This is a piece that has been germinating for the last few months, as I’ve grown more accustomed to the 1:1, both its positives and its negatives. But I’m constantly being surprised by it, by what it allows students to do (both good and bad) and what it forces me to do as a teacher.

What prompted the entry in the immediate: I showed the Secrets of the Parthenon (PBS Nova) video today in Archaeology. Last block on a Monday back from vacation with a number of students lost to the Lincoln field trip, seemed like a good choice. But of course videos always introduce conflict: I certainly do show videos and I have no problem showing them but there is always that part of you that feels like a cop out. The solution? Worksheet (uh-oh; did I just make a potentially bad situation even worse?). PBS provides a series of questions to go with the video, so I uploaded those questions to ItsLearning and had them answer them as they watched.

Here’s how it went (or perhaps I should say here are the various situations that occurred):

  1. I’d like to think that some students did what I wanted them to do, i.e. watch the video and answer the questions. I’m not sure that’s true, though.
  2. The most common approach was a GoogleDoc that students worked on together. I told them that I wanted them working on their own but to use a GoogleDoc, I suppose, could be considered working on one’s own (but of course it doesn’t have to be); I let it go because I wanted to see what came of it. It was cool, though, to see each person working on the same document.
  3. Some students Googled the answers to the questions independent of the video.
  4. At least one student actually found the questions / handout on the PBS website (the full handout of which of course included the answers), a scenario that hadn’t even occurred to me.

So overall not a particularly successful class. What I should have done (in retrospect) is either have the students pair up with one computer showing the video and the other used for answering the questions (with shared headphones) or have students watch the video on their computer individually and toggle back and forth to answer the questions.

But the bigger question it raised was this: is the advent of the internet, of 1:1 initiatives, of tech-savvy (or at least tech-creative) students rendering video obsolete, especially specific directed video? I can certainly show movies and have students close their computers; those movies are designed to spark bigger picture thinking, to make broader connections to the curriculum, and students can write about them without having to take notes. But the information-dispensing class-watched video seems to be obsolete / unnecessary in the 1:1 classroom. That was the most enlightening part of today’s Archaeology class.

On a more positive note, my English 4 class showed the positives of the 1:1. We kicked off our unit on Title IX today and I wanted to develop the unit further so I came up with a new kick-off activity. Each student or pair of students chooses a specific Title IX case. They find the case using a GoogleNews search and limiting it to a state (the state an arbitrary designation but to avoid having students do the same story). Once the story is approved by me (to avoid the common ‘Impact of Title IX’ stories), they then research the story further and craft a presentation that they will present next week.

The students, after some clarification about search methods (I’d say 3/4s of the class didn’t know the effect of searching for a string in quotations vs. not) and the right types of cases, were into it. They would triumphantly ask if a state was taken when they found a good article (interestingly finding an article from a state and asking about the state rather than beginning with a state and searching for that state; that was unexpected), and were perusing, I would say, at least 5-10 different articles trying to find one that worked. This is certainly not an activity that couldn’t be replicated without the 1:1 but of course the 1:1 made it that much easier.

I have erred for these last three months on the side of letting my students use their computers more rather than less. I have given them access and responsibility in terms of their computers. I am not uncomfortable with this decision; I police when necessary (I closed four computers today alone) but try to minimize that, only intervening when computer use becomes distracting to other students. I leave it to students to determine the use of their time and computer, and if they are distracted or not engaged I blame myself more than them. By the same token, the 1:1 is forcing me to reconsider what a class looks like. If I want them to have their computers and use them regularly, how do I have them do that in a way that engages them and their computer? How do I incorporate their computers in a way that doesn’t just render paperless what they could otherwise do on paper (e.g. take notes)? These are the questions I’m struggling with. Any thoughts?