This is the sixth of seven posts written by Dr. Tibby Lynch. This post was written in May 2010. I have included it as part of my 21st century pygmalion series of posts.
The “bookkeeping” elements of teaching have been transformed by the laptop experience in some dramatic ways:
(1) “The dog ate my homework” is simply not possible; NING postings are designated by date and time – you either handed it in by the due date or you didn’t. (I did have every student create a backup file of each posting, but no one ever had to use it.)
(2) All assignments are posted online; all schedule changes are updated daily online; all student questions about homework are posted for all sections to see, and most of the time such questions are answered by fellow students before the teacher even has a chance to get to them.
(3) Rough drafts, revisions, and final drafts in progress are readily available for the teacher to comment upon. I will admit that I never became comfortable grading the online documents. The students submitted the final copies and I made hard copies to mark with my red and green Pilot pens. Sorry, but some things will never change.
(4) No piles of paper. In my classroom are two tables. Table # 1 is for my non- laptop AP English Literature class in which I have spent all year forcing the students to produce handwritten documents to prepare for the low-tech AP Exams. Table # 1 is covered with piles of paper, some listing precariously, all destined for the recycling bins. Table # 2 is for my laptop classes. Set in the middle is a laptop and to the left is a small pile of final examinations – one the few handwritten assignments (along with reading quizzes) of the year. There is probably a secure way to give exams online, but I haven’t gotten there yet.
(5) Only a few textbooks to return (or lose) at the end of the year. While Gulliver’s Travels and A Tale of Two Cities are available online, I just wasn’t ready to abandon paper for works of that length, so we used the texts.
Dr. Lynch’s final post will be a reflection about the entire process of going paperless.
This is the third of seven posts written by Dr. Tibby Lynch. This post was written in late November or early December 2009. I have included it as part of my 21st century pygmalion series of posts.
The first startling result of this enterprise was the virtual disappearance of paper from my pedagogical environment. The initial sensation was vaguely disquieting. Something was missing. Bulky spiral notebooks had been transformed into a collection of daily NING postings– reflective and analytical writings due each day that were visible not only to the teacher, but to all of the students in the three sections of the course. Class Notes and impromptu writing were being entered in personal folders kept by each student. Formal writing assignments – including multiple drafts – were stored for ready access during in-class writing workshops. While I have, of course, posted schedules and assignments online for some time, the all laptop scheme allows for all materials and links to be posted and modified on a continuing basis and via the collective will of the classroom community. The most challenging paradigm shift in this area, for me, has concerned the replacement of textbooks with online resources. The complete texts of all three of our major works for the first semester, including Beowulf (The J.R.R. Tolkien translation), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Hamlet, were read and studied online. [Project Gutenberg] I have mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, I am an inveterate lover of books; I like the way they smell, and look, and feel in my hands. I even find pleasure in distributing old books, the ones with marginalia of days and students past scrawled on the edges of the text. There is, undoubtedly, a fundamental psychological disconnect that even the most tech oriented among us must feel when looking at an electronic text. Indeed, staring at the familiar lines of cherished works of literature on a screen, even as I try to communicate a love of reading for its own sake to my students, takes an extra measure of negative capability. The other problem is the quality of many electronic texts. The version of Hamlet we are using, for example, while complete, contains a number of inexplicable mistakes (the text suddenly being presented in italics, for instance; using continuous line numbers, rather than beginning, as is the standard convention, with each act or scene). Better editions can be, of course, ordered and paid for. (Beware, though; books I have ordered on my personal Kindle are often filled with mistakes.) On the plus side, if an institution is strapped for cash, free, minimally flawed editions of books in public domain can save a great deal of money.
For several years now at my school we have celebrated an annual event called “Peace Day.” The idea of this event, started by Jeremy Gilley, is to have one day of the year with no fighting, no war, just peace. This has been a powerful event at school year after year, and the idea of one day of peace, hopefully moving toward many more days of peace, made me think that this is a good model for making other changes that will better society.
I decided to apply the same idea to a “paperless” day at school. The idea was to do something that has a positive ecological impact while promoting the technology integration push at my school. I proposed to the high school student government that our school be paperless on Earth Day (April 22), and it was enthusiastically adopted by the students.
After speaking to a few people at school about going paperless I decided to try to make a greater impact with this idea. I started tweeting about it and was getting a very positive response. I made contact with Shelly Blake-Plock, the leader in paperless education, and shortly thereafter he had a post on his Teach Paperless blog about the idea. He also created a place where teachers can pledge to go paperless for Earth Day. Take a look at the list, which has over 650 teachers from all over the world pledging to go paperless.
I also started a Google Doc and wiki page for sharing ideas on alternatives to using paper.
Consider taking the pledge, and think about this first paperless day as one step toward finding alternatives for paper in your class, and improving instruction with the use of technology.
In January I was given the job of Director of Educational Technology at my private school in Costa Rica after teaching there (and helping teachers integrate technology on a part-time basis) for five and a half years. The Country Day School is a private American school with a population of about 900 students K-12. I was appointed to this newly created position to help the teachers integrate technology, to improve student learning. I have worked in various capacities in educational technology throughout my career, and was very excited to help the teachers to integrate technology in a full-time position.
In May, the high school principal approached me with an idea. He wanted to help his wife, a high school English teacher, to integrate technology into her classes during the next school year. Actually, his idea was much more ambitious than just integrating technology. His idea was that all work could be done digitally, and would include blogs, threaded discussions, and in-class chat rooms to replace traditional hand-written or typed assignments. I told him that I thought it sounded like a very interesting idea, especially since his wife is “technologically challenged.” I thought it would be a very challenging year-long project for the three of us to collaborate on.
We had several meetings between May and the start of school, and decided that the best solution would be to create a social network (using Ning). This network would become the home for the classes involved, and hopefully develop into a learning community where the students continue to learn from each other long after they had left the classroom for the day.
Harry, the high school principal, also suggested that we document this process using video, as this would be a significant change in teaching style for his wife Tibbie. I will be filming the classes and some interviews with Tibbie, and also plan to blog about the progress throughout the year. I am encouraging Tibbie to blog about it also. She’s not up for it just yet, but will hopefully be able to add the blog to an already full plate of change sometime in the future.
Posted in 21st Century Pygmalion, Paperless
Tagged 21st, 21st century, century, community, Harry Grzelewski, integration, learn technology, learning, ning, pygmalion, Steve Katz, teach, teacher, Tech, Tibbie Lynch