Friday, August 30, 2013

Computer as Amplifier

A computer is simply a tool--like a microphone or a motorbike--it will enable you to do more and better what you already do, but it will not do anything on its own or make you something you don't make yourself. 

If you are working on being responsible, organized, focused, and productive, a computer will help you be more and do more. But if you aren't already working on those traits, it will just give you more opportunities for being irresponsible, disorganized, distracted, and unproductive. 

That little speech to my 10th grade English class out of the way, I am SO EXCITED (and a little nervous) that they all have their own laptops this year. 

Here are ways I’ve already--in the first 3-1/2 days of the school year--been able to capitalize on the presence of all those lovely laptops:
  1. I posted my syllabus on the class Moodle instead of printing and copying the 4 pages to hand out to all 47 students when they will mostly never look at them again after we go over them the first day in class. (Many trees will thank me, plus it was one less job I had to do to get ready for that first day.) 
  2. I enrolled support teachers--learning resource and EAL--in my class Moodle so they have access to everything I post. Saves me just that little bit of extra time and energy to remember to make extra copies and get them to support teachers. 
  3. I used 5 minutes at the beginning of a class for a processing activity with the vocabulary list--and I had to do nothing but have students log into my class on Quizlet. I put all my vocabulary lists on Quizlet a couple of years ago, figuring it was silly to have kids spend the time looking up words in dictionaries and copying out definitions when the point is learning the word. So I put up 2 sets for every 20-word vocabulary list--one with definitions, and one with the context sentence from the literature we read. But I could only recommend and recommend that students use these sets, I couldn’t make them--at least, short of taking half a class period to get the laptop cart, have every student line up to get a laptop off the cart, start up, study, then shut down, put away, and return the laptop cart. So instead I spent extra time printing off the sets as cards and running the students through activities. But this week--so easy!--had them log into Quizlet and--shazam!--study, game, and test activities already prepared and infinitely renewable! 
  4. The desktop dictionary makes looking up unfamiliar words a really brief interruption in reading. And students don't even have to venture into the distracting realm of the internet.
  5. The overwhelming majority of students chose the online forum rather than a private paper to me for responding to a question about their faith perspective. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Is it that students are used to putting their thoughts out in social networking situations, so we’ll have really interesting online discussions? Or does it mean they’re being less candid? Only time will tell.
Our one-to-one program with 10th graders is the newest excitement and challenge this school year. So perhaps it’s okay that between getting my oldest daughter married and celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, I spent a lot less time this summer than last summer doing professional reading and blogging. I still have plenty of new opportunities for learning and growth as I return to the classroom. 

What have you found to be opportunities and pitfalls of a one-to-one program in your class?