As an educator, I have been pushed to adapt in many ways over the past 10 years. The challenge helps to “recharge my batteries” and find new things to be excited about.
When I started teaching, the internet was just an early idea for Tim Berners-Lee and the rest of the net inventors. Now, it’s a daily tool in the classroom. We have You Tube, TEDTalks, email, Blogs, wikis, and classroom websites available as tools. These are exciting but can be pretty overwhelming! Knowing I want to share a link for all of the students is one thing. Deciding which platform to use is another. I’ve experimented with a number of sites, some work smoothly, some less so.
Some of these sites the kids enjoyed and found intuitive, others not so much. Few things are more frustrating to me than having six or seven students in the lab asking for my help at the same time with some technical issue they encounter. Its kind of amazing how many different ways my name can be called out…especially when they all sound plaintive. “Cyndi…I don’t get it!” “Cyyyynnnnddiiiii! This sucks!” “Cyndi…this isn’t working!” (Maybe I should have just written the address on the whiteboard, instead of having the kids join a new website or creating a classroom wiki…but then they struggle with typing it out or misspelling some key word in the address…)
Many times it made me think of that old bath bubbles commercial where the woman’s hair is standing on end and she starts pulling it, yelling, “Calgon! Take me away!” Clearly, some of the website appearances in class were short-lived.
Students often ask if we can watch a video, expressing disappointment if we are reading or doing something without technology instead. Their eagerness to put themselves in front of a screen (whether their phone, the computer, television, or projector screen) makes me cringe. One of my personal goals is to help them become as active a “watcher-of-screens” as possible.
Sometimes technology is a distraction, and sometimes it can be a tool, adding enjoyment or a special way to share information. Using it effectively is a constant challenge for me.
Right now we’re experimenting with Google in my English class – encountering ups and downs, successes and failures. It has been helpful to have the kids turn their writing in via GoogleDocs. We can look at parts of student work and discuss what is going well, make suggestions, and help those who need more examples of what a successful assignment might look like. It has reduced paper usage in our building, since I’m able to read drafts and give feedback on-line. In fact, at times it is tough to get the kids to actually print something when I have an activity for them to try. I like to have them colorcode their writing, highlighting different parts of a paragraph to ensure that they have a claim, evidence, and reasoning all together. Funny that they’ve embraced the paperless world, and often don’t want to bother walking to the printer and back to their desk to do that task.
I’m working on a Google Classroom site to try with the 2nd Quarter History class. I often have kids read and do activities with primary source documents from the Library of Congress or National Archives. Hopefully the GoogleClassroom will let me share hyperlinks with them more effectively. Or…it may generate some more Calgon moments. Wish me luck…
All of this is in anticipation of using Chromebooks in our building. We are hopeful of having a set that we can use with the kids in class – sometime before the semester is over. I’m sure some of our posts will address that development if it does come to pass. Both staff and students are excited about the possibility.
All of this to say, I have mixed feelings about technology. I appreciate the tool that it can be but worry that sometimes we’re all too dependent on it and lose some portion of creativity because we can’t see past what the technology can do.