All of my students have laptops. Those who forget, or have tech issues, or forget a charger, or (insert miscellaneous excuse here) are able to check one out of the library for the day. It’s a system that works.
In an article about a laptop initiative in Maine, Liz Dwyer reports, “Used properly, laptops make information incredibly accessible and can offer countless opportunities for skill and concept remediation. They also close the gap between students from low income backgrounds and their wealthier counterparts by equitably providing access to information.”
In international schools, an economic disparity is not generally an issue, but as a former urban educator in the US, I am pleased that these initiatives are being put into place for more equitable education opportunities. I try to utilize technology to balance the multiple language proficiencies in my room.
Do my students use devices every day? No. But most days.
How am I using them? Lately for word processing, mostly. (End of the quarter—this tends to happen). I am feeling much like a new teacher this year, as my schedule is very different from last year. For my first run-through, there’s not too much technological integration going on. I am integrating small things here and there—a few videos, a lot of online peer editing, navigating through the library databases, some discussions on Google Classroom. I am using supplemental materials from the online text, and sending students home with videos. My 9s just finished a research project in groups which required internet and computer dependence. With my 7s, we have an online independent book project going out to students for their holiday assignments. Next year, I hope to do more. We did a mannequin challenge during the break before my Grade 10 class the other day, does that count as something more innovative?
Our school is on a Google platform, and Google Classroom is how most of our students stay on top of due dates, exam days, summative assessments, etc. Overall, I like it, and it is a system that works. Students submit work, I assess work, I insert grade and hit return. For me, this is the greatest benefit of an online platform. With Google Documents, it’s interactive, we can have a discussion that is saved forever in the Cloud, and there is a digital legacy.
In this regard, I am able to clearly see the benefits laptops have on my students.
Disclosure: I was the teacher who periodically misplaced actual papers. I am fairly organized, I use folders, paper clips, etc. But still, every once in a while, when something is turned in late and I am walking out the door or in the middle of 375 things, a paper can crawl away and hide. Sometimes I am forgetful. For this reason, I love the cloud. It also significantly cuts down on students leaving things at home. This is one form of internet dependence I am grateful for.
Every time I visit Common Sense Media I am impressed by the breadth of materials they have accessible. We are lucky to have such an extensive resource.
On a closing note, I am on the fence about tech breaks. I can get on board with a brain break—perhaps a spoken word video on YouTube if the students are feeling punchy—but a break in class to check social media? I can only imagine what would happen if my principal were to walk in just at that moment. I’m not convinced.
But a break with a conversation starter like this? I am far more inclined:
In Could Checking Facebook in Class Help Students Focus? by Liz Dwyer, the idea of Facebook breaks are introduced. “For every half-hour of focused work, he [Larry Rosen] recommends allowing a 15-minute tech break. Once a students sees that nothing is happening on Facebook or send a friend that critical text message—they’re able to refocus, he says.” That’s way too much. I would lose more than thirty minutes for every eighty minute block. I’m already pressed for time.
Dwyer, L. (2015). Could Checking Facebook in Class Help Students Focus? Retrieved December 10, 2016, from https://www.good.is/articles/could-checking-facebook-in-class-help-students-focus
Dwyer, L. (2015). Would a Laptop for Every Student Help? In Maine It Certainly Did. Retrieved December 10, 2016, from https://www.good.is/articles/would-a-laptop-for-every-student-help-in-maine-it-certainly-did