OnCUE

Author - Doug Robertson

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

so long and thanks for all the fishI was brought on to be the editor of the CUE blog two and a half years ago. Over the last two and a half years I’ve been exposed to fantastic teaching ideas, great learning opportunities, and have made some great friends. Assuming we published one post a week for my entire tenure, that’s about 130 posts about edtech, pedagogy, conferences, robots, coding, making, and anything else in between, from who knows how many different authors. It was a joy to read what so many educators have to say and to help them share their word to the world. I definitely stole a bunch of ideas from the posts I was lucky enough to edit, and those ideas made my classroom a better place for my students. So thank you for that.

As a final lap I thought I’d look back on a few of the things I’ve written in this space and share them one more time. Good edtech writing will last through the evolution of tools and changing philosophies, and I hope that’s what I’ve done here.

Thanks again for reading, for writing, for chiming in, and for being a part of the education conversation. Five card stud, nothing wild. Sky’s the limit.


doug robertson with unicornDoug Robertson was 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.

Laptops are Great, Even During Lecture or Meetings

if colleges are seeing a problem then education from bottom to top should react to solve it together

if colleges are seeing a problem then education from bottom to top should react to solve it togetherThe New York Times recently ran an article by Susan Dynarski, a professor of education, public policy, and economics at the University of Michigan in which she argued against the use of laptops and other such technological tools in classrooms. You can read it here, and you should. She makes many interesting, well-argued, and well-researched points.

However, and you knew that was coming, I disagree with some of the conclusions that are reached and the overall reaction to the research. Just as she makes clear that she’s coming at this issue from the position of a college professor, I want to make clear that I’m coming at it from the position of an elementary school teacher. As such, our methods are different, as are our classrooms. The conclusions I reach that differ from hers may differ simply because our classrooms are so distant from each other. My kids are near the beginning of their formal education, hers are near the end. I believe looking at education as a long game matters, and I think it’s one of the main problems with the piece’s thesis.

The article’s main thrust is that she will not allow students to use laptops and other electronics, with the exception of students with special needs, in her classes. The research she cites says that often students don’t think about the notes they are taking as deeply when typing because students are able to type faster than they are able to write, and therefore they tend to just send the professor’s words through their brains into their fingers and onto the screens. Students who write by hand have to use a sort of shorthand to keep up, and that means they are having to process more deeply in the moment. Now, I know my audience, I know who reads CUE’s posts, so let’s get this out of the way now- Perhaps maybe direct lecture isn’t the best instructional method if the two note-taking options can both be summed up as “kids are writing as fast as they can to keep up and write down everything I say.” But, I teach fifth grade, not college. I admit that I don’t know how much instructional needs change between here and there. In my class, when kids are learning to read we’re currently working under the impression that speed and fluency are good because it means the student has more time to think about the words, rather than thinking about getting them out. If information direction is reversed when it comes to note-taking though. So maybe here is where we can step back and look at this issue from a bigger picture.

Because saying “all lecture is bad ever forever amen” kills all other avenues to discuss this topic; we’re not going to do that. Let’s accept that that particular sea change isn’t coming immediately and deal with the more pressing problem of students taking worse notes when typing than when writing longhand. It does not seem to me that the problem is the tool, be it pencil, pen, or computer. The problem, from my perspective, is the note-taking. How are students being taught to take notes? Are they being taught bullet-points and short ideas, or are they being taught type-as-fast-as-you-can? If the latter is the case, then why aren’t they turning on voice-to-text, sitting back, and catching some ZZZs? I mean, come on college students. If the students are able to type quick enough to keep up with a lecturing professor, they should be able to type fast enough to process, modify, and write in more understandable terms.

