Hey everyone! This is my third year working in a 1:1 classroom, and although roadblocks to completed work are nothing new, using technology for our assignment adds a new wrinkle to the process.
To avoid a monsoon of excuses, there are many steps I take throughout the school year to anticipate and avoid technological mishaps.
On the Homefront
Start of the Year Lesson
At the start of the school year, my students have just barely received their brand new iPads. Many of them are familiar with Apple products, while for others, this is their very first electronic device. After repeating the same talking points as their iPad orientation, and tell cautionary tales of past students who used their devices inappropriately, we discuss why their homework is their responsibility. It doesn’t matter if their iPad is broken, possessed by the Dark Lord himself, or lost, it is merely one tool in their arsenal of learning.
The Magic of the Cloud
The first mind-blowing moment for my students at the start of the year is that their iPad is not the only doorway into the magical land of Google, but instead they can access any of their digital documents from any internet-accessible device. It is no longer physically possible to lose their Reading Log, homework calendar, or essay because they can go on their phone, parent’s laptop, library computer, or personal tablet. Heck, I’ve had students do work on their Nintendo 3DS and their XBox. The future is now, you guys!
Phone a Friend
Your friend could take a photo of the math worksheet and email it to you. You could upload that picture into the app Notability, and digitally write on it. Magic.
Kickin’ it Old School
And finally, when all else fails, my students know that sometimes they have to take things back to the “stone age” and actually use a pencil to write their homework. Maybe their internet went out, or they live in a fallout shelter, who knows?
Here’s a copy of the worksheet I give my students at the start of the year:
In the Classroom
Make a Plan B
At my school, the Wi-Fi gets weird on rainy days. Normally, it’s pretty reliable, so I don’t always have a backup. But I would say more than half of the time, I have an alternative to my lesson that can be done without technology. It might mean sending a student to the office for copies, but I do have a plan. Especially when you’re first starting out with new technology, I would recommend taking it slow and having a backup most or all of the time.
Student Guinea Pig
Once I was reading a blog where the teacher had set up a Google Custom Search Engine, so students would only be sent to teacher-approved websites during their webquest. I thought that sounded so cool, so I spent many hours on my Google account, setting one up for my Charles Dickens webquest. I posted the link to the search engine to my Google Classroom and pictured myself smiling with content as my student enjoyed their planned online excursion.
Except…it didn’t work. Nothing came up when they typed words into the search engine, and my lesson fell apart. I still don’t have the heart to delete the project on my Google Account, and sometimes I go visit it in mourning.
Or last year, I made a YouTube channel for my classroom, only to find out that the filter blocked YouTube and my students couldn’t access it. I felt so defeated!
Or the time I posted the wrong link to a Google Quiz, and the students were trying to EDIT my quiz and not take it? Yeesh.
The lesson from these three experiences? Always get your hands on a student iPad BEFORE you try something for the first time, and see if it works. Something might work on my less restricted teacher iPad, and when I try it on a student iPad, I can see the problem. Sometimes, I’ll email one of my more reliable student and ask them to try something out the night before a lesson. They’re happy to help.
Kids show up without their device, sometimes thinking it will get them out of work. I have an iPad, MacBook, and PC in my room, as well as charging stations. I normally don’t get more than three students without devices, but since I have a backup plan, there is usually a pen-and-paper option for the students who are not prepared. They seem to view this as a punishment, which I don’t mind.
Taking the Time to Get it Right
And finally, when the class starts a new assignment on the iPad, I spend the first half of the year taking the time to check that it is set up correctly. This might mean projecting my Shared Google folder to guarantee that students have shared their document with me, titled it properly, and given it the correct heading. This might take five or ten minutes, but it saves me a huge headache later on.
We also talk about the value of making folders, keeping out digital files correctly labeled and organized, and quick ways to navigate our iPads (saving important websites to home screen, using the search function, ect.).
If you have your own suggestions for anticipating digital problems in the classroom, please post them in the comment section below and let me know!