Monday, August 12, 2013

Crazy New Technology in Our Classrooms

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
― Arthur C. Clarke

Ya'll, it's gettin' CRAZY up in here!

I went to an information session for parents today at the middle school where Thing 1 will spend his final year in middle school as an eighth grader and Thing 2 will begin his middle school years as a sixth grader.  Our county received a technology grant to purchase tablets for every middle school student.  These tablets will be incorporated into the classrooms to give teachers real-time feedback on how well their students understand the material, allow students to explore information in greater detail using a variety of pre-loaded apps, and to give students, teachers and parents the ability to review what went on in the classroom each day using the Class Feed feature.

I have two words for all of this:  WAY COOL!  What an excellent way to incorporate the technology that our kids have already ingrained into their systems (they're calling them "digital natives") into the classroom environment.  And they've moved beyond the almost-antiquated laptop environment straight into the tablet world.  I am truly excited about the educational possibilities this presents to our students and cannot wait to see what thresholds they'll be crossing in the coming years.

  • The teacher can pause a lesson to ask the class if they're getting it.  The students then magically receive three icons:  a green smiley face (I get it!), a yellow blank face (I sorta get it) and a red frowney face (I'm confused).  The kid can THEN hit the icon of their choice and the teacher has instant feedback from the class about where the class is on the spectrum.

  • The teacher can also ask a question with A/B, A/B/C or A/B/C/D responses and ask the students to respond.  The teacher IMMEDIATELY receives feedback on their screen about who answered what and which students are getting it right or wrong.
  •  The teacher has the ability to lead discussion groups within the classroom virtual environment.  He or she can include the whole classroom or small groups of students.  
  • If a child must stay home sick, they can "check in" to their virtual classroom and participate with the class for any tablet-fueled lessons going on that day.  They will receive the same push notifications of homework assignments and in-class work their peers receive when they log in.

I cannot possibly begin to imagine how much teacher brains are going to ache during these first few weeks of school.  At the same time, I am thrilled at the possibilities this brings into the classroom!  They can pull Group A to the side to continue to work on a concept, direct Group B to look into the concept further and tell Group C to go home and sleep off whatever funk they're in.

Also, if the teacher wants everyone to pay attention to something they're doing, they can lock the kids OUT of their tablets with this message:


This effectively forces the kids to look away from their screens and to the front of the classroom.  HOW DO I GET THIS FEATURE AT HOME?  I would love to be able to push a button and have:


flash across every technological device in my home.  Sweet.

THEN (listen to THIS one!), the teacher can decide to virtually "call on" a student to answer a question.  So, the kid's tablet starts flashing:


and all the other tablets in the classroom start flashing


Using screen time to educate may very well make a world of difference for my introverted genius.  He DEFINITELY responds to indicators on a screen whereas he often tends to ignore "real world"  stimuli.

I will also NOW have a record of what goes on in the classroom.  I can visualize it now:

Me:  Do you have homework?

Thing 1/Thing 2:  I don't think so.

Me: Well, did the teacher give an assignment?

Thing 1/Thing 2:  I don't remember.

Me:  Please pull out your TABLET AND FIGURE IT OUT.  

The conversation will cease immediately.  It won't be the 20-minute run-around I used to get.  We will have DIGITAL PROOF to answer the question of: homework or no homework? 

You can't see me, but I'm totally doing the Cabbage Patch right now...

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