Later in the article, another study is cited, claiming that second-hand laptop is a thing. That is to say, kids around the laptop user are distracted by the bright screen in their peripheral vision and, much like a kitten to a laser pointer, struggle to focus on anything else. Again, is banning the tool the best solution to this problem? Or is the best solution that the teachers in the lower grades, yes I’m looking at you Man in the Mirror, need to be better are preparing students for a world where they will be surrounded by screens. Screens aren’t going away. If phone commercials are to be believed, it’s edges that are going away. To make room for more screen. All hail the screen, long may it stretch. If I’m doing my job and preparing my students for that world, then by the time they get to college the screens of others won’t be nearly as distracting, plus they’ll have learned to do school at school and whatever passes for Facebook by then everywhere else.

I see this as a collaborative issue. Colleges are seeing a problem. Education then reacts from the bottom up, as a whole, to solve it. Together.

The argument I thought of as soon as I started reading the article was one that I’ve made before in this space. I need my screen to take notes. Have you seen my handwriting? No, you haven’t. You know why? Because it’s terrible and I have shame. When I handwrite notes I get to go back through them and guess at what the heck I was trying to communicate. “What is it, Past Doug? What are you trying to tell me? Oh, if only your phone had been charged! Curse you, Pokemon Go!” Typing notes on my computer or phone means that I can read them, and I know where they will be the next time I try to find them. I have handwritten notes from ISTE 2015 sessions buried in my backpack still. The article’s author’s counter to this is that students can take pictures of hand-written notes and upload them. OR, and I love this part and I swear it’s in there, “outside class, students can read their own handwritten notes and type them, if they like, a process that enhances learning.” Because typing notes in the moment hurts learning, but typing them after, simply copying what you’ve already written, enhances it.

Right.

At the end of the day, I feel like it’s safe to say that more and more students will be coming up with the skills to take notes effectively using their computers. As elementary, middle, and high schools move closer and closer to 1:1 (still a long way off, but we’re heading there), students will enter college able to think and type, and the needle will move on the research being cited. If I am doing my job well, preparing my students for a world of ubiquitous screens, then when they get to college they will be more suited to note-taking on a computer than on paper. The needle may well swing hard in the other direction and student note-taking will suffer because they won’t be used to writing by hand. Like I said, that’s already true for me, and I grew up taking notes longhand.

My final concern is that if these are education students, they are not being fully prepared to enter the teaching profession. Preventing them from taking notes on their computers is one thing, but they will enter classrooms where students will be doing just that. I understand that college is a little late to reteach someone note-taking for themselves, but in their own classrooms, that’s what they’ll be teaching students. Perhaps it’s time to flip some college classes? Move away from the lecture format for some lessons. If the students are bringing the technology to class, make use of it. Why throw away a tool? Teach them what they’ll need when they go into education, public policy, or economics.

Education is a long game and we are forced to play forward and backward. Policies that make sense based on current research should never be set in stone because behaviors, especially when it comes to the proliferation of technology in educational settings, are changing rapidly. The Laptop Generation is coming. Heck, they’re probably already there. Don’t ban things. Change, and we’ll change too, and together we’ll change education.


Doug Robertson - CUE Blog EditorDoug 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.

Thankful For EdTech

thankful for edtech

Tis the season to be thankful, so I took to Twitter to ask educators what they were thankful for when it came to EdTech. Let the love and sharing commence!

 

What a fantastic collection of thanks. Thank you to everyone who shared. If you have more to give thanks for, do it in the comments. Papert bless us, every one.*

*I know it’s from a Christmas movie/book. Still works

Making Maker Teachers

It’s not that teaching kids is easy. It’s not. Obviously. But teaching adults is a whole different kind of tricky. Beyond that, it’s different running sessions at conferences in front of people who, in theory, choose to come into your room and sit and listen for an hour, and running a training for your own staff at your own school.

At school it should be easier. But we know it’s not. There’s a different level of expectation when you’re presenting to peers you share a building with. I’m not a TOSA or a coach. So they don’t see me as Someone Who Runs Trainings. That’s a whole different issue, how we don’t see and take advantage of the experts all around us as much as we should. When I go to other schools and run professional developments I always ask for one or two volunteers from that site to prepare a short five-to-ten minute Check This Out for their staff. I make the point to talk about how, as much as I love being there, there’s no need to fly someone in from elsewhere to train them. I see it as doing my bit to strengthen their independent and interdependent whole.

