I’ve never considered myself a “tech guru.” My husband knows technology. He has taught me so much about it over the years, so maybe all of that teaching he did made me willing to try Google Classroom when the technology integrator at my school told me about it in December. I loved using Google Docs, for students weren’t losing their assignments anymore. Why not try Classroom?
And try it I did. My students completed their mid-year reading ladders on Google Classroom, and I was shocked to see that all but TWO of my 97 students completed it. Wow! I never got results like that before! Even my consistently absent students got that assignment done, even though they weren’t in school every day. I decided I had to use it again for their upcoming argument research paper. I created warm-ups, exit tickets, and discussion topics on it, as well as a spot for directions and a first draft. I loved Google Classroom and all it had to offer; however, I must not have been 100% convinced of it’s effectiveness, for I still had students keep a paper folder with all their sources, index cards, claim graphic organizer, and any other materials I gave them. They basically had an online version and a paper version of everything, which probably wasn’t necessary. The research process went quite well, for I got the same results as the reading ladders project: only two students still have to finish their papers. I was hooked, but my lack of knowledge about technology and what I could do on Google Classroom–and other online resources for that matter–was hindering me from doing more. When I began a literature unit, half of what my students did was in Google Classroom, and the other half was on paper. I needed to find an English teacher who utilized technology more than I did so I could move forward.
Enter Kim Metzgar (see her blog here), who is a local high school English teacher. The technology integrator at my school heard about her paperless classroom and told me all about it. I knew I just had to see it in action, so I immediately contacted her. Kim was thrilled to be in contact with someone else who wanted to go paperless (mostly), so after a few emails back and forth, she invited me to come visit her school.
Last Monday, I did just that. The technology integrator and I visited two English 9 co-taught classes, and I was pleased to see how smoothly they could be run with all technology and no paper products what-so-ever. The students knew the routines, their teacher’s expectations, and seemed to truly love using technology to learn. Here are some other positives I took away from this amazing experience:
1. The apps and web programs out there for educational use are pretty EASY to use! Kim didn’t just use Google Classroom, she also used other tools like Kahoot, Noodlebib, My Big Campus, and a few others. At first I thought this might be tough, but the students didn’t see it that way. After seeing both Kahoot and Noodlebib in action, I saw how easy the students found both of them. Sure I will have to teach my students how to use them, but it would take a quick mini-lesson and reminders about expectations.
2. I can do anything online that I already do on paper, but even MORE! One of my biggest concerns going into this observation of a paperless classroom was if I could do everything I already do. After seeing Kim teach and having conversations with her, I believe I can. Say, for example, my students are reading a short story. I could take pictures of a few excerpts, have them annotate in Google Classroom (using a Google Doc). That’s what they would have done on paper. With Google Classroom, I can do even more than that. Students can share their annotations with their classmates, not just me. By sharing their thinking in this way, they can learn more from one another outside of my classroom, not just in it. Also, no one would be able use the excuse that they lost the assignment. How wonderful is that!?
3. There really aren’t any negatives. My first question to Kim was, “What are the negatives I will have to prepare for?” She didn’t think there were any, and as of now, I haven’t found any either. She said I will need to plan ahead to reserve technology so my students always have a device, but anyone who knows my teaching style knows what a great planner I am. That won’t be a problem. Might I make mistakes? Sure, but that is all part of the learning process. I am not afraid to make mistakes in front of my students. It makes me a “real” person to them, and thus makes them more willing to take risks in my room, knowing that mistakes are part of learning. Other teachers may work with my students in an ACE, Study Hall, or writing lab, but more and more teachers in my district are learning how to use Google Docs and Classroom. Classes will be offered this summer, and teachers are signing up for them, including myself!
After visiting Kim’s classroom, I knew I could do this. I am willing to try, for this is what the future is going to look like, so why not try it now? Starting Tuesday after Memorial Day, my Honors class will be starting a short mini poetry unit where we “test out” having a mostly-paperless classroom for two weeks. They will only be bringing their IR books, and that’s it. No pencils, pens, paper, or binders. I think they are ready, as am I, for they have already been a part of units that are partly online. I am so excited about this new adventure, and I look forward to sharing how it goes. Wish me luck!