One of the things that I like best about the students in my sixth grade science classroom is that they are still INCREDIBLY curious about the world around them. Blowing their minds is just a matter of taking the time to make them aware of the fact that cool science happens every day.
I’ve done a ton in the past few years to share visual content with my kids — mostly by creating and sharing curated lists of interesting YouTube and Instagram channels worth following (see here and here and here). Those efforts have definitely paid off: Tons of kids are now walking around with easy access to constantly updated streams of pure science awesomeness, and that’s cool.
But I’ve never worked to get high interest science text in front of my students — and that’s a missed opportunity.
The simple truth is that turning students on to nonfiction reading — proving that articles from sources like Popular Science and Gizmodo and National Geographic can be JUST as amazing as The Hunger Games or The Lightning Thief or The Lunar Chronicles — is probably the MOST important contribution that I can make to the academic and intellectual growth of my students.
Being exposed to high interest articles from a wide range of fields — space science, biology, chemistry, earth science — might just introduce kids to personal passions and future professions. Seeing science in action turns what could be just another boring subject in school into an interesting career worth pursuing. Just as importantly, exposing kids to high interest nonfiction text on a regular basis will build their comfort level with a genre that will increasingly define the reading that they do as middle schoolers, high schoolers and adults.
So I’m trying something new this year: I’m going to use Remind — a free service that allows teachers to send out text and/or email updates to parents and students — to share two or three interesting science current events every week.
Remind is the right service for this project for three reasons:
1). Students can receive my updates via text. The average teen sends and receives 30 text messages per day, making texting one of the most important methods of communication for today’s kids. That means sharing interesting content via text is the best strategy for reaching my students.
2). Remind allows me to schedule messages for specific times. Right now, my plan is to deliver every message to my students between 7:15 and 7:45 AM and between 3:00 and 3:45 PM. That means my kids will get interesting content while they are trapped in the carpool line or on the bus on the way to and from school. My hope is that reading the cool stuff that I send will become a part of their regular routine — something to look forward to because it keeps them busy during a time when they are normally bored.
3). I can schedule messages directly from my cell phone: I do most of my casual nonfiction reading on my cell phone right before bed. While reading, I am constantly bookmarking content to use in class later and sharing content out to my Twitterstream. Essentially, I have turned spare minutes while I’m winding down for the day into an opportunity to curate information for myself and for others.
Integrating Remind into that already established process will be a breeze because scheduling articles through Remind’s app is a two-tap process from any screen. That means sharing nonfiction with my kids won’t be yet another thing that I have to do. Instead, it is a natural extension of something I’m already doing.
I’ll keep you posted on whether or not my plan works.
(PS: This is a perfect example of the notion that the best #edtech decisions have to start with meaningful learning outcomes in mind. I’m not using Remind because texting students is a behavior worth pursuing. I’m using Remind because sharing high-interest nonfiction reading is a behavior worth pursuing.)
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