Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How I Use NBC Learn to Complement 7th Grade Language Arts Lessons in My Non-1:1 Classroom

Our last blog post of Digital Learning Month comes from Melanie S. Beaver, 7th Grade English Teacher at West Vigo Middle School, Vigo County School Corporation.

As a middle school language arts teacher, it is critical that the content is relevant, accessible to all learners, and infused with any resources I can find that will make learning last. I hit a gold mine on all three levels when I discovered NBC Learn a few summers ago at a Summer of eLearning conference called PV TRANSFORM at South Vermillion Middle School. Cyndi Harrison, a session presenter from NBC Learn, spoke about ways to integrate video for multiple content areas into 1:1 classroom environments. Although I do not teach in a 1:1 school, I attended the session anyway, because we do have a shared computer lab and a shared classroom set of iPads. I found out right away that all I needed was my desktop computer and a projector, and NBC Learn was rolling in my 7th grade language arts classroom. Cyndi, a former classroom teacher herself, explained the many layers of resources available in NBC Learn, and honestly—as much as I use it, I know I have only scratched the surface.

I was thrilled to learn that this was not some strings-attached program or expensive technology package that I had to convince my principal to buy for our school. NBC Learn has been made available to all teachers, students, and parents in the state of Indiana by the Indiana DOE Office of eLearning. FREE! All I needed to do was sign in!

NBC Learn maintains a database of nearly 20,000 (and growing!) news stories sorted by subject area, and/or theme. For nearly any story we are reading in literature, I can find a news clip related to the time period or content. That became especially poignant when we were reading Code Talker, a historical fiction novel by Joseph Bruchac about the Navajo soldiers’ unbreakable code during World War II. I thought I might check NBC Learn for any news coverage of the Navajo and the important role they played during the war. I was thrilled to find several pieces of news coverage related to the Navajo code talkers. One featured a few of these surviving heroes being recognized by the President of the United States, since their mission was deemed highly classified for so many years. My students were in awe. Another clip (pictured below) covered the death of the last surviving code talker, Chester Nez. My students were broken-hearted. Pairing these videos and the resources that accompany them with the novel we read in class brought a deeper meaning to our classroom discussions.

Since I will probably use these videos again, I can save them to the Playlists tab. For each video, I can print a transcript, academic standards, share it with someone via email or to a social media site, and by clicking print I can see the MLA/APA citations for each video if needed.

I have used NBC Learn for my Shakespeare unit, poetry unit, and for teaching my students about historical or current events such as 9/11, the Civil Rights Movement, the election, and STEM fields. There are news stories related to language lessons I teach that my students have enjoyed watching such as “Decline of Grammar” and “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.” After grammar lessons, we have watched the clips called “Common Errors in English Usage.” It is critical that I keep my students engaged the entire time we are together, also known as teaching bell-to-bell. If the lesson has ended early, these clips make great discussion starters to keep the lesson’s conversation going.

I cannot use the excuse of not being a 1:1 classroom as the reason I’m not bringing technology into my classroom. My students are 21st century learners, and we need to be teaching them using 21st century resources. I can incorporate all the resources from NBC Learn using my desktop computer and projector. When available, students can conduct their own topic searches in our shared computer lab or using our shared set of iPads. All that matters is that we are embracing the technology resources that are available to us, without fear or resistance.

Oh! And by the way….just in case I felt alone using NBC Learn, I might click on the Toolkit Tab, and then click on How Others Are Using NBC Learn. I can see that teachers from all subject areas and grade levels are using this great resource to complement their classroom resources and bring their curriculum to life just like I am. There is also a troubleshooting tab and a tab for getting started. I stay in contact with Zach Levine, our contact at NBC Learn. Every time I have needed his help navigating NBC Learn, he has replied to my email right away. As fancy as tech tools can be, nothing beats the personal touch from someone who supports you as you are integrating it.

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