#BYOD Discussion for #Slowchated

Before last week, I had never moderated a chat. I knew what to expect, because I’d participated in numerous Twitter chats, including quite a few slowchats, but I’d never popped my cherry, so to speak. And I chose a topic close to my heart: students bringing their own devices to class.

Right away, the idea of a digital divide cropped up.

First, there were the schools that forbid student tech.

Then there were the schools that forbid mobile devices but are 1 to 1.

For the most part, we all agreed that students need to learn how to use their devices appropriately.

Teachers had great ideas of what they’d do with students all having a device in class, like Kahoot, Socrative, Today’s Meet, and other formative assessments. In retrospect, I wish I’d created a shared Google Doc so that we could archive all those great ideas.

Then we got into the idea of “tech time outs.” Not for punishment, but to free students.

Or maybe a tech free day, with a mini “you can check your phone” break?

We all agreed that it’s not just cell phones that distract students.

Everyone agreed that we want students to learn, not just content, but how to be better citizens.

It was really fun moderating this chat. Maybe I’ll do it again sometime!

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And they finally worked as a team

Yesterday was a beautiful thing. The class that had been at each other’s throats somehow transformed before my eyes into a functioning learning community. And I owe it all to zombies.

If you’ve read earlier posts, you’ll know that I spent several weeks trying to build a sense of community in my classes this year, using a Zombie unit. We focused on being prepared, working together, and staying focused. Really, regardless of the disaster, these three community builders will help. And last year’s classes had felt a lot like a disaster. And it worked–for the most part, people settled down to work together and stay focused, with occasional lapses of being prepared.

Except for 7th period. Gentle reader, if you want to read only good news, skip to the subheading below. Otherwise, read on. Just as a for instance, it is one of my policies that if we are in the library, students can excuse themselves to go to restroom, which is right around the corner. On Monday, we renewed our silent reading books in the library. While we waited for everyone to renew their books, I watched one girl (let’s call her T) stand around and talk to her friend. Not a problem, I thought, she must have renewed her book earlier. After about ten minutes, we headed back to my room. As I am settling them back down in their seats and trying to begin that day’s lesson, T suddenly shouts, “I have to pee!”

“Where is your planner?” I wearily ask her, knowing the answer already, as we have talked about her planner for several days in a row.

“It’s right here, but you know I don’t have any hall passes.”

“I’m sorry, T, but we’ve talked about this before. I can’t let you leave my room without a pass.” Note that my room is half way across the school from the bathroom.

And so it went, for at least another five minutes of class time. She knows, because I and others have told her, that she could get another planner from the office. She knows the school’s policy of passes in the hallway. She knows she’s not supposed to use anyone else’s passes in anyone else’s planner.

So I ask her, “Why didn’t you go while we were in the library?”

“I didn’t have to go then,” she claims. As this inane conversation goes on and on, students are opining how mean I am, how other teachers would let T go, or how they would lend her their planner. One or two kids remind her that she could always get a planner, but really, the main problem here is we wasted instructional time on one student’s lack of preparation. Also, that student spent the rest of the period disrupting instruction (with the occasional comments about how much she had to pee)and not getting anything done herself.

Granted, it was nothing like last year’ students, although it might sound as bad.

The Miracle

And then on Wednesday something miraculous happened. We were working on looking up articles in a database, so students could have a Socratic Seminar about their topic and follow up with a research paper. In addition, we worked on the technology skills of using keyboard shortcuts for copying and pasting, permalinking, and adding links into a shared Google document. All part of my 21st Century classroom, but all skills they really haven’t mastered yet. One student had spent time in study hall getting the last of his articles before class. So I said, “Well, McF, you can start reading articles and deciding which ones from your group’s list will best support your argument, or you can help the other students.”

And McF got up and started walking around the room, helping. Although earlier in the day, my other classes had easily followed my directions and went to town, this class was full of folks who had “misplaced” their directions. They couldn’t figure out why nothing copied, or why their links didn’t look like my example. Quietly, without a fuss, McF helped them all. As other students finished, they took a page from his book and helped the others.

All week, I had a cart of Chromebooks to supplement the 14 that stay in my room permanently. At the end of the day, I have had to sort the computers into two groups: the ones that get plugged into my cabinet and the ones that go back downstairs. Well, that day I had student helpers. After asking me how I could tell the difference between the two, students quietly put back all the computers.

I truly think that if I had not spent time in the beginning of the year working on how they needed to be a team, we wouldn’t have had a successful period. No one deliberately deleted anyone else’s work from the computer. No one mocked the computer skills of anyone else. No one threw a fit about their planner. It was a beautiful thing.

Touchcast + Students = Virtual Analysis

After reading “Wonderland,” the second part of the 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, my students created a series of videos. This one is one of my favorites. If you’d like to see the rest of them, check out my YouTube channel here. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC58iLlnmh_crqOS3FDzyUrQ

Party of Four, Seating Required

ImageLike most of the high school classrooms in America, I have desks. My desks squat in rows, they clump up in groups, they screech across our classroom floor whenever we try to get together and collaborate. And sometimes, my desks sabotage our classroom technology. Are they jealous, when kids are using 21st century skills? Do they resent the lack of worksheets, of textbooks, of traditional paper and pencil tasks? When the desk legs trip a student, so he falls to the floor and the Chromebook he was carrying smacks so hard the case cracks, does the desk secretly grin?

It’s not just the legs that trip us up. Sometimes, when we’re trying to use our fourteen Chromebooks along with our composition books or with the novel we’re currently reading, the sheer small work space defeats us. And where do you put the rest of the books, folders, papers, pencils, and purses my students haul from place to place?

I’d rather have tables and chairs. And this is where I stop. Do I create a “Donor’s Choose” project? Do I ask the world at large to help us to get some tables, so we can eliminate the menace of desk legs? I think I’m going for it.

Want to help us fund our project? Check out my page: http://www.donorschoose.org/beth.crawford

Student Engagement Success

Class by kentonridge
It does work, on occasion. With a lot of planning on my part to guide it along, they can share a learning experience. I can step back, a little, and watch the magic happen. Inquiry questions crop up all around us, naturally.
What time is curfew in Egypt?
What’s happening to Morsi, right now?
Do they have WIFI?
Is social media still blocked there?
I want to know how it all comes out.
Here we are, in a successful 2nd day of a cooperative learning jigsaw. We’ve been working with a text set about the 2011 and 2013 Egyptian Revolution.  Political cartoons, infographics, articles, we’ve run the gamut. Next week, we’ll look at some videos.  Some of our information is as current as last week.  
Success made that walk into the principal’s office that much easier. As an experienced teacher who wants to experiment with a new technique, I was apprehensive. What would he say to me?
Well, we agreed that some students lack the maturity to work well without direct supervision. To reach all my students, I need to teach some basic skills and to motivate them to want to learn those skills. Although teacher led activities work well for some students, they do not work well for all. A good balance is required.
Now, how to achieve that balance?
Class, a photo by kentonridge on Flickr.

Dragging the Sage off the Stage

We all want our students to learn. No one stays in teaching for years desiring to see students fail. In fact, many of us try desperately to reach all our students.  Like the stage manager, terrified the actors will forget their lines, rip their costumes, or fall off the stage, we charge about our classroom, trying to ensure all students learn what we envision is vital to education.

But the stage manager must let go on opening night.  The actors must be allowed to perform the play they worked so hard to perfect. This week, the stage manager let go a little of control and allowed some actors to take center stage.

I had created a video over the weekend that discussed some literary devices in our summer reading novel, All But My Life. I had been meaning to do a follow up video, covering some more of the literary devices, when I stopped. Why was i making all the videos? Why couldn’t my students help? So I dismantled my plans and made a list of tasks that I wanted my advanced students to complete that week. Writing, speaking, acquiring vocabulary, almost all my big hitters were present.

This week, my class discovered some basic truths, much like actors discover during a dress rehearsal.

We discovered that asking 5 students to create a video on an app they’ve never used before takes more than 50 minutes.

We discovered that setting discrete deadlines for tasks is important, because some students procrastinate.

We discovered that flexibility and problem solving is really important, because sometimes the technology doesn’t work.

Flipping your classroom is not about making teacher videos for homework. It is about empowering students to take charge of their own learning. Leave the stage to the actors on opening night, but make sure that the lights are on, the curtains are open, the mics are live, and the popcorn is hot.