Tracie Belt and I decided to go digital for the remainder of the year after attending FETC in January. It’s been about 8 weeks and truly an eye opening experience for me. Like I said in the previous post, my county has rewritten the curriculum for science according to the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and our text is based on the old standards so for the past two years, I’ve had to rely either on digital resources or 3 different grade level texts in order to teach my curriculum.
Sure, using the adopted text is not only convenient because there are no software or hardware issues, we have plenty of texts for our students and our students are pretty familiar with navigating around a textbook not to mention most teachers are comfortable using a text, but it can be less labor intensive. Textbook companies are great with mapping out lessons, providing worksheets, sample labs and activities and additional resources all in a neat package. But did we get into teaching for convenience? I hope not. I hope that our students are more important than saving a few minutes of time spent planning.
From January to mid February, I taught earth science – earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics etc. Our texts to a good job explaining the concepts, but students have a hard time visualizing the theory of plate tectonics by looking at pictures in a textbook. Also due to the recent influx of natural disasters occurring around the world, our texts are out of date when it comes to the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. Luckily, with a little web surfing, I was able to find websites, movies and activities that were not only up to date, but were interactive and matched my curriculum’s objectives. Was it easy replacing the suggested reading passages from the text or the suggested hands on labs? No, in fact it was pretty labor intensive, but I feel well worth it. My students were engaged, were able to learn the curriculum and had fun doing it.
There were a few snags that I ran into though, in addition to many questions that my colleagues have asked me since I embarked on my digital journey – what do you do if there aren’t enough computers, what happens when your computers aren’t up to date software, or the Internet goes down? What do you do when you notice that instead of conducting a search on the topic, the students are caught playing games (boy can they be sneaky) or searching inappropriate content (our district’s filter is good, but kids always try to push the limit.) There are so many issues that come up when the thought of going digital comes up, but how different are they than issues that we already deal with on a day-to-day basis? Teachers have dealt with budget cuts, limited copy budgets, rewriting lesson plans, fire drills, you name it – we are virtual chameleons of the classroom – changing to adapt to whatever the school day throws at us. Going digital will end up being one more change teachers will need to adapt to – are you ready for the change?