It’s About Time

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Wow, it’s been awhile. And, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things. Not to mention, it’s hard to find time to get back into the swing of things. There’s so much I want to write about it’s overwhelming which is exactly what has prevented me from posting anything at all. Do I even remember how to post? I’m not sure. I have apps I’m in love with (finally found a workflow solution), cases (do you know I own ALL of 12 South’s wallet cases? I can explain), I’ve found the perfect designer toddler mom bag…maybe two which brings me to my first unboxing video for YouTube which I’ll post as soon as I, you know, get the box. There’s so much banging and crashing along inside of my brain that in order to post anything I had to post *something*. My plans for the week: 
* Review of 12 South’s Relaxed Leather iPhone 7 Plus case. 

* What’s in my bag? And why I’m totally obsessed with my bag. 

* Finally the perfect calendar app…sorry Apple, I needed something more. 

* Overrated! Two high fashion accessories unworthy of all the hype. 
As you can see, I’m a list maker. So stick around. This blog is back. 

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. 

Google Classroom 

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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