One year Digital, My Thoughts So Far

I began this year very excited to have devices in every student’s hands. Expecting that once we got underway, the students would love the new found freedom to explore and learn at a deeper level than before. I was surprised to hear a large portion say, ” Can’t we go back to pencil and paper?” I thought it was a bad dream and maybe I missed something, and then I realized something and many of you may already know what is coming, If the change isn’t immediate and easy, teenagers do not like it. This is indeed a brave new world, that requires a lot of adjustments on both sides of the classroom.

One of the major adjustments that I have had to make is to explain how programs and websites work. I have seen what seem like tech savvy students struggle to send basic emails or remember how to edit files. Now while I believe that some are looking for an excuse to not complete their assignments on time, many are really having difficulty with these everyday tasks. What is the solution to this? What can we do to help students that transfer in midway through the year? What can be done ahead of time to ease the burden? I have found that procrastination does not work. I am including a few tips and tricks that you could use to help you in preparation for the coming year. (Side note: Using multiple strategies enhances possibilities for success.)

Strategies for Digital training and implementation

  1. Create tutorials- Use a screen casting tool to create short tutorial videos for basic tasks. (i.e. Accessing course materials, submitting assignments, opening downloaded files, editing files in specific programs, etc…) Do not look at a task as too simple, there will be at least one student who will thank you.  If you do not have a 1:1 classroom, but you have a Learning Management System (Edmodo, Google Classroom, Blackboard) for students to access assignments, short visual handouts will also be helpful. Suggested toolsScreencastify Lite, screencast-o-matic, Open Broadcasting Service, and VLC Media.
  2. Peer training- One method that I have found successful when applicable, is to have students train each other. Over my few years in education, I have learned that I do not always communicate at the student level.  I have then entrusted parts of the training to students who can translate my teacher language into more student friendly terms.  I have found that this method relieves some of the stress and anxiety that comes with a new learning environment and even a new school environment.  Disclaimer: Make sure to choose the right trainer for the trainee.  There are some personalities that do not mix as well as some that mix too well.  Be careful.
  3. Use the same programs– When all else fails, repetition works.  While this seems like the best way to approach this and I agree with you.  This is not always possible.  When at all possible, stick to the same programs.  I believe that this policy should be held by all teachers within a school.  If and when this is done with fidelity, the students gain more exposure to the available software and tools.  This makes it easier for all teachers and students. But again the key is this must be done with fidelity.  If three teachers are using three tools for the same task, the students become confused with what features are available in which program. Personal Picks: Word processing- Google Docs, Math-based/On-screen writing- SMART notebook(where available), Presentation- Google Slides. (Another post coming with reasons)

This is just a starting point to this issue, but this is only one year in and have many lessons to learn.  As time goes on, I will share my triumphs and challenges as I grow. I will end with one of my favorite quotes.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”