Blessed, Motivated, Challenged

I’ve written several posts about the process of getting back to 1:1 after having to “retire” the 9 year old iBooks my class had been using. Very unexpectedly my school district decided to replace the ones that our new wireless system rendered moot even though they were not obligated to do so – thank you, thank you, thank you!!! And that has taken longer than we all would have liked, but beggars can’t be “demanders” … and … well … hey when all is up and going I’ll have 20 brand new and 10 one year old MacBooks on a new wireless system, stored and charged in a new, safe, stronger laptop cart … we are truly blessed!!!

Having gone through 3 years of 1:1 with “sort of” the same class (I roll a 4th grade class to 5th and 6th, then return to 4th – and my students are very at risk so our school has a high turnover rate – students of poverty tend to move a lot, I’ve already lost 2 students this year –  and our boundaries were redrawn and that lost a third of my students one year), you would think I’d consider myself somewhat of an expert at this … and I’m sure in some ways I might have insight, but I’m telling you I feel more challenged than ever. Using at the time 6 year old iBooks that we bought new batteries for and were a bit beat up (but still humming along), made that experience sort of “quaint”  and cool and lowered expectations somewhat. But now everything is new and shiny (including the students) and the “quaintness” is gone. Now we really need to get things done. People have stepped up to provide this fantastic opportunity and I’d better produce. Other teachers would love to have what we have, so make this such a valuable learning piece that the powers-at-be are driven to fund it for others.

I do have some complications, (Hey! I’ve got to lower expectations somewhat), My school did not make Adequate Yearly Progress this past year and so we have had a few layers more of assessment, more special programs, and overall less “flexibilty” (less say over what we do), and that takes time and energy (and adds frustration) away from doing things differently. My new class has very little experience with tech, despite having visited our school’s computer lab once a week since first grade …. they’ve tended to run software apps like Sticky Bear Math and the like for 30 minutes once a week, so we have a huge learning curve to overcome too. I will remind my 2 regular readers of this survey I took the first week of school, … well their expertise with tech and knowing enough to be interested in finding out about things is at that kind of level too.

If there is an “up” side to having to wait to get going though, it is the anticipation of being able to think about learning / doing things differently again – it really gets me geared up. Among many other things I’ve really missed being able to have students do on the spot research to build schema … “Class … We are going to read a story in our reader today where the main characters make their first ride ever on the new fangled steam train coming through town. Follow the links on our class wiki page to find out a bit about steam trains, how they worked, and see a short video of one in action. Note how people are dressed, what the buildings look like, and other things that have changed. Then write a short paragraph or be ready to discuss or …. “

I’m pumped!

Learning is messy!

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10 thoughts on “Blessed, Motivated, Challenged

  1. Brain,

    As always this is very insightful. I would think that managing your new restrictions to learning and being creative will be more of a challenge to you than ever. I look forward to your thoughts about AYP, creativity, additional assessments, and inspiring lessons will work together – or if they do work together.

    Thank you for posting and letting us know your thoughts. I do value them.


  2. I couldn’t agree with you more! Having been fortunate enough to become our county’s first 1:1 laptop pilot (we are using brand new HP netbooks), the amount of pressure I have put upon myself is what has surprised me the most! Having fought for this venture for 6 years, and now it becoming a reality, the “all eyes are on us” pressure can make my heart race!

    However, like you stated so well, the excitement of the at-your-fingertips learning that can now occur for my students is so energizing!

    I am currently teaching 4th grade and I am so hoping to be able to “loop” with my kids to 5th – I think that sustained program, especially in a 1:1 must be so powerful!

    I always look to your blog and website for guidance and ideas. Thanks for always being willing to share what’s going on in your classroom!

  3. What a wonderful, frustrating, pressure that must be! Having to start all over again with new 4th graders, have more restrictions on curriculum, and have those shiny new laptops with all the possibilities has to be anguish. The great thing is that you have time with these students. The next few years for them and for you are going to be exciting!

  4. I agree, you are blessed! I can also relate to working at a Title School facing less freedom. I am an ESL/intervention teacher at Kate Smith, your neighbor down the road. Yes, the time in the lab is definitely not enough time to make students computer literate. What you have been able to accomplish with 1:1 computer access in the classroom makes me absolutely green with envy. Keep up the good work even when you have to change the ‘how’ you do it.

  5. Wow! Congrats on the new technology! What a great new challenge you have ahead of you. Technology is the key to the future and I think these kids are lucky to have this opportunity. I would love to have that much technology in my room. My kids could surely use it and benefit from it like yours. Good luck this year!

  6. I appreciate your use of technology in your classroom. In many cases the schools where kids are at higher risk don’t offer a wide variety of resources related to technology, especially those available outside of school. I am working on my t-cert and we have been learning about wiki sights and the possibilities that arise in the classroom and at home. It is nice to see that others are using it and enjoy it.

  7. Great reflection. I work in an HS alternative ed setting and we’re in our 5th year of 1:1. We had iBooks for the first 4 years and this year we are piloting using netbooks in our district. It’s amazing how the switch has affected students and staff. For the students that were here last year with the iBooks…it was all they could do to complain about the slowness of the iBooks and this year all they do is complain about how small the netbooks are. Yet, the new students who did not come from a 1:1 environment have a completely different perspective…they’re computers, they work, and they have the Internet at their fingertips all day long. Thanks for helping keep things in perspective.

  8. I am curious if your students met or exceeded standards.
    I am at a school with high student turn over rate, a majority of our students are ESL learners, and we have not met AYP for four years.
    It would be great if using technology actually improved these student’s abilities.

  9. Brian, I am a student in the University of Washington T-Cert program and I appreciate your insight to how messy, and necessarily so, teaching is. As complicated as I am sure it makes your job, it’s refreshing to hear that after 27 years of teaching you are still learning and discovering things about “the system” that you operate within. I like hearing how after 27 years, you have no problem saying you don’t know everything. I’d seriously question if a teacher after X many years claimed to know it all. My program emphasizes that if learning isn’t messy and mistakes aren’t welcomed, diversity and uniqueness are severely compromised.

    I can imagine how challenging it would be to introduce students to a whole new technology, when prior to having the new iBooks you probably thought about how nice it’d be to have them. The grass is always greener 🙂 I hope your students appreciate the technology and gain everything they can from using it. I’m curious how often the district lines change where you teach? Hopefully you get to “get going” soon.

  10. I think this is a very interesting perspective and really enjoy hearing about a teacher who has been teaching for so many years have to go through changes and advancements. I’m guessing this change in your classroom will help your students immensely.