Ways Working at a 1-to-1 iPad School Isn’t Great: A Series of Complaints Despite Privilege

Hey whatta ya know, I’m actually in this class!

At my current placement at Seton Catholic Vancouver, we’re in a new building with new technology that only the computer science teacher/IT guy can touch some of the time. I’m actually barred out of some of the stuff in the multimedia podium.

That being said, the school is very technologically literate and has 1-to-1 iPads. At the moment, some classrooms are being fitted with Apple TV’s and each podium is outfitted with a DocCam and HDMI port to the projector. In terms of software, teachers use the gambit of Google apps on the Apple devices, and most materials are distributed via Google Classroom.

As an English teacher, what I want to know is how to integrate technology into the classroom to complement the more subjective aspects of the field. I want something more beneficial to the students beyond the current use of their iPads as dictionaries and thesauri, or to assign something so mundane as a “blog” from the perspective of a character from Moby Dick.


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Life in a 1-to-1 Classroom

Currently in my placement, there is a heavy emphasis on technology in the classroom.  Due to a series of grants that the teachers at my school got together and wrote, each student is fortunate enough to have their own Chromebook, every classroom has a Smartboard, a microphone system, and a document camera, and for the teacher’s own professional development, the school has a Swivl for the teachers to use to film themselves teaching.  They have had PD’s where the teachers have worked on building Smartboard lessons, and putting together Google and BrainPop classrooms.

I have definitely seen many different ways of integrating technology throughout the building, across grade levels, and curriculum.  Some teachers are not sure how to use it, or due to technical difficulties, are wary of planning to use it, because if it does not work, they feel like they cannot rely on it the same way you can rely on a piece of paper and a pencil and a book to teach students math and reading.  I think that’s one thing that I want to get out of this class – more reliable ways to use technology than the ways that have been given to the teachers thus far that we can begin to integrate into our classrooms.  Unfortunately, there are some barriers that we just can’t overcome, like subscription fees, or unexpected wifi outages, but I want to be able to push through those barriers and show the other members of the faculty the valuable resource that technology can be for our students.

I would love to begin using technology to network with other professionals in the field of education, and to build those connections that I can keep using throughout my career as an educator.  I think my goal for EdTech for the next three years would be to overcome my fear of using it, and to know the ins and outs of the technology resources that the various curriculums we use are giving us.

I used to have high hopes for technology in the classroom but…

When starting student teaching in the fall, I had high hopes for using technology as a resource in my classroom. At first, we used computers several times in the classroom for research, interactive labs, and other types of activities. I originally thought using computers would be an easy way for students to work at home if they needed to, but it turns out there were too many students who didn’t have access to computers outside of school. I also started to notice how computers were affecting my students’ abilities to engage and learn from the activities. With technology, my students seem to get off task easily, and they do not gain much content knowledge from the activities. They are all really good students who can focus on an activity in the classroom, but as soon as I give them a computer they basically just stop learning. Since this time, I’ve been focusing on only using technology for my slideshow presentations, and I’ve just been letting my students perform hands-on activities to learn. I haven’t given up on technology in the classroom, but I’m stumped as to how I can use it to help my students without losing their engagement in a lesson. This is what I’d like to get out of the edtech pilot course. I want to find reliable and engaging uses for technology that students can use in the classroom.   It would be great to find tools for students to use outside of the classroom, and I’m sure those will be helpful in the future, but at the moment I have too many students without access.

Personally, I’ve been using Google drive for my slideshows and for communicating with other teachers. For each unit, we share possible activities and handouts in a folder to access, as well as share links to videos or short clips to show students. As a school, we use Google spreadsheets to record low grades of students with other teachers who have the same student. This way we can see if they are only performing low in a single class, or if they have a behavioral issue that is affecting their grade in all of their classes. Teachers can also share strategies to help a student, or at least ideas they have tried. This way all of the teachers of a student who is struggling are communicating to help them get back on track in school. We also use Synergy for reporting grades so that both students and their parents can see how they’re doing online at anytime. Students with internet access at home can check regularly check their progress and see what they are missing as well. One nice thing is you can add a comment to an assignment if a student turned it in late or incomplete so they understand why points may have been marked off.

As you can tell, my use of technology in the classroom is minimal, but I would love to find ways to expand my use if it will really benefit student learning in my classroom.


Image: Science Class by Lokesh Dhakar link

Expectations, Realities, Possibilities

While my personal relationship with technology could be considered contentious, I do not want to carry that attitude (or my bad luck in ending up with manufacturer defective technology 80% of the time) into the classroom. I understand both the need for and vitality of finding new ways to engage students with technology as it becomes more deeply integrated into our schools and daily lives. I find the potential for collaboration, project based learning, and creative problem solving through technology very exciting.

