I’ve made a new start of year survey for my middle schoolers this year. Click the image below to see the live form with all the options.
If you’ve ever tried to find a way to share a small set of iPad devices in your class or school, you’re probably familiar with reaching for a bottle of ibuprofen while doing so. These tools have been designed for personal, customized use, and employing them for any other purpose debilitates much of their potential, particularly as it relates to workflow and productivity. There are few things as technologically maddening than having an iMovie project you’ve been working on literally swiped away in one, surreptitious swoop. While it is all well and good to say that a culture of respect supersedes such unfortunate incidents, it is also naive to expect problems like this not to arise.
But should this illicit a call for their irrelevance as shared devices, or an insistence that 1:1 is the only way to go? Or, worse yet, a demand that we figure out a way to image these devices like a lot of our district’s standardized PCs? In my experience, no. Rather, it instead means we need to put on our ever-frequented problem-solving hats and get to work on a solution that works for our own given contexts. Here is how we do it in my grade 7 classes.
Two classes, sixty-ish middle school students, and fifteen iPad devices (2nd generation).
What We Do
- We create what we call ‘Learning Partners’ in the class, in which I use a variety of diagnostic assessments as well as student partnership requests to determine pairs that remain together for an extended period of time. iPad considerations aside, I have found these partnerships to have enormous benefit for learning in the classroom because it suggests that working with someone is something more akin to a relationship than just a speed dating experience, so to speak. Here is the simple Google form I use to get student input (click the image to view live form).
- With our 15 iPad devices, this means that each one gets assigned to a partnership in the respective classes. By lessening the number of people who get their hands on the device, I have observed a marked difference in subversive behaviour.
- We establish a four-digit iPad password that only the partners and myself know. I keep everyone’s passwords in my Evernote.
- Partners co-create a short, written 3-point agreement as to care and management of the device. I stress to students the importance of the brevity and clarity of the agreement, because it makes it easier to remember and stick to. Here is one example:
So, even though sharing a small set of iPad devices with a large group of students is probably akin to trying to do the same with ice cream cones, you know you are a genius educator/social engineer who can prevent those treats from splattering on the proverbial pavement.
What iPad sharing strategies have worked for you?
Let’s start by playing a little game of Do You Remember.
Do you remember when your education Twitter timeline consisted of 5% food tweets, 10% TED Talks, and 85% new web 2.0 sites?
Do you remember student engagement go through the roof when exploring and using some of these tools?
Do you remember having your mind blown witnessing your students expand their communicative, creative, collaborative, and critical thinking capabilities?
Do you remember feeling like all these fun, innovative tools were going to make a dent in the education paradigm?
Do you remember getting down on your knees on occasion, thankful that these sites were free to use?
But do you also remember looking deep into the terms of service of any of these sites?
Do you remember the blogposts that were being retweeted questioning what we were having students agree to?
Do you remember witnessing or attending an #edtech keynote or conference workshop respectively along these lines? (Audrey Watters’ proposal was declined by ISTE this year.)
Do you remember having deep, complex discussions with your students about these legal and ethical matters?
As US intelligence whistle blower Edward Snowden seeks international asylum for helping to expose the increasingly undeniable surveillance occurring through our society’s most lauded social media tools and spaces, and as we are told of our tech giants’ deepening inextricability from suspect and surreptitious government practices, there appears to be a greater (and ironic) mainstream acceptance of the Googles of the world in education.
As someone who has earned a reputation leading and learning with students and adults alike in The World of Username and Password, I’m having an existential moment to say the least.
I’m not talking about baby and bathwater stuff here. Surely, the solution to this dilemma is not to jerk our collective knees and shoo our children away from web-based and social media spaces like some sort of figurative fire drill. Still, it neither seems right to carry on with business as #edtech usual. Suddenly, the amazing qualities of something like Google Apps for Education seems a little more about efficiency and logistics and less about transformation to me as an educator.
Am I the only one here? How are we going to do this, folks? How will we foster critical mindsets of what it means to check that I Agree button, especially in regards to students that are in our charge but not our own children?
One thing I’m thinking of initiating this September is very different to what I’ve normally done. In the past, I have strongly encouraged my students to activate and use their Google Apps for Ed. and other similar services with the understanding that they could opt out. This year, I think I’ll do it in reverse. We’re going to read all of these Terms of Service and have students and families opting in instead. Will this be inconvenient? Yes. Will it slow down our program? Yes. Is this a problem for learning? No.
I’d love your ideas, because, other than the above, I’m a bit of a blank slate right now.
In 2013, can you imagine if people were to suddenly call for etiquette training in our schools? I’m not talking about all the ‘top 10 ways to act on twitter’ tropes out there. I’m saying: what if we were to develop a curriculum for dinner table manners, or shoe removal tendencies, or Times When You Should Hold The Door Open For Someone?
