>21st Century Teaching and Learning

>Just in time for the new semester, my classroom-mate (aka our school’s tech guy) got a shiny new cart full of 35 shiny new Netbooks, which means I get them too!  It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that having the computers has completely changed the way I teach…after all, I still fall in sinks and throw things everywhere by accident, but I don’t really expect that to change any time soon.

1. I have exponentially reduced the amount of paper I use.  I printed syllabi and a few other things out of habit last week, but I’m finding that the only things I really want in hard copy are homework and test/project assignments.  It’s easy enough to administer introductions, quizzes, exit/entrance tickets, etc. online without all the fuss of piles of paper flying around.  It also means I’m not fighting for the copier at 8:00 in the morning nearly as often!

2. I’ve also reduced my grading load.  One, because Schoology (the classroom management site our school has adopted) can grade objective questions for me, and two–here’s my dirty little secret–I don’t actually grade a lot of what they submit as introductions, discussion posts, etc.  But having the electronic trail gives me an objective way to gauge student participation and engagement, which is one of the intangibles I keep in mind when it grade-rounding/mercy killings roll around.  Plus, if they think I’m grading it, they’re more likely to do it.  Muahaha.

3. I’m still training my kiddos in this, but with the majority of our in-class work aside from labs, tests, and homework being available online, I’m hoping that it will be easier for kids to keep up with work when they miss class.  Actually, that just gave me the idea of putting up a homework discussion page.

4.  It was actually my principal who helped me see this after she did an observation this morning, but I have noticed a significant reduction in cell phone activity during class.  Some of that may have to do with the particular batch of kids I have this semester compared to last, but I think the computers have something to do with it as well.  Many kids today are so used to being connected to something digital that just the physical presence of the computer may calm that itch enough that they don’t feel compelled to text every ten seconds…wonder of wonders!

Schoology is enough like Facebook that it gives the sort of social network feel, but it allows us to get our work done.  It’s a little clunky in places, and getting everyone signed in and remembering their password is a royal pain in the tush, but hopefully if there is wide enough adoption throughout the school (and there are 3 other teachers in 2 other content areas with the laptops), eventually that won’t be as big of a problem.

Tomorrow I’m going to introduce the magic of Google Docs for taking notes, and this week’s big assignment is to create an actual profile page for a cell organelle.  I am so proud of myself for wrangling up a student-editable site AND a working template.  And that is probably my technological achievement quota for the year, as evidenced by me blowing up my computer earlier this evening.

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