My current use of and access to edtech is pretty limited and traditional. I regret to say that my daily use of technology is pretty much showing videos and presentations and using the document camera. I know there are ways to be creative with English and technology, but without everyday access to computers it is easy to fall into doing things the paper/pencil/book traditional way. There are several computer labs at my school, but there aren’t any iPads or laptops or Chromebook carts that can be brought into the classrooms. Most of the time we can go to a computer lab, but there isn’t guaranteed access if the teacher doesn’t book the day.  If they do get access, students may have to use different computer labs if the teacher can’t book the same one several days in a row, which can cause some confusion.  Sometimes it can be good to get students out of their routine and into new spaces, but it would be more efficient to bring the technology to our space so we could rearrange the room into table groups  to work collaboratively and have easy access to classroom materials. Teachers all receive a Macbook, have a document camera in their rooms, and are able to check out things like cameras and recording devices when needed, but that’s about it. 

Despite a lack of daily access to technology, there is a push from the administration to be as paperless as possible. They encourage teachers to use programs like Google Classroom for assignment submissions and sending information to kids and parents. They are no longer investing in scantrons, so they want teachers using the testing features of Synergy in their place. This is a good idea for multiple choice tests in theory, because the students get immediate feedback and the program adds the scores from  right into the grade book. However, it is difficult to solely implement those methods without 1:1 access to tech. Students have to use personal phones or computers, so students who don’t have them are at a disadvantage. Plus,  it makes it difficult for teachers to monitor what they’re doing and muddles the already unclear cell phone policies.  

I’d like to learn how to more creatively use the resources I have available to me, as well as understand a little more about what possibilities exist outside of those resources. I want to be able to function in the tech landscape of whatever school I end up in, and use what I have to enhance the language arts experience. I also hope to learn  a bit about how to be an advocate for equality of access to technology–for example, how would I find grant money, and how do I make myself or my school a competitive candidate for that money? I’m excited for this course and the open-ended possibilities we can explore together.

Photo Credit: The great growling engine of change- technology. Alvin Toffler by  Kate Ter Haar on Flickr


Dinosaurian Technology Use in Math – Time to Evolve

My placement has notably little technology available, at least compared to those of my peers.  Technology includes the teacher’s computer, an Elmo document camera, a projector, and a set of calculators.  Yet I cannot imagine needing much more for this level of math – which includes Algebra I and Algebra II.

As a teacher, I use Google Docs to create and store daily warm-ups and exit quizzes, using the projector to display these problems on the front board.  This is certainly helpful, not only to allow me to organize, update, and plan for each class, but also to be able to present more graph-oriented or visual problems that would take a deal of time to copy onto the board.  Nearly daily, I also use the document camera when I am teaching lessons.  I tend to prefer this method since I can face the class as I instruct, rather than writing on a board and then turning to speak.  Another benefit of this method is having a written copy of the exact lesson I present that I can later show students who missed something or who were absent previously.  Likewise, it allows me to keep a detailed record of how exactly I went about teaching a particular lesson, since this material is not lost once it is erased.  Additionally, this year I have frequently used Desmos Online Calculator to create graphs for my Algebra II class and give students the opportunity to visualize shifts in graphs.  Finally, I have seen my CT create YouTube videos of abbreviated lessons to support students who are frequently absent, have language barriers, or need to hear an explanation one more time.  I view this to be tantamount to the Algebra II class, given that this class does not have a textbook, so students can then rely on something more than just any notes they take in class.

At this level of math, when students are still learning the fundamentals – which admittedly have the propensity to be a bit dry and boxy – basic technology suffices.  Students can focus on learning calculator functions for graphs, but otherwise stick to the concrete, straightforward concepts that are usually best solved with pencil and paper.  While I have seen teachers use online quizzing platforms for fun class competitions or Smart Boards to record student work on the “white board”, I do not see either of these functions as essential or possible solely through technology.

In this age of the ubiquitous use of technology, it seems odd to dismiss its applicability to the classroom.  It can provide new and exciting possibilities for presenting math.  Yet I find it hard to implement creative lessons for math while still covering all of the standards in the given time.  Thus I find myself using only bare bones technology to support straightforward lessons.  I perceive a constant clash between getting lost in the wonderful, creative, exploratory elements of math (which technology could support) and sticking strictly to the schedule of more down to earth, black and white, repetitious elements.  The more I think about it, the more it seems that technology use in math should increase as students move past the fundamentals – perhaps in Calculus or even beyond.  This math is often more abstract or more applied, both of which can be supported by programs and graphics on technology that do not subtract from students’ focus on the crux of the material.  I remain dubious of heavy use of technology in lower levels of math, though.  Perhaps, through this course I will open my eyes to new possibilities availed by technology and discover more of a middle road approach to using technology strategically and in a manner that richens learning.

