In my previous post, I wrote about the big risk I took, letting my students take control of the content. It didn’t turn out entirely how I imagined it might.
I’ve had this problem before, when I read Nancie Atwell’s In The Middle during my undergrad studies. I had visions of my classroom as a reading/writing workshop, with students who begged for more reading time and craved for my feedback on their papers. Then I landed in my first classroom, only to realize I was in a public school, not my own private school in Maine where I could cherry-pick my students. (Don’t get me wrong–Atwell is still an educational hero of mine; I just never figured out how to replicate what she does.)
So I watched videos of students with iPads asking deep and thoughtful questions and sharing their findings in creative ways, and expected the same outcome in my class. That didn’t happen, though.
That’s not to say we haven’t had good discussions–we have–or that they haven’t covered the content–they have, mostly. But it hasn’t looked the way I wanted it to.
Today I was thinking about how long I’ve been using Google Docs, and what it looked like the first time I made my AP class use it three years ago. It was awful. The formatting often didn’t retain based on what browser I was using, only 4 or 5 fonts were available, and many formatting options just didn’t exist.
It probably didn’t look the way Google wanted it to.
But now, three years later, Google Drive is my preferred word processing suite. I do most everything in Docs–so much so that I deleted Open Office from my home computer. Google Drive works seamlessly for me (and many of my students even prefer it to Word), and I love it.
So maybe this time, the student presentations with the iPads didn’t look the way I wanted them to. Have they been functional? Sure. But it’s the first time I’ve done this particular unit this way. I know how to make it better next semester, and I’m sure the semester after that I’ll see even more improvements.
I have a baseline, and that’s worth something. I will get better from here.
Just like Google did.