A Pigeon Approach to Keeping It Simple
If you've been rafting, you probably had your picture taken from a remote cliff as you went through the roughest rapids. You may have wondered how they developed the film and had 8x10 prints ready for you to buy at the end of your trip. Did a helicopter fly the film back to the store? Did they use a jeep to drive over backroads? Did they use a digital camera and cell phone to transmit the pictures?
Many companies have chosen a easier, low tech approach.... carrier pigeons. They can attach the film or digital disk to a carrier pigeon who quickly flies back to the store. Sometimes the simple solution works best. Throughout history carrier pigeons were a simple solution to a complex problem. Check out the websites on World War I from NASA and the Smithsonian for examples.
Pigeon Planning
Keep it Simple
Strategies and Scaffolds
Before You Jump In... Check it Out!
Address Time Issues
Continuum of Project Complexity
Return to Eduscapes
Keep It Simple
When you're thinking about integrating technology into your classroom, think simple. The more complex the problem and solution, the more frustrations you're likely to encounter. When trying to light a fire, a mixture of lack of expertise, wet logs, rain, and cold can add up to a miserable time. Stick to one thing at a time and always have a backup plan.
A Pigeon Approach to Unit Building
As you plan your technology-rich projects, think about building an effective learning environment, not "using" technology. Let technology and other resources flow naturally from your project. Think about all the possibilities including books, videos, Internet, and hands-on activities.
Consider the following steps: explore options, brainstorm ideas, select focus, develop materials, and be realistic.
The Legend of the Bluebonnet
Tomie dePaola
Step 1: Explore Options
Start with the standards. What standards need to be addressed? What themes might draw interest to these knowledge, skills, and attitudes? What materials such as books and videos do you already have available in your building?
Before you start creating materials, see what other teachers around the world are doing with this topic. Do a search using your favorite search engine. Use your topic or the name of a book you'd like to use as the focal point for activities. Rather than just searching for the topic or book title, add words such as lesson, activity, or webquest to your search.
For example, you might search for storytelling, tales, tall tales, folklore, or the book The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie DePaola.
Use Google for your search or check out my Search Engines page for other ideas.
Here are some lesson ideas, activities, resources, and webquests for the book The Legend of the Bluebonnet: Some of these resources will also lead you to good resources for other books too. For more lesson planning ideas, check my Starting Points page and my Lesson Plan page. For more book ideas, check out Literature Ladders.
Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas
Once you've identified some resources, it's time to do some brainstorming. Start by developing a concept map for your topic. Generate a list of options and ideas related to your topic. Consider cross grade level connections as well as cross curriculum ideas. For example, how do reading, writing, and math flow through your project? Can you think of authentic connections that might involve real-world activities such as simple field trips, guest speakers, email communications, or hands-on experiments?
Spend some time matching your concept map to the standards. Brainstorm standards-based activities. For example, after reading the bluebonnet book you might choose a wildflower and write a folktale. Write a story that goes with your state flower, or write a story based on the customs of a people or culture. Consider thematic projects such as planting wildflowers. You might take a wildflower field trip, take digital pictures, and make a virtual web trip. Add math by measuring wildflowers or estimating the number of wildflowers in an area. Make a wildflower mural in your classroom using information you find on the Internet. Read another book containing wildflowers such as Sarah, Plain and Tall.
Step 3: Select Focus
Keep your focus simple. Select a specific set of knowledge, skills, or attitudes related to a content area, information, and technology literacy . Help bring meaning to learning by selecting an interesting content focus. For example, students might retell and create tales to meet a language arts standard. They might associate flowers with states and geography through storytelling or connect stories to a culture project for a social studies project. They could measure and estimate flowers for a meaningful math project. You might relate the bluebonnet book to a standard focusing on the trait of giving.
In addition to specific content standards, consider information and technology literacy areas. For the bluebonnet book you might compare three online versions of the same bluebonnet legend (Version 1, Version 2, Version 3, Version 4). You could use the software Kidspiration for telling and retelling a story and the software Crunchers for wildflower estimation.
Step 4: Develop Materials
Once you've selected your content, it's time to focus on developing learning materials. Start by identifying specific strategies that will help you teach the content. Also, consider scaffolds such as the ones developed by the San Diego schools that will help your students learn. Explore three types of thinking scaffolds including reception, transformation, and production. A reception scaffold helps students organize ideas. A transformation scaffold helps students synthesize ideas. A production scaffold helps students create things.
Next, organize technology and resources. You might develop worksheets, templates, bookmarks, or other materials to assist students in using the resources more effectively. Finally, consider those things that must be created such as activities and assessment. For example, you might use the rubricmaker to create your assessments.
In the example on the right, students use the Kidspiration software to retell the story. Another template is used to create a new story based on their state flower.
The Legend of the Bluebonnet
Kidspiration Scaffold
Step 5: Be Realistic
The most important step is also the last, be realistic. Before you dive into the project, compare the outcomes you've selected with the time that you have and the activities you're doing. Are you trying to do too much? Are you spending too much time on a very small standard? Think about ways to use classroom management strategies to increase efficiency. Could you do the project in small groups? Also think about technology availability. Could you borrow digital cameras from other grade levels or set up learning centers to increase efficiency with technology? Could you print out web pages rather than accessing them online? Consider options for collaboration. In what ways can you cut, edit, streamline, and enhance the project?
One class created a web page on The Legend of the Bluebonnet and each student contributed a sentence... not a paragraph, page, or book. The teacher was able to keep the project realistic by limiting the comments to a simple sentence. Not all projects need to be this concise, but consider your outcome, what's needed to accomplish your goal?
Reflect on a Unit
Before you start a new unit, reexamine one you've done in the past. Did you follow the steps described? What were the strengths and weaknesses of the experience? How was technology used? How could it be used differently?
The Dilemma
Infusing technology and high level thinking activities into your curriculum presents a dilemma. The question becomes the efficient use of time versus complex thinking. How do we think simple in a complex world?
Dilemma 1: Think Simple
We need to think simple. Our world is filled with endless standards, tons of technology, zillions of students, and gazillions of ideas. Start by keeping it realistic.
Take a big project that you've done in the past. You may have been overwhelmed or invigorated by the project. What makes the difference? It's often how you've "chunked" the activities. Rather than thinking of it as one huge project, break it into reasonable steps and enjoy each activity along the way. Don't worry about the "final product", enjoy the simple activities along the way. Or, reevaluate the need for such a large project. Could the same outcome be accomplished by created a smaller project and spending less time?
Dilemma 2: Complex Thinking
The second dilemma relates to complex thinking. We have lots of technology, but does it really lead to higher-level thinking? It's the message, not the technology that addresses the standard. Go beyond read and retell activities. Create tasks that ask student to apply, synthesize, and create. For example, you could have students retell a page from the book Mistakes that Worked by Charlotte Foltz Jones. Or, students could create their own book.

Pigeon Planning
Keep it Simple
Strategies and Scaffolds
Before You Jump In... Check it Out!
Address Time Issues
Continuum of Project Complexity
Return to Eduscapes

Created by Annette Lamb, 06/01.