Reflecting As I Reach This Year’s Finish Line

SLOW TO CONVERT

With all the amazing resources we are fortunate enough to have at our disposal, and having purposely signed up to participate in this WIN Project, I still often feel like I just don’t use enough technology in my classroom. I’m one who not only refuses to give up my actual paper/pencil plan book but who carries it around outside of the school setting, taking it out and opening it up at the doctor’s office so that I can use it as a reference when booking my next appointment. I also tend to give up easily in those frustrating instances when half of the class either doesn’t have a charged iPad or doesn’t have an iPad at all, resorting to my back-up paper copies for everyone. This certainly hasn’t helped turn me into the better friend to the environment that I envisioned myself becoming just a few years ago when iPads were handed out for the first time.

TAKING INVENTORY

However, I did recently conduct my own little inventory of the apps and sites I use on a fairly regular basis during instruction. This made me feel better because I realized that, even though it’s not all technology all the time in my room, I do in fact use technology in some meaningful ways pretty routinely. Those examples that first came to mind were:

  • Explain Everything for the creation and sharing of math tutorials for each unit of study
  • Notability to project and preserve notes
  • Google Drive for sharing resources, providing and collecting assignments, providing feedback on written work, and creating/projecting slide shows to introduce or review content material
  • Kahoot for reviewing content in a game format
  • Quizlet for vocabulary review
  • Nearpod (occasionally) for interactive lessons across subject areas

ALWAYS LOOKING AHEAD

Of all those apps/sites listed above, Google Drive is the tool I use most often. Although I shied away from Google Classroom this year, I did create and share folders with each of my students in Google Drive (not too hard to manage since my class sizes are so small) and found this to be a good way to manage digital assignment submission as well as a good place to share digital resources. For instance, within the folder that I shared with each of my math students, I created a “reference section” and put in it copies of reference sheets used over time (e.g., multiplication chart, steps for performing calculations with integers, steps for solving for a variable, etc.). I’m already mulling over, though, how to improve upon this next year. Maybe I’ll have students take more ownership of the process or maybe I’ll force them to use it on a regular basis in place of the hard copies also provided (remember my environmental unfriendliness?). Ideally, I’d like to see them taking this resource with them to high school and actually using it, possibly even adding to it!! This, I think, is much more likely to happen with a digital resource than it is when you send home that big old reference binder full of papers at the end of the school year. What are the chances that that binder actually makes it home and, if it does, that it is ever opened and referred to again?

AN AREA IN DEFINITE NEED OF IMPROVEMENT

Considering my previously mentioned affinity for my paper plan book, it might come as no surprise that I loved the old spiral-bound agenda books that used to be provided to all students for recording their homework. It was a simple part of the routine to ask everyone to copy the assignment from the board and then do a do a quick check to make sure they had all followed the instruction. With Plus Portals in place now, this is no longer necessary. Plus Portals is an amazing tool and has changed my life as a teacher in so many wonderful ways. However, I don’t have evidence or any reason to really believe that any of my students are actually checking the Portals at all. Perhaps this is because they often look at me (and other teachers) like I have three heads when I ask that they hand in an assignment that is due. This occurs even though homework has also been written on the whiteboard and referred to at the beginning and end of each period. So, this has clearly emerged as something I’d like to tackle in the coming school year!

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