“This is a bad idea.” said a student from the back corner as she opened the Google Doc.
“We’ll find out soon enough, but I can’t help but try.” I said and tried to make my face look like it wasn’t worried.
The first part of class went well. My students did a quick reading quiz with the clickers and really enjoyed it. Even the ones who didn’t pass the test were glad that they got to write a test in a different medium. I had already planned to do a personal response question with them via Google Docs, but now I was excited to try it and hoped that they would channel energy from our the clickers to the writing. It took a bit of setup, but they all managed to find the link and immediately gravitated to the chat before I explained what to do. Some students were apprehensive because they were unfamiliar with the App, but others immediately started chatting as though it was regular Thursday night on Facebook chat.
I reminded them that this was school, and I could see all their chats. I took up the roll of moderator and reminded them that I can quite easily copy the whole chat and review it with the Assistant Principal. That had a bit of an impact, and most proceeded to answer the question. I posted a series of questions about the truth and regret then asked the students to respond to it via the comment stream then initial their response. While writing the responses, I asked them to chat with each other for ideas and comment on each other’s responses as politely as possible. I find it interesting to get back into chatting as a group. I was around for the invention of chatrooms back in the early 90’s. We used to have to manually type in the code for colours and bolding on iRC. Thus I know what it’s like to just get into chatting and forgetting about the world or the rules, but today students tend to think that the internet is their safe haven, but it is easier to record what you’re saying once it’s typed than it is to remember a verbal conversation that is had in class.
One part of the online chat really stood out for me. A few students were excited that we were not wasting paper for this assignment. They chatted for a bit and mentioned that they really thought it was important to not use paper all the time. This reminded of my goal earlier this year to go as paperless as possible. That was pushed on a bit by the malfunctioning photo copiers, but also because I was using a tablet for most of my note-taking and assessment. I enjoy the lack of paper because it is easy to misplace paper copies of things, but if all my students respond to a Google Doc, I can just log on anytime from anywhere. Learning in the clouds is not as difficult or frustrating as some would make it out to be. Even if there are wireless problems one day, sometime and somewhere the assignments will still be found.
After everyone finished the assignment and shut down their laptops, I went around with some gummy bears (Yes, I’m an evil teacher who sometimes gives out candy for grade 11 students). When I got to the back corner, the same student from the beginning said, “We should do this more often.”