The Cranky Teenager Stage

If one year of a dog’s life is equal to seven human years, then one year of 1:1 implementation must be equal to about three human years. And seeing as we are entering in to our fifth year of implementation next year, we must be turning in to one of those cranky teenagers. Let’s break it down:

Year 1 – The Newborn: In our first year, only teachers of 1oth and 11th grade were given laptops. Everybody else, including students, were stuck with laptop carts and computers labs. While it allowed us to get familiar with the machines, we couldn’t really do anything.

Year 2 – Toddling Along: In year two, all teachers in the Middle/High School received laptops as did students in 10th and 11th grade. There was a lot of stumbling, falling down and crying.

Years 3 and 4 (this year) – Adolescence: All teachers and all students in grades 6 – 12 now have tablets. We’ve grown up, we’re getting more independent. For the most part, we are still trying to please but we are gradually testing the boundaries of what is ‘allowed.’

And this brings us to next year: Year 5 – The Cranky Teenager. Teachers and students are getting restless. Some want change and they want it overnight. They are no longer happy being told what is good for them or appropriate. They want to figure it out for themselves. They want to be subversive. Every wall is seen as a challenge to overcome rather than a boundary to be obeyed. And sometimes, just sometimes, people get cheeky just to see if they can get away with it.

Obviously, I’m not talking about every teacher or every student. But there is a critical mass forming. We’ve been given a rigid structure to help us understand one way of thinking. Now that we know the rules, some of us are ready to break or bend or ignore them. Now that we know some of the possibilities, some of us won’t settle for anything less than everything.

Idealistic? Maybe. Will we make mistakes? Definitely. But that’s part of growing up.

(For the record, I think this Cranky Teenager stage is an exciting stage to be in! We’re at the stage that Chris Lehmann talks about – except for our atrocious Vietnamese internet connection. The conversation is no longer centered around what technology we have in the school but rather what we are doing with that technology.)

How is your 1:1 implementation going? Are you going through similar stages, or are you a child prodigy?

Codename: Crossbone by Shavar Ross licensed under CC BY NC ND
Technology must be like oxygen by langwitches licensed under CC BY NC SA

Where Did That File Go?

The launch of the 1:1 tablet program at UNIS has coincided with a move towards a paperless school. I don’t know if this move was part of the grand vision 5 or 6 years ago but it is certainly a reality on campus. Students in the Middle School/High School do not have access to any printers on campus. They aren’t even given notebooks or binders, for the most part, so teachers don’t give out physical worksheets. All handouts are printed from Word or PDF files into OneNote and then edited/manipulated with the keyboard or with digital ink. For many students, the only work that they do on paper are end-of-unit summative tests. There is also still the odd notice that get printed and sent to parents and, of course, our reports are still laboriously printed for parents to keep in their ‘permanent records’.

Because of this, we expect students, over the course of their stay at UNIS, to collect and create hundreds – possibly thousands! – of documents. How can we help them keep track of them all?

From the beginning, we’ve instituted a naming convention that should be used on every instructional file. The goal is for you to be able to recognize immediately the general contents of that file before it is even opened! The generic convention looks like this:

Subj – Unit – Assignment Name

As a teacher, I might create the following documents:

  • Math08 – Linear Equations – Graphing Slope-Intercept Form
  • Eng07 – Folktales – Writing My Own Folktalk
  • Physics – Nuclear Physics – Fission Experiment

There should be no doubt what you will find when you open any of those documents. As the student has downloads the document to the correct location, she only needs to add her first and last name to end of the file name.

By doing this, it is easy to see when a file is out of place or misnamed. For the students who choose not use some sort of folder structure, this ensures that files from each subject are automatically grouped together when sorted by name. It also makes it easy to search for a file since we know what it should be called.

What do you do to help your students stay organized?

A(nother) Learning 2.010 Reflection

Last weekend I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Shanghai at the Learning 2.010 conference. It was a fantastic experience for a variety of reasons:

1. I got to meet up with a lot of my twitter friends: @klbeasley, @intrepidteacher, @dearlibrariann, @mscofino, @kurisuteen, @courosa@dkuropatwa, @megangraff, @betchaboy, @brianlockwood to name a few. I’m certainly not the first to say it, but those connections are worth more than a thousand keynote speeches.

2. One of my colleagues, @lissgriffin, jumped on the Twitter train with both feet and now is a Twitter force-to-be-reckoned-with! Beyond that, it was so rewarding to watch her realize that, as much as she may try to tell you otherwise, she’s on top of this ‘teaching with technology’ thing. Some of the ideas she’s coming up with are mind boggling. One day soon I’ll get her to either a) start her own blog about what she’s doing in her classroom or b) guest post here.

