It was my first year teaching at a new school and I was handed 28 iPads around October. Now what? The kids were excited and had used them at home for games and videos. It has taken me four years to get my students to see them as tools for learning, but here are the top five reason why I would never go back to teaching without them.
1. I’m saving trees. I used to spend hours at the copy machine loading ream after ream of paper into the sorter. I still print some things…interactive notebook pages, extra credit holiday packets, and some math sheets, but almost everything else is attached to Google Classroom in the form of a Google Doc or PDF. (We use an app called PDF Expert and even type, draw, highlight on PDF docs).
2. My students know how to collaborate. I use the term “elbow-partner” multiple times a day. My classroom has flexible seating. (My students may sit wherever they like when they come in each morning, as long as it follows certain criteria. I have seats with stationary bikes, standing tables with spooner boards, Hokki stools, and bean bag chairs. Students can’t sit at the same table twice in a week and must have an even number of girls and boys at each table.) My students work with their elbow partner daily, for quizzing each other on math facts, or completing assignments. I know they don’t always want to work with their elbow partner, but they know I won’t let them work independently on certain assignments, so they just get down to work, usually through a collaborative Google Document.
3. I’ve saved time grading assignments. I use Google Forms for quick quizzes or checkpoints that are graded automatically. I get immediate feedback, and so do the students. They can go home and tell their parents their grade and don’t have to wait a full week for the assessments to go home in their weekly folders. I also choose to send response receipts so they students can see the questions, their responses, and the correct answers to learn from their mistakes. I also use Google Sheets for digital rubrics. (CCSD employees can open and copy this rubric here.) I borrowed this idea from another presenter at the Google Summit.
4. The kids sometimes forget they’re learning. We’ve been using the “A Google A Day” feature recently. Google posts a random question that takes multiple searches to find the answer to. My fourth graders love this game and we get to bring in our research standards as well as digital citizenship and internet safety discussions. Genius Hour has also helped with this (see previous post). No longer do we need to go to the library, search the card catalog, or find an encyclopedia. The internet is at our fingertips (or in our pockets… some of my students have newer cell phones than I do!) With this wealth of knowledge at their fingertips, its our duty to teach them how to use it.
5. The future is digital. When I got my first teaching job, my father gave me this picture of his mother’s kindergarten class. If you look at classroom, not much has changed. There is a teacher, a chalkboard, and rows of kids. The global workforce is more and more dependent on technology (walk anywhere and see how people are on iPhones, laptops, etc.) Technology isn’t going away, and if we want students to be successful in higher education and the workplace, they must get used to using technology as a tool or textbook and not just as source of mindless entertainment.