Friday, November 6, 2009

Students' First Impressions

To check the temperature of the class as we've been getting started with the paperless project, I had my students post their first impressions. Here are some of their comments:

"Being able to type up your work on the computer is definitely a lot better than having to sit in front of a few sheets of paper and hand write everything. It's also much faster and more efficient. Using laptops, we can have several websites with relevant information open at once, saving a lot of time that would usually be spent researching the topics separately...."

"It was a bit difficult setting up all the different accounts and learning the process of what goes where and in what format, but once you get past the initial learning curve, it's a pretty smooth ride. In short, since everything else in the world is going digital, classrooms should probably be the next thing to make the transition."

"I like the idea of not using paper, and using technology to teach us. it also helps us learn more about using computers. Getting everyone set up was a bit difficult at first, and there also was the problem of the computers failing at times."

"I really like that I don't have to mess with my composition notebook anymore because it is almost ready to fall apart. I really haven't encountered anything that has made me upset at all so far. Personally, I prefer the paperless class room because I hate carrying around a ton of books."

"It's a lot easier for me. I type a lot faster than I write.I haven't had any problems with anything. I prefer paperless. I would much rather carry around a laptop than a bunch of books."

"The only thing that I have found frustrating was the logging in process, but after you (Mrs. Hammonds) fixed it, then everything was okay. I prefer paperless classroom! Less paper, less binders, and less pencils!"

"I have so far enjoyed the paperless classroom. I don't like having to write, and it's easier to focus with a computer than a text book....I don't like how difficult it was to get everything running, but we got through that so it's good now. I like this way more than the traditional class..."

"I like this approach because it is a different way to do things rather than the traditional way and plus it is way more fun to come to class. With me, I haven't found anything difficult because mine seems to run just fine with the wireless." internet."

"Because I like to do new things, the paperless classroom really excites me...
Twitter and blogging have been interesting."

"What I like about this approach is that it's something new and I think more classes should try it. I also really enjoy it. It was difficult to get everyone up and running on all the programs we will be using. I honestly prefer a paperless class because once every gets set up and flowing smooth, it will be easier to do the work and I think the class actually enjoy this paperless experience more."

"I think the most difficult part was getting logged into the class wiki, which was easily solved by making a Gmail account."

Paperless Week 1

Today we will wrap up our first paperless week in fourth block! I hope that my students have learned as much as I have in the past several days. Here's what our paperless adventure has looked like so far:

Setup day - Time to make sure everyone has their blogs ready, Twitter accounts up, and wiki access. Also a chance for more discussion of our classroom as a community and the likelihood that we'll need to be supportive and respectful of each other even more in the coming weeks than we have so far this semester.

1984 Background - Students defined totalitarian society and worked in small groups to identify the most important aspects necessary to maintain complete control over their people. Lists with rationales were posted on the class wiki, and reflections on totalitarianism were posted to personal blogs.

Orwell Bio Day - Students researched the influence historical and personal events on Orwell's writing. They posted notes to their personal blogs and Tweeted about significant events. We collected the Twitter posts to create a timeline at TimeToast.

Catch-up and Evaluation Day - Because of technical difficulties earlier in the week, some students needed some extra time to complete Tuesday and Wednesday's assignments. In addition, students provided me with their first impressions of the paperless classroom. See my next post for their comments.

Friday (coming up in a few hours)
Week in Rap - Discussion of current events
Vocabulary Preview - Part 1 vocabulary list with games created at Quizlet
Analysis of Setting - Students will review Chapter 1, paying particular attention to setting, the atmosphere it creates, and the psychological effects it would have on Winston. They'll post analyses to their personal blogs.

What I've Learned
1. This time around, I asked my students to create their personal blogs, Twitter accounts, etc. on their own. I did this in an attempt to be efficient so that we could hit the ground running on Monday. However, among those thirty-five students, I have a wide range of ability levels with regard to technology. Next time, I'll take the class time to walk my students through the steps of creating the accounts they need. That initial time investment should, I predict, help to smooth out our first few days and help the students to feel more confident with these new tools.

2. It is always important to have a positive relationship with your school's computer support team members. Know their names, be kind to them, be as specific as possible when describing a problem, and ask for help rather than demanding. If you do this, then when you're ready to go paperless they will have your back.

3. Be patient and stay positive. The fact is that there will be problems. Sites you need will inevitably be blocked, the wireless may go down, and you're likely to hear your name called ten times as frequently in those first few days. You may go home with a massive headache on days 1-3. But by the time things start running smoothly, you might find yourself feeling a little like the kind of teacher you want to be.