Internet down? Punt.

Categories: Philosophy, The Classroom
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Published on: October 15, 2014

I knew I was in for a long day when the first email I read upon waking said our Internet connection was down. I called our provider, and sure enough they had outages all across central Illinois.

That’s when the panicked texts from teachers started rolling in.

"No Internet? Call an emergency day."
“No Internet? Call an emergency day.”

Yes, we’re more dependent upon the Internet with digital lessons and BYOT/1:1 initiatives. However, that doesn’t mean everything has to come to a standstill.

This morning I met with both of my 5th-grade classes, and I planned to do an assessment via Kahoot!, a game-like quiz site. I had two options:

  1. Cancel class and sit by a phone waiting for our ISP to call me back
  2. Use modern technology to solve a modern technology problem

Of course I chose #2. I simply set my smartphone up as a hotspot to serve up the quiz. Rather than try to shoehorn 20 connections through my phone, I divided the classes into teams and gave each team a Chromebook. My phone had no trouble handling the quiz and the responses, and in the end, the students had a lot more fun working in teams and choosing team names like the Geniuses, the Bananamen, and the Doughnuts!!! (emphasis theirs).

We had ten minutes left following the quiz. I didn’t have time or the resources to dig into Google Drive as I planned, so the kids requested to play the classic Heads-Up 7-up. I was reluctant to just make it free time because I only see them once a week. That’s when the students suggested anyone who gets selected has to answer a computer question to play.

I agreed, the kids had a blast, and it still turned into a teaching opportunity when we discussed the computer questions.

An Internet outage doesn’t have to be the end of class, yet it’s one of the first things people cite as an objection to going 1:1 or starting a BYOT initiative. I just counter the objection with similar questions:

  • What if there’s a fire drill that day?
  • What if there’s a surprise assembly?
  • What if half the class is out due to field trips or illnesses?
  • What if there’s a real emergency, like a fire or tornado?
  • What if the teacher was unprepared that day, or is out for a personal emergency or illness?

The answer is simple: class moves on. Whether we realize it or not, we’re always overcoming obstacles to teaching, and an Internet outage is no different.

Printing is Just a Bad Habit

Categories: Philosophy
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Published on: October 14, 2014

Printing is not about learning new processes or reinventing the wheel, it’s simply about breaking bad habits.

I sat down at a coworker’s desk the other day to work on her computer, and I found a stack of printed emails on one side of the desk. Most were simply one or two lines of text, and none of them had any additional notes or other information. Apparently that stack of paper is her reminder and to-do list, combined. Even without switching to her Google Calendar, or using an app like Todoist or Evernote, she was already paperless by leaving them in her inbox or sorting them into folders. She’s simply choosing to print because it’s what she’s used to.

Her case is not unusual, nor is it limited to education. My wife is a loan clerk, and she handles the paperwork for two loan officers. The bank has gone paperless with specialized software to manage all of their loan applications and related documents, making filing and searching easier. Meanwhile, her two bosses still print applications, even though they will probably never see that paper again because after their initial review, they will search the paperless system the next time they need the app. (And then they will probably print the app again.)

These are not needs, these are habits.

My coworker has dealt with hand-written notes for decades, and she replicated them with a printer. My wife’s bosses are used to reviewing loan applications by hand, so they hit that print button.

It’s pointless, it’s inefficient, and it’s wasteful. Until they treat this habit like any other bad habit that needs to be broken, there will not be any change.

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