1. Digital Natives=Digital Students: “They have grown up with technology and it’s like second nature to them.”
It is true that students use a lot of technology. Many teachers assume that this means that students will instantly feel comfortable using technology in the classroom. While it may be true of some, it is wrong to assume that it will be an easy transition. Today’s students use technology for some very specific things; games, social media, video chats, reading about their interests, possibly making movies. Once you start talking about curating information and synthesizing meaning from multiple sources, they will initially look at you blankly. They will come around but you are going to need to support them and help them get past the immediate difficulty. You will need to know what you want and how to help them get there. Otherwise the natives will be restless.
2. Immediate Engagement- “Students with devices will suddenly, magically connect with the content!”
Technology is not a panacea. Students see most technology as a social or recreational tool. We are doing nothing less than re-tasking their use towards an educational purpose. Once classes have made the transition teachers will have the ability to bring learning to a higher level and find deeper meaning. But before that can happen, you will have a lot of work to do. How will you help them to redefine the purpose of their device? How can you help socialize appropriate behavior? How can you get them to see the excitement and learning potential? Because until you do, you have armed them with a powerful learning tool that also just so happens to be a powerful distraction tool. Teachers are going to have to help them connect with the material just as much as they ever did before. You better have a plan.
3. Time: “Going 1:1 will save time in the classroom” and/or “Going 1:1 will consume time that I can’t afford to lose.”
Really both of these are right and wrong in that going 1:1 will force you to totally reevaluate where you spend your time. You will have to review each activity and each lesson to see how it is affected by the new “Economy of Information” in your classes. What you do will change and so will how you do it. In this regard going 1:1 will upset you because it will shatter your time budget. Nearing the end of my first 1:1 semester I see that I am starting from square one. In some places I have gained time. In others I have lost it. In reality what has happened is I have redistributed time based upon a new set of classroom values. I have divorced myself from the timeline that is in essence based upon a textbook and retooled it based upon my districts learning objectives and the needs and interests of my students.
Putting Tech Before Content– New tech is exciting. Students (and teachers) will be focused on the new devices. It is easy to get sidetracked by the excitement. I spent so much time trying to front load all of the setup, sign up and procedure that I lost something essential to my class. While they were fired up about technology, I had not gotten the students excited about history. Keep your focus on your content. It is your content that defines your class and it is your content that will drive the way you use your device, not the other way around.
Too Much Too Fast– It is hard for students to get comfortable with a new piece of technology unless they have time. Requiring too many new tech competencies to quickly upsets students. They need time to build upon past skills and integrate them with new ones. I buried my students in accounts and passwords. I set up everything I thought I would be using for the year within the first week. It was too much for many students. Focus on fewer more important skills and Scaffold early assignments to build to more complex ones. Think big picture.
Lack of Tech Focus- There will be times where a new technology is AMAZING and perfect to generate more learning and deeper understanding. But there will be times where it is nothing more than a shiny distraction. I am constantly asking myself “Why use this? What is the benefit? What is the loss?” Choose your essential technology carefully. Choose things that support your lesson goals and allow productivity.You can’t do everything and be distracted by every new technology you learn.
No Recovery Time– Students have grasped a new skill and they need time to absorb it, apply it, and use it effectively. When lessons go well and students succeeded I can be too quick to move on the next big idea. I quickly learned that I needed to provide some recovery time for students to get proficient before I could focus on the next tech competency. Stop, and allow them to understand before you present new technology. Beyond just taking it slow (see above) I learned that sometimes you have to take a break. Don’t over complicate this though. Sometimes knowing the right time to proceed is as simple as asking. Trust your students in this process.
Limiting Students to What the Teacher Knows– When given a choice students are going to choose tools that they are comfortable with and that allow them to express what they know. You may not have the slightest knowledge of them or how they work. It is impossible to be proficient at every web tool, app and program available. I have poured myself into learning as many as I can. There are many where I would consider myself an expert but that in no way means that they are the best resource for every student. Don’t be afraid to let students use technology beyond your knowledge base and understanding. Accept that you are student too. Learn.
See the previous article in the series here.
Identity Crisis– You will become a student too. The moment you have devices in your classroom, you are no longer THE resource for answers in the classroom. Students will be finding sources with much greater insight on your subject area than you can offer. I (as a history teacher) was presented with ideas and facts that were completely new to me on a daily basis. Class was more about interpreting new ideas and evaluating their credibility. I was thinking more. They were thinking more. My place in the classroom changed. Even though I liked it overall, it was very stressful because it forced me to redefine who I was in the classroom.
Remodeling– The physical space of my classroom made no sense. We worked in groups a lot. I was constantly moving students around and they were sitting on the floor and in the hallway. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they were out of the desks more than in them. The collaboration and groups were now more common than not. I had to change my class space to reflect that. Why couldn’t they do group work in desks? Why didn’t I reorganize the presentation space around their presentations rather than mine? My classroom had always been staged to focus their attention on me and my answers. That organization flew in the face of my new classroom objectives. So I asked my students to redesign my room and I am in the process of making the change.
Fear (Freedom is Scary)– Devices gave my students options and presented then with choices. Some of them were completely freaked out by this. Worksheets are boring but they are safe. One answer per answer blank is intellectually easy but also emotionally easy. When you tell students “It’s up to you, you decide.” It will cause some of them anxiety, a lot of anxiety. This is especially true of the “pleaser” who just wants to make you happy and do what you ask. I am learning that I can help them through this but you better be ready. Their anxiety is real.
Invalidation– Much of what you used to do was based upon an “Economy of Information” with scarcity at its core. Devices revealed to me that this model is dead. So I moved quickly to change it. But then I realized that the model was invalid in my non 1:1 classes as well. So how could I restructure lessons to make them more appropriate for an information abundant world? How do I do that without the devices? When is lecture appropriate in this model? How do I move my focus to the big ideas? #facepalm
Massive Overhaul– I began my dive into 1:1 technology by making some processes tech friendly. I made class resources electronic. I poured myself into workflow and how I could give and receive materials. Then I moved to integrating technology projects to replace certain lessons. Now I find myself evaluating bigger ideas such as:
- If my class is no longer based upon a text book, and my units were organized around that units, should I completely reorder my units too?
- How can a multiple choice test be effective to assess learning when learning is individualized.
- How can our classes be moving to the values of individual creativity and creation when our institutions are being evaluated by standardized assessment.
The change goes beyond lessons, beyond my classroom to much bigger things. My advice to anyone about to dive into this would be to prepare yourself to take a good look at what you do on every level. Do not just walk into this casually. You will not find the rewards you a looking for. But with the right planning and consideration you can find rewards beyond your expectations.
See the article in the series here.