“Brianna” has been teaching a variety of subjects for 14 years, including junior Science, senior Biology, P.E., “Reconnecting Youth” (a program for at-risk students) and Yearbook. Presently, she is teaching Science 9 and Biology 12 at a large high school. As Brianna and I have young children at home, and she teaches at a different high school than mine, I conducted the interview via Google Hangouts, at 9 p.m., January 18. (This was a less than ideal time to interview—both of us were exhausted!) I asked Brianna to be my subject for two reasons. 1. There is only one other person in Math or Science at my school who uses any technology and she was spread so thin this week, you could see through her. 2. Bri and I have worked together for 13 years, but last year, she was bumped to another school due to seniority. This summer, I gave her a Google Classroom 101 class in my kitchen, so I was eager to see how she was coming along!
When prompted to respond about current technology enhanced processes she uses, the commonality to every response was sharing information between groups of people.
“Assignments, so I created an assignment, for example we did this thing like the Genius Hour, but not— we did this project and I had it set up into three parts and so each part we did a check-in so that I could see what they were doing and when they decided to work in groups then they would share that with their group members so that all 3 of us could look at it. And with teachers, we are working on, well there’s 3 of us working on a brand new Biology 12 lab and so we have the Doc at the same time each doing different parts and seeing what the other people are working on, and adding feedback and comments and stuff like that.”
“I think that one of the things is about group projects… one student was sick and the other student was upset because they weren’t there doing their part. But they were able to talk using the comments on the Docs, right on the document.”
“I don’t have to worry about the TOC because I can post everything on there and the kids know exactly what they are supposed to do and I can come up with something on the fly and stick it up for them to do. Just attaching it from the Drive, without worrying about photocopying or where it is on my desk— I just stick it on the Classroom.”
Noticing that girls have been excelling academically over the boys, Brianna was not yet at a point in her experience with technology to be able to definitively say that technology is bringing boys back into the academic arena. (She has only been using Google Classroom for one semester.)
“I do have some boys in my Science 9 class who are at a lower level, and they definitely like using Slides and being able to create that… because it is almost all boys— but they definitely enjoy using the technology a lot. As far as data, to say that it has increased their learning? Well… they are interested in using it.”
Brianna provided me with two “wow moments” in this interview. The first came from her anecdote about a student who was so anxious about using the Google Classroom platform for assignments, that the student brought herself to tears. Identifying this student in the first week of class, via a digital Interest Inventory on Google Forms was critical. Brianna’s limited experience with this platform, was balanced by her many years in the classroom, so she knew to address this student’s concerns immediately and with compassion. Allowing the student an alternative to the technology would have validated the student’s fears, thereby strengthening those fears. Instead, Brianna provided her with a safe and scaffolded process, that demystified the technology for the student, and the student went on to a successful and enjoyable semester.
“an interesting one with a student who was really anti-technology and her like misconception about technology she was only thinking about it as like using a cell phone all the time— so she was really scared and was in tears…. throughout the semester, she ends up adapting to the technology and once she adapted, she got over the fear of using it.”
And lastly, when asked to give advice to teachers who have yet to jump into a more technology enhanced delivery model:
“As teachers, we always want things to be organized and planned. But this is not going to be perfect, and you just have to jump in. We want our kids to take chances and be brave, so you have to take chances and be brave.”
Although I need to work on my interview skills (at times, I was so awkward, that I wanted to go into the fetal position!), Brianna’s last quote is absolute gold. How can we, as teachers, as parents, as just plain people, preach to others, to act a certain way, or think a certain way, if we, ourselves, are not prepared to do so? (side note: Kids pick up on adult hypocrisy all of the time. Perhaps we should actually listen to them, when they call us on our …. !)
Link to my transcript is here.