Knowing that and doing that, training my own staff is still something else. But there I was, standing in front of everyone one morning in the MakerSpace, preparing to run a(nother) How To Use This Space. You see, this is the third year we’ve had a MakerSpace, and I love it. I’m in there regularly with my students. So are a few other teachers. But that’s not enough. The puzzle my principal and I are constantly working on is how to get more teachers in there with their students. This is my puzzle to solve because I’m part of the team that got the space built and because I’m of the persuasion that if you want something done right, do it yourself. This is worth my time.

Much of the problem comes down to preparation. Many teachers like being very prepared before they start a lesson or a project. The freedom of a MakerSpace can be a little intimidating if that’s not how you normally teach. So they don’t come in. This isn’t something I can judge. It would be so easy so easy for me to say, “Well they should just evolve. Just get with it, come along, let’s go, you’re leaving your kids behind.” But I can’t. Because exactly no one motivates by a peer telling them they are hurting their students. I have to work with these people, so denigrating their dedication to the job isn’t an option. I have to look for understanding. I’m the kind of person who has an idea and runs with it, ready to improvise and tap dance, ready to crash and burn. I accept not everyone is like that. So I can either expect them to be, or I can differentiate my instruction and adjust my expectations and meet them where they are.

We have done a few Getting To Know You trainings in the MakerSpace where I set up the green screen and the Spheros and Dash and a few of the other tools we have in there and let the staff go for it, play, push buttons. These didn’t work. They’d work for me, that’s how I learn new tools. But they weren’t specific enough. I needed a new plan. So I lesson planned.

I broke the MakerSpace up into four sections and created challenges that I knew my students could do, and that I knew could be leveled up or down for a variety of other grade levels.

Before we began, with everyone looking at me to be “trained”, I went into my song and dance. “Every one of these challenges can be done by students. I know because mine have. They can also be leveled. I know because you’re good teachers who know your grades better than I do. I also know that some of you, especially those who teach the littles, are more unsure that your kids can do it. Please trust me. They’ll need a little more guidance, but they will surprise you once you get them on the right path.” Then I gave a brief overview of each station and set everyone to make their choice.

Station One- Sphero Maze

I laid down two not-very complex tracks with tape and challenged teachers to use Tickle to code one of our Spheros through the track, which included a stop for a color change.

Station Two- Dash the Actor

Ok, I lied about my kids doing all of these. We haven’t done this one yet, but I want to. Using the Wonder app, Dash can be coded to say whatever you want. Choose a dramatic monologue and code Dash to perform it. Use his movement, lights, and colors to express the emotion of the scene.

Station Three- Quick Build Wind-Powered Cars

Use the materials in the MakerSpace to design, build, test, and revise a wind-powered car. I love this project.

Station Four- Green Screen Slideshow Adventure

Using the green screen and DoInk, take pictures of yourself on an adventure. Then get the photos off the iPad and into your Drive, then into a Slideshow. For a greater challenge publish your slideshow to the web then use Screencastify to narrate it.

Like any other lesson, there were problems I knew to predict. Our Spheros are fussy about pairing to the iPads sometimes. It’s a pain to get photos off the iPad and into Drive unless everything is set up or you’ve got familiarity with it. And not everyone is as comfortable troubleshooting as I am, so I spent time making the choice between when to help and when to point in the general area of the correct option and step away. Again, it’s really easy to say, “Just Google it and figure it out,” when you’re a voice on the internet. Harder to peers. Though it is easy to say to students.

All in all, I think the training went well. But it’s hard to tell. The staff asked for a Google Drive folder that they/we/I could put MakerSpace lesson ideas in. No one complained that it was a waste of their morning. A few teachers got to feel that rush of success when you go from not knowing how to do something to accomplishing a challenge (the Sphero maze was a big hit). The new challenge for me is to keep my door open, keep offering support, and keep encouraging teachers. A few of us have put forward the open offer to take our kids in with any other class and let our kids train their kids. And the challenge for everyone else to take that leap, even if they need to hold a hand to do it. We’re growing together, but each at their own pace. Which is better than forcing growth and dealing with blowback and no buy-in.


cooDoug 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.

