Of course, a typical day in any classroom does not really exist. Our routines, systems, and practices serve our students, so when dealing with the individuals in our care, each day takes its own unique shape.
Yet, there is some use in examining a “typical” day in my English classrooms. For the past four years I’ve been lucky to work in a 1:1 school. I have found the advantages of having students “wired in” far outweigh the disadvantages.
For those who have not lived in a 1:1 laptop classroom, the very idea of it can seem Orwellian—students jacked-in to ear buds, mesmerized by a glowing blue screen instead of the far more interesting human beings around them. I have found, however, the reality of a 1:1 room is quite different. Every day I am convinced instant access to customizable technology can be a crucial component in making learning more efficient and dynamic.
Friday, January 25, 2013 – a “typical” day
American Literature 10
While students take the vocabulary quiz, I enter attendance and deal with any students arriving late. Once a student finishes her quiz, I direct her to begin revising her writing assignment, the Civil Disobedience Editorial. As the students write, I offer individual feedback. Using some class time to write is not revolutionary at all, but using laptops allows for more efficient use of this time.
Advantages of each student having a laptop:
- Membean allows for differentiated quizzes. (I outline numerous advantages to Membean in a separate post.)
- If a student is tardy (in this case due to snow) it’s not a big deal as she has a 24-hour window to complete the quiz. The make-up quiz, then, does not have to happen during class time. If the student misses the 24-hour window, I can generate another quiz with one click.
- The quiz is marked instantaneously. The students receive immediate feedback, and they check in with me when they miss words. I can clarify their understanding of vocabulary in the moment.
- Students transition at different times. The quizzes are timed, but some students finish before others. They don’t have to wait for everyone else to move on. These “recaptured” minutes add up over the course of a school year.
- Students who receive extended testing time get it in a very inconspicuous way. I simply change settings within the Membean program and everyone’s learning can move at its own pace.
- I don’t spend two hours over the weekend grading vocabulary quizzes.
- No class time is wasted moving to a computer lab. The students simply transition from one learning task to other. Transitions—from tasks on the computer, to small group instruction, to individualized feedback, to teachable moments for the entire class—happen within seconds.
- Using the revision history in Google Docs, I can check in on students’ progress in the moment. If I suspect a student has not been very productive, I can check the document and see every word that has been written during a certain time period. My ability to fairly assess a student’s output is enhanced. I show the students how I use this feature to check in on their progress. I have found that I have considerably fewer instances of students squandering their in-class drafting time than when I used computer labs for this same task.
- I can give faster and more accurate feedback. I typically call students to my desk one at a time. I pull up students’ work on my screen and then have them bring their laptops to my desk. As I give verbal feedback, the students keep notes using the comments feature.
- I avoid the flu (knock on wood). I rarely actually touch their computers, which might make me sound incredibly fussy (and I am…sort of) but I have not caught the flu in the last five years.
I could go on! When I sat down to write this post, I thought it would be brief. As I reflecton just one day, however, a deluge of ideas pours out. In small-but-important ways, teaching in a 1:1 environment makes the learning in my classroom more efficient, transparent, and measurable. I’ll tell you about the rest of this day in a follow-up post…