Maybe This Semester: 1 to 1 Learning-Part 2

So 2 weeks into the semester.  We are up and running with digital devices on a daily, somewhat sustained basis in one of my English classes.

The student account creation for Edmodo was a breeze!

The student account creation for Edmodo was a breeze!

The sign up? The very first day, the Edmodo sign up went like a dream. I couldn’t believe how smooth it was. All students created accounts without a glitch. In comparison, this was vastly different than each semester when I get my classes going on google docs!

Will students remember their devices? So far, the ones who have their own devices have brought them faithfully. They are small and portable, so it’s not an issue.  On our second day of using the ipads in class, I asked a question (on the ipads) about how students felt about using ipads and Edmodo.  The students overwhelmingly wrote about enjoying, even loving, using the ipads.  Even the student without computer or internet access at home was eager to expand her technology skills. Many wrote about how much easier it was to type on an ipad than on a regular computer, although some were longing to use a real key board.

Will Edmodo do what I need it to do?  This is the questionable part.  I frequently remind the students that we’re all learning this new platform.  Most are open to the idea that this is new and we’re all figuring it out.  Where to submit an assignment, where to post comments so that your classmates can’t see them, how to upload and submit their google doc response—these are all issues that I’ve had to model and re-teach.  I’ve even tried a few quizzes with the edmodo quiz option…useful, unless the answer could be quickly googled.  Not sure how to manage that aspect.

I’m finding that the marking on my end is a bit of a challenge.  In order to mark the work that they submit online, the teacher has to have online access and be sitting in front of a computer.  Although I spend lots of time in front of the computer creating and reworking documents, trying out new websites, and setting up Edmodo, I’m not so sure that I am enjoying the EXTRA time attached to the computer to do the assessing.

My big take away is a confirmation of my beliefs on students and their devices.  It has almost been accepted that students are the technology experts and we, as educators and the education system, need to somehow “keep up” with students.

The more I work with students and technology, I’m realizing that students are very good at ‘consuming’ with their technology: playing games, watching YouTube, interacting with Facebook and Instagram……HOWEVER, few of my high school students could function ‘productively’ if they were dropped into a work environment.   I’m sure they would pick it up quickly, but they currently aren’t leaving our institutions with these skills.  For instance,

  • basic Word Processing skills like indenting, line spacing, and even leaving a space after typing a period –in a formal essay, not just less casual writing—are increasingly lacking
  • only one or two students in my class has used online production and sharing applications like Google Drive/Docs, Dropbox, or Evernote
  • many struggle to follow instructions for posting responses to polling or survey sites like polleverywhere.com, padlet.com, socrative.com

Like any new skill, some pick up the technology ‘productivity’ side quickly, but in general, I don’t think that the majority of youth is as technologically apt as we assume!

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High School Educators: Ego vs Open Culture?

As George Couros writes in his blog series on “Leading Innovative Change”,  a growing, improving school needs to ’embrace an open culture’.  He writes:

 Organizations, as a whole, should model what they expect from students on a micro level; that they are willing to learn and grow.

At our high school, one of our school goals has been to learn and grow by visiting the classrooms of our colleagues. This goal is a ‘left over’ from our AISI project; a goal that we felt was too significant to abandon. The concept is simple in theory: encourage teachers to spend some time in the classrooms of their colleagues–10 minutes, 30 minutes, a full class period.  The underlying principle is that we all have much to learn from each other, even if we don’t teach similar subject areas: maybe a classroom management technique, a review procedure, a technology tip, or a way of interacting with a challenging student.  Nevertheless, in a high school environment, this is a very radical idea for many!

Why do high school teachers have such a hard time 'opening the door'?

Why do high school teachers have such a hard time ‘opening the door’?

Simple in theory. Just before the Christmas break, our staff completed a short survey to help leaders determine our progress in learning and growing from each other.  Teachers who had made even short visits to the classrooms of their colleagues overwhelmingly responded that it was time well spent–that they came away with a new perspective at the very least.  Unfortunately, even though the school year is almost half over, more than a third of our teachers had not yet responded to our school initiative of visiting a colleague’s classroom.  Some responded that they had intended to, but just hadn’t found the time; a few however, felt that it would be a waste of time… that there was nothing to learn as no one else taught exactly what they did.

So, the million dollar question: how do we continue to create and foster a culture where learning from others is seen as both valuable and important?  How do we model this culture of learning from others for our students?

George Courous continues in his blog: ” If your practices are amazing, sharing them with other educators gives them the opportunity to help more kids. If practices are weak, it often brings in new ideas to help your kids.  There is no loss in this situation for students, yet ego sometimes (often) gets in the way.”

Helping students learn, and of course increasing the ever elusive student ‘engagement’, are at the heart of our school goal.  I hardly read a research paper or a book on leadership that does not cite learning from and with each other as essential to school growth.  As such, I’m continually reassured that our modest plan of having colleagues visit the spaces of their peers is an important and worthwhile goal in fostering an open, learning culture.

When asked about creating synergistic positive energy in a school, Michael Fullan suggests that negative or punitive pressure is not the answer, but that:

 “no pressure seems problematic as well given the existential power of inertia.”  http://www.michaelfullan.ca/media/13514675730.pdf

So our question for the new year….How do we encourage the resistors, whether they be resisting intentionally or not, to join in a culture of learning from one another?