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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mo' Bandwidth Mo' Problems

I started out this year requiring both classes (5 sections, 130 kids) to register with a class blog and register on the textbook (PPH) website.

I set it up so that they needed to be logged into both to complete a homework assignment the first week. I gave them super explicit written instructions for everything they were expected to do, several days to do it, and practically continuous email support.

I'm not handing out books. Not yet. After a few weeks, after we get over the resistance to something new, then if they still want a book they can have a book.

Apparently this makes me THE MEANEST TEACHER IN THE WORLD. (She won't even give us a book!)

Digital natives, my butt.

I'm embarrassed at the number of times I've had to suppress the "chuck it all and go back to business as usual" reaction. And at its severity.

This week has also been riddled with maddening technical issues with the Smartboard and the laptop it's attached to. My grand plans to use polleverywhere in class were foiled by the lack of Verizon coverage in my classroom. (Verizon is supposed to be the good one, around here!)

It's only been 3 days.

Did anyone get the number of that truck driving school? Truck Masters, I think it was called?


  1. This is what has made me reluctant to do much with technology in the classroom. They will always try to use the excuse, "My internet was broken, so I couldn't do the assignment."

    A lot of my former students are using various online-homework programs at their university and are always complaining that it's not working correctly so they can't submit their homework.

    Anyways, I'm rooting for you and look forward to the updates when you've broken through the initial issues.

  2. Digital natives, right. I'm with you on that...if they could do it on their cell phone, it would be a different story, though.

  3. Good for you trying to maximize the benefits of technology in your classroom. I admire your efforts.

    However I bet no matter what work you had them do they would find some way to complain about it. Give them problems in books they would complain too.

    You just tell your students, and this is true, an incredibly admirable attribute about someone is their ability to tackle any problem life gives no matter how it is given: in books, online or some other way.

    Keep up the good ideas.

  4. Apparently this makes me THE MEANEST TEACHER IN THE WORLD.

    Well, that and the bullwhip.

  5. This week my teacher aide and I spent a combined six hours creating and registering usernames for my students.* I'm curious how it goes for you so keep up the posts. I'm going for a scribe post model this year.

    Last year my school filter blocked my class blog on blogspot so this year I switched to edublogs and am forking over $50 to stop those god awful in text ad things. Hopefully the edu in the name will prevent my school from thwarting my plans again.

    *Middle school so the kids aren't really supposed to have email addresses and I only have one computer in class so I couldn't have each kid sign up. That would have taken all year.

  6. My most fun technology story is the day when I made this grand plan to have to students use some exciting new web technology, and I realized at the start of the first back to back to back class that the websites they needed to use were blocked for students and not teachers. To all the class tech naysayers, as utterly maddening as that particular experience was, it's still totally worth it to push through the tech issues. Just make sure you test tech as thoroughly as possible before using anything new. (and be ready to be flexible)

  7. You mean it's not just me?! :) I know, waaaaah. Call the waaaaambulance.

    @Sweeney I think you only have to learn that lesson once. Check the tech before class. I've been known to grab a student out of the hall after school and ask him to login so I can check things out on a student account.

    @JYB I might do something more like that next year. For blogger I had them email me, then I had to invite them, then they had to go accept the invitation and create a google account if needed. This process was fraught with unexpected perils.

    @Joseph Sure, complaining is normal. I've noticed the juniors are by far worse than the sophomores and freshmen. I wonder what that's about. Maybe just that they've had one more year to build expectations about what class is supposed to be like.

    @Dave That's certainly a potential pitfall. I really am going to give kids a book who want one after a couple weeks. Hopefully that will cut down on the excuses. Thing is, I don't want to assign homework exclusively out of the book. The blog is supposed to be the hub for all the homework.

  8. Top Gun! That's the source of the movie quote at the end. Do I win a prize, Kate?

  9. Ouch! You know what they say about the cutting edge of technology...

    I look forward to reading about how you resolved these issues. I'm confident that you will!

  10. Yes, Jim, you win! The prize is all the air you can breathe! :-)

    I made the same joke on Twitter two days ago. It's the end of the week. My sense of humor is threadbare.

  11. It seems to me that there are gonna be problems no matter how well you check it out before hand. I have a class set of laptops and there are days when kids simply can't log on. This job is all about plan B, eh?

    Oh, and there are two O's in Goose, boys.

  12. Hi Kate,
    I fought many battles over technology in math education in the past. Over time, what killed me the most was having to deal with closed formats that wouldn't transfer from one device to another (example: not being able to annotate over a doc camera image on an interactive whiteboard--should be so simple, but noooooo).

    This year our school got to host it's own installation of Google Apps Education. Now my job is so much easier. Every student has an account, with their real names (not "sk8ball3R_67") that they use for all school-related correspondences. About all I have to do now is require students to use a specific string in the message field and I can easily sort out each assignment using the gmail search utility.

  13. Rich I'd be thrilled if we got all the kids a google account, but as I found out today, google docs is blocked! Why? It's in the category "web-based productivity tools." Because...that's...bad? *headsmack*

    One of the tasks I asked the kids to do today was changed their usernames to something identifiable, instead of fligrrrrl94 etc.

    And now, I'm going to bed at 9:30 on a Friday. Me from 10 years ago would be so embarrassed by today me.

    Today was no better, unfortunately. I used the mobile labs all day. Laptop batteries were kicking the bucket right and left. First period, 20 minutes in, there were still 13 computers that hadn't finished their login process. Their PROCESS. Laptops are such prima donnas.

  14. @Rich - It's funny you mentioned Google apps because yesterday I just sent off an email titled "Yearly Google Apps Plug" to my assistant super who's in charge of that sort of thing. I got a less than inspiring "We talked about it last year and I'm still looking into it" email.I think our one tech guy is scared he'll be made obsolete and won't get to tend to the server/breastpumping room.

    @Kate - All my kids have class numbers, 3 digits, first number is the period and then alphabetical. So Jose A in first period is 101 and Selena Z in 6th is 630. So for the usernames we did was first name and number. Jose101, Selena630.

    My experience with edublogs so far has been a big suck (slow, hard to customize) but the fact that it's a closed shop alleviates fears from parents/admins. I'm fairly sure my super has nightmares about students unleashed into the world with gmail accounts.

  15. BTW, we really should look into the legality of a district or school blocking an account WITHOUT a way for the classroom teacher to over-ride that block. Seems to me that was the only reason courts have allowed censorship of the net (and thus denying civil rights of the individual student). It was a pretty powerful argument to say, "but if it's really educationally worthwhile the teacher can allow it." Without that, I think blocks are illegal....


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