One aspect of my time in the EDTECH program that I found to be most beneficial has been the creation of hands-on, project-based, experiences for my students. I know the benefits of these activities in my classroom. I see students become enthused and in control of their learning. One of the unexpected effects of this type of learning has been the integration of my curriculum. We now complete reading, math, science, and social studies within one project. What has this experience meant to my students?
Veronica Boix Mansilla of Harvard Graduate School of Education states, “While empirical research is scarce, learning theorists have associated interdisciplinary learning with higher levels of mental complexity, perspective taking, beliefs about knowledge and inquiry, and complex collaboration. Yet the promise of interdisciplinary learning extends beyond the important skills here described. In quality interdisciplinary classrooms, students can examine relevant contemporary topics in their full complexity” (Edutopia, 2011).
I have seen the higher levels of learning and collaboration in my own classroom. Rather than completing game-based activities to practice kindergarten site words, my students began using words to create their own portfolio. The level of student understanding of site words was much higher than in previous years. There was also the added benefit that students were all working at their own level, creating a differentiated classroom that required little preparation by the teacher.
Now that I fully understand the benefits of interdisciplinary classrooms, I find myself creating projects without much thought. It is amazing that when you let go of the strict schedule, how quickly you start thinking about the project and the students, rather than the discipline. The time I spend with my students during these projects has been the most rewarding and exciting times in the classroom.
I have not completely integrated my entire class schedule. I still have small group time assigned to reading and math in which to work with students at their level. I have, however, integrated elements of other curricular areas into these activities. I look forward to seeing where I take this guided time in the future.