Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Emotional Implications of BYOD

I've been trying many different avenues to bring the most technology into my classroom that I can. A teacher at my school studied and very successfully piloted a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program at my middle school. I was really excited to hear about this initiative and was eager to put it to use in my own classroom. However, things didn't go quite as I had planned...

 Let me backtrack for a moment. At the beginning of the year, I had sent the students home with a technology survey, asking about their computer and internet access when they are away from school. I did this for the sole purpose of not setting children up to fail and assigning them work that they may not have the resources to complete when they aren't at school. One thing that I did not ask about on my survey was mobile devices or cell phones. I find it hard to believe that I made this kind of oversight, but I think that I fell victim to the notion that mobile devices (mostly phones) are SO pervasive that literally everyone has one. My first attempt at BYOD made it clear that this is not the case.

If you read my initial post about this tech survey, I mention how potentially embarrassing it could be to admit you don't have internet access at home. Why did I not think about how embarrassing it would be to say "Okay, kids, take out your devices!" only to have several students look around sheepishly. I had even prepared materials IN CASE there were students who didn't have a device to use. Looking back, I think that I just didn't expect that I would have to actually use them. There was a palpable discomfort among my students without devices to the point that I have not had another BYOD day in my classroom.

I think my love of tech has been firmly established and I think BYOD is a great and truly cost effective tool for bringing technology into the classroom. However, I care much more about my students and the fact that I want none of them to ever feel alienated in my room. My school doesn't have a cart of mobile devices to check out to supplement for the students who don't have one of their own, so there is very much a distinction between those who can do the assignment digitally and those who have to do the paper version. I've considered having the students work in pairs or threes, making certain that each group has at least one person with a device, but I'm unsure if that would help.

That being said, I think I will hold off on doing BYOD until I can provide equal options for my students who don't have devices of their own to bring.

Has anyone else experienced anything like this? What are your thoughts and how have you handled it?

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Wonder of Charlie Anne

The Wonder of Charlie AnneThe Wonder of Charlie Anne by Kimberly Newton Fusco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book over the course of two afternoons and it made me cry more than once. Charlie Anne is a young girl who has lost her mother, her father and brother have gone north to work, and she is left with her obnoxious cousin, Mirabel, and three of her siblings. The only places she finds comfort is with her cows and by the river, where her Mama is buried. She still hears her mother talking to her plainly and I love that this is never explained or explored in more detail - it just kind of is. Charlie Anne meets some new neighbors who end up changing what had been her very unhappy, lonely existence since her mother passed away.

This book gives a very no-frills look into how families were impacted by the Great Depression and helps us all be a little more grateful for those that we love. It also deals masterfully with prejudice and how the power of friendship is an extraordinary catalyst for change.

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My First Full Week

Tomorrow I begin my second full week of teaching 8th grade Language Arts! Last week was exhausting and scary, but I also learned SO much more in just one week than I ever thought possible. I already know all of my students' names and am learning more about each one of them every day. I am attempting to keep a journal of this first year, so that I can learn from what I'm doing - both the good and the bad - and use it be an even better teacher next year. So far, I have learned how incredibly important it is to be consistent with this age group. Their critical thinking skills are REALLY kicking into high gear at this stage, and if there is even a hint of inconsistency, they will notice! They have also developed very strong sense of what they see as fair and right and wrong. This has the potential to make for wonderful, thought-provoking class discussion! I've begun making weekly fliers to email to my parents using They seem to be very much appreciated, and as a parent to school-age children, I know that I want as much feedback and information as possible. I hope this second week goes even more smoothly than the first. Happy Sunday!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tech Surveys & the Digital Divide

I've been doing a lot of thinking about my first day in the classroom. In my own classroom! It's exciting, to be sure, but I am also aware that the first day will set the tone right away for the climate of my classroom. I hope that the kids will be able to tell just how excited and honored I am to be able to be their English teacher for the upcoming school year. I am also giving lots of thought to the best ways to get to know my students.

