Day 9: The Office Suite and “The Inevitable Reversal”

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Mr. Angell: “Alright, we’ll be starting our math test now…”
Student: “Is this an iPad test or paper and pencil?”
Mr. Angell: “Paper and pencil.”
Resounding from Class: “YESSSSSS!!!”

In my time here, I’m beginning to see what I believe is an “Inevitable Reversal” in student excitement for modes of instruction and learning: Reversal, simply a reflection of the fact that line 3 of the above dialogue could have been replaced with “computer” and been placed in my 6th grade classroom 8 years ago, and Inevitable because of my belief that students are, and always will be, intrigued by what is the least commonplace in their classroom.

20130115-091346.jpgI believe this reversal has created an unanticipated positive impact for classrooms in that students are now, more than ever, excited to do paper and pencil work. Once individual technology programs are implemented for a year or two, students begin to see past the “shiny factor” and use the tech as a supplemental tool and a common amenity…just like paper and pencils used to be. This paradigm shift, then, creates a vacancy in the “less frequently used, excitement-creating tool” department where technology used to occupy. This role can be filled by actual physical (rather than digital) writing, drawing, and creating…and is met with the same excitement that digital creation used to be. As I’ve stated in previous blogs, I fully believe that in order to most effectively implement technology in our classrooms as 21st Century educators, we must get past the “shiny factor” and remember we are teaching content through technology tools…not replacing content with the teaching of technology. Dialogue and moments like the beginning of today’s post give me hope that, given time, schools can definitely reach this point.
I never want my intentions to be misunderstood, though. I fully endorse technology implementation. There are countless benefits to effective integration, but the keyword is indeed “effective.” When teachers “do it right,” the products students can produce and their quality of work can be truly remarkable. Mr. Angell’s class is beginning to do just this by synthesizing their written science work into professional looking digital work using the Office Suite…most specifically “Pages.”

20130115-093030.jpgAll three of these apps are relatively user friendly and are almost interchangeable with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Some limitations present themselves when using the app versions, simply because there are fewer functions without the use of a mouse and formal keyboard, but general functions and tools allow most all necessary tasks to be done on the iPad.

20130115-093551.jpg

20130115-093559.jpgThe app the students are working exclusively with today is Pages, a part of the Suite, and a close relative to Microsoft Word.

20130115-093036.jpgStudents, during the past week, have been working on understanding “modes of text,” and what causes textbooks to be written in specific ways through utilization of bold text, highlighting, and photos with captions. They have been composing their own textbooks, writing and drawing pictures by hand, to teach 2nd grade students at one of the district’s elementary schools about physical and chemical changes and states of matter. Today marked the beginning of a final step on the project in the transformation of their textbooks into a digital format.

20130115-100704.jpgThough still in the rough beginning stages, it is intriguing to see what students are able to do through the “Pages” application to turn their hand-drawn/hand-written work into a more polished and digital representation. Apple has been thinking on this topic themselves, beginning to change the way schools look at textbooks in general by creating interactive versions. Additionally, Apple is beginning to make resources available for educators to easily create their own textbooks. All of this is still a work in progress, but portrays an exciting and interactive future for textbook use.

Video: Apple Unveils New Textbook Plans

So…how do we change our classrooms to create a constant “resounding yesssss!” from our students like I have heard this week? I believe the key is constant change, variation, and interaction in learning. Students don’t want to use iPads all the time, nor do they want to write things by hand all the time. They would rather not sit down all the time, and don’t really enjoy constant lecture. They would rather not always interact in a student-centered classroom, nor a teacher-centered one. What students want and thrive in is variety. By avoiding the “rut” and varying instruction (which when not done is honestly only laziness on the part of educators), students will remain consistently invested, excited to come to class, and will remain mentally tuned in, anticipating what might happen next. Technology can be a huge proponent for this variation, but paradoxically it can hinder it by facilitating a predictable pattern. As 21st Century educators, we need to strive for daily instances resulting in a “resounding yesssss!” in our classrooms. By becoming an agent for change and variation, we not only enhance the learning experience for our students, but we consistently keep them invested…and that’s what school is supposed to be about, isn’t it?

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