Image: Dinosaur by Thomas Hawk – Link

The Daily Life of Jeremy Pingul and “Educational” Technology

The EdTech equipment in my classroom are a projector, a document camera, and a Chromebook cart. Other classrooms have the same equipment (except for the Chromebook cart), but some of them are equipped with Smart boards.

Every day, I mainly use the projector and document camera to teach in my classroom. It has been extremely useful in showing everyone where we are at in the lesson (freeze frame), in sharing each other’s works, and in giving more zoomed-in examples to see. The only real difficulty I am currently having is having to line up my documents (worksheets or textbook) with the camera. The camera is set at an angle so that it can fit on the table along with the projector, attached monitor screen, and student “cold-calling” cups. Also, it does not help when the sun’s rays create a glare on the documents that it can be hard to read sometimes.

When I or the students need to write something while in front of the classroom, we would either write on the projected “picture” or on the empty space next to the projection. Writing on the projection gives students a clear example of what is happening next in the lesson, but it can sometimes be tricky to read with the bright lighting of the classroom and the possible glare between white board and projector. Writing on the empty space next to the projection is useful because it is hardly affected by the problems above, but it can be quite tedious in having to switch between pointing at the projection and what is being written.

The Chromebooks are used for class activities such as classwork (ex.: Desmos), Khan Academy, and Coding. The first activity comes up every once in a while when we think that the lesson could benefit from an online classroom. Right now, we have been using Desmos the most. Khan Academy is a classroom activity that we do on the last day of every week (mainly Friday) and we assign targets for the students to achieve and practice what they have learned and are currently learning. You can consider it a class lesson since the students are on it for the entire day. Coding is an elective for all middle-schoolers that my Cooperating Teacher is teaching in 2nd and 3rd Quarter so all of the students in the classroom must have a Chromebook on them to do the work assigned.

Also, the Chromebooks allow the students to see their progress reports and grades throughout the year, which allows them to talk with their teachers about what they are seeing. Mostly about how can they bring up their grades or concerns about how they got the grade they got.

And that is how technology is being used at my placement.


Image Credit: daily routine


Limited Technology at Barlow

During my fall placement, I did not make much use of technology in the classroom.  The most frequently used technology tools in my classroom were a document camera and projector.  I taught almost all of my math lessons by writing notes on paper under the document camera and projecting it onto the whiteboard.  I felt like using the document camera was an effective use of technology for several reasons.  First of all, my classroom had the document camera positioned in such a way that I could be facing my students while going over lessons.  This allowed me to make eye contact and project my voice toward students, which is a nice alternative to turning my back to them while writing on the whiteboard.  Using the document camera instead of writing on the whiteboard also allowed me to save the notes I went over in each class so that I could easily give a copy of the notes to students who were absent.  Finally, students were easily able to share and explain their work to the class by putting it under the document camera and projecting it on the whiteboard.  Aside from the document camera and projector, there was very little technology used in my placement.

Part of the reason why I rarely used technology in the classroom was the lack of technology available to the students in my placement.  There were no Chromebooks or laptops available for my students to use in the classroom.  If I did want students to have computer access during class time, I would have needed to reserve a computer lab and wait for my students to logon to outdated, mismatched desktops.  I feel like this is not an effective teaching strategy when class periods are only 50 minutes long, as too much of the period would be spent just getting students onto their computers.

In this class, I am hoping to learn more ways that I can implement technology into my math classroom.  Technology can allow students to participate in guided exploration to discover mathematics on their own.  It can also provide a way to share visual-learning tools with students to improve understanding.  In addition to using technology in the classroom, I also hope to learn some ideas for how I can assign supplementary tasks for students to complete outside of the classroom that can make use of the technology that they have in their homes.


Image credit to Adam Freidin https://www.flickr.com/photos/-adam/4674856117/in/photolist-886RRx-54G3F9-7MFi3u-5Y8et-aWrnk-9eBxh-4jhjQ-9aKxBs-92nj2T-2XNVQ-Gea4J-4RJSUp-9WNA8B-9kY44t-bc1djK-66GAT5-djjTPy-7qcqsn-mehzo-do77gr-5PmwPt-djkci6-mehsi-5UTQB5-7YRqV8-4nLgbx-9Cv3HE-aYnHpF-5Y8aT-5Y8co-4kzEVP-zGRAz-fRYLeC-4BgAPn-bUf8df-5ndsQu-qwtr1j-4BYSwC-2pUEss-8qvWnw-ckGzJG-9xBJ67-ewpdD-rj9p3Y-jDZPJF-a9Rq2n-bxWuxa-ewxdfS-6Y1Rbx-ewu3v8

Task 1: How I am using tech for science.

I  like to think that I use technology in my class frequently. By that I mean my kids are probably on their Chromebooks every three lessons or so. Even though they are using their computers I have to admit that what they are using them for might not be the most interactive 21-century teaching tool on the market. I am always searching for interactive web modules that animate and provide interactive instruction on the topics we are covering.

