Educational Technology for Adolescents at the University of Houston. Tonight, we celebrated #DotDay five months late for #DLDay. My brain tends to wander as I walk from the parking garage to Farish Hall and back again after class. After an educational technology filled day, I suddenly realized that all of this technology may be great for the students, but you know what? It’s even better for me.

We always think about the students needing us to change things up so that they stay interested, but I know that I at least tend to forget that I need to change things up for my own sanity. I dare say that I am even more tired of seeing STAAR passages than my students are.

Today I got to switch it up. I got to enjoy technology and learning with my students. I got to see them have fun as they solved problems. I got to brag about my kids and lessons. I even got a fancy Digital All-Star sticker to go with my Digital Badges.

The totally awesome picture that our district technology integration specialist posted on Twitter

Technology can be extremely powerful in the classroom. For students and for teachers.

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