Reflections on Week 3
Last week had many moments that deserve to be thoroughly unpacked. I wanted to take the weekend to think about how to attack my key learnings and share them on the blog. Now, Monday morning, I am relaxing in the sun on my back porch writing to you from the Chromebook I was given to trial. Firstly, it took two seconds to start, it took another two to log on and be ready to roll. The majority of my start up time came from the fact that I forgot my password to the blog. This machine is light, very portable and is changing the way I think about the use of technology in the classroom.
In our meeting with the google apps for education team last week we spent much time discussing the possible impacts that Chromebooks can have on education from a theoretical standpoint, and more specifically how we see the potential for change at Envision Academy in Oakland and hopefully for Envision Schools as a whole. Many of our teachers use the cloud already in how they design projects and as a network of schools we made strong gains in moving away from housing student work on our servers and encouraged the students to use google apps (with back-ups on thumb drives if they absolutely need it). Our media arts teachers used google sketch-up in a project, seniors edited each others personal statements using google docs, and science teachers collected data using google spreadsheets. Continuing to move in a direction where the technology promotes accessibility for all from anywhere, makes the actual computer obsolete, enter Chromebook.
Much of this change relies on the philosophy and skills of the teacher. Blended learning has been criticized by professionals who posit that introducing more technology will make the teacher obsolete. In certain settings technology has allowed for instructional models that require fewer teachers, but a teacher will always need to be present; and like any other classroom its success is determined by the teacher’s skills and abilities. For example, Ms. Negash (the classroom teacher in this experiment) has been working hard to develop a system for assessing the students growth in Algebra so that she can assign them a grade for summer school. Her process was to find videos of pertinent content and create modules of like concepts. Great idea. In class on Tuesday the students were busily working their way through these concepts when we discovered that not all videos are linked to practice, meaning that she had no way of knowing, using Khan Academy how to assess their learning. This presented a potential problem and she needed to assess the situation, react quickly, and find solutions. She and I tossed around many ideas, from traditional paper and pencil, to another website that she was familiar with, to combinations of the latter. What stood out to me here was her commitment to maintaining a high level of expectation for the students and finding a solution that was engaging. A strong teacher approaches this situation with confidence, is not hindered by having to think quickly and will find a solution that works. A lesser teacher may have gotten discouraged, felt frustrated, and just given the students worksheets. Being successful in a classroom that is traditional or in a classroom that is not makes little difference if the teacher is not master of his or her trade. This may seem trivial to write about and an obvious thesis, but in an experimental situation where anything can receive critique or praise I feel that it is important to state. Technology in the classroom can not make a poor teacher successful and technology in the classroom will not magically change student’s test scores, it is a strong teacher thoughtfully utilizing the technology that will makes these things happen.
By Kiera Chase