Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Happy New Year!

Spent an hour Monday helping a colleague who's trying to go paperless this year.

Poor guy didn't even have a Google ID, but by the end of the hour he was set up with a new email account, his own blog, an RSS calendar, and a Twitter feed. We talked through several of the things I've posted here on TeachPaperless over the last several months and it was really exciting to see someone -- especially someone I know personally as a teacher and have a lot of personal respect for -- really 'get it' as goes this ed tech thing. There was a spark there. It was practically visible.

It was that same sort of thing as when a student suddenly realizes how to solve a problem.

A spark.

And that spark is contagious.

I, for one, am excited about getting back into the classroom in a week. That's where the action happens. That's where we find out whether this paperless classroom and social tech in ed thing actually pays dividends. Whether it produces sparks.

Incidentally, this last year was the first year that I taught AP Art History entirely paperlessly. Used Wikipedia, the Met Museum Timeline of Art History, Twitter, and my own brain in lieu of a textbook or lecture notes. Rather than have kids take slide-ID tests, I let them blog and I graded their blogs as full credit assessments.

In that class I put in to practice all of the things that I've talked about over these nearly 500 posts.

And it was a special experience, because unlike my Latin classes where I basically teach the kids for four straight years, Art History is a one shot deal. What I'm getting at is that unlike my AP Vergil Seniors who had had the experience of working in a relatively traditional classroom for a year or two before I went totally paperless, this AP Art History class was the first high-level (and high-stress) class that I taught entirely paperlessly to students who had no exposure to any other method of learning Art History.

And they wound up earning by far the best grades on that silly ole AP exam of any students I've taught.

Now I'm not one to really care very much for grades; and I let my students know this on a regular basis. I could care less whether they get an 'A' or a 'D' in my class; what I want them to understand is that they are really the only ones who really know if they 'get it' and that 'getting it' is far more respectable than the letters on any term report.

Nonetheless, it's a nice beginning of the year boost to see those grades come back as they did; because what that says to me is that -- purely in terms of those numbers -- there is no way anybody can ever again argue to me that students 'do better' by the old traditional methods. In my eyes, that argument was proven invalid by the very grades that many of the holders of that opinion value so much.

Every teacher knows that New Year's Day occurs in August (or September depending on certain locales... but you catch my drift). So, Happy New Year's, here's to your health, for 'Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?'


  1. You are missing one thing in your explanation of the awesome AP scores:

    A dedicated and knowledgeable teacher who has the passion necessary to inspire students to engage with the material and make something of it.

    The scores are great, the technology is wonderful, but you still need a great teacher to make it all happen.

    Happy New Year, I wish many success in your second paperless year.

    (What is the blog of your new recruit? I'd love to follow along. DM on Twitter if needed @learnteachtech)

  2. I, too, would like to follow along. Let us know if your colleague is willing to have a bunch of follow-ons from outside his/her school.


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