For the rest of the year I will be covering for a grade for maternity leave. I’m excited about this temporary change because it gives me a chance to put into practice some of the theories and ideas that I’ve had about connected classrooms, but haven’t been able to try in a classroom environment myself. For example, when I was getting myself organized to go back into the classroom with a class list and checklist sheets, first I created them with the idea that I would print them, and then I realized I have an iPad therefore I have no need for printing! That got me thinking about what else I could migrate to an electronic version only. I already use Google slides to post the morning directions, and to put directions for activities onto the board. That led me to think about other ways I could use technology with regards to my classroom.
One of my ideas was to create this website (note that not all docs will be accessible). I’ve explained to my students that this will be like a bulletin board that they can access at home. My idea behind the website is to have it mirror the bulletin boards that are in the classroom, with the same items that you would normally have on those boards such as anchor charts, central ideas, vocabulary, brainstorms etc. This would allow students the opportunity to have something that they can access at home if they want to refer to any of the vocabulary or ideas that we developed in class. This would be especially useful if they are doing work at home.
One of the other things I like about the website is that it can be built together with the students in the classroom as we do and create things. For example, when we make a class definition, we can type it onto the website straight away. This enables the students see their ideas on the screen, which they can use as a reference when they’re thinking around those ideas and topics. They can use the definitions that we develop in class without having to try to remember what the were.
At this school the students are still given homework. In this particular classroom, the homework, until this week, consisted of a piece of paper glued into a notebook containing the homework activity tasks. The task was then completed on pages inside the notebook. This week, I started the homework with a slideshow. Instead of a piece of paper, they have a slide for each activity. This means they can either do the work on paper, take a picture of it and put it into the slideshow, or do the work directly in the slideshow. Some of the students in this class are from the Grade Two class that we trialed this with two years ago. This means that some of them are already familiar with the system. I was pleased to see the students excited about their homework as I presented this new system. Additionally, having the homework in Google Classroom allows me to grade it bit by bit, instead of having to wait until the very end of the week to look at it. It also means that it’s easy for me to put things up onto the board if we have something that connects to what we’re studying in class. For example, this week, the students were asked to find a poem in their native language to share with the class. When we share these, it will be much easier for me to click into all of their Google Classroom assignments instead of trying to go to their notebooks.
One of the things that I’m struggling with the moment is the fact that this class did not have a very high iPad use before I came and I’m seeing behaviors that I saw in my last school the first year we handed out the iPads. Behaviors like students spending more time decorating pages in Book Creator than putting content on pages. Also, students are playing with their iPads as opposed to using it as a tool. I know that this is just growing pains and they behaviours that they will grow out of quickly as they further understand my expectations of them around technology use.