First of all, thanks to Shelly for inviting me to join the conversation here on his blog. It know it will prove to be a powerful experience.
As the title of this blog is TeachPaperless, I figured I'd start things off with a post about my effort to cut down on the use of worksheets and paper at my school.
You might think that this would include things like document cameras, Google Docs, e-readers and iPods/iPads, but my first step involves getting my staff to use...wait for it....an overhead projector.
My school has desktops from 2002, no wireless, no laptops, only one projector between two buildings and no library. While we are paving a path toward a technology-infused school, I know that if my teachers aren't using a simple overhead projector, putting any other technology in their classroom will not change the way they teach.
I sent this email to my staff:
Happy Tuesday everyone!Before I clicked 'send,' I sighed. I never thought I'd ever send an email like that.
I have noticed recently that many of you have overhead projectors, but not everyone is using them. This is a great piece of technology that can create some fun and engaging lessons and activities for your students.
If you are not using the projector because the bulb is broken, please let me know and we can get you a new one. If you are not using it because you don't have any transparencies, let me know. I have a box of transparency paper that can be fed into a copier like regular paper.
If you are not sure how to incorporate an overhead projector into your lessons, here are some ideas:
1) use a blank transparency to have students complete math problems in front of the class. The larger screen will ensure that each student can see his/her process
2) project a piece of writing and have the students come up and add editing marks/make changes
3) project a piece of writing and have the students grade it according to the PSSA Writing rubric
4) teaching time? Use a transparency of a blank clock and have students come up and add hands to show what time it is
5) teaching money? Use inexpensive transparency coins
6) Teaching addition, subtraction? Use manipulatives on a blank transparency and have students show how to add two numbers, subtract, etc....
7) create a graphic organizer as a class using a blank Venn Diagram, etc... Keep the transparency so you can pull it up whenever the students need it
8) Create a cloze activity and have students come up and write in the missing words
9) Instead of a worksheet, do an activity together as a class
10) If you have info/vocab you need the kids to have, project it while they are working
Let me know if you have any questions, and let me know if you need help making transparencies or would like to borrow an overhead.
So why do I want to share this experience? I think that with all of the talk of integrating technology and using less paper in the classroom, we need to remember that there is a huge digital divide that affects these kinds of changes. While we have plans to bring in more technology, we have to work with what we have for now. We are not alone. There are schools all over the country and all over Philadelphia, I'm sure, who face the same challenges. School looks to my students the same way it looked to me when I was their age over 15 years ago. (and we had overhead projectors!) Many of my teachers borrow the projector to use once a week or so, but that does not change what they are doing every day all day in their classrooms. It also does not change the fact that, for my students, school is like an entirely different world than the world they leave when they enter the school doors.
Another thing this email brings to light is that a tool is a tool, it's how you use it that counts. Many of the activities listed above would also be found on a list of recommended activities for an Interactive Whiteboard, which costs thousands of dollars more. Putting tech in the classroom will not necessarily change what teachers are doing in their classrooms. Teachers who are expected to teach test prep will not find the time to create podcasts or allow students to explore ideas as a class or on their own, even if the classroom is fitted with a projector and laptop. They will use it the same way they would use an overhead projector.
Still, I hope that my teachers do begin using their overhead projectors....and then crave more. I pray that we are able to purchase LCD projectors for each classroom. I dream that my teachers will be able to open up their classrooms to the world and that worksheets will become a thing of the past.
For now, we'll work with what we've got.