3. My cohort was pretty amazing. Led by Kim Cofino and Darren Kuropatwa, we explored the Future of Learning. The idea was to work in small groups to explore this topic in more detail after a few introductory discussions and activities. In just over 90 minutes my group cobbled together a presentation we called ‘Bridging the Gap’. The focus was on what we felt the future of learning is and what can we do now to put us in a position to be ready for that future. It was a good experience to be thrust into the role of the students, if only for 2 days. Working under a deadline in classroom conditions to create a product that you must then present to your peers: something many teachers take for granted that students can do. It’s hard work and we need to make sure we give them the time they need to create products they can be proud of.

We also had to contribute a slide to the Great Quotes about Learning and Change Flickr group. Here’s my submission.

I’ll have more to say about what I learned in my cohort in a later post.

4. Facilitating unconference sessions was very rewarding. I volunteered to facilitate a session on Tech Integration in a 1:1 School. I didn’t suggest the topic, but I figured it is my job and I do work at a 1:1 school so I was pretty well qualified to at least lead the discussion! Keri-Lee and I also ran a Twitter for Teachers unconference session, mostly because of conversations that we had with other teachers the previous night about the “banality of Twitter.” Needless to say, we disagreed. Twitter is only as useful as you make it, that’s true. Some teachers just need a little help in seeing how to make it useful and I hope we did that. (As an aside, is there another community of professionals that is using Twitter as actively as teachers?)

I was at the Learning 2.008 conference as well. I will be pushing hard to make sure I can be involved with the next iteration too!

What does a 1:1 curriculum look like?

Our new curriculum coordinator is really earning her paycheck. As she is in the process of researching and designing a new curriculum review cycle for our school, it got me to thinking: how should our move to a 1:1 environment affect our school curriculum? Should it even have an effect? Should we keep one eye on the future of learning – taking into account game-based learning, global collaboration, authentic audiences, etc. – as we are crafting this document?

If you are at a 1:1 school or a school with significant access to technology, has your curriculum changed because of it?

(This might be a good time to mention that I am in no way, shape or form even remotely close to an authority on curriculum development. Please feel free to set me straight in the comments!)

Is MLA Dead?

As part of our Tablet Rollout to Middle School students, all students in grades 6, 7 and 8 have spent a session with our librarian discussing a range of things. Grade 7 and 8 students talked about the need to reference their work, how to create a Works Cited page, and how to use Noodle Tools to create an MLA-approved citation.

I agree whole-heartedly with the skills and ethics involved with referencing:

  • Creating a citation requires students to verify the authenticity and veracity of the source they are using.
  • Including citations is a way of acknowledging the work of others.
  • Citations allow the reader to verify the information that the author is presenting.

When I was in junior high school (we didn’t have no stinkin’ middle schools back then!), my bibliography was my proof to the teacher that I did the research for my essay (which I typed out on a typewriter). Did she go to the library, find the book that I put on my bibliography and check my work? I doubt it. (Actually, I know quite a few students who ‘padded’ their bibliographies to make themselves look smarter!)

Now that we’re 1:1 throughout the Middle School/High School and all the students are paperless (no printing privileges on campus for any student!), don’t hyperlinks make more sense? Yes, we still need to explicitly teach students how to verify the validity of their sources. But aren’t hyperlinks actually a better way of acknowledging the work of others? When used in online writing such as blogs and wikis, the authors of the sites being linked to will be notified that they are being acknowledged. And aren’t hyperlinks a more useful way for the reader to check the information the author is using? A single click and she can see for herself where I got my information from.

Is MLA dead? As I said in an earlier tweet which inspired this post, is MLA  an anachronism whose time has come?

Image Credit:Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition (1911)‘ by Stewart (CC BY)

Roll ’em Out!

After a relaxing summer, it’s been right back into the thick of things at the start of this school year!

As of 3 days ago, our entire Middle School and High School is 1:1! We rolled out tablets to the last two grade levels (grades 6 and 7) on the first day of school and there is no looking back!

A quick recap:

  • In August 2007, about half of the teachers received tablets.
  • In August 2008, all teachers and students in grades 10 and 11 received tablets.
  • In August 2009 all teachers and students in grades 8 – 12 (three new grade levels) received tablets.
  • In August 2010 all teachers and all students in the Middle and High School received tablets. (In additions, students in grade 5 will be receiving tablets as well but that is not my area of responsibility.)

This is a process that has been a long time in the making and I am very excited about it! It’s also kept me quite busy, both to end the year in June and to begin this year.

