Category Archives: Reflection
Reflections on the implementation of the research based lesson and ideas for improvement.
One week has passed since the first My Big Campus Workshop, and the response from the staff has been encouraging – especially since it opened up new lines of communication. Several staff members have since raised valid questions, misconceptions, and concerns – some of which I was able to address right away, and others required more time.
One of the leading concerns was the absence of computers in other classrooms. My class is only one of two with the Building Blocks Grant. The other teachers only have between three and six computers for the students to use in class. Because of this, many teachers could not see the value of MBC (My Big Campus) to their instruction with limited computer access.
At first I was slightly annoyed by these concerns. I wanted to tell the teachers to be resourceful and get creative, but that probably wouldn’t have been a good sales pitch. Instead, I gave them a couple of ideas, but realized that I needed to find some teachers who were willing to experiment.
I decided to ask the other teachers on my team if they would be willing to help me. Both Ms. Newton and Ms. Galilei (the math teacher and science teacher on my team, respectively) were thrilled to help. The only person who would be difficult to convince was Mr. Lee, the social studies teacher.
Remember Mr. Lee? He was one of the leading characters in my first Teacher, Meet Technology post.
You may be wondering why I am so determined to get Mr. Lee to use My Big Campus. Perhaps it is because I am stubborn and he ticked me off, but I like to think that my determination comes from my passion for teaching and doing what’s best for the kids. Truthfully, I think it is a combination of both. But, before I jump into my story about Mr. Lee, I think you should know that I am naturally a very optimistic, albeit bossy, person. When combined, these two qualities can lead to bouts of passive aggressive manipulation – but this works for me. Sometimes.
Mr. Lee’s attitude about My Big Campus was very negative. So, obviously I spent the rest of the week and the following weekend plotting my next move. Since I knew that the other two teachers on my team were sold on MBC, I decided to recruit them in my mission to get Mr. Lee to log on. They readily agreed.
Our plan was to meet as a team on Tuesday to discuss different ways to increase students’ agenda use. After throwing out a couple of ideas not related to technology, I would bring up MBC as a tool for posting our agendas all in one place. In order for this to be effective, we would need to have consistency across the team. Mr. Lee would have to agree…right?
We met informally on Tuesday in Ms. Newton’s room, and Mr. Lee was adamant that the plan to post our weekly agendas on MBC would not work. Our debate lasted for forty-five minutes, and tempers were hot. Mr. Lee just could not see the point in posting his weekly agenda online when it was already posted in his class.
He was also concerned that he would have to spend hours learning how to use MBC, just to have it taken away by the district in a year or two. Apparently this happens often, and, as a new teacher, it was an issue that had never crossed my mind. While he has a valid point, I doubt the district would take away the program if many teachers use it; especially since MBC doesn’t cost anything.
In the end, Mr. Lee agreed to post his agenda on MBC, but he made it clear that he did not see the point in doing so. I invited him to the second MBC workshop after school the next day, but he couldn’t attend that one. I agreed to work with him individually after school.
One on one with Mr. Lee
We met in his room after school, and I walked him through the program. Initially I planned to only show him how to log on, create groups, and post his weekly schedule, but he kept asking questions about the other features of MBC. Our meeting turned into a crash course on all things My Big Campus.
Working with Mr. Lee was an interesting experience. He argued with me every step of the way, but he also asked new questions. It was almost as if there are two different sides to Mr. Lee: the side that wants to learn more about how to use technology in his classroom, and the fearful side that is afraid to experiment with something new. While I appreciate his efforts, the two hours I spent trying to introduce him to MBC was exhausting.
I was right about Mr. Lee being a digital immigrant – but unlike most digital immigrants, Mr. Lee is fresh off the boat. He constantly second guessed whether or not he should click on something, as if the computer would explode if he clicked on the wrong button.
We played the “what if” game with every new thing that I showed him. Some of his “what ifs” were valid, but others were a bit far-fetched. You can see a few snippets of his what-ifs below:
Snippet Number One:
Me: So you just log in by using the same log in and password as your email.
Mr. Lee: But is that safe?
Me: What do you mean?
Mr. Lee: Once I put in that information, anybody from My Big Campus can see my information.
Me: No they can’t…
Mr. Lee: But they will have my password. I can get in trouble with the district for giving them this information.
Me: Well, the district set up the account for you. I don’t think you will get in trouble for using the account they set up for you.
Mr. Lee: Ok, but if I get in trouble I am telling them that you told me to do it this way.
Me: Of course, just send them my way.
Snippet Number Two:
Mr. Lee: What if I post my schedule on My Big Campus on Monday, but then I have to change it by Wednesday?
Me: Then you can easily log in and change it, like this.
Mr. Lee: But what if a parent sees it on Monday, and then questions why I had to change it on Wednesday?
Me: …Then you can explain to that parent why you had to change it.
Mr. Lee: But what if that parent gets angry because I changed it?
Me: Then we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
Snippet Number Three:
Mr. Lee: What if a student posts something inappropriate to My Big Campus?
Me: Oh, let me show you the reports button…
Mr. Lee: But what if a student posts something not nice about a teacher?
Me: Well, if it is inappropriate we can see it through the reports, and take action from there.
Mr. Lee: But then other students will see it, and think poorly of that teacher.
