Last week our district opened up access to a new online program. This caused me to spend a few too many hours searching through lessons after the kids went to bed. I have found that I am no longer intimidated by new things, but a little too excited to try them.
These days is it hard for me not to get excited by new, sparkly toys with loud bells and whistles. There are websites that I can use to start class, to review concepts, quiz, graph, and even have students show their work and share it with me instantaneously. I have a tendency to over prepare, and this caused a student to exclaim, "ANOTHER WEBSITE?". Yes, another website, and I already have more websites planned for the next unit! I have technology overload. I also tend to spend too much time overthinking them. I stress about where is the perfect section/unit to use this? Jumping in might be scary if the conditions are not ideal. However, you'll never know unless you try! The main thing to keep in mind is not WHERE we should use them, but WHY we should use them...
For the purpose of Monday's lesson I wanted students to be able to identify functions using one of two methods. I used Nearpod, which gives an interactive powerpoint style presentation. Students enjoyed the fact that they could use their touchscreens to write on the slides. I liked the fact that the lesson included examples asking them to explain and defend answers. After the first couple periods I began using a feature that allows you to project anonymous student answers on the board. It allows for a perfect learning opportunity to discuss whether or not the answers are correct. Some students were even requesting me to put their work on the board! Ever have that happen while students are copying notes off the overhead? I mean OUTSIDE of the three or four students that always raise their hand!? Didn't think so...
Back to my four "WHY" questions, after the activity I had students fill out an exit card. I asked them to explain what the learning objective was. I had them explain what methods they could use to accomplish the learning objective. And then I asked for their opinion! Probably a first for me... hey kids, how did you like the lesson? The funny part was that most of the answers I received could be applied to any other lesson on any other day: You moved too fast and didn't give us enough time to finish the examples. You moved too slow and the examples were easy. And of course, "I didn't like that we had to take notes". I even had students complain that the website didn't give them instant feedback on their answer! One student even suggested using a review website after the lesson to go over the material. By asking students what they didn't like about the website, I got some insight as to what they like about others.
The best thing about the entire experience was the prep time. Even though I was using a website for the first time, there were already pre-made lessons. I searched the topic, found one that worked and just had to spend a few minutes figuring out how to launch it in class. I didn't have to worry about making slides or importing examples. All of it was already done. Typing up an exit ticket with 7 questions was also quick & easy. I even tweeted the lesson's creator and she gave me some helpful tips about how to present it to the class. Everything students completed was online. No extra papers to carry home, and the work is all accessible on the internet whenever I want to go back to it.
In closing, don't be afraid to try something new. Don't be afraid to ask your students what they thought. And don't be afraid to reflect on it yourself, either publicly or privately. It's like we always ask our 5 year old about trying new foods, "How do you know you don't like it if you haven't tried it yet?". And if you are sensitive to criticism you can always use someone else's prepared lesson! Use it as a learning opportunity for you AND your students. Use it as your baby step to change. Use it as an excuse to get out of your routine. Use it to grow.