by Robin Smorenberg
Expert Educator Columnist, Netherlands
Last week I got presented with a very rare opportunity- I got to sit in on one of my fellow teachers’ lesson as part of a professional development program we are currently doing in my school. So I’m sitting there in the back of the class, checklist in hand, and observing what was going on in her classroom.
As I’m paying close attention to what all her learners are doing in her classroom, I suddenly see that an hour has passed and it’s back to my own classroom for me…with a blank checklist, I apparently disregarded my given assignment and just focused on all the wonderful activity going on in that classroom. Back in my own classroom, I got to pick up where I left off and the normal routine took over again. As I’m ‘speed-grading’ some assignments at my desk, a small group of my students caught my attention. Usually this means that they need to be corrected on their ‘work-volume’ or that they simply are doing something they aren’t supposed to do… but not this time. Maybe it’s because of the fact that I was just observing for the previous past hour, but I slipped back into observer-mode.
This small group of learners was working on a group assignment; they needed to make a summary of the history topic on which they were being tested on the following week. So they are sitting together with their textbook and discussing what should be in the summary that they can study in preparation for this test. After this short discussion has ended they break out their devices and start working together. They do this in OneDrive because all our learners are active on Office 365 and we have implemented a 1:1 situation in most of our year-groups. Because we use a lot of different devices and technology in our school, we needed a way to make all these devices work together in our situation. So, we created this very effective 1:1 model and we had a lot of success with it. It was so successful that other schools in our area have also adopted our initial model, with versions of their own that work best in their situation. It actually landed me in the Global Forum in Barcelona 2014 as a Microsoft Expert Educator.
But… back to our little group of learners and their assignment. As they are sharing their work with each other and combining it into own their final version, I noticed that they’re very involved in what they are doing and are really putting in the effort that I, as a teacher, love to see. But a hint of frustration is visible and after I’m done with grading the stack on my desk I make it over to the group to see what’s what. Everything is fine on the collaboration part of the assignment; everybody’s pulling their weight and they are happy with the result. It looks sound, and if I were to grade it, it would be a high score… so that can’t be the root of our little hint of frustration. When asked, our little problem is revealed– it’s a workflow issue.
How can this be? I’m baffled! I worked very hard the past couple of years to make our workaround model for OneDrive a real platform for cooperation in education, and now it’s not good enough or something? “Well, it’s not bad, we can actually work together pretty easily, but…” was their response, “It gets cluttered, everybody is working on something different and it takes too many steps to get everything together in the right way”. My initial reaction was to think about whether our model needed a revision, but as they explained how they went about their assignment something became clear to me… they were right. Of course our model is proofed and tested, but these learners achieved such a high level of tech-savviness, because of the opportunities they get from working in a 1:1 situation, it is not good enough for them anymore. They want something better, quicker, and smarter.
Let’s just say, it didn’t sit well with me for a little while, but I searched for a bit and I stumbled upon the OneNote Class Notebook Creator, an app for Office 365 that your system manager can put in for you. An opportunity presented itself, and I asked the same group the following day to try this new app. I didn’t know exactly how everything worked or if it did what we wanted it to do, but hey, let’s give it a shot, and if we didn’t get it to work properly, we would go back to the ‘old’ model of doing things. We tinkered around with it for a while, and we got it to work exactly how we wanted it to work! We actually did some redesigning of the assignment to break it down into steps for the other groups to get their assignments into the new Class Notebook Creator. And that’s when it hit me- our first model of working together was born out of my frustration to get all these different devices working together, but this new thing that we quickly whipped up, 4 students and 1 teacher, was born out of their frustration to improve on that. Goes to show, even when you see yourself on the innovative side of things, you can get settled in your own ways and you should always stay open to new things. Because ultimately, it’s not about the technology, but what you want to achieve with it.
For more information on OneNote Class Notebook Creator, check; http://onenoteforteachers.com/
Robin Smorenberg is a teacher and ICT Specialist at De Windhoek in The Netherlands. Through his column “1:1 With Robin,” he hopes to explore how 1:1 can sometimes be challenging, the highs and the lows, and things he’s found useful, interesting or beautiful that can help other educators along.