I've planned on giving out some surveys, most particularly the survey found in Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer, which is an excellent tool for gathering what your students like to read, how much they read, and gives some insight into their interests so that you can better tailor your book suggestions to each student. I also plan on giving out a general interest survey, and maybe a learning styles inventory, just to help me get a better picture of each student as an individual and the class as a whole.

One survey that I think will be crucial is a technology survey that I developed while student teaching. My student teaching assignment was in my home town, which is decidedly rural. Because of this, I had no doubt that there would be some students who would not have access to technology outside of school, and I was correct. However, I don't think that this is strictly a rural issue. With all the talk of flipped classrooms and their merit, and directing people to find us on social media sites the way that we used to hand out business cards, it can be easy to forget that there is still very much a digital divide and that not every student has access to these resources.

The tech survey allows for students to be able to share their access to technology with me before it ever becomes an issue; for example, if I gave an assignment where my students were required to use the internet and I wanted them to do some of it over the weekend, it would be potentially embarrassing for a student with no internet access to have to come and tell me this and ask for provisions. I would rather know right up front, so that I can seamlessly incorporate another option for students who don't have access to the necessary technology.

Anyone who knows me knows what a tech geek I am - I love technology and I especially love what these innovations can mean for student learning; however, I would advise using sensitivity where this is concerned, because having no computer or having the wrong phone has become to our students what the wrong pair of shoes or the wrong brand of jeans was when I was in school. The admission and public knowledge of not having internet access could be potentially embarrassing for a middle grades student. The tech survey is a more private way that my students can let me know that they may need some other options if a take-home tech assignment should arise.

The survey is linked below; feel free to use and share!

Enjoy your Sunday :-)

Technology Survey

Friday, June 8, 2012

Catching Up

Have I really not posted since December?!

Lots to catch up on then -

First, the good news:

  • I've completed my Master's!
  • I've moved to a new home!
  • I've gotten my first teaching job!
And, the really sad news that I still have a hard time thinking about:
  • My husband lost his father in January.
  • I lost my Papaw on April 19th and my Mamaw three days later. 

I usually don't post much in the way of personal things on my blog, but I thought maybe it would be a good way to get back into the swing of things by celebrating the good things, mourning the sad things, and appreciating the very precious time my family and I had with these three amazing people. 

My father-in-law, Charlie Reinhardt.
He was an incredible grandfather to my two sons and my niece, Megan, and he certainly raised a wonderful son. He welcomed us into his family with open arms and I am so grateful that I got to know him.

My Papaw, Earl Thomas.

I don't even know what to say here. He was the best storyteller in my life. He made me laugh constantly, awed me with his ability to complete a Times' Sunday Crossword, and he loved me unconditionally for my whole life. He called me "Tootle" after the Golden Book about the train of the same name. I used to make him read it to me over and over. When my family was going through his belongings, they found that old story book in his closet; he had kept that book all those years. So much of who I am and what I value is due to him; he loved reading and knowledge and dry humor and history. I love him, and always will. 

My Mamaw, Mabel Crouch.

I lived with my Mamaw for a year after my Papaw Everett passed away. During that year, she taught me to play the guitar, how to do a proper bluegrass harmony vocal, and how to truly walk what you talked. Not that I always do all of those things; she was the only one I knew who could pull them off seamlessly. She raised nine children, even more grandchildren, and touched the lives of everyone who knew her. She was always incredibly kind, always full of love, always thinking of her family, and always praying. My Mamaw was incredibly talented; she could pick any stringed instrument and absolutely make it sing. Saying I miss her seems like a gross understatement, but it's the best I can do.

I still have both my Mamaw's and my Papaw's phone numbers saved in my iPhone's contact list. Isn't it weird how technology affects our idea of permanence? Because I can't bring myself to delete their phone numbers, and don't know if I ever will. 

Here is to a new year, knowing that my father-in-law, my Mamaw and Papaw would be so proud of what I've accomplished and also knowing that so much of my ability to accomplish these things are due to their love and influence.