Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Purposeful Excitement

While hooking up my classroom computers, with an incredibly helpful Assistant Principal, I learned that our building has a mobile lab & will be getting another.  To say I was ecstatic is putting it mildly.  I recall my AP telling me at least 3 times to calm down.  If you know me, this is incredibly difficult. My mind is going 150 miles in 300 directions.

Immediately, I became relieved.  Relieved that I wouldn't be purchasing expensive equipment for my classroom (iPods, Netbooks, Smartphones).  Yes, I would have done that.  Like I said, once my mind is set on something I go after if full force.  My mind was made up this summer to provide my students with a mobile learning environment.  (I already have 1 grant written for iPod Touches.)  Then, I became worried.  One lab cart?  Who else would be using it?  How often would I have to share?  Yes, I have sharing issues (I'm the oldest of 5), but I try to get beyond that.  Would others share with me when they wanted to use them?  How flexible could 10 teachers be w/1 cart?  I think we'll be very flexible.  Yet, the anxiety didn't stop there.  OMG ~ I have to set up student Twitter & email accounts.  The accounts should probably have a similar user name so that it's easy for them to remember.  How quickly can I get them in my room? What should I teach them how to do 1st?  And the list goes on.

One could think that I'm looking at the netbooks as a toy, but truly for me they are tool.  And like any other tool I use in my classroom it needs to be well thought out.  I agonized over the netbooks the same way I agonize over colored pencils.  Anytime I bring a tool to my students I ask:
  • What will we use it for? research, Twitter, email experts, create multi-media products, blog, e-portfolios, educational games & tools
  • How often will we use it? as often as possible, preferably daily
  • How many different ways can the children use it? back channeling, sharing classroom events, reflection
  • What do I really want the children to learn from using this tool? how to write, reflect, respond, think, social responsibility, empathy
  • How will I introduce it? interactive modeling...how to turn it on, getting on - line, turning it off, putting them away; guided discovery...all the ways twitter (class website, google, etc.) can be used
This is why I've asked to use them on the 1st day of school.  Yes, I could use that time to teach some other classroom routine.  But...I expect mobile learning to be a part of our daily classroom life; just as I expect Morning Meeting to be a part of our daily classroom life.  And just like I'll spend that 1st day teaching my students HOW to come to Morning Meeting & HOW to care for colored pencils, I will spend it teaching them HOW to turn a netbook on & off.  It is the careful gradual teaching of this (& any other) classroom tool that develops routines & expectations.  It ignites a fire in the children's bellies of what to hope for during the school year.  All of which will help us create our class rules.  

So, I say...be excited, with purpose!