Thursday, September 25, 2014

Welcome to My World

Okay, I was trying to come up with a little ditty to tell my story to the melody of The Brady Bunch (because it popped into my head when I sat down to write), but that's just too...well, it's too corny.  So, I'll just tell it without the musical accompaniment.

For the past two years, I've attended the annual CUE Conference in Palm Springs, California.  I came back both times with many great ideas for using technology in the classroom, but I was always stymied by the limited technological resources I had to use with students.  I had started to utilize the students' smart phones in class for things like flashcards and dictionaries, but to do anything with any real substance or relevancy, I had to book computer lab time, and that is not always possible.

After my last visit to the CUE Conference, I started to feel compelled to do something.  There were so many great ideas from the conference, and other professional developments, that have encouraged the use of technology, but the problem was that my students and I didn't have ready access to the technology that was needed to really grab ahold of it.  Well, sitting on my rear and just waiting for the technology to appear was not going to happen.  I couldn't just transfigure computers or tablets into my classroom (I keep applying to Hogwarts, but my application keeps getting denied.  They keep saying something about it not actually existing.  They lie.  I've read the books; I've seen the movies).  I could, however, try my best to get the technology into my classroom myself.

I sat down one Saturday and did a little research on what would be the best and most cost effective technological tool for me to try and obtain for my classroom.  Ultimately, what would be best for an English classroom would be something that could word process and had access to the internet.  My students have district-bestowed Google Apps for Education accounts, so Microsoft Word is not a must for what we are going to do in class, so a full-fledged computer would not be needed.  But, we would be doing a lot of word processing (writing essays and such), so we did need something that had a keyboard.  After all my research, I decided that what would work best in my classroom would be Chromebooks.  Amazon had some as low as $199, at the time, which made it affordable to get at least a few to have in class.

So, in April, I posted a project to for 8 Chromebooks.  Why 8?  My seating in class is set up in 8 groups of 4-6 (see photos of the empty room when I get them up ).  8 Chromebooks would get me at least one per group.  I contributed to my project myself, and my friends and family, one student's parent, and complete strangers contributed as well and in June, my project was funded.  Then, one of my friends from work, who was trying to do the same thing for her class, was moving out of the classroom and would have no need for her project anymore.  So, I started another, smaller, project for 3 more Chromebooks and she sent what she could from her now defunct project my way, and with the help of mostly complete strangers this time, I got that funded in July.

That would get me 11 Chromebooks for my classroom.  But...during the time that I had been trying to get my DonorsChoose projects funded, I had been buying one to three Chromebooks a month myself.  So, shortly after the school year started this year, I had 20 Chromebooks in my classroom.  This was enough for every two students to have one.

While I was trying to do all this, I had applied for a few grants, trying to get funding to get these Chromebooks, my ultimate goal was to eventually have a full class set.  I had put the grants out of my mind when I got notice from the NEA Foundation that I was being given a grant that would get me the rest of my class set.  I'm anxiously awaiting the funds for that now.