Word processing software allows users to write information and save it either to a computer or to a portable storage device (disk, CD, etc.). In addition to saving files, users can format information in a variety of ways. Word processing software enables users to review, edit, and reorganize what they write, facilitating the writing process to improve results.
Teacher turns to technology to guide cooperative learning in a blended fourth-fifth science class
Students are teaming up in Vickie Sherman's blended fourth- and fifth-grade class to tackle a design challenge in the final phase of their science unit, "Measuring Time." They have learned the physical science concepts they need to approach the challenge, which is to build a reliable, practical clock that demarcates regular intervals for the longest period of time. Students will build their own water clocks, pendulum clocks, hourglass clocks, sundialsany kind of time-measurement device that meets the design challenge.
By assigning students to cooperative project teams, Sherman hopes to create opportunities for students to learn from one another and to build their individual and team skills.
Sherman uses hands-on learning, such as the clock-building project, to ensure that students can successfully apply science concepts. This approach is not without challenges, however. Sherman is faced with monitoring and supporting students who are working in seven project teams. Sherman's class spans two grade levels, and her students' academic, interpersonal, and small-group skills vary widely. With seven groups each addressing the design challenge in its own way, Sherman cannot practically monitor and support them all at once. To help keep track of student progress, Sherman needed a tool that teams could use to monitor their activity and communicate with her each day. She knew that a support structure would facilitate student success, and that she would be more available as a learning resource.
Sherman used the word processing software installed on all the classroom computers to create a simple electronic monitoring form for her students to use. Across the top of the form, project milestones were listed by date. These milestones represented phases of the project, such as reading and research, building prototypes, and presenting final clock designs on challenge day.
The rest of the form was a calendar that spanned the duration of the project. At the end of each day teams recorded what they accomplished, any problems that arose, and their plan for continuing their work the next day. Students also used the form to note individual effort, reporting on a 1-3 scale the degree to which each member participated, shared the load, and accomplished work. At the bottom is a space reserved for teacher feedback.
Each team has a password-protected folder on the school server where its copy of the form resides, along with other digital pieces of the project. Since Sherman started having students post their work to the school server, both she and her students have had an easier time managing--and communicating--about their projects. During the last 10 minutes of the work session, students open the form, record their progress, and save it back to the folder. Sherman reads the daily reports, answers questions, supplies advice or encouragement, and plans any teaching intervention needed to keep the group on track for the next day.
By the final milestonewhen student teams had to be ready to present their clocks in a design challengeevery team had completed its project. The online form gave student teams the tools to take responsibility for meeting their deadlines. In addition, the form helped support communication between the teacher and the teams. If a team was having trouble understanding a concept, finding supplies, or getting along, students could identify the issue on the form. Sherman could see at a glance which teams needed help, and then adjust her instruction accordingly for the next day. She could also review the forms to evaluate student effort.