Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Oh, The Paper

For those who are unaware, SLA is a textbook-less school. More to the point, we're a paper textbook-less school. It is a beautiful thing. Truly.

Today, preparing my 10th graders to create the Action Plan portion of what they've dubbed the "Change the World Project." I created a Word document complete with step-by-step instructions with guiding questions. It was good teaching. I threw the doc up on our Moodle page and worked the kids through the prep they needed to undertake the assignment. Then, it happened, Moodle was down. The Moodle (sometimes we call it that in our Seinfeldian way) was down.

If I may drop some sarcasm on you, one of my favorite moments in a class is when something simple doesn't work and hands shoot up and the kids start shouting my name like it's a button for an elevator that won't show up.

I say all this because it's the thing about actual textbooks, they don't crash. That's it. I've worked in a 1:1 school in some incarnation or another for almost three years now. I love it.

They crash. Yes. You know what, though? They come back.

A few things can't be done easily with paper textbooks: upgrading an entire curriculum in a day, patching, getting the most timely information possible, receiving information free of charge or corporate filtration, researching innumerable points of view, differentiating instruction on a dime...

Here's the rub, when a kid forgets his book, that kid just needs to share with his neighbor. When an online book crashes, sadly, it falls on the shoulders of a schools techies. The shift or added layer of responsibility that comes with paperless texts can be difficult to maneuver. That, though, is why we are the teachers. Since the days of slate tablets, Plan A has failed and Plan B has been picked up on the fly.

The point is this, paperless books are not perfect, but they are far better than the tools of old. By the time I'd printed the pages I needed for today's lesson, The Moodle was back up and what I'm sure was half an acre of Brazil had been clear cut. My own personal Change the World Project?

More later.