Me: Well…they do that anyway by talking to each other, so…
Needless to say, Mr. Lee depleted my patience jar for the week.
It was clear to me after our meeting just how much I take for granted. I have an inherent trust in many of these online programs (don’t worry, I am also cautious). Mr. Lee on the other hand is very nervous around something that he doesn’t understand, especially if his students understand it better than he does.
Regardless, I was very excited by the end of the meeting. Despite his hesitance, Mr. Lee actually posted a video for his students to watch on their own time, and he liked the fact that he could make his videos available to the students outside of class.
I don’t know how much Mr. Lee will actually use MBC, but I do know that he is now familiar with what it can offer – and that is a step in the right direction.
I completed my student teaching experience at a low-income inner city high school. The school had a bad reputation for having a high gang population and “bad” kids. So, when I first announced my student teaching placement on Facebook, I was not surprised that most of my friends’ comments revolved around the reputation. One friend even joked that I should buy a bullet proof vest.
They were wrong. That school had some of the nicest kids. When I walked down the hall carrying a heavy box of books, a student I didn’t know offered to carry it to class for me. This happened on multiple occasions, with multiple students.
Needless to say, I had a fabulous student teaching year. My CT (cooperating teacher) was excellent, and taught me a lot about the importance of setting high expectations for all students. Most of our kids were English Language Learners (a.k.a. ELL’s) and were of low socioeconomic backgrounds. There have been many studies done on students who grow up in a low-income household, which you can read about here.
We required the students to create a poetry portfolio early in the second semester. I expected the final draft of the portfolio to be typed, so we spent a week in the computer lab. Many of the students did not finish typing their portfolios during the allotted class time, and as a result the final scores for the portfolios were lower than I would have liked.
While reflecting on the unit in one of my seminar classes, one of my peers suggested that by requiring the portfolio to be typed, I set the students up for failure. He pointed out that because most of my students are of a low socioeconomic background, I should not expect them to use the computers at school – especially if they do not have computers at home. After all, how could they finish the assignment without a home computer?
His response reinforced my belief that bringing computers into the classroom is vital to student success. If the students do not have computers at home, then where else will they develop the technological skills they will need as adults?
The middle school I work at now has a very similar population to the high school I just described. While I have had to spend more time teaching basic computer skills (such as how to save files to a USB drive, how to copy and paste, and how to use Google), the students are much more motivated when using the computers.
Besides, the public library provides free internet access after school and on the weekends. Since when has it become inappropriate to expect students to do something or go somewhere educational outside of school?
Here is the cool thing about using computers in the classroom: the kids are actually excited about it.
At the beginning of the year, I approached my computer cart with apprehension and dread. The thought of putting costly netbooks in the hands of thirty-two twelve-year-olds made me break out in a cold sweat. Visions of cracked screens, exposed wires, and electrocution flashed through my mind. I recalled the most important reason for bringing my laptop to boring lectures in college: Facebook. More specifically: Farmville. Perhaps this was my karma.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to find out I would have a wealth of technology at my disposal. I was also terrified. I remember an assignment my last semester of student teaching where I had to design my ideal classroom layout. I had a couch, a classroom library under a wall of windows, a SmartBoard, and a computer cart, and plenty of room to add seating for forty (I had to be realistic) in the shape of a horseshoe to facilitate class discussions. I even included little footprints to show where I would stand when addressing the class.
When I showed it to my cooperating teacher (a.k.a. CT) before turning it in, she laughed. She said I would be lucky to have a classroom large enough to fit all of my students, let alone a couch, computer cart, and a SmartBoard. Well, look who is laughing now (although she was right about the couch)!
It took me about four weeks to finally break out the computers. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust the kids (I didn’t) but I didn’t trust myself to set up effective routines for handling them. We spent an entire day on how to take the computer out of the cart, how to walk with it to the desk, how to log on, and how to put them away. I exaggerated the cost of the computers to be $700 to scare the kids into behaving. Regardless, I’ve had to deal with a cracked computer screen, missing keys, and blue screens of death. Electrocution has not been an issue…yet.
In spite of the issues, the computers are the best part of my classroom. While I don’t use them every day, I can’t imagine teaching without them. I’ve noticed that the students are more engaged when using the computers, and they tend to put more effort into their assignments.
Now my goal is to combine the technology at my disposal with something Pauline Gibbons calls rich tasks and identity texts. According to Gibbons, rich tasks “focus on central ideas of a topic or issue and require students to demonstrate deep knowledge of the field, rather than simply knowledge of isolated facts…rich tasks also result in an end product that has relevance beyond the classroom and is presented to an audience broader than the teacher.” These end products are referred to as identity texts (2009).
Identity texts are designed to improve the students’ confidence by promoting a positive self-identity, which provides a much more powerful and lasting learning experience than boring drill and practice activities. When combining identity texts with technology, not only do the students develop the digital literacy skills that they will need in their professional lives, but they also create a professional looking product of which they can feel proud.
Continue reading as I explore the possibilities of the digital classroom and how it can be used to increase engagement, effort, and critical thinking skills in the 21st century student.
Cummins, Jim. “Forward.” English Learners, Academic Literacy, and Thinking: Learning in the Challenge Zone. By Pauline Gibbons. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2009. Print.