Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Digital Classroom: The Ideal Plot

Every year, I spend a good portion of my summer contemplating the upcoming year. A lot of that time is usually spent working on my personal website, reworking lesson plans, and organizing files; however, this summer was a little different. Because I had spent the previous year piloting two amazing programs (StudyBlue and Edmodo), the new year was going to change the way I approached education. Edmodo would serve as my digital classroom (posting assignments, answering questions outside the classroom, and adding digital notes) and StudyBlue would serve as my digital media (outlines and flashcards for studying purposes). With the two combined, I had an arsenal that could sustain the full year if need be.

clip_image002_thumb4Internally, things will not change compared to years past. As normal, I will continue to nourish the development of independent, critical, and inquiring thinkers (possible future link to Independent Thinker BLOG). However, with a push for technology to be fused into the classroom, my secondary approach will be altered slightly. Knowing this, I was required to think more about the procedural issues over the summer as compared to personal productivity. Nonetheless, I want to develop a process that is easy to follow and tolerating for months on end. I recognize students appreciate consistency; therefore, I feel that simplicity will have to be the answer.

Thus, when students read (goal 1), I will have them do one of two things (goal 2): In math, students will handwrite their notes unless they choose to type them. In information technology, students will be responsible for the latter. Either way, some form of note taking will take place.

Afterwards, students will then be responsible for taking their notes and converting them into flashcards (goal 3) using StudyBlue’s interface. Preferably, students should upload their notes to increase efficiency (that means scanning if they handwrote them); however, I will not require them to do so. Assuming their notes are accurate, this will be the 3rd or 4th time in which they’ve seen rich content – imperative for the brain to start saying, “Hey! This material is important!”

Lastly, students are expected to study their flashcards on a routine basis (goal 4). This process will continue throughout the chapter helping students prepare for the chapter assessment. What’s more, I spiral all chapters; therefore, their personal resources will be crucial for each subsequent chapter starting with week 1. Within a few weeks, students should find their routine and I’ll add checks and balances along the way to avoid complacency.


Daniel Rothrock


Disclosure: Daniel is a user and Teacher Advocate for StudyBlue.

The Digital Classroom: The Real Scoop

Technology is a revolution that cannot necessarily be reversed. Without a doubt, there have been countless measures to which technology has allowed humans to do more. Unfortunately, some use technology (sometimes unknowingly) in ways that could potentially hinder their own personal performance and education.

As I previously stated in “The Digital Classroom: The Ideal Plot”, I had several goals that my students were to meet. As I discussed these goals with my colleagues, I found myself under fire with questioning such as, “What will you do if a student shares their flashcards with another? Do you know that students can copy and paste? What about stealing information off the internet?”

While all of this is true, I reassured my peers that I would continue to hold discussions with my students about integrity, model students how to achieve earnest success, and supply evidence on how retyping your own notes is beneficial. But what if all of this wasn’t good enough? Would all be lost?

This is where I put myself into my students’ shoes.

In particular, I teach at an IB school where students are on a collegiate block schedule – a 2 day rotation that includes 4 – 90 minute classes a day. By their junior year, students have room for one elective (which is typically another IB course) and they’re all competing for various awards and scholarships. By the end of their senior year, students will need to have amassed a total of 24 points and a satisfactory completion of three compulsory core components. Needless to say, the tension is high and their personal time is low.

Therefore, when I was asked these questions, my secondary response was a little rhetorical; “What is our ultimate goal?” In my opinion, it’s two-fold. First and foremost, I want my student to master their IB exams for my class. However, beyond that, I want to develop life-long learners that are eager to learn in the field of their interest. As with many times in life, we often find ourselves short on time; therefore, we do the best we can with what we have. If a student feels the need that they have to copy and paste their notes into their flashcards, then they’ll have to recognize where they need to make the difference up – either reading through their notes an extra time or studying their flashcards more often. Either way, I will continue to nourish their development and stress the importance’s of doing things through a proven method. Regardless, if a student copies their notes yet aces an IB exam, I have to ask - did it really matter?

We all have a limited time to do the very best that we can. I suspect my students will want to make me proud and when time runs out, they’ll continue to rise to the occasion.


Daniel Rothrock


Disclosure: Daniel is a user and Teacher Advocate for StudyBlue.