#cuechat Spark- A Note About OneNote

in case you missed it

Exciting and free lesson plan options for Office 360The #CUEchat of November 14th was focused around Microsoft’s education tools and exciting and free lesson plan options for Office 360. It was moderated by Microsoft consultants Mallory Mack and Daphne Williams, who led participants in a tour of what Office can do. As a classroom teacher who uses Google almost exclusively (it’s what my district gives me, and I like what it can do), it’s interesting to see Microsoft working hard to get a piece of the edu-pie. This isn’t a bad thing. Much like in our classrooms, more options are better.

The tool that stood out to me and to most of the chat participants is called OneNote.

Matt is coming from the right direction. The tool itself doesn’t matter, only being good for student learning matters. Emilie Winser responded that it allows students to work collaboratively on a document, while the teacher also watches and gives real-time feedback.

Assuming the teacher is in the classroom with the students, this means even more choices for interacting with student learning- from your desk or while moving about the room. Choice is good. Daphne added that students can do more than type onto each other’s documents.


Differentiation like that is key to reaching all of our kids no matter their level. It’s nice to see technology supporting all learners and their specific needs.

It sounds like OneNote is something to look into, especially if that other big edtech player isn’t an option in your school or district.

CUE Members Get Technology Masters Program Discount

cue spark

ME Education Technology FPUCUE and Fresno Pacific University (FPU) have enjoyed a productive and educationally fulfilling partnership for some time, jointly granting the Innovative Educator Certificate and providing conference and workshop credits.

FPU knows that CUE members value growing their professional development on their own, so in celebration of CUE’s 40th anniversary, the university is offering all active CUE members a 10% tuition discount on their Master of Arts in Education Technology program. CUE members can learn more about the fully-online program here.

Aligned with AECT and NETS-T, the curriculum stresses strategic and innovative thinking about effective and ethical uses of technology in the classroom. CUE is proud to partner with Fresno Pacific University and thanks them for supporting us and the entire teaching profession. For more information, follow this link to FSU’s press release. And be sure to let us know if you partake in this offer, CUE loves hearing about the continued learning of our members.

Trapping Our Learning…Humanely

three girls building a trap

“You will design, build, test, revise, and complete a mostly-working prototype of a trap that will humanely catch a tree kangaroo. Ready…go.”

I love giving directions that are clear, to the point, and deceptively simple.

My fifth grade class had just finished reading “Quest for the Tree Kangaroo” in our reading textbooks and I’d exhausted all the book’s suggested activities to go along with the story. My class got the main learning goals set out there, so it was time to move onward and upward. Into the trees. Why ditch the book when there’s so much good stuff in there to jump off of?

“Quest for the Tree Kangaroo”, briefly, is a narrative non-fiction story about a group of scientists trying to capture, tag, and release the rare and elusive tree kangaroo of Papua New Guinea. They way they did it in the book was to climb a tree where a tree kangaroo was spotted, make a bunch of noise, chase the animal to the ground, bag it, sedate it, and do the tests.

I thought my kids could do better.

So I set the above task before them. First we had to itemize what we knew about the physical characteristics of the tree kangaroo so that our traps would be effective.

bubble map showing characteristics of tree kangaroos

Next we had to plan and design, keeping in mind that designs are first drafts and they are meant to change and flex as construction moves along.

designing our traps

designing traps

Then it was into the MakerSpace to get building.

three girls building a trap

a group of three working on a net trap

I can’t properly express how much fun it is to watch my kids learn while they make. All the things we struggle with in class like iterating their learning, revising, self-assessment, become natural and automatic (mostly). My kids started building their designs and before I knew it some where already testing. Others were still staring at a box trying to figure out how to make it a trap. At which point they are invited to take a lap around the room to see what other groups are doing (read- find good ideas to steal and use as jumping off points).

