Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What if?

As I am standing by the window of  my classroom so that I can get a signal for my iphone. so that I can download a blog I have just written on my phone (my phone is the most sophisticated technology in my room, although I'm not really suppose to use it because it's not county owned), my mind wonders to the "what ifs?"

I do have six outdated computers in my classroom that often work well enough for the students to get on the computer program that the county endorses.  I also have a laptop that works at a basic level but really cannot be used for much instructional because so much is blocked.  I do not have wireless in my classroom but can connect to the land... but because the county is always chasing a lack of bandwidth, you can never depend on anything on the Internet working - you might have a little better than a 50/50 chance that you can use what you've planned.  I can plan the most engaging lesson, full of pictures and videos only to have the entire lesson derailed once I get to school because I spend so much time trying to get the technology to work that I completely lose the class. What the children learn is just how frustrating technology can be instead of the engaging content planned.  Like many teachers, I often don't include much technology in my lessons any more...even though I'd like to. I don't mind spending the extra time planning and I still constantly look for the resources, but sometimes it's not worth the frustration.  So... even though it's not permitted, I use to my iphone - to look up a picture of a wallaby when a second language student asks what it looks like or to make sure I have a word in Skills Block spelled correctly, or to show a short clip on my phone that I enlarge with a doc camera... even though we are using technology that is in a time before our children were born, I still feel compelled to pull lessons into the century that they are living.

But what if?  What if children had laptops, as many of them do at home now, and they could learn to use them to research the things they wonder about... instantly?  What if they could learn to use them for educational purposes, instead of just for games?

What if I had an anecdotal system that connected everyone that sees each of my children so that all the information was in a single place?  My classroom is like a revolving door - with students leaving my room for Occupational Therapy, Speech, Language intervention, counseling, Social Skills group, Special Education services and now RtI intervention.  Four different interventionists come to my door every day, just for RtI, to pull each student at a different time for a 30 minute intervention.  How do I know what they are doing when they are pulled out?  I don't really.  Yesterday one of the interventionist came to tell me that two different interventionist were pulling the same child for the same intervention!  With 36 children in and out, I hadn't even noticed!  It had been happening for two weeks.  I was mortified!   There is no way there is time in the day or even in the week to catch up with each of these support folks to find out how it's going with each student or more importantly, to find out how I can reinforce what they are doing when they are pulled out of my classroom.  But what if all those folks were tied into a single system and when I pulled up Joe's name to do guided reading, I could see what he did earlier that day in his RtI intervention group and I could add a few extra words that reinforce the skills he had just done?  The possibilities are limitless for how we could support each other instead of each chopping up the poor child's day and wondering why he isn't getting it with all that support.

The technology is here.  My co-teacher and Special Education teacher and I all pay for an app, called Confer.  I have talked about this app before because it connects all three of us.  We are able to type in notes and then sync our phones to share our notes instantly.  Yes, that's my iphone again, the one I'm not suppose to be using.  And yes, we each have to pay $25+ to have the app, but what a difference it has made.  What if I also had the sounds that the Speech Therapist is working on when I sit down to do an individual writing conference so that as I am stretching a word I could make sure the child to saying the sound correctly or the specific pencil grip that the OT wants a student to use as I sit down for a writing conference or the skills that the RtI interventionist is teaching later today to reinforce during my few minutes of conferring during independent reading with the student?

What if we had visionaries in our schools that made these dreams such a reality that every single person could see the benefits?  What is we cared so much about our children that they became a priority and it wasn't money that was blocking our road.  What if...?

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