One of the things that we decided we could improve as a school is giving more support and training to students from the get go. We’ve always done a basic training session and then let the students go straight to class. While this maximizes class time, I also found that many teachers were spending a lot of time teaching the same tech skills in their classes. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, but it was getting in the way of the learning.

So I came up with a plan. All students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 have been on a modified intensive technology curriculum for the first three days of school. Instead of math, science, english or humanities, they have been learning how to use their tablets, learning how to use OneNote 2010, having lessons on cyberbullying and cybersafety (thanks to the curriculum!) and having lessons on using NoodleTools and MLA referencing.

It was a bit of a nightmare trying to coordinate the schedules for 9 homerooms (3 at each grade level) but the middle school teachers have been great. I’ve been alternating between helping to deliver lessons, lending support as other teachers deliver lessons and just watching. By all accounts, the students are doing a great job of adapting. Of course, we always knew they would.

Now comes the harder part: getting the teachers to adapt to and implement a new learning environment!

What Does a Magical Classroom Look Like?

I appreciate the cool stop-motion animation. I mean, it’s really cool, right? But…

Does SMART Technologies really think a Magical Classroom looks like this?

Straight rows, hands up, wait to be called on, one person talking at a time. That’s not magic; that’s a step backwards! Where is the collaboration? Where is the group dynamic? Where is the problem solving? Where are the messy bits? We don’t have any IWBs at our school so I want to know: Is this how you use them in your school?

(To be fair, sometimes I feel like we’re using our tablets in a similar way, at times: new tools, same pedagogy. Where’s the magic in that?)

A Transition to 1:1 in Middle School – Creative Commons

This coming August the Middle School/High School will be fully 1:1. Every student in our Middle School will be receiving a TabletPC for the first time on August 17, 2010. With that in mind, I’ve started thinking about how we can smoothly transition our students into this new environment. What are the important ideas that we need discuss and promote as a school to our students from Day One?

Of course, we’ll need to teach some of the technology operations and concepts: how to use OneNote effectively; how to use Outlook for email and assigned tasks; how to replace the daily planner with an electronic version (probably, once again, using Outlook’s calendars); how to effectively use our school’s SharePoint portal.

I think it is also vitally important to reach some essential agreements – among teachers and stated explicitly to students during that first week – on issues related to the use of technology: cyberbullying, online identity, privacy, digital footprints and copyright. (If there is more that you’d add to this list, I’m all ears! Leave ’em in the comments below.)

I started thinking about a scope and sequence for teaching Creative Commons and copyright to middle school students*:

Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade 8
Creative Commons/ Copyright • Understand the meaning of copyright.

• Understanding and recognizing CC licenses.

• How to find CC licensed work.

• Citing CC licensed work in your own projects.

• It is expected that students attempt to find CC licensed work before copyrighted work.

• All work is to be cited correctly in the body of the work and in the bibiliography (MLA format)

• Explore Fair Use and explain how it can be used in school and at home.

• Students are to use CC licensed work except in the instance in Fair Use.

• Students are able to justify why the feel their use of Copyrighted works falls under Fair Use.

Does this seem reasonable? Are my expectations too low? Too high?

How do you teach Creative Commons at your school? What are the minimum expectations that you put on each grade level?

* – to simplify my life, I’m conveniently ignoring the fact that our grade 5 students will be in a 1:1 environment next year as well. I haven’t included them in my scope and sequence, although I probably should!

Classroom Management: Now with Audio Inside!

Thanks again to all those in my PLN who gave me some great suggestions regarding classroom management in a 1:1 classroom. After posting my draft version, I made some minor revisions – most of them cosmetic, to be honest.

I gave this presentation today to about 16 teachers, mostly from the middle and high school and my highest turnout to date. I also had the principal for a good portion of the hour. I recorded the entire discussion and have now linked it to the presentation. There are some times when the discussion wanders a bit but it is all still (mostly) relevant to the topic at hand. If you’ve got 45 minutes or so, I invite you to take a look. Or you could browse through the pretty pictures…

Classroom Management in a 1:1 Enviroment Draft

I’ve been hearing a lot of concerns from teachers about how our students are using their TabletPCs. Most of the concerns, in my mind, are not technological concerns but rather behavioral and social concerns that happen to be manifesting themselves when the tablets are present. So I’ve decided to host a discussion of classroom management practices in a 1:1 environment. I have borrowed heavily from the works of others in the creation of my slide deck, most notably those in my Twitter Network who answered my call a few weeks back, Ann Krembs, the Irving Independent School District, Jim Heyndericks at, Mike Hasley on Tech Learning, and the Always On podcast.

Here is a draft of my slide deck to date. I really would appreciate any feedback, comments or suggestions. Thanks!