Ms. Sheffield, a former 4th grade teacher in Mississippi, called me one day and told me she had the best day of class. As a first year teacher in Clarksdale, MS, that was quite out of the ordinary.
Clarksdale, the birthplace of the Blues, was a town in a virtual time warp. Segregation and social repression led to the economic depression of many of her students’ families. These issues snowballed their way into her 4th grade math and science classrooms not just through the students themselves but the school and district. Broken copy machines and outdated computers were paired with a faculty that was inadequately trained on new purchases and over worked (many had to work part-time jobs during the school year). District mandates of “increased technology use in class” only exacerbated the issues Ms. Sheffield faced in the classroom. Even the technology that worked wasn’t consistent. For Ms. Sheffield technology was more of an impediment to a well-managed classroom than a tool.
Now here is the part where I tell you it all changed and her students lived happily ever after. Except that didn’t happen. What happened was that Ms. Sheffield start using a classroom management tool called “Class Dojo” to start to turn the tide in her class. Using her smart phone, smart board and laptop she began to manage her class more efficiently. It was a quick, simple implementation that allowed Ms. Sheffield to refocus her students in a positive way. Class Dojo was a good enough tool to allow Ms. Sheffield more flexibility.
Most students took to the colorful monsters earning points when they were on tasked and bemoaned when a teammate during an activity lost points for speaking out of turn, other students simply didn’t care. Sometimes the projector wouldn’t work and Ms. Sheffield had a tough time managing without the tool. It wasn’t a panacea but it helped.
As educators, we are often sold (literally) on apps, hardware, or software that will supposedly revolutionize the world of education but in reality most of that stuff sits in a cabinet either broken due to lack of maintenance or unopened due to lack of training. And just like any teaching strategy like positive narration, tech tools that will work for some, won’t work for others. Each participant in this PLC is a scientist; experimenting on what tools work and which don’t under particular conditions in their class and school.
We are challenging you and ourselves to work on a particular pain point (communication amongst colleagues, classroom management, text-based arguments, etc.) for a month utilizing different tech-based solutions and strategies. We aren’t looking to completely solve these issues, but to at least find common ground, note trends, and collaborate for greater understanding around online learning.
If you are looking to discover the full Downton Abbey dinner tuxedo technical fix to your classroom needs, that’s great but in this PLC our starting point is the quick, easy #(clip on tie) version to get you through the school day.
Instructional Designer – CES