This post is part two of an ongoing series where fifth-grade teacher and blog editor Doug Robertson reflects on his class’s first year with 1:1 technology. Read part one here.
I turned to my student teacher. “That took way too long. We need to rethink this.”
Our students had just taken approximately seventeen years to return their Chromebooks to the cart and get back to their seats. No one was playing around (at first, seventeen years is a long time), and yet it still took forever. Why?
We’re new to 1:1, and for some of my students that newness extends all the way to, “I have never plugged a Chromebook into a cart. In fact, where is the plug on a Chromebook and how do I plug it in?” They want to do a good job. But they’re slow, and anyone who has ever been in a classroom knows that speed is of the essence. This was one of the first of many new routines my students needed to be trained in for our Chromebooks to actually be the effective tools they’re meant to be.
How does a class of 31 students get computers from a single cart quickly and easily? How do they put those computers away? How do they sign in? How do they know where to go? I knew we’d run into these problems, but that didn’t stop me from having to trip directly over them to see them clearly.
Turns out the best way to hand out/put away computers is to make it someone’s job. Thou Art The Commander Of Power. As such, you shall be the one to unplug and plug in the computers. All other shall only approach you, ask your blessing, and be gifted with the instrument of learning. This is so much quicker. Then one kid is stationed at the cart, s/he is learning to be dexterous and deft with the plugs, and everyone else is back in their seats and ready to keep learning, quick like bunnies.
Signing in was one of those concerns I had that I also knew how to deal with- have them do it a few times and they’ll get it. My entire school runs on Google, and every kid has a Google account. One benefit of being a fifth-grade teacher, and therefore at the top of the food chain, is by the time the kids get to me they have been exposed to logging in over and over and over. They should know their log-in names and passwords. If they forget, I’ve got a handy-dandy spreadsheet ready. They stop forgetting after about three days of regular use. Any student who does need the extra reminder is given one of a teacher’s most valuable tools- a sticky note. “You’re welcome,” I sing.
I solved the, “How do they know where to go?” question for myself a few years ago. Even though this is my first year as 1:1, I’ve been using technology in my classroom for a while. Google Sites is my friend. Each year for the past five I’ve created a class website. The intention is two-fold- first; I want my room to have glass walls. I post pictures and videos of students working. I link to projects. I have our calendar up. Parents should know what’s up in room 17 without having to ask me or their kids. Secondly, a class website gives me an ideal place to post links to whatever we’re doing. I made a YouTube video for a blended lesson? No need to type in the URL, or even a bit.ly, my students. Go to our class website and click the link. “You’re welcome.” And this year it’s even easier because with 1:1 I finally feel ready to dive into Google Classroom. Now our website has become even more for home communication while everything that happens in class is linked through our Classroom page. What a convenient part of the Google Suite. And, like all the other Google apps, so intuitive and friendly.
Three weeks in and my class is rolling right along with our 1:1. We’re not at full potential yet, but to be honest, we’re still learning the ins and outs of everything. You’d be shocked at how long it took a few of my kids to puzzle out all the intricacies of Slides, even with my help. They’ll get it, and I can wait.
In part three I’ll delve deeper into the apps, programs, and websites we’re making use of in a constant effort to do more than replacing paper and pencil with keyboard and screen.
Doug Robertson is the CUE Blog Editor and a twelfth-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of three books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher, THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and A Classroom Of One, one novel, The Unforgiving Road, and is an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words). Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.