Take Risks…

On Tuesday I made a presentation to the entire high school student body and it did not go exactly as I had hoped. We’ve had a task force working on plans to implement a 1:1 program in 2012 and the timing seemed right to introduce the students to the initiative. The purpose of the assembly was to create an awareness amongst the students of Graded’s plans to start a 1:1 program in the high school in 2012. I also  tried to go beyond the idea of just a 1:1 program by focusing on Graded in 2020. To provide all students with a voice in the discussion I asked all students to bring their mobile devices so that they could participate in a back channel chat.

It’s very interesting because I really thought that the problems would be different in nature. I did not expect that the immature acts of a small number of students would dominate the discussion on the back channel chat. I had asked a colleague to turn it off if someone posted anything inappropriate and about half way through he shut down the computer. This happened even after I gave them three clear rules: 1. Use real names; 2. Conversation has to relate to the topic; and 3. Think before you post. Here are my thoughts on the risk, my learning and the future.

The Risk

As I mentioned, The purpose of the assembly was to create an awareness amongst the students of Graded’s plans to start a 1:1 program in the high school in 2012.

I was certainly nervous and knew that there was a certain level of risk going into the presentation.

  • Will students be receptive to the message?
  • Will the technology work?
  • How will I effectively communicate the message?
  • Will anyone actually participate in the discussion?
  • How will the teachers respond to the topic?
  • What will happen when I all give students voice?

With these questions in mind I set out with purpose. When putting together the presentation my focus was on the topic and I tried to use a mix of text, videos and images to convey the message. Like every good teacher I rehearsed my speech and made sure that the Prezi slideshow, videos, and the back channel tool, Today’s Meet worked.

While I may not have been successful in creating that discussion on the back channel chat, I have anecdotal evidence that discussions are happening. Our film teacher  told me that his class had a “interesting” 15 minute discussion right after the assembly. and our PFL students shared their comments with their teacher. I even find a sense of contentment in the fact that a few stragglers on the back channel chat session posted relevant comments as late as 8:35 pm on Tuesday.

“But Graded is trying to be a pioneer in the area in Brazil. I really admire them for that.”Liberalism Rules at 8:19 PM, 4 May 2011 via web

“And as for the maturity, if this technology was something that we were rather used to, people wouldn’t be so “obsessed” over it, and…” troll at 7:57 PM, 4 May 2011 via web

“I think that although laptops would provide more interactive learning experiences for the students, it would also hinder their concentration”: D at 7:45 PM, 4 May 2011 via web

I’m in search of more stories from students and teachers.

My Learning

Every good educator processes the lesson and whether or not students learned to identify improvements for the future. In this case, let’s think in terms of risk management.

  • It’s probably natural for high school students to get a little giddy when they are introduced to a new tech tool and some will want to play around more than others. Maybe I could have tested the back channel out on smaller groups before doing it with 350 students.
  • Next time I’ll plan to use a back channel tool that shows the identity of the participants. This will take longer to set up but it will be worth it. I can use the expertise of our Academic Technology Facilitator to help me with this setup.
  • I’ll make sure that every student has access via the wireless network. I found out just prior to the presentation that this could have been arranged. I believe that there were students in the audience that wanted to respond to the topic and they were not able to. These students could have turned the conversation. In a 1:1 environment it is so important to provide everyone with the opportunity to participate.
  • I’ll ask the faculty members to bring their mobile devices so that they can participate in a positive manner. Since this is a community discussion their voices are important.
  • I’ll also continue working on building relationships with students so that there is a level of genuine respect between us. It’s my first year and the school and I have much work to do to build stronger relationships with the Graded student body.
  • You can bet that I’ll also set up a way to measure whether or not I was successful in raising awareness.

What other suggestions do you have for me?

The Future

Will I do it again? You bet!

Will I do things differently? Of course.

In today’s learning environment it’s imperative for educators to try new approaches to teaching and learning. I think that it’s actually OK to fail every once in awhile. I’ll probably do a more thorough risk assessment in advance next time. I’m saving the transcript of the back channel because I want to go back and review it in the near future. I envision a time when everyone will have a voice at our assemblies in a meaningful discussions. I would have loved to have seen back channel chats when we had MV_Bill and Nando Reis speak to our community.

Photos: Risk Taking Quote by useitinfo

Risk Assessment by Blue Square Thing

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2 thoughts on “Take Risks…

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