Most of the time when I am using technology to teach content it involves dry McGraw-Hill bio videos or step-by-step animations that are supplementing the visuals needed to aid students in their conceptual understanding of molecular processes. There are a few very helpful animated activities that guide students in practicing and applying content that I also incorporate into my lessons. I LOVE to use technology for review games before students take unit exams and I know that they love them too by how excited they are to see them on our agenda.

I know that there are many areas I need to work on in terms of my edtech use one of them being to bring more independence into activities so that students are coming up with the content or applying it as opposed to gaining the content in an interactive way.

I am always searching for interactive web modules that animate and provide interactive instruction on the topics we are covering and I have become quite the fan of website called ED puzzle. ED Puzzle is a teaching tool that allows you to assign videos via google classroom or just via links that you can choose, dub over, edit, and incorporate questions into. I have made quite a few ED Puzzles for comprehension check assessments as well as review.  Not only is the interface super self-explanatory but the amount of information it provides to the teachers in terms of student results and progress on videos makes it easy to quantify the areas that students find most difficult by showing questions response attempts and the sections that were rewatched.

Here is a link to an EDpuzzle that my kids did during our enzyme unit that was used to incorporate the digestive system since we hadn’t put enzymes into that context with the exception of amylase. Enzymes in Digestion

Overall I know that I am only just beginning to toddle with my use of technology and I am very excited to immerse myself with more resources as well as learn about the ways in which my peers are using technology in their teaching.

Task 1: What do I want to learn about edtech?

Technology is going to have a greater impact on education more and more as the years roll by. It is imperative for a teacher to have the knowledge to use devices/gadgets/websites/apps to better prepare their students for life after school. This is why I feel it necessary to learn the basics and beyond about technology in the classroom. First off,  I think it is essential to close the digital divide. In the two classrooms I have worked in (3rd grade and 6th grade), there have been students who had the latest version of a new phone and students who had obsolete versions of phones. To close the digital divide would not necessitate having a fundraiser to get every student on the newest, most updated form of technology, but rather to find a compatible system/app that works on all versions of their technology. For example, I would love how to show students how to use their cell phones as word processors. Since they (the 6th graders) are on their phone any chance they can get, it would behoove them to have homework where they need to write a few paragraphs using their phones. It is counterproductive to try to get students off their phone as much as possible because they are going to be on them no matter what. I believe it is crucial to find some way to use their personal technology (phone) as a method of learning in school.

I’d also like to explore the realms of collaborating digitally. My former 6th graders would have benefited immensely if they had to make a video on a YouTube channel where they spoke about the ancient Romans, teaching the class through their project. What are some different types of platforms on the web that students can use in order to teach the class about something (other than a PowerPoint)? Also, through learning about different types of platforms, I’d like to talk about “sharing” these projects with the student’s classmates. I am not too keen in online sharing and I think that would be essential to a student project.

I think (as of right now, at least) that the two most important modes of technologies in the classroom would be 1) utilizing the phone and 2) using technology for group projects. I look forward to seeing what other people think are the most important uses of technology in the classroom!

Heckity Heck! I’m Using edTech!

I would say that the use of edTech is pretty average in my classroom and my school as a whole. My CT and I are always looking for new ways to use the resources we have available to us to make learning fun and engaging for the kids. It has always been my goal to be the kind of teacher that lets the kids do the learning and the teaching. I am a HUGE advocate of project-based learning, and it’s kind of easy to do with math. Since it is my first time teaching, however, I thought that it would be better for me to build confidence and practice using just the basic methods that I’ve seen previous teachers use, just in case the school I end up working at doesn’t have the resources that I’m used to.

I have been encouraged by my CT to share whatever “new methods” I come across. I figure if I share them with her, she’ll use them and I can observe and sort of use her as a guinea pig…in a good way, of course. I am definitely going to be sharing what I learn in this class with her because she’s always looking for other ways to present material and engage the kids in learning. We mainly use edTech for supplemental learning or as a break from all the paper and “boring” work they usually do. I’d like to incorporate it a lot more as time goes on and find new ways to incorporate, not just screens, but other forms of technology as well.

We’ve really only gone so far as to use the iPads and the Apple TV, and even then we use them sparingly just because we have yet to actually incorporate a sort of rhythm regarding edTech in the classroom. The kids do get exposed to it more frequently in their other classes, though, so I guess it’s alright if we don’t really use it that often.  I do like to use an app called Show Me, which is an interactive whiteboard that we sometimes use for notes or for classwork and project with the Apple TV.

All in all, I would like to be able to use more edTech in the classroom as often as possible because I feel that it would benefit the students to be able to interact with technology (if they aren’t already doing so at home) in an educational way.

That’s it for now!


Featured Picture: Pensive Squirrel by Seth Wilson @ flickr.com