What I learned when I had minimal access to technology.
In 2014, I began my summer adventures in Hoboken, working at a summer program. In my first year, I was a Teacher's Assistant. Then, I went onto become a full instructor, teaching a variety of different STEAM classes. This year was no exception. But after concluding my first year as a teacher in an entirely tech-integrated classroom, I struggled with how to incorporate tech into an environment where it wasn't as readily available.
I didn't expect to have a lot of technology. It was just a hard transition because most of my ideas and projects involve the use of technology. I did have a SmartBoard, though, so that was a plus! And there was access to a small computer lab, but with multiple classes sharing, that sometimes became difficult. As always, it was a great overall experience but I wanted to share some of the things I learned transitioning from tech-heavy to basically tech-less.
The walls are more colorful. Although I do tend to hang some work during the regular school year, most of my projects are digital. During this program, I hung a lot more. Student work lined every available space of the wall. The back of the door was covered with student-created comic books. There were drawings, writing pieces, inventions of the future, app designs, and a chain of pi digits hanging all over my walls. It was a mess...and I loved it. More importantly, the students loved it too. They beamed with pride when they heard students in other periods had come in and complimented their work. They smiled quietly from their seats as others walked around and nodded respectfully at their designs. When I didn't hang something on the wall, they were quick to wonder why. Every student, from kindergartners to those beginning adolescence wanted the recognition of their work.
You have to find something equally as engaging as technology. My go-to was hands-on projects. Students love lessons where they get to interact with different things. For the entire program my students were obsessed with the SmartBoard. They wanted to write and draw on it and even just play with the eraser. And since not everyone can work on the board at the same time, I needed to create other plans to pique their interest. I tried to keep my hands-on projects interesting and engaging for the students. We did algebra in shaving cream, made a chain of the digits of pi that wrapped around the room and built our own future cities. The students did scavenger hunts around the school in math and spied on their classmates to use as models for their drawings. So, there were non-tech ways to get the students interested in what they were learning.
Bring in your own tech. As a train commuter, my back is still screaming from all of the devices I was carrying on me at one time. Tablets, phone, laptops, and of course all the regular and portable chargers. But bringing in my own devices helped. We had a classroom computer, but we also had my computer. So for the first week when the SmartBoard wasn't working, I had students come up to my laptop to spin the wheel to select the student who would choose the article of the day in writing. Smaller screen? Yes. But the kids still had fun with it. The students read the article off of my computer screen to the class, which caused them to read at a good pace since they realized if they read too fast or slow the students wouldn't understand their article. We could still research and look up information, but not having instant access to the answers prompted a lot of good discussions in class.
Flash drives are back. As an avid Google user, I've enjoyed the freedom of not carrying around a flash drive. I used one all through college, only to send myself into a panic if my files didn't open correctly. Since we had no student and teacher given emails and were not allowed to use our personal ones (for obvious reasons), I went back to the flash drive plan. Carrying around my little blue 8GB device that I had long forgotten about, I felt kind of nostalgic. I didn't have to sign in and out of my email to send my student's projects to myself, which was very helpful, and I was able to upload their projects directly to our class website.
Tech things can still be done. Two of my classes made full websites for their coursework. They published their favorite writing pieces and uploaded their final projects. They added pictures, changed text, and personalized their pages. We were able to send out these links to parents so they could not only view their child's work but also send it out to family, friends, or other interested parties. We still were able to reach more people with our projects, even without the consistent access to technology. Working one by one on the computers and taking turns in the lab still got the websites done.
Be grateful for what you have. Often, in districts with technology, we take what we have for granted. We complain when something isn't the latest model or is a few years old, but what we should really do is take a step back and appreciate that we at least have something. There are plenty of students without access to technology in their education, so we should be thankful for what we do have. If anything, that's the most important lesson I'll take with me into the next school year. I'll be thankful I have a class set of computers and my goal is to not complain about them so much.
As always, it was a tiring but great experience teaching summer school. I'll be sure to add some more pictures of my student's work as we finish up the final days of the program. Hope everyone is enjoying their summer and the warm weather!
It's officially summer!
I'm so excited that it's officially summer! I hope everyone has a great next few weeks with plenty of sun, relaxation and fun!
I'll be in Hoboken teaching Gifted & Talented summer school for all of July. I'm teaching three different classes: algebra, writing (& future prediction), and cartoons, comics and caricatures. I'll be using my 4.5 hour commute to continue to post different edtech ideas that I've been thinking about or that I'll be implementing in the upcoming school year. I have minimal tech access in my summer school classroom, so I may also be writing some posts about that!
PS: If you're attending EdCamp Global on July 29-30, check out my session on creating a culture of 21st century learners using GAFE!
Enjoy your time off, educators!