I'm in training all week this week to become a certified school trainer with Kagan Cooperative Learning. I'm highly excited by this prospect. This is my third Kagan training, and each time I walk away with new knowledge that had direct benefits for my students.
The difficulty comes in the visage of being out of my classroom for an entire week so early in the school year. It's never easy for me to leave my students in the hands of a substitute, even the most capable. Amazingly, I know they've learned from teachers I'll never meet and will go on to meet many more. For me, though, it's a question of how long I have them in my classroom and I hate to waste any of that time.
For the most part, my substitute reports have been positive, with regular mentions of some frustrating mishaps. I've had my students working on the laptops the first two days of the week, but that met with big problems. For someone who knows what to expect, it's an excellent environment. For someone who neither designed the lesson nor has the training/experience with technology, it's proven a nightmare.
Tuesday, as my final attempt, I designed an automated PowerPoint presentation with embedded audio thanks to audacity. I figured the students would be able to hear my voice and that will help as a behavior regulator. Plus, it was a way for me to be in the room without being in the room. For some, it worked; for others, it did not. That's ok. It was a trial.
Upon returning to school Tuesday afternoon and reading of further mishaps in the substitute teacher's notes, I packed up the laptops in the cart and wrote a lesson plan that was technology free, no projector even. Not only that, for the first time in four weeks, I was sent to the copy machine. The lesson I designed was high-content, but low-tech. Traditional would be the word for it.
I didn't go back to school when I got out of training today. After staying up until 1:30 both Sunday and Monday nights, I decided I had put in my time. I got to bed at a decent hour last night, but it hadn't been 11 hours since I left when I stopped by the building this morning. Luckily, I have not much of a life outside of teaching.
The whole week takes me to what I've heard Will Richardson comment on several times in person and in podcasts - it's about teaching the skills. I thought I had made headway with my students in showing them appropriate use of resources and the rationale behind it. Clearly, there's more work to be done. When we get back after the holiday, I'll start in with new class and teambuilding as well as tech. and web usage skills. One of the pieces I'm constantly reminded of is the premise that many of my students stand on the losing end of the technology divide. Though the majority of them have home computer and Internet access, it's a slim majority. They may be natives of Prensky's digital world, but they are not among the power class. There's a difference between living in the Bronx and living in Manhattan. I'm not sure if the metaphor works, but it's how I see things in my head.
Much of the time, I feel the shininess must wear off before we can get to the true potential of these tech tools.
One more note about training before I sign off. The final announcement for the day was about the follow-up to the training and making sure every participant had support in taking what we've learned back to our schools. The way that will happen is a follow-up day back at the district office for participants to voice concerns, questions and the like. Stephanie, friend and science teacher at Phoenix, and I agreed a blog would be the best way to house that conversation and eliminate the need for yet another day out of the classroom. We proposed the idea and were told a blog was a great idea, but as a follow-up to the follow-up. Tried to make the case for blog-as-follow-up, but met with resistance. I suppose the agreement that a blog would be a useful tool is a sign of progress. Oh, progress, you slow, lumbering behemoth. (My point was just validated by the fact the blogger.com spellcheck did not recognize the word "blog." Too funny.)