Monday, November 18, 2013

...and then the power went out.


When I started designing this course around the use of technology and BYOD, there were a lot of things I had to worry about: students’ access to devices, consistency of Internet connection, and connectivity speed among others. In the back of my mind there was always a little voice saying “This is all great, but wait! What happens if the power goes out?”

But with a zillion other things on the go, I dismissed the little voice, until one day, we found ourselves without Internet connection.

Luckily, that day, we did have power. The students couldn’t access the master list since it was a Google Doc, but I was still able to project it up on the board from my computer. Though the students were limited in what they could access (videos, online interactives and websites were out), they could still ask for a mini-lecture from me, the textbook was still available, and since all our exit slips and quizzes are done on paper, they could work their way through those. A lack of connection that day actually didn’t affect us as much as I thought it would.

(Today, too, we are without power due to a windstorm last night. The students were much less focused, having to work away in the dark, but the impact on their potential learning is the same as that first day with no Internet.)

I have two lines of thought on this. The first is: Hoorah for differentiation! From the start I always tried to include “traditional” methods of learning and resources for each learning goal, like the textbook, so that students who preferred this method always had access to something they were comfortable with. In the trigonometry unit we are doing now, I have an investigation using Geometer’s Sketchpad, but also an investigation using paper plates, metre sticks and giant pieces of paper.

When we lose our ever-precious connection, having those pencil-and-paper resources to fall back on makes the difference between being able to still engage the students or lose a whole period due to being unable to access anything.

My second thought is that I’m torn… I love the idea of paperless classrooms, and as I continue to tweak and adjust what we’re doing in the course, I think about having Google Forms instead of paper exit slips; movies of my mini-lectures instead of me doing them in person; all investigation instructions online. I would reduce our class binder (and all that paper!) down to nothing. Depending on what I use, some of my marking might even be done automatically, freeing up my time to help students in class.

But if everything was online… what happens when the power goes out? I’m in a rural school with limited cell coverage, so it’s safe to assume this is an issue I’ll always have to deal with. How do other BYOD teachers manage their classes when they lose power and/or connectivity?    

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