Archive for September 2011

Making the Digital Jump

One week at it and the fog in the classroom is starting to clear. It feels like I have been a completely gang tackled by a bunch of hardware, software, and webware thugs. My desk is a mess with lose papers, software disks, ipads (students and teachers), styli, pens, pencils, cords, chargers... it is evident that I am in a struggle with a digital/analogue identity crisis.

Where are these files? Are they printed? Do they need to be printed?
Can students access this file just using the iPad? Can they edit this file?
Can they organize their iPad so that they know where to find these files?
How do I receive these files back from students with their annotations?
How do I grade digital student artifacts? Do I really want 150 emails today?
Does doing this analogue make better sense for the sake of best practice?

These are just a few of the questions that I find myself asking as I slowly morph from analogue to digital. In an attempt to move to the digital world and connect our learners in a virtual classroom my classes are meeting and communicating on Edmodo- ahhh yes! math class is no longer 58 minutes. In addition, I have built a wiki for just my geometry classes. Biting off more than I can chew is a habit of mine and I don't want to start another project that I don't wife wouldn't be happy even if it isn't going on the living room wall.

Edmodo is a social network specifically geared for education. It is not as "academic" as Moodle and not as sexy as could almost be seen as an offspring of the two. Some where down inside of me I am scared that students will reject this attempt to meet them in their own world and see through the "trick"of getting them to learn in a place they already are. But I am quite passionate about engaging students on their turf, showing them that they are learning where ever they are and that together we as a community we construct meaning and knowledge about life.

So I feel compelled to push this method of learning...for now. The smallest glimpses of this thing working have been making me giddy... Students will post a question as plain as "what is the homework?" Another student will respond...sometimes with a snide remark like "click on the calendar link above". I smile and say to myself 'look they really do care about one another.' But in reality they are helping, they are directing, they are answering the questions, they are taking ownership...and I am removing myself from the position of sole authority.

Today I posted the links to the first set of Showme tutorials geometry students created for our first quiz review. Student created work, created to help students work... ummm I think this could be good. Check out this students first attempt:

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Face Time

I am struck by how different the beginning of this year has been for me. I had to put the ipad on pause and go from table to table today looking students names and their faces. I have to get to know the student behind the device. I have never gone past the first week of school without knowing the names of all my students. I pride myself on that fact, and quite honestly that is more important to their learning and my classroom environment than any of this other stuff. I have not taken the time to greet each student at the door, we have done very little large group discussion, instead it has been device by device set up... I need more face time with my students and I need to give myself permission to have more face time with my students.

Where does that balance lie? What is good use of time on the ipad? Is there a time when it is specifically put down for relationships and social interaction? I got to believe this takes precedence over the constant push to integrate these ipads. I know that balance is coming. I can sense that there are fewer and fewer hangups with individual devices that take me away from being a relational person I just hope it's not too late.

I have found new ways to create some relationships and sense of belonging in the classroom that are different than last year. This year students were asked to pick their own seats (no assigned seats- part of me giving up my control and honestly there is no perfect seating chart) in tables of 6 students. I told them this is their team for a while and that they should pick team names. I have more reasons for this but perhaps that is a later post. For now this has seemed to work to include some students who might feel a bit more isolated by a teacher and a classroom set up in rows with specific seats that limit the interactions between friends.

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Opening Day

School is open. For students and teachers. September 6th, 2011 the day I have been waiting for for a long time. I used to say to myself 'how come I am the teacher at the school with THE worst technology anywhere?" 1 year ago, shoot 5 months ago I stood behind my overhead projector finger tips blue and black from erasing mistakes by licking my finger and swiping. No more messy finger tips now they are swiping an iPad and a whole lot of presentation technology to boot.

Students walked into class today equipped with iPads. Ubiquitous access for all, a means of communication for the shy, a device of frustration perhaps for the know it all, a wealth of knowledge behind that shiny glass. This is a new playing field and somewhere in the midst of all this I have to figure out how my position on that field has changed. There are so many unanswered questions.

What does that role as instructor look like now?
How do I get out of the way and let students take the center?
How does this device transform the learning environment?
How can I teach my colleagues to allow this device to transform their teaching?
What will my classroom look like a month from now? 8 months from now?
Will I still love this device and the fact that each student has one?
Will learning really have been transformed?
Will achievement have been increased?
What will the rest of the staff think about the ipad? What will I think about the iPad?

The people from Jonstons did an assembly today encouraging students to graduate. At the end of the assembly the showed a movie montage that was way over emotional and dramatized (i.e. Braveheart...come on this is school we're not fighting a war).
I realized I couldn't do that job...selling class rings. I just don't believe in it. Who wears them? How can you sell something that nobody uses?

I hope at the end of this year (month) I can still sell the iPad in the classroom

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