1:1…Productivity, Audibles, and an Open Message to Intl’ Schools

I piloted my first 1:1 classroom in 2007 at the Walworth Barbour American International School in Israel. I had a basic laptop kit of Lenovo PC’s that, maybe, had 80 GB hard drives. It was a social studies class for English language learners and so the course was very literacy based. It was the perfect storm for 1:1 lap top integration.

Image from Gary Stein courtesy of Time Magazine

I have spent an enormous amount of thought and time in developing successful ways to run a 1:1 classroom. And I’m still experimenting.  I have been extremely fortunate to have attended the right professional development opportunities and stay connected with the mavens of technology integration in education. The most important consideration in turning your classroom into a 1:1 environment is that you are not adding a new academic tool (like an overhead projector), you are actually changing the context and philosophy of learning.

I thoroughly enjoy having laptops in a classroom; however, to say I have never been frustrated by their use would not be true. Expecting problems, glitches, and technical issues would be most pragmatic. The benefit here is that individual experience in troubleshooting increases enhances the skills necessary addressing issues as they arise. The philosophical shift is now the teacher as the learner. Unfortunately, some teachers are uncomfortable with embracing this important 21st century ideal. My advice: swallow your pride, admit your human side into the learning process, and have some fun.

Here are some important reflections on learning in a laptop environment. The aim here is to share what I have found to be some basic approaches that support two key areas for teachers: productivity and pedagogy.

Productivity

Proper laptop use starts with a clear understanding of how the technology will be used in the class and the specific protocols for maximizing its potential.  I think an understanding based on productivity is crucial. We will use the machine to produce and at the same time, to be an active learner. Getting a container would be the initial way for teachers to model productivity. It can be a web site, wiki, or blog…..or Edmodo!! I love Edmodo because it allows me to be extremely productive in a variety of ways. It functions as a very sophisticated communication tool that carries a library feature that allows for organization of resources.  I use Edmodo in conjunction with Google Apps to power a productive classroom. Every student shares a Google document (only one) with me so I may check their progress in assignments or have them respond to prompts.  It’s primarily a paperless environment with the ability to constantly monitor progress.

Productivity should be a top priority for implementing 1:1 protocols and showing students what and how to make their systems more useful. Here is a shortlist of important productivity tools/concepts to use for managing a laptop:

  • Social bookmarking – I use Diigo.
  • Dropbox – cloud based with sharing capability of files.
  • Chrome extensions – Evernote, Screenshots, Diigo, Twitter,  etc.
  • Folder management
  • Google Doc management and collections
  • RSS Reader
  • Kwiki Cloak anti-procrastination tool
  • Instapaper for Twitter – to bookmark links to read later when the Twitter feed is too heavy
  • Picasa or Flickr – to build collections and for practicing visual literacy.
  • Teach Tagging…it’s a big deal
  • Create a Youtube Channel

screenshot

 Pedagogy

With the outstanding tools available for teachers and students, it is easy to get consumed and overwhelmed by the new blogging platforms and integrative resources.   I feel that here is great opportunity to communicate my thoughts on calling audibles in the school year. An audible is quick change in the course of an activity or initiative. Effective teachers are like QB’s in football….they can call audibles when the situation calls for it. I try and stick to big initiatives and carry them through the school year, while tucking away new tools for implementation next year. I plan to see what I can do with Google+ next year so for now I am sticking with what I’m using now. Smaller tools  and apps can, through backwards design, be implicated into a unit of study (sometimes easily, sometimes it’s a stretch).  Effective teaching strategies and clear communication of expectation will slowly, but surely, transform a classroom into a much more interactive and problem based classroom.

Here is a short list of what I have found useful as a 1:1 teacher.

  1. Join the Diigo Groups 1:1 and Classroom 2.0
  2. Put your unit plans on google docs…second smartest thing I have done with technology.
  3. If you use Edmodo, create a Teachers Lounge and add resources through feeds; then once a week remove/tag the resources (by subject area and section). By Christmas you will have a treasure chest of awesome.
  4. Create a Livebinder and start your own textbook. Share it!
  5. Build a Personal Learning Network. Smartest thing I have ever done as an educator. If you don’t have a PLN….then forget everything here.  The number one reason people leave positions is over the lack of Professional Development. A Personal Learning Network has been the single most important discovery of my career. You should know what people are doing in their classrooms, tech or no tech.
  6. Create a “Tools of Mind” list for giving students a chance to create their own learning opportunities.
  7. Have students blog and encourage their writing to address multiple formats with an emphasis on voice.
  8. Engage in visual literacy activities, critical thinking problems, and creative fun.
  9. Rubrics are everywhere so borrow them and adapt them. Even better, use generic rubrics that target key areas.
  10. Use the class time for active strategies involving verbal fluency, conversation, and individualized de-briefing.
  11. Social Media — encourage students to find relevant articles on thee material
  12. I do use a basic folder to have students cover up their screens on certain occasions. I expanded the use of the folder into a search reference tool, formative assessment tool, place to score blog entries, and relevant strategies for thinking analytically.

Screenshot from my Website

Will students check emails and skype chat in your class? Maybe – but they won’t if they are busy and focused. What we are really educating with a laptop is self-regulation. Can a toddler-teenager-adult have the discipline to ignore the underlying distractions of the web? Ask your students and empathize with them because the teacher is just as likely in the same boat.

One last note about the 1:1 classroom

Being an international teacher with some degree of control over where I wish to teach, I can say, with the utmost conviction, I will not work at a school that isn’t 1:1.

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