These last two weeks have been very different in terms of success. Week 4 I felt like I hit my groove with using these devices but Week 5 brought feelings of failure, stress, and oh no am I using technology as busy work?? Part of this I feel lies in my need to have everything run smoothly and practically perfect. If there is anything this pilot has taught me it’s that fail means first attempt in learning. It is OK to fail. Now the learning and growing process can begin. I thought I would take a moment to divulge why these weeks felt so different.
By this point in our pilot, students have established routines and we have procedures that have been tweaked and practically perfected. Logging in has become a breeze, students know when to get devices, where to store them, and are quicker at finding what they need. Students have used Canvas (LMS: learning management system) and are familiar with the set up and organization. Typing skills have improved thus boosting their familiarity of the keyboard.
During this week, I made sure to infuse more mini lessons throughout the day. I have become a fan of Google Docs as a way to make interactive lessons where students can move at their own pace.
Setting Exploration Google Doc
Fraction Investigation Google Doc
(these would be the 2nd and 3rd Docs we have done!)
I noticed that students were having trouble with managing their time, so I instantly delivered a mini lesson teaching them where to start, where to click, how to manage their tabs, and how to record their thoughts while they watched the videos. We were using post-its but they were getting lost and misplaced. Students now use their writing journal as a way to record items they want to remember and then use that to help them fill out the independent component of their Google Doc. Introducing the notebook was a game changer. Students then didn’t have to go from the video to the Google Doc and it made it easier for them to remember what they wanted to say. It also introduced a way for students to revise their thinking when they went to type.
Students were given a 2 week time period to complete and submit the above Google Docs and were encouraged to use lessons taught throughout the week as a way to help them. I also made sure to monitor student work by making myself present and available for students who needed guidance.
The week started out strong, but I slowly realized a couple of things.
- Students were submitting assignments that were either missing components, had incorrect sentences, and or were completely submitting the wrong document altogether.
- Students loved watching the videos but were stuck in a loop of just that and not recording their learning on the actual Doc itself.
- Students were not using the rubric as a way to check to make sure they have completed all of the assignment.
- Students knew the due date was approaching and gave up when a problem would arise. Instead of trying other things or asking a peer, they immediately wanted me to fix it or they guessed.
This then caused a million and one thoughts to pop through my head. Had I expected too much? Were there too many steps? Were the assignments setup in a way students would fail? Is it because of their age? Why are their writing skills regressing when they type? Did I just create a bunch of busy work so they were using the device or was it really enhancing their learning? Are students too distracted by other students watching the same videos so they are unable to concentrate? Is it a time management problem, an assignment problem, a device problem, or a technology problem? Or is that how it will be at first so maybe less is more in the beginning? Maybe I did too much too soon?
Oy. Needless to say that is a lot for one person to think about but a great opportunity to reflect non the less. Friday left me feeling completely defeated.
On Saturday, I participated in a free Webinar through SimpleK12 on how to use Chromebooks in the classroom. At first I thought this might stress me out even more but it actually did the opposite. One of the presenters was asked her number 1 piece of advice for people going 1:1 for the first time. She said, try everything and get yourself familiar with what you’re asking the kids to use and do. Her example was to use a Google Form to figure out who is coming to a party and what they are bringing. Basically find a way to infuse it into your daily life. That is still you practicing how to use a tool. We have to be the students and we have to explore too. You will fail but you are learning as you fail.
This started me thinking, even if last week was a complete failure on the surface, maybe more learning was happening then I thought. I then made a list of what my students were doing at any on point throughout the week and came up with the following:
-naming a Google Doc
-making a copy of a Google Doc
-practicing using a Google Doc
-navigating a Goolge Doc and YouTube in a safe manner
-recording their observations
-practicing their typing skills
-learning about setting and fractions in a different way
-collaborating with their peers
-navigating our LMS
-learning the importance of time management
-familiarizing themselves with what keys to push to correctly punctuate and capitalize a sentence
-navigating Google Drawings
-learning what tools will give them the picture they want
-how to insert a Google Drawing in the correct place
-how to check spelling using their touch screen feature
OK. So maybe not as bad as a I felt. Is there room for improvement? YES! If and when we move forward with a 1:1 roll out we will have to keep this in mind when communicating with teachers, students, board, administration, and families. It will take time. This is a learning curve for everyone. But anything worth doing is worth doing well and anything done well will take time. The amount of rigor that is involved with using technology still shocks me on a daily basis. This is hard. Do I think it is impossible? No.
While sharing my woes, something was mentioned that maybe students can’t do this. Maybe they can’t, but maybe they just can’t do this yet. And that’s where good teaching needs to step in. Also as this rolls out throughout the district, each grade will notice an increase in skills. It will get easier as it becomes more familiar. I feel that with anything new you will have ups and downs throughout the process. There is nothing wrong with high expectations as long as students are given the tools to reach them.
Alright week 6, I have a new plan. (Thanks of course goes to my teaching partner Kelsie who continuously keeps me in check and reminds what to focus on.)
Less is more. I just went through all of my courses and eliminated pages or assignments that were busy work or unnecessary. I also limited the amount of assignments kids are responsible for within a week. Thanks to a coworkers suggestion, I created checklist for students to use as way to manage their time while working through a Google Doc. I made links that made copying a Google Doc easier thus saving instructional time. I also want to brainstorm ways to incorporate the technology in a more seamless fashion and not so rigid.
Phew! Here’s to an open mind, a deep breath, and a fresh outlook on week 6!