As always, with making, part of the adventure as a teacher is being completely unsure what final products I’m going to get. I know most of them will be different. I’ve seen the designs. I’m watching the traps being built. But I’ve got no idea why that group over there just pilfered a camera lens from the Break Apart Box. (It was because their trap would have a live feed running to a tablet on the ground so they knew when an animal had been caught. Extension Lesson For Next Time- Figure out how to make that happen for real. Same with the kids who wanted their trap to close automatically when a sensor was tripped. We can figure that out.)

drop trap

box trap

Once all the traps were completed we brought them back to class and shared out, making short videos explaining how the trap worked, why it was built how it was, and how it was a humane way to catch a tree kangaroo. Soon there will be writing to go along with these videos to go on a blog and student digital portfolios.

And now my class has commandeered the school display case to show off our work for all to see. This does two things for me, one open and one secret. The open one is my kids should be proud of their work, and displaying it shows them I think they should be proud. The secret one (and this is between us so shh) is I want every other class to walk by that display then ask their teacher why they aren’t building cool stuff in the MakerSpace until that teacher comes to me for help or figures out some cool stuff on their own.

display case full of traps

Making stuff is all about student choice and voice. Give them a goal, wind them up, let them go. After that all we need to do is act as bumpers, keeping the ball rolling towards the goal.


Doug Robertson - CUE Guest Blog EditorDoug 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.

Getting Animated With Google Slides and Screencastify

google slides

I’m going to go into some detail about the process my class used to animate our Google Slides, but I got all my information from Sam Patterson’s blog here. Follow Sam, he’s good people (plural, if you count the puppets). Truthfully, there’s a million How-To blogs and videos out there for doing this, and How-To is rarely what I do. I’d rather write about how my class handled doing this and why I did it in the first place. The title of this blog is as edu-clickbaity as I can get without tossing my cookies. 

I’m constantly looking for ways to mix things up and make them better and different in my classroom. I have a few tried-and-true projects and those are nice to have in my pocket. I don’t like options that can only be used for one lesson or subject. That shows a lack of creativity. Every project should be able to be broken and rebuilt to fit a variety of situations. I call this Lego Lesson Planning (no one tell the Danes I stole their name).

On top of that, I’m currently 1:1 so I’ve been investigating the many options that affords me. You can read about my 1:1 Journey here and here. I’d heard tell of a way to make animated movies using Google Slides. Whispered stories told in hushed tones at 2x speed in Voxer groups. Podcasts that appear in my Stitcher playlist. I wanted some of that animated goodness. I wanted a way to make the vocabulary lesson I was planning more interesting and engaging. I wanted to justify having all these Chromebooks. To the Googles I went. The Googles brought me to this blog post by Sam Patterson. My kids can do this, I thought to myself. They can do it right now. They were at recess. I had lessons planned. Luckily, my students know that my class schedule is more like guidelines than actual rules. Out came the eraser and the whiteboard marker and just like that we were animating vocabulary words today!

It took a lot of steps to get my students where they needed to be. I had just enough time to mock up a quick, short example/tutorial for them to watch so they got the idea, and then it was off to the races!

Ok, not quite.

First we had to talk about what I meant by animating the vocabulary words to demonstrate understanding. Then we had to play with the shapes tools in Slides for a bit to get the hang of the whole thing. This I let the kids do on their own, and most of them picked it up rather quickly. Soon they were ready and raring to start doing whatever needed to be done to record it.

“Did you publish it to the web and watch it for timing, then script it out, then practice it?”

“Sure we did do all those things you said with your face, Mr. Robertson. Yep.”

“Cool, show me.”

“Uh, hold on. How do we do the first thing you said with your face? And the other things?”

