My Semester in Tech

The semester’s far from over, but I’m thinking ahead to final grades and winter break already. I’ll try to take advantage of this mood to make a few reflections on my use of technology in the classroom  and out over the past couple of months.

Push Notifications 1

Last year, I would frequently have students share their finished work with me – by sharing on Google Docs or e-mailing it to me – and then I would sit down with a heavy sigh and start making a spreadsheet of who had turned in what. This year, for each project, I’ve been creating a Google Document with a blank table, and telling students to add their own names and links to finished work. For more complex projects, I’ve been adding more columns for each blog post, reflection document, etc. that’s required. This simple change has been a big success – I think it’s saved me some time, but I also think it’s got some ancillary benefits for students – they get a visual reminder that it’s their responsibility to fill in the gaps in the chart, early finishers can proudly add their names to the top of the list, and late finishers have an easy place to review some of the turned-in work (if it’s public) to get a better idea of what they should be doing. Vandalism of the shared document is a distinct possibility, but it’s easy to discourage after a couple of shaming trips through Revision History.

Push Notifications 2

Conversely, I think I’ve been getting some positive results from pushing a bit more information out to the students, particularly through the use of e-mailed Google Calendar invitations as homework reminders. Last year I think I tended to only place this information on my blog or in a central Google Doc of class reminders, but thinking of my workflow as an adult, my e-mail inbox is my main way of telling when someone wants something from me, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t take the extra minute or two to push reminder e-mails out to students’ inboxes.

Push Notifications 3

It’s a small thing, but this is the first year that we’ve had a database that allows one-click sending of an e-mail to one or all parents in a particular class, and I’ve really appreciated the function. In previous years I’d often found that dredging up a parent’s e-mail seemed to take forever, and half the time they had changed addresses since the last time I’d collected them. The new system we’ve got makes communicating with parents almost instantaneous (so thanks, IT department and Veracross). Another thing this new system is great for is for finding, within just a click or two, where a student currently is (or should be) in the building. Invaluable.

The Death of the DVD

Confession time. Earlier this semester, I wanted to watch part of a video which was on a DVD about 10 feet away in a cabinet at the back of my room. I found and watched a streaming version of the clip instead. It probably wasn’t good to take up some of the school’s bandwidth just because I didn’t want to go fish around for the disc, but, well, it happened. Something similar’s been happening with some of the resource books I have around the class – I’ve actually spent more time looking at PDFs of certain books with the students than I have passing the actual books around. I love books, but overall I’m at peace with this odd development.

Google and Apple

This is a very minor thing to note, but I think this semester I’ve started mentally distancing myself a bit from my previously feverish admiration for these two behemoths. While I still use their products constantly, I sense possible rumbling portents of their upcoming Microsoftification, and I think I’ll be ready not to care. A couple years ago, I was really excited about seemingly dozens of things like SketchUp (since sold), Blogger (haven’t used it in ages), Google Plus (tumbleweeds), Ping (avalanche of tumbleweeds), etc. The fact that the two of them seem to be starting to getting a bit childish and evil-er in their competition with each other – Google forcing me to use Chrome for various things, Apple killing iOS Google Maps, etc. – is making my preemptive mental cold shoulder that much easier.

The Twitter Convergence

For a couple of years, my window to the Web was my RSS reader. I might be late to realize this, but this past semester I’ve really noticed that, since I’m following the Twitter feeds of most of my news sources, Twitter has begun to almost replicate my RSS inbox. So, yes, Twitter is still the place where individual people can bore us with what they had for breakfast – but it’s also now the first place I go for news, blog updates and, well, pretty much everything else. I’ve also started to notice a greater awareness of, if not use of, Twitter among the Middle School students. They still don’t seem interested in it at all, but they’ve heard of it.

67 thoughts on “My Semester in Tech

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