My 1:1 Classroom (for 2 weeks)
As the third week of school starts, I find that I have waited way too long to post about the revolution that has happened in my classroom. I have found myself making mental notes of things I will include in this blog post, and the list has become overgrown. Let me explain…
At the start of the fellowship, I made a point to reserve our middle school laptop cart for the first two weeks of school. It was an ambitious request, as ten staff members share thirty computers for our 180 students. But my request was granted, and thus we started the year as a 1:1 classroom…for two weeks. I broke out the computers the first day, and the students were overwhelmed that this day filled with sitting in lectures about school handbooks, code of conduct, and rules and consequences was being interrupted by my new website, blog, and Google survey. It just get better from there.
I began the year getting to know my students with a lesson series I called “If You Really Knew Me.” We read an article that used an extended metaphor of an ice burg to explain how we present ourselves to the people around us, only showing the top ten percent of who we really are. I posted my class “Tasks” for each class on the website, and students accessed the lessons each day to complete different activities. Wordles were created to show characteristics that we show to others, and some traits that may not be as noticeable to our peers. These wordles were embedded into our KidBlog pages, and descriptive paragraphs were written to explain the wordles created.
We used the wordles to then create poems, which again were shared on KidBlog and reviewed by the class. The poems helped students big deeper and “drop the waterline” on their ice burgs (show more of themselves to others). Last, my 8th graders wrote private letters to their future selves, sealing them in envelopes for me to lock away until graduation day, when I will return the letters to their rightful recipients.
Now, this is all great, but let me give a little context here. I am teaching my 8th grade students for the second year in row, meaning I know them and they know me. But I discovered so much about them in the last two weeks. Everyday students came in, turned on a computer, and got to work. I spent time at the beginning of class explaining anything new I added to the task page, but mostly they just continuously worked. This is not how I taught last year, and this is not how my students learned, created, and discovered last year in my class.
At any given point during my classes, there students at fifteen different places on the task sheet. I was not freaking out, I was not overwhelmed. I was simply awed by their motivation, determination, and dedication to create and produce in my presence. I was able to sit and talk with every single student, every single day. As I rotated around conferencing with students, they did all the talking. They were telling me what they were working on and learning, not the other way around. I learned that some of my students learn and create much slower than I have ever taught, and many students finished faster than I could ever taught. The students that finished were eager to know what was next. For one, it is creating a student website on weebly.com, inspired by my class website.
But this isn’t even the best part! Here is a list of some of things I overheard the students saying to each other:
- Oh, I just did that. Here, I’ll show you how to…
- Look, I figured out how to…
- Wait, how did you do that?!?
- Do you need help?
- Can you make sure I am doing this right?
- Did you post yet???
These may not seem like macraculous statements to the average person, but anyone that has spent time in a middle school classroom can attest to fact that adolescents do not naturally thrive in the area of soft skills. But here it is, leadership, innovative, passion, curiosity, general concern for the welfare of others. The best part about having my 8th graders is that I was able to expose them to enough technology last year that they catch on to ideas and tools pretty easily. They are constantly waiting for my first period 7th graders to frantically finish up, save, post, log off, at the end of the period. After about the third day of waiting for my “new” students to wrap up in my class, my 8th graders bust through the door and began helping them finish up what they were working on. I did not have to do anything but sit back and watch them take the lead. Success.
I’ll end this post (is anyone still reading?) by pointing out that this transformation is not all about the technology. Next week we won’t have the computers, and things will not be the same, but my classroom will still be different. And that’s ok, because the only thing better than a 1:1 classroom is reading to second graders in the park.