Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reflecting on 1:1 with Kate Ewalt

The following post was written by Kate Ewalt, 7th grade Life Science teacher and recent recipient of the Virginia Association of Science Teachers VAST Teacher-of-the-Year for Middle School. 

I've been meaning to take time to write about 1:1 in my classroom, but it has taken me entirely too long. Part of the reason is the time I’ve been spending on developing material to use with the Chromebooks. This is a down-side of the integration, the time needed to plan and develop new ways of teaching material. For me, though, the challenge of trying new things is one of the reasons I’m still an educator. I also know the time spent creating video lessons, preparing tech integrated lessons, etc, will be time saved for years down the road. I’ve seen lots of positive impact on students. My grading time has been cut, giving me more time to individually conference with students. And now, one nine-weeks in, I feel I’ve managed to establish a routine and structure that students feel comfortable taking educational risks.

I don’t want to talk about the impact on my students here though. So many beat me to that. Instead, I want to talk about the positive impact on myself as a teacher. Some are obviously positive, while others presented themselves as challenges at first. The latter is my first example. I’ve had various conversations with parents about technology in the classroom, but when a parent related that her child said the Chromebooks could be really confusing, it gave me a pause. We were doing some innovative and fun online activities, but sometimes I hadn’t figure out the best way to show students how to do things. This child is in the first block, and that often happens to be the first block to try new web activities. I could see how learning experiments could be confusing to students. I think I was able to explain to the parents a satisfactory reason for continuing to use Chromebooks for certain activities, and I also think we were able to identify the best way to help him overcome the issues, but it was the first accommodations for technology use I’ve had to develop. Usually, the accommodation is some technology!

I like data. I’ll admit it - I’m one of the people who get excited about SOL breakdowns by topic. I enjoy setting goals based on data, especially when the goals are reached, but even when they aren’t, I always feel I’ve learned something. I feel the speed at which I’m able to collect data is actually timely enough for me to act on it during my instructional design now, thanks to one-to-one computing. And it’s not just dry-technical data like reading levels and test scores. Through online blogging and vlogging (essentially journaling formats), debates on Schoology forums, and Google Forms surveys, I’ve gleaned bits of my students’ personalities far quicker than when I had to find time to go through all the hand-completed surveys. With more opportunities for my students to write, I see the quieter students blooming, which makes me a better teacher connecting with more children. Bonus - I look forward to grading some of the homework! I had students submit designs for the official online classroom banner - used on Google Classroom, Schoology, flipgrid, Voki, and several other sites - every kid submitted a creation and the class voted on their favorite. They had a day to submit votes and could see the results real time. Some were even doing the math to figure out if it was possible for a design to get beaten after a certain number of students had voted for it! My other favorite homework to grade this year were several Flipgrids -- in fact, I think I need to assign another Flipgrid before Thanksgiving so the kids can use the holiday-themed stickers. Flipgrids gave interesting insights into the students' homework environments -- sounds and all. That would never come through on a simple written paragraph.

So the one-to-one is going well overall. There are bumps in the road. Experiments abandoned. Activities deemed not worth completing. Some fizzle with the kids. But there are so many positives, I wasn’t worried when a kid commented the other day “They should call this computer class, not science class, we use the computers so much.” After all, they may never need to know the parts of a cell in their adult life, but they will certainly need to know how to communicate effectively in digital media.

As you continue your journey with Chromebooks and digital learning, please continue to reach out to colleagues and EdTech Coaches! We are all here to create engaging learning environments for our students.

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