Three Weeks of 1:1 Computing

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ComputersYeah, I know its been a while since I’ve posted, but if you read my last post then you’ll completely understand why.  The last three weeks have been quite hectic at school.  We rolled out our Apple 1:1 program and let’s just say I’ve had to throw out my lesson plans more than once, but that has actually been GREAT!  Here are a few observations I’ve made that I wanted to share.

  1. Once Kids have Computers There’s No Going Back – Remember when Charlton Heston was president of the NRA and he said something about having to take his gun out of his “cold dead hands.”  Well, I think my students have a similar feeling about their Macbooks.  I’ve been straddling the line between traditional and computer-based assignments as I make the switch to a 1:1 classroom and I have quickly learned my students loathe paper and textbook assignments.  One day we weren’t using the computers it was so bad that I had to require my classes to put their laptops in their bags simply so we could review something form the textbook.  Just having computers sitting in front of them was way too tempting.  As soon as I stopped looking in one part of the classroom students in that area would sneak into their computers!  I’m quickly learning to use the online version of the textbook for assignments that bare any similarity to 20th century work.  I have to admit though, this situation kind of scares me.  Next year in high school my 8th graders won’t have computers.  Will they be able to transition back?
  2. When the Server Hiccups We all Feel It – Students walk into my room at 7:30am every morning to pick up their computers.  By 7:35 (or less) everyone is logged on, checking Moodle messages, and watching Eye of the Hawk (the student-produced news program).  On that rare occasion the server is having a problem our poor tech coach is inundated with text messages from teachers across campus as all 600 of us (students and staff) freak out.  What are we going to do if the computers won’t work?  Return to textbooks?  Last Friday the district office technology staff moved the Moodle server without telling anyone.  Naturally, what was supposed to only take a few moments hit a snag and we didn’t have Moodle until the end of 1st period. Keep in mind, I am running my entire class through Moodle this year.  What did I learn from that lesson?  Always have a back up plan.  :-)  Fortunately, our blogs and wiki server was working perfectly so we blogged about the Metric System rather than taking a Moodle quiz.
  3. Students + Computers = Amazing and Unexpected Things – One of the first assignments we completed with the computers was to take a technology survey.  One of the questions asked if they had an email address.  A student in my 2nd period class blurted out, “Email is for nerds! If I want to talk to someone I’ll just send them a MySpace message. I got an email address only to get a MySpace page.”  Today my kids completed a Comic Life project on the 3 States of Matter.  One of them used the Statue of Liberty as their example of a solid and wrote a caption that said “I’m Lady Liberty and my copper particles (we haven’t learned atoms yet) are vibrating in place like Mr. Wood’s hands in class yesterday (my demonstration of particle motion in a solid).”  I find this kind of amazing because all we did yesterday was picture walk the section and complete a drag-n-drop interactive table activity after a pretest showed my students had little prior knowledge of solids, liquids, and gases.
  4. Students Enjoy Writing…Online –  I actually discovered this during summer school.  I split a technology elective and spent the first three weeks teaching students how to blog.  During the second three weeks my very dynamic teaching partner, Paul, was supposed to teach photography.  We initially assumed the kids would loathe my part (it was writing after all) and love his part.  However, as soon as Paul arrived the kids started begging to return to blogging.  He had to modify his lessons so that their blogs became an online photography  portfolio.  When the kids received their computers this school year more than a few asked me, “can I start working on my blog again?”  When I explained to them that their blogs were deleted for the new school year many were devastated.  So during our first real week of using technology we focused on blogging in my class.  Yes, I know this isn’t very sciency and not one of our standards, but I saw how they loved to blog and wanted to help develop this tool for use in all classes.   So far in science, the students have used their blogs to explain the steps of the scientific method as seen in a MythBusters episode, teach a friend how to convert units in the metric system, and write a first person account of their life as a meter, liter, or gram.

Well, I will have to stop here for tonight.  Its past my bedtime and I find I have to get to school super early now.  Its when the most innovative ideas pop into my mind and I erase my lesson plans.  I am sure I will have more 1:1 adventures to share, so check back soon!

Joe

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