It was time to stop everyone again and go over a quick How To Publish to Web- Go to File. Click on Publish to Web. Choose a timing. Done. Oh yeah, and while we’re here we need to get the Screencastify extension set up on everyone’s computers. I had done my homework (classwork, I know homework is a 4×2 letter word in education right now), so I knew the kids could add extensions to Chrome from their student accounts. Saved me a headache, but that kind of thing is important to check. The easiest way to guide kids to add extensions for the first time is to project your computer screen so they can see what you’re talking about. However, Mr. Murphy of Murphy’s Law was subbing in my class and the lamp in my projector had just burned out. So I got to do a lot of slow step-by-stepping while walking the room keeping careful track of who is where. In less time than you’d expect we were set up and students were starting to see that their slideshows were more slideshow than animation.

And finally, the real creative stuff kicked in.

It’s important that I write about all that long way to get here before getting to the really creative bits because that’s how a classroom works the first time you do something. It can take forever to get rolling. There’s a mix of letting the kids find their way while also guiding and correcting and, you know, teaching. There’s letting go of the stress of, “We’re supposed to be doing vocabulary practice right now and this totally isn’t that,” because you know it will be. You know that the next time you do this, all this time will pay off. The first time is supposed to take forever. That’s ok.

Once my kids were seeing their animations in action they started adding slides and slides and slides. More and more frames, digging into the idea of making a real moving picture show rather than a slideshow. The comedians and creative writers in my class showed up, scripting little bits that showed understanding of the words while also having fun doing it. Kids stopped raising their hands for help and started raising their hands to show off what they were creating. My job for many groups became reigning them in. “I think maybe 200 slides is enough. I get it, it looks great, but that’s enough for this. We’ll do more, I promise. Dry your eyes.” How great is it when students look disappointed that they have to stop working on vocabulary?

I even got to slip some math in on them, taking the lesson from a TA to a TAM (now to figure out how to work in Science and Engineering next time). “If you’ve got x slides, and each slide is set up to run for 2 seconds, how long is your animation? How can you make one slide last longer on the screen if all the slides move forward at the same pace?” Do you know? Duplicate that slide until the math works out.

Scripts written and rehearsed, I had to show two groups how Screencastify worked and then I had four Technology Superheroes who could show the rest of the groups. All they had to do was find somewhere quiet-ish to record (behind my desk, under a table, the empty-at-the-moment tutoring classroom across the hall, but not in the hallway. Too much traffic).

The enthusiasm was sky high. The kids loved this assignment. “Can we write our own stories next time to animate? We want to do more voices.” Dontcha just hate it when kids are asking to do an assignment again? And the final products, especially for first-time efforts, are fantastic. There’s many that, when I watched them, made me do that most wonderful of teacher reactions – lean back in my chair and clap in joy. And all this from the almost too simple edtech directions of – Create Google Slides, Publish to Web, Script, Screencastify. It saves to Drive, what we did, or publishes to YouTube. Simple ideas made deep are the best.

Below are the videos my kids made. They’re not all amazing unless you realize not one kid had ever done this before, and now they can do this and tell you what the vocabulary words mean.


cooDoug 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.

#CUEchat Spark from 10/17/17- Be a Trailblazer

in case you missed it

in case you missed itThis week’s #cuechat was focused on being a trailblazer in education. Questions circled around changes teachers would make to their school or the profession that would improve things for the better. One of the more popular answers was making things more student-centered. Many within the chat hit on the importance of student choice and student voice when it comes to education. If we want buy-in, if we want to know what the kids want, we have to ask them and give them the venues and means to communicate their needs.

But the tweet that hit the nail on the head for me was this one from Julie Borgmann.

Naysaying ever gets us anywhere. Teachers love to joke about the negative atmosphere in the teacher’s lounge. But what’s done to change that? The essence of this tweet is, to me, all about confronting issues head-on and strategically. It’s about turning negative statements into positive ones. I realize this is growth mindset, but the way this is put speaks volumes. It’s not about wearing rose-tinted glasses, it’s about seeing the problems and finding ways to fix them.

This is the key to success. Thank you to Julie and everyone else who participated in #cuechat this week.

A 1:1 Journey Pt 2- Sliding Into Routines

routines

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.

routinesI 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.


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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.