Monday, March 16, 2015

Think Outside the Cart: Covering Your Bases When Testing Impacts Technology

cc photo courtesy of Max & Dee Bernt
For baseball fans (like me),  March typically means that Spring Training is in full swing and the MLB season is getting closer.  This year, however, March also marked the beginning of our online testing season.  We're hearing concerns about online testing taking classroom technology out of the lineup.  So, to both honor the imminent baseball season and to address those concerns, here are some ideas about keeping the ball in play (apologies for the foul puns).

cc photo courtesy of  Jamie Campbell
Make a Call to the Bullpen.  In baseball, your "bullpen" is your pitching relief  (pitchers who come in to "relieve" or take over for other pitchers). Maybe a Chromebook cart is like your starting pitcher, but if it's not available, you might want to remember other technology at your building,  In our case, Chromebook carts supplemented any existing technology at a school.  That means that school labs, other laptop carts, M&A's, iPads & iPods & other tablets could come back into the game.  Even if you can only bring in a few, you could use them creatively for learning.

The Double or Triple Play.  If you get two or three players taken care of in one play, that's a double or triple play.  It's possible that not every machine is being used for assessment. While people tend to think of needing the whole cart, remember that great stuff can happen when kids collaborate together when sharing a device.  If you can get your hands on 10 devices instead of 30, it might actually be more effective than 1:1, depending on your learning goals.

Put the Shift On.  Sometimes, players in the field will move from their traditional spots and "shift" to specific areas, based on where they think the ball will go.  In a classroom, you can think about this like using learning centers or stations.  If you have as few as 4 or 5 devices, you can "shift" students to different centers/stations in the room, based on the activities you want them to do.  Using centers or stations is good practice anyway, but when faced with limited technology, it can be a game-changer.

The Hidden Ball Trick.  Sometimes, a player will "hide" the ball and deceive the runner into thinking s/he can step off the base, but the ball is still live.  We often ask kids to hide their own technology (mobile devices) or put it away so we don't see it.  But, cell phones are incredibly powerful devices.  If you set some ground rules about using them for learning, you might be surprised at how well students behave when given the chance.  If you teach younger students who don't have cell phones, you may want to ask your parent community if they have any "old" phones to donate.  If you take away the phone functionality, smart phones are just mini tablets with WiFi capability.

The Pinch Hitter.  A pinch hitter is basically a substitute batter -- a player not in your game day lineup who steps into the box.  If testing means that school-provided technology isn't an option, maybe it's time to explore substituting what you have with BYOD (or Bring Your Own Device). Parents are probably well aware that testing is affecting student access to devices, and explaining your need for student-provided technology, even temporarily, could be a way to keep you on your game.

cc photo courtesy of Scott Ableman
The Play at Home Plate (and Instant Replay).  Sometimes, the most exciting plays happen at home plate.  More and more teachers are trying out the concept of the flipped classroom or flipped learning (see our blog posts this month for more about flipped learning).  That term refers to students getting some part of their instruction on a device, often at home or outside of the classroom (maybe from a site like Khan Academy or teacher-created videos).   Besides leveraging time in an efficient way, this also provides students with the option for instant replay if it's video-based.  Didn't quite get the concept?  Just replay the part you need.  And since our district has Schoology, we already have digital spaces that can be used for learning outside of the classroom.

Finally, if you're worried about access at home for students during testing windows, remember that local libraries have computers for student access (and many schools have drop-in locations available during the school day).  Also, remember that anyone with a smart phone has access to the Internet.  If a family doesn't have a desktop or laptop at home, a smart phone is another access point.

Testing doesn't have to mean that technology for learning is benched during our assessment windows.  If you are creative and think outside the cart, you can continue to hit home runs for learning with your students.

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