Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Dreaded Sick Day

Those dreaded words, you have to take a sick day. Those are words that many teachers don't like to hear, myself included. You realize that the students will not be able to complete the same work as if you were there and that in most cases the substitute won't be familiar with your subject area. In my 8 years of teaching, I have rarely taken sick days for those reasons. However this week, I had no choice after being diagnosed with a kidney stone and dealing with the severe pain associated with the stone.

Thankfully, my sick days did not turn into lost instructional days for my students. Why you ask? With my classroom set of Chromebooks, I could easily create assignments for my students to complete in class knowing that I could collaborate with them on the assignments. In addition, I created a discussion board on Google Classroom where the students could ask me questions about the material and I could respond to their questions during class. Even though I was not in the classroom with the students, they knew that I was a click away from them. 

The students responded very well to this system and my substitute was very appreciative of my availability to the students. I think this system may be a game changer for me in terms of taking days off. No more days of movies and video notes. Knowing that my students and I can be connected through Google Apps for Education no matter where I am is awesome. I know that my students are learning and the students know that I am available to help them. 

Days off and substitute lesson plans no longer need to be dreaded. Just think of it as an online learning day for the students and yourself. While it might take some time to adjust to, I think you will find that leaving your students with a collaborative assignment and knowing you are available to help is much more effective than a movie. 

So what are your thoughts on sick days and lesson plans? I'd love to keep the conversation going. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

One Step Closer

It was so great to return to school this week following Snowzilla (aka blizzard 2016). The students and I were clearly ready to continue learning and progressing on our journey to a completely paperless classroom. This week we made big steps forward and are almost completely paperless at this point. I am so proud of my students and how willing they are to try new things. 

Prior to acquiring the Chromebooks, my students took notes using pencil and paper. Now, the students are starting to complete notes using Google Classroom and Google Docs. Prior to class, I uploaded a Google Doc into Google Classroom for the students to use as notes. During the lesson, the students took their notes using the Google Doc. The students even made sure to include the French accents using the Easy Accents add-on . This add-on opens a separate window in Google Docs and the students can easily insert the French accents that they need. While the students were taking their notes, they mentioned that they really liked doing notes this way. The beauty of doing the notes as a Google Doc is that the students have access to them at anytime from anywhere without having to worry about losing them or leaving them at home. 

In addition to taking notes on the Chromebooks, my students also created their own Google Sites this week. We will be using these sites to showcase their projects that will be shared with our partner school, the Lycee Bazin in Charleville-Mezieres, France. To see our progress in our projects, check out our partnership website.

As I approach the end of the first month of the new semester, I feel that I have made positive strides towards transitioning to a paperless classroom. While there have been some challenges, the successes have outweighed the challenges. I continue to be impressed by my students' level of motivation and their willingness to try new things. The level of collaboration in my room is reaching new levels - the students are working together, creating projects, and using the target language more and more each day. To see all these things happening is amazing. I could not be prouder of my students. I never thought that I would see changes like this so soon. I cannot wait to see what will happen by the end of this month. 

I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about going paperless. Feel free to leave a comment and let's keep the discussion going. 

French students collaborating on an assignment using the Chromebooks

Going paperless and taking notes on the Chromebooks.