15 March 2014

Blended Learning and Unintended Consequences

A relationship with one of my AP Stats students went sour this week, and it was a little unexpected.

Stats is the class in which I usually have my edtech act "together" because its easier to pilot apps or tools in the smaller classes, they're better at "playing" school so they're more readily willing to try new things, and because they're generally more mature, if things don't go well, we can generally recover, go more "traditional" and still have a worthwhile class period.

Of my preps this year, AP Stats class is the most "blended." Many of those students contact me via email or texting my district monitored Google Voice number. Every project I have them complete is submitted (and completed) electronically. I have a Google Drive folder that they all have viewer access to for notes, handouts, PowerPoint files, worksheets, lesson plans, etc. - there's a lot in there. 100% of these students are signed up for my Remind101 messages. 

So when I had a student complain Friday morning before our quiz that I hadn't "taught [her] the Central Limit Theorem" because she had missed some of class on Tuesday, I was at a loss for words. 

All teachers have to lie (to themselves).

For many reasons, chief among them hope and forgiveness, there are many instances in which teachers have to "lie" to themselves about their students or their classroom in order to walk through the door the next day, teach students, and inspire whatever growth they can conjure from their pupils. It's quite common to give the benefit of a doubt to the student. "She does have a job, 3 other honors classes, and plays basketball - she's got a lot going on." "He has to spend a lot of time looking after younger siblings." "I could have done a better job catching her up after she was absent." "I forgot to get him the homework assignment from yesterday..." 

But. The more we blend our classes, put our materials online, make ourselves (technically) available 24/7, the more we must be real with ourselves. The more the learning opportunities extend beyond your 4 walls and 50 minutes, the more you've got to let it go.

You can lead a student to water, but...
This student was frustrated because she felt like I had not done my job in this particular respect. It's arguable; "if there is no learning, then there is no teaching," might certainly apply to this student's circumstances this week, but when you teach high schoolers, where does your responsibility for effort ever end?

Does it?

The Unintended Consequence:
Because I felt completely resolved in my efforts to share everything with my students, because I had made two content videos last week for note-taking, because I had posted students' class Evernote summaries in our shared Drive folder... I could not rationally wear my teacher-lenses and excuse this student. All I could see was a girl who wasn't taking her responsibility for learning all she could about sample means this week. Using tech in the classroom is supposed to make you feel better, right?

I've asked a lot of rhetorical questions in the post - I hope you made it to the end. Just wanted to share something useful, too.

Evernote - after I noticed a student was doing it on his own with his iPhone, I decided to designate a kid a day take the "official" notes for class in the Evernote app and send them to me so I could post them on a doc in our Drive folder. I'm already in love with this because it saves me 1 or 2 steps in my desire to archive our class sessions for the students. We used the new doc-scanner settings, text, and audio. If I had a premium account I wouldn't have to touch the notes at all because students would be able to upload to a shared Evernote notebook. #gotmethinking

Present.me - One of my videos for the week was made with this #flipclass tool. I like that it makes slides+you easy to create, but there are no YouTube upload options, so it fragments my resources.

Touchcast - The first video I made this week was via the Touchcast app in iOS. This was needed more actual examples worked out, so I needed the whiteboard functionality that present.me does not have. I wrote about my students using touchcast here.

Remind101 - We started a really cool activity from our textbook about the ages of pennies, but didn't get as far as I thought we would be able to, so I had to switch up the plan for the next day. I compiled some numbers they would have had if we'd gotten further, got a share link, and sent it out with instructions for the next day.

Google Voice - Two students texted to my Google number (which shows up in my Gmail inbox) to ask clarifying questions on what I'd sent to them with Remind101.

Google Drive - cre

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Thanks for sharing!