Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

How Social Media Saves the Day for One Teacher

September 23, 2012

I teach five 47-minute classes of twenty-eight students a day... and yet I love my job. How is it possible to not go crazy instructing 140 students in such a fast wooosh of time?


Here is how it plays out on a daily basis, with today as an example.

5:40am - I arise, eat, then hop on the bus, where I use an iPhone app to grade student homework responses that were submitted the previous night. As the bus chugs along the road, I tap open each essay, read it, then type in a grade which is automatically entered into the online gradebook and a comment which lands in the student’s inbox. This year I’m using Edmodo, but Schoolology and Moodle can also do this.

7:20am - Homeroom. I make a corny joke or three to the sleepy pre-teens in an attempt to rouse them. All teachers take attendance online in a shared student information system. (It’s mighty easy now to see if a student skips a class!)

7:29am - Homeroom shuffles out and the first twenty-eight student class bounds into the room, copies the homework into their Agenda books, and starts the Do Now in their notebook. (Yes, we still use good old-fashioned paper, too!) Last week we completed a group poster presentation on evaluating the reliability of sources, plus an intensive grammar lesson, and today is the day to assess student learning! But how to do this for 140 students in a way that gives prompt, personalized feedback? Technology!

A student helper rolls in the coveted cart of laptops which our school painstakingly saved money to purchase. (I booked the cart ahead of time using our school’s designated Google Form, and was awarded a slot on the shared Google Calendar for technology.) Each student is handed a Chromebook (a brilliant small computer made just for internet use) then turns their desk 180 degrees so I can see all screens. I load the quiz into Edmodo and activate it with much goofy fanfare.

Students silently take the 40-question test, squinting intently. When they click “Submit Quiz,” grins spread across faces. “Miss!” whispers one after calling me over, “I got 38/40!” He studies the colored analysis of his answers. “Look, the two I got wrong were because of spelling! I’ve got to proofread next time.”

“Memorize what you goofed on,” I tell the class as I carefully collect and put back the Chromebooks. “Slay those Grammar Demons forever!”

10:45am - 7th grade teacher team meeting. We pull up the shared Google Document we add to with our agenda and notes throughout the year, and type action steps into the document as we conduct our meeting. Our team’s Science teacher reports that he has set all students up with accounts on TurnItIn, meaning we will be able to automatically scan their essays for plagiarism, and can correct them via online rubrics. We applaud.

11:38am - Lunch break. I whip out my iPhone and head to Twitter where I join the conversation about education conducted by NPR this month with the hashtag #npredchat. I find exciting progressive educators in the conversation that I haven’t heard of before and click “Follow” on each.

1:40pm - School is over. I’ve administered 140 quizzes, and all 100% of them are already graded and graphically analyzed for students. Amazing. I finish the handout for the next project (skits of hominid characteristics!) and upload it onto the online class calendar so students can access it and keep up with the flow of our curriculum.

2:30pm - On the bus home, I use my iPhone to monitor student homework, which is to watch one video from a choice of eleven about early humans that I’ve uploaded onto our site, then post a (grammatically correct!) analysis of it on the online discussion thread. From student responses, I note patterns of misunderstandings, areas of interest, and strengths, all of which will help shape the subsequent lessons I will teach. (Note: Much of our homework IS also pencil-and-paper, but today was a particularly technological day. For students without internet access at home, we arranged for them to use the library or my class computer.) I smile when I see a student ask the class a question on our site and three other kids chime in to help answer.

Evening - After exercising, cooking, chatting with friends, and other non-screen activities, I relax by watching “The Voice” while interacting with other educators around the world through the Education Bloggers Facebook Group, Twitter and e-mail, and the comments section of my two Global Education websites. I keep an eye on the student homework discussion online, and message answers to pressing student questions like, “Am I allowed to eat a cough drop in class?”

Then, sleep! What a day, eh?

There is so much talk about extending the school day and lowering class sizes, but let us take a moment now to acknowledge the ways in which technology has made teaching within our current constraints manageable... and even fun!

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