Frustration Acceleration…Moving Past the Learning Curve

Well, the iPad cart finally arrived in my room two weeks ago. Truth be told, the sight of it produced a mixed bag of emotions ranging from happiness to trepidation. I can only liken it to anticipating Christmas day; wanting it to arrive so badly, yet being afraid it will not live up to expectations. Yet, there it was, being rolled into my classroom and the moment finally arrived when all the planning, talking and thinking about these iPads had to be put into action!

Assigning and organizing was first and foremost for me. As I’ve written before, I wanted to name each iPad after a famous author in addition to numbering them in order to assign each to a student. A colleague gave me a chart which had a space for numbers, names and serial numbers, so I had one class fill out the serial numbers on the chart since that would have taken a million years to do on my own! Then I typed the authors’ names and the corresponding numbers on paper, printed and laminated them and taped them on the tables; each iPad then had a ‘resting place’ on the tables. This allows me to do a quick visual to make sure all iPads are there before dismissing the students each period. This has worked really well, but has since been replaced by pictures of iPads with the author’s book cover within the frame of the iPad. Hard to explain, so see picture below.

(Love this! Thanks V and B, my former students who did this for me as well as the matching bulletin board. I’ve included that picture as well.)

Since the organizing is now done, we’ve (my classes and I) been stumbling through the first few weeks with many challenges and frustrations. For example, the iPads would kick the wireless off, the cookies needed turned on, Google was fussy and not cooperating, kids forgot passwords and a myriad of other roadblocks have gotten in our way. But today-today everything went without a hitch! We looked up articles on Ebsco and cited them in Noodletools. We explored an online study guide about ‘The Great Gatsby’ and discussed the symbolism within the first two chapters. We took a quiz using a Google form. And everything worked! I can honestly say it was one of those days I’d like to run through the copy machine. Now I realize this will probably not be the norm, but today gave me hope that getting involved in this iPad pilot program is worth all the blood, sweat and tears which have gone into it!

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The Last Week of Summer (a.k.a. ‘The Calm Before the Storm’)

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We educators love summer…it’s the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. This is not to imply that I dislike my job; on the contrary, I love my job and have no idea what I would do if someone told me I was no longer able to teach. But I need time to refresh and recharge to be at my best. This applies not only to teaching, but to my personal life as well. This is why I get up early every morning to exercise before anyone else is awake in my house. This is why I love my plan period at school and I get 42 minutes to myself (some days, but not many). This is why I still need to take a quick nap before going out after a long day (my affinity for nap-taking is a running joke among my friends). It’s just part of my make-up and who I am. So, summer is a welcomed break from the craziness and chaos that can be a part of the teaching profession.

Admittedly, however, August inevitably is the time when I begin to crave being back in my classroom and the security that a structured schedule allows. I want that both for myself and for my two girls (their days of sleeping until 10:00 are now numbered, much to their dismay). Now it is August 21 and I start school in two days. Two days. The mere thought makes me so very nervous and excited at the same time. But this is a different kind of nervous than the typical first-day jitters; this is due in part to the implementation of the iPads in my classroom this year. I want it to go well, but realize this is going to be a learning curve for me, the students, the other teachers involved in the program, the administrators and the tech department. There will be hiccups along the way. But I think I’m ready…

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy my last 48 hours of summer. I am now returning from a fun weekend camping trip at the beach, I’m going to finish the first ‘Harry Potter’ book which I finally started ten years too late (my daughter is reading the second one in the pictures) and I’m going to enjoy spending time with my kids. I will relax and be as calm as I can as I get ready for the storm.

And I will fret as I think about everything I still need to do as I finish preparing for this new school year…

Singing the Praises of Twitter as a Professional Development Tool

Twitter. The word itself invoked my eyeballs to roll involuntarily. Twitter? Tweeting? Really? Who thought of this? Telling the world your thoughts in 140 characters or less? It seemed silly and frivolous to me. So, I never investigated it and pushed it into the “Will Not Use” section of my mind. Did that make me a “Twitter Snob”? Perhaps. Am I proud of that? No, of course not. Even last summer when my good friend and fellow teacher tried to sell me on the advantages of using Twitter as an educator, I balked and could not bring myself to open that door and walk through it.

However, something piqued my interest in Twitter this summer. Honestly, I can’t remember if it was a television program about it or an article I may have read online. Whatever it was, one day last month I was sitting on my back porch with my iPad and decided to take a look at it. Before I knew it, I was creating a profile (just in case, but I would never need it) and reading what others had written. Slowly but surely it dawned on me that this might actually be something worth looking into. Suddenly, I found myself looking online to see the best way to use Twitter (hashtags can be confusing at first), then I began looking for people to “follow” (it does feel a bit stalker-ish) who were involved in education and technology. Surprisingly, I began to get requests for others to follow me as well. That was an experience at first since I neglected to set my settings as private…I read some very interesting tweets as a result! Note: Set your profile as private or you will be in for a real education! Have not had a problem since doing so…

Anyway, in the past month I have been on Twitter, I have learned more about my profession and have gained more ideas than in all the conferences and workshops I’ve attended in the past few years combined. I cannot believe this whole community of educators have been online all this time and I’ve been missing out…I feel a bit like the only girl in her 3rd grade class who didn’t get the invitation to the popular girl’s party. I have gained access to blogs and websites pertaining to iPads in the classroom which contain a plethora of information, I have been inspired to do a complete makeover of my syllabus after reading a tweet about just that, I have been given ideas about how to use Twitter in my classroom with my students. In short, I have learned so much and I cannot wait everyday to see what else I can discover. It’s a bit like going to a garage sale – I can skim over the “junk” that doesn’t interest me as much and zero in on the good stuff, the treasure, the jackpot! I love the idea of searching through to pick out what is best suited to me, my students and my classroom. As a result, I, the former Twitter snob, have been singing the praises of Twitter and will continue to do so. Especially with using the iPads this year since I feel it will be a fantastic resource and will probably now be my first line of defense if I have a problem or a question about them.

Twitter. I still hate the name and I don’t think I can ever say the word “tweet” with a straight face. But as a teacher, I now understand the positive impact Twitter has and will continue to have on education. Here’s hoping that others will put aside their prejudices as I have and discover the advantages of using Twitter as a professional development tool. Yes, Twitter. As a professional development tool. Miracles never cease.

Note: For those new to Twitter, check out this link on how to use it effectively:

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/infographic-twitter-effectively/