I know, in your head you’re secretly thinking, “Actually, that’s a fantastic idea! Kids today…”
But you’d probably also concede that there may be bigger, less… problematic fish to fry inside our education machine. And that, if you were to make such a workshop proposal for your next education conference, it might not get accepted.
So, why, then, are we so obsessed with teaching social media etiquette? What does it even mean? According to whose standards? Based on which culture?
If it would be ridiculous to suggest that there is one proper way to eat a meal, then why do we seek one standard etiquette for social media speak? If we cannot feel confident telling all students to bow to their elders in a heterogenous culture, then why the one rule for an RT?
There are so many complex variables in teaching or integrating social media into education environments. Not the least of these include privacy concerns, pedagogical dilemmas, and technological considerations. It befuddles me, then, that we should spend so much time wringing our hands about what I observe as a comparatively less pressing issue, so-called social media etiquette. Furthermore, I’ve been wondering whether I’m the only person out there who is flummoxed when such a thing is presented as a type of literacy. Are etiquette and manners literacies? Well, perhaps they are literacies if you also want to call being a wine aficionado a brand of literacy, or suggest that I am highly literate in the social norms of a BBQ Ribfest. But perhaps a more accurate descriptor for this would be cultural capital. And, yes, it can be learnt and taught, but must we?
Do we really want:
- A fixed, homogenous notion of what is appropriate?
- To teach students how we think they should dialogue in these ever evolving spaces?
- Everyone to tweet or Instagram or Plus (see Google, you can’t use it as a verb!) like they’re answering stock questions at a job interview?
- Reluctant, self-conscious users to avoid posting because they can’t bear breaking ‘netiquette’, feeling like every utterance will be scrutinized with a proverbial teacher’s red pen?
Do we need social media spaces full of good manners, or do we want savvy, authentic, critical thinkers who constantly reshape, rethink, and redirect its purpose?
Do you want to use social media, web 2.0 tools, and/or a learning management system for your class or course program? Do you feel overwhelmed with the absurd amount of choice, and those ‘techie’ annoying types that make you feel like a Super Noob? I’m hoping this post can help you out.
Every year around this time I reflect on the tools and spaces we’ve been using throughout the year. Will we use them again? Were they effective? Did they help us expand our learning, or were they just pretty things in a tool box? Here are some of my own criteria, based on being a teacher of middle schoolers in a class with an assortment of technology.
Device agnostic: I have a multi-device environment in which mobile dominates. So, I don’t mean the space needs to be seen on any or most devices. I mean it’s gotta work just as well on a mobile device as it does a laptop. What’s more, it hopefully includes apps (third party or otherwise) for ease of use.
Simple, elegant, minimalist design: ‘Nuff said.
Engineering: It’s fast, and it works. Not most of the time – all of the time. Also, it does a few things really well, not a million things badly.
Used by people outside of education: This isn’t because I have some bizarre inferiority complex with apps and LMSs, feeling like it’s illegitimate if someone else doesn’t use it. I’ve just noticed a pattern: if a digital tool or space is being designed solely for education, it usually sucks like a leach.
Easy privacy settings: Because if it’s complex, then it can’t be trusted, especially for school.
I’ve created the matrix below to help you should you need it. Some points to keep in mind about it:
- By no means is it an exhaustive list of all options.
- It is focussed on my own context as YRDSB Ontario educator, and is mostly intended for my colleagues, so definitely represents a bias from this context. Hopefully it’s useful to others.
[iframe src=”https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UnJsiID8qpb1HDmty7Ko39CIgCM4ylqC0gD11ItFPDM/pub” height=”1000″]
Click here for the native Google document.
I’ve been raising a bit of a Spockian eyebrow at the steady stream of 20% (also known as ‘Genius Hour’) chatter and accompanying ‘10 Reasons Why You Should…‘ lists in the edtechosphere. It’s been going on for a while now, and I’m certainly not a stranger to participating in them myself. The main justification seems to be: “Google does it, Dan Pink loves it, so should you,” etc. I tried something like this once in my classroom, and I actually found a lot of positives in the experience, but I ultimately abandoned it because I found it created false dichotomies of learning in my classroom. For proponents of this system as a pedagogical, as opposed to productivity and innovation (Google’s), approach, I have a few questions.
- What does 20% time/Genius Hour in the classroom actually mean? What is the process?
- What is the teacher’s role? Anything?
- What kinds of collaboration happen in the 20%/Hour?
- Why is the fact that it is open ended automatically beneficial to students?
- Is it process or product focussed?
- Is the 20% a reward? Even if it isn’t, would it be used as such?
- Why does the 20% always have to involve, if not centre around, technology? How about 20% time to garden?
- What is it about the other 80% that is so different to the 20%?
- By supposedly implementing student-centred, project-based, inquiry-driven 20% time, does it give us a pass on the status quo in the 80%?
I’d love to know more about your experience with 20% and/or the Genius Hour.