March 5, 2014 by Ray Yanek
I used to think I was okay with change, that I could roll with the punches.
Anymore, I’m not so sure about that. Something this weekend seemed to tip me over the edge a bit. Something left me feeling a little unsettled, a little overwhelmed, and with a feeling of dread.
I’m not entirely sure why, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with change.
In Illinois last week, the temperatures hovered in the single digits, sometimes reaching into the teens for a moment or two.
Nothing out of the ordinary there…
Also last week, aptly enough in regards to the weather, I attended the ICE conference in a nice little resort hotel in St. Charles, Illinois.
ICE stands for the Illinois Computer Educators and the conference was a massive, 2-day technology conference for teachers of any make, model or age. The convention center was packed, the breakout sessions were many, and the information flowed.
The biggest thing I learned at this conference? Take a look at this blog title. I learned that the ICE age is coming and it’s not coming at a glacial pace.
That sucker is steaming down the mountain like a landslide.
Maybe that’s where these strange feelings are coming from…
At the high school where I work there’s a push to institute a 1:1 initiative. What will eventually happen is that every student, when they enroll in the high school, will be issued a Google Chromebook. The computer keyboard will become the pen, Google Docs will become the paper, and Google Drive will become the new fangled Trapper Keeper. I currently use these programs with my students and I like them a lot. Plus, I think they are highly beneficial for the students. For example:
- With these apps, the students don’t need to worry about transferring electronic files back and forth from school to home with flash drives that break, disappear and reformat themselves. All their work is saved in the Cloud, is accessible from anywhere (even from their phones) and the students don’t even have to hit ‘save’ anymore. Google Documents automatically saves the work every couple of seconds.
I’ve been grading essays and outlines completely online. Not only does this save trees, but it’s aided the learning process. I use the comment function and the students can reply to those comments. So far that’s been a wonderful experience. Every time a student replies to one of my comments I get an email letting me know and I can re-reply right away. This functionality has allowed me to have not just a one-time conference with the student, but a literal on-going conversations with them about their work.
The students will begin to use the Share capabilities of Drive to collaborate on various assignments, even when the collaborating students aren’t in the same room or building or town or state or country. Each student can add to a common document or slide show and then they can send electronic copies off to the rest of the class.
Later this week I’ll pilot student blogs with my Creative Writing class and then with my sophomores. To start, they’ll use these blogs as journals designed to give them both writing practice and a public outlet to share their thoughts and creative work. The blogs will also help them learn the importance of writing for an audience. We talk about audience a lot in my classes already, but writing to a pretend audience is a lot different than writing for an audience that will actually read your work and may or may not be a blood relation or someone they hope to take to prom.
But I don’t feel a lot of problems or stress coming from this stuff. Again, I’ve been doing all of these things (and other tech related things, I’m not as far behind as it may seem–at least in this regard…) for a while, so nothing really upsetting there.
Something just struck me. The 1:1 initiative won’t become a reality in my school until 2016.
Right now there are literally hundreds of apps available through Google and the internet, and every time I went to another session at ICE I would learn about 10 more.
I have a “To Read” pile at home and the sucker is tall. Or at least I thought it was tall. When you put that pile next to my “Apps to Check Out and Use” pile though, it doesn’t look quite as big anymore…
By 2016 when the individual computers roll out to the student, I can imagine that many of these current apps will be obsolete and a 1000 new ones will be the talking points of conferences and education blogs.
Yeah. That’s pretty overwhelming when I think about the fact that I’ll need to keep up with all those apps while still grading hundreds of essay pages and doing the upteen other things the administrators and the state want me to do.
These tools are exciting, though–and I feel kind of like a pitcher about to learn how to throw a new curve ball.
Really, and as much as I wish there was just so I could figure this out and be done with all this, there’s not a whole lot of stress coming from this either.
The dread still drips though…
Along with the Chromebooks and the 1:1 will come a push towards the flipped classroom. The point behind a flipped classroom is to make the student more responsible for his or her learning.
This is what you can expect to see in a flipped classroom:
The student will come home with his or her Chromebook. Homework will require the student to watch short, instructional videos that will run between 4-7 minutes. The student will take notes, rewind and replay the video. If not a video, there could be guided readings or other forms of remote instruction that will simply expose the student to the material and help him gain a decent understanding. Student mastery of the content is not the goal here, just a fairly deep exposure.
There could be short assignment that go along with the skills taught through the video. There could be blog entries to write, or collaborative assignments created through Google, or webquests.
The real work, the mastery work, will take place in the classroom the next day. General theory has the students working collaboratively on various, higher-order projects and tasks. They’ll use multimedia, the net, online tours, projects, etc. Really, the possibilities are endless. Endless. There won’t be any more worksheets necessarily; no more hour long lectures that put the kids to sleep.
The teacher will be there of course, but not as a lecturer or as the All-High Overlord of Knowledge and Control but rather as a facilitator or a guide, as someone who is there not to simply give an answer but rather to help the student find the skills that will lead her to her own answers.
Do I think these changes will be good for the student?
All the education naysayers and the traditionalist will boo and hiss, but they’ll boo and hiss anyway.
What I think is that we’re finally coming to understand that students live in a world vastly different from the one we lived in. Students today learn differently, and these initiatives will help ‘teach’ in a way students are better suited to understand.
It’s long been an education mantra that we shouldn’t treat children like empty vessels in which we simply pour out knowledge into, but I don’t know that traditional models of education totally allowed us to get away from doing just that. Through the 1:1 and the flipped classrooms, I think we are finally making good on the belief that formal education should be about creating lifelong learners with 21st century skills.
People are going to resist this, though. They’ll argue about money and assessments and blah blah blah and those resistances will become heated, especially by the Old Guard of education because things will be different.
Classrooms won’t look the same. Homework won’t look the same.
It will be a new world and my professional will be completely transformed. A lot of old habits will need to be broken or revamped.
In all honesty though, that’s exciting to me, too. Refreshing. And I’m looking forward to it.
So my sense of dread and unease isn’t coming from that either…
Then why am I getting those feelings?
Why did the technology conference seem spark all these emotions and worries?
Oh shit— I think I got it…
I remember thinking that when the 1:1 thing goes into effect at my high school in 2016 my daughter will be a part of that first freshman class to get one.
She’ll be a freshman.
That’s where feeling of dread is coming from.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time to partake in some Wednesday drinking.