The energy in the room is palpable—kids are talking to each another, asking questions, and working to complete their projects on their tablets. By dropping into this room as an observer, you’d never guess these second graders were learning how to use PowerPoint—a skill they would soon transfer to a presentation for their next project.
A few years ago, Ryan Greene, a 2016 Walden University MS in Instructional Design and Technology graduate and a teacher at Dundalk Elementary School in Baltimore County, Maryland, wouldn’t have predicted he’d integrate this particular software into his curriculum—but it made perfect sense as he began working on his capstone project for the master’s program. The reward was his students’ reactions.
“I thought I’d be dragging them through the lesson,” he shares. Before he knew it, they were asking questions and developing more skills than he had planned. “They wanted to know how to format the background or add improved images. And they wanted to continue using the software that week. Ultimately, this is the transfer of knowledge I look for, which is why I asked them to use the software to complete their next presentation. I’m always excited to see what they come up with.”
With any application of technology, Greene’s goal is to use it in a purposeful way that furthers the lesson. “Technology dramatically increases student engagement. As soon as you flash something on a screen or give them a computer, it’s a lot more appealing to them than writing a paper or creating a poster,” he says. “I redesign instructional components and assessments to incorporate technology for this reason.” For example, instead of assigning a paper, he’ll ask for students to write and produce a podcast or a slide show that they will present to fellow students.
His integration of technology also improves how he meets the needs of students with a range of learning styles and capabilities. For example, Greene says, “Kids who might want to draw during the entire class can now create an infographic to demonstrate their capabilities and understanding of the content, which I might not have previously seen or assessed.”
“The master’s program helped me elevate my approach to the classroom and take my instruction to the next level. By applying what I learned in my classroom, I’m doing more for my students, which will prepare them to be more successful,” he continues. “My kids are more engaged in class and have higher attendance. The biggest rewards are the positive outcomes I’ve seen for my students.”
Not only is Greene a pioneer for the adoption of technology in the classroom in his school, but he’s also actively encouraging his colleagues to test it out in their own classrooms by sharing his expertise and research on new technology and approaches to adopt. “I’ve always been a tech person,” he says. “The courses at Walden provided the pedagogical background I needed to determine why implementing it in the classroom is so successful.”
His advice to all teachers? “Take the risk. Try something new. You never really know how effective a tool or approach will be until you try it. Using technology in your classroom also encourages critical thinking skills. Just dive in.” —Claire Blome