I am now teaching at a school which boasts a one-to-one computer program. All the kids have laptops. All the teachers have laptops. All the classrooms have smartboards, even humanities classrooms! So, I've died and gone to teacher heaven, right?
Yes and no.
I'm soaking up the goodness by taking a Web 2.0 class, and one of my new colleagues is teaching me how to use some new-to-me tech tool--Jing, Joomla, Screencast, etc.-- nearly every time I have a free moment. I don't have to wait for computer lab time to put all these goodies to work, and I've quickly gotten used to paper-free practices.
The school website and my class blog have all the assignments and class documents posted, I accept and comment on papers on the computer, and my students have desktop folders and Google sites instead of Trapper Keepers and composition notebooks. For the most part, going high tech has saved me time and added to my organization abilities. I'm not making photocopies and losing assignments because everything is on-line.
On the con side, marking essays in Word has been more time-consuming and less pleasurable than handling stacks of paper and wielding my trademark green Sharpie. I've been tempted to just print many times. And then there is the whole technology as tool truth. Just because I can use some nifty techie tool doesn't mean I should.
Case in point: Etherpad. I think Etherpad is super-rad. I went "oooh" when I first saw it and immediately thought of about a hundred ways I could use it in the classroom. So, today we took it for a spin.
I am leading the ninth graders through the process of being able to verbalize what makes good writing. They like the way some books, songs or poems make them feel and like to talk about flow, but they generally lack the language to say specifically what makes some writing good and some crappy. So, I ask them to bring in an example of a piece of writing they think is pretty stellar and be able to say why they like it, and I work my butt off trying to get them to say what they like about the writing instead of just the content with the end goal of having the class agree on some writing techniques that are generally considered effective.
I put up Etherpad and invited the class to join. As each student read, we all wrote what we liked/noticed about the writing. I read the Hairs chapter from The House on Mango Street as an example. As I read, one class wrote:
- Crazy Student 1: DONT GET GASSY!!!!!!!! PE YEW!!!
- Crazy Student 2: dafafdsafdsafdsafdsafdsafdsafdsfsafdsafdsafdsafdsafdsafdafdsafdsafdsafdsafdafdsafdsafsdafdsafdsafdsafdsafsdafasfdsafdsafdasfdsafdsafdasfdsafdsafdsafdsafdsafdsafdsafdsa GASSY TO SASSY
- Crazy Student 1: Hey waht's up poop nugget?
In the interest of complete honesty, the first responses are from one of my girl sections and the sidebar example is from one of the boy classes, but generally, they were all over the place in the sidebar. They did the assignment and sometimes did it well, but as my colleague--who happened to observe me today--said, what I was doing teaching-wise was all good, but the technology got in the way. Kids think they can multi-task, but they can't really. And, even if they could, their sidebars were WAY too distracting.
I'm not saying I won't use Etherpad again because I totally will. I think there are some fab classroom applications for the program, but I learned again that I need to think about eighty steps ahead of the kids when I use new techie tools. I hate the idea that I would have to set all these rules: Don't use the sidebar. Don't write anything off-topic. Don't say poop.
I agree with Will Richardson that our use of technology needs to be framed in a positive, what-can-we-do-not-what-can't-we-do light. But when I get in the classroom and start using the tools, many don't don't don'ts are on the tip of my tongue. So, what's a girl to do?
One thing I know: Keep it simple during Homecoming week. Worksheets. Seating charts. Scantrons!