The other week I pulled up to work at the same time as one of our Grade 1/2 teachers. While I got out of my car juggling my usual laptop bag, lunch and sets of keys, I noticed that this teacher was carrying nothing but his lunchbox. “Traveling light?” I asked. “Always!” he replied cheerily.
The next week I ran into him again on the way into work. This time he had nothing with him but his keys! The image of a teacher showing up to work without the usual bundle of workbooks, bags, computers etc was so jarring I just had to find out the story behind it. The resulting conversation was a really encouraging insight into how the changes we’ve made at school over the last 18 months have completely changed some of the habits of our teachers.
This particular teacher saw no reason to carry anything with him from school to home or visa versa. For a start, there was no need to carry student work as it was all online or captured by camera and stored online. So then, wouldn’t that make carrying his computer to and from work all the more important? Well actually, carrying his computer is a wasted activity because he has a computer at home. But how does he get to all the things he has on his laptop at school? The answer to that is there is nothing that actually lives on his school laptop.
Dropbox: all his files are stored through Dropbox. Accessible on all his devices or any computer he happens to sit at anywhere in the world
Google Apps: all our school calendars are run through Google calendars on our Google Apps for Education account. Staff calanders, level planning team calendars, grade calendars etc are all available online when you log into Google.
All our staff planning documents are also on Google through Google docs. This means they are not only online (rather than trapped on an intranet server or as individual copies on each teacher’s computer) but any change made to each planning document by one teaching team member is instantly viewable by the rest of the team. They can also all collaborate on the one planning document together, as well as chat about the planning taking place, without having to be in the same place at the same time. Not only that, but all the resources used by each teacher (activities, worksheets, professional reading, links etc) are uploaded onto Google docs and shared for everyone to refer to or use whenever they like.
Also, because all our students have a Google Apps account, they do most of their work online through Google docs, spreadsheets, draw etc. This means you can annotate student work online at any time from any computer. No more carrying bundles of student work home with you.
Evernote: I wrote as comprehensively as possible about Evernote in my previous post. The ability to take snapshots of student work on the go and tag it to save with all the other notes, photos and recordings of that student’s work is beyond brilliant. Everything you’ve ever observed about that student is then waiting for you when you next log in to the device of your choice.
What about actually marking student work to give back to students? My philosophy is, don’t take daily work home to correct if you’re only doing it for the student’s benefit. Especially in the junior grades, it is completely pointless marking work and handing it back to them the next day or later. They are not old enough to self reflect on something from 24 hours ago and learn from it in a way that will alter their practise next time. From their perspective, they are handing in a piece of writing which they are hopefully proud of, only for their teacher to trash it with red pen and hand it back some time in the distant future. Teaching points need to be made in the moment. If you don’t catch students at the point they are doing the work then it’s too late to make the teaching point. Therefore, you don’t have to mark every piece of work every day. Roam the class and capture as many teaching moments with individuals or small groups as you can. Keep a list of students whose work you’ve seen on any particular day and make sure you have conferences with each student at least once a week.
If you want to mark work for your own assessment purposes, that’s fine. Get your students to leave their books open on the table at the end of the session and when they’ve gone out to recess or lunch take a photo of their work through Evernote so it’s saved in their ‘file’ for you to look at and annotate later on at home. Once again, you don’t need to take a pile of books home to achieve this.
So in short, our teachers now have everything stored online waiting for them whenever or wherever they want to access it. No more huge bags or piles of workbooks being carried to and from school.
So what’s the end of the story? How was this teacher walking in from his car with nothing but a set of keys, not even his lunch? He had a credit card in his pocket and was planning to buy it. Imagine showing up to work with nothing but your keys. Great stuff!