I’ve Got My Eye on You: Cameras in the Classroom 

Education, Technology

Iowa school district asks principals to wear body cams
It’s no secret I’m a fan of technology in the classroom. I’ve even told my students that I’d love to have a camera filming my awesome and unique teaching style. I could be headed for stardom, society has made all the Kardashians celebrities, why not me? Not to mention, this would be a great way for kids who are absent to catch up on what they’ve missed, parents to become informed and involved in their child’s learning and a great excuse for me to expand my (already vast) wardrobe. But I have a problem with what Burlington, Iowa is proposing. 
The implications here are clear: We want to monitor you because we believe you will do harm simply because of the position you hold in society. You (teacher, principal, vice principal) are a bad person by default because there have been some bad people in your position before. Look at the example given, a police officer who beat a suspect. Again, is that indicative of all cops? Absolutely not. It used to be that if you wanted to be a hero you became a police officer, a fire fighter, a doctor, or a teacher. Now in order to achieve hero statis you have to change your gender. Civil servants are no longer respected but appraised with suspicion and scorn. Something is seriously wrong here. 
I’ve been on the losing side of this argument twice now. Growing up in the 80s and early 90s there was no teacher blame. If I wasn’t doing well in school it was my fault, not the teacher. 
My 5th grade teacher would have been considered abusive by today’s standards: she allowed other students to pick on me (sometimes using racial slurs), she called me stupid in front of the entire class, she really did not like me, and do you know what my parents said about the situation? “She’s the teacher”. That was the end of the discussion. My father worked at the school as a part time music teacher, he knew the woman, he’d visited the class, it didn’t matter. She’s the teacher. End of story. Same situation today and we’d have lawsuits and news coverage. Two out of three times when I encounter a parent in a parent meeting I’m there to defend myself because our culture says that the student is always right. Giving a student until the end of the semester to make up late work for full credit isn’t enough I also need to shorten and simplify the assignments, drop the lowest test score, and stay after school until it’s convenient for the child to come in because their child is “busy”. That’s the pervasive parent position. Our culture is changing. iPads failed those poor LAUSD students they deserve their money back, guns kill people not the psychopath pulling the trigger…
Go read Harrison Bergeron, Brave New World, and 1984 (think of Big Brother as political correctness). Tell me you don’t see life imitating art. 
Put a camera in my room, not on my body. Put a camera in my room because I’m awesome (most days) and you are genuinely interested in seeing the way my classroom works. Put a camera in my classroom because it could benefit student learning if they had the opportunity to hear the same lesson twice. But don’t put a camera on me because you assume I’m going to do something harmful to your child. It’s not action I have issues with it is the approach. 

Resistance is Futile: Tech is Coming Into Your Classroom 

Education, Technology

   The biggest hurtle in the adoption of technology in the classroom isn’t lack of devices or teacher training. The biggest thing holding back the advancement of technology, or more specifically BYOD, are the teachers who refuse to allow students to use said technology in their classrooms. Now I’m not advocating forcing teachers to do anything in their classrooms, I believe every teacher has the right and responsibility to choose curriculum wisely, create rules to promote equality, and to establish guidelines which they feel comfortable with but I do have a few things I wish my colleagues would consider before completely banning smartphones and other tech from their domain. 
Argument #1: Students are Distracted by Technology:

Yes. Yes they are. Students are distracted by a lot of things. Students are distracted by their peers, their hormones, independent reading books, lined paper to draw on, sports, what happened at lunch…squirrel!!!! Allowing students to use cell phones does pose yet another avenue of distraction but it isn’t like the technology is going anywhere. In the past five years, in addition to teaching, I’ve worked as an actor, a fitness model, a fitness instructor, photo double, and freelance writer. I also finished my Master’s of Education. In every situation having a cell phone, let me be more specific, having a smartphone (an iPhone to be REALLY honest in some situations) was mandatory. And, it has never happened (not once), that an employer has taken away my phone. Why? Because real life doesn’t work that way. No one comes into your classroom, your cubicle, the courtroom, and takes away your phone because you’re texting. They just fire your ass. If you can’t do your job because your iPhone is distracting you, if your work doesn’t get done, you get fired. You lose your job and when you lose your job you lose your paycheck. No more paycheck and you can’t pay your rent, your car payment, or buy food. Now you’re homeless and hungry…and then you die (Bit too dramatic? Ok. Maybe a little. But it could happen). All because you couldn’t keep your hands off your cell phone. That’s “the real world”. Wouldn’t it be better if we taught our students how to be responsible with their technology in a controlled environment? The novelty of having a cell phone out in class wears off pretty quickly but if they have to learn a lesson about responsible use and consequences I’d rather have them fail Language Arts 10 than fail life. 
Argument #2: BYOD is “Unfair” Because Not Every Student Has Access to a Device:

Yes. Again. It is unfair. Life is unfair. I know this because my parents reminded me of it every time I wanted something my friends had and my parents said I couldn’t have. The thing is, it’s true, life isn’t fair and that’s…ok. Equality isn’t always giving everyone the same thing, it’s giving everyone what they need to achieve the same results. Should I have petitioned the school board to get rid of football scholarships because as a 5’2”, 88 pound girl I wasn’t eligible? Or, should I have looked at my own talents to find the scholarships which I was eligible for based on my specific abilities? For every assignment I’ve offered this past year which incorporated BYOD there was a corresponding assignment in retro style (pen and paper). Some of the students who had devices elected to go old school hipster on me and use pen and paper anyway. To each his own. My job is to give students the opportunity and present them with options but I firmly believe that since technology is here to stay, it should be offered as an option. 
Argument #3: Students Need to “Think for Themselves” Not Rely on Technology: 

Oh how my math teacher loved to expound on this when I was in high school. I clearly remember his argument “what if the cash register goes down…” It was, in 1994, not such a bad argument but in 2015 it doesn’t stand up so well. What if the case register goes down? Then I’ll pull out my cell phone. What if my battery is dead or I forgot my phone in the car or I have no wifi? In 2015 if you don’t have your cell phone one of your coworkers will. Or, the guy who you’re ringing up or the guy behind the guy you’re ringing up. The fry cook, the janitor, the six-year-old waiting in line for a Happy Meal. Someone has a calculator! It isn’t that students in 2015 have it “easier” they have it differently. The world has changed. I used to be able to use the excuse “I was absent” if I missed a test or a due date for homework. My students need to check online, submit their work to turnitin.com, or email me. Students can check for their homework online when they are absent and their parents can see up to the minute grades. I could tell my parents that I got lost if I was late coming home, these kids have GPS. I couldn’t call because I couldn’t find a pay phone and even if I had, I didn’t have a quarter. Cell phones killed that excuse. Do you know that you can find your child using Find My iPhone? Think for themselves? Any kid who can still come up with a reasonable excuse for missing curfew has my vote for creativity. We don’t just want our students to think for themselves though, we want them to think critically. Having access to the Internet doesn’t change the skill. I had to evaluate the credibility of a source in the library and my students have to do it on line. At least in the library you could rest assured that someone felt the content was publication worthy eliminating some credibility issues. Now anyone can publish their ramblings…you’re reading some right now. So can we really argue that technology has taken away a student’s ability to think critically or has it just changed the landscape the way streaming music and Netflix have changed entertainment? 
   The use of technology is still a very personal choice for teachers but for teachers who are a part of an ecosystem adopting common core, the transition will be inevitable. As the poster children for BYOD personified will tell you “Resistance is Futile” we have the power to teach the next generation how to use technology responsibility. 

Why Journaling Should Be a Part of Your Curriculum

Education, Technology
   We recently finished reading “Julius Caesar” in my sophomore Language Arts class which ended in a discussion on the merits of tragedy as a genre. I explained to the students that Aristotle, who coined the term, meant for audiences of tragedies to introspectively think over the events of the play and use the experience as a form of catharsis. Then I spent the next ten minutes explaining what catharsis meant. After which I asked them: How do you vent? What methods do you use to expel yourself of emotion and reflect on life? The answer, shockingly, was Twitter. Twitter! “Yeah” my students said “Twitter rants”. Evidently a “Twitter rant” is where you tweet about a subject consecutively and in short order (no pun intended although Twitter only allows for 140 characters to be tweeted at a time). Am I the only one who sees a problem here? It’s a wonder we don’t have students running wild and burning down the schools. Oh wait, one of our students tried to light the school on fire this past week completely destroying two palm trees and causing the campus to be evacuated. I believe we have a problem.
     I have nothing against social networking. I’m a member of many social networks: Twitter (@CarolynNicole), Instagram (@Cinnamonmouse), Snapchat (@Mrscgrayson), Facebook, Pintrist, Tumblr, WordPress…you get the idea. The point is, they’re called social networks for a reason: they were designed to share ideas with the rest of society, to network, and connect. I’m not exactly sure catharsis applies. It’s difficult to be honestly introspective when you’re writing for an audience. What I’m posting here is not my journal, it is not my private soliloquy (although I do write in prose, which is much more intimate than formal writing) this is intended to be read by other educators who grapple with similar issues. In other words, the next generation doesn’t reflect, they perform. And how are you to acquire a sense of self when you’re always putting on a mask for the approval of others?
The kid who set the palm trees on fire? He posted it on Snapchat.
     Students need a way to open up and be honest with themselves, to really analyze the way that they are feeling, and to have an outlet for letting some of those feelings free. One solution to this is giving your Language Arts or Creative Writing students class time to write in a journal. Not a graded journal, not something which is turned in for credit, but something private for themselves. I experimented with this idea this past year as we read “Night” giving students the opportunity to choose a bound notebook or the use of Evernote (iOS/Android/Windows). It was a short experiment but one I think I will pick up again when I return from maternity leave (for the record I’m happy I’ve kept up my workout routine while pregnant. In case of an emergency I’m still pretty quick and nimble at 7 1/2 months).
Isn’t this a waste of class time? 
No, like everything else, you have to practice in order to get better. Just because students are writing on a non-assigned topic doesn’t mean that they aren’t practicing writing. Have your students look back at past entries on some days. Have them correct their mistakes as well as recall memories. Any assignment you give which you believe is for the betterment of their education and for the improvement of society is not a waste of class time.
How do you grade them? They won’t do it if it’s not worth credit.
I walked around the room, I looked over their shoulders, I monitored but didn’t intrude. Sometimes I would have them flip through their journals in front of me to prove it had entries even though I didn’t read them. They did it. Most of them did it. If I was monitoring them and they were writing they received credit. If they were playing games or off task they didn’t receive credit. You have students in your class who aren’t going to do anything regardless of incentives or grades. That level of disregard of school, authority, and their future comes from their homes and from society. We all try to improve student attitudes and inspire them in 55 minute bursts for 180 days but sometimes you can’t undo 16 years of apathy. Let them know you care about them as people that’s all you can do.
   If your interested in journaling and the importance of keeping a journal check out these resources:

Google Classroom 

Uncategorized

I, personally, am not a huge fan of Google Classroom. I know. How can that be? I love tech, I love teaching (not every day, I’ll admit, but most days). How can I not love Google Classroom? After having played around with the tools Google supplies I just feel as though the whole thing wasn’t ready for primetime. Crashes, formatting issues, bugs…it felt like shopping at Macy’s (kind of ok but you know they don’t sell designer) when you should be at Saks. But some people love Google Classroom (some people love Macy’s and that’s ok, too) and make good use of it and others have never tried Google Classroom. If you’re in the latter category I highly suggest you give it a try. You never know until you try, right? Here’s an article to help get you started: Teacher Tech by Alice Keeler

Interesting Article 

Education, Technology

I found this article really interesting, I’m even considering asking my own students to pen their own views on technology in the classroom. My only issue was the comment about students knowing more than the teacher when it comes to technology. Am I the only teacher who has never experienced having to help a room full of high school students accomplish the most basic tasks? Despite this, I still found the article a compelling read and encourage other teachers to read it as well, I’d love to hear your feedback. A Teenager’s View on Education Technology By Soraya Shockley, Youth Radio 

Why BYOD Works For Me (and why you should consider using it, too)

Education, Technology

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is the wave of the future. According to an article published on techproresearch.com 74% of companies are implementing a BYOD policy in the workplace or planning to in the near future. That number is likely to grow as security improves across platforms and the merging of home and office become one. So, what does this mean for us as educations? First of all, teachers need to stop confiscating cell phones. We need to teach our students how to use the technology they have, because colleges and employers aren’t providing devices anymore and if they aren’t providing it, they certainly aren’t giving employees training on how to use it. Therefore, the responsibility falls to us. College and career ready includes digital citizenship, appropriate use of technology, and how to use smart phones productively.
I’m not sure why so many teachers seem to be anti-technology but I can take a few guesses. I think the first issue which needs to be addressed is that of distraction. Teachers view cell phones in school as a form of distraction. They are. Students are distracted by technology all the time, they’re also distracted by the student sitting next to them, the book they brought with them (first it was Twilight, then it was Hunger Games, remember the Harry Potter phase?), the goofball in the back row who won’t shut up, homework for another class they’re trying to sneak and finish in your class, and that pesky leaf blower which always comes by on a Thursday morning despite the fact that there are no trees anywhere near my classroom! Life has distractions. We’re just adding cell phones to the mix. Besides, banning them and taking them away aren’t fixing the problem. Don’t you have to stop teaching to confiscate a student’s cell phone? Isn’t that a distraction? What if the kid argues with you? Isn’t that a bigger distraction? And let’s not be hypocritical here, haven’t you ever answered a text in class? You have, haven’t you? But you did it quickly and got right back to work. So will they. The majority of students will glance at their phones if a text comes in but most of the time they actually ignore it. Once you take away the forbidden element of the cell phone, it loses some of it’s magic. Besides, will someone take away their cell phone if they become distracted by it at work? No. They’ll just get fired. So maybe they learn more if someone doesn’t take it away at school and they just fail.
What about cheating? Students use cell phones to cheat. Yes. Yes they do. They use cell phones and scraps of paper and water bottles of all things to cheat. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a no cell phone during testing policy. Allowing students to use their phones in class doesn’t mean that they have to use their phones every day. You can still have times when everything needs to be cleared from their desks. No need to change that.
The truth is there are many things employers expect students to be able to do using their cell phones. Over the years I’ve had many supplemental jobs in addition to teaching and all of them were BYOD. Here is a rundown of the things I was expected to use my own device (an iPhone in my case) for at each place of employment:
Actor: Respond to phone calls from agents promptly, download sides from Showfax, maintain a calendar, book voice over appointments through agency system, use Google maps/GPS to arrive at audition locations on time, have digital headshots & resume ready to submit via internet sites even if I wasn’t at my home computer, maintain and update social media sites for self-promotion.
Spin Instructor: Use Mindbody app to maintain schedule, participate in Google groups, respond to emails in a timely manner, hook up phone to gym speakers, create playlists for cycling classes.
Freelance Writer: Respond to assignments and submit drafts to the editor using Asana app, participate in Google groups, use BlogPress app to submit official blog entries for editing and formatting, respond to email in a timely matter.
Graduate Student: Use social media to connect with other educators, submit assignments using Blackboard and Canvas apps, participate in Google Groups and Google Hangouts, download textbooks to Kindle app, keep my phone handy while sitting in class without letting it be a distraction.
Teacher: Create flipped classroom lessons when chaperoning overnight trips using ExplainEverything and Capture app, uploading videos to YouTube, updating my teacher webpage hosted on Teachers.io, checking my Outlook email regularly, integrating my home and school calendars using Fantastical, finding resources to use in class with Flipboard and Zite, uploading tests and quizzes to Dropbox, receiving and grading essays using turnitin.com, keeping students up to date with Remind and grading multiple choice exams using ZipGrade.
I teach a 9th grade technology class and in September my students knew how to use Snapchat, watch videos on YouTube, and text. No email, no Google groups, they were given Schoology accounts but couldn’t access them because it was “too confusing”. When one of my former students got to community college she was so proud because she was the only one in her class who knew how to submit assignments online. It was a requirement of the class and the teacher wasn’t taking any time to show students how it was done. “Figure it out” he told them. My student became very popular over this incident and emailed me to thank me. I think that’s how she met her boyfriend:)
I know change is scary but it is our responsibility to prepare students to enter the “real world” not a world of our own creation and it appears that world is BYOD.

The Natives Are Here…And It’s Not What You Think

Education

I hear the term “digital natives” regularly in the education world. A relatively newly coined term to describe millennials who have grown up with technology: the internet, cell phones, smart phones, computers, etc. digital natives are believed to be more tech savvy than their digital immigrant predecessors. Since digital immigrants, the Gen Xers, were born before the internet and all of its offerings, it is a wide spread belief that immigrants just aren’t as quick as the natives, they don’t know as much, can’t do as much as the natives and therefore when the natives enter the work force many people are going to be in for a big surprise, because the natives…aren’t very digital. Let’s see, they can post things to Instagram, they can text, and they love Snapchat. That about covers it. How do I know? I teach them every day.
While attending a conference recently, I heard the woman behind me tell her friend “My three-year-old grandson can turn on the iPad, he’s so smart. These kids know more than their parents do.” Wait, I thought to myself. Your son or daughter, the parent of this amazing grandchild, can’t turn on an iPad? What are you doing at a technology conference, you should be home with that three-year-old. If his parents can’t even manage turning on an iPad I don’t think they’re equipped to take care of a child! Of course that’s not what she meant and I said nothing but here inlays the problem: People assume that if a child is brought up with technology they will automatically be good with technology and being good with technology equates being smart and/or smarter than the generation before them. There are a few problems with this theory, let me point them out:
First of all, by the age of three, I could turn on the television. My mother at the age of three could not turn on a television. But, my mother is a smart woman, she holds three master’s degrees one in classical languages, one in education, and a master’s of divinity. My mother speaks five languages Latin and Hebrew among them. Why in the world couldn’t she handle a simple task like turning on a television? Was she a late bloomer? Because for as intelligent as she is I guarantee you, she couldn’t turn on a television set by the age of three. Her problem wasn’t intellect or dexterity, her problem was she was born in 1942. So realistically, how can we evaluate how intelligent a new generation is based on standards which weren’t even available to the one before?
A second problem: People assume that if you grow up with something you become more adept at using it. But think about it, how many of us (myself included) have grown up with a stove and can’t cook? I can provide a better example: my mother didn’t marry down, my father is equally as talented in his own rite. I’m not bragging here or making any statement about my own brilliance, I was adopted. Nope not kidding or making excuses for my ineptitude. I was legitimately adopted. My father ran a non-for-profit music school, he’s a composer, conductor, and author of several books about music. At one time my family owned 13 pianos including two Steinway concert grands. My grandmother played the piano, my father plays the piano and I…I’ve had lots of lessons. Lots of lessons. It’s not as though I didn’t have the resources. I had everything a person needed to become an excellent pianist except for desire and drive. Learning something, learning anything, takes an interested party who wishes to learn. And, when it comes to using technology for anything other than the aforementioned Instagram, Snapchat, and texting the majority of those digital natives have none.
Therefore, students do not know more than their teachers when it comes to downloading and annotating digital texts, FINDING digital texts (some of them think Google is a reference), using the cloud to store information so that it’s accessible at school. They can upload photos to Instagram but not essays to turnitin.com because that requires two steps…maybe three. I’ve taught kids how to cut, copy, and paste (at least we know they weren’t plagiarizing). Email seems to be particularly difficult for them emailing with attachments, out of the question. Don’t worry, these kids are not dumb, they can learn. The problem is that everyone assumes there’s no need to teach them. They won’t do it on their own. They need teachers because the world assumes that they already can and it’s our job, as teachers, to prepare them for the world.