Saturday, July 13, 2013

One-to-One: A Reflection and Preparation

How to Prepare for a One-to-One Classroom

Next year, I will be teaching in a one-to-one learning environment with Google Chromebooks.  I could not be more excited to begin this process and am looking forward to the challenges that I will inevitably encounter.  Most of all, I am excited to empower students to take hold of their own learning.  Technology is only a tool, but it is a natural motivator, a creation tool, and a way to bring students to the content both in the classroom and beyond.  

1. Revisit the learning objectives of the class:

This week I spent a great deal of time reflecting on my lesson plans from last year.  I keep a very detailed log, color coded by type of activity, that contains the daily learning targets (objectives).  At the end of each day, I also try to write note if something went particularly well or flopped for the follow year. Yes, it's can be a bit tedious, but it helps immensely when re-planning or redesigning a course.   Understanding the ebb and flow of the course, the intended learning outcomes, the activities that helped students to master the content, and the timing are all key factors when engaged in instructional design, regardless of the format of the class.  

2. Consider successful learning activities and think about how to expand upon them:

During my lesson plan reflection, I focused on the most meaningful activities and some of the favorites that students seem to learn a lot from.  In my Media class, I have several graded discussion throughout the semester and have students watch several documentaries about various media subjects (My favorites is Miss Representation or anything Frontline and media related).  In the past they've filled out worksheets to gather important data or reflection questions, which they complete because they have to do so, not because they've discovered new knowledge.  So my question is, how can I spark conversation and retention of important concepts from these documentaries using technology as a tool?  Holding online discussions with tools like Today's Meet while the video is occurring and requiring follow up for homework is one way to keep the conversation going.  Many of the documentaries we watch in this class also have great websites with resources, Twitter feeds, and what better way to get students engaged in conversation than allowing them access to these tools?  While one might argue that students may get off task or not watch the video - if we challenge them to participate and get active, I believe high school students will get active.  They want to discover and learn; they just have to have the right tools to motivate them. 

I have also been rethinking annotating and article reading.  I am excited to explore Subtext, online highlighting tools provided by Diigo, and other sites with students.  Just because I prefer reading a hard copy and taking on the colored pens does not mean that they do!  Providing students with opportunities to dialogue with a text in various formats is an exciting experiment that I will be exploring with them.  I think acknowledging the "with" is key.  

3. Research

There are so many web tools available.  Google Apps for Education are usually my go-to tools as my district is officially a GAFE school.  Also, using Chromebooks and GAFE making collaborating seamless.  I think the most important point to remember is that one can become lost in the tools.  Providing positive learning experiences for students is not about the tools, it's about providing quality INFORMATION and TASKS that can be accomplished in a number of ways (with and without a computer).  Finding the few tools that allow easy curation, collaboration, and creation is what is most important and may take time!  That is okay! Using resources such as blogs, Twitter, friends, and STUDENTS can help in this process tremendously.  

4. Be prepared to be flexible:

I know that mistakes are going to happen.  The internet will inevitably go down, or worse, it will run so slow students will reach a point of frustration.  I know that some students may get off task, and I know that some apps will change or not work in ways that I would like.  Yes, I may even look foolish from time to time.  I may need to smile, dance, or rap to distract them from the chaos that may ensue as a result of introducing new technology, but first of all, these disasters will not be as catastrophic as I've just described.  Secondly, mistakes happen in any format of teaching.  Going with the flow, creating teachable moments, and always having a Plan B (and I like a good Plan C, too), are all ways to counter these challenges.  Flexibility is a character trait that is essential for a teacher.  Introducing new technology into the classroom should not mean removing this "F" word from my vocabulary. 

5. Play - foster a love of learning:

Above all else, my job as an educator is to create life-long readers, writers, speakers, and thinkers.  This can only be accomplished by sharing my passion, providing meaningful learning opportunities, and empowering them to accomplish tasks.  Students need to see the connection between content in their lives to find value in it.  Technology is a great tool that is a natural motivator to them and opens a door to countless resources and opportunities to relate content to what they are most passionate about.  Overall, I'm excited that this new tool that I will be implementing in my classroom will break down walls.  Learning will not stop at the door of my classroom; learning will continue, and it will be a reciprocal process.  Students will learn from each other, they will learn from me, and I cannot wait to learn from them! 

I am happy to be sitting in my classroom that I share with a roommate/teacher friend that I love and am enjoying the paint will just added to the walls at the beginning of the summer.  I am enjoying the relatively bare walls that will soon  be filled with student-work, inspirational posters, and books still remain in boxes that typically line shelves along several sides of the room.  It is peaceful in here, smells like fresh wax, and for once, is not filled with dust and grime that students track in from outdoor gym class. Granted, fresh wax is  not exactly an appealing smell, but it is an inspirational one.  The smell reminds me that every year is filled with new possibilities, new opportunities to reach students, and new personal growth that will inevitably ensue.  The summer is half over, but I'm excited, I'm a little rested, and ready for a new year!  Even though most everything is still packed away, I love that my favorite phrase is still lining the walls... I believe in the power of words.  I cannot wait to instill the value of words in my students this coming year through face-to-face interaction, writing, speeches